the dreaming tree

in restless dreams i walk alone…

Capital Punishment – A Response… January 12, 2010

The following is my reply to a blog entry written by a friend of mine in regards to the Death Penalty.

  • “The alarming fact is the low number of people actually executed in the United States after the Furman vs. Georgia decision suspended the death penalty from 1972 to 1976. In fact, only 1,191 executions were performed from 1976 to the present. The total number of executions performed in the United States from 1608 to the present is also staggeringly low.”

Certainly not going for an unbiased beginning, are you? Why not just come right out and say “We’re just not executing ENOUGH people, dammit.”

But I’ll skip over your little “History of Capital Punishment in America” bit, and get right down to the point…

  • “1. Probably the most important point of the abolitionist’s argument is that some people have been put to death who were later found innocent. I had always considered this argument to be more of and indemnification of the judicial process itself. This argument could be applied across the board for all cases when the guilty party was charged erroneously. But it would not be prudent to suspend all sentencing, because of the imperfection of the process. The process of determining guilt will never be perfect, but will always be getting better and not worse.”

I’ve always had problems with this argument of yours. It seems that you have no qualms about admitting that our justice system is inherently flawed. The problem lies in this idea that the death penalty is no different than any other legal consequences handed down by the court system. There is a vast difference between imprisoning someone and executing them. While the years of imprisonment cannot be given back to an exonerated person, they still have some semblance of a chance at having a life. In the instance of capital punishment, however, there is NOTHING that can be done to rectify the execution of an innocent person. Even if I were to agree that murderers deserved the death penalty (which I do not), I could not, in good conscience, support a system in which there is the potential to put innocent people to death. I realize that in your mind, these innocent people probably serve as “collateral damage” in the War on Senseless Murder… (Might as well follow the government standard of declaring war on intangible ideas.) “Sacrifice the few for the good of the many.” Am I right? I say that in a society as technologically advanced as ours, with the potential to be far more so, it is unacceptable to think that the governing body of our country would knowingly sacrifice the lives of a few innocent men in the name of vengeance. And yet, they do. Meet Cameron Todd Willingham – (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/07/090907fa_fact_grann) (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0412090169dec09,0,1173806.story) Very likely innocent, murdered by the State of Texas. 139 death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973. (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-and-death-penalty) Imagine how many more fell through the cracks.

  • “2. The abolitionists view and opinion of some of the courts is that the eighth amendment, which states “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Well this opinion has differed back and forth between cases on what is considered cruel and unusual punishment, including capital punishment. But if we were to apply the statement of the amendment equally, that would include million dollar bonds against people considered to be flight risks or multimillion judgments against companies. The founding fathers were not clear on this in their own time, as the death penalty was used 1,200 times during the period between 1750 and 1800 according the ESPY file.”

I’m a little confused as to what your statement about applying the amendment equally is meant to imply. We should apply the amendment equally. But excessive fines and bail are not the points up for debate here. Money is far less valuable than human life – or at least, it should be. So, can capital punishment be considered to be “cruel and unusual punishment?” Cruel – is relative. To the man who wishes to live, death may be a cruel punishment. To a man who wishes to die, it is not. However, moving on to the “unusual” bit… Globally, the United States is in the minority, in regards to capital punishment. In fact, out of all of the industrialized European countries – in not a single one is the death penalty legal. The United States is in the company of nations such as Afghanistan, China, the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Kuwait, North and South Korea, and Sierra Leone, to name a few. (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0777460.html) So, given that capital punishment is no longer the norm, it can be concluded that it most certainly can be described as being “unusual.”

I’ll skip the religion bit, as it doesn’t apply to me, and since you have no good argument about the deterrent effects of the death penalty, I’ll only ponder that briefly – It is worth noting that the murder rate in states where the death penalty is legal is anywhere from 48% to 101% higher than in states in which it is illegal. (http://www.amnestyusa.org/death-penalty/death-penalty-facts/the-death-penalty-and-deterrence/page.do?id=1101085) Certainly not doing much of a job as a deterrent.

  • “5. Some abolitionists use the tough man argument in order to appeal to those that would like tougher sentencing on crime. They claim that it is far more horrible to live a life sentence in prison, than take the easy way out with death. I disagree. Even though suicide rates on death row are higher than in the general population of prisoners, the majority of death row inmates fight on till the end. This argument also tips the scales at other criminal sentencing. Why should someone like Bernie Maddoff get the same sentencing as that the Son of Sam.”

So put the murderers in a 6×6 cell, on 23-hour lockdown, no tv, no visits, etc… There are plenty of punishments that many would find to be worse than death – Isolation and it’s resulting insanity could easily said to be one of them. The idea that life in prison isn’t a good enough punishment in no way justifies state-sponsored murder.

And while we’re at it, let’s talk about cost… Though the statistics vary from state to state – they all have one thing in common: Death penalty cases cost more than comparable non-death penalty cases. In Kansas, they cost an average of 70% more, and in Tennessee, 48%. California’s current system costs the taxpayers $137 million a year – but if they abolished the death penalty, it would cost $11.5 million. (http://www.amnestyusa.org/death-penalty/death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-cost/page.do?id=1101084) Just think what that much money could do if it were instead used towards methods that really DO deter crime – mental health care, addiction treatment, education, social services…

All of that being said, it matters very little when compared to the most fundamental point of the argument – Do we, or does our government, have the right to decide who should live and who should die? The answer, in my mind, is a resounding NO. What makes us think that we are wise enough, or enlightened enough to have the right to deprive anyone, even the most heinous of criminals, of their life?  We are but fallible human beings, and as such, are far too prone to make mistakes to be trusted with such power. As it stands, capital punishment is one of the most discriminatory practices in place in our society. 95% of death-row inmates are defended by overworked and underpaid public attorneys. The death penalty is sought more often for white victims than for minority victims. Whether or not to seek the death penalty is decided by the prosecutor, leaving the system wide open to political corruption and personal opinion. And did I mention that 80% of all executions nationwide occur in the South? (http://www.amnestyusa.org/death-penalty/death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-arbitrariness/page.do?id=1101083) The fact of the matter is – we are not qualified to make that decision.

To me, the entire idea makes no sense. Killing someone in order to teach that killing is wrong… Talk about hypocrisy. This practice of government-sponsored murder that we have in place is barbaric, and has no place in a progressive society.

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Dissent: The Next Great American Crime… December 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — sparkler420 @ 12:36 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” – Harry S. Truman

I was reading an article earlier called “One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists.” — http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/144833

Good article. Thought-provoking, and all that jazz. Anyway – for those of you who don’t want to read it, the basic premise is that the civil rights of American citizens are being thrown out the window – like the right to a fair and speedy trial, due process, and so on, and so forth. The denial of these rights is largely unknown – and when it is found out, it’s justified in the name of the “War on Terror.”

The media says that a TERRORIST was arrested in such-and-such place (read: American-born Muslim non-violent activist known for protesting the War in Iraq), and we subsequently turn a blind eye when this AMERICAN CITIZEN’s rights are systematically denied. First it’s the Muslim-American activists. Then it’s the Anarchists. Then it’s Greenpeace… And then one day, in a not-so-distant future, I wake up to the sound of the fucking Gestapo pounding on my door, or the sensation of having a black bag thrust over my head, or the sight of the cigarette-smoking-man sitting in a black sedan in front of my house, ready to arrest me for writing this blog entry.

But it’s easy to pretend that we are a FREE people… just so long as it’s not our rights being stripped away… It’s easy to believe the media when they call a man a terrorist before he’s even stood trial… We don’t know that guy. He looks like a terrorist, right? I mean, he’s Muslim. Has a turban wrapped around his head. Not to mention the facial hair. Must be a terrorist.

“In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.” – Reverend Martin Niemoller

It’s easy – until it’s one of us.

Once upon a time, the word “conspiracy” was just a word. Somewhere along the way it became a crime. Charging someone with conspiracy is surprisingly easy. No physical evidence necessary… Just the word of two or three “witnesses” (credibility optional)… and *boom* – you’re in the land of soap-on-a-rope. How long do you think it will be before “dissent” is no longer just a word? It’s not such a stretch to imagine that the words that I type here today may someday be considered an act of terrorism. And then it’s no longer just about THEM. It’s about US. All of us… who dare to tread the path of non-conformity.

A quote comes to mind – by the French writer Voltaire — “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” See, Voltaire knew a little something about the price of freedom. The price that I pay for my freedom is your freedom. If you and I disagree, I might find the desire to censor you tempting. In fact, there’s no “might” about it. Of course it would be nice to be able to slap some virtual duct tape on your mouth and pretend that I won the argument. But as soon as I do that… As soon as I advocate the censorship of my adversaries’ ideas… I open myself up to that same censorship. The bumper stickers are correct – Freedom isn’t free. In order to enjoy the freedoms that I have, I have to put up with others spouting ignorant bullshit that I don’t agree with.

The same applies to the rest of my civil rights… If I expect them to be there when I need them, I have to do my best to ensure that they are there when everyone else needs them – my enemies included. We can’t pick and choose which American citizens deserve to have their civil rights. It doesn’t work that way…

We, as a nation, have allowed our fear of “terrorism” to pave the way for the slow, quiet, eroding destruction of our civil liberties.

Right now, for most of us, it’s easy to ignore. We still have the illusion of being free. Forget the fact that we’re all slaves to the United States Government – working our asses off to pay them to repeatedly fuck us over. Forget the “War on Drugs” taking away our freedom to do whatever the hell we want with our own bodies… Forget that half of us are actually convinced that the words “right to bear arms” don’t ACTUALLY mean that we have the right to bear arms. We’re FREE! Mmmkay?

But someday, 10 years, 20 years down the line… we’ll wake up and the illusion will have faded, and we’ll all come face to face with the stark realization that we aren’t free at all. Not even a little bit.

So what do we do now? How do we destroy the monster that was born of our fear? How do we stop the cancer from spreading? Honestly, I have no idea… Most of the time I’m too much of a cynic to think that anything, short of a full-fledged revolution, can fix that which is wrong with the American government. But I’m open to suggestions.

And now, a word from our sponsor:

“Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine- the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone’s death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent. Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.” – V (V for Vendetta)

“And I thank you for your attention, and I’m out of here.” – Kurt Vonnegut…

😉

~The Sparkler

 

Equal Representation…? December 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — sparkler420 @ 12:34 am
Tags: , , ,

I picked up a book today from the “bargain books” table at the local grocery store… the first paragraph reads as follows:

“An enterprising researcher explored in 2005 the backgrounds of a highly selective and well-publicized group. He found that 36 had been accused of spousal abuse; 7 had been arrested for fraud; 19 had been accused of writing bad checks; 117 had directly or indirectly bankrupted at least two businesses; 3 had done time for assault; 71 could not get a credit card because of bad credit; 14 had been arrested on drug-related charges; 8 had been arrested for shoplifting; 21 were current defendants in lawsuits; and 84 had been arrested for drunk driving in the prior year.

No, the data did not relate to the 350 players in the National Basketball Association, but to our 535 elected representatives in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.”

Angry constituent: “Congressman Smith is a liar, a thief, a womanizer, and irresponsibly lazy.”

Political insider: “Quite so. There are millions like him and they deserve representation.”

The book is Called Heroes, Hacks & Fools: Memoirs from the Political Inside by Ted Van Dyk. I have no idea if it’s any good. I don’t even know if I’m going to agree with the expressed viewpoint. I haven’t gotten past the first chapter. But I did like the first paragraph. It makes a good point. And I’m not talking about the obvious one here – I’m sure that we’re all well aware that politicians, in general, are corrupt, lying sons-of-bitches. But perhaps that’s the point… They are, after all, supposed to be a relatively accurate representation of the constituency… So, given the percentage of crooks and liars out here in the “real world” – is it such a surprise that some of the men and women who we elect to represent us are also crooks and liars? That then begs the question: Well, don’t the assholes deserve equal representation? Isn’t that sort of the idea of a republic? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not making the argument that we should embrace the sneaky, scandalous motherchuckers… I’m just sayin’ – They’re only as good as the people who elect them. To expect more from them than that is to reach too high… Going forward with this vein of thought, then… the only way to make a real actual change (not the Obama kind) in our government is to start by first making that change in the constituency. If we expect our government to work together and make constitutionally sound decisions – then we, as the electors, must start working together, ourselves. The percentage of Americans who consider themselves to be politically “moderate” centrists is shrinking at a rapid pace. People are leaning farther and farther to one side or the other, becoming less and less willing to make compromises. Our inability to put our heads together, to work towards a common goal… to sit down at a table and look at the arsehole on the other side and say  “Okay, here’s our problem… what are we going to do to solve it?” – it is this inability that is killing our nation. There was a second there, after 9/11, when the vast majority of Americans were on the same page… It may not have been the right page – the jury’s still out on that one – but for the most part, united we stood. And then it all went to hell. Once upon a time – a group of men from all different political backgrounds, with different ambitions and different viewpoints, worked together to do something absolutely crazy… They staged a revolution. They gave the King of England the middle finger… And our great nation was born. They didn’t all agree – our Founding Fathers. Some of them didn’t agree on anything, much less whether or not to revolt… but they had the good sense to see what their realistic options were, and they worked together to make something happen. Imagine what would have happened if they’d just argued incessantly about whether or not dissent was patriotic… Recently, on some radio show or other, Lucky made the point that  the Libertarian Party may be the essential “meeting point”, so to speak, of the left and the right… (all apologies if I misrepresent your words here, good sir…) I, for one, think that he’s right. Libertarian candidates receive support from both sides of the isle. Republicans generally agree with half of what they say – and the Democrats agree with the other half. So perhaps it’s time we start backing the right horse – the Libertarian one. Anyway – my point is – no, we don’t have to get all “Kumbaya motherfuckers”… However, it would be in our best interests to try to find a middle ground – even if we don’t always like it. After all – in the words of the Rolling Stones – “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find – you get what you need.”


~Sparks

 

Manifest Destiny and the “Greater Good” December 9, 2009

There is a topic which has dominated the comments on U4Prez for the past few days – cloaked behind words like “nation-building,” “globalization,” “responsibility…” I spent the better part of my day yesterday arguing with Hawk about the inherent “goodness” of America. There are those here who believe that the United States can do no wrong… Or that, at least, the good that our government does in the world far outweighs the bad… I sometimes wish that I, myself, were able to adhere to this viewpoint, for as they say – “ignorance is bliss.” I am not such a cynic that I can’t remember the days when I, too, believed that our nation was a source of light in a dark world… But I was naive then – I believed what my high school history books told me. The facts, however, the things that they leave out of those books – the information that I had to go looking for on my own, tells me that this is not true… That the widespread vision of America as a “Beacon of Light” is nothing more than illusion… Sleight of hand.

The phrase “manifest destiny” was first used by John O’Sullivan, an American newspaper editor, in 1845. It portrayed, in 2 words, the idea that the United States was destined to stretch across North America, “from sea to shining sea.” This concept, while not an official government policy itself, encouraged westward expansion – leading to the passage of legislation such as the Homestead Act. Many Americans embraced the idea – not only did it expand land use opportunities, but it broadened their horizons, so to speak – gave their children a wider range of choices for their futures. “Manifest Destiny” was promoted in newspapers, splashed across posters, and even supported by influential figures of society – such as famous poet Rudyard Kipling. And it was not a new concept – even then. The United States was already engaged in westward expansion long before the term “manifest destiny” was born. One of the first steps our government took to expand their borders was the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. The words, however… that simple little phrase – “manifest destiny” – provided the United States government with precisely the catch-phrase they needed to garner support from the American people. Over the years, this school of thought has had a negative impact on many – from the Native Americans, Mexico, and various countries in South America to Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan… The concept of Manifest Destiny, and how it was presented to the American people, may well be the most successful propaganda campaign the United States Government has ever waged on its own citizens… It has grown, evolved… we no longer simply seek to control all of the land from one ocean to the other – rather, much like a small white mouse named “Brain”, we have the idea that it is our god-given right to control the rest of the world. However, unlike Brain – we are not so honest in our approach… We hide behind deceiving phrases like “spreading democracy” and “bringing freedom…”

The Native Americans were the first to suffer at the hands of westward expansion. The Cherokee Indians protested the attempts of the state of Georgia to force them from their land in the early 1800’s, saying “We wish to remain on the land of our fathers. We have a perfect and original right to remain without interruption or molestation. The treaties with us, and laws of the United States made in pursuance of treaties, guaranty our residence and our priveleges, and secure us against intruders.” However, between 1820 and 1850, the Cherokee, Choctaw, and other tribes were pushed off of their homeland in the South and forced to march all the way to a reservation in Oklahoma. As a result of the many Native American deaths caused by disease and starvation along the way, these marches became infamously known as the “Trail of Tears.” A New England woman condemned the actions of the government at the time, writing “In the whole history of our government’s dealings with the Indian tribes, there is no record so black as the record of its perfidy to the Cherokee Nation.” In 1864, approximately 8,500 Navajo Indians were removed from their homes and put in a confinement camp in New Mexico. The relationship between the United States government and the Native Americans only worsened when, in 1887, the General Allotment Act gave the government the power to take what was once the Native Americans’ land and parcel it out as they saw fit, giving the Native Americans only small areas to live on. Even today, they are still fighting to get back what was taken from them – such as land, water, and mineral rights.

And then, of course, there was the Mexican-American War. “The belief that the U.S. basically had a God-given right to occupy and ‘civilize’ the whole continent gained favor as more and more Americans settled the Western lands. The fact that most of those areas already had people living upon them was usually ignored, with the attitude that democratic English-speaking America, with its high ideals and Protestant Christian ethics, would do a better job of running things than the Native Americans or Spanish-speaking Catholic Mexicans.” – Roger A. Lee. (http://www.historyguy.com/Mexican-American_War.html) From 1846 to 1848, the United States and Mexico were involved in a conflict over the state of Texas. Mexico refused to give up ownership of Texas despite the fact that Texas had successfully seceded from Mexico in 1836. Our government saw this dispute as an opportunity to claim the sovereign state of Texas as its own. Ulysses S. Grant, a participant in the war, wrote “I do not think there ever was a more wicked war than that waged by the United States in Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not the moral courage enough to resign.”

With the gain of Texas came a thirst for more land – and in 1898, with tensions high between Cuba and Spain – opportunity came knocking. Harboring expansionist ideals, fueled by the yellow journalism tactics of men such as William Randolph Hearst, and operating under the guise of saving the people of Cuba from themselves – the United States went to war with Spain. There were many who spoke out against the actions of the government – and a group of “Bourbon Democrats” who believed in limited government formed the American Anti-Imperialism League. One of the most prominent members of the league, Mark Twain, condemned the war, decribing it as “a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater.” Of the American invasion of the Philippines, he wrote that the United States had gone there “to conquer, not to redeem.” Eight months after the war began, the Treaty of Paris was signed, giving the United States control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam.

Need a few more examples of how the United States has overstepped its role in global politics? From 1959 to 1975, the United States lost almost 60,000 soldiers in its attempt to turn Vietnam into a democratic nation against their will. The word “communism” still has the power to strike fear in the hearts of Americans, a leftover effect of the Cold War and McCarthyism. Today, America finds itself squarely in the middle of a conflict founded upon the principles of Manifest Destiny, but hiding them behind the more popular term – “nation building.” Using “weapons of mass destruction” as a scare tactic, and under the delusion that “America knows best,” the U.S. invaded Iraq, resulting in the deaths of over 6,000 American soldiers, journalists, and contractors, and an estimated 1,366,350 Iraqis. And now, we’re sending more  troops to Afghanistan.

And all of that is still only the tip of the iceberg. To elaborate – let’s talk debt forgiveness… The G8 (the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia), has made the decision in recent years to forgive the debts of Third World nations – a move which, on the surface, appears to be a selfless act of generosity designed to help those living in poverty throughout the world. But what so many fail to see is that this is not about debt forgiveness at all – but about opportunity and greed. We must remember that those debts were accumulated without the consent of the majority of the people in those countries and served to make the corporatocracy of America and its allies – and a very select few Third World families – even richer. Large corporations would send “economists” to research the nation’s economy and its natural resources, and to creatively form an evaluation which would justify a loan from our government for the industrialization of that country. Included in the terms of the loan agreement would be a requirement that the recieving nation would hire specific American companies to complete the designated projects – thus funneling the vast majority of the loan funds back into the pockets of wealthy American CEO’s. Due to loan terms that were based on very optimistically exaggerated economic growth reports, the borrowing nation would be unable to make good on the loan, at which point, the United States – wanting its “pound of flesh”, so to speak – would take payment in the form of political and military support, as well as access to natural resources – primarily oil. The economy of the borrowing nations would sink rapidly, throwing the middle and lower classes into poverty.

Their debt should be considered paid in full – after all, we got our payment – by exploitation and manipulation. However, the G8 decision only grants them “forgiveness” for their debt if they will agree to a number of conditions – cloaked in terms like “good governances”, “sound economics”, and “trade liberalization.” Enticing language – but also extremely deceptive. These policies are only “good” and “sound” if you’re looking at them through the rose-colored glass of a corporate office window. The countries that agree to these conditions are required to privatize their public services, including health, water, electric, and education – essentially selling them to the corporatocracy. They are forced to drop subsidies and trade restrictions that support local businesses – while at the same time accepting that the U.S. and other G8 countries have the right to subsidize certain G8 businesses and erect trade barriers on imports that threaten G8 industries. When Bolivia gave in to such “good governances” policies, it opened the door for multinationals to privatize its water supply system – prices of water skyrocketed and Bolivians claimed that service was suspended to thousands of people. In Cote d’Ivoire, the French firm that bought the assets of the privatized telephone company reportedly raised prices so high that many people had to forego connections to the system, including university students who could not afford internet access essential for their studies. In Tanzania, these policies led to the appalling situation where children have to pay to go to school, and, many of them being too poor, fail to do so. Similar stories abound in countries across the globe that have accepted the conditions that come as a prerequisite to what is being inaptly called debt forgiveness. The Third World is well aware of what is going on – and they are angry. The resistance in 2005 to the G8 meetings in Scotland was, to a large degree, an expression of anger against the deceptions. Many people believed that Bush and Blair were simply playing “good guy” “bad guy” in an attempt to legitimize a highly exploitative system that is balanced heavily in favor of multinational corporations at the expense of the poor, starving citizens of Third World nations around the world. “Debt forgiveness” should be as good and generous in actuality as it sounds on paper.

“In its twenty-first century incarnation, Manifest Destiny has disguised its racist rhetoric but still wears proudly the garb of self-righteousness and arrogance. In a State of the Union speech, President Bush declared: ‘Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation… America is a strong nation and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.’ tell this to the Native Americans, the Puerto Ricans, the Filipinos, and the Central Americans. Tell it to the Mexicans who had populated the Southwest since the sixteenth century. Tell it to the vast majority of their descendants whose legal and economic rights have been denied systematically since 1848. Tell it to the families of hundreds of Mexican immigrants who have died at the militarized border simply because they sought a better life.” – journalist Jorge Mariscal.

The United States has a long and sordid history of trying to force its system of government on other nations… Politicians hide behind the assertion that the only goal is to improve the lot of the backward masses, that it is all for the “greater good,” as though we – an infant of a nation in comparison to some – are better able to make policy decisions for them than they are able to make for themselves. We live in a nation where lobbyists have a louder voice than the constituents, with a government owned by corporate America. Our politicians lie to us, selling promises of lower taxes and healthcare reform like the ShamWow guy selling us overpriced bits of fabric. We have corrupted our system here at home, we’ve sold our liberty for a false sense of security, and we’ve discarded all of the principles that our nation was founded upon… And yet, we think that we know better than the rest of the world? I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – you cannot impose freedom upon someone… it’s an oxymoron. As George Santayana said – “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” History tells us that our interventionist policies bring nothing but harm to those who we claim to be freeing… And yet, here we are… making the same mistakes over, and over, and over again – Simply because the vast majority of us refuse to look beyond our government-censored educations to find another, less biased viewpoint. Do you honestly wonder why radical terrorist groups hate America so much? I look at our history, and I wonder that we’ve made it this many years relatively unscathed… If someone did to us the same things that we have done repeatedly to nations all over the globe – how do you think we would react? You speak of the American government as though it were Santa Claus on Christmas morning, bringing joy and happiness wrapped in shiny paper and tied with a bow to the rest of the world… I, for one, refuse to leave the blinders on. And despite what you say Hawk, I don’t believe that means that I hate my country. On the contrary – I love my country. I speak out against my government because I feel that my government is failing me, failing my fellow Americans, and failing the principles that it has sworn to uphold. I love my country too much to sit idly by while that happens.

Well then… I thank those of you crazy enough to read that whole thing… And look forward to the biting remarks that will inevitably spring from it.

~The Sparkler

 

9/11 February 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — sparkler420 @ 12:04 am
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if it hadn’t been 9/11, it would have been something else. i firmly believe that certain members of the “powers that be” were waiting on the sidelines for an opportunity to present itself that would allow them to advocate going to war in the middle east. when 9/11 happened, they had that opportunity. they took advantage of the fear that had taken over the entire nation and used it to fuel their cause… and we went to war. 9/11 happened in the beginning of my senior year in high school. half of my friends joined the marines before we even graduated. they were angry, and they wanted to do something, anything – and here was our government, telling them that they can take up the noble and righteous cause by serving their country – that they could help take down the terrorists… all for the greater good. when we were 17, 18… in the months after 9/11 – going to war seemed to be the only viable option. and we were fed just the right kinds of lies – or omissions of truth – to get us there… but in the end, we’re mired in a war that has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with greed, globalization, and idiocy. we haven’t done what every one of those boys that i knew in high school wanted to do – we haven’t caught bin laden, or thwarted al-qaeda, or put an end to terrorism. rather – we have lost bin laden – most likely forever (if he’s not already dead of old age), al-qaeda still operates, sneaking out like a poltergeist that we have no hope of catching, we’ve managed to further destabilize an already unstable nation, and terrorism? well – we’ve just given the terrorists more fuel for their recruiting efforts. this is why i am really angry about the war in iraq – because my government, the government that at the age of 17 i still had some faith in – lied to me and to the people that i loved, and used a monumental tragedy that shook the foundations of every house in america – to serve their own purposes – purposes that had nothing to do with that tragedy. and i know, i know – there are those who would say to me that it no longer matters why or how we got into iraq, what matters is that we’re there, and what we’re going to do now. i agree with part of that – that we need to look at what we’re going to do to get out of iraq in the best possible manner… the key words being get out. as for the why and how – if you care at all about the integrity of our government, if you care at all about the type of nation that your children and grandchildren and generations to come will grow up in – then the why and how matter.

as for 9/11 – yes, it was a tragedy – i can’t even begin to deny that. 7 years later i can still remember exactly where i was when i saw the second plane hit on the news…
but we act as though it’s the worst thing to happen in the history of the world – as though pain and suffering can only be felt by we americans… as though we’re so much more important than the rest of the world. and yet – terrorist attacks take the lives of hundreds of people all across the globe. genocide takes the lives of millions – darfur, rwanda, sierra leone… wars are waged and in them – there are children carrying automatic rifles, or machetes, or merely throwing rocks… there are families being torn apart by bombs… people dying every day – for our greed and the greed of those whose philosophies we condemn in public and yet secretly harbor ourselves.

 

The War on Drugs… June 24, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — sparkler420 @ 11:53 pm
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My father wrote this little diatribe many many moons ago… I’ve edited it just a wee little bit, fixed the REALLY BAD grammatical errors – but the rest is all him.

THE WAR ON DRUGS
by John Raymond Moderie

“When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.”
~ Plato

If we care about the future of this country, it is time for Americans to admit that the “War On Drugs” has been a joke. Not just a failure, but a total catastrophe. We lost the drug war – drugs won. We lost for a good reason. We chose the wrong enemy. You cannot win a war against plants and chemicals. It was bogus to begin with – a war no one wanted to win, certainly not the government. The real enemies: ignorance, drug abuse and addictive behavior survived the war, untouched and as strong as ever.
Our nation is flooded with drugs legal and illegal; gun battles rage in our cities as rival gangs seek to expand their turf or just to get even for yesterday’s killings. Crime is rampant. The war on crime is really the war on drugs, but the violence is not about drugs – it’s about money. Once you declare something illegal its market value increases to the point where it’s impossible to stop people from trading in the product and becoming rich. It’s clear that dope is a multi-billion dollar industry. The drug war is the biggest cash-maker the federal government has had going for it since the fall of the “Evil Empire.”
The same people who gave us the cold war and the war in Vietnam, the same people who have run this country head over heels into debt, now give us the war on drugs as justification for their invasion upon our private lives, and their disastrously overstuffed budget.
Here is an issue on which both sides can and should agree: The government’s war on drugs has eroded our rights as Americans, both innocent and guilty. It has crippled the economy and created an atmosphere where the police run amuck, invade our homes, beat us, kill us and seize our property, all in the name of protecting us from ourselves. The real enemy in the war on drugs is freedom.
Politicians, cops, judges, physicians and millions of Americans who use drugs daily know that the drug war is a total bust. Yet the government continues to raise the battle cry because it is in their best interest to keep the myth of the war alive. Like all wars, the drug war enriches those who profit on our weaknesses.
Drugs are here, available, a fact of life. The prisons are a hot spot for drugs. If we can’t keep drugs off the cell blocks of our maximum security prisons, we will never be able to prohibit them in a free society. It’s crazy to think otherwise. Politicians who claim to be working toward a “Drug-free America” defraud their voters.
The continuation of criminal penalties for drug possession is filling our prisons with those who are addicts – not criminals. We are a nation of addicts, whatever substance or activity the addiction is directed toward; food, sex, work, gambling, shopping, drinking, smoking, watching television; it doesn’t matter what we are addicted to, laws won’t change it. What matters is that we learn to control our addictive behavior.
Making the drug illegal merely enables the drug addiction by allowing the addict to blame the drug for the addiction. We wage war on plants and substances instead of trying to understand and learn to control addiction.
We blame the substance, the evil foreigner who produces it, or the dealer who provides it instead of forcing the consumer to take full responsibility for his or her behavior. Some people become addicted to drugs, others do not. Those who care about themselves and other people, and who want to lead healthy active lives usually know when to say “NO!” to drugs.
The doctor who prescribes drugs such as pain pills, Valium, or sleeping pills is viewed as giving relief through his legal remedy. People who take illegal drugs often say they do it for the same reasons as the patient who seeks relief from the doctor, because it works. Drugs legal or illegal do relieve pain, but drug addiction only compounds pain. By telling us what drugs we are allowed to become addicted to and punishing us when we become addicted to “controlled substances,” the government is treading on our most basic right – the right to determine our own behavior, along with the obligation to take responsibility for our own actions.
Neither drug use nor drug addiction is responsible for the overcrowded prisons. The drug war is. The war is responsible for the corruption of our police forces, our prosecutors and our judges, and as it corrupts these people, it empowers the most aggressive elements of our society. The war is responsible for the increase of firearms and violence on the streets. By calling their anti-drug effort “war” the government has OK’d the use of weapons by both sides. The war has also meant a surrender of personal liberties. Americans now submit to being surveilled, stopped on highways and searched, having their urine analyzed, their phone lines tapped, their children turned to informants, and their land and homes invaded by drug cops – all in the name of their shadow war. The authorities may seize our cash, our cars and our homes, even if they only suspect wrongdoing. We have to pay lawyers to try to get our assets back, whether convicted of illegal activities or not.
We need to put a halt to all this madnesss and place the responsibility of choice where it belongs – in the hands of the individual in a free American society. We need to begin by legalizing the least harmful of any illegal drug, less harmful even than many legal drugs, and one that is used by 30 to 40 million Americans – marijuana. This would grant amnesty to the hundreds and thousands of people currently incarcerated, on probation or on parole for having grown or possessed this plant. In turn, this would cut down on problems such as overcrowding in prisons and our tax dollars going to waste. By letting us do away with criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, we can permit individuals to grow plants for personal consumption and license large scale growers. Like tobacco and alcohol, marijuana could be sold with appropriate regulations for quality control. Instead of wasting billions of dollars chasing potheads and ripping up cannabis plants, we would create a badly needed influx of capital into the legitimate economy.
Marijuana, by any and all standards, is less harmful than two presently legal, though controlled and clearly very addictive drugs – alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol abuse is directly responsible for at least 150,000 deaths a year, tobacco about 400,000. Yet we are free to use alcohol and tobacco without risking imprisonment. As we become more educated about the dangers of these substances, some of us may think twice about lighting up or tossing one back, but the choice remains ours to make. The government is not in our homes telling us what to do. We are responsible for our own well-beling. We are free to make choices. There has never been a documented case of marijuana-related death, though its illegality forces users to risk imprisonment, even death. The substance itself is relatively helpful, and has a long history of use as a medicinal herb. [It has been used for centuries to treat pain and anxiety, helps prevent bone deterioration and promote muscle growth, and can be used as a treatment for asthma because of its expectorant properties.]
Cultivation of hemp for use in making paper, cloth, rope, oil, and even alternative automotive fuel options could be a potentially huge market. Even hemp farming is an ecologically sound proposition. Americans would do well to investigate the business possibilities. After all, our constitution was written on hemp paper.
However, as it is today with marijuana being illegal and a war being waged, the police have arrested over eight million Americans and thrown them into the justice system’s soup-pot. Eight million. Think of the lives damaged or destroyed by criminal prosecutions, prison sentences, and felony records. No wonder the nation is lacking in “family values.” Think of the tax dollars wasted to imprison marijuana outlaws. Think of how much we could do to inform, educate, and assist drug addicts if those same dollars were spent in an effort to help our fellow humans, rather than to wage a vicious and unwinnable war against our very selves. Think about it.

 

where is my mind??? January 30, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — sparkler420 @ 11:42 pm
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you know… every night i sit outside smoking cigarettes and staring at what few stars i can see from the center of town. sometimes i think i’d give anything to live out in the middle of nowhere… some small town… where you look up and all you can see are millions of stars and stories of constellations told long before your existence was even dreamt of. but when the sky is clear and i can see the stars, i sit there and think… how thousands of years ago my anscestors were able to look up into the night sky and see the exact same stars that i’m looking at now. over the years the earth has shifted – mountains have crumbled, skyscrapers built and roads paved… and there’s very little here on earth to connect us to a time long since forgotten… but those stars are the same… they connect me to my history – what little is known of it… and it makes me feel like maybe it all does matter…

one of my mom’s best friends – kristen – who i’ve known all my life – used to have a younger brother. just over a week ago he died in iraq. our most high ruler wants to send 20,000 more troops to hell, and i wonder how many of them will never feel american soil beneath their feet again… never see their family again… i wonder how many americans will mourn. as for the rest – the ones who come home… i wonder how it will change them… my cousin jesse came back from it all a different person. there are things, inside of him… that stayed the same… but the things that changed weren’t for the better… and once a year when i see him at christmas, i find myself missing the cousin i once had – the one who always played big brother… my protector… he left a piece of himself in that desert sand. i wonder how many have died over there in this war… this “operation iraqi-freedom.” 3 years ago i stopped checking the death toll. 3 years ago it made me sick to my stomach. i don’t want to know what it is now. i wonder how many children have died… how many families have been ripped apart… but i suppose i shouldn’t sound so naive. if it wasn’t this – it would be something else. war will never end. world peace will never happen. i’m sorry to disappoint you miss america – but your platform is obsolete. but you know… i still have a little hope left in me for the fate of mankind. if i didn’t – what would be the point? and honestly – clinton could have let monica lewinsky suck him off on top of the presidential car in front of a catholic elementary school – i’ll take a democrat any day.