"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

The Culture of Fear

I became animated and vehiment tonight in a discussion with Sam, who I am partners with in The Valhalla Theater Company. We were talking about Bowling for Columbine, which brought up the issue of gun control. Sam expressed that he was more apt to favor gun education over gun regulation. I don't disagree with the notion of mandatory education for gun owners (though the NRA does), but I was curious as to why he opposed regulation. After (beer) rambling a bit, he gave the following line:

"Given that September 11th happened and this sniper thing happened, which proves that people, based both on foreign soil and domestically, will attack Americans, imagine what else might happen, and don't people have the right to defend themselves?"

At which point I flew off the handle.

I owe the man an appology because I rhetorically beat him up a little bit. In the end we agreed that the "culture of fear" is a bad thing, and I refrained from pointing out that sighting terrorist attacks -- specifically ones in which gun ownership is not a preventative factor -- and then inviting people to "imagine what might happen" is in a sense promoting that culture. There's a point where you've got to let it drop for the sake of frienship. I know I'm an argumentative person. It's genetic. I tend to keep that part of me under wraps for lack of good opponents, so when it comes out people get a little spooked. Still, it bothers me when my friends express beliefs that I not only disagree with, but can riddle with logical holes with one hand tied behind my back.

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Another Bloodless Transfer of Power

Well we did it, moved the ruling set around a bit without killing anyone. But what a shitty election. I mean really: the GOP re-takes the Senate, progressive ballot measures get voted down all over the place, it looks like we're in for another two years (at least) of wealth-favoring fiscal policy and broad-shouldered unilateral foreign policy. Yippie, we're a nation of fat wealthy dunces with our little dunce king.

I apologize if I sound bitter, but I just don't like it when fear-mongernig war-talk trumps reality. The reality is that the GOP has no domestic agenda, no plan for America, and the only way they can maintain their grip on power is by scaring people with phantoms of unarmed Iraqi combate drones (pure FUD) and immanent mushroom clouds (the same).

George W Bush has presided over the greatest wave of corporate corruption and mismanagement of public funds (can you say "tax cuts that blatantly favor the wealthy?") since the 1920s, and there's no reason to think he'll make any but the most cursory motions to address the issue. After all, he's a child of wealth who essentially gained the most powerful position in the world by means of family connections. He's never generated an honest profit in his life and is an adherent to back-room crony capitalist deals. This is not the kind of person I want running the ship, yet it is undoubtedly his public favor that allowed his party to actually make mid-term election gains for the first time in decades.

I find this extremely depressing, because it tells me that I'm out of step with the nation, that this America really isn't my America. It tells me that people don't want universal health care, that people don't want to know when the food they eat has been genetically tinkered with. It tells me that people think the way the show is being run is all right, that what we need is more of the same. It's the kind of morning-after mood that makes me want to expatriate.

However, being the political animal that I am, I don't think that's likely to happen. I can't just walk away and let things crumble. It's going to have to get a whole lot worse before you can convince me it can't get better. I'm going to stay with it, keep putting my spin on events. I'm in for the long haul.

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Prelude to The Future

Non-Profit Infrastructure: a collective investment in empowerment
Look, the free market it well qualified at distributing things when people are making rational informed choices in their own self interest and there is strict oversight to prevent cheating. But there are certain things are better done on a not-for-profit basis. This post will briefly outline the reasons we need a serious re-investment in infrastructure and a strong vision for the future of humanity.

There are many things that cannot be abandoned to profit-motive (greed) to operate and which a country should run for the sake of its citizens. A great example of this, and a good comeback to any conservative who wants to call me a communist for making the above statement, is national defense. Nation states learned long ago that relying on a for-profit army (a.k.a. mercinary forces) is not a good idea. Nor is making the army literally try to pay for itself through pillaging and looting. Both of these tracks lead to widespread instability and uncertainty, which is bad for both business and the general quality of life.

What tends to work much better is a non-profit defense force. In the old days and on the local level, that meant a "well-regulated milita" ala the second amendment. In todays world of specialization and high-tech killing machinery, that means having people who we all collectively pay via taxes who cover that stuff for us. The army is an exercise in socialism, and while it's plagued with inefficency and waste like any beauraucracy, and while I might personally believe we spend a little too much money on it, it's far better than the "free market" alternative.

It seems like in red-blooded America, the only way we can do anything collectively is through national defense. That's how we got the interstate highway system -- originally designed to move tanks and ICBMs around the nation in the event of World War III -- which was a big part of the postwar economic boom. Don't believe me? Try and imagine modern American industry without efficent long and short-haul trucking. Think we could be the world's biggest economy if we still relied on our rail infrastructure? Think again. The non-profit operation of well-maintained (read: expensive) roads and highways allows enormous amounts of economic activity.

Likewise, the founding technology that allows you to read these words was authorized and paid for as a matter of national defence. The internet began as a means to link major research centers and millitary systems with a network that would survive over 50% destruction due to nuclear attack. No lie: we built the original internet backbones to outfox those ruskies, and now it's ushering our economy into the 21st century, all because of some non-profit work back in the '70s.

What's the point here? The point is that socializied infrastructure (collectively paying for their development, implementation and maintenance) can lead to greater opportunity for entrepreneurialism. By removing obstacles to economic innovation at no cost to the businessman, our taxbase is enlivened, broadened and strengthened. It's unfortunate that the only time we seem to be motivated enough to do this is when we're fearing for our lives. Think of how many more small businesses and sole-proprietorships there would be if we unhitched healthcare from employment. Think of how many new entertainment and information-services companies would spring up if we made a serious public investment in solving the "last-mile" internet connundrum. Large corporations create and breed mediocrity: they will not lead us into the future.

The Future is not IBM, it's you
If America is to remain a preeminent commercial zone in the 21st century (and catch up with the rest of the 1st world in terms of standards of living) we're going to need to reinvest in our infrastructure, in ourselves. It's time for the pendulum to swing away from institutionalized greed and crony caplitalism and back towards opportunity and principles. It's time for high caliber individuals to seek positions of leadership under a new movement for improvement, for the betterment of ourselves, our communities, our nation and the world around us. It's time to become once again a nation of dreamers, of people who see the possibilities of a future so bright it outshines the lure of simple luxury, a future full of purpose and promise , prosperity and possibility, where things like love and peace and justice are worth believing in and acting for.

We need to lift the veil from our eyes, wake up from the prepetual nightmare of the evening news fear-factory, and realize that there's a lot of meaningful constructive work to be done on this planet. We may not have much money, and we may not have the guns, but I believe a positive vision that embraces the grace of human possibility will always gather the numbers. Government can be a tool for the people, in fact is must for if it is not then it is a tool used against the people. I say to those of my generation, and to freethinking life-loving people everywhere, we must awake to the calling of the times. We must take action. We me must stand against corruption, greed, averice, cynicism and dissolusion and inspire ourselves and others to believe in the power of the possible. We must invision another world, and work to make it real. If not now when, and if not us who?

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The first post with the blog-o-matic. To kick things off, how about some links:

- NY Says No To War
- International Answer
- Not In Our Name
- Church of Stop Bombing
- Artist's Network
- Stand Down: the left-right no-war blog

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