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March 2003

Benevolent Corporate Overlords

As I understand it, it's a rule of thumb for journalists to structure newspaper articles so that the most pressing information comes first and the most insignificant tidbits are dropped in at the very end. Occasionally, though, those last-minute tidbits can be pointers toward much bigger questions.

For instance, there's this article in today's Times about the somewhat shady political and business entanglements of corporate fatcat Richard N. Perle, chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board. The overall point is that he's under scrutiny for being a well-connected political advisor who's also up for a big private-industry commission ($750,000, which could buy me lots of shoes, candy, comic book, and whatnot) if he can help figure out how to make it easier for an Asian telecom company to take over Global Crossing's fiber network, since the Department of Defense isn't so keen on China being in control of the fiber network used by our government. Sketchy enough, right?

Well, check out this little gem from the last paragraph of the article:

Mr. Perle, who as chairman of the Defense Policy Board has been a leading advocate of the United States' invasion of Iraq, spoke on Wednesday in a conference call sponsored by Goldman Sachs, in which he advised participants on possible investment opportunities arising from the war. The conference's title was "Implications of an Imminent War: Iraq Now. North Korea Next?"

Ah, god bless our Benevolent Corporate Overlords. It's good to know all this hullabaloo about the Axis of Evil really is about freedom and human dignity, ain't it?


High Anxiety

All week long, I’ve been filing away teeny little reminders of what I should write, but it's been difficult to summon the will to compose lucid sentences during the little free time I’ve had. Italy was wonderful and rejuvenating and extraordinary (and I guess occasional stories will spill forth from time to time), but being back in the States for just a couple of days nipped all that in the bud. Once I had steady access to the media again, all that tranquility was replaced by dread and anxiety. I’m a little tanner, but it seems that I’ve become a fidgety, lethargic, nervous wreck.

Can you guess why? Yeah, I thought so.

I’m not suffering from some kind of liberal, pacifistic, anti-war reflex, though. I can whip myself into an indignant frenzy when I discuss my views on this situation, but in many respects my reaction is more intellectual than visceral. Though I’m grateful to be able to say this, I’m also not very proud to admit that I don't really have a true sense of the scale of destruction that has been and will be occurring, one which can stir true empathy. That luxury, I think, is exactly what feeds into the thing that really is twisting me into such knots: the way our republic seems to be disintegrating around us, without much effective opposition.

Every day it's getting worse, this feeling that we're on a runaway train. The start of the attacks this week just feels like the part of that nightmare where we come around the bend toward the bridge that’s been washed out. We all knew it was there, but now we see it. I fiercely disagree with how our government has been been behaving. I see a concensus about Saddam Hussein being a thug, but I haven't seen enough compelling arguments to justify what we're doing about it. There's a lot of manipulation, distortion of facts, empty rhetoric, and more hypocrisy than I can shake a stick at, but not enough substantial reasoning to convince me that our nation should be behaving this way. I hear proclamations of our commitment to liberty, to freedom, to compassion, but all I see is a reality that belies those things: censorship in the name of free speech, hostility in the name of peace, persecution in the name of liberty, and self-interest in the name of patriotism. I don't really think any of this is new to America's history, but it's getting absurd. I’ve never felt so strongly that we've already lost too much ground to make things right again. Our democracy feels all topsy-turvy: are representatives don't seem to represent us, our freedoms are selectively doled out and rigorously controlled, our corporations have more rights and privileges than our citizens. How do we keep letting this happen?

What the fuck, ya know? Is anyone ever going to convince us that the emperor has no clothes?

I keep saying "us" and "we" because despite all the disagreement that I know is out there, it still feels like discourse is dead. Everyone talks or shouts but no one ever listens. Even if we disagree how things are done, though, we're still stuck in the same boat together, and it's still sinking, even if a bunch of us keep trying to do something about it. We're not really free because we're all going down the drain together, whether we like it or not.

Feh. It's making me crazy.

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