The Center for an InformedAmerica
Death, Taxes and Education
October 16th is not, as it turns out, a good day to travel by air if you happen to be a politician who has become, shall we say, troublesome. Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan found that out the hard way this year when he hopped aboard a chartered plane to get to a campaign appearance with less than three weeks to go before the November election. He never made it.
Carnahan had been making a run for a U.S. Senate seat, challenging Republican incumbent John Ashcroft in what the L.A. Times described as "one of the tightest, fiercest - and most closely watched - Senate races in the country." (2) Just before his campaign was abruptly ended, "a few recent polls ha[d] showed him with a slight edge," (1) breaking a months long deadlock.
Carnahan had some pretty nutty ideas for a would-be Senator, though. He had doubled funding for public schools during his eight years as governor, and had "championed one of the most generous public health insurance plans in the nation, extending free coverage to all children in families with incomes up to three times the poverty line." (2) Perhaps craziest of all, Carnahan had actually commuted the death sentence of a man scheduled for execution.
There were, inevitably it seems, some curious facts about the crash that took Carnahan's life (attributed by official reports to inclement weather). One initial account, for example, noted that "residents of rural Jefferson County reported hearing a loud explosion ... and at least one reported seeing a fireball against the stormy sky." (1) That would tend to indicate that the plane was destroyed in the air, before it 'crashed' to the ground. If so, that would also explain why "NTSB investigators have found a football-sized piece of the plane's engine more than a quarter-mile from most of the plane's wreckage, something agency spokeswoman Carol Carmody called unusual." (3)
It would also explain why authorities had initially said that "they would not identify the wreckage - or any bodies they might recover - until [Tuesday] morning," (1) though by the next day, the story being reported was that "up to 50 investigators from several agencies spent Tuesday combing the rocky gully where the plane crashed. The search for aircraft parts and human remains is expected to continue for several days." (2) You would think that if the plane was intact when it 'crashed,' pretty much all the wreckage and remains would be in one spot, and wouldn't really be all that hard to find. Go figure.
The press noted that Carnahan's death "was an eerie echo for Missouri of a 1976 plane crash that killed Senate hopeful Jerry Litton as he flew to a celebration after winning the Democratic primary." (2) I guess those Republicans in Missouri really play hardball. There was another eerie echo as well, of another flight that ended tragically on October 16th. That was the day that U.S. Representatives Hale Boggs and Nicholas Begich caught their last plane flight as well, in 1972.
Boggs was, for those who have forgotten, a member of the notorious Warren Committee and later one of the most outspoken critics of the infamous report issued by that committee. Boggs had questioned the preposterous single bullet theory and had openly accused J. Edgar Hoover's FBI of running a massive wiretapping and blackmail operation to pressure Congress into accepting the report's patently bogus findings. His flight allegedly disappeared over Alaska and was, by official reports anyway, never recovered. In an interesting side note, the young man who gave Boggs a lift to the airport that fateful day was none other than William Jefferson Clinton. (4) Small world.
The Carnahan story, by the way, has something of a happy ending (though not for the Carnahan family, which also lost the governor's son in the crash). The people of Missouri, possibly sensing that something wasn't quite right about Carnahan's untimely death, defied expectations and chose to elect the corpse rather than the incumbent. Hats off to the good people of Missouri.
While we're on the subject of untimely deaths, I should probably mention another that occurred just weeks ago. Remember when some guy ran his truck into author Steven King not long ago and banged Spooky Steve up pretty good? And remember how Steve was really pissed off about it, and how he thought that the courts let the guy off way too easy? Damned if that guy didn't turn up dead in his home of unknown causes. Shit happens, I guess.
On a completely different topic, did you see where another blatantly fraudulent Hollywood 'liberal' exposed his true fascist leanings? We're talking here, of course, about Martin "I'm not the president, I just play him on TV, though I was offered the Green Party candidacy before they ended up going with Ralph" Sheen.
Sheen took a lead role in lobbying for the defeat of California's Proposition 36, a perfectly sensible initiative that would put non-violent drug offenders into treatment rather then sending them to prison. Bad idea, said the honorary chairman of the 'No on 36' campaign. No, Sheen thinks we should just keep stuffing bodies into our already grotesquely bloated prisons for the 'crime' of ingesting drugs that do not have state approval, though his own drug ingesting son has received, shall we say, rather lax treatment from the California courts.
Quite a progressive stance the 'liberal' actor has taken. I haven't really seen anything quite like it since Warren "I'm so fucking liberal that I once made a movie about the Russian Revolution" Beatty rose to lead the applause for the repellent Elia Kazan at last year's Oscar ceremony, shortly after his movie Bulworth established him as Hollywood's leading 'liberal.' That, of course, came just in time to confirm his credentials in the event he was called upon to campaign for president.
It's good to know there's no shortage of phony liberals to prop up as presidential hopefuls. That way, we don't have to worry about any truly progressive-minded politicians sneaking into office. Before moving on, it should be noted that Sheen's over-hyped television show, The West Wing, ranks as some of the most thinly transparent state propaganda to masquerade as entertainment programming since The FBI hit the airwaves.
I mean, are we really supposed to believe that the White House is full of decent, caring men and women struggling mightily to do what's right for the country and the people? You mean they're not a bunch of depraved, conscienceless corporate stooges? What the hell was I thinking? And it must be true, since the show employs any number of 'former' White House officials as writers and advisers, to ensure accuracy of course.
But enough about that. What I really wanted to talk about was how badly I've been getting ripped off every time I run to the store for a pack of smokes. That is in part due to the actions of another phony Hollywood 'liberal,' Rob "I'm not really a meathead, I just played one on TV" Reiner, who lobbied to get a massive tax imposed on cigarettes, allegedly to strike a major blow to the tobacco companies.
Another major contributing factor has been the numerous lawsuits filed by the state against the tobacco lords, leading to massive monetary judgments. All of this is supposed to demonstrate that the government is getting serious about cracking down on the merchants of death, a scenario that would perhaps be a little more credible were it not for the fact that the tobacco giants, along with the country's other corporate cartels, pretty much are the government. How then are we to explain the seeming contradiction of the state attacking one of its own?
The answer lies in a basic principle of economics. For those fortunate enough not to have suffered through an economics course, the discipline maintains that the 'free market' will magically determine an equilibrium price for every commodity, based on competition and on relative levels of supply and demand.
If supply exceeds demand, prices will be driven down. When demand exceeds available supplies, prices go up. The market will therefore determine the optimal price of the commodity, preventing - among other things - price gouging by unscrupulous suppliers of goods and services. That is how the magical free market is supposed to work; there are a few problems with the concept, however.
First of all, economics rather piously touts itself as a 'positive' science, to distance itself from the behavioral sciences, which are derisively referred to as 'normative' sciences. Economics is, in other words, supposedly a real science, built on a foundation of irrefutable natural laws, as opposed to those pseudo-sciences based on 'norms' of human behavior.
In truth though, those natural laws - which essentially state that supply will always be finite, while human greed will always be infinite - are not laws at all, but value judgments. Economics is actually not a science at all, but a philosophy, and one based on a decidedly depraved view of human nature.
While it may be true that human greed certainly appears in modern-day America to know no bounds, that is the result of decades of state propaganda and educational and psychological indoctrination. Anthropological evidence (Oops, I forgot - that's one of those bullshit normative sciences, isn't it?) has long suggested that unbridled greed is not in fact a universal feature of humanity.
The 'science' of economics essentially takes a human characteristic that is the result of socialization by the capitalist state, and portrays that as a natural law that justifies the very existence of that state. A pretty ballsy scam actually, but that really has little to do with the main point I was trying to make.
The point here is that even if we accept the pseudo-science of economics at face value, the system does not work if a product has an 'inelastic demand.' What this means is that the demand for that particular product remains relatively constant regardless of price fluctuations. Inelastic demand is a result of, in the simplest possible terms, addiction.
Because we are addicted to the vile products of the tobacco lords, we will buy their goods at virtually any price. The cartel chiefs, of course, know this. That's why they don't really mind raising the price of cigarettes; they just need a justification for doing so, so as not to look like the thieves that they are. That is where their government lackeys come into play.
By posing as the public servants that they are supposed to be, crusading politicos attack the tobacco giants, imposing new taxes and securing enormous legal settlements. The result is a new source of revenue for the state, while the corporations maintain - and in most cases actually increase - their profits. Everyone wins, except of course for the consumers, who once again get fucked.
What is really at play here is a clever form of covert taxation that allows politicians to bask in the populist glow of having won a great victory against the forces of corporate irresponsibility, while at the very same time imposing a decidedly non-populist regressive tax. And it is, make no mistake about it, a regressive tax.
A regressive tax is, according to the economists, a tax that disproportionately targets the lower income brackets. This is in contrast to a progressive tax, which is supposed to disproportionately target those in the best position to pay. The federal income tax is allegedly such a tax, though phony liberals like Jerry Brown would like to flatten it.
The reason that doubling the price of cigarettes is a regressive tax is not because only poor people smoke, but because wealthy smokers, by and large, don't really give a shit whether they're paying $2 or $4 a pack. Either way, it's pocket change. But to someone living paycheck to paycheck, or worse, it makes a hell of a difference.
The rapidly rising cost of cigarettes is not, by a long shot, the only covert regressive tax being foisted on the American people. Soaring gasoline prices fall into that category as well. Like the tobacco lords, the oil cartels have had a cozy relationship with the U.S. ship of state for decades, going back to the days of John D. Rockefeller.
And as with cigarettes, we are addicted to the products offered us by the oil industry, for we are addicted to our cars. This addiction has been actively nurtured by the oil and auto cartels for decades, who have worked diligently to sabotage and propagandize against any meaningful proposals for public transportation systems.
We are also addicted, by our lifestyles, to the electricity and natural gas that heat and power our homes. These are also, strangely enough, beginning to drastically increase in cost. This is yet another emerging regressive tax, and others will no doubt follow.
Let's see now, what else do I have to bitch about? How about our schools? Everybody else seems to be bitching about them, so what the hell. Our educational system is a disgrace, an international embarrassment. But fear not, for Washington has some great ideas on how to fix our schools. The key words seem to be 'testing' and 'vouchers.'
Both of our illustrious presidential candidates have proposed extensive testing of our schools. They have not, mind you, proposed actually providing any funds or resources to improve our schools. No, we can't just keep throwing money at the problem, though in truth precious little money has been thrown that direction for many years now.
What we really need to do, according to our fearless leaders, is to test the schools in their currently grossly under-funded conditions, apparently to verify what is already known - that many of our schools are under-performing. Once they are identified, the solution is to shut them down.
The only difference between the candidates' positions seemed to be the frequency of testing and the speed with which they would shut down 'failing schools.' The Bush boy is for more frequent testing, but the Gore kid has taken a no-nonsense approach to school closures. During the debates, he sounded as though he was ready to assemble a federal goon squad to criss-cross the country to begin padlocking schools.
Not to worry, though. The Washington gang has another plan as well - vouchers. After your kid's school is closed, you might be lucky enough to get a voucher to send them to a private school, where they can allegedly get a good education. The only problem is that the voucher won't even come close to actually paying for a private education, and if you can't make up the difference, you're shit-out-of-luck.
And your elected leaders couldn't care less. In fact, they couldn't care less about your local school's test scores either. The dirty truth is that they never did care. Public education was never about learning the curriculum offered and gaining an informed view of the world.
Nothing, in fact, could pose a greater threat to the state than an informed populace. Luckily then, public schools have never been about imparting knowledge. They have always been about how that knowledge is delivered. The process is what was important. (5)
Public schooling did not arise from some benevolent desire by the ruling powers to offer education to the masses. It arose as a necessary outgrowth of the industrial revolution, which was, in essence, a process whereby archaic concepts such as 'skilled labor' and 'craftsmanship' were discarded in favor of mass production by largely unskilled assembly-line workers.
It required a fundamental change in the American labor pool. What was thenceforth needed were masses of interchangeable laborers willing to perform meaningless, unfulfilling, regimented and repetitive tasks day in and day out, year in and year out. Also required was a mindless obedience to authority, an ingrained awareness of the importance of punctuality, and a thorough socialization of the values of the corporate state.
The way to achieve those goals - to churn out endless numbers of mindless, robotic workers - was through public education. In truth, our public schools have never been 'failing;' they have performed wonderfully at the task for which they were designed. To be sure, they have failed to truly educate, to produce students capable of independent thought, but they were never designed to do that.
Now the concept of public education appears to be headed for the dustbin, and this really shouldn't come as any surprise. I don't know if anyone's noticed, but the industrial age is pretty much over. We are now in what is being heralded as the 'information age,' and the American workforce is once again being transformed. Rapidly disappearing are all those industrial jobs that once needed to be filled with a steady source of bodies.
In other words, in the eyes of our leaders, public schooling has lost its purpose. What this means for future generations of Americans is, to put it bluntly, you are not needed. The state has no desire to impart knowledge to you, and no reason to condition you for jobs that no longer exist.
The good news is that you need not worry about becoming some random, insignificant cog in the wheel. The bad news is that the state has no other use for you either. You have become, in the immortal words of Adolf Hitler, a generation of "useless eaters." Sorry to have to break the news to you.
Moving on then to other areas of interest, I see where Sammy "The Bull" Gravano was arrested recently in Arizona. (6) For those who are unfamiliar with Gravano, he was a prominent member of the John Gotti crime family who turned state's evidence against his former boss. For this, he was given a new identity and placed in the Witness Protection Program. He was also essentially given a free ride on no less than nineteen brutal murders to which he confessed.
Maybe if he had killed twenty people, the authorities would have considered actually prosecuting Gravano. Instead, they set him up with a new name and apparently a little plastic surgery, and he promptly set up shop in Arizona. But I'm sure it was worth the price the state paid to put Gotti away, though he would have been out of commission much earlier if the FBI hadn't protected him and colluded in sabotaging his previous trials. (7)
Gravano was born in 1945, served as a corporal in the U.S. Army for two years, and performed his fist contract killing shortly after that -- the shooting of crime boss Joseph Collucci in February of 1970. At one point in his life of crime, Gravano enlisted the services of boxing trainer Teddy Atlas, who sent Sammy to a hypnotist -- a key element of his training regimen. Atlas' past clients included Mike Tyson. (8)
Gravano's killing years came to an end in December of 1990, when he and Gotti were arrested. Sammy was held in an isolation unit for ten months, after which he became extremely cooperative, so he was transferred to Quantico to hang out with his old friends at the FBI. His subsequent testimony put no less than 37 people in prison, including Gotti. (8)
Gravano was set free on April 19, 1995 -- just in time to celebrate Hitler's birthday. After entering the Witness Protection Program, Sammy decided to co-author a book with Peter Maas, which he promoted by making a number of high-profile media and public appearances, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the code of Omerta called for his immediate termination. Rather preposterously, he wasn't killed. (8)
Lucky guy that he is, an appellate court in New York ruled that Sammy could keep the nearly one million dollars in profits that he reaped from the book and from a movie development deal. The state's Crime Victims Board had argued that the 'Son of Sam' law prohibited him from profiting from his crimes, but the court ruled otherwise. (9)
Following that, Gravano quickly busied himself with setting up a massive drug trafficking ring. According to the charges filed against him, Gravano controlled all the Ecstasy traffic in the state of Arizona, a multi-million dollar operation run through Gravano's construction company. Some of the money was allegedly laundered through his ex-wife's Italian restaurant, just like in the movies. (6)
Gravano was also allegedly the head of a white supremacist cult composed primarily of local high school athletes. Calling themselves the 'Devil Dogs,' the group reportedly had a fondness for brutally beating random victims who didn't meet their high Aryan standards. The teenagers also functioned as Gravano's muscle, and as his street level drug distribution network. (6)
Adding to Gravano's legal woes, he and his son were hit with another federal complaint in Brooklyn accusing them of procuring their Ecstasy supply from a New York gang. Additional charges filed in Arizona allege that Sammy also put out a contract on the life of New York defense attorney Ron Kuby, who represents some of the survivors of Gravano's nineteen murder victims. (10)
Of course, the federally protected mass murderer had allegedly built this empire without the knowledge of authorities. Sounds reasonable to me, though you have to wonder why the CIA would miss out on a party that included neo-Nazis, drug traffickers, 'Devil Dogs' and Mafioso.
One final topic needs to be discussed here for the skeptics in the crowd. In my book, Derailing Democracy, I wrote that: "Well known among State Department and intelligence personnel, though not among the American people, is the U.S. desire to unleash the power of tactical nuclear weaponry upon the world." Absurd, scoffed the critics.
Eighteen months after those words were written, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that: "For more than 50 years, there has been a taboo against unleashing the terrible power of the atom in war, but some in the U.S. nuclear weapons establishment and their political allies now envision a world where nuclear combat could become almost a commonplace event. Sound crazy? Unfortunately, it's true." (11) I hate to say I told you so, but ...
The Chronicle went on to note that: "Top Senate Republicans already have pushed through a measure that will allow U.S. weapons labs to begin studies on a so-called 'mini-nuke,' intended not to deter a potential enemy but for use in small, regional wars ... The aim would be to kill national leaders such as Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, or to destroy stocks of biological/chemical weapons held by so-called 'rogue states'." (11)
So at least they will be put to good use, though to use a nuclear bomb to assassinate an individual seems like it might border on overkill. You might want to cut back on the coffee there at the war planning room, guys. I suppose I should mention that assassinating a foreign head of state, with a nuke or otherwise, is a rather flagrant violation of international law.
I really like the idea of using the little nukes to blow up chemical/biological weapons caches though. That way, we can disperse the toxic agents and throw in a healthy dose of radiation as well. A profoundly depraved idea that could only come from the military leaders of a seriously fucking dangerous and out-of-control country.
1. Stephanie Simon "Missouri Governor Feared Dead in Plane Crash," Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2000
2. Stephanie Simon "Missouri Mourns for 'Decent, Caring' Governor," Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2000
3. Associated Press "Carnahan Plane Malfunction Reported," Los Angeles Times, October 19, 2000
4. Doug Moench The Big Book of Conspiracies, Paradox Press, 1995
5. Robert Sterling "Apt Pupil," in You Are Being Lied To (publication pending)
6. Julie Cart "A Culture of Violence and Denial," Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2000
7. Marilyn Bardsley "John Gotti: Clenched Fist," The Crime Library http://www.crimelibrary.com/john/johnmain.htm
8. "Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano: Giving Up the Mob," A&E Biography, March 5, 2001
9. Dareh Gregorian "One for the Books: 'Bull' Finds Crime Pays," New York Post, March 8, 2000
10. Christopher Francescani "Sammy Bull and Son Face New Indictment Agony Over Ecstasy," New York Post, December 15, 2000
11. Martin Butcher and Theresa Hitchens "Unleashing 'Mini-Nukes' Will Bring Dire Consequences," San Francisco Chronicle, September 21, 2000