Archive for February 8th, 2010

This is why Elizabeth Warren is one of my heroes

| February 8, 2010 | 2 Replies
This is why Elizabeth Warren is one of my heroes

Elizabeth Warren is doing exactly what she was hired to do–speaking up for ordinary Americans:

Banks and brokers have sold deceptive mortgages for more than a decade. Financial wizards made billions by packaging and repackaging those loans into securities. And federal regulators played the role of lookout at a bank robbery, holding back anyone who tried to stop the massive looting from middle-class families. When they weren’t selling deceptive mortgages, Wall Street invented new credit card tricks and clever overdraft fees.

This is more than I can say for Barack Obama. He should be taking full advantage of his bully pulpit and cranking on Wall Street and the financial “services” industry, but he is only giving lip service. This makes me wonder why he isn’t using that silver tongue week after week to shame Congress into enacting reform. And he shouldn’t wait for the banks and Congress to give him support for reform.

Screw the banks, and enact reform. Don’t wait for the banks to get in line. We need credit card agreements that people can read and understand, for starters. We are more than a year into Obama’s Presidency and nothing significant is happening to clean up our corrupt financial system.

This young President needs to go read his campaign speeches to remind himself of what he needs to do. And if Congress is so corrupt that none of his campaign promises can be accomplished, then shame Congress, week after week.

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The consequences of de-sensitizing ourselves to torture

| February 8, 2010 | 2 Replies
The consequences of de-sensitizing ourselves to torture

I wonder about those who argue that waterboarding is not torture– can they really believe it? I suppose so. Otherwise, how could this happen? Joshua Tabor, a U.S. soldier based in Tacoma, Washington, allegedly waterboarded his 4 year-old daughter because she refused to recite the alphabet. He chose the CIA-approved technique because he knew that his daughter was afraid of water, a phobia that will surely be an ongoing issue for the poor girl. If Christopher Hitchens is to be believed, she’ll wake up with nightmares for quite some time. Hitchens was a supporter of the torture technique, at least until he underwent it. His column at Vanity Fair following the experience is titled, “Believe me, it’s torture.” See for yourself, if you’ve got a sadistic streak:

There seems to be little doubt that Mr. Tabor has some other issues, as neighbors reported seeing him wandering the neighborhood wearing a kevlar helmet and threatening to break windows. But I can’t help but think that our collectively cavalier attitude towards the use of torture, even on innocent women and children, has had a de-sensitizing effect on us. Note this paragraph from Fox News:

“Joshua did not act as though he felt there was anything wrong with this form of punishment,” the police report said.

And why would he? We, as a people, have not felt that there’s anything wrong with it. If it’s good enough for innocent Muslim women and children, why not use it on our own children? My heart hurts to think about the shock, the pain, and the terror that was inflicted on this poor girl at the hands of her own father. It’s painful to me to think about all of the people that we have tortured, and I can only hope that this incident brings us closer to the point where we can unequivocally say, “Torture is wrong”.

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An inside look at Reverend Billy Talen’s Church-of-Not-Shopping

| February 8, 2010 | 2 Replies
An inside look at Reverend Billy Talen’s Church-of-Not-Shopping

Reverend Billy is a clown and a prophet. All dressed up, he is a serious clown, self-honed and bearing sharp claws in the best tradition of court jesters. At the recent True Spin Conference in Denver Colorado I had a chance to meet the Reverend Billy of The-Church-of-Not-Shopping. Reverend Billy is an outwardly cartoonish persona constructed by actor Billy Talen.

Talan has been at it for so long and so intensely, however, that it is difficult to see where Talen ends and Reverend Billy begins. Even while he was discussing his mission during his presentation at True Spin, he was prone to erupt into his preacher voice, standing up and beckoning those present to heed the central tenet of his Church: that we “Not Shop.” Although Reverend Billy is famous for his anti-consumerist sermons, he also preaches on numerous other social justice issues. One of those other concerns is that free-flowing conversational and intellectual space—the place where naturally-occurring culture used to thrive—is now jam-packed with the profit-seeking messages of corporations seeking to deny us the natural flow of our social interactions. “They want to sponsor our stories.” He is concerned that corporations have filled our heads with their music and their values, and their buy-oriented slogans, largely displacing us of our ability and desire to construct original thoughts through natural conversion. Billy argues that we need to ramp down the shopping because on a daily basis we are selling our very souls when we unnecessarily buy. We have remade ourselves into commodities, and our unwitting plan is to deliver ourselves to our sponsors.

Pop quiz: according to Rev. Billy, what is the best thing you can get someone for Christmas?
Answer: nothing.

Why should we stop shopping? Reverend Billy might answer you with the Title to his 2007 documentary: “What Would Jesus Buy?

No words really work well to introduce you to Reverend Billy. Take a moment, if you will, to allow Amy Goodman to introduce him to you.

Those who think Reverend Billy is only a clown fail to listen closely to his serious message, perhaps because of the outrageous way with which he delivers it. But make no mistake that Billy has carefully constructed both his message and his means of delivering it. He delivers it in a way that seems absurd in order to bring a modicum of attention to his message. You see, Americans love their shopping their conveniences, and they fiercely resist any suggestion that they need to change their ways.

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