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25302Thomas Hartmann at Worcester Polytech Institute tomorrow

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  • lawrence_01749
    Nov 17, 2002
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      I plan to go listen to Thomas Hartmann giving a lecture tomorrow. I
      thought I had never heard of him before, but a little Web searching
      turned up something I am sure I have read on this site, or at least
      found a link to, on this forum. He is author of "The Last Hours of
      Ancient Sunlight", which covers a range of topics close to the hearts
      of messengers here. I hope to have a chancee to ask him some
      questions if there is opportunity after the talk.

      Here's some of the content of a recent article he wrote:

      The Dinosaur War
      To Protect Corporate Profits

      By Thom Hartmann

      I thought of it as dinosaur blood when it dripped on my hand this
      morning, and it made me wonder how the US war strategy would change
      if Saddam made a small recalibration in his business practices.

      Of course, the gasoline that spilled as I refilled my rental car this
      morning at the DFW airport - and the refined kerosene that will fuel
      the plane I'll fly in today - is far more ancient than even the
      spectacular Tyrannosaurus Rex bones discovered north of here. They
      vanished around 65 million years ago, but the fossilized plants and
      bacteria that made my gasoline are 300 to 400 million years old. By
      the time dinosaurs ruled the Earth, pretty much all of the oil
      production of the planet was finished. Strange, when you consider it
      in those terms, that we'd base a nation's foreign policy on a limited
      supply of fossils older than the dinosaurs.

      But Saddam Hussein has a goodly supply of those fossils under the
      soil of Iraq - the second largest supply in the world, and perhaps a
      supply even larger than Saudi Arabia's, which has been draining much
      faster and much longer. And he has hundreds of miles of shared
      borders with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran - where much of the rest
      of the oil in the region is held.

      Which led me to wonder: How would things change if Saddam, tomorrow,
      were to say, "I've decided to put my oil reserves up for auction to
      the highest corporate bidder, and, like many other oil-producing
      nations, all I want is a commission from the oil company that wins
      the auction."

      Once the stampede was over, I'll bet the US would discover that there
      are dozens of dictators in the world more vicious than Saddam. Robert
      Mugabe of Zimbabwe, for example, has engineered a cynical strategy of
      racial exploitation that has pushed six million of his citizens into
      famine today. Burma's ruling junta has turned that nation into a
      slave-labor camp, where torture, executions, and terror are daily
      fare. And in North Korea, the policies of dictator-for-life Kim Jong-
      Il have turned a formerly fertile and prosperous land into a
      concentration camp where people are forced to eat grass to survive,
      and anybody who questions the great leader's brilliance is executed.
      There is no shortage of "evil" leaders of nations - the list could go
      on for pages.

      Of course, none of these nations have oil.

      But if Saddam were to invite in the oil companies who - through the
      corporate theft of human rights (more on this in a moment) - have
      captured control of many of the policies of the United States
      Government, I suspect many things would change even in our thoughts
      about oil-rich Middle Eastern countries.

      · We may notice that Iraq is not the nation that nurtures and exports
      the most virulent and anti-American form of religious intolerance;
      there were no Iraqi hijackers on 911. Iraq, in fact, was and is
      hostile to El Quiada.

      · We may discover that Iraq is not the least stable nation in the
      world that seeks or has nuclear weapons and millions of followers of
      Osama's theology (that prize probably goes to Pakistan).

      · We may notice that women in Iraq are not required to wear a veil,
      as they are in other oil-rich Arab nations that we befriend, and that
      the government, while brutal and repressive, is secular and neither
      demands nor encourages the types of religious fundamentalism that
      lead to suicide bombers and 911, as do so many other nations in the
      region.

      · We may remember that just a few months ago in the Democratic
      Republic of the Congo, to quote Human Rights Watch, "soldiers carried
      out indiscriminate killings of civilians," including "summary
      executions, … numerous rapes, beatings, and widespread looting."

      We may even return to a policy like we had in 1983 when U.S. Middle
      East Envoy Donald Rumsfeld opened US relations with Iraq during a
      friendly meeting with Saddam in Baghdad, when we were buying his oil
      and selling him anthrax and smallpox and helicopters and jets - as we
      were many of other nations in the region. We may even stop all this
      talk of war.

      The bottom line is that powerful and oil-dependent corporate
      interests in America now control so much of both our domestic and
      foreign policy, because the US government over the past few decades
      has been almost entirely co-opted - as in taken over - by corporate
      interests. We're not having a war of, by, and for the people any more
      than we have an administration of, by, and for the people. If Saddam
      didn't have enough oil to generate a few hundred million dollars a
      month in profits for the oil industry, we'd be giving him the same
      treatment we're giving Mugabe: "Zimbabwe where?"

      As has been well documented, if the exemption on SUVs from fleet
      mileage standards was ended and fleet gas mileage in the US was to
      increase by a tiny 3 miles per gallon, we'd no longer need to import
      any oil from the Middle East. But the larger the car, the larger the
      profit for both the oil and the auto companies - and the auto and oil
      lobbies pass out millions in Washington, DC. And now that the
      airwaves have been sold to corporate interests who will only allow
      politicians to speak if they pay, political campaigns guzzle cash
      like SUVs guzzle gas.

      If we were to institute a Manhattan Project type program to develop
      and implement local, small-scale generation of electricity (about a
      tenth of all electricity generated in the US is lost through
      transmission over long high-tension lines, and steam generating
      plants only convert about a third of their heat energy to
      electricity, wasting the other two-thirds), along with hydrogen
      technologies, we could clean up our air and free states from the
      tyranny of out-of-state energy companies manipulating their supplies
      and prices. If we were to encourage Victory Garden types of local
      agriculture and homestead farming, making it again patriotic to
      replace back yards of grass with vegetables (as it was during WWII),
      we could eliminate our absolute dependence on factory farming systems
      that now require billions of gallons of oil for production and
      transportation, that deliver foods laden with oil-derived pesticides,
      herbicides, and preservatives to our tables, and render our topsoils
      sterile.

      Most important, we would no longer feel forced to permanently occupy
      the world's oil-producing regions.

      But a government whose policies have been captured by big oil, big
      auto, and big agriculture - just a few dozen corporations that are
      each richer than the majority of nations on earth - refuses to
      consider such rational alternatives. Because these corporations have
      claimed the constitutional human right of free speech - which
      includes the right to influence legislation, to influence
      politicians, and give money to political parties - we, the people,
      who would benefit from a shift in direction away from oil industry
      and toward local human values are left out of the decision making
      loop.

      It wasn't always this way. Before 1886, most states had laws that
      prevented corporations from meddling in politics. They can't vote,
      the logic went, so what are they doing talking to politicians?

      Wisconsin, for example, had a law stating: "No corporation doing
      business in this state shall pay or contribute, or offer consent or
      agree to pay or contribute, directly or indirectly, any money,
      property, free service of its officers or employees or thing of value
      to any political party, organization, committee or individual for any
      political purpose whatsoever, or for the purpose of influencing
      legislation of any kind, or to promote or defeat the candidacy of any
      person for nomination, appointment or election to any political
      office." The penalty for any corporate official violating the law and
      getting cozy with politicians on behalf of the corporation was five
      years in prison and a substantial fine.

      Humans had the right of free speech, and an individual - representing
      himself and his own opinions - was free to say and do what he wanted.
      Free speech is a human right. But corporations didn't have rights -
      they had privileges. Brought into being by authority of the state in
      which they're incorporated, that state determined the privileges its
      corporations could have and how they could be used.

      But, they teach in law school, in 1886 the U.S. Supreme Court changed
      all that - a decision which leads us directly to today's war with
      Iraq. The Court, the textbooks say, in the Santa Clara County v.
      Southern Pacific Railroad case, recognized corporations as persons
      under the Fourteenth Amendment, and thus handed them the huge club of
      human rights that our Founders had given us humans to beat back
      government should it ever become repressive. Armed with this mighty
      weapon, corporations claimed free speech, privacy, the right not to
      speak, and used anti-discrimination statues originally passed to free
      slaves to throw out "bad boy" laws that favored local businesses over
      large corporations or companies that had been convicted of felonies.

      I recently discovered that in 1886 the Supreme Court ruled no such
      thing. The "corporations are persons" was a fiction created by the
      Court's reporter. He simply wrote it into the headnote of the
      decision. In fact, it contradicts what the Court itself said. And
      we've found in the National Archives a note in the hand of the
      Supreme Court Chief Justice of the time to the court's reporter
      saying, explicitly, that the Court had not ruled on corporate
      personhood in the Santa Clara case.

      Nonetheless, corporations have claimed the human rights the Founders
      fought and often died to bequeath to living, breathing humans. And,
      using those rights, they've usurped our government to the point where
      our domestic policies are now based on what's best for the
      corporations with the largest campaign contributions, and our foreign
      policy has become a necessary extension of that.

      As my "what would happen if Saddam auctioned off his oil fields
      tomorrow and just became another Middle Eastern despot like the rest
      of them" example demonstrates, we're not just going to war for oil;
      we're going to war for the "security" of profit.

      While profit is a fine value for a corporation to hold, it's not the
      prime value of humans and it's definitely not one of the values that
      drive or preserve democracy.

      If we are to save our world from a profit frenzy driven Armageddon,
      if we are to restore democracy to our American republic, we must
      first get corporations out of government, so our politicians can once
      again become statesmen.

      This article is copyright 2002 by Thom Hartmann, and based on Unequal
      Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human
      Rights and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann.