Occupy wall street is focusing on the separation of the classes in this country - but the sickness that allowed that to happen, is allowing it to happen across the board… education, defense, and most importantly, our health.
The article above is a lovely piece about the effects of fracking on a small population in Southwest PA. It starts nice enough, people getting large sums of money for giving the rights over to companies who are interested in extracting gas deposits in shale deep underneath their land. However, the story, as expected, became darker and darker. Its eerily similar to the Erin Brockovich story. Okay, its not as bad…. Yet.
You see, the problem is that when a company Fracks, it pumps water, sand, and chemicals into the Marcellus Shale thousands of feet below the surface in order to free the gas deposits within. That nasty little mix of water and chemicals doesn't always get contained. There are a lot of safety measures already known, and there is more that could be learned to more properly and more safely perform the fracking. Many times the existing safety measures are not followed because they are expensive and there is no one to force them to do it. Many times, the water ends up in the drinking water of the residents of the area. And then bad things happen.
First animals die. Then children start to get sick. Then the adults. Tests are run and confirm the existence of chemicals like arsenic in the bodies of the sick residents. They leave the area and start to feel better. They call up different government agencies, who investigate or claim there is an ongoing investigation, but in truth are powerless against the oil and gas companies participating.
Why are they powerless? Aren't agencies like the EPA suppose to monitor our drinking water and make sure it is safe for us? Well yes, but because Cheney, during the Bush administration, "spearheaded an amendment to the energy bill, which critics call the Halliburton Loophole. This legislation exempts hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act and protects companies like Halliburton, of which Cheney was once the C.E.O., from disclosing what chemicals are going into the ground." (From the link above)
I haven't looked too hard, but I can't imagine what the spin was on that one. I also imagine that Cheney's decision to push this legislation wasn't directly related to service to the public.
I grow so tired of reading stories like this. Folks say it all the time, "money dictates policy" in this country. But do we really get it?
Right now, there is a huge movement out on the streets filled with people who recognize that there is a growing disparity between the classes of this country, and that disparity is a result of our government making choices that do not represent 99% of this country's citizens' best interest. But do we really understand that it isn't just about whose making all the money? Sure that may be the start and the end, but people being enraged about not having a job or being forced into a man-made recession is so underwhelming compared to the true outrages. Don't get me wrong, the economic situation is outrageous and extremely dangerous to the stability and spirit of our democracy.
When talking about politics and how to get elected, it is often said, "It's the economy, stupid". A phrase that originated out of Bill Clintons campaign against Bush Sr. That is what gets the most attention and has the most effect at the polls. Well, that at least is a topic that helps win elections, while other topics typically only help lose them. Because we vote based on what is right in front of our face and what promises we believe about what is in front of our face.
But its not just the economy, stupid. It's time we grow up and start looking at the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that the pervasion of the basic 'right to petition the government' has made for policy and legislative decisions that do not just affect the economy of the 99%, but also their education, their health, and every other aspect and need they have.
Every day I hear or read another story that has the same parallels:
- A company is doing something that potential hurts regular people
- It is claimed that proper oversight is being performed
- Legislation is pushed to give the company the freedom to hurt regular people
- The legislation is pushed by one or many political leaders who are connected in someway to the benefactors whether it be a conflict of interest due to past employment or just straight up campaign contributions.
Companies now have forced arbitration clauses in their contracts. It was sold to us as being a good thing. And now if I have a dispute with my cell phone or my credit card, I am forced to give up my right for a day in court and settle for a private meeting between me, a representative from the company, and an 'arbitrator' (who is hired by the company) to decide whether or not I am right in my complaint. The decision is final, there are no appeals. And for cases like Haliburton's rape victims (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105153315 ) it is a far cry from justice.
Now some folks are saying, "Well for rape maybe there should be an exception." An exception from what exactly? From knowingly taking the rights from an individual. Rights promised to them by the constitution. Its wrong, because the practice is wrong, not because the crime itself was more heinous.
And don't think for a second that you are not a guilty party. You are. Remember the McDonald's incident? An old lady spilled coffee in the McDonald's drive thru and sued them for millions of dollars because of how 'hurt' she was. What a money grubbing low life right?
We as a nation joined in enthusiastically. I among us. Say no to these 'frivolous court cases'. Put a cap on punitive damages. These poor wealthy companies are being targeted by selfish people who want to use the system to get a payday. The media had a hay day, the comedians had a laugh, and the American people shook there heads disapprovingly.
Well, here are some important facts to consider:
- McDonalds required its restaurants to keep the coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees. A temperature that can cause third degree burns upon immediate contact.
- McDonalds refused the initial request to pay $20,000 dollars to cover medical expenses and loss of pay.
- 16% of her body had third degree burns.
- She wasn't driving, her family member was and they were parked in the parking lot at the time of the incident
- The jury, after hearing both sides of the case, awarded her over 2 million dollars in punitive damages, but the judge reduced it, and eventually she walked away with under $600,000.
How did a judge get the right to reduce what a jury of our peers decided? You voted for it and you agreed with it. The whole country did.
Here's a lovely image that shows just part of the injury: http://travis.pflanz.me/2011/hot-coffee-2011/ . Yeah, what a greedy old bag. We should hate her. We should make an example out of her. We should believe a multi-million dollar campaign across this nation, funded by huge corporations, that markets to us that these 'frivolous cases' are a strain on our system and cost the tax payers money.
Which is not true. Not true at all. Our courts are designed to stop cases before they are a financial burden if they do not have a valid argument. Our courts may not be perfect, but they are certainly not in trouble because they take on too many cases.
Who benefited from this? Not the 99. No, Karl Rove and a ton of republican candidates, particularly JUDGES in state courts who got elected on that back of this campaign.
Don't get me wrong, I don’t think McDonalds is the big bad wolf even though this happened and they are one of the primary drug dealers in this country. They offer a product. We buy that product. I happen to love their product unfortunately. But they screwed up. Their coffee was too hot. And the jury awarded punitive damages to the tune of TWO DAYS OF COFFEE REVENUE. Just two days. Enough, they thought, to force McDonald's to change their policies.
Shall I continue? Shall I bring up more and more and more cases where the law was changed or manipulated to create scenarios that harm, in a lot of cases physically, the people of this country?
Should we investigate how much money was made during the Iraq war while we as a country lost trillions? Should we then investigate it, see who made the money, and if there were any conflicts of interest with the folks who were in charge of the government policies?
We can't expect decisions to be made based on what is good for this country and the people in it while this sickness exists.
Where in the social discussion do these decisions reside? They don't. And yet for a lot of them, we the people elect people to the government BECAUSE of these decisions. Because they figured out that if they spend enough money on a spin, we can actually agree with lunacy. And how do you argue against that? And if you do try to run and argue against it, how do you fight off the allegations made against your character sponsored by the same money? You can't, you lose, and the American people walk away thinking they won a victory not realizing they didn't in fact dodge a bullet, but took it in the chest.
Its not just the economy, stupid. That's a symptom. People potentially getting cancer from their drinking water like this was 20 or 30 years ago is a symptom. The majority of the legislation passed (or not passed) are blaring symptoms of the problem.
I'm angry too. Just look at the way I'm writing. I got myself all worked up. I'm with you. I just hope that when the rage against the machine occurs, the rage is appropriately pointed at the whole machine, and not just a part of what is spewing out of it.