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Tereza Coraggio

Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.

We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.

We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.

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Past Shows


Taxing in a Time of Trouble

April 19, 2009

3P-023 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the twenty-third episode of Third Paradigm. Our title this week is "Taxing in a Time of Trouble." We'll be looking at taxes and how they shapeshift – serving corporate interests when they're spent and serving the public interest when voted in. We'll look at how our own alternative media falls prey to this shell game. But first, I'd like to talk about another alternative group - Credo, the long-distance phone company formerly known as Working Assets.

On Thursday, they sent out an action alert about the three hundred women who protested the Shiite law giving husbands the right to have sex with their wives once every four days. The women were met by a thousand counter-protesters who threw stones and spat at them. Credo ask readers to sign a petition to Obama saying, "Our brave men and women in uniform should be protecting the brave women who tried to fight this barbaric law – if we don't have a strategy that allows our troops to do that, we should bring them home." So let me see, what would that strategy look like? We could take all the wives who don't want sex with their husbands and put them on the military base. Or maybe we should shoot at those who throw stones and spit. On Al-Jazeera this week, an Israeli settler mom said that a stone was as deadly a weapon as a bomb, so maybe the Americans should bomb the hecklers. Of course, the women will have to go home eventually. Let's position a soldier or two in every bedroom. Any husband who doesn't get his wife's fully-conscious consent – off with his head. That should do it.

Credo doesn't mention the law's more far-reaching consequences – that no woman can seek employment, education, or medical care without the consent of her husband. It also fails to recognize that the Taliban's power and abuses have surged with the invasion, because Muslims who defend democracy have been lumped with us, we who use the rhetoric of democracy to hide our resource grabs.

Wars always require a victim to be defended, preferably women and children. In 2007, Hollywood came out with Charlie Wilson's War – a movie in which Tom Hanks made covert wars good and sexual harassment cute. Using heart-tugging footage of Afghan refugees, Hanks becomes a hero for getting Congress to give Afghan guerillas, including future members of Al-Queda, millions of dollars in weapons and training against the Soviets. It came out while asking Congress to fund another Afghan war against those funded the first time.

Foreign Policy in Focus, writes about the NATO bombing of Kosovo. "In The War on Yugoslavia, 10 Years Later, FPIF senior analyst Stephen Zunes challenges the notion that this was a "good war." For one thing, he argues,

"the bombing campaign, which began March 24, 1999, clearly made things worse for the Kosovar Albanians. Not only were scores of ethnic Albanians accidentally killed by NATO bombing raids, but the Serbs - unable to respond to NATO air attacks - turned their wrath against the most vulnerable segments of the population: the very Kosovar Albanians NATO claimed it would be defending."

Wikipedia defines blowback as "the resultant, violent consequences – reported as news fact... when the actor intelligence agency hides its responsibility via media manipulation. ... blowback ... denotes ... the attacked victims' revenge against the civil populace of the aggressor country, because the responsible politico-military leaders are invulnerable."

A humanitarian cover story positions US forces as defenders of the helpless - good guys wearing white hats, rushing in to save the day, erasing the history of US complicity. There are Muslim men who stand behind the Muslim women who are marching. The ratio of good men behind every good woman is the same in Afghanistan as it is here. How have those men been disempowered? What happened to shift control towards the religious extremes? Without examining the history, we're shooting in our sleep.

We'll now read a poem by Rolf Jacobsen and a poem by Mary Oliver.

When They Sleep

All people are children when they sleep.

There's no war in them then.
They open their hands and breathe
in that quiet rhythm heaven has given them.

They pucker their lips like small children
and open their hands halfway,
soldiers and statesmen, servants and masters.
The stars stand guard
and a haze veils the sky,
a few hours when no one will do anybody harm.
If only we could speak to one another then
when our hearts are half-open flowers.
Words like golden bees
would drift in.
–God, teach me the language of sleep

~ Rolf Jacobsen ~
FromThe Roads Have Come to an End Now, translation by Robert Hedin

* * * * * * * * *


Everyone should be born into this world happy
and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I'm not where I started!
And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you too decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.
Halleluiah, I'm sixty now, and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.

~ Mary Oliver ~
From Evidence

[Rufus Wainwright – Hallelujah]

That was Rufus Wainwright with Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen from the movie Shrek. For a long time that was my favorite song and I think I've heard it hundreds of times. My daughter Olivia now plays a beautiful version on the piano, but I can't get her to sing it. It isn't a matter of being shy, because she belts out other songs like a born torch singer. Maybe she'll sing it on my sixtieth birthday when I sprout wings.

Yesterday, I attended a meeting of the Santa Cruz Human Rights Alliance. It's a wonderful group of activists who meet Mary Oliver's criteria for feeling that they have wings – sixty and a little more, and maybe a little more again. They would agree that nothing important is ever easy, at least, say, for the first sixty years. I'm honored to be in their company.

A major objective of the group has been a petition for Santa Cruz County to sign on to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a brilliantly written document. Every time I read it again, I emit a small Hallelujah of my own that there are such courageous and clear-thinking people in high places. Contrarian that I am, however, I feel that Article 25 is written from a developed country perspective. It reads: "(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services...

The right that it ignores is the freedom to provide for your own family's needs through access to land and water. A human right has to be something given to you by God or nature, purely on the basis of having been born. It can only be taken away by people, not given.

Whatever is a product of human labor can't be a human right because it has to be first taken from the person who produced it, denying their right to have or give it. Providing the needy with food, clothes, shelter, or medicine is the prerogative of the persons producing those goods. The first draft of the Constitution recognized the right to life, liberty, and property, which was replaced with the ephemeral and vapid pursuit of happiness. But happiness in the vine and fig tree sense of security requires property.

If we lived in a fair world, I believe that it's human nature to be generous. But Article 25 focuses on generosity while ignoring the injustice at the heart of the global economy - the militarily-backed monopolies of land and resources. Without resources, no one can produce. Without producing, the pursuit of happiness will always be at someone else's expense. An entitlement to the product without the means is the right to consume without the obligation to produce. It denies the one human right that everything else depends on.

Well, the tax deadline was here and going gone, leaving a froth of frustrated people and tax-related articles in its wake, among them myself and Making Contact, an excellent show from the National Radio Project. They began with a segment from the National Priorities Project, which tracks where our tax dollars go. On the site is an Iraq Cost of War Counter that zips through money so fast it makes my head spin. I can't watch it – it makes me too anxious. Their interactive tax chart shows 42 cents of every tax dollar going to some form of military spending. Less than three cents is split between energy, the environment, and science. Three cents went to education, and three to government – which might be seen as another branch of the military. Four cents went to food and four to housing. A penny went to transportation and a penny to international affairs.

In the next two segments of the show, Making Contact asks the question who should be taxed. They present a group of wealthy New Yorkers petitioning to raise their taxes. They talk about the social services they've benefited from. The final portion interviews teachers in Nevada who serve populations that used to be needy and are now desperate. They talk emotionally about what the tax cuts will mean to them and the students they serve.

With respect to Making Contact, they are, I believe, asking the wrong questions. Rather than simply asking where our tax dollars go, the deeper question is who gets to decide. In the original Articles of Confederation, the ones that were dismissed and replaced by the Constitution, the Founding Fathers wrote in Article 9:

The United States in Congress assembled shall never engage in a war, ... nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defense and welfare of the United States, ..., nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the United States, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war, to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander in chief of the army or navy, unless nine States assent to the same: nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day be determined, unless by the votes of the majority of the United States in Congress assembled.

Nine out of 13 states is a 69% majority. How many of these decisions are now executive powers? Article 2 says:

Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States Congress.

And Article 3 says:

The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.

What sovereign rights do the States now hold? We've gone from this to the right of eminent domain, which means that Federal law trumps State. Rather than a league of mutual protection for attacks on our sovereignty, the government uses our own money and military to destroy sovereignty, ours and abroad, which is the greatest threat to centralized power.

Making Contact continues with the question of who should be taxed and how much. But the real question is what should be taxed – passive gains vs. working wages, income from usury vs. active investment, real estate speculation vs. property ownership. My episode, A 2020 Vision, goes into this at depth and how we could transition our taxes back to serving community interests.

In the last segment with Nevada teachers, Making Contact suggests that higher taxes will equal higher services. But it's actually the opposite. Lower services, especially education, are the key to raising taxes. No one would vote for more military spending. Teachers, police, and firefighters make the best hostages when higher taxes are the ransom. But for every 6 cents that goes to them, as the National Priorities Project showed, 94 cents goes to government, military, and multinational corporations. No wonder those wealthy New Yorkers are up for paying more, when each dollar's a magnet to attract 94 when it boomerangs back.

Our final song is sung by Susan Boyle, the Scottish spinster that I'm predicting won't be alone for long. Her performance on Britain's Got Talent has been the talk of week. But when Amanda the Barbie Doll tells her that, when she walked out, everyone in the audience was against her, I think she's engaging in a little projection. Perhaps someone among the 4000 thinks the Cinderella story shouldn't be about beauty traded for wealth. But this song from a charity CD 10 years ago shows that Susan Boyle didn't emerge from nowhere. It's Cry Me a River, which was also one of my favorite songs when I was trying to learn jazz piano with a barely competent classical background. Jazz is the most difficult thing I've ever tried to wrap my brain around, but it's made taxes and global economics feel easy by comparison.

Until next week, this has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thanks to Skidmark Bob for music, production and editing.

[Susan Boyle – Cry Me A River]

Thank you for listening.