Dan Chiras will will be a regular guest blogger on the Flaming Grasshopper. Below is his first post. Copyright 2005 by Dan Chiras In today’s high-stakes political game, ignorance is essential to the victors and lethal to their victims, you and me, and most of America In politics, image is everything. Perception reigns supreme. Who cares about the facts anymore? Winning and losing isn’t about facts. It is about image, often false portrayals, meant to win the hearts and minds of the electorate while those who spread the blatant lies pursue an agenda diametrically opposed to the values they purport to hold. Truly, politics is misperception. George W. Bush’s victory — and the virtual usurpation of the U.S. Congress by the Republican Party – is only one example of the blessing and curse of image-driven politics. In the high-stakes game of politics, a peek behind the deceitful imagery and purported values they convey is taboo. Ignorance of issues is what victors are praying for. It is their blessing to them that so few know so little or dig so superficially into the facts behind the issues – content, as it were, to base their votes on the deceptive images fostered by ads financed by a well-oiled propaganda machine funded by special interests, especially big business. For those who fall victim to the lies and deceit, ignorance is a curse. It is already subjugating them – and the rest of us — to a government run by corporations. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people is being swiftly replaced by a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. In executive order after executive order, budget shift after budget shift, cabinet directive after cabinet directive, and ruling after ruling, the not-so-United States of America is silently falling victim to a massive corporate takeover. As Jim Hightower points out in his book, Thieves in High Places , the Kleptocrats in Washington are handing our nation over wholesale to large corporations who paid for their elections. Even Social Security reform, it turns out, is more about promoting big business than it is about rescuing a valuable social program from alleged financial ruin. That is to say, Social Security reform is not about an alleged bankruptcy in 2042, it’s about destroying a solid democratic ideal — supporting people in times of need with, god forbid, revenues generated by taxes — and inserting a Republican iconoclastic notion in its place –- a system of private investment that diverts more and more dollars into the coffers of big business. Social Security reform is about creating a system of private investment in which corporate earnings determine your fate in your retirement years. In the process, our nation becomes more and more Republican. Citizens whose fate is tied to big business become the operatives of big business. Don’t take my word for it. Consider what Conservative commentator George F. Will says on the matter, “The philosophic reasons for reforming Social Security are more compelling than the fiscal reasons.” “President Bush has not been shy about touting privatization’s potentially positive impact on values, arguing that private accounts would promote both patriotism and independence,” write the editors of The New Republic . But Social Security is just one of many programs in danger of corporatization – the massive handover of our country to corporations. Bush’s list of cabinet members reads like a Who’s Who of Big Business. And, with Bush in office, virtually every federal agency is now run by corporate henchmen who are unabashedly slashing regulations in an effort to create a better working environment for big business. In the process, we citizens lose out. In concert with the no-regulation-can-stand policy, the Bush administration has mounted a campaign to weaken citizens’ right to sue corporations for wrong-doing. While I’m not a huge advocate of lawsuits, and abhor the frivolous lawsuits that sometimes arise, there are times when careless, sometimes intentional, corporate misdeeds cost individuals and entire communities dearly and require legal action. We should never lose the right to stand up to those who run roughshod over our personal rights. Loosening regulations while tightening the noose on lawsuits, which recently became a reality by the recent vote in the Senate to shift personal injury lawsuits from more sympathetic state court systems to much less sympathetic federal courts, could result in a corporate free-for-all. In the process, citizens like you and I will not only lose our entitlement to clean air, clean water, a healthy environment, and a safe workplace, we’ll lose the right to stop the transgressions – to send signals to corporations through lawsuits that their intolerable actions must cease. We will, in essence, lose a vital check and balance in our society that has protected so many of us for so many years. And how are Democrats responding? While many are fighting backing, I’m finding more and more are burying their heads in the sand. I spoke to an EPA official the other day who is dismayed by the changes and says she’s cancelled all of her memberships to environmental organizations because she “can’t stand to hear any more bad news.” I’ve talked to many other Democrats who report that they can’t even stand to watch the news anymore, and some I’ve talked to are even getting ready to jump ship – to move to Costa Rica. While I understand the impulse to protect shattered nerves and one’s unraveling faith in America as it is being turned over wholesale to big business, ignorance is far from bliss. It can only result in more abuse by those in power. Frankly, my friends, it is time to read more, learn more, and take a stand before it is too late. If you don’t take a stand, it’s possible that when you pull your head from the sand, there won’t be much left but desert. *** Most readers know Dan Chiras as a thoughtful, inspiring, and well-mannered advocate of green building, renewable energy, and sustainable development. His many books on the subject like The Solar House , The New Ecological Home, and The Natural Home have sold thousands of copies and stirred countless citizens to take action. Dan has another side, too. He is a textbook writer. But wait you say, what could be less exciting than a textbook author? Dan’s currently taken on the Texas State Board of Education in a precedent-setting First Amendment suit filed in conjunction with the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice after the Board rejected his book for use in Texas high schools. Read more about Dan.