Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Taxes Paid

Okay so watch this video:

The Daily Show on Exxon and Taxes

Sooooooooooooo...let me get this straight.  Our media (which is more interested in entertainment as compared to journalism) doesn't bother with Exxon or any of the other big oil companies.  In the April month edition of Forbes magazine, apparently it was revealed that Exxon, GM and other big corporations won't be paying any taxes.  Well, that's not true.  Exxon did pay taxes, more than any other company...they just won't be paying any to Uncle Sam:

"Exxon tries to limit the tax pain with the help of 20 wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that (legally) shelter the cash flow from operations in the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi. No wonder that of $15 billion in income taxes last year, Exxon paid none of it to Uncle Sam, and has tens of billions in earnings permanently reinvested overseas."
So the Obama Administration wants to put an end to all of this:

"President Barack Obama proposed raising about $190 billion over the next decade by outlawing three offshore tax-avoidance techniques used by U.S. companies such as Caterpillar Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co."
It doesn't sound too bad, right?  I mean, what could be so bad about charging the Big Oil Companies so the U.S. can finally get some freakin' money!  Unfortunately it's targeted Obama, once again, with the icon that he is a Socialist:  

"No More Deferral.  On the tax hike, Obama’s proposed 2010 budget quite ominously signaled that he intends to end or significantly amend the U.S. practice of allowing U.S. multinationals to defer U.S. taxes on income that they earn abroad.  Currently, the U.S. has the second-highest corporate tax on Earth. U.S. firms can compete in Europe by opening a subsidiary in a low-tax country and locating the profits there. Since the high U.S. tax applies only when the money is mailed home, and firms can let the money sit abroad for as long as they want, the big disadvantage of the high rate is muted significantly.  End that deferral opportunity and U.S. firms will no longer be able to compete, given their huge tax disadvantage. With foreign tax rates so low now, it is even possible that the end of deferral could lead to the extinction of the U.S. corporation.  If any firms are to remain, they will be festooned with massive carbon-permit expenses because of Obama’s new cap-and- trade progkram."
Seriously?  Do these Teabaggers (how can I not say the name and not snicker) seriously think that the Oil Companies getting away with not paying any taxes and instead the burden being shouldered on the middle and lower classes of Americana are...American?  What the hell?!  How is it that people can be so moronic that they don't think logically?  "U.S. firms will no longer be able to compete..."  Uh-huh.  That's why they pay taxes to everyone else BUT the Uncle Sam.  \

It's plain and simple...the Oil Companies have the upper-class Conservative Republicans in their pockets.  How do I know this? Take a look at this graph link and see the results.  According to the graph, in the 2006 Congressional elections, oil and gas companies contributed over $19 million to political campaigns. 82% of that money went to the Republicans; the remaining 18% went to Democrats. In the 2004 election year, oil and gas companies contributed over $25 million to political campaigns. Over 80% of that money was donated to Republicans. In the 2000 elections, over $34 million was contributed; 78% of that money went to Republicans. Electric utilitie companies also heavily favor Republicans, their contributions ranging between $15-20 million.  From 2003-2006, the energy lobby also contributed $58.3 million to state-level campaigns. By comparison, alternative energy interests contributed around half a million dollars in the same time period.

Oil companies and their Republican constituents have, time and time again, lobbied against Climate Change, influenced the War in Iraq, and pandered uninformed citizens to lobby against needed change.  It's clear that Big Oil is the corporate enemy of democracy as well as a clean earth.  Why democracy?  Read this:

"According to the International Sustainable Energy Organisation for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, the second World Climate Conference 'was sabotaged by the USA and oil lobbies.' UNISEO then proceeded to set up a Global Energy Charter 'which protects life, health, climate and the biosphere from emissions.' According to the organization, these same 'reactionary energy lobby groups tried to boycott this Charter with the help from oil- and coal-producing nations and succeeded to keep energy out of the Rio Conference on Environment & Development (UNCED) in 1992, to continue this game in all Climate Conferences in Berlin, Kyoto, The Hague and Marrakech, where the USA boycotted the Kyoto protocol and still stubbornly tries to ignore the Charter.' "
In the meantime, three Democractic senators (Sens. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, and Bill Nelson, D-FL) are pushing for new legislation that requires oil companies pay more for any disasters that they cause.  Currently the fine cap is $75 million in economic damages for harm to the fish and tourist industry.  And why shouldn't they pay more? 

As a Pagan, my heart cries out for the damage to the Earth, Sea and Sky.  I am glad to see one of the Senators pushing for this change are from Florida.  I encourage Pagans to continue in the political process and call or write to Bill Nelson and support his decision.  If Big Oil wants to continue to try and govern how my government will do things and influence Climate Change legislation that can help us instead of harm us, then I say to unite on a front and start making our voices heard!! 

This approaching Full Moon I will be taking a page out of my boyfriend Nemesis' book and conducting a ritual to Aphrodite, for the healing of the seas.  Hey, I live in Florida, the last thing I want are the Ocean Gods to get angry and come back at me or mine!  My vow to Aphrodite will be to continue being a voice against Big Oil companies that pretend to have an interest in "America," when really all they are interested in is money and an empire they can help run behind the scenes.  If this isn't a form of Dark Magick, I don't know what is.  Last I checked, Dark Magick tends to hide behind a mask rather than show itself for what it is. 


Saturday, May 8, 2010

What is a Pagan?

A hot button of contention within the Pagan (or Neo-Pagan) Community is...just what the hell are we?  The world has labels.  We all love labels.  We know what Christians are, Muslims, Jews, Communists, Liberals, Republicans, Democrats, African-Americans, etc.  The lists go on and on (Carl Linnaeus would be proud).  Still, our Community is difficult to define, if only because none of us agree on just what the hell each of us is!

For example, according to those of the Abrahamic Faith (Christians, Jews and Muslims along with any close cousins of theirs), a pagan is someone who is not like them.  Therefore, that leaves a pretty wide umbrella.  Personally, I think Buddhists and Shintoists would vehemently disagree on being labeled such a negative connotation as "pagan."  It makes them sound so inferior as compared to the major Western religions.  So, perhaps a bit of "what saith the almight Webster" is in toll order here.

Pagan - (Lat. paganus, country-dweller). Pagan properly means "belonging to a village." The Christian Church fixed itself first in cities, the centres of intelligence. Long after it had been established in towns, idolatrous practices continued to be observed in rural districts and villages, so pagan and villager came to mean the same thing. 


So the city folk came up with their terms for the rustic folks in the Latin vernacular of the time and called these backwards people, "pagans."  In other words, "hicks."  Country folk, farmers and those whose lives were simpler.  While Christianity spread in the Cities during the first 500 years following the debated borth of Christ, the country-dwellers retained their pre-Christian past and continued honoring the gods of field and forest. 

However, the country-folk have always been looked down on.  Hesiod in his "Theogony," a Greek prose dating from as early as the 8th century BCE wrote:

"So said the [Muses] of great Zeus, and they plucked and gave me a rod, a shoot of sturdy laurel, a marvellous thing, and breathed into me a divine voice to celebrate things that shall be and things there were aforetime; and they bade me sing of the race of the blessed gods that are eternally, but ever to sing of themselves both first and last. To wit my theme is not of oak and stone." (Theogony, translated by H.G. Evelyn-White, 1914). 
According to his own Theogony Hesiod was a shephard and the Muses appeared to him.  Ah, Hesiod.  You were so bored that the Muses inspired you with a virtual Cosmology of the world.  Sounds a bit like King David to me.  Shepherd boys...is it me or have you noticed a self-esteem issue with shephard boys?  Hesiod, King David, the Boy who cried Wolf...I digress...

Back to Pagans.  The term "pagan" has such an anti-Abrahamic, negative connotation that ethnologists now use terms like "shamanic," "polytheistic," "animistic" or "pantheistic."  For Westerners researching their pre-Christian European past, Pagan has become something of a proud word.  We have taken this word and literally are using it to push forward a movement that refuses to be defined within any parameters.  And this is the way we like it.

You see, unlike Christians, Muslims and Jews who continue infighting over who is "orthodox" and who isn't, we don't give two sheisters.  We have a very much "live and let live" policy.  Some Pagans are monotheistic, others are polytheistic (believe in the existence of many gods and spirits), approach religion from a Jungian archetypal POV, an Divinity-is-transcendentalist POV, or are even atheist or agnostic.  We cannot even define our own Traditions (subsects of Paganism that emphasize a particular Path: Wicca, Druid, Asatru, Eclectic, Strix, Strega, Folk Magick, etc.).  A joke in the Pagan Community goes something like, "Ask 3 Pagans the same question and you'll get 3 different answers."

That's not to say we haven't tried.  And ooh boy has that caused some arguments let me tell you!  Isaac Bonewits, when he was Arch-Druid of ADF (a North American Druid organization) has been accused of using his organization to proliferate a "Pagan Catholic Church."  Wicans were accused of attempting to define Pagans (all those Pagans outside of Wicca) as "congregation."  Perhaps the most famous fiasco was the much-failed 1974 Council of American Witches that Carl Weschke (of Llewellyn Publications) tried putting together in an attempt to define just what Wicca/Paganism was.  The "Council" later disbanded a year later due to infighting and political disagreement.  His publication company has made famous through a couple of authors the "13 Principles of Wicca" which, erroneously, do not at all define Wica.  Instead it defines what Carl defines as Wica. 

Rather than a religion to be defined, my approach has been to look at Paganism as a philosophy that has to be explored.  I suppose the most unifying factor for Pagans, no matter what we follow, is the feeling of kinship with the earth at some level.  How radical or soft that eco-spiritualism goes is up for each individual to decide for themselves. Some, like Starhawk, are avid political green warriors.  Others are just happy to recycle.  Some grow their own gardens.  Others walk more in Nature. At the risk of attempting to fail at a definition, I would like to find out how this might work.  Because maybe, just maybe, if we define ourselves as Pagan (an ecological philosophy), then that philosophy has more freedom to be defined.  Philosophy means "Lover of Wisdom."  Witchcraft, another positive connotation within Paganism, means "Craft of the Wise."  So perhaps there may be a relative kinship after all?

My definition:

Paganism - A Naturalist philosophy advocating ecological awareness.

Naturalism advocates an approach of questioning the basis of what knowledge is and how that knowledge can be addressed to morals, ethics, beliefs and justifications.  As a philosophy we are always questioning what we have learned and what we know.  We have mystics and scientists within the Pagan Community that attempt to answer some of our most fundamental questions from both side of the spectrum.  However, all in all, Nature is our blueprint, our guide and our "Bible."  Nature in some form and fashion is the yardstick that we measure ourselves by...individually and communally.  Nature is pure Truth.  You cannot decry Hurricanes, Drought, Monsoons, the seasonal cycles, local ecology, etc.  We as humans have a very real impact on our society, and it is time Pagans stop infighting and begin to rise up to speak out against the materialist governments and imperialist religions that want to annhilate us into Armeggedon.

Our earth is precious.  It is our spaceship and the only one we have that we currently know of.  Even if we discovered another one, we won't have the technology to bon voyage and escape the responsibility we have to this planet for another few thousand years.  Our philosophy of ecological awareness advocates a stance of personal responsibility to ourselves and the planet we live on.  This is our planet, our land and our home.  We are not trying to escape it for some better Enlightenment of Nothingness.  We are not trying to destroy it because a desert god a few thousand years ago is upset that he lost a paradise to his creations and now wants the rest of the world to feel his pain.  No, we are trying to save it! We need to save it!  We need to wake-up and begin paying attention to what is happening around us and become involved in the political process.  As philosophers, don't wait for CNN, FOX or MSNBC to deliver the news to you.  Search it out.  Read all you can.  Debate with others.  Fight for what is right.  And then maybe, just maybe, we will have found ourselves at last understanding something: we are a Family. 

Let's be Pagans.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beltane, Leadership and Magick

For most of American citizens, April has ended and May has begun.  Many schoolchildren will only know this nonchalant change of months has occurred due to the lovely poem:
April showers bring May flowers
However, for Western Pagans we have just celebrated - in various ways and under various names - the holiday more commonly known as Beltane (BELL-tane).  Beltane, although named for a Celtic Fire Festival, has parallels in other cultures.  Suffice it to say that Western Paganism has for the most part adopted Germanic and Celtic roots for the holiday: dancing around a Maypole, the selection of a May King and May Queen, bonfires, drinking, partying and fertility.  Or at the very least, what fertility represents: life, hope and a better promise for tomorrow.  Though to be sure many Pagan couples will have taken the fertility concept literally. :)

As our own Pagan group in Florida gathered together for the festivities, I was reminded that Beltane oft times signalled the end of one season and the beginning of another.  For the Celts (Kelts) it was the end of the Dark Half of the Year (e.g. season of lesser sunlight in Northern and Western Europe) and the Light Half of the Year (e.g. season of greater sunlight).  In Florida, May 1 signals the beginning of the Wet Season and the end of the Dry.  Summer storms will be on their way, the humidity level will rise (if it hasn't already) and Hurricane Season will be preparing to commence shortly.  But the greater, underlying theme is: renewal, hope and the promise of a better tomorrow.

When I read about the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster off the Gulf Coast, I grew angry.  I grew angry because "fringe environmentalists" have been warning non-stop about the likelihood of an offshore tanker causing heavy damage.  The politicians ignored us.  They touted safety and advanced technology.  Jon Stewart covered this brilliantly on the most recent "The Daily Show."

Beyond Awful: Oil Spillage and Politics

Once again we have dangerously altered our local environments for what?  What kind of profit are we talking about here?  The U.S. Coast Guard stated it would light the oil on fire.  Oh genius.  The very much sadder-than-sad lesser of two evils.  But why did we have to put ourselves in this predicament anyway?  What the hell is all of this about?? 

As a Pagan Community one of our most fundamental ethics, regardless of Traditions or path, is the value of personal accountability.  You, as an individual, are empowered to make choices in your life to help you succeed or fail.  Only you can answer to yourself the power of the decisions you have made in your life that have brought you to this very moment.  Well, that's all fine and well for individuals.  But what about leadership?  How does this work?

When it comes to leadership, we as Pagans are not very trustworthy.  After all the majority of us left Christianity where we were taught our spiritual leaders were either infallible or highly beyond reproach...or both.  Whether Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox both notions are not that far apart if you think about it.  Yet, the spiritual leadership within Christianity has failed its moralities and sacred duties time and time again: witch trials, molestations, embezzlement, fraud, sex scandals, etc.  Hence, Pagans don't trust leaders that much and for good reason.

We do, however, have in our Community respected Elders and teachers whom have worked hard to earn the respect of the Pagan Community.  They have fought for our rights, perhaps written a number of books as well as sacrificed their lives for the betterment of the Community's tomorrow.  Often times we as a Community have both praised and criticized our leaders.  We have hailed them as oratorical wonders and then slashed their writings to no end.  Yet, our Elders and teachers endure...those worthy of respect.

In the American political arena our leaders are chosen by us, the people.  We are a Republic after all.  Unfortunately the people are out of touch with the leadership, even though we are more than capable of doing so.  The American people, more accurately Pagans, are more in touch with upcoming Festivals, the latest book, spell, and Tarot Deck than anything else.  Others will be more in touch with sports, Wall Street, the DOW or the latest American Idol special.  We depend on a biased and entertainment-focused media to deliver our "fair and balanced news."  Rather than checking out and researching what our leaders are up to, we couch potato ourselves and forget what our leaders spoke three months ago.  In a short word, we are like Sheeple (a derogatory remark applied to Christians many times in Pagan Circles). 

What amazes me, too, is how many books out there are on magick and yet so little of it is being performed.  90% of the books on magick available read like some New Age self-help book than anything else.  Magick is, by any other definition, the Science and Art of Getting Results.  This goes back to our value of personal accountability.  When you perform a magickal act, you are in effect working to obtain a result that will impact your life and ripple to the lives around you.  Our leaders are in powerful, magickal positions of authority.  They are getting results.  Are the results the results that YOU want?  Are you satisifed with the mistakes, lies and selfish attitudes of our political leaders?  Are you willing to watch the Religious Right and materialistic mongers steer this country towards a road that harmfully affects our environment and destroys the Land, Sea and Sky?? 

It's Beltane season people.  Beltane reminds me that the Cycles of Life continue.  It is about life, hope, renewal and the promise of a better tomorrow.  The Land, Sea and Sky will continue to provide us life, health and vitality.  But can we afford to make so many mistakes to our detriment?  So light the balefires, dance the dance and celebrate...because, whether we know it or not, the Earth Mother has given us another opportunity as her kids to still wake up and live.  I encourage our Community to take action and continue to pound on the doors of our leaders and demand them to pay attention.  Hell, they're getting paid to be there!  Might as well have them work for YOUR cause, before the next man-made disaster happens and destroys your home, your state and your life.