An Epidemic of Dishonesty

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Utility Companies

I've written a few very upbeat literary articles recently, like My Views and People ask me and Puppy Days. I figured the blues were beatable. I could hold the forces of evil at bay by writing nice, cherry-filled fluff pieces. That way, when my my Music demanded Sturm und Drang (you know, the two guys that played banjo on The Beverley Hillbillies) I'd be up to the task, and not let it spill over into my other daily activities.

This morning however, I feel as dark as the night side of the planet Crematoria.

I was slammed again by the phone company.

["You can't get too hot with the phone company or you'll wind up with two dixie-cups and a string." - Lenny Bruce]

This time, it cost me $188. In the old days, I'd call them, explain their error in mild terms, and they'd rectify it. Sometimes they'd even throw in a perk or two.

Not now. SBC has joined with ATT, and their combined evil has spawned a new and even more hideous distortion of sub-reality.

The Underverse really exists, folks, and it's known as the phone company.

Now, when we get phone bills, we can be pretty sure that the numbers have been randomly chosen by a computer programmed by the tech world's equivalent of a Ted Bundy. This is probably the same computer that spits out our gas and electric bills. It works like a bingo game, but no one ever wins except the one that calls out the numbers.

Without my consent or knowledge, they had moved me from their cheapest plan to their most expensive plan. This is logical. Just what I would do.

'What gives you guys the right or the audacity to do this?' I exclaimed.

'Oh, it's just standard operating procedure now. SOP.'

Standard operating procedure. SOP.

It has become SOP to bilk tens of millions of people out of money that they never spent.

It's SOP to get a list of people's charge card numbers, and take a few dollars here and there anytime you want it.

It's okay to secretly and gradually hike up the rates of the APR on everyone's credit cards. "They never notice", one CEO recently observed in Newsweek; "the consumer is a vital part of the machinery that runs the socioeconomic engine. Our culture is market-driven. If we have consumer disputes we settle them fairly and honestly. No one gets hurt."

Idiot! Of COURSE people get hurt when you steal their money. Just because they don't KNOW you're stealing their money doesn't make it right. Just because you 'settle consumer disputes fairly' does not make it right. Just because you live in the Bahamas and keep all your money in off-shore accounts in the Cayman Islands does not make it right.

The truth is, there's an epidemic of moral decay. Like tooth decay, the consumer will wind up toothless and penniless, and Mr Man's market-driven economy will stall and grind to a halt like a big truck without wheels.

Alan Greenspan knew this. He even admitted that his ephemeral bubble was getting dangerously close to bursting.

The CEO's and corrupt politicians of the land will - and do - bellow: this country is founded on Christian Values! And, at the same time, it's all curiously Darwinian.

Survival of the fattest.

So it's a FREE-FOR-ALL! Everything goes. Nothing's wrong or right. There is only a scurrying mass of slave humanity, thinking and plotting every minute of every day to make MONEY. And then MORE MONEY.

And, just when they think they might be getting a bit ahead; SOP!


The Internet

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I know about Internet attacks. I've actually had my business STOLEN from me by a group of tech-savvy sharks who had friends in the legal profession.

To them, I was a perceived enormous corporate entity, probably making millions of dollars in profits, and employing hundreds of people. In reality, it's me and my partner, our dog and our cat, and our friend Andy who helps with the business when things get busy. All I can say is, my site looks nice, but do I have to write lousy XHTML and use colors like mauve and yellow-green to be free of such threats?


Record Producers

No names are used here. Just models of unparalleled greed and thievery.

I watched as the greatest jazz artists in the world were stripped of every last dollar. Many had contracts. The saying was 'contract? Not worth the air it's printed on'. Many worked for peanuts while fat producers got fatter and the artists were all back o' da bus.

I worked for one record company whose CEO was proud of the fact that he had gotten free records out of MONK! He joked about it.

Another CEO turned out to be a criminal of the worst sort. His crimes are unspeakable, and yet he is still walking free (because he is very rich) and he is still making records and selling them, often without the consent or knowledge of the artists.

There are others that think that I don't know what they did.

I am very good with business, and I know how the business works. And I know what they did. And they'll bank on not being sued because of the time, heartache, expense, and hard work.

Sometimes it is a good day to sue, though. We are not without protection. We're just often too distracted or busy to use it.

There's ASCAP. There's Harry Fox. There's transmittal forms and fair copyright use law and electronic use and IODA. There are laws for digital copyright management, and laws for intellectual property management. There are licensing laws for usage in many kinds of markets (gift shops, airlines, shopping centers, etc) and laws for podcasting rights. There are laws for iTunes and other pay-per-tune services.

It's a LOT to keep up with, because being a musician means, well, being a musician. But you have to do it if you want to survive.

I'm not making money like Mariah Carey here. I'm a musician playing improvised music. And there are only a handful of us left that can actually survive in this culture doing what we love. We are outlaws - "to live outside the law you must be honest" - Bob Dylan - but we are not criminals.


How to fix it

It's time for our children to be taught MORALS and ETHICS, not religious fundamentalism and extremist sophistry and downright LIES.

How can one develop an ethical world view if one believes that the earth is six thousand years old?

How can one believe in the sanctity of life when lives are bought and sold in the marketplace like cattle at an abattoir?

How can we ask our children to respect all people, of all faiths and colors and kinds and types, if we teach them that 'all Jews will burn in hell' or that 'good works mean nothing...' Only being saved can get you to heaven?

My friend was in law enforcement for many years. She learned many things, and one was this:

As soon as the cons were through intake they started getting religion. And whether it was Christian or Muslim, it was always fundamentalist and extremist. It was always about 'this race will burn' or 'this race needs extermination'.

And as soon as they were released - and up to the time that they almost always invariably returned - they were suddenly free of any religious convictions whatsoever.

They just ran amok again. They gravitated back to same neighborhoods, and fell in with the same 'friends'. They had no time to think of spiritual matters. Then they did a crime. When they returned to do more time, they became apostles again.

And the white-collar criminals need to be jailed. For a LONG TIME. They are our servants; they WORK FOR US. And they not only stole our money and our work (and often our lives), they grinned and laughed and planned their next big campaign.

This is what record producers did to jazz musicians, it's what greedy landlords do to needy tenants, it's what people who have no incentive to do good works do to others.

They should be jailed, as examples that criminal behavior is punishable no matter how much money one has.

No one should be above the law.

Children need to see and understand that good works bring rewards in this lifetime. Beauty and Truth are right here in this life.

The dispute should not be about whether a God exists or which God is more powerful or which is the one true God. The dispute is and remains whether what we do here matters at all.

I believe it does.

I think the good things we do set up vibrations that echo throughout the universe. I believe that an act of kindness can change a life. I believe that honesty is not just a preference but a necessity to a healthy life.

I believe that love can NOT exist in a mind and a heart filled with greed and deception and filth.

From the phone company to the black-hat hackers to the music business, there are answers. Our society, built on fear (fear of loss and poverty and terror) is ready to be rebuilt.

It needs to be rebuilt from the foundation up. Our new society needs to be a society based on LOVE, RESPECT, and LAW.

If it is built on money-laundering and hate-mongering and burning Jews on Judgment Day when that Rapture happens, we might as well pack it in right now!