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America’s God Is Capital

You never knew where Paul Lynde was going to show up on "Bewitched."

Paul Lynde’s head on a plate; I can think of a few more that ought to be there.

Sometimes I get the impulse to start a new blog which would list crimes committed by American business.

I’m going to resist this impulse for a host of reasons: it would get boring. Shrill, probably. Take up too much of my time, a drumbeat of bad news. Better to collect TV Guide covers, like I did when I was 10 years old; I had quite a collection there for awhile, I Love Lucy, the Flintstones, My Three Sons. Davy Jones of The Monkees!

Davy Jones was the cute one, a former child actor in Britain.

Davy was the cute one, a former child actor in Britain.

But it would be a good idea for some compulsive person to gather all the white collar indictments, fraud charges, shareholder lawsuits and convicted criminals in one place. Because there’s a pattern to them; somebody wanted to make money and didn’t care how they did it. Didn’t care who they hurt. Didn’t care how polluted that river got.

Let me start with this one, just reported today, February 21, 2013.

Feds Indict 4 in Salmonella Outbreak

ATLANTA (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted four people in a 2009 salmonella outbreak linked to a Georgia peanut processing plant.

The indictment unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Georgia charges four employees with Virginia-based Peanut Corp. of America. The charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and others related to contaminated or misbranded food.

The company’s filthy processing plants were blamed for the outbreak that killed nine people and sickened hundreds. The company later went bankrupt.

Named in the indictment were company owner Stewart Parnell, vice president Michael Parnell, Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson.

They knew their peanuts were bad. They sold them anyway. A lot of them ended up being made into peanut butter sold to schools, where kids got sick. But the Parnells didn’t care about that; they cared about profit instead. They had a bunch of bad peanuts and they “couldn’t afford” to eat the loss, so they made sure schoolchildren ate them instead. And Lightsey and Wilkerson went along.

Or, to be fair, that’s what they’re indicted for; they haven’t been convicted.

Stewart Parnell, right, of Peanut Corp. of America took the 5th Amendment when called to testify before Congress. His tainted peanuts killed 9 and sickened more than 700.

Stewart Parnell, right, of Peanut Corp. of America took the 5th Amendment when called to testify before Congress. His tainted peanuts killed 9 and sickened more than 700.

Now it would be one thing if this were an isolated case; “a few bad actors.” But that isn’t so; for one thing, they had help from your Food and Drug Administration, which doesn’t have enough food safety inspectors, thanks to your elected Congress, industry lobbyists and your Republican Party.

I’d also put on my fantasy blog several entries about the Indianapolis concrete cabal; those convictions came down a few years ago. Most of the big concrete companies in the city conspired to fix prices, costing taxpayers untold millions for every mile of highway and public works project in central Indiana.

Notice I haven’t even mentioned Wall Street and the big banks until now.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren made news the other day during her first big hearing on the Senate Banking Committee. They had the heads of the financial regulatory agencies – the SEC, the Comptroller of the Currency, etc. – all lined up in a row to testify. She asked a simple question: when is the last time you took the big Wall Streek banks to court? I know you get fines out of them, you announce impressive-sounding settlements for wrongdoing, but when is the last time you put them on the witness stand?

Elizabeth Warren

It was good Washington theater. The agency heads hemmed and hawed, mumbled and shuffled, which was all anyone needed to know. The agencies, which are supposed to be guardians of your taxpayer and investor money, never take anyone to court. So, unsurprisingly, when a big bank gets caught being funny with the money, whatever fine they receive is simply written off as the cost of doing business, while the CEO takes his golden parachute to Aspen.

Corruption is endemic in American business. It’s everywhere – every industry and just about every big company. Or so I believe.

It’s not that there aren’t honest businesspeople, there are; but “corporations are people, my friend,” and people are greedy.

Johnson & Johnson is in trouble right now over a bunch of hip implants they knew were bad, but kept selling anyway. That’s right, the Band-Aid people who took care of my ouchies when I was collecting pictures of Samantha and Darren on “Bewitched.”

bewitched

So if you ever find yourself wondering why some people are religious, including some Gay people like me, here’s an answer. Religions are ethical systems. Right and wrong are their subject matter.

Religions make clear that if the peanuts are bad, you can’t sell them. If the mortgages are bad, you can’t package them up, stamp an A+ rating on them and sell them, while secretly betting against your own customers that those Collateralized Debt Obligations are worthless and may bring down the entire world economy.

It is wrong, West Virginia and Kentucky politicians and citizens, to blow the tops off mountains so coal companies can kill workers while extracting coal that fouls the atmosphere and contributes to global warming, which will probably destroy planet Earth.

There is no amount of money that makes these things right. And if the planet gets destroyed, Aspen won’t be worth living in.

Of course, even religions act corruptly much of the time. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a possible candidate for pope, spent hours testifying in a deposition yesterday about the pedophile scandal in Milwaukee during his time as bishop there. Cardinal Roger Mahony, rebuked last week by the new Archbishop and told not to speak publicly again, was also deposed in Los Angeles about the pedophile scandal there. Both Dolan and Mahony get to vote on the new pope – proving that religion is no guarantee of personal sanctity.

A person has to follow religion and really do what it says for it to be effective. The Episcopal Church isn’t pure either. And neither am I, but I’m working on it.

About the time I was collecting TV star covers, my Granddad, about to retire from the drug store he owned in our small town, asked me what I was going to do when I grew up. “Bidness?” he assumed. (David Letterman’s right, that’s how Hoosiers pronounce it.)

“No,” I told Granddad too heatedly. I couldn’t imagine myself as a businessman. (I probably wanted to be Paul Lynde.)

At 14, after Grandma and Granddad moved to Florida, I remember deciding I would never be part of corporate America. It was a juvenile decision, at the start of my hippie days in the ’60s, but I was right. I did end up owning a small business once, but I really wasn’t cut out for it. I’m a social worker, a writer, an activist, even a religious leader.

And while there’s no money whatever in those professions – and yes, it takes money to live in this country – I’m okay these decades later with how my life turned out.

Paul Lynde never hurt anybody, while that peanut man in Georgia killed nine people. Four years later he’s finally being brought to justice with his brother and two other accomplices.

And let me note this: a few weeks ago my prayer site, dailyoffice.org, received a $500 contribution from a stockbroker. We really needed that money, and he’s not the first businessperson to give.

Where is J.P. Morgan – the man, not the company – when we need him? He was Mr. Episcopalian in his day; he used to hire a special train to take him and his mistress to General Convention, where he’d hold court and decide everything, while writing the occasional letter to his wife. He wouldn’t have tolerated today’s corporate behavior – he got his way because he was rich and people were afraid of him.

I fantasize he would have made a big announcement about his donations to the Republican Party – then quietly cut a check to Elizabeth Warren.++

No one was stupid enough to cross J.P.

Nobody fucked with J.P. – yet we still have atheists complaining about the Wrath of God. Don’t they understand anything?

7 Responses

  1. The chickenshits are abounding both in and out of robes…a recent encounter with one said white collar wrapped neck is proof to me…seems he couldn’t answer my question regarding the LGBTI inclusivity position of the diocese I live in (we all know the bishop is a bigot/worse) and after, tut tut just imagine, I had been invited to join a mission formation in my area…the motha turned on me and got all hauty and nasty (and sorta showed me the door — lucky for him I didn’t kick his ass — really) big joke of a man, a big fraud of a relgious person scampering around for latelife pride in a big world of dishonesty and pretend (and it does have to do with money too) at Church…we only have guidelines of right and wrong even at churc…but nobody seems to give a fuck when brocaded wraped (warped) gentlement mince around the subject of LOVING GOD and THY NEIGHBOR!

  2. (most especially a LGBTI neighbor)! Another bankrupt religion trying to gather funds for another rainy day (theirs, of course).

  3. I’m glad you confronted him. He’ll remember you longer than you remember him. And if he forgets, St. Peter will be there to remind him.

    I try not to collect people like that. The two Darrins are a lot more fun. In 1992 Dick Sargent and Elizabeth Montgomery were grand marshals of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade. Maybe she wiggled her nose and the ghost of Paul Lynde appeared in a bikini.

  4. “So if you ever find yourself wondering why some people are religious, including some Gay people like me, here’s an answer. Religions are ethical systems. Right and wrong are their subject matter. Religions make clear that if the peanuts are bad, you can’t sell them. If the mortgages are bad, you can’t package them up, stamp an A+ rating on them and sell them, while secretly betting against your own customers that those Collateralized Debt Obligations are worthless and may bring down the entire world economy.”

    What do you say to secular/a(nti)theist types who claim they can—apparently w/ ease—“Be Good for Goodness Sake”, absent ANY larger faith-based ethical system? [The question is particularly pertinent to me because, while attempting to defend (explain) the Bible from its murderous Christianist interpretations, I got called a "dishonest cunt" by one of these anti-theists. I swear, it's SO FUCKING HARD to be a gay Christian sometimes!]

  5. JCF, I don’t believe a person needs religion to be ethical – but I do know Christ’s teachings help me. And I see in my congregations people wrestling very seriously with right and wrong and what it means to be human, part of a family and work group and community. That gives me a lot of hope; the Christians I know strive mightily to love, to be fair, to be honest.

    It is however a fact that religion can be twisted into something unrecognizable, even murderous – and that more Christians, percentage-wise, fall into hatred than members of any other religion. We know who the hateful Islamists are, a minority of believers. We know who the violent, misogynistic, child-abusing Jews are; they’re not many, but they’re vicious. Meanwhile in this country (and Africa, the Caribbean and parts of Asia), Christians make me afraid or angry as often as they open my eyes to love.

    The new phenomenon, to me anyway, is aggressive atheists. I’m unaware of any numbers of them turning violent, but your example certainly proves that some of them are angrier, more publicly, than atheists used to be. Partly it’s because they get so sick of Christianists. When you got that kind of retort, it only proves you must have been winning the argument.

    Still, I think we need to know who our enemies are. A couple of weeks ago a Spanish cardinal made a statement that went further than I’ve ever heard any Catholic prelate go in denouncing LGBTs; in so many words he said we’re not human beings. It was the sort of thing one hears from the most rabid Gay-haters on the fundamentalist fringe – and this, in public, from a man who will vote for the next pope. (Prediction: new boss, same as the old boss.)

    Central to the entire story of salvation, from a Christian perspective, is God’s teaching us not to scapegoat each other. Yet here was one of the pope’s electors labeling millions of people as sub-human. We’re not the first to have to wear triangles in the concentration camp.

    We have enemies; we fight them. Saints can fight hatred with love; I’m not that good yet and probably never will be. I fight with words, actions, non-violence, because that was the bottom line for Gandhi and MLK. I also know it’s not up to me to win the battle; that’s the Higher Power’s job and she does it well.

    In the meantime I suppose we should rejoice when we are persecuted – but I haven’t got to that point either, so the best I can do is forget about it, and live to fight another day.

    Josh

  6. RE the Monkeys…Peter was the one I always had the hots for.

  7. I would recommend to JCF, and you too Josh, “Faithiest”, a book written by Chris Stedman. Chris is a recent graduate of the seminary where I’m the (dare I say) Business Manager.

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