The other night, citizens crowded into Smithtown Town Hall to protest the placement of more cellular towers in their neighborhoods, and to demand a moratorium on towers because of feared health effects.
Without realizing it, these people had joined ranks with those who protested the World Trade Organization Conference in Seattle recently, and with those about to protest at the International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington as this is being written. It's about the power of private interests to enforce unhealthy laws and living conditions on a less powerful public. Welcome to the war.
The faces of town officials, usually smiling and eager to please, were drawn and distressed. Their attorneys had already told them that even if they wanted to do exactly what the citizenry wanted, the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 had already anticipated and derailed that kind of legislation.
Very temporary moratoriums are possible, but the legislation must be based on very specific types of grounds, grounds which change monthly due to hundreds of ongoing court cases, and they can't include any mention of the public health. I've drafted such a local law and it's not easy. Cellular carriers, television networks, and other mass media owners were supposed to be regulated by that federal legislation, but instead it was the greatest thing that ever happened to industries that live off our public airwaves.
This is one example of how government by corporate interest touches our lives all the way into Smithtown, all the way into our concern for our neighborhoods and our children.
In history books, they call the 1890s "The Gilded Age," because of the runaway influence of big business and its owners in public and daily life. but the 1990s has truly been the greatest gilded age ever. The gap between the very rich and the vast majority un-rich has never been higher. We don't even hear talk of "trickle down" anymore. Just encouragement to buy the stocks that rise when fellow Americans lose their jobs.
Americans need to decide, individually and in communities, what role people are supposed to fill in whatever high-tech craven new world is being forged. Where do the older industrial workers go? The under-educated? The well educated who can't do Java programming? The hungry and poor? So far, the answer seems to be, "go away."
That answer is the thread that connects Smithtown housewives and Mexican child laborers, high prices at our gas pumps and changes in climate pattern. Connects corporate soft money and federal laws that give away neighborhood zoning control.
By the way, Senator John McCain fought against that Telecommunications Act, which inspired him to work for campaign funding reform. And Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan, the two most interesting presidential candidates, are opposed to WTO and its policies.