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Big Polluters: Avoiding Taxes For The Good Of Society?

Money has a way of corrupting people even the most righteous and honest people on earth. It has a way of making people succumb themselves to unethical decisions for the purpose of greed. Money is not only a means of payment for items but it is also the root cause for the downfall of countless individuals.

Corporate oil companies are examples of individuals that have been severely lacking in good. In recent years, there have been a number of oil spills. The most recent one is the BP oil spill in the gulf. Even though blame cannot be placed on it for the incident occurring in the first place, BP needs to be held responsible for their lack of commitment to the environment to completely fund for the clean up of the mess. Oil is still present in the gulf one year later. Plants have all withered away and animals have either died or fled their once previous homes. There were numerous endangered species living in the locations most affected by the oil spill. Thousands of people have sacrificed countless hours and labor working for years to rebuild the populations of these species. Now their numbers are basically almost the same as before any effort was made to rebuild. All the hard work and time were for nothing.

Oil companies are not paying their fair share of taxes. BP just recently took a $10 million tax break in order to recover from the lost revenue of the oil spill. That amount alone would completely cover the entire budget of the EPA which is $9.5 million. The question that we have to ask ourselves is why are Americans allowing BP to go about business scotch free while others are suffering under their hands? The EPA had to undergo budget cuts just to stay afloat. The U.S. definitely needs the EPA more than we need another oil company. The EPA is what keeps the environment from becoming worse than it is already.

Thousands of potential tax revenue are not filed because oil companies have found numerous tax loopholes that consequently allows them to pay less than they were originally supposed to. Americans could have used that money to save thousands of jobs like teachers, police officers, firefighters who are now currently working for low pay or have been laid off. It should not be considered ethical that oil company executives are receiving bonuses and are taking lavish vacations while millions of people are working just to get by. These executives are no different than anyone else in the U.S. Therefore, they should be treated the same way as everyone else. Like everyone else, they should file their taxes honestly and fairly without finding loopholes in the tax system.

Money has become such a priority for the majority of the oil companies that they are willing to lie and cheat to make certain that they pay the least amount of taxes. It has brought about a change in the mindset of oil companies in regards to what is more important, from making ethical decisions that work towards promoting the common good of society to making decisions that produce as much money as humanly possible.

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Napoleon: a visionary hero or an over-ambitious villain?

If what it means to be a hero is to have unwavering dedication to a cause and an unrelenting will to make it happen, then Napoleon is a great example of a hero. Napoleon’s ever-famous quote and also his motto was “Nothing is impossible”, and it was obvious that he followed this ideal.

Napoleon had a rough and modest start. He was born on Corsica, property of France at the chaotic time of the French Revolution. He was a gifted and a revolutionary leader, quickly rising through the ranks to become a commander of the French army. On top of his talents, he also had a vision: a vision of a united, powerful France, an empire that would span the breadth and width of Europe, not the crumbling and corrupt monarchy of old. His outspoken character and personal drive made him extremely popular with the people and the soldiers he commanded.

After many successful campaigns, Napoleon became a powerful military and political leader in France. With the support he gained, he was able to seize the throne and became the Emperor of France. His many victories over France’s arch-enemies vastly expanded French territory, transforming it from a nation to a mighty empire. Most famous of those was the crossing of the Alpes. At that time, the idea of moving a large army across the murderous mountain was thought all but impossible. However, Napoleon insisted on crossing the mountains, despite the warnings of his advisors. His bold tactics and resolute will allowed the French army to successfully cross the mountains and caught the enemies in complete surprise, resulting in a sounding victory. Such was a testament to his motto: “Nothing is impossible”

Ironically, Napoleon’s greatest asset also proved to be his ultimate downfall. His hunger for conquest, his dream of greatness for France led him into an over-ambition to dominate all of Europe and also Russia. The invasion of Russia, greatly advised against by his lieutenants, was a disaster. Much of the fault was also due to Napoleon’s uncompromising nature to never yield. During his absence and defeat, his enemies seized power in France and succeeded in dethroning him.

Yet Napoleon’s glory wasn’t meant to be over yet. Subsequent political and militaristic upheavals soon allowed Napoleon to regain his popularity and power. Returning to the throne, Napoleon led his army to the final defeat at the battle of Waterloo. Here, an alliance of British and Prussian forces ultimately defeated his army. With his defeat, Napoleon was exiled to a remote island. He died still hungering for his dream to be fulfilled.

From the example of Napoleon, we can see how a strong and dominant will can lead a person to greatness and heroism. Yet that same drive also led him to ambition and ultimate defeat. Such is the fine line between a hero and a villain.

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Tim DeChristopher: What Millions Dream About

Not many people are extremely passionate for something they love. It is even more unlikely that many people would submit themselves to jail and give up their own freedom for the things they are passionate about. However, there are people who would do just that. One such person is Tim DeChristopher.

Tim DeChristopher is a 29 year old undergraduate economics student from the University of Utah. He is an environmental activist. On December 19, 2008, DeChristopher infiltrated a federal government oil and gas lease auction which was the final auction under the Bush administration. By pretending to be bidder number 70, he bought up to 13 leases totaling to 22,500 acres of land around the Arches and Canyonlands national parks. When security had finally pulled him out of the auction, DeChristopher ended up with $1.7 million in leases he had no way of paying for.

Of course, DeChristopher was arrested on the spot. He was charged with a federal crime of disrupting a government held auction. On March 3, 2011, DeChristopher was found guilty at a Salt Lake City federal courthouse on 2 felony counts by a jury consisting of 8 men and 4 women for disrupting a government auction. During his trial He was sentenced to 10 years in jail and $750,000 in fines.

Later when people asked him why he did it, he responded that his actions were a form of protest against the federal government. The protest was sparked when the government violated environmental laws by holding the auction. In these laws, they stated that lands that were being auctioned off were first and foremost reserved for the sole purpose of building parks. DeChristopher knew that by doing nothing, these lands would be mercilessly used for corporate companies own selfish needs. Thus resulting in the devastation of these lands and possibly the surrounding lands.

When the government obviously did not care and were not going to do anything about it, DeChristopher took action to ensure that these laws were upheld. If no one else was going to do it, who would? When asked DeChristopher does not regret doing what he did at the auction. Instead he is quite proud of himself for having done so. Without him, Arches and Canyonlands national parks would not be present today.

He recently was a guest speaker at Powershift 2011 which is an environment activist conference in Washington, D.C. At the conference 10,000 young individuals heard him say that even though they are saying what they are going to do, are they really going to follow through with what they say? This statement was meaningful in which it encouraged the individuals to reflect on themselves and actually take measures to make a difference in the world instead of saying what they are going to do. Instead of it all being just talk, it should be all action.

Tim DeChristopher is a hero in which he took action to protect the thing he loves which is the environment from the people who are harming it. He was not just all talk. He actually had the guts to do something. DeChristopher was not concerned with the fact that his actions would no doubtably result in his arrest and jail time. He did what millions of people only dream about.

Below is the speech that Tim DeChristopher made during Powershift

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Society: A Villain?

Society is everywhere. Whether one’s eating, walking the dog, going to class, etc, we cannot do anything without being influenced by social standards and pressures. It is nearly impossible to escape. Society is full of many dominant cultural expectations, some which may be against the moral wellbeing of some individuals. And if one is against the norm, society begins to hammer them down, slowly causing them to break down and shatter.

Society tells us how to live our lives: how to dress, how to act, etc. In our current society, there are many social stereotypes that are considered “inferior”. Such lesser groups are decided by a large groups of people pushing ideals down peoples’ throats. Homosexuality can be considered a lesser group, as it is not considered “normal” to be gay. African Americans for most of our country’s history were treated like dirt, and any interaction with them was looked down upon. With these and many other social stereotypes, it stimulates hateful action. Continuing with the previous example, such violence against homosexuals has been seen throughout history, especially in California during the 1970s. These social pressures thus cause people to harass other people if they act somewhat out-of-line according to the norm.

Media plays a large role in the rigging of social practices. For example, in the 19th century, the media often stereotyped Irish Americans as being violent amongst themselves and other ethnic groups, prone to alcohol, and controlled by mob bosses and other criminal organizations. Catholicism, at that same time, was openly mocked by Protestants. It even progressed to a point in which Protestants refused to hire any Irish Catholics. Even in our current media, most of the headlines on television and in newspapers are about negativity. Is there any good news? Hearing one negative story after another is not too pleasant or hopeful to hear about. Believe it or not, people do love hearing happy stories as well. With the media enforcing such hateful beliefs and negative values, a perpetual cycle is created, continuing the hatred, segregating the people, and even sparking some violence.

The solution to society’s rigor and homogenous views is education. Throughout all the examples above, ignorance and a one-sided opinion seem to be both crucial overlying factors. By providing differing views in school and in the media, the individual is able to see a poignant, well-rounded picture. With new ideas and lessons, people will begin to become more accepting and less strict about political and economic views and cultural practices. Solidarity amongst the people will begin to form, creating a new and improved societal system.

Society is naturally not perfect. With the negative communication practices in the media and homogenous cultural system, it is clear that society simulates a villainous persona. Living in a villainous society obviously does not benefit anyone as it stunts individuality and overall growth. The only way to end such villainy is to promote a heterogeneous education, in which many opinions are permitted. Yes, society is overbearing, but if we conquer above such hateful thought, our people will flourish. Who doesn’t want that?

 

 

 

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Adolf Hitler: Using Trickery to Distort Heroism

No one could be thought of as more villainous as Adolf Hitler. Yet, the fact that he deceived the majority of the German people into believing that he was a hero is a truly sickening fact. As the leader of the Nazi Party of Germany, he publicized and propagandized his distorted idealisms of Aryan race supremacy and extremist views of nationalism. He targeted his propaganda against the peaceful co-existence of the world’s nations created by the Versailles Treaty that, in essence, ended World War I. With the Treaty essentially blaming Germany for the war and imposing financial penalties, it was quite easy to unite the German people. But Hitler escalated the attack when he turned his attention to different factions, such as communists, Catholics, homosexuals, paraplegics, and, most importantly, the Jews, creating false generalizations in order to stir up more xenophobic anger and animosity amongst the German people.

Hitler used his skills of persuasion to mold Jews as a target of an empire, stating that Jews were directly responsible for all of Germany’s domestic issues. He used his intimidation and determined persona to obtain power by convincing the German majority of the need for another Reich, rising to the role of dictator of the Third Reich in June, 1934. He eventually solidified his dictatorial rule by uniting the positions of Fuhrer and Chancellor in August, 1934, after the death of Fuhrer Paul von Hindenburg. Thereafter, the German army swore an oath of obedience to Hitler and his Nazi cause, establishing the Gestapo, the secret police, with the authority to incarcerate and even kill any German deemed anti-Nazi. This, in turn, created a sense of unease and fear intimidating the German population into submission of Nazi rule.

Many were blindsided and led into a promise of change and hope that was never properly envisioned. Hitler had amassed so much power that it was nigh impossible to control him. His total control over German society thus allowed him to establish outrageous and hateful institutions such concentration camps, which cruelly killed Jews and other oppressed groups deemed inferior to the Aryan bloodline. Furthermore, he enacted the Nuremberg racial laws against the Jews and furthered the destruction of churches and temples. Sneakily, Hitler concealed such evil enactments with his territorial expansion, campaigns of a united Germany and countless victories. Displaying nationalistic successes created a large sense of euphoria amongst the public, thus shifting the focus away from the atrocities. Then, the cause to expand the empire began, and World War II began. Using German Blitzkrieg tactics, Hitler attacked quickly and swiftly, first with aircraft bombers and fighters taking out airfields, communication stations, and military installations, using mobile armor and infantry to annihilate anything remaining. Such a brutal and ruthless strategy was extremely successful: Poland fell in less than a month, Denmark and Norway in two months, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg and France in six weeks.

However, what is more unbelievable and shocking is how this one man attained such power so quickly and then convinced a nation to support anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred. It is quite mindboggling that his ability to make powerful, cunning speeches was used as diversion to trick and to motivate such evil acts. Thankfully, modern-day Germany now has completely disassociated itself with Hitler and his regime, ashamed of that part of history.  

Despite such disassociation, Hitler remains a prime example of villainy. Society must always remember him as an example of a leader in order to avoid any repetition of such awful events, for it will definitely be an absolutely tragic day when another Hitler rises to power.

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James Bond: Hero with Swagger

Almost all of today’s Americans from ages 10 to 60 are able to accurately describe their very favorite James Bond scene in which a countless number of talented actors were depicted evading impossible situations and of course…getting the gorgeous girl.  James Bond is the epitome of a hero that employs physical as well as moral courage.  There are over 20 James Bond movies in circulation since the late 1950’s.  In each film, protagonist James Bond defies physics, gravity, common sense and the most of evil of villains with a wide array of gadgets and with an daunting aura of confidence.  I believe this aspect of Bond’s character leaves society with this sense of heroism towards Bond.  He is able to face such intense situations day in and day out without the blink of an eye.  Is that not what we all want in our heroes?  Someone that can defeat evil in its purest form and do so with apparent perfection.  Bond appears simply flawless in every aspect of his character from one movie to the next.  Whether Bond is taking down the infamous Dr. No or Goldfinger’s tyrannous reign, the viewer will ALWAYS find themselves on the edge of their seat rooting for the one and only Bond, James Bond.  This charisma surrounding Bond draws viewers and fictitious characters alike to him without fail and only adds to his heroic quality.  Society is drawn to that “cool” sense of heroism in which little apparent effort is required to perform a task such as saving the world, or getting the girl (for the 25th time…)  The influence of James Bond is endless in that his character has spawned other comedic characters such as Austin Powers and Johnny English.  These examples only increase Bond’s popularity as a kick-ass hero and truly show the wide influence this epic character has upon the film industry as a whole.  The aspect of Bond’s hero that remains distinct is his innate ability to remain immune to the effects of time.  As a society, we tend to oust of heroes shortly after our hyped infatuation with their abilities or personality in general.  Clearly defined by the success enjoyed by Bond’s creator Ian Fleming, we see that Bond’s status as hero has only increased as time has passed.

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Tradd St. Croix: The Pain of a Friend-Turned-Enemy

The Lords of Discipline, by Pat Conroy, is a novel that focuses on Will McClean, a young, nervous teenager entering his first year at the South Carolina Military Institute (a fictional military college based on the Citadel) in Charleston, South Carolina. Soon after he arrives, the dreaded life of the plebe begins; however, Will finds strength and hope in three of his classmates who become his best friends: “Pig” Pignetti, Mark Santoro, and Tradd St. Croix. Pig and Mark are big, strong guys from the North, and Tradd is from a very wealthy, “old Charleston” family with history at the school. The book follows Will in his journey to learn what it means to become a man and he faces many grueling challenges within the system, but the true villain of the novel is not revealed until the very end. The reader is meant to feel as shocked as Will does as he is forced to step back and re-evaluate all that has happened to him in the past four years. Even though it is not how you read the novel, I will explain the plot as it relates to the true villain of the story, Tradd St. Croix.

At the Institute, there is an exclusive secret society named The Ten. The alumni of The Ten are some of the most powerful at the Institute, and men in the military. One of their purposes, which increases their need for secrecy, is running out the plebes who they consider unacceptable to wear the Ring, which students receives upon graduation. The Ten will resort to unfair, and even violent action to eliminate weak plebes. Tradd’s father attended the Institute, and is a member of The Ten. Tradd, despite his small stature and unintimidating nature, is bound to be inducted into the society. He is, yet he does not tell his friends. For most of the novel, Will tries to do the right thing, and often he comes into indirect contact with The Ten. The novel is set during the 1960s, and as an upperclassman, Will is asked by one of the officers to serve as a mentor to the first black cadet to enter the school. Will agrees and takes his role very seriously. Of course, a black student is just the type of abnormality that the Ten try to run off campus. Once Will is personally involved in the situation, he begins to learn a lot about the Ten and who is involved that both scares and empowers him. Since Will is linked to the black student, Pierce, he also becomes a target of The Ten. While all of this is going on, Will’s roommate, Tradd, knows how much Will is suffering and struggling. While he consoles and attempts to help, he also maintains his allegiance to The Ten.

This is simply one example of how the Tradd/Will conflict increases as Tradd continues to hide his secret. At the end of the novel, Will is able to put the pieces together, but he realizes that his best friend, someone he had trusted, had been a contributing factor to the great challenges Will faced while at the Institute. Their friendship is forever destroyed. Maybe Tradd had little choice in whether her became part of The Ten or not, but he continually lied to, deceived, and sold out his best friend, a villainous choice that resulted in death, ridicule, violence and anger.

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