What's wrong with a moderate level of gun regulation like waiting periods, strict and comprehensive background checks (including for gun shows) and requiring safety training? Moderate regulation may b

“What’s wrong with a moderate level of gun regulation” is that, in the United States, there are a lot of extremely irrational, fearful, self-righteous folks who allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by the firearms industry. It wasn’t until after the firearms industry realized that its military weapon sales were tanking (i.e. no more wars) that the 2nd Amendment suddenly had more to do with personal gun ownership and self-defense, and not with well-regulated militias. This was part of a deliberate propaganda campaign to deceive and mislead American consumers. If not for the desire of gun mfrs to market military style weapons to civilians, there would likely only be a few fringe extremists who believe what is now fairly mainstream among card-carrying NRA members.

And of course it’s not infringement. You need a license and training to drive a car lawfully. You need a license and training to serve food to people safely. You need a license and training to build a house for someone. You need a license and training to operate a ham radio out of the privacy of your home. All of this has to do with public safety. And for folks to say that applying what is a normal and reasonable consideration for other potentially harmful skills and privileges in society to guns is somehow unreasonable or unconstitutional…well, what can I say? It frankly boggles the mind…until you realize these folks have been spoon fed their talking points by the companies that make assault weapons.

Unfortunately, it’s not all that surprising that this has happened in the U.S. Americans are hard-wired from birth to believe false advertising…it’s just part of our commercialistic culture: we tend to believe what we are sold.

Oh…and rest assured that nearly all of the claims that “gun regulations don’t solve or stop anything” are statistically dead wrong. Just more lies to sell more guns. Lots of studies show that gun regulation has a positive impact on reducing crime stats and accidental death and homicide stats (both in the U.S. and in other countries). Again though…truth and evidence don’t matter to a lot of 2nd Amendments defenders, as they’re drunk on the Cool-Aid of “alternative facts.”

That said, here are some articles that may be of interest to reasonable, sane people who haven’t bought into the pro-gun-mfr-lobby con-job:

How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment

How The Gun Industry Funnels Tens Of Millions Of Dollars To The NRA

State Gun Laws That Actually Reduce Gun Deaths

States with strict gun laws have fewer firearms deaths. Here's how your state stacks up

Firearm Laws and Firearm Homicides

The Supreme Court’s Worst Decision of My Tenure (re: Columbia v. Heller)

My 2 cents.

How did New Zealand succeed in banning all military-style semiautomatic weapons 1 week after their tragedy, but the United States hasn't been able to do the same following many similar tragedies?

Well take your pick:

1. The U.S.-based firearms industry has tremendous sway over U.S. politics through aggressive and well-funded lobbying efforts, complete capture of the NRA, additional lobbying and legislative influence through the NSSF and ALEC, and a decades-long campaign of amping up irrational fear and paranoia among lawful gun owners. The U.S. would not have so many assault weapons in civilian hands had the firearms industry not used their leverage to market weapons that were — let’s not forget — illegal to manufacture in the U.S. for a decade after the Cleveland Elementary, Luby’s and California Street shootings. Why did gun makers do this? To make money of course. When military sales of the AR15 began to wane (not enough wars to increase orders!), they needed a new market. And, thanks to their ability to hoodwink the American public and influence Congress, they got one.

2. The U.S. Second Amendment is fairly unique among modern democracies, and wasn’t particularly well-written regarding the purpose of the “right to bear arms.” Was it intended to create well-regulated state militias that could, at the state level, resist a federal government’s overreach? Or was it intended to allow every citizen in the U.S. to own military weapons (by extension up to and including nuclear missiles) so that they could defend themselves from their own government’s tyranny, if required? Until very recently (Columbia v Heller, 2008), SCOTUS consistently linked gun ownership rights to militia membership. But clearer writing would have helped prevent the Second Amendment’s misuse IMO.

3. Let’s face it: a lot of Americans just aren’t that bright, don’t think about things very carefully, seem to be very gullible, and are particularly prone to the Dunning–Kruger effect. I’m not sure if it’s the prevailing U.S. diet, or the constant deluge of advertising and mindless media, or a poor education system, or something in our water…but the average U.S. citizen just can’t seem to think very critically or clearly — certainly as compared to the folks in other developed countries I have lived in. In addition, there has been a concerted effort on the Right-leaning end of the political spectrum to “dumb down” their rank-and-file even further: by demeaning academia and defunding K-12 education; by trumpeting anti-intellectual rhetoric in conservative mass media; by actively opposing science with well-funded “Science Skepticism” campaigns; and by generally dismissing evidence and facts in favor of magical thinking and logical fallacies. And this has been going on for many decades now. Just consider the election of Republican presidents Reagan, G.W. Bush and Trump. These men were verifiable idiots, and yet conservatives championed them as competent leaders. I don’t think any other developed democracy has ever fallen prey to this level of stupidity.

4. Guns are fun. As a privileged white male in the richest society on Earth, I myself believe I am entitled to playing with the toys I want to play with. Having anyone tell me I can’t play with the toys I want is disheartening, and generally leads me into a bout of cranky pouting. And yes, I do like guns — including the most powerful military versions — and have liked them all of my life. The only reason I support various gun control measures is because I believe it is necessary to sacrifice at least some of my own whims, impulses and childish toy-obsessions in order for other people to feel free and safe. That’s kind of the deal I think folks need to make for civil society to exist at all: we can’t always have everything we want…not even our favorite toys. But I guess not everyone in the U.S. shares that point of view, which means a lot of other privileged folks maintain a perpetual tantrum when it looks like some of their favorite toys might be taken away.

My 2 cents.

Regenerative Mindset, Habits & Economies



A Critical Shift Away from an Extractive Downward Spiral

We can no longer maintain an opportunistic, ever-expanding extractive mindset toward planet Earth’s ecosystems and resources, toward human labor and creativity, toward the cooperative infrastructure of civil society, or in the “taking for granted” of life itself. Our extractive habits are unsustainable in economic terms, but more critically they are destroying everything around us at an accelerating pace. To fully appreciate both our extractivist habits and their consequences, please consult the following resources:

“Deep Adaptation: A Map for Avoiding Climate Tragedy” by Professor Jem Bendell (full paper available here; editorial article available here)

UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’ (Detailed report overview with many key statistics here; full “advanced unedited” IPBES report here)

“Capitalism is destroying the Earth. We need a new human right for future generations” — Guardian article by George Monbiot here.

“Extractivism and neoextractivism: two sides of the same curse” by Alberto Acosta (full essay available here)

The only solution is to shift as rapidly and all-inclusively as possible to regenerative solutions — and a regenerative state of mind. Collectively and individually, there is really no other choice. Why? Because hopes that global capitalism can be reigned in or civilized are naive and Pollyannish — as all such efforts are routinely undermined by enormously well-funded and fanatical neoliberal investment in the extractive status quo. Because trust that human innovation will address the most serious consequences of extractivism with new technologies is contradicted by the enormous complexities of natural ecosystems, the stunning scale and current momentum of the problems we must address, and the dismal track record of a majority previous technologies that created unanticipated negative externalities. Our only reasonable option is to implement regenerative systems and vigorously restrain and extinguish extractive systems.

And again, these changes are not restricted to how humanity views and utilizes natural resources — that is really just the tip of the iceberg. Equally import are how we view people — human creativity, labor, economic behavior, social behavior, spirituality, etc. — as well as how we view the institutions of civil society, and how we view both the wonder of Nature and the miracle of life itself. Does everything exist merely to be used up and exploited? Or does everything in this amazing reality have intrinsic value apart from any utilization by humanity? This is the fundamental question we must answer in order to guide effective transformations of our old, self-destructive habits into new, sustainable and thriving ones.


If These Concerns Are the Primary Drivers of Reform, How Can We Change?

What do “regenerative solutions” look like, then? Certainly there are many proposed frameworks for sustainability that have already proven themselves on various scales — many of which are described in proposals on my Level 7 website, or would easily dovetail with those proposals. Successful recycling programs and materials sourcing, renewable energy, and sustainable agriculture have demonstrated genuine promise in their workability and scalability — even using capitalist metrics, they have increasingly been able to compete with traditional extractive models in terms of productivity and efficiency. As for human exploitation, worker-owned and managed cooperatives, Open Source production, P2P models, and commons-centric governance likewise have an established a meaningful track record of self-sustaining success — again even when using capitalist metrics to evaluate them, they often exceed the productivity and efficiency of traditional exploitative models.

Apart from the understandable resistance of established power and wealth to what will inevitably be a self-sacrificial change, what is the barrier, then, to transitioning away from extraction and exploitation? What is stopping us, and how can we overcome that barrier? Is there something more deeply rooted in our psyche that prevents us from moving forward. . .?

This is my intuition: that we need to fall in love again — with everything that our hectic, worried, materialistic, technological lifestyle has distanced us from. We need to re-invoke some of the mystery and wonder that once existed for us as we beheld the magnificence of Nature on a daily basis. We need to reconnect with each other in more personal ways — as neighbors, as community members, as citizens and fellow travelers of a rich cultural heritage. We need to cultivate more gratitude regarding the stunning gift our very existence. We must abandon a mechanistic, individualistic, reductionist and profit-centric view of ourselves and the world around us, and reacquaint ourselves with the felt experience of community and mystery. And we must not only grudgingly allow the possibility that life on Earth has intrinsic value, but actually celebrate it as we honor all species, all ecosystems, all habitats, all beings — including each other. In other words: we must return to more authentic, intimate and wonder-filled relationship with All That Is.

This is not a new concern, or a new remedy. Writers, activists, leaders, organizations and movements since capitalism first clawed its way to prominence have warned us of its dangers. However, this re-invocation of mystery has often been framed as an individual journey or choice — sometimes mystical, sometimes psychological, sometimes inviting methodological holism or integralism — but I would contend that this individualistic framing is itself destined to fail. A disproportionate emphasis on individual transformation and development is, in fact, just a new manifestation of the underlying error, confining the solution to the same atomistic, alienated, disconnected separateness that is causing the problem. The re-invocation of mystery must therefore be deeper, more encompassing, and more pervasive and participatory for any enduring, systemic transformation to take effect. It cannot be restricted to “me,” or “my tribe,” or “our community,” or even “our species” or “our planet,” for the egotism of individualism is too easily converted into the arrogance of anthropocentrism.

No, the smallest scope of this shift in relationship must, of necessity, be “All Life,” and then cascade through all other strata of being from there. To love all of life itself, to cherish it and commit ourselves to its thriving a a whole, is the beginning of cultivating kind, compassionate, caring relationships with everything else. And humanity must, as a whole, participate in this renewed relationship. We must all collectively revive a worshipful passion for the sacredness of life — certainly here on Earth, but really all of its forms wherever they may be found. And we must operationalize that passion within every system, every institution, every mutual agreement, every law, every collaboration and competition, every collective act. We must all live this truth together as if our lives depend on it — because, in light of the cataclysm we have created, our lives do in fact depend on it.

Yes, there will always be outliers, rebels, egoists and psychopaths, some of whom will continue to attain positions of power and influence. And there will be plutocratic pushback against all reforms challenge the supremacy of greed. But despite corporate capitalism’s endless efforts to reenforce, elevate and amplify such antisocial aberrations — through its heartless obsession with transactional relationships, commodification, externalized dependencies, self-indulgent hedonism, and the almighty dollar — that is not who we human beings are in our heart-of-hearts. Instead, we want to belong, we want to contribute, we want to care and be cared for, we want to love and be loved, and we long to have our intrinsic value and worth acknowledged. That is the basis of society itself — and family, friendship, and lasting romance — rather than the will-to-profit. So it follows that if we can, altogether, remember who we really are, then all the wonder and mystery of our relationship with life itself can be restored.

First Steps

In many ways what we are aiming for here is recovering a long-abandoned faith. Not faith in the sense of a blindly adherent belief system — and not the faith of any particular religious tradition — but faith as an intentional quality of character that trusts in certain fundamental realities: realities like the interdependence of all living things; the true miracle of existence; the joy of connectedness and belonging available to all; the power of lovingkindness; and the awe that we can be conscious of any of this. A faith that leads us to conclude with gratitude that, because the Universe has conspired in favor of our consciousness, our consciousness can now conspire in favor of the Universe. A faith that inspires us to celebrate rather than exploit, to regenerate rather than extract, to create rather than destroy. A felt experience of trust in the triumph of love over fear. A faith in life itself.

If such an intuition is correct, it demands that any reformation or revolution begin with this shift in focus, however that can be accomplished. As a small first step in this direction, consider the following short exercise with one or more friends and loved ones, and — if it feels helpful and right to you — practice and share it with others. And if it doesn’t work for you, perhaps you can come up with your own participatory practice that inspires a similar result.

In a quiet space, free of technological interruptions, have everyone join hands, and describe the following steps:

1) With heads bowed and eyes closed, take three deep, slow and even breaths to calm and center the body and mind.

2) Then, take three more slow and even breaths, and silently say to yourselves “May our faith reawaken” as you exhale each time. Focus on the meaning of those words.

3) After three repetitions, open your eyes and look at each other.

4) Breathe in slowly together, and then, as you all exhale, speak aloud in unison: “May our faith reawaken.”

5) Listen to each other, see each other, and again feel the meaning of those words in that moment.

6) Repeat the slow intake of breath and speaking the phrase aloud together two more times ― as an affirmation and encouragement.

7) Afterwards, pause for a few moments to allow this experience to settle and sink in.

We can of course make this exercise more specific by adding to the phrase: “May our faith in each other reawaken,” or in humanity, or in the power of compassion, or in life itself, and so on. But if we were all to consecrate our day, our actions, our relationships, our intentions, and our purpose with this kind of mutual affirmation and opening up — with a clear understanding of what it invokes regarding a sacred relationship with all of life — could such a small spark make a difference? Could it ignite a unity of compassionate restoration, and energize a critical transformation? Could it reawaken a quality of relationship with ourselves and everything around us that will restore balance and harmony?

In my teaching and coaching, I am always amazed at the power that connectedness and shared intention can create in small groups. That observation is what inspires this exercise, and the entire framework of Community Coregroups that I discuss in much of my writing.

Why are deep thinkers rare in society (i.e. Western Civilization)? What is the epitome of deep when deep is oftentimes undervalued by mainstream enthusiasts?

Fantastic question — thanks Elijah.

The main reason deeply contemplative folks are rare in Western society is, I think, representative of a nexus of cultural factors:

1. An emphasis on analytical reductionism at one extreme, superstition at the other, and groupthink all across the middle. In other words…there isn’t much encouragement to think about topics, conditions, experiences, etc. in multifaceted or holistic ways — and instead there is a lot of pressure to conform to ideas and beliefs that signal membership in a particular group or tribe.

2. A highly commercialized externalization of authority and “speeding up” of all decision-making to facilitate transactions. It is much easier to get folks to buy things (or vote a particular way) if they learn to reflexively and rapidly respond to “calls-to-action” from external authorities and influencers. In other words, “you can’t be happy/sexy/accepted/affluent/classy/sophisticated/important/righteous UNLESS YOU BUY [fill in the blank with product or service] OR VOTE FOR [politician or initiative].” It is also important to keep the engines of capitalism running full speed ahead because capitalism is dependent on growth — which discourages slower, more thoughtful decision-making in favor of quick transactions that facilitate profit. Bigger/newer/faster/better often trumps all other considerations. And when you combine multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns with the tendencies described in point #1, you can easily produce a pervasive lemming-effect through mass media.

3. Technology that abbreviates thought, communication, and connection — and keeps it shallow. Social media, texting, email…even phone calls are really poor substitutions for breaking bread with folks and having deep, meaningful, emotionally and intellectually rich conversations. But that’s how most of us in the West are communicating with each other nowadays.

4. A longstanding prejudice against both intellectualism and intuition. Aligning with point #2, Western culture discourages folks from trusting either our own critical thinking ability or our intuitive hunches. Instead, these interior capacities become suspect. I don’t know where these prejudices came from, but any nerdy or mystical kid who was routinely tormented by jocks and bullies in school knows how prevalent the prejudices are.

5. Thinking deeply is hard, and humans have become lazy and addicted to convenience and comfort. In the developed world, life has become pretty luxurious. There isn’t much existential worry for citizens of Western countries — or much reason to think carefully or in a concentrated way to preserve a lowest-common-denominator of well-being. I think that has encouraged us to relax our reflective abilities.

Okay…that’s my 2 cents.

Short Discourse On Insecurity: Why We Can’t Fix the World by Blaming Others



What if, suddenly out of the blue, I insisted that you stop trying to control other people?


What if I said that, when you try to control what other people say or what they do, it’s just a symptom of your own insecurity? And what if I said you needed to do some tough personal work on yourself first, before trying to make other people conform to your expectations of how they should act towards you? And what if I said that, eventually, if you actually did that tough personal work, you’d almost certainly stop trying to control others anyway?

How would that make you feel? And, most importantly, would it change your behavior at all…?

Or would it just piss you off? Perhaps make you challenge my self-appointed role in policing your behavior? Would you maybe ask: “Who the heck are YOU to tell me what I can and can’t do???”

Okay then. So now consider the following situations:

- A woman doesn’t like the way a man is touching her arm.

- A transgender person wants coworkers to use their chosen pronoun.

- A gay person is offended by the homophobic jokes of fellow students.

- A Vegan is horrified when someone brings a meat dish to a potluck at their home.

- A person of color feels alienated by a politician using coded language – language that reveals prejudice or even hatred towards their race.

- A religious person feels persecuted and excluded by a law, a business practice or a cultural tradition that belittles or contradicts their beliefs.

- A person of a particular political persuasion believes another group routinely looks down on them, dismisses their ideas, and laughs at their beliefs.

- A member of one socioeconomic class feels targeted and oppressed by members of other socioeconomic classes.

- A politically correct audience is angry and judgmental about a comedian’s sense of humor regarding any-of-the-above.

These examples aren’t meant to be equivalant, but in any of these situations there can be real emotional pain involved – a genuine felt experience of demeaning oppression – that could lead to debilitating despair over time. But, even though real harm may be occurring, does the offended person have the right to demand that those causing offense be ridiculed, shamed, accused or blamed? To demand that they apologize, admit they were wrong, and commit to changing their behavior? To insist they be punished in some way – that they resign, be fired, lose status, be publicly harassed, or are deserving of threats and intimidation? To essentially become an example of accountability for all similar wrongs experienced in society...a scapegoat for those collective ills?

Can you see what is really happening here?

It isn’t just that the abused is turning into an abuser – it can be much subtler and more insidious than that. For if each of these individuals (or groups of folks) insists that everyone else conform to their particular standard of conduct, to respect their particular sensitivities, to always consider their feelings and perspective and honor their particular belief system…well, then this leads to everyone constantly policing everyone else’s behavior, and thereby amplifies mistrust and even hatred. And this, in turn, has everyone pissing everyone else off, to the point where we all declare: “Hey, what gives YOU the right to tell me what I’m allowed to say or do?!” And so we all begin to resent the shackles that our society seems to be placing on us; we all begin to question whether living in harmony with each other is really worth it – and whether our civic institutions are all that important…or worth preserving. We begin to doubt the very foundations of civil society itself.

And yet there is increasingly a reliance on impersonal institutions, the court of public opinion in mass media, and often disproportionate personal punishments to correct what are essentially ongoing cultural and interpersonal challenges. Whether it is a left-leaning social justice warrior or right-leaning religious conservative, promoting the imposition of personal preferences via such impersonal mechanisms is actually destroying the social cohesion required to repair these longstanding problems.


And this is where we have arrived in the U.S. culture of 2019. In every corner of our current political, religious, racial, and economic landscape, folks are arming themselves with accusations against other people who don’t seem to respect or honor a particular boundary or standard of behavior. Everyone is able to take offense, and demand that everyone else change. And then the most impersonal, coercive and punitive of institutional tools are used to seek remedy. It is as if we have arrived in George Orwell’s 1984 – or even Golding’s Lord of the Flies – or the worst periods of the Soviet era, or Nazi Germany, or the darkest days of McCarthyism, or the ugly history of the Inquisition…times when folks were ratting each other out to gain praise from those in power, or achieve brief political advantage over someone else, or garner a little more social capital in circumstances where they felt disempowered, or were simply taking revenge on people they didn’t like – and then taking pleasure in their suffering. And, as a consequence, in every one of these historical situations, civil society itself was eventually degraded by pervasive mistrust and mutual oppression.

Is that what we want? Do we want to head any further down this dark and dismal path?

If not, then we need to rethink what is becoming a reflexive and widespread culture of blaming, accusing, ridiculing, shaming, and punishing.

For at its core, when we ask other people to change their behavior to make us feel more comfortable or safe, we are actually giving away our power. We are offering them all the agency in a given situation, and abdicating our own. We are reinforcing our victim status, and strengthening the bullies even as we attempt to punish them. Often, we may even be galvanizing opposing tribes against any hope of reconciliation. We are, in effect, perpetuating both conflict and our own disempowerment at the same time, rather than solving the underlying problems. And as we give away our own power – while at the same time challenging and undermining everyone else’s – we end up destroying the voluntary trust, empathy and compassion that bind society together. Instead, we replace it with fear.

So…what is the alternative?

There are many observable options that have proven more effective, so why not return to those? For example, in each of the awkward and uncomfortable situations described above:

1. We can fortify our own emotional constitution, instead of taking offense. We can become stronger and more secure in who we are, without expecting others to respect or honor us. This may require some real interior work on our part – some genuine fortification of spirit, mind and heart – but the result will be that we won’t constantly require others to conform to our expectations anymore.

2. We can calmly ask for what we want – not as a self-righteous demand, but as a favor from someone who says that they want to have a professional or personal relationship with us. If they really care about us, perhaps they will at least try. But if our response is met with scorn, dismissiveness or skepticism, we have the option of letting it go. After all, that person’s approval, acceptance and conformance is not required…because we have become more confident and secure in ourselves. We don’t need to demand their conformance – and why would we want it, if it doesn’t come from a place of respect, understanding and compassion?

3. We can accept where other people are, let go of judgement, and be a positive example for them. This is what authentic, effective leaders (and parents, and managers) do: they lead by steadfast and dedicated example…not through blaming, threats, accusations or fear of punishment. Bullying is the easy way out. We can do better.

4. We can passively, actively and nonviolently resist. We can refuse to participate in activities, systems, environments and relationships that demean who we are and what we believe. We can then vote to support compassionate candidates and friendly initiatives. We can purchase goods and services from those who are supportive to our identity and beliefs. And we can do this without hatred, without fear and anxiety, without shame or blame.

5. We can create supportive communities, while also cultivating challenging relationships that bridge differences. We can surround ourselves with like-minded folks who nurture and encourage who we are and what we believe – especially in our closest relationships. At the same time, we can also cultivate friendships and social or professional connections with people who are different, who disagree, who aren’t as accepting or as tolerant. For how else can we teach by example, or demonstrate compassion, empathy, tolerance and acceptance if we don’t have such diverse relationships in our lives?

6. We can be brave…and bravely be ourselves. We can speak our truth, share our perspectives, broadcast our preferences, celebrate our identity, and proudly honor our chosen tribe…without making others feel belittled, excluded, accused, blamed or shamed. We can joyfully be who we are, while also being welcoming and kind at the same time. We can be stalwart in our own principles, while being generous towards those who do not share them. This is what real power and agency looks like.

7. We can recover our sense of humor. Perhaps it’s time to allow just a little bit of playfulness back into our lives and public discourse. A little bit of good-natured joshing. Humor isn’t by definition “mean-spirited.” There is a difference between a joke and a slight – and often this is has just as much to do with how the humor is received, as with how it is intended. If we are always reactive, always defensive, always on-edge…well, we are not likely to be able to create or maintain the relationships required to heal a polarized society. Perhaps, if we let a little humor back into our world, we wouldn’t all be so angry, defensive and fearful so much of the time.

These are the methods that make a real difference over time, that can effectively heal through compassionate and welcoming personal relationships, rather than deepening divides with institutional vindictiveness and “Us vs. Them” groupthink.


In essence, if we want everyone in a diverse and multifaceted society to thrive together, then we all must assert our own place and space to do that – not by demanding others create that space for us, but by claiming it ourselves and standing firm…without anger or condemnation towards anyone else. In essence, we need to stop blaming and accusing. This is not easy, but it demonstrates genuine strength of character. And it is the content of our character by which we all would prefer to be judged, isn’t it? I think we need to return to this standard of measure, if we want to avoid spiraling backwards and downwards, into the greatest horrors of human history.

Just my 2 cents.

Why do people seem so surprised about inequality of wealth, the 10% having holdings, when so few save, even those that could?

Thanks for the question.

I think mainly it’s a matter of scale. The gap between that upper 10% and everyone else is almost too vast to comprehend.

Then there is the issue of what “savings” can actually accomplish. Even though I learned about the miracle of compound interest in my early 20s, the most outrageous predictions about my own potential wealth after 40 years of saving could never come close to what the upper 10% have amassed individually today. A couple of million maybe. But 200 Billion…?

People can intuitively grasp that not saving has consequences — especially if they’re going into debt at the same time in order to consume conspicuously. Almost everyone I know who is over 60 has looked back on their lives with chagrin regarding how they spent everything they earned. At the same time, many would not have made different choices. They don’t regret traveling in Europe in their 20s and meeting the love of their life overseas. They don’t regret buying expensive instruments and making music with friends. They don’t regret paying off their college loans, or buying their dream house on some wooded acreage. So what quality of life is anyone really willing to sacrifice in order to amass more wealth…? But the conspicuous consumption issue…or not budgeting…or not planning financially at all…well, that’s probably an issue of education more than anything else. I was very conscious about what I was sacrificing (over the longer term) by traveling, eating well, going to concerts, etc. But I don’t think most people are all that aware…until it’s too late.

And that brings us to what the “surprise” is really all about: an awakening to an unpleasant situation that was truly unexpected. I am currently helping manage the finances and healthcare of family members with dementia. Some of those family members had saved quite a bit. Some saved nothing. In both cases, they weren’t at all prepared for what was coming. ALL of their resources will be exhausted LONG BEFORE they arrive at the final stages of care. ALL OF THEM. And so for the ones who saved, it really didn’t matter that much — they are still suffering and will continue to suffer, and there will very likely be nothing left to pass on to their beneficiaries…little safety or comfort for themselves, and no legacy for their loved ones, despite all that careful saving and planning.

So even the objective of amassing wealth loses its allure in the face of such circumstances. If things are going to end like that regardless, then why NOT spend everything now to enjoy life?

And this speaks to a much more fundamental problem IMO: the reliance on individual or familial wealth to navigate well-being, instead of developing a more compassionate civil society with supportive institutions. It points, I think, to the fundamental flaw in the materialist/individualist mindset.

My 2 cents.

What are the best books that explain libertarian conservatism ideals and philosophy?

Thanks for the question. I think that kind of depends on what you want to know. For example:

Want to understand the “populist” conceptions of the right-libertarian movement? Read Ayn Rand. She’s not libertarian but more laissez-faire (and in fact criticized libertarianism), but many folks conflate her “objectivist” philosophy with justifications for right-libertarian ideals. Of course, genuinely thoughtful folks don’t really take Ayn Rand seriously, as so many of her assertions are either purely invented or just plain mistaken. In the same vein, you could also consult Ludwig von Mises of the Austrian School — completely separate angle from Rand that brush up against populist libertarianism, but equally crackpot and arriving at similarly non-evidenced-based conclusions.

Want to understand some broadly-held, philosophical foundations for right-libertarianism? Murray Rothbard and Milton Friedman are very popular among the deeper-thinking crowd. However, these two are not very…shall we say…disciplined or clear thinkers themselves — their work is sometimes laden with logical fallacies, contradictions and baseless assumptions. However, to understand the central tenets of modern right-libertarianism today, they are fairly go-to authors.

Want to dig deep and really get your head around right-libertarianism? To rigorously delve into more intellectually honest and nuanced underpinnings of right-libertarian ideology, I would check out these two books:

Friedrich Hayek’s The Transmission of the Ideals of Freedom, and

Robert Nozik’s Anarchy, State and Utopia

IMO these two thinkers are able to more honestly engage the challenges of their own ideology, and are capable of real nuance and abstraction around complex issues. They are simply much more sophisticated. As a left-libertarian myself, I have respect for these authors, and have been happy to engage their writing in order to refine my own ideas (often opposing ideas…but not always!).

My 2 cents.

Why was the FCC Fairness Doctrine revoked in 1987? What have been the consequences in the 30 years since, intended and otherwise?

Thank you for the question.

Reagan’s recision of the Fairness Doctrine had huge and enduring consequences regarding news media and information delivery in the U.S.…and the action was not “inevitable” as some have suggested.

Consider the Fairness Doctrine terms “honest, equitable and balanced,” and then consider how the Fairness Doctrine applied those to “controversial matters” that were in the public’s interest to report. This is the heart of the Fairness Doctrine: to inform U.S. citizens in a balanced way regarding diverse perspectives around critical issues. The spirit of the Fairness Doctrine was to prevent biased or misleading journalism and media coverage, and to represent as many different perspectives on a given issue as possible — and especially opposing viewpoints — as fairly as possible. In essence, this was an effort to discourage propaganda in U.S. media that served private agendas. Propaganda is often, after all, simply reporting one side of a given issue.

You’ll notice that other answers so far completely leave this critical point out.

Now, why did the FCC revoke the Fairness Doctrine? The Reagan administration framed the revocation under “concerns about free speech;” in other words, that the FCC’s continued enforcement could potentially interfere with some forms of free speech in media (there was no evidence that this was the case, only that this could be a concern). Even if such concerns had been validated, this simply would have required additional legislation to refine the Fairness Doctrine from Congress — but such worries are completely and utterly contradicted by the subsequent explosion of alternative media platforms (cable TV, Internet streaming, etc.). Do you see the problem with some of the other answers now…? If the main concern about the Fairness Doctrine (from conservatives at the time) was really impingement of free speech, how could “the Fairness Doctrine being outdated” due to a plethora of alternative media platforms also be a central consideration…? This is a duplicitous ruse. We know this because there is ALSO the issue of the 1986 SCOTUS ruling that affirmed the FCC’s ability to enforce the Fairness Doctrine on teletext technology…opening the door for its application to other media platforms as well. We can even speculate that this expansion of FCC authority over newly emerging media stoked efforts by conservatives to eliminate the Fairness Doctrine completely.

Now, it is important to appreciate that Congress DID update the Fairness Doctrine, at the time of its revocation, to address some of these issues…but Reagan vetoed that legislation anyway. So, in reality, conservatives just didn’t like the way the Fairness Doctrine was being applied by the FCC, or how Fairness Doctrine cases had played out in the courts, or how it was already being applied to future information technologies. THAT is the real reason conservatives wanted it gone. Why? Well, not only did the Fairness Doctrine dampen neoliberal propaganda efforts, it also did not allow conservatives to restrict progressive opinions being broadcast on publicly funded media (like NPR/PBS) when conservatives controlled the FCC (this was decided in the 1984 SCOTUS ruling FCC v. League of Women Voters of California.) In other words: the Fairness Doctrine was useless to conservatives who wanted to promote their own agenda while suppressing progressive ideologies…and they just could not stand for that.

And what has happened since? Propaganda has taken over conservative for-profit media, and conservatives have both doggedly sought to defund publicly funded non-profit media, and to disallow the FCC to regulate ANY media with fairness in mind. For example, the latest repeal of Net Neutrality by a conservative-controlled FCC is completely consistent with such efforts — why not let corporations decide who gets access to what and when? Neoliberals simply do not want there to be “honest, equitable and balanced” coverage of controversial issues — not even if propaganda is being funded by Russia on Facebook or Twitter! They believe “the market” can and should determine all outcomes — in other words, whoever has the most money to begin with, or who can most effectively deceive and manipulate people, should determine what information is available to the public.

So…again, WHY are conservatives so concerned about the consumers and voters having access to good, balanced information? Well, we’ve seen exactly why over the intervening years since the Fairness Doctrine was revoked:

- The Oil & Gas industry doesn’t want you to know about the realities of climate change.

- The Pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want you to know how dangerous and/or ineffective their drugs actually are.

- The Tobacco industry doesn’t want you to know about the real health risks of tobacco and vaping.

- The wealthiest owner-shareholders don’t want you to know that trickle-down economics has never, ever worked — and that economic nationalism won’t ever bring certain jobs back to the U.S.A. — but that conservative economic policies instead enrich only those wealthy few.

- Evangelical Christians don’t want you to know that Planned Parenthood is a much more effective way to prevent abortions than outlawing abortions has ever been.

- The Firearms industry doesn’t wan’t you to have statistics about just how lethal their products actually are — or how rarely those weapons in the hands of ordinary citizens actually prevent crime.

- (And so on with all sorts of other vested interests: agriculture, petrochemicals, insurance, financial institutions, etc.)

You see the pattern? There is a tremendous amount of money at stake — and the underpinnings of tribal belief systems along with it. Facts, evidence and statistics almost universally undermine conservative positions…so why would conservatives EVER wan’t news and information media to really be “honest, equitable and balanced?”

So…what happened? Well, if you do some research on this you’ll see that ALL conservative news media is, in fact, not just heavily biased towards supporting untruths, they are also more prone to deliberate counterfactual reporting, sometimes even fabricating stories that support neoliberal agendas and a conservative worldview. In contrast, left-leaning media can indeed be biased, but doesn’t approach the level of deceptive misinformation and outright lies that are perpetrated by right-leaning media. And so, as with any democracy, the quality of information that a voting population has is going to determine the quality of politicians they elect, and the agendas that are moved forward in government. Which is how we’ve arrived at a Trump presidency and Republican Party that is so woefully disconnected from reality — to a degree that is clearly harmful to the well-being of citizens in the U.S. and around the globe. And this is what Reagan’s revoking the Fairness Doctrine and blocking its revision by Congress has gifted to the American people and the world.

Lastly, in addition to helping neoliberal propaganda efforts, ending the Fairness Doctrine has also helped even more nefarious efforts — such as the “active measures” of Russian intelligence — to distort public information and perception as well. It is more than a little ironic that Ronald Reagan, champion of anti-Soviet rhetoric and disruption of the Soviet Union itself, was single-handedly responsible for the ability of an ex-KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, to directly manipulate the American public today. See the link below for more on that.

In closing, here are some resources I would recommend to more thoroughly understand and navigate these issues:

L7 Neoliberalism (covers neoliberal propaganda efforts and agendas)

L7 Opposition (covers Russia’s “active measures”)

Media Bias/Fact Check - Search and Learn the Bias of News Media (great resource for checking media bias and accuracy)

My 2 cents.

Some thoughts about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


After reading through a number of articles and news about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, four things have become very clear to me:

1) Ocasio-Cortez has a vision – and it’s a vision that is not only a direct threat to a plutocratic “old guard” of Republican crony capitalists, but also antagonizes more mainstream elements of the Democratic Party as well. The key components of that vision are captured in the Green New Deal, which you can read about here: https://ocasio2018.com/green-new-deal (see item 6 on that page for an overview of objectives). In essence, by simply promoting the views that she holds, Ocasio-Cortez has created a plethora of instant enemies in Washington DC, among neoliberal think tanks and conservative news outlets, and in the Red Scare reflexes of countless right-leaning Americans.

2) Ocasio-Cortez is young – she was 28 when she began running for office – and has made the same sort of mistakes that both seasoned politicians and rookies make when speaking to the press. However, she is held to a much different standard than most other politicians: she is certainly more relentlessly demeaned, derided and rebuked in condescending ways than…wait for it…any male candidates and politicians who make similar gaffs have been. Certainly the right-wing voices that most boisterously attack her remain noticeably silent regarding our current POTUS, who perpetrates much more grievous, malicious and destructive misstatements with zero accountability.

3) However, some of Ocasio-Cortez’s mistakes are similar in flavor to things Sarah Palin said in her initial interviews: they reveal substantive gaps in learning and understanding about some fundamental issues of public policy. Some of these gaps are surprising, given the fact that Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude with a BA in international relations (with a minor in economics). A striking difference, though, is that Ocasio-Cortez can admit she doesn’t know something, or has made a mistake, and that she needs to learn more about a given topic. In fact, she has said this a lot. Another striking difference is that Ocasio-Cortez, at age 29, has never held any public office…unlike Palin, who made arguably worse blunders at age 44 after serving in public office for 16 years (most notably Governor of Alaska for two of those).

4) Ocasio-Cortez is actually pretty bright (Boston University’s Associate Provost and Dean of students Kenneth Elmore said Ocasio-Cortez was “brilliant — she is boldly curious and always present. She makes me think and could always see multiple sides of any issue.”) and she certainly has some compelling perspectives to share. I’ve listed some of her quotes below. Again, though, what I think we can glean from those perspectives is a direct challenge to the old-white-male-plutocracy; that is, the neoliberal elite that have comfortably captured U.S. government for some time now. And THAT is why right-leaning folks are so riled up about her. So the attacks will keep coming, this is certain. In the meantime, I’m hoping Ocasio-Cortez will grow into her elected position, become a bit more media savvy, and polish her public policy chops a bit before doing any more interviews.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Quotes:

“I can't name a single issue with roots in race that doesn't have economic implications, and I cannot think of a single economic issue that doesn't have racial implications. The idea that we have to separate them out and choose one is a con.”

“When we talk about the word 'socialism,' I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity and our economic, social, and racial dignity. It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day.”

“At Standing Rock, we experienced, first-hand, people coming together in their communities and trying to use the levers of representative democracy to try and say, 'We don't want this in our community; we don't want this in our backyard,' and corporations using their monetary influence to completely erode that process.”

“The thing that’s hard is that you’re supposed to be perfect all the time on every issue and every thing. What people forget is that if we want everyday working-class Americans to run for office and not, these, like, robots, then we have to acknowledge and accept imperfection and growth and humanity in our government.”

“I do think that sometimes, especially coming into this going straight from activism to being a candidate or to being a person who potentially, you know, looks like will be holding political office soon, I think we expect our politicians to be perfect and fully formed and on point on every single issue.”

“I think there's a weapon of cynicism to say, 'Protest doesn't work. Organizing doesn't work. Y'all are a bunch of hippies. You know, it doesn't do anything,' because, frankly, it's said out of fear, because it is a potent force for political change.”

“Democrats are a big tent party, you know, I'm not trying to impose an ideology on all several hundred members of Congress. But I do think that, once again, it's not about selling an - ism, or an ideology, or a label or a color. This is about selling our values.”

“The biggest hurdle that our communities have is cynicism - saying it's a done deal, who cares; there's no point to voting. If we can get somebody to care, it's a huge victory for the movement and the causes we're trying to advance.”

“In the wealthiest nation in the world, working families shouldn’t have to struggle. It’s time for a New York that’s good for the many. I am an educator, organizer, Democratic Socialist, and born-and-raised New Yorker running to champion working families in Congress. It is well past time that we in NY-14 had a true, lobbyist-free representative who lives in our community and fights on behalf of Bronx and Queens families. This movement for Congress is about education and healthcare; it’s about housing, jobs, justice, and civil rights. It’s is about preparing for the future of our environment, energy, and infrastructure. It’s about championing the dignity of our neighbors. And it’s about getting money out of politics.”

“Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”
“We’re looking at our phones until we literally lose consciousness. If our leaders don’t learn to communicate in an engaging manner, our entertainers will become politicians. That’s what we have now.”

“It’s about conversation, not combativeness. Doesn’t mean everyone agrees always, but it does mean we bring folks together and focus on finding solutions.”

"Your attempt to strip me of my family, my story, my home, and my identity is exemplary of how scared you are of the power of all four of those things."

“We may be devastated. We may be disappointed. But we will not be deterred.”

“We are all capable of awakening and commitment. And because of that, we can all be great.”

In what ways could restorative justice improve America?

Sadly restorative justice could improve America by re-introducing a basic sense of community and connection between individuals. I say “sadly” because I believe it is the disconnection and isolation in these relationships that leads to a culture of criminality in the first place. Let’s take drug subculture as just one example. Why does it exist? Because too many folks can’t see any way out of their poverty and pain, and feel isolated, hopeless, and desperate…and drugs are a way out. Not an easy way out…just one of very few ways out they believe is available. How much violence intersects with illegal drug use? A lot. How much crime? A lot. How much destruction to families and friendships? A lot. So if we model healing of crime itself around restoring a sense of belonging, relationship, family, community, intimacy and so on…well, then we’re really just addressing the malady that led to the crime itself. We are removing a cause — one incentive — for criminality by relieving what reinforced a need for drugs. The accountability is secondary…it is the healthy, mutually supportive relationships are primary. How many other crimes (or patterns of criminality and criminal subculture) are a consequence of the breakdown of community, a loss of the sense of belonging, and a paucity of nourishing interpersonal relationships in modern society…? I’d bet that when you take severe psychopathology and cycles of abuse out of the mix, that this breakdown is responsible for nearly all of the remaining serious crime.

My 2 cents.

How could "Medicare for all" succeed when the program spends 3% of GDP to cover only 15% of the population (3/.15=20% of GDP)?

First, from CMS.gov: “Per person personal health care spending for the 65 and older population was $18,988 in 2012, over 5 times higher than spending per child ($3,552) and approximately 3 times the spending per working-age person ($6,632).”

With a more granular distribution curve you’re going to see the 20% GDP for everyone droping to around .42/.15 = 2.8% GDP. So that’s the first correction to your math.

Second, if Medicare is the only game in town for most healthcare coverage (aside from boutique stuff) then the leverage Medicare will have to negotiate prices is going to be TREMENDOUS. This is why Canada and the UK pay a lot less for the same drugs used in the U.S. — about 1/6 to 1/3 of U.S. prices. Although the margins aren’t as great for medical devices, we could see 50% reductions there as well. And of course removing the bloated private insurers (with much higher admin overhead, and of course impatient shareholders) from the equation means that services will be roughly 40% lower too (this is based on how much less Medicare pays for the same procedures already, compared to private insurers). Even by conservative estimates, this means that overall healthcare costs will be reduced, on average, by AT LEAST 50%. Which brings the total coverage number down to at least 1.4% GDP.

If what has happened in other countries is any indication, all of this will also have the effect of INCREASING the total number of healthcare consumers over time, while REDUCING the per capita outlays over time — especially since every $1 spent on preventative care saves about $6 in lifetime costs. I’d predict, then, that this last bit will result in a wash (i.e. more healthcare consumers at net lower lifetime outlays). And, as preventative care and predictive diagnostics (via genetic testing, etc.) become more refined, I think we’ll see those costs drop even further.

Which means that fee-for-service models are going to eventually become unprofitable anyway…so why not abandon them now?! :-)

My 2 cents.

Breaking Bread with the Republican Hive-Mind: How to Have A Happy Thanksgiving & Other Holidays Amid A Political Storm


This past Friday, on Bill Maher’s last show of the year, he offered a simple recommendation for creating a more harmonious Thanksgiving for all of us: DON’T DISCUSS POLITICS. Pick any other topic and discuss that instead,he exclaimed. And – at a time when our political discourse frequently descends into unhinged rants and hateful name-calling – I think he has a very good point. In fact, it might be a helpful idea to ask everyone coming together for a holiday gathering if they would commit to avoiding political topics and debates altogether during those special times. However, in the event that political topics do arise during your Thanksgiving celebration or other holiday (or even on your FB page), here are some tips on how to mitigate the more unfortunate elements of Republican Hive-Mind thought and behavior:

1. Be a much-needed model for empathy, and affirm a conservative’s emotions, instead of engaging around facts. Nearly all of the pedantic rhetoric that circulates on Right-wing media and all social media is emotionally based. Whether it comes in the form of blaming, conspiracy-mongering, stalwart patriotism, hate speech, self-victimization, dramatic exaggerations, “alternative facts,” anecdotes or personal narratives – whatever is being invoked as part of the propaganda, it’s really all about generating a particular range of emotions. These emotions include pride, group loyalty, grief, anger, indignation, moral superiority, alienation, bewilderment, mistrust of outsiders…all of these and more can be tangled together in the Hive-Mind’s striving for a self-righteous sense of certainty. And as most of us who have tried to reason with our conservative friends have experienced, facts and evidence usually get angrily dismissed or disputed when these emotions are in play. At its core, contradicting Right-wing emotional narratives with facts can be both threatening and embarrassing for conservatives, often resulting in increasingly defensive and emphatic retorts. Essentially, they feel they must double-down on the initial emotion in order to maintain their convictions.

So when you witness the eye-roll, the red face, the frowning shaking of the head, the squint of anger, the arrogant thrust of chin, the pointing finger of accusation, flexing fists that clench at certitude, the flat tone of negation and denial…recognize and affirm what is really going on. These are just irrational emotions, so treat them as such. This can be as simple as saying “You seem pretty upset about this,” or “I can see you feel very strongly about that,” or “It sounds like you don’t agree with what’s been going on,” and so on. By simply affirming their emotional state, you can diffuse escalation…at least a little. But remember, the toughest part may be stopping yourself from adding a rejoinder like “but did you know….” or “an interesting fact about that is…” or “that’s true, but there is another variable to consider….” None of these attempts to clarify a broader, more inclusive truth are likely to succeed. And this inability to engage in intellectually honest discourse can be upsetting until we realize what’s really going on: it is like attempting to reason with a flaming barrel of gasoline.

2. Connect with common experiences and emotions. There is every reason to remain open, intimate and sharing with folks who have lost themselves in the Republican Hive-Mind. We are all human, and we all have more in common than what makes us different. And that commonality is where we can connect with almost anyone. I myself have one or two ultra-conservative friends, as well as some conservative-leaning family members, and I value those relationships because of our shared interests, shared experiences, shared enjoyment of each other’s company, and shared appreciation for how supportive and caring we can be for one another (in everything but our politics!). That connection, admiration and camaraderie does not need to be jeopardized by political differences. So turning to any area of mutual connection can be a peaceful balm and joy in the face of daunting political divides. The problem, of course, is that this connection may be more difficult to achieve with strangers or on the Internet – or with new invitees to our holiday celebrations. Which is why we must take special care to invoke that common ground as we get to know someone new.

3. Make attempts to distract conservatives away from Hive-Mind delusions. Anyone paying much attention to Right-wing media over the past few decades will have noticed the lockstep conformance of propaganda across all such media into a profoundly unified groupthink. There is almost no deviation of opinions or attitudes around a given hot-topic-of-the-moment – or in the policies, views of history, attitudes about other cultures, favorite authorities, explanations for current events, or even the preferred vocabulary that is used to describe conservative alternative realities. The continuity of conformance is stunning. This web of interconnected groupthink is so tightly woven, in fact, that we will hear the same phrases and assertions from different sources (and from our friends on Facebook) all around the U.S. on the very same day – often in the same hour. This is how the Republican Hive-Mind is maintained over time, because this synchronization results in a powerful “illusory truth effect,” where the endless repetition of falsehoods makes them seem true. The illusory truth effect is so powerful, in fact, that it can override preexisting knowledge we already have. And this happens really fast – faster than most people can come to an informed opinion on a given topic. Which is why conservatives can be so confident and certain about their opinions so quickly. So…don’t follow them down that rabbit hole. Instead, change the topic to something you know isn’t in the conservative propaganda lexicon, and try to do so without contradicting them, once again affirming the emotional content of their opinions without revisiting familiar Hive-Mind topics.

4. Remember that feeling provoked or belittled just goes with the territory – and don’t take it personally. Since it is fueled by strongly felt emotions, the Republican Hive-Mind will routinely attempt to arouse passions in others, prompt conflict-seeking attitudes, or encourage folks to become agitated and combative. Using phrases like “libtard;” or attacking public figures you admire or respect; or accusing people they are debating (or “all liberals,” as the case may be) of being uninformed, ignorant or brainwashed; or beginning their arguments with a harsh dismissal of something you know to be true…. All of these are standard tactics to put a perceived opponent off-balance, stimulate an emotional response, while at the same time facilitating quick agreement among those who support a conservative viewpoint. But we just can’t take it personally! This isn’t about truth, remember, or even a coherent ideology. This is about proving loyalty to a particular set of values and ideals, or demonstrating membership in a conservative tribe, or daring others to cross the moat of irrational convictions that protects every conservative from facing uncomfortable truths. In the game of King of the Mountain that is constantly playing out inside the minds of devoted Republicans, such provocations are a kind of “defense through preemptive attack,” a way to feel safe, secure and protected inside of their delusions. In today’s supercharged discourse, this is a default starting position for a lot of folks. But you don’t have to join the fray. Although it can still hurt to be attacked, we don’t have to answer aggression with aggression. Instead, we can use humor to deflect accusations and antagonisms, or agree with some aspect of what is being said to diffuse the onslaught, or just point out calmly that, hey…this or that was kind of a hurtful, dickhead thing to say.

Now…anyone who has interacted with folks who are victims of cults, brainwashing or other forms of abuse will recognize some of these approaches. That is because what is happening on the Right side of the political spectrum – as amplified by the “Trump Effect” – is a consequence of extreme stress, duress, fear and anxiety. Place anyone under similar strain, and they will start exhibiting behaviors that look a lot the consequences of emotional trauma. Unfortunately, conservative-leaning folks already have a hard-wired tendency to tolerate cognitive dissonance to a much higher degree than other groups – which means that what they believeto be true can exist much farther outside of actual, observable evidence. And when that evidence becomes more and more difficult to ignore (as with climate change, for example), such cognitive dissonance can amplify to toxic and disruptive “fight or flight” reflexes. Conservatives also exhibit a strong tendency to prefer black-and-white, simplified, easy-to-grasp explanations for “why things are” – reflexively opposing nuance and uncertainty – and in a world of increasing complexity, such desires often can’t be satisfied without unconscious or deliberate fabrication (what I call “misattribution of causation”). Add to this the real suffering that arises out of losing more and more social status and privilege in society – as most white men with traditional values, and especially those who live in rural areas, have been experiencing for decades in the U.S.A. – and you have a formula for heightening real distress. Add to this tragedy that this distress has been capitalized upon by unscrupulous opportunists who seek power and wealth, and who then sell vulnerable conservatives on authoritative, Strong Man fixes. In order to further their own agenda, those Strong Man carpetbaggers have made Republican distress a lot worse, perpetuating the cycle of abuse. The result is truly heartbreaking, and demands that we have compassion for conservatives who have been lied to, manipulated and encouraged to support agendas that are effectively amplifying their suffering. So yes, at this point in time, managing interactions with someone utterly lost in the Republican Hive-Mind is a lot like managing interactions with a volatile, severely abused person who is operating mainly form emotional reasoning and fear-based reflexes.

** But wait! What if someone who joins you for Thanksgiving or another holiday, or friends you on Facebook, just won’t cease in their combative political grandstanding, pedantry and debate?! **

Well…unfortunately this does happen. People who have been horribly mistreated often have trouble appreciating boundaries, or gaining clear awareness about their own behaviors, or responding to the techniques outlined above in a constructive way. It happens. So…what can we do?

1. You can gently remind them of any agreement they have made to avoid discussing politics, be civil, etc. in your group activity. You could even implore them, out of a sense of friendship or familial bond with you, to let go of their need to discuss politics. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s worth a try!

2. You could leave, or ask them to leave. When someone has worked themselves into a frenzy around a hotly contested Hive-Mind trigger, sometimes it’s a good idea to just exit the situation – or ask them to do so (if it’s hour home, or your Facebook page). That’s the unfortunate state of affairs we are in right now, where no amount of good intentions, patience, compassion or listening to the other side seems to make a difference in how the discourse progresses. Hive-Mind propaganda is a powerful drug.

3. You can wait patiently, quietly and passively for them to calm down. If everyone else in your gathering is also doing this, then a Hive-Mind rant can eventually run out of steam. But this may demand tremendous self-control on your part, since pretty much any reaction can be (and often is) misinterpreted by a conservative as judgement or dismissiveness. I’m always surprised how even the kindest, most well-intentioned responses can be twisted into a perceived attack. So…silence can truly be golden.

4. Watch out for well-known tricks and techniques to suck others into a debate or confrontation. We’ve already touched on preemptive emotional attacks, but there are many other methods programmed into Hive-Mind thinking that can take over a conversation. Here are just a few of the more common hooks, many of which are rooted in what we call “logical fallacies:”

a. Making a reasonable opening statement that everyone can agree with, and then using it to justify a position that has nothing to do with that statement.

b. The pigeon-holing label game: “Are you a Marxist? Communist? Bleeding Heart Liberal? Intellectual? Atheist? Socialist?” and so on. This is the Hive-Mind’s way of trivializing and dismissing anything outside of its own groupthink, turning outsiders into simplified stereotypes. Once a label has been applied, the next step is claiming full knowledge of the outsider perspective: “So you believe that [fill in the blank].”

c. Feigning openness to having someone challenge, disprove or debate a Hive-Mind position, but then never allowing that person to actually do so (i.e. through constantly interrupting them, or debating accepted definitions of words, or challenging every point of logic, or talking more loudly over them, or dismissing widely accepted facts, or abruptly exiting the conversation, changing the topic, etc.).

d. Making an outrageous, one-sided, overly simplified or absurd claim to provoke a response, then declaring an unaccepting reaction as being “typical condescending Left-wing arrogance” (or the like). Even though the Hive-Mind adherent has initiated the provocation, they can immediately claim to be a victim of “liberal” prejudice.

e. Promoting false equivalence. For example, claiming that white supremacist hate speech is just as valid a form of free speech as someone advocating GLBTQ rights; or that the “liberal bias” of Left-leaning news media is no different than the outright lies of the Alt-Right conspiracy outlets; or that progressive academic, evidence-based approaches are just as flawed as the fake science funded by neoliberal think tanks; or that Democrat efforts to register new voters is just “the other side of the coin” of Republican efforts to disenfranchise those same voters; or that repealing Obamacare is just as complete a healthcare strategy as Obamacare itself; that Donald Trump’s relentless denigration of women, minorities, immigrants and the disabled is no different than Hillary Clinton’s reference to “deplorable” Trump supporters; and so on.

f. Overwhelming someone with a deluge of proposed facts, which are then combined in such as a way as to lead to a predetermined, ideologically conformist outcome. Lots of really smart, well-read conservative folks have used this technique to wear down progressives who don’t have the same depth of knowledge in a particular area (such as the history of military conflicts, or the evolution of natural monopolies, or the writings of conservative religious thinkers, or the intricacies of the Austrian School of economics, etc.). It’s effective, because a progressive can’t argue from a place of ignorance, and the information being presented can seem superficially valid. Unfortunately, the information often either isn’t valid, or doesn’t support particular conclusions the way the Hive-Mind has indoctrinated its members to believe – the dots don’t really connect in the way they are represented. But how would you know, if you’ve never studied all the writings of Ludwig von Mises? I can tell you from experience, however, that it won’t matter if you have studied a particular topic in-depth, because either you will have to accept the Hive-Mind groupthink on a given topic, or risk being branded a liberal heretic.

Lastly, even if you are surrounded by fellow progressive-minded folks on Thanksgiving, it can still be a good idea to avoid politics. After all, despite the encouraging Blue Wave of the midterm elections, there is still a lot of bad news coming out of Washington DC and elsewhere. The Trumpster Fire is still burning bright, and the political landscape remains pretty frustrating and depressing for even the most level-headed citizen. So again, perhaps picking another topic – any topic at all – to avoid politics at your Thanksgiving or holiday celebration will allow your meal to digest a little more easily, and your heart to remain light, merry, and brimming with fellowship.

Just my 2 cents. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

What cognitive process do politicians try to leverage by repeating the same "talking points" over and over again with the hopes that eventually you will agree with them?

It’s called “the illusory truth effect.” Very powerful. So powerful that it can override pre-existing knowledge. I’ve experienced this in several instances myself — even going into the situation knowing something for a certainty beforeheand. It doesn’t matter. Our memory formation is wired for reinforcement, and will adapt our understanding according to the newest information…even if that information is false. It’s pretty crappy situation in the context of attempts to manipulate voters through social media, or perpetuate propaganda, or sell consumers stuff they don’t need.

Here are some useful articles on the topic:

The science behind why fake news is so hard to wipe out

https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/xge-0000098.pdf

My 2 cents.

Could “trickle down economics” ever work like the Republicans say it will?

No it will not…and never has. After ALL Republican historical tax cuts for the wealthy aimed to “stimulate the economy,” low-end wages remained stagnant, the number of folks living in poverty remained the same or increased, and income inequality consistently increased. In addition, the central claim to fame for supply-siders is that tax cuts stimulate economic growth…but at the macro level this has been extremely hit-and-miss (see links below). But, more importantly, there has not been any substantive or sustained “trickle-down” to the poor as a consequence of tax cuts for the rich, ever. All other statistics are largely irrelevant in this context, because the sole measure of whether trickle down and other supply-side fantasies (i.e. the Laffer curve is laughable) actually work is whether poor people get any less poor. Well, they don’t. So it’s just B.S. to talk about economic indicators at a macro level that benefit the wealthy, when what happens to the poor (in terms of real wages, numbers of folks in poverty, etc.) is so clearly neutral or negative. Here are some decent articles that cover this topic (you will need to follow links and refs in them to burrow down to the actual data):

How Much Do Tax Cuts Really Matter? (Summary of Census Bureau reports on income and poverty across multiple U.S. administrations.)

Tax Cuts Won’t Make America Great Again

Trickle-Down Tax Cuts Don’t Create Jobs - Center for American Progress

How past income tax rate cuts on the wealthy affected the economy

Tax Cuts: Myths and Realities

Now of course if you do a Google search on this topic you will find endless articles from the Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, American Enterprise Institute and other neoliberal think tanks that prop up supply-side fantasies with cherry-picked statistics. It’s really shameful…but this deluge of propaganda serves these neoliberal institutions well: they have forever been the champions of corporate plutocrats, after all.

How Wealthy Trump Supporters Will Overturn Democratic Wins in November 2018

Current excitement about a "Blue Wave" of Democratic wins in November is, I believe, woefully misplaced...for the simple reason that the wealthiest Trump supporters (inclusive of Vladamir Putin) will use every underhanded tool at their disposal to prevent or reverse any Democratic victories they can. What these powers-that-be care most about is winning by any means possible - they will lie, cheat, steal, harass, sue, bully, intimidate and hoodwink in order to hold on to their political influence. How do we know this? Because we've seen it in many recent local and national elections:

1. Outrageous gerrymandering of congressional districts to favor Republicans.

2. Relentless disenfranchisement of Democrat voters, the poor, people of color, etc. and/or preventing them to vote on election day.

3. Aggressive attempts to hack into all levels of the election process, and the DNC, in order to disrupt free and fair elections.

4. Lockstep passage of legislation - coordinated by A.L.E.C., the State Policy Network, etc. - at the national and State levels to disrupt anything progressive: environmental protections, worker protections, unions, consumer health and safety, voting rights, etc...

5. Highly targeted deceptive manipulations on social media to persuade voters of ridiculous claims.

6. Threats, intimidation, fear-mongering and punitive policies from the White House itself to further disrupt and divide the Democratic base.

7. Relentless, carefully orchestrated smear campaigns.

8. Invented or manufactured crises that are then shamelessly blamed on Democrats.

So why should anything be different in 2018...and what other tactics can we look forward to? Court challenges for any election outcomes or lower court rulings that don't favor Republicans? Sure, with a new far-Right Supreme Court Justice on the bench, this will almost certainly be a tactic.

In the past, the only thing that has consistently countered such nefarious "win-at-all-costs" Right-wing strategies on a large scale has been a broad upwelling of authentic populist grassroots excitement for a given candidate or agenda. This is what propelled Obama to his initial victory, what energized Bernie's rise to prominence, and what promises to undermine the centrist DNC status quo as it did with New York's election of Ocasio-Cortez.

But we should always keep in mind that whatever has worked previously to elevate the will of the people into our representative democracy will always be countered by new deceptions, new backroom dark money dealings, new astroturfing campaigns, and new methods of hoodwinking by those on the Right who want to destroy our civic institutions. Nothing on the Left can compare - in scope or the amount of money spent - to how the Koch brothers coopted the Tea Party, how the Mercer family funded Breitbart and manipulated social media through Cambridge Analytica, what Rupert Murdoch accomplished with FOX News, or how the Scaife and Bradley foundations fund fake science to weaken or reverse government regulations. Billions have been spent to deceive Americans and create "alternative narratives" that spin any and all public debate toward conservative corporate agendas. And when the Supreme Court upheld the "free speech" of corporate Super PACs funded with dark money in its Citizens United ruling, that just opened the floodgates for more of the same masterful deception.

So don't count on a Blue Wave to save us from a truly deranged Infant-in-Chief and his highly toxic agenda. Civil society - and the checks and balances of power for the U.S. Republic itself - will very likely continue to be methodically demolished and undermined by neoliberal plutocrats. I wish this was mere pessimistic speculation…but I really don't believe it is. As just one example of the effectiveness of these sneaky destroyers of democracy, consider how well-organized, well-funded, and effective the "science skepticism" of the past few decades has been. Take a few minutes to absorb the graphic illustration below, and then ask yourself:

1. Do we have caps on carbon emissions, and the necessary investment in green energy technology to replace fossil fuels, to avoid further escalation of climate change?

2. Have neonicotinoid insecticides been banned so essential bee populations can be saved?

3. Has the marketing of nicotine vaping products to teenagers been stopped to prevent them from lifelong addiction and health hazards?

4. Has the proliferation of GMOs been seriously slowed until we can better understand its long-term impacts?

5. Do a majority of Americans even believe any of these issues are even an urgent concern…?


Neoliberal Self-Protective Propaganda Machine


Along the same lines, how good are working conditions at the largest U.S. companies? How high are those worker's wages? Will Social Security be able to pay 100% of benefits after 2034? Are wildly speculative investments on Wall Street being well-regulated? Are U.S. healthcare costs coming down? Are CEOs being held accountable for corporate malfeasance…and if so, how many have actually gone to jail?

The answer to these and countless similar questions informs us about the direction the U.S. is taking, and how nothing that interferes with corporate profits or the astounding wealth of their owner-shareholders will be allowed to flourish as long as conservative Republican (and possibly even centrist Democrats) hold power. In short, elected officials friendly to corporatocracy need to keep getting elected to keep this gravy train in motion. And so there is no cost too great to expend in order for them to win, and the highest concentrations of wealth in the history of the world have brought all of their resources to bear to perpetuate those wins. This is why a Blue Wave alone cannot triumph in November. Perhaps, if every single Left-leaning voter - together with every single Independent-minded voter - comes out to make their voices heard at the ballot box, it just might make enough difference. And I do mean every single one. But a Blue Wave alone will probably not be enough. In effect, what America requires for a return to sanity and safety is what we might call a Blue-Orange Tsunami - perhaps even one with a tinge of Purple, where Independents, Democrats and the few sane Republicans remaining unite their voices and votes against a highly unstable fascistic threat.

Short of this, there is just too much money in play, carefully bending mass media, social media, news media, scientific research, legislators, election systems, judges, government agencies, public opinion and the President himself to its will.

REFERENCES

https://www.businessinsider.com/partisan-gerrymandering-has-benefited-republicans-more-than-democrats-2017-6
https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/how-the-gop-rigs-elections-121907/
https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/26/us/2016-presidential-campaign-hacking-fast-facts/index.html
https://www.brookings.edu/articles/alecs-influence-over-lawmaking-in-state-legislatures/
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/19/facebook-political-ads-social-media-history-online-democracy
https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/16/trump-california-census-342116
https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/07/james-gunn-dan-harmon-mike-cernovich-the-far-rights-pedophilia-smear-campaign-is-working.html
https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2016/03/16/lies-distortions-and-smears-how-right-wing-medi/209051

The Underlying Causes of Left vs. Right Dysfunction in U.S. Politics

STOP

To support a new framing of this longstanding issue, my latest essays covers many different facets and details that impact the polarization of Left/Right discourse. However, its main focus centers around the concept of personal and collective agency. That is, how such agency has been effectively sabotaged in U.S. culture and politics for both the Left and the Right, and how we might go about assessing and remedying that problem using various tools such as a proposed "agency matrix." The essay then examines a number of scenarios in which personal-social agency plays out, to illustrate the challenge and benefits of finding a constructive solution - one that includes multiple ideological and cultural perspectives.

Essay link in PDF: The Underlying Causes of Left vs. Right Dysfunction in U.S. Politics

Also available in an online-viewable format at this academia.edu link.

As always, feedback is welcome via emailing [email protected]

What life choices can individuals make to insulate against the negative impacts of neoliberal policies?

There have been a number of proposals over the years that have attempted to “self-liberate” from what amounts to neoliberal oppression — many of which were proposed prior to neoliberal ideology even taking root. For example:

1) Various forms of counterculture — some embedded in the mainstream, and some retreating to isolated communes, etc.

2) Various top-down socialistic reforms that attempt to insulate entire segments of society — or all of society — from the impact of runaway crony capitalism through government programs, safety nets, publicly owned assets and services, etc.

3) Worker solidarity movements that permit organized labor to wrestle controls away from the owner-shareholder class.

4) The formation of a well-educated, affluent middle class with progressive values that can counter neoliberal agendas through NGOs, community organizing, community banking, electing progressive candidates, writing and passing progressive initiatives, and mass media counter-narratives.

5) Subversive activism that seeks to disrupt neoliberal agendas, such as hacktivism, sabotaging WTO meetings, ecoterrorism, etc.

6) Modeling alternatives that exit the self-destructive spiral of a neoliberal status quo. Low carbon lifestyles, Permaculture and
7) Transition Towns, becoming Vegan, and so on.

Thus far, such efforts have slowed the forward march of neoliberalism, to be sure…but neoliberal activists are themselves very skilled, well-organized and well-funded in their own efforts to move their plutocratic vision forward, often coopting counter-narratives and undermining radical efforts. Consider how the Koch brothers took over the Tea Party movement, for example, or how the Kitchen Cabinet manipulated Reagan’s populism to their own ends, or how a Patriot Act inspired by foreign terrorism empowered a neoliberal government to crack down more forcefully on its own citizen subversives, or how alternative culture has simply been been commoditized to further feed corporate profits, or how evangelical Christians in the U.S. are now almost totally in the thrall of the commercialist, corporationist Beast. It’s stunning, really.

Which leads us to the question: what else can we do, either individually or collectively? I think the desire to “check out” of a toxic political economy altogether, and hide ourselves away off-the-grid or in some developing country, can be very enticing. It’s also pretty selfish, however…in some ways playing right into the “I/Me/Mine” individualism that feeds the disintegration of civil society itself. Another, perhaps more responsible approach would be to try David Holmgren’s “Crash on Demand or how to opt out the corporate fascism.” I think he has some good ideas there that could lead to major reform. But really I think the best method is to walk right past the low-hanging fruit, and aim much higher. Which means reforming the underlying political economy itself, rather than attempting a Band-Aid approach to countering neoliberalism. To that end, I’ve cobbled together a “multi-pronged” system for transformative activism here: L e v e l - 7 Action. The basic idea is that if we work towards ALL of the threads of change agency described there, we just might be able to undermine a neoliberal status quo in enduring and sustainable ways. At this point it’s just my own vision, but hey…why not aim high? Why not try to alter the underlying, causal factors that keep leading us down the same self-destructive path…?

My 2 cents.

What do libertarians and progressives have in common?

Since the OP used a lower-case “l” for “libertarian,” I’m assuming this question is not restricted to U.S.-style right-libertarianism, that is…“Libertarianism” with a capital “L.” Left-libertarianism, which has been the dominant school of libertarian thought around the globe for many decades, has a tremendous overlap with with progressivism. In fact, you can’t really differentiate a “progressive” from a left-libertarian, as their goals are identical. The only reason methods may differ is that “progressivism” does not distinguish or emphasize one system of government over another — it is primarily focussed on improving freedoms, well-being, opportunities and conditions for everyone…by any means possible. Libertarianism, on the other hand, is opposed to State-centric solutions, and solutions that impose the will of any number of folks on everyone else. Essentially, progressives aren’t as picky about government, as long as government is moving a progressive agenda (civil liberties, economic opportunity and stability, scientific knowledge and education, etc.) forward.

Now…in the U.S. specifically things have become very different around these terms/ideologies. Why? I discuss some of the reasons why here: see “How has (Tea Party) Libertarianism become conflated with or gobbled up by anarcho-capitalism and laissez-faire capitalism in the U.S.A.?” at this link L7 Neoliberalism. Basically, pro-capitalist ideologies have almost entirely captured Libertarian thinking in the U.S., whereas throughout the rest of history — and throughout the rest of the globe — left-libertarianism has been markedly anti-capitalist, even though many left-leaning forms of libertarianism are still pro-market and pro-competition (the left-right division here centers around private property…but that is another discussion). At the same time, those who self-identify as “progressives” in the U.S. have tended to be pretty pro-Statist in how they aim to solve problems. Essentially, then, even though the underlying objectives may be very similar, the methods of U.S. progressives and U.S. Libertarians are in opposition, with “government can’t do anything right, and taxation is theft,” on the one hand, and “government offers the best solutions, as funded by higher taxes” on the other. That’s a pretty extreme tension.

Of course, the neoliberal, laissez-faire, Austrian School, Randian objectivist and other market fundamentalist folks are generally delighted that right-libertarians (many of whom will self-identifity as anarcho-capitalist or “AnCap”) have joined their club. Personally, I think this is very sad, as it is a gross distortion of traditional libertarianism to believe commercialist corporationism supports liberty. It doesn’t. Instead, it reliably produces slavery. Even if, in Nozick’s words, that slavery is “voluntary,” it’s still slavery, and not freedom. This is a more complex discussion, but you can explore the subtleties of the issues involved my essay here: IntegralLiberty.pdf.

So, as others have pointed out in their answers, it really would be great if right-libertarians in the U.S. recognized how much more common ground they have with progressives than, say, with right-wing religious conservatives — and for U.S. progressives to recognize how much more common ground they have with a right-libertarian vision of civil liberties than with, say, neoliberal “centrists” like the Clintons. Really the only folks who reliably win from these divisions are crony capitalist plutocrats…and so, IMO, it would be great if Americans woke up to this reality and formed some anti-neoliberal, pro-democracy coalitions.

Is middle America at risk of being permanently shut out from the modern economy? What policies, if any, would help revitalize these communities?

Thanks for the question.

This line of questioning has been around for many decades now. When I worked at a Public Policy Center in the 1990s, for example, the revitalization of failing rural communities centered around addressing precisely this concern. I also think the degradation of economic mobility and the U.S. middle class is so keenly felt right now that this alone contributed more than any other single factor to Donald Trump getting elected in 2016. There is a sense of desperation in the air. So what can be done….?
Here are a few options that IMO are worth reflecting upon:

1. Mixed economies have always thrived because they strike a balance between corporatocracy and maintaining a more egalitarian civil society. Right now civic institutions are under attack all around the globe, and most acutely in the U.S. Restoring those institutions (the rule of law, vibrant democracy, promotion of educational access and intellectual inquiry, the primacy of science, progressive taxation, robust social safety nets, etc.) is certainly a worthwhile objective in this regard. The challenge, of course, is that there is a well-organized, well-funded pro-corporate, market-centric neoliberal propaganda engines (see L7 Neoliberalism) that have decimated the public discourse, obscured good data, and distorted truth in favor of laissez-faire and crony capitalism — thus counteracting the benefits of a more balanced or “mixed” approach. So part of the solution will have to be an aggressive effort to disrupt this propaganda campaign and undermine the false narrative created by right-wing think tanks and corporate media. This is doable…but it needs to become a central focus of progressive-leaning politics in the U.S. The liars and cheats need to be called out and shut down…and, optimistically, Trump may have become a catalyst for precisely this sort of shift in the Zeitgeist and populist activism. The impact the Parkland students have had (i.e. Florida gun legislation) is an example of what can happen when bullshit policies and ideology are confronted head-on by ordinary folk.

2. Raising awareness about the inevitable negative consequences of conspicuous consumption, unsustainable production practices, and self-sabotaging growth-dependent economics is also a key component. Here again we’ll need to counter pervasive neoliberal propaganda, but once ordinary folks understand that America has been — collectively, individually and nationally — living well beyond its means for some time now, this will help reintroduce a sense of “reasonableness” to the economic discussion, and indeed create more realistic expectations about the future. As a culture (and an economy), we simply can’t keep over-consuming while insisting the supply of cheap labor and abundant natural resources will remain unlimited forever. It’s just silly. But once we awaken to the realities of what “sustainability” looks and feels like, the economic disparities have a real opportunity to attenuate — if only because the wedge of scarcity can them become less wide, and less pointy.

3. Moral maturity is a big piece of this. It has always been the case that Americans lag behind other developed countries in the sophistication of their values hierarchy. The immature “I/Me/Mine” mentality (i.e. individualistic economic materialism) has consistently been a huge contributor to really unfortunate and self-sabotaging social, economic and political choices in the U.S. Of course, it does serve commercialistic consumerism quite well…when folks are infantilized and dependent, they buy stuff reflexively when they are “sold” on exciting self-centered benefits. So breaking free of this childishness is an essential process. Who do we do this? I have many ideas that I discuss in my Integral Lifework literature (see freely downloadable stuff at Integral Lifework Downloads), but mainly it’s about self-nurturing across multiple dimensions of being. This is somewhat ironic because on the surface it still sounds self-absorbed, but consider that among the dimensions being supported are things like “Supportive Community,” “Fulfilling Purpose” and “Affirming Integrity.” In other words, many of the dimensions being addressed specifically challenge a self-centered ideation and identity. In any case, the underlying assumption is that when human beings are fully nurtured, they naturally express their prosocial tendencies…and prosocial tendencies are what “moral maturity” amplifies and supports.

4. Lastly, I think the ultimate solution will demand we depart from capitalism altogether, as it is that system which inherently generates inequality, scarcity and economic instability — but of course this will take both time and a very clear vision of where to go next. But before we can even have that discussion, the groundwork has to be addressed via the issues and activism described above. Otherwise, as when Klaatu offered his gift upon arriving on Earth, a reactive, fearful and immature populace will try to kill any new ideas.

My 2 cents.

What is your opinion on the irresponsible corporate behavior that we have identified behind the Cambridge Analytica Scandal and the related Facebook data breach?

As you can detect in many discussions around this topic, there are certainly delusional worldviews that seek to divorce corporations from civic responsibility. This is a fundamental sickness of modern capitalism: the assumption that “business” can be separated from morality or civil society. But all transactions are inherently moral transactions, reinforcing and reifying individual and collective behaviors and beliefs. There is no such thing as “just business.” Our purchasing choices, management choices, investment choices, employment choices and so on are all coherent expressions of our moral orientation. If we don’t believe they are, that just makes us nihilistic, atomistic or hedonistic. If we appreciate and attempt to navigate the moral weight of all such choices, this becomes an extension of our personal integrity and civic responsibility; it exemplifies our convictions about participating in prosocial arrangements in active, conscious ways…or not participating in them, as the case may be.

Acknowledging that we express and reinforce our personal and shared values through how we conduct commerce is no different than appreciating personal and collective accountability for any other actions we pursue. We are, in effect, participating in a democracy of sorts when we engage with markets in any way: we are contributing to the shape and substance of our society, and to the legacy we leave for future generations. Of course, those who either just want to make a buck or save a buck will always argue vehemently against this position…not because commerce is inherently morally neutral, but because those opportunists desire that commerce (and other people’s economic choices) be governed by wantonly self-serving impulses. This orientation can, after all, enhance profits in the short run. So, clearly, my opinion of Cambridge Analytica’s actions is that the owners, shareholders and employees of CA are morally reprehensible in their interference with democracy. And I think Facebook’s peeps should be extremely embarrassed and penitent for participating in CA’s misdeeds as well.

My 2 cents.

What are the examples of the political left explicitly claiming to be more "tolerant" than the right?

It’s easy to get lost in the weeds on questions like this one — not just because of strong biases, but because each perspective is generally convinced in the “obviousness” of their own position. Therefore, digging beneath the surface a bit, here are what I would say are relatively helpful examples….

1) On the issue of abortion, the Left does not enforce the choice to abort — nor condition the choice to abort upon socioeconomic status. In other words, although a Left-leaning clinician might counsel a young woman to consider abortion as an option, there really is very little in the way of coercion or reducing available options for that mother. For the Left, nurturing a pregnancy to full term isn’t a reprehensible, immoral or recklessly unwise decision…it just may be a risky one for some women — or some children. Thus the Left is tolerant of these two different choices. On the Right, however, the approach to abortion is very different: it is often never a choice…never a viable option…because it is considered immoral, reprehensible, and recklessly unwise to abort at all. In this instance, the Left demonstrates more tolerance by allowing a young woman to choose her course in life, whereas the Right demonstrates less tolerance by disallowing a woman that choice.

Now a person might argue: “What about the rights of the child? What about their choice?” But that really sidesteps the central issue here, because an unborn child has no actual agency in this situation. In other words, they have no say in the matter. For the Right to assert that abortion is morally reprehensible is therefore an imposition of their will on both mother and child. The Right essentially dismisses all actual agency (in both the mother and the child) in deference to the potential agency of the child at some point in the future, without actually facilitating that agency. That is a rather odd kind of intolerance of the real situation that mother is going through, in favor of promoting and imposing an imagined possibility some time in the future. This is why it is perceived as “anti-Choice” or “pro-birth” rather than authentically “pro-life” (by both the Left and many on the religious Right) when someone is militantly anti-abortion. For someone to be authentically “pro-life,” they would need to consider how to support and nurture the future child and that child’s actual agency — independent of the mother’s involvement — if they persuade a mother to bring her pregnancy to full term. Only then is a Right-leaning person actually offering a real choice to the mother and the child — only then are they supporting the independent agency of everyone involved. Recognizing and accepting such actual consequences of being authentically “pro-life” would go a long way to making those on the Right (social conservatives in this case) seem much more “tolerant.”

2) On the issue of gay marriage, the Left’s tolerance is framed by a recognition that a) there are gay people, b) those gay people fall in love and want to marry, and c) gay people marrying has absolutely no impact on the marriages of heterosexuals. Folks on the Right may disagree with these assertions, but the desire to prevent certain folks from marrying is an imposition of restrictive judgements on an arbitrarily targeted group of people — in this case without any real evidence that it would cause harm to anyone. Sure, there are wild theories about the “corrosive” influence of gay culture on heteronormative society…and that kind of fear-mongering propaganda is what got “marriage protection” legislation passed in several states in years past. But then, as more and more folks (in the political middle and even on the Right) began to recognize how silly and baseless these fears were, the legislation was reversed and the “tolerance” that the Left had for the GLBTQ community began to expand across the political spectrum.

These are just two examples, but perhaps they help clarify why the “tolerance” on the Left really is more pervasive than anything evidenced on the Right. As one last comparison, consider the issue of anti-Christian sentiments on the Left. As a long-time member of the Unitarian Universalist Church, I can easily confirm that there is a great deal of “intolerance” in that community towards Christian fundamentalism. Not all Christians, mind you, just those of the fundamentalist/literalist/ultra-conservative variety. But why? Why would UUs, who are incredibly tolerant and accepting of all faiths (there are Buddhists, mystics, atheists, Jewish folks, Pagans, Christians and all manner of other beliefs practiced in UU congregations!) get their panties in a bunch over Christian fundamentalists…? Again, I would say it is because Christian fundamentalists perpetually seek to forcefully impose their own strictures on others. Just as with the abortion and gay marriage examples, there is a sort of controlling, pedantic, “iron rod” approach among many on the Right regarding what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable and is consequently severely judged and controlled.

My 2 cents.

What is the history of Left vs. Right in the U.S.A.?

Many positions have changed over time in in both left-leaning and right-leaning U.S. politics, with each party alternately championing and then opposing the same position, so it's difficult to generalize. However, there are some central themes that separate the Left from the Right in U.S. politics, and I've attempted to cover those (with relevant exceptions) in the following link:

http://tcollinslogan.com/LeftVRight.htm

What keeps people from seeing through Trump’s corrupt heart?

In all seriousness, while it’s always dangerous to presume we know what’s goin on within anyone else’s heart, I think there is enough evidence to support an assumption that Trump is, at best, horrifically self-absorbed and self-serving, destructively impulsive and highly irrational, a compulsive liar, recklessly overconfident in his own abilities, and misinformed to a truly alarming degree…all while holding the most powerful elected office on planet Earth. There are other characteristics that are evident, to be sure, but these alone should allow us to speculate with a fair amount of confidence about the “corruptness” of Trump’s interiority. “Corrupt” is of course a morally loaded term, and I think Trump is likely more amoral…with loyalty to his person (along with an unseemly expectation for flattery) being the only really “moral” priority in his emotional vocabulary. That said…why is it that so many people simply cannot see the obviousness of this man’s chaotic buffoonery, and just how destructive it is to the well-being of everyone…? There are a few options to consider:

1. Projection and denial. People do tend to project what they want to see on others — especially leaders and celebrities — and especially when some of the other factors listed below are in play….

2. Desperation and feelings of victimhood. I think some of the more sympathetic answers touch on this one. Basically, people who feel left behind hear promises that sound pretty good to them about being re-included (culturally, economically, etc.). Of course, compared to a majority of other people on the planet, Trump voters have had it pretty darn good…and for a very long time, and have contributed to their own situation by participating in conspicuous consumption, undisciplined spending and increased debt, poor self-care, and buying into fear-mongering. So the feelings of desperation and victimhood are…well…in many cases a good example of misattributed causality (and lack of personal accountability).

3.Low IQ or low EQ. Some research indicates that human IQ appears to have been declining in developed countries over the past couple of decades, even as population has increased. Simply put, there are just a lot more dumb people in the world. Along the same lines, it appears obvious (to me at least) that the EQ of conservative-leaning Americans has always been low…and appears to be getting lower. This combination of low IQ and EQ understandably leads to very poor decisions.

4. Consumer conditioning. This is a subtler issue, but equally pervasive. People who live in commercialistic cultures like the U.S. have been conditioned — over multiple generations — to respond to false advertising (miracle diets, etc.), to trust con artists (TV evangelists, pyramid schemes, etc.), and otherwise invest in “consuming” solutions for their problems, while taking little responsibility for the actual causes…or eventual consequences. This is a prominent feature of Western style capitalism, and it has contributed immensely to poor political reasoning and choices, and lethargic participation in democratic institutions.

5. Many folks were duped by Trump, and are now embarrassed to admit it…so now they are “doubling down” on their bad decision. When people are hoodwinked by conspiracy theories, deceptive campaign promises, distortions of reality, fake news, social media memes engineered by foreign States, and all manner of other nefarious things that were in play in the 2016 elections, they may feel compelled to invest more and more in their mistaken judgements in order to self-justify and post-rationalize to save face.

6. A “deluding influence.” This may be a tough one for non-religious folks to swallow, but perhaps there is some supernatural force at work here, causing people “to believe what is false.” Or perhaps it’s not supernatural at all, but a consequence of poor diets, pesticides and electromagnetic pollution. Or maybe solar flare activity is causing it. Or some sort of epigenetic breakdown induced by high-stress wage slavery…? I dunno, but it does seem as though “crazy” is the new normal.

My 2 cents.

Why are Western democracies failing...?

Thanks for the question.

Michael Kupperberg makes an excellent point in his answer, as does Jeff Franz-LIen in his comments to it. (See original Quora question here: https://www.quora.com/Be-it-resolved-that-Western-democracies-are-failing-What-is-your-case-for-the-affirmative) This “left behind” cultural and economic phenomenon is certainly one piece of the picture. Here are some thoughts on the rest of that picture…

1. **Western democracies have lost their way because they have forgotten what democracy is about: thoughtful engagement in democratic institutions by the electorate itself. **In large part this has been engineered by the folks who want to retain power and wealth: wherever the electorate can be effectively manipulated, demoralized and/or disenfranchised to produce desired outcomes, methods will be used aggressively to do so. As a result of the “consumer” mentality in Western democracies (i.e. thinking they can remain disengaged, spoon-fed information, and called-to-action only once every few years to response to well-funded ad campaigns), the electorates of those countries are increasingly subject to coercive manipulation. We see this over-and-over again with surveys that show those who voted for something (Prop 8 in California, Brexit in the UK, etc.) sour to what they voted for in growing numbers AFTER the election is over and they begin to check the facts. The well-funded persuaders and manipulators, on the other hand, are well-versed in tactics that evoke strong short-term emotions around a given issue, and thus secure the passing or defeating of a given candidate or legislation. But the blame can also be laid (and should be laid, more vocally, IMO) at the feet of lazy voters who don’t educate themselves about a given candidate or issue, and just wait to be told how to vote by their favorite authorities (news media, talk show hosts, blogs, campaign ads, etc.).

2. **The world has become much more complex, interdependent, and multifaceted — making democratic decisions much more difficult.** Black-and-white reasoning doesn’t work well for most modern, highly nuanced issues, which inherently invoke myriad interdependencies. Throw some unintended consequences into the mix, along the deliberate corruption of data and information warfare (i.e. climate change deniers, disallowing the CDC to collect gun violence statistics, etc.), and the picture becomes so muddy that people really don’t understand the parameters of a given political position, policy or other important and pressing issues. Of course, this situation is taken advantage of by those same nefarious actors called out in issue #1 above, making the situation much more confusing and challenging than it otherwise would be.

My 2 cents.

Why do American Christians tend to gravitate towards free-markets and economic liberty, instead of socialism?

Thanks for the question Alex.

I think the OP’s question is based on a popular misconception. If you look at the data (see Pew’s Religious Landscape Study), those who self-identify as Christian in the U.S. are actually fairly evenly divided between liberal and conservative viewpoints (i.e. pro-government programs to help the poor vs. anti-government, pro life vs. pro choice, supportive of same-sex marriage vs. opposed, protecting the environment vs. less business regulation, etc.). It is true that these proportions don’t mirror the general population precisely — Christians do tend to skew slightly more conservative on certain social, political and economic issues. Again however, within the Christian community, folks are fairly evenly divided between liberal and conservative viewpoints.

So that leaves us with two distinct questions:

1) Why are misconceptions about U.S. Christians so out-of-line with the available data?

2) Why do any Christians at all “gravitate towards free-markets and economic liberty, instead of socialism?”

These are fairly easy to answer, IMO.

First, pervasive misconceptions about Christians and Christian beliefs have persisted for millenia…so that’s not exactly new. What is new is a media landscape that loves sensationalism, and that reliably turns its attention to the most vocal and “colorful” variations of any given group. All environmentalists aren’t vegans, all gun owners don’t love the NRA, all Muslims aren’t terrorists or terrorist supporters, and all Christians don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade. But the strong cultural memes that circulate via mass media are compelled to capitalize on loud, combative, sensational extremes so they can maximize advertising dollars. So those who passively and unquestioningly consume that media can arrive at some pretty bizarre generalizations about various groups. Not that those generalizations have no basis, but they tend to focus on highly exaggerated “far end of the spectrum” squeaky wheels. Can we even generalize that U.S. Christians “believe in God?” Sure, that usually holds…but even in this instance there are plentiful exceptions (the Pew study reference above indicates only 76% of Christians are “absolutely certain” in the existence of God…).

Second, there have been concerted efforts by Right-leaning political interests in the U.S. to capture various groups, and generate opposition to others, for their own nefarious ends. You have the Southern Strategy, two Red Scares, the McCarthy era, and a consistent propaganda effort since about 1972 (by neoliberal think tanks, wealthy donors, conservative media, etc.) to demonize socialism and “big bad government,” and lionize free markets and “more efficient” business solutions that can supposedly remedy ALL social and civic issues. It is no accident that the term “godless communists” entered the popular vernacular, was perpetuated there, and was relentlessly associated with anything that interfered with corporate power and profits. For some time, part of the neoliberal objective has clearly been to consolidate very different ideologies under one single, pro-corporate, anti-government agenda. Each targeted group (fiscal conservatives, religious conservatives, right-libertarians, gun-lovers, immigrant-haters, etc.) has been carefully marketed an appealing brand of political groupthink that claims to champion their key concerns. In reality, of course, those key concerns are always subjugated to the primary aim of disabling government in favor of enriching a few owner-shareholders at everyone else’s expense. It’s little more than a long con.

So, you might then ask, why don’t Christians see through the sham? This leads into an interesting discussion about whether culture determines religious orthodoxy, or religion influences culture. I think there is some give-and-take there, but that established cultural programming usually wins out in the end. Historically and into modern times, “Christian” nations generally do not reflect Christ-like values, but rationalize or justify pre-existing cultural values via distorted religious legalism. If all U.S. Christians really wanted to emulate Christ and follow biblical teachings, they would have difficulty being conformant capitalists at all — and certainly would not support the “greed, guns and greatness are good” sentiments that so permeate the political Right today. Authentic Christian believers do, in fact, tend to be much more Left-leaning and socialistic. I actually wrote a book about this issue, A Progressive's Guide to the New Testament, which covers the evidence to support this view with great care.

My 2 cents.

Which countries are poised to gain the most from America being absent from world politics?

In proposed order of the overall scope of benefit:

China
Russia

Turkey

Pakistan

Iran (though this will likely be countered by Israel)

Eurogroup’s power to self-servingly utilize EU (that is, not the EU member countries…just their financial puppet masters)

African, Asian, Middle-Eastern and South American petty dictators and authoritarians.

Canada and Mexico (as a joint trading block)

Pacifica/Cascadia/New California/etc. — should such a new nation form out of secession.

India (if it can ever get its act together)

My 2 cents.

In what ways does Donald Trump misrepresent America to the world?

Thanks for the question.

To provide a little backdrop, I lived in (West) Germany during the Ronald Reagan administration, in an area of Frankfurt that saw a lot of hostility towards Americans generally, so I’ve seen firsthand how a President can influence people’s opinions of U.S. Citizens. In that case, Reagan reinforced a broadly held view in Europe of people in the U.S. being uninformed or ignorant to a comic degree (Germans in bars would all burst out laughing every time Reagan was interviewed, because of all the factual mistakes he made), that Americans are painfully unaware of their own ignorance and misinformation, and that we nevertheless are overly confident about what we know…especially regarding what we believe is true and morally right. I used to refer to this phenomenon as “the Texas ignorance/arrogance amplification spiral” (because it seemed like every Texan I met exhibited the behavior to an exaggerated degree), until researchers identified it as the Dunning–Kruger effect.

And when Americans later also elected George W. Bush to POTUS twice, it confirmed the same prejudice regarding Americans being overconfident and uninformed (the term I would frequently hear in Germany was “Idioten” or “idiots”). And Trump? Well he is really — from a European perspective at least — a predictable extension of that same pattern of electing goofy dipshits who seem to have little grasp of reality (or any demonstrated intelligence about navigating it) to POTUS, thus reinforcing that a large number of people in the U.S. seem to celebrate being “cocky but incompetent.”

To further illustrate how pervasive this perspective on Americans had become, I once stayed in a lovely hotel in Galway where a huge oil painting of a Confederate General was hung above the main stairway. The Irish patrons (at least the ones who disdained an America wielding so much global power with such demonstrated ignorance of the world around them) loved to ask American guests at the hotel what they thought of the painting. At one point, they would then ask, “Do you know who that is…?” Not many of the American guests — often well-educated by U.S. standards, as well as affluent — could identify the General…or even knew he was wearing a Confederate uniform. Some could, but those Irish patrons loved to demonstrate that even the bellhops and maids in the hotel knew the history of the U.S. Civil War better than many Americans did.

Okay…with that said, how does “The Donald” misrepresent America to the rest of the world? Well, you’ll recall that Trump didn’t win the popular vote, and that a LOT of Democrats didn’t vote at all in 2016. You’ll also recall that G.W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore as well. And, interestingly, global confidence in the U.S. Presidency was very low for both Trump and G.W. Bush (plummeting to below 25% (see Around the world, favorability of the U.S. and confidence in its president decline). Now these are just two comparative data plots, but what they reveal is that in at least these two instances, a majority of U.S. voters didn’t trust or want Dunning-Kruger Presidents…and the rest of the world agreed with them. There is other data that supports the view that a majority of U.S. citizens are actually in synch with the more enlightened policies of other developed countries (i.e. stats about gun control, campaign reform, progressive taxation, single payer healthcare, etc.), and that successive generations in the U.S. have been straining against harmful conservative policies and distortions of fact that basically favor wealthy corporate shareholders above everyone else. Change is immanent, IMO, as we will likely see in 2018 and 2020 if U.S. media and elections are hijacked and manipulated. And THAT is why Trump misrepresents America to the world: because he is the last gasp of a dying, minority breed of uninformed, arrogant Dunning-Kruger citizenry. The rest of us — the majority of folks who live and vote in the U.S. — desperately yearn for progressive change.

My 2 cents.

Do you feel US society today lacks compassion and understanding in one another's political views?

Actually I think the lack of compassion and understanding has been pretty one-sided for a very long time, but that it has slowly been spreading to become a more universal reaction, as a consequence of increasing exasperation.

For many decades, both hate speech and hateful actions against “libtards,” “commies,” “faggots,” “nigger-lovers,” “feminazis,” and many other groups characterized as residing on the Left end of the political spectrum was propagated and amplified mainly by the right-leaning conservatives of the U.S. And you could hear this seething vitriol — with lots of nationalistic sentiment, fear-mongering and Us vs. Them propaganda — on conservative talk radio 24/7 for many years. But the progressives just didn’t use the same approach — at least not in the same aggressive spirit, or using the same threatening and hurtful language. You might indeed hear a fair amount of condescension and dismissiveness from the Left, to be sure: phrases like “Bible-thumper,” “redneck,” “gun-lover” and the like were commonly used by liberals to describe conservatives in the U.S. But you wouldn’t hear the same kind of hate, or raging anger, or irrational fear. And, interestingly, unlike the corrosively derisive language that conservatives employed, many right-wing folks proudly embraced those liberal labels (i.e. “redneck,” “gun-lover,” etc.) as if they were a badge of honor. So even though liberals often raised a “we’re smarter and more educated than you” flag against the conservative’s “holier than thou” standard, that’s really as far as the liberals went in the mainstream. There was disbelief and disdain, to be sure…but not the same deep-seated fear and hate, and indeed a fair amount of compassion could be found among liberals regarding how rank-and-file conservatives were being manipulated and lied to by their wealthy handlers. It was only at the very radical fringes on the Left that you found militant activists willing to use underhanded, vindictive or violent methods to counter right-wing agendas. But again, on the conservative end of the spectrum, such tactics and genuinely discompassionate sentiments were regularly invoked by conservative media outlets, think tanks, and political candidates as they encouraged every Republican into lockstep conformance.

But I think those many decades of one-sided hatefulness may be coming to an end. The 2016 election tipped the scales. When Michelle Obama said “when they go low, we go high,” that was emblematic of the Left’s last stand for compassion and understanding; it’s what a lot of liberals really felt in their heart-of-hearts about the right way to think and act. But it failed. So a lot of folks — especially the young Bernie Sanders supporters who felt betrayed by the DNC — took note of the hateful tactics of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, and began to spout some aggressive, passionate, condemnatory rhetoric of their own. And, sadly, a lot of that rhetoric has begun to mirror the Right’s longstanding tactics, style and spirit. And so the tide is turning on the Left away from mere condescension, disbelief and genuine pity and compassion for Republicans, toward a right-wing flavor of judgmental anger. It’s very sad for me to see, and it does not bode well for the U.S. political process.

So that would be my first point: yes, each side is becoming ever more polarized in its lack of compassion and understanding….but I think it is important to acknowledge that the Right has held that position for many years longer than the Left. The Republican Party has been such a magnet for hate and fear-mongering that Southern Democrats who were angry and fearful about Black voting rights and the end of Jim Crow switched over to the Republican Party so they could continue to fight against those progressive changes. And you could even say — when you consider things like climate denial, evolution denial, voodoo economics, rejection of science, suspicion and resentment of public education, and so on — that conservatives have perfected a lack of understanding to an absurd degree…an extent where “alternative facts” very disconnected from reality have become all-to-real for them. Clearly, considering how Republicans vote regarding helping the poor, women, minorities, the environment, consumer protections, worker protections, benefits to children, and a host of other issues, compassion and kindness have long been absent from their political ideology. Which is all to say that malicious intent (the will to power of the “haves”) has always been loudly present in the right-wing agenda, and almost entirely absent from the policies championed by progressives on behalf of the “have-nots.”

I do believe, however, that many folks on the Left and the Right are tired of fighting. They want peace…they long for compromise. And yet…the programming and propaganda that energize hateful polemics are very strong…so that may yet have to run its course. So those who long for harmony will have to wait. “It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, when the tunnel is on fire.” Still…I believe there is Light, and that Light will prevail in the end. It will just be a very difficult road for all of us to arrive there.

My 2 cents.

Why do Americans hate the idea of a socialist government? Socialism and communism are not the same thing.

Thanks for the question. In the U.S. we can draw a fairly straight line between anti-socialist sentiments and decades of neoliberal propaganda. For example the Red Scares that were invented after each World War planted the rhetoric and polemics that later became more widespread, “mainstream assumptions.” With Americans, many falsehoods that were propagated in this way have to be carefully confronted in order to relieve a prejudicial ignorance. For example, I often find myself defending these factual positions against the steady stream of misinformation flowing out of conservative think tanks, media, political candidates and pundits:

1) The most successful economies in the world are mixed economies that have combined socialist and capitalist principles and practices (this includes the U.S.A.).

2) Socializing certain sectors of an economy has almost universally solved many long-term problems that the profit motive could not regarding public goods, providing much better outcomes for the citizenry. For example, in healthcare, public infrastructure, education, basic utilities, land management, and so on. The insistence by market fundamentalists that the profit motive can solve all complex problems is simply mistaken…and indeed quite harmful in terms of public policy over the long run.

3) Authoritative Marxism-Leninism was a grossly corrupted form of communism that completely negates the fundamental tenet of nearly all forms of socialism (including Marx’s original ideas): that democracy is central to the foundations of a socialistic civil society.

4) Libertarian Socialism (left-libertarianism) has actually been the dominant leaning of libertarianism throughout most of its history, and is actually the only form of libertarianism that has been successfully implemented on various scales.

For more on why this propaganda has been so integral to U.S. politics, I encourage reading this: L7 Neoliberalism

My 2 cents.

What is your take on what was revealed in the (Republican) FISA memo? What should we do with that information?

Thanks for the question.

To my eye there are a couple of clues as to the intent and quality of this memo in the memo and cover letter, as well as the facts (that we know of) surrounding them:

1) There is a lot of emphasis on how “top secret” the information is supposed to be, and how strictly and appropriately the management of its declassification is being carried out. All of the language in the cover letter echoes the somewhat melodramatic hand-written crossing out of the top secret designation on the scanned memo itself. All of this seems contrived to make the memo seem much more revelatory and important than it actually is.

2) The bulk of the memo’s “revelation” is a conspiracy of nefarious intent to neutralize Donald Trump’s presidency (i.e. “an insurance policy”). The problem with this approach is that, even if the intent could be verified by reviewing the source materials (and here we must, alas, rely on a rather ethically tainted Devin Nunes to assure us this is the case), that does not necessarily impugn the information collected. In other words, even if some FISA threshold were artificially engineered, that does not negate the veracity of observed criminal activities. This frames a rather weak ad hominem strategy for countering accusations against folks working for Trump. Of course, if the FISA warrant really lacked appropriate justification, then the data collected might not be admissible in criminal proceedings…but that is a completely separate legal issue from whether or not there was evidence of collusion with Russia. I can only imagine that Nunes is hoping to muddy the water so that the American public falsely equates a possible political agenda for the investigation with inaccurate or fabricated surveillance results.

3) There is a lot that we know to contradict a purely political motivation on the part of the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign. Others have covered this in much more detail — the political leanings of key players at the FBI, how Comey undermined Hilary’s credibility in the 11th hour before the election, etc. However, what seems a lot more important in this case is the vast amount of classified information that would need to be disclosed to clearly evaluate the FISA proceedings for bias. And that likely won’t be available for years. Which means…Nunes had absolutely no business releasing this superficial assessment, which itself so clearly embodies an aggressive political agenda. In other words, the memo is pregnant with the very same quality of nefarious intent it attempts to assign to others — the pot calling the kettle black if you will.

All-in-all, I would say the memo illustrates a very sad state of affairs in Congress — a conniving and twisted flavor of manipulation we haven’t seen since the McCarthy era.

My 2 cents.

Is the United States economy due for a correction?

Well it doesn’t look good in terms of both domestic fundamentals and international trade, considering:

1) The lack of U.S. investment (and political will) around green energy — along with a concurrent attempt to return to the rape-and-pillage model of extraction industries — means both that a highly innovating and job-creating sector will find a place to thrive somewhere outside of the U.S., and that the U.S. will lag behind in implementations and thus be subject to unstable resources, unsustainable production, and amplified negative externalities.

2) Nearly all categories of consumer spending are increasingly dependent on personal credit and increasing debt, and consumer debt burdens cannot increase without limit — thus demand will either attenuate in precipitous ways across multiple sectors, or competitive price inelasticity will shave profit margins to growth-choking levels.

3) When you remove some potential short-term variability, it appears that wages and job growth may remain largely stagnant over the longer run. Ironically, any potential “trickle down” to wages from a lower corporate tax rate (though there is no evidence that this will even be the case — see the next bullet) will be offset by trade protections that encourage low-paying jobs to return to the U.S. — jobs with such tremendous downward pressure on wages (from years of sweatshop exploitation and ever-increasing production efficiencies) that they will likely become the targets of automation.

4) Cuts in corporate and higher income tax rates will not stimulate economic growth — this has always been a neoliberal supply-side fantasy that has never borne fruit. Instead, we already see the amplification of a post-2008 trend where companies hoard cash reserves and buy back stock, further enriching owner-shareholders. And both globally and in the U.S., this concentration of wealth in the top <1% only exacerbates income inequality to an astonishing degree…it never “trickles down” to anyone else, but instead gets tucked away in trusts and offshore accounts — at least this is what all of the available data indicates for the past 40 years.

5) Stock market gains have been largely psychological, and are (once again) relying ever-more-heavily upon speculation and speculative instruments that either are not backed by material assets, or by extremely irrational valuations of assets.
Regulatory constraints on financial institutions are on schedule to be relaxed to pre-2008 conditions.
International trade deals are being threatened and/or scuttled by Trumpian protectionism and the “uncertainty effect” of his leadership style.

6) Intellectual capital is being jeopardized by discouraging immigrants from attending U.S. universities, an ongoing mishandling of the student debt crisis in higher ed, and a lack of investment and excellence in K-12 (alas, neither the profit motive nor aggressive performance metrics have made U.S. education any better).

7) The ongoing assault on the ACA and Medicare will almost certainly result in a shrinking healthcare infrastructure and increasing costs, even as demand accelerates with an aging baby-boomer population — and possibly an increase in disease vectors resulting from climate change. The consequence in the short term from any single one of these will be rapidly rising healthcare premiums and huge losses at hospitals that must serve the uninsured. When you combine all of these variables, I think this trend is one of the more explosive “crash inducers.” Will taxpayers be “bailing out” hospitals and insurance companies next…?

8-) As a more controversial prediction, exponential increases in product complexity, combined with ever-more-rapid product lifecycles, are inviting at best a form of consumer exhaustion — and at worst a concerted consumer backlash — in either case further reducing demand and potential economic growth.

9) As another speculation, since the U.S. government is trapped in a deficit spending spiral that will be amplified by the recent tax reforms, this will — given the current administration’s irrational belief in outdated economic models and ending “the nanny state” — likely result in de facto austerity measures similar to those that have decimated other economies. Paul Ryan and his ilk have already broadcast their intention to do just this.

….And these are just a handful of the known and possible factors. There are dozens of others all pointing in the same direction: increased market instability, excessive leveraging, inflated valuation, hampered productivity, flat or falling real wages, precipitous decreases in demand, increasing trade imbalances, and overall economic stagnation. Add to this that the Federal Reserve now has very little room to maneuver in terms of monetary tools, and anyone with a lick of sense can see the writing on the wall.

My 2 cents.

What tears a culture apart?

Thanks for the question Michelle. In answer to “What tears a culture apart?” As a single overarching concept, I would say The Spectacle is a massively influential component. However, I would identify a number of factors — some inherent to The Spectacle itself, and some that are separate but ancillary to it — that have contributed to our current disintegration:

1) Culturally reinforced atomistic individualism, coupled with willfulness.

2) Commodification of everything (as a consequence of our current form of political economy), which in turn shifts reliance on interpersonal relationships and trust to a dependence on money, contracts, social status, and inherent mistrust.

3) Cultural conditions that disrupt or sabotage moral development, so that a majority of folks remain “stuck” in childish and egotistical stages.

4) Deceptive manipulation that turns one group of people against another (tribalism, Us vs. Them, ingroup vs. outgoup, etc.), and perpetuates the lies and deception via causal forcing (see http://www.tcollinslogan.com/res...).

5) Increasing concentrations of wealth and power in a very small number of people — generally at the expense of everyone else (i.e. plutocracy via crony capitalism).

6) The Dunning–Kruger effect as amplified by subcultures that enshrine ignorance and arrogance; in other words: ongoing poor self-awareness.

7) A growing unease, confusion and lack of agency in the face of exponential complexity and rapid cycles of change.

8-) Promoting multiculturalism instead of interculturalism.

9) Postmodern skepticism and abandonment of cultural traditions…without replacing them with anything.

10) Fairly primitive primates playing with very sophisticated technological toys that they do not understand, but on which they then become almost entirely dependent.

My 2 cents.

Why is it immoral to hate people because of their religion? Religion is a number of views which you consider right. Isn’t it okay to judge people based on their views and their decisions?

Well, first off hate is generally either counterproductive or destructive — it very rarely helps alter an undesirable situation. In fact I would say that hate reliably makes everything worse for everyone involved. Also, hate most often issues from fear, ignorance and deep personal wounding…rather than, say, a place of clear-headed righteous indignation or concern for the well-being of others. When we watch children lash out at someone and scream “I hate you!” we instinctively know, as adults, that they are just hurting and irrational little toddlers. Hate therefore requires us to examine our own situation — our own hearts, reflexive prejudices, uninformed reactions, etc. — to see what needs healing. It doesn’t indicate anything about the object of our hate…anything at all, really, except that the object reminds us of our own immaturity, lack of compassion, and lack of skillfulness.

As for religion having some special class in terms of the judgments, prejudices or condemnations that may inspire fear and discomfort, I think the problem arises when we lump a bunch of folks into one big bucket. When we say “all white people are X,” or “all Americans are y,” or “all Muslims are z,” we are applying a generalization that is usually a) not very accurate or insightful, or b) has lots of individual exceptions. In other words, a particular “white American Muslim” won’t actually conform to any of the projected stereotypes — in fact, a LOT of them won’t. So what is the point of such generalizations? Generally, it is to create an “Us vs. Them” mentality, or an “ingroup vs. outgroup” orientation, that helps us feel better about ourselves, and perhaps a little more powerful. It assuages our insecurities and props up a weak and vulnerable sense of self. Unfortunately, this is precisely what leaders of hate groups and hate movements are counting on to gain more followers. And why do they want more followers? To empower themselves, because they are feeling the same vulnerability and insecurity.

So how can we address our own sense of fear, vulnerability, discomfort, confusion, insecurity and weak sense of self that leads us to hate a particular religion? That is a much larger conversation, but I would say it begins with educating ourselves about different cultures and peoples, traveling abroad, making friends with a different worldview and breaking bread with them in their homes, taking a long hard look at our own reflexive beliefs and attitudes, and beginning to heal some of our own emotional brokenness and loneliness. In my personal discipline, called Integral Lifework, the objective is to nourish every dimension of our being so that we won’t feel insecure, disempowered and hurting…and this process of self-care can go a long way toward healing the need to hate anyone or anything.

My 2 cents.

Why haven't (seemingly obvious) foreign policy perspectives like those of Noam Chomsky's gained mass popularity in the United States?

For anything to gain “mass popularity” usually requires concerted marketing efforts. Americans — perhaps more than any other population in the world — have become conditioned to externalize all authority and “truth,” and wait rather passively for guidance in the form of sales and marketing entertainment (or the memes swarming their social media bubbles, as the case may be). This is, I think, a natural consequence of two centuries of commercialistic capitalism where most media was slowly but inevitably enslaved to the will of corporate profit-seeking and neoliberal propaganda. More recently, those avenues of mass influence have been further coopted and corrupted by nefarious players like the Koch Brothers, the Mercer family, the Heartland Institute, etc., or by conspiracy-mongering nut jobs like Alex Jones. All of these folks — whether actively or tacitly — have worked in concert to disrupt the ability of the average American consumer-voter to parse reality in any sensible way…let alone to navigate complex foreign policy issues with anything but the most oversimplified, knee-jerk rhetoric. In many ways Donald Trump is a perfect example of what happens to someone shaped by such media: childish, irrational, paranoid, uninformed, reactive, incoherent…but somehow utterly sure of himself. We could, of course, lay all of this at the feet of capitalism itself, but the U.S.A. has developed a uniquely destructive model in terms of creating highly tribalized, infantilized conspicuous consumers who are invested in delusional nonsense for entertainment’s sake, and who consistently vote and make purchases that are highly destructive to their well-being, while serving the interests of wealthy owner-shareholders quite nicely.

Enter into this landscape Noam Chomsky, who sees very clearly the tragic distortions of crony capitalism and its neoliberal policy disasters, as well as the horrific effect of market fundamentalist politics and war profiteering around the globe, and of course Chomsky has identified and explained the mechanisms of a complicit mass media in furthering these nefarious agendas. So Chomsky doesn’t get interviewed on that same mass media anymore. And his observations are ignored by the neoliberal power brokers who shape self-serving policy and jam it down the gullet of elected legislatures (via. A.L.E.C., etc.). In fact most Americans today don’t know who Noam Chomsky even is…because there is no propagation of his ideas by the “authorities” people have come to trust or admire — you know, like Fox News, or Breitbart, or Info Wars. Even left-leaning media are scared to have Noam Chomsky on their programs for fear of losing funding; did you know the Koch Brothers were instrumental in Ken Burns’ last documentary about Vietnam on PBS? And that, as a predictable consequence, the “facts” of that documentary series were horrifically distorted…? And that the very false narrative that Chomsky has debunked over and over again (in book after book, and lecture after lecture) over decades was revitalized in dramatic form on PBS?! And yet, a majority of lazy-minded, ignorant, comfort-seeking Americans gobbled up the bullshit unquestioningly. This is a microcosm of the macrocosm: just follow the money, and you’ll quickly see why Chomsky is ignored, minimized or derided in the mainstream.

Now…with that said, I don’t necessarily agree with everything Noam Chomsky believes or pontificates. And he has, in fact, made some glaring mistakes (Pol Pot was a biggy). I also sense that his ego sometimes gets the better of him. But NONE of this has to do with why Chomsky isn’t more well-known or appreciated, or why Americans aren’t rallying in the streets to shift U.S. foreign policy away from neoliberal imperialism. Just look what happened to Bernie Sanders in the last election: very little media coverage, no DNC support, a drumbeat of “he’s a communist” hate speech from the right, nearly all funding was from the grass roots, etc. The powers-that-be all conspired to shut him down — and Bernie was a milk toast centrist compared to Noam Chomsky!

So for U.S. citizens to appreciate Chomsky on any level, they would first need to wake up from their stupor of toddlerized consumerism and externalized authority, and start actively learning about the world around them via information sources that don’t have a brainwashing/hoodwinking agenda. And that’s probably not going to happen until things get a lot more uncomfortable (economically and materially) for the U.S.A. — and even then, the more immature Americans will still search for a scapegoat to blame for their own failures (you know, like illegal immigrants…).

My 2 cents.

Update: In response to a question about Chomsky's statements about Pol Pot, here is one helpful and well-researched link regarding the Pol Pot issue:

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman: Averaging Wrong Answers

I think the writer overstates his own case…using some rhetoric that paints Chomsky in a worse light than he deserves. However, if you remove that rhetoric and focus on the evidence, he documents the underlying disconnect fairly well.

How easy is it to convert a semi-automatic rifle to an automatic?

There is a LOT of ideologically-driven B.S. about this issue floating around the web — from all sides, really. Perhaps as a consequence of this, all of the answers in this Quora thread (see below) that indicate some sort of excessive expense or technical knowledge being required to convert a stock semi-auto to full-auto are…well, let’s just say they’re either ignorant, lying, or sidestepping the obvious. So here’s the (obvious) scoop on this:

For about $200 in parts, $30 in really simple tools, basic familiarity with firearms, some average DIY aptitude, and less than a half hour of time, you can convert any over-the-counter AR-15 to a fully automatic weapon. And here’s the real interesting rub: you can do this “legally” in many jurisdictions whose laws haven’t caught up with burst fire conversion kits.

The concept in play is called “bump firing.” Basically it uses a sliding stock firing action to harness recoil, so that with very little skill (most people can get the hang of it on a first or second try), a shooter can fire at close to the same rate as a fully automatic weapon, and do so continuously. With a little practice, a shooter can unload clips just as quickly as many fully automatic weapons. Here are two example videos (using the YouTube search string “bump fire stock ar 15”):

Seasoned bump-fire shooter with $99 kit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gWrthH2OK4



Pretty obvious amateurs giving bump-fire a try:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B7tzaYgp5g



Again…this is all with legal, over-the-counter stuff using very basic knowledge.

The answer to this question, therefore, is: ridiculously easy, cheap, and (in many jurisdictions) legal.

And yes…to answer the obvious follow-up question…according to the AP and Time (http://time.com/4966239/stephen-paddock-hotel-room-guns/), the Las Vegas shooter had bump stocks in his hotel room. So…yeah.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-easy-is-it-to-convert-a-semi-automatic-rifle-to-an-automatic/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How is fascism created from "capitalism in decline"?

Fascism is created from capitalism in decline via the following mechanisms:

1. Long-term decrease in real wages (i.e. loss of buying power, social status, etc.). Over time, it is inevitable that increased efficiencies, mass production and the search for cheaper labor and natural resources are exhausted — even as profit continues to be maximized at the same time — result in workers receiving less and less in real wages. And that is exactly what has happened in the U.S. since about 1972 — even as GDP and per capita productivity increased during that period, all that wealth went to the wealthiest owner-shareholders, and never “trickled down” to anyone else.

2. Loss of economic mobility. As income inequality expands, economic mobility decreases for the majority of a given population. So while they still are working just as hard (or even harder), the opportunities for advancement or even basic financial security evaporate.

3. Fewer jobs, and lower quality jobs. In order to fuel economic growth, the consumer base must expand as production costs shrink. This creates an ever-widening capture of cheap labor and resources, and an ever-enlarging global marketshare. Jobs must of necessity either be automated or exported away from affluent countries. Innovation can sometimes fill the job gap, but usually only for short periods.

4. A resulting frustration among formerly affluent populations. Factors 1–3 lead to increasing dissatisfaction and frustration among groups that had once held the most political, social and cultural capital. They become increasingly angry that the promise of economic freedoms and opportunities — and the cultural prestige — once afforded them has evaporated. But beyond that, there is real suffering as poverty begins to take root, and especially when yet another “false promise” in the form of increasing and inescapable debt adds fuel to resentments.

5. Xenophobic scapegoating and nationalistic romanticism. Someone has to pay for this loss of status, loss of affluence, and the snowball effect of failed promises. It could be anyone…and “big bad government” is a frequent target…but it is much easier and more concrete to scapegoat a powerless, vulnerable or “foreign” group than to rail agains more abstract institutions. Political scapegoating can, after all, backfire when half of the population is the group being targeted as scapegoats — they can rise up and exercise a dominant political will. But poor immigrants or helpless refugees fleeing violent oppression are much easier to villainize — especially when they are tarred and feathered as “attacking” a proud national heritage. It does not matter that that national heritage is being viewed through rose-colored distortions…only that it is being attacked by “Them.”

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/How-is-fascism-created-from-capitalism-in-decline/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Beyond "Wokeness:" Getting to the Real Roots of the Problem

Photo by Marion S. Trikosko - Library of Congress Collection (Public Domain)


First and foremost I'd like to advocate the principle of garbage in, garbage out: If we all don't have good information, we're going to make bad decisions -- especially about causes, effects and the best chance for a reasonable remedy. In the case of race relations in the U.S., there seems to be an endless amount of distraction and misdirection -- a smokescreen cast between those who care about healing the divisions in our country, and what is really perpetuating the divide. And there is tremendous energy behind that smoke, keeping the propaganda spewing forth at high volume, front-and-center, across all kinds of media. So, in the spirit of a storm to chase the smokescreen away, I will offer what I think are some high-quality truths about what underlies the sad state of race relations in the U.S.A., with supporting references at the end of the article.

#1) What looks like clear and indisputable evidence of racism is often a highly targeted and thinly veiled form of capitalist exploitation. In a very real sense, the loudest common denominator of oppression and exploitation in the U.S. is the profit motive. Here are some potent examples of what I mean:

a) Who targets communities of color in their aggressive marketing of tobacco products and alcohol on local neighborhood billboards? Tobacco and alcohol companies. Who has been complicit in the high concentrations of carryout stores selling tobacco and alcohol products in communities of color -- higher concentrations of such stores, in fact, than in any other neighborhoods in the U.S.? Tobacco and alcohol companies. Who has created customized brands of tobacco and alcohol products for marketing to communities of color, including products that are more addictive, more potent and more toxic than those sold elsewhere? Tobacco and alcohol companies. But of course no one is holding tobacco and alcohol companies accountable -- not for their role in perpetuating alcohol and nicotine addiction in black and brown neighborhoods, not for the disproportionate disease and mortality caused by alcohol and tobacco among people of color, and not for the societal destruction they are perpetuating in poor communities.

b) Who benefits most from the militarization of the police, or having assault-style weapons in the hands of both criminals and law-abiding citizens? Gun and military hardware manufactures. And who was responsible for lobbying to relax gun regulations, while marketing fear and paranoia across America at the same time? Gun and military hardware manufactures. Who benefits from flooding our inner cities with handguns, and flooding rural communities with panic that their gun rights will be taken away? Gun and military hardware manufactures. Who benefits from the escalation of gang-related, drug-related and terrorism-related violence involving their guns and equipment, as well as the defensive outfitting of communities overwhelmed by such challenges? Gun and military hardware manufactures. It seems Eisenhower's infamous "military-industrial-congressional complex" has figured out that what they have always aimed to achieve on a global scale can also be implemented on national, state and local scales as well. But of course no one is holding gun and military hardware manufacturers accountable for their role in promoting gun violence or the proliferation of military-style equipment. In fact, the puppet politicians of these corporations have passed laws that protect the companies from liability.


c) Who benefits the most from the "three strike" or minimum sentencing laws that swell U.S. prison populations? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. Who has benefitted most from "the war on drugs" and harsher immigration policies? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. Who benefits from inflating monetary penalties on minor infractions into unpayable debt that triggers warrants, arrests and jail time? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. In fact, which companies make the most money off of the U.S. justice system overall? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. And who has been lobbying legislatures and funding candidates to expand their corporate profits through more aggressive laws and penalties that just happen to impact the poor and people of color the most...? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. But of course no one is holding these companies accountable for the devastating consequences of their systemized greed.

d) Who initiated slavery of indigenous peoples and captured Africans in the Americas, and for what purpose? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of their production. Who perpetuated post-Civil War versions of slavery in sharecropping, truck systems, company stores, etc.? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of their production. Who has invented new forms of wage and debt slavery in the current day, fighting vigorously to keep minimum wages below subsistence levels, and consumers perpetually in debt? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of production. Who benefits most from "welfare-to-work" programs that only offer shabby, low-paying and demeaning jobs? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of production. Who still perpetuates exploitation of child labor around the globe, and benefits most from sweat shops and horrific labor conditions both abroad in developing countries, and using immigrant labor in the U.S.? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of production. And yet, too few people think to blame capitalism itself for these problems.

e) Who benefits the most from union-breaking policies and disruption of community organizing efforts? Capitalists and the puppet politicians who help funnel wealth and power to corporations. Who benefits the most from making tensions around race relations all about ethnicity and culture, and from making sure working folks from different backgrounds are angrily divided against each other? Capitalists and the puppet politicians who help funnel wealth and power to corporations. And who is laughing all the way to the bank when "race riots," social unrest, violence and death all across America are portrayed in the corporate-owned media as have nothing at all to do with oppression and exploitation of the working class by wealthy owner-shareholders? Capitalists and the puppet politicians who help funnel wealth and power to corporations. But here again, too few people think to blame capitalism itself for these problems.

#2) Although there is much evidence to support issue #1 above, epidemic levels of white privilege, systemic racism and white supremacist extremism are real, and still persist. But shouldn't we still ask whom these prolific cultural diseases really serve...? This is the tricky part, because on the surface it really does seem like such reflexes and patterns are mainly about deep-seated fear and hatred of a particular ethnic or cultural group, and that deliberately disrupting the well being, economic mobility, social status and political influence of these targeted groups is mainly a consequence of that fear, hatred and ignorance. Except...well...let's consider the ultimate outcome of disenfranchising any homogenous group, depriving them access to decent education and employment, disproportionately persecuting and imprisoning them, interfering with their voting and other civil rights, or otherwise "keeping them down." Again, who benefits the most...?

When Republicans rolled back minority voting rights protections in the South, whom did that help in subsequent elections? And when Republicans have thrown up all kinds of hurdles to vote within various regions -- hurdles like requiring voter IDs, or reducing polling places and hours, or changing polling places at the last minute, or removing "suspected felons" from voter rolls -- whom have these hurt the most in terms of voter access? And when an unqualified and mentally unstable Republican candidate ran for President in 2016, and then won the election using flagrantly racist and xenophobic rhetoric to "fire up" his base, who actually benefitted from his ascendance to power? It certainly wasn't the poor, fearful and uneducated white folks who helped vote him into office. And whom do conservative judges, appointed by Republicans, favor when a case between worker or consumer rights and the privileges and power of a corporation comes before their bench? Again, it isn't the workers and consumers, and it's certainly not any poor people. And who benefits most from the legislation written by A.L.E.C. that is passed by Republican-controlled legislatures all around the U.S.? It's not the working class people who live in those states. In all of these cases, all we need to do is follow the money. It is the wealthiest of the wealthy who fund the campaigns of these Republican officials, and who ultimately benefit from these laws. Which is also why Republicans work so hard to roll back any kind of taxes or regulation -- or undermine, disempower or disembowel the regulatory agencies they oversee -- in the name of "smaller government." We know who consistently benefits, and who consistently suffers.

In short: the primary beneficiaries of conservative Republican politics are the enormous concentrations of corporate wealth and power, as wielded by the most privileged owner-shareholders. And it is the working poor of any and all ethnicities, cultures and immigration status who are consistently used, abused and trampled underfoot...even as they are persuaded with outrageous propaganda and false promises to vote for and embrace ideologies and candidates that contradict their own expressed values and interests.

"Hey who got the politicians in they back pocket
Pimp slap pump that gimme that profit..."
- Get Busy, The Roots

Now I will not say that Democrats have been innocent in this puppet play -- for they, too, have been funded by dark money and become subject to corporate influence. I think this is especially true as Democrats seek higher office, become career politicians, and accumulate more influence and power. But at least, along the way, Democrats have with one hand tended to promote social justice, minimum wage increases and wage equality, social safety nets, workplace protections, a level playing field for all religions and genders and races, consumer protections, compassionate laws, law enforcement oversight and justice system reforms...even as they may still throw a bone or two to their corporate campaign contributors with their other hand. At least many Democrats often try to free themselves of the fetters of greedy corporations and the damage these capitalists perpetually do to our society. Which again is why most of the huge concentrations of capitalist wealth in the U.S.A. is used to elect pro-corporate Republicans to office, and to disrupt and discredit both Democratic candidates, and as many Democratic voters as possible. And we need not guess where the latest phony rhetoric around "voter fraud" will be focused: it will be just one more tool to undermine the Democratic base. So although Democrat politicians may still be culpable and complicit at times, they at least attempt to balance the scales and listen to the needs of regular working folk. Republicans? Generally, they tend to almost exclusively serve the corporate Beast with cold-hearted, lock-step conformance.

All of this is why I do not believe the primary issue we must identify and confront is a fundamental conflict between black and white -- or any other skin colors. This is instead mainly a conflict between the "haves" who want to expand their ill-gotten gains, and the "have-nots" who are constantly being manipulated, misled, exploited and oppressed. And of course this insight was shared by many of the greatest thinkers and civil rights leaders throughout history. From the mid 1900s on, Oliver Cromwell Cox and W.E.B. DuBois defined the dynamics of "racial capitalism" extensively in their sociology. Cedric Robinson then took up that theme extensively in his black studies and political science work of the 1990s. Martin Luther King decried the poverty of the U.S. and our need to "question the capitalist economy;" as early as 1952 he wrote that "capitalism has outlived its usefulness." For King, democratic socialism was an obvious avenue for the U.S. to reinvent itself in a more truly democratic political economy. Malcolm X also summed things up simply when he said: "You can't have capitalism without racism...you have to have someone else's blood to suck to be a capitalist." He, too, believed the central struggle was not really "a racial conflict of black against white," but rather "the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter." Many other human and civil rights champions -- from Gandhi to the Dalai Lama -- have also concluded that the battle against systemic oppressions cannot be separated from the problems inherent to Western-style capitalism; the two go hand-in-hand.

In more recent times, anti-capitalist rhetoric has gained some traction -- from Black Lives Matter; during the Occupy movement; in a broader awareness of writers and speakers like Alicia Garva, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Thomas Picketty, Greg Palast and Noami Klein; from socially conscious hip-hop; in the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign; in the earnest activism of Elizabeth Warren; but populist passions in this arena often tend to be tepid or short-lived. Even well-meaning academics like Cornel West will agree with Marxist critiques of capitalism and its perpetuation of structural racism, and even promote the "overlapping goals" of democratic socialism and antiracism, but will then ask us to increase our awareness of other power relationships in society, other longstanding threads of racism that predate capitalism, and the "Eurocentrism" inherent to left-leaning revolutionary ideologies...and to do so with seemingly equal energy and attention. And although all of this should undoubtedly become part of the picture, unless the enduring roots of capitalism itself can be excised from our political economy, it simply won't matter how we engage these other cultural issues. Because capitalism will automatically either utilize some other longstanding prejudice, or invent an entirely new one, in order to engineer the mindless, tribalistic, infantilizing conformance that facilitates conspicuous consumption and enduring class divisions. It's simply how capitalism is done.

So yes, there is real and potent racism that arises within cultural and historical contexts...but its perpetuation and amplification is used mainly as a tool by capitalists and their puppet politicians to perpetuate capitalist-imperialist power. And yes, like the other tools being used -- gender discrimination, misogyny and patriarchy, religious persecution and exclusion, anti-intellectualism and science skepticism, irrational fear and paranoia about government, etc. -- racism also stands alone as a grave concern that needs to be addressed. But the far greater corrosive influence arising across the political spectrum is the greed and lust for dominance that fortifies insidious crony capitalism, where plutocrats rule all races in the U.S.A. and around the globe. It is this corporatocracy that employs racism and these other tools as a social means to its nefarious economic ends. For all such efforts aim to enrich and empower the corporate elite, and perpetuate their position of privilege -- regardless of race, gender, identity or beliefs. And the resulting destructive inequity is, in fact, what the entirety of our capitalist system is built upon. It is feudalism with a new coat of paint, and until that feudalism is brought to an end, oppression and exploitation will generate new forms and tools to combine with the old ones, just to keep the gears of commerce well-greased.

Who then will hold the corporations, shareholders and the capitalist system itself accountable for the perpetuation of inequality and injustice?


Here's what we can do. First, I think delving beyond "wokeness" to the deeper, more pervasive roots of the problem is an important first step. The actual primary antagonist here needs to be clearly defined and called out. And if that primary antagonist is in fact our capitalist system, then we all need to start thinking about moving beyond capitalism to something better. Something more egalitarian, more compassionate, more democratic, more sustainable, more environmentally responsible, and more kind. Throughout that process, we can certainly recognize that hatred, fear, prejudice, inequality, injustice and a host of other critical issues also need to be addressed in a new design. In fact that is what many of my own Level 7 proposals are about, and I would encourage you to check them out (and I invite your feedback and ideas as well). But the main call-to-action here is to get this conversation going, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the noise and propaganda. For our feudal lords take great delight in the masses being redirected away from the man behind the curtain, and while we focus on the sensational tools they are using to manipulate, divide and distract us, they will continue to amass malfeasant mammon and consolidate their power. Most certainly we can and should be motivated by a fervent desire to end all manifestations of oppression, exploitation, disenfranchisement and marginalization...these are all noble and essential aims. But if the very foundation of our society is a political economy that thrives on enriching a tiny percentage of plutocrats at the expense of everyone and everything else, then we can't just put a Band-Aid on the symptoms and ignore the deep festering rot underneath. We need to get more than "woke;" we need to get fierce.



References:


https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2014/07/29/16/37/alcohol-and-tobacco-outdoor-advertising-in-minority-communities

http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2000/alcohol-off-premises.html

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa55.htm

https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0208.pdf

https://broom02.revolvy.com/topic/Tobacco%20marketing%20and%20African%20Americans

http://academic.udayton.edu/health/01status/smoking/tobacco6.htm

http://www.vpc.org/studies/militarization.pdf

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/fully-loaded-ten-biggest-gun-manufacturers-america/

http://helenair.com/news/opinion/the-profits-of-police-militarization/article_fa9b3257-afb2-5b5a-8281-5a2f2e4ad60c.html

https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/08/19/police-militarization-how-its-happening-and-who-co.aspx

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/how-the-ar-15-became-mass-shooters-weapon-of-choice-w451452

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/04/28/how-for-profit-prisons-have-become-the-biggest-lobby-no-one-is-talking-about/?utm_term=.771b33cf7647

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/presumed-guilty-how-prisons-profit-the

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/13316-lobbying-for-lock-up-how-private-prisons-profit-from-the-criminalization-of-immigrants

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/04/exposing-alec-how-conservative-backed-state-laws-are-all-connected/255869/

http://billmoyers.com/episode/united-states-of-alec-a-follow-up/

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/voter-id-laws-minorities-111721

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/the-gops-stealth-war-against-voters-w435890

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/business/pro-business-decisions-are-defining-this-supreme-court.html

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/courts/reports/2012/08/13/11974/big-business-taking-over-state-supreme-courts/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/obery-m-hendricks-jr-phd/the-uncompromising-anti-capitalism-of-martin-luther-king-jr_b_4629609.html

http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2011/11/06/does-capitalism-systemic-racism/

http://socialistworker.org/2015/03/31/capitalism-racism-and-the-1-percent

http://www.socialismtoday.org/156/malcolm.html

http://race.eserver.org/toward-a-theory-of-racism.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/magazine/earning-the-woke-badge.html?_r=0

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/relevance-gandhi-capitalism-debate-rajni-bakshi

http://www.salon.com/2015/01/16/dalai_lama_self_identifies_as_a_marxist/

Why did the Supreme Court decline to hear the case regarding the right to bear arms in public, Peruta v. California?

Thanks for the A2A. So here’s the really funny thing about this situation….

You’ve got two Constitutional originalists/textualists who wanted to proceed with these cases - Justices Gorsuch and Thomas. The assumption of pro-gun-rights folks is that, because these two Justices are hard-right-leaning, then “obviously” they would uphold District of Columbia v. Heller’s distinction that the 2nd Amendment need not apply strictly or exclusively to militia (which contradicted U.S. v. Miller and some 70 years of stare decisis), and perhaps expand upon it. Which is actually a really, really funny assumption, because that is what the U.S. Constitution says the “right to keep and bear arms” is for: a well-regulated militia. That was indisputable - both in a historical context and in any reasonable originalist or textualist reading of the 2nd Amendment…until Heller in 2008. And yet…well, there’s the rub…because really Gorsuch and Thomas are what we would call “fair-weather” originalists/textualists, in that they mainly apply that standard when it suits their conservative ideological bias, just as happened in Heller. In the current instance, however, authentic textualism/originalism clearly would NOT serve gun advocates.

In any case…aside from this rather humorous irony, I suspect the main reason SCOTUS sidestepped this issue is because it would be inherently “activist” to issue a ruling on these laws that potentially could spawn a reinterpretation of every gun restriction on the books around the U.S. - and years of litigation along with that. Again, though…judicial activism is SUPPOSED to be something that conservatives dislike. And yet…not in this instance. :-0

So basically, it was a reasonable and sound decision to avoid a de facto rewriting of established law, while also avoiding exposure of an underlying hypocrisy among right-leaning judiciary and citizens in the U.S. It’s really a win-win for everyone involved.

But of course hypocrites understandably tend not to see it that way. :-)

My 2 cents.

Comment from Andrew Mateskon: "Take a look at the hilarity of the most famous textualist, Scalia, in Green v. Bock Laundry. Suddenly, the written word as known by the authors doesn't matter, but the context and surrounding law does."


Well at least he’s being partly intellectually honest in admitting that strict textualism “produces an absurd, and perhaps unconstitutional, result.” LOL. But to then invent his own arbitrary “benign fiction” for what the word “defendant” really meant in 609(a) is of course equally absurd. It seems textualism is a bit like the literalism of religious fundamentalists: “Since this is what we want the text to mean, this is what it literally means. Then we need not have any doubts.”

Comment from Matthew Moore: "Actually read DC vs Heller. You will be enlightened. The individual (non-militia) view is based on the 14th Amendment and the speeches and writings of it’s authors and ratifiers."


Oh I’m pretty familiar with it. The point is that Scalia’s majority decision is not remotely justifiable purely on a textualist basis. Instead, it’s a fishing expedition for a particular ideological reading outside of the actual text itself. It’s the epitome of hypocrisy in that regard. I’m not saying the favorable arguments don’t have merit…that is a different discussion… I am saying that they just don’t have textualist merit, not by any stretch of the imagination. That is what I mean by “fair-weather” textualism/originalism.

What does the end-game for critics of gun-control look like?

Unfortunately many such “debates” in the U.S. have been cast in really extreme, black-and-white polemics. It’s sad…especially because a functional democracy depends on people working out their differences…but IMO the folks at the top who have pretty much all of the influence and power are quite happy to keep it for themselves, and let the rabble fight tooth-and-nail over issues like this one. I’ll expand on this point in a moment, but first….

To break down the “endgame,” I think you have to look at it from multiple angles. Here are a few of those:

1. As I have friends and family who are lifelong NRA members, I can say that, for them, this is really about government staying out of the average person’s business. When pressed (by me) on this issue, a lot of the high-minded rhetoric they might use in public kinda flies out the window, and we get down to a heart-felt statement like: “I just want to be left alone.” Usually there are a few more colorful ways they might express this idea…but that’s really at the core of their feelings about gun control. So for them, the “endgame” is…well…to be left to their own judgement and desires. As long as no one is being harmed (by them), the government should just leave things be.

2. From the research I’ve done on the U.S. firearms industry, a very different endgame is in play. They want to sell weapons. And the larger the variety that can be sold, the more money they will make. In fact that’s pretty much why we have the AR platform for civilians now: after military sales began to drop off, firearms mfrs worked hard to change laws so that modified versions of military hardware could be sold to civilians. Also, the more fears about guns or ammo scarcity can be stoked, the greater the rush to buy more guns and ammo - so that has also been a factor in increased sales. And all of this worked - the weapons industry made a killing (so to speak). If you follow the money behind the lobbying, legislation and elected officials who expanded military-style weapons sales into America’s heartland, or who funds radio talk shows that stoke people’s fears about gun and ammo scarcity, you’ll find some owner-shareholders of U.S. gun makers who are now very happy with their investment in this…er…marketing and advertising.

3. From the perspective of the NRA, I’d have to say the endgame is at least in part about maintaining that organization’s political capital - their institutional status and influence. It doesn’t really matter who is beating the drum on a given weaponry issue, if the NRA membership comes to believe in the rhetoric, then the NRA has to snap to attention and lobby on behalf of the new trend…or they will lose their position of authority regarding guns.

4. Remember those “folks at the top” I mentioned? Well they have another endgame in mind that often involves techniques like dividing and conquering, engineering lots of “panem et circenses,” and offering us a heaping bucket of nationalistic populism on the side. It’s become pretty clear that their endgame is to keep large portions of American citizenry so at odds with each other that we can never see the forest, and keep beating our heads against the trees. These elite are delighted to stoke the fires of passion for the Constitution at one end of the spectrum, while at the same time generating propaganda about how “the liberals are going to take away all our guns,” and then funding lobbying efforts to - for example - restrict the data that law enforcement collects on gun usage in America, so that everyone can remain completely in the dark on the real statistics. It’s not that those statistics would necessarily benefit one side or the other…that’s not the point. The point is that it keeps us ignorant and therefore at each other’s throats. And what’s really interesting is that, when you discuss gun control anywhere in the U.S., you will hear EXACTLY the same arguments from the pro-gun crowd, and EXACTLY the same arguments from the anti-gun crowd. And how can this be? Well, I think it’s because the wealthy elite have worked hard and long to ensure polarization in the populace, spoon-feeding everyone their lines in a farcical play, so that they are so distracted by each other they don’t see the man behind the curtain. And what’s the endgame of those particular wizards? To remain unnoticed as they play puppet master to us all….

So that’s what I think the endgame is, from a number of different perspectives. There are some other positions in the mix…but they seem pretty rare. I think mine is one of them. The “endgame” I’d like to see, as someone who enjoys plinking on the back 40, is that the culture of violence in the U.S. be healed, those who are disenfranchised and oppressed be re-integrated as a valued part of society, and mental illness be addressed very early on in people’s lives (in other words, approached like physical illness, and proactively treated). Ultimately, I think such measures will lead to a world where guns no longer have such a destructive impact on society. But we have a long way to go…and for now, the proliferation of weapons that are becoming more and more lethal isn’t going to do anything - IMHO - but fan the flames of polarization and destruction.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-does-the-end-game-for-critics-of-gun-control-look-like

A Healthcare System for California That Could Work



This is doable. To get there, here are what I believe to be the primary considerations for making an affordable healthcare system a reality - in California, or anywhere else in the U.S. for that matter:

1. Controlling runaway administrative overhead.

2. Mandating the negotiation of uniform fees for all medical products, services and procedures.

3. Incentivizing positive health outcomes and preventative care, instead of perpetuating a fee-for-service model that maximizes profit instead.

4. Providing a secondary insurance market for boutique or elective medical products and services.

5. Ending direct advertising of healthcare products and services to consumers, and providing better vetted and participatory data for patients to make decisions about their own care.

6. Identifying a reliable source of revenue to pay for the new system.


What we are aiming for here is a way to maintain quality and choice for everyone who needs healthcare and wants to preserve options that are important to them, while containing costs and disrupting perverse incentives. Right now the opposite is increasingly true: choices can be limited, costs excessive, and both care providers and medical product suppliers are incentivized primarily by profit. Here is how we might address these core considerations, one at a time....


1) Controlling Runaway Administrative Overhead

Right now the administrative overhead of private, for-profit health insurers runs upwards of 20%, whereas, in contrast, Medicare administration costs are under 2%. Insurers currently have no incentive to lower these costs - which is likely why they have continued to rise, which has contributed to escalating premiums. Containing such runaway administrative costs does not, however, require us to create a single-payer system. In Switzerland, private (but non-profit) health insurers compete with each other for customers, under government regulations that - among other things - guarantee certain levels of coverage and cap administrative overhead. The focus, of course, is to shift healthcare itself from a for-profit enterprise to a non-profit enterprise. Why? Because illness and poor health actually increase profits in the current U.S. healthcare system, thus creating self-perpetuating perverse incentives.


2) Mandating Negotiation of Uniform Fees

To contain costs, there is no reason that healthcare providers and medical manufacturers should not submit to fixed price negotiations in order to participate in the California healthcare market. Fees can be indexed using a number of factors, such as the necessity for everyone's basic care, production costs plus a fixed profit margin, cost-saving innovations, and so forth. In other words, products and services that lower overall costs while healing chronic conditions and improving long-term health outcomes could be rewarded with higher profit margins, while the more specialized and expensive products and services that simply mitigate chronic symptoms in the short term, and are less curative overall, would be provided much smaller profit margins. The goal here would be to incentivize actual healing and wellness rather than a gravy train of ever-increasing profits. As just one example, pharmaceuticals are subject to price controls in every other developed country, so that U.S. consumer pay between 30% and 300% higher drug prices than everyone else.


3) Incentivizing Positive Health Outcomes

Along the same lines, why could healthcare providers and medical manufacturers be rewarded for improving patient health outcomes (say, above an established baseline)? For example, a primary care doctor who sees more patients and keeps all of them more healthy than his fellow practitioners with a similar patient demographic should receive a nice fat bonus, don't you think? Why should doctors be rewarded for seeing patients more often, or ordering more tests, or prescribing more drugs, if their approaches do not improve the health and well-being of their patients? Again, the system we have now is upside down in terms of incentives. In fact, there should probably also be mechanisms for disciplining doctors, service providers and medical product manufacturers who are either contributing to poor health outcomes, are ignoring proven curative but low-cost approaches, or are otherwise operating in a profit-centric, rather than wellness-centric, orientation.


4) Secondary Boutique Insurance

There will be folks who want special advanced treatments, alternative treatments with as-yet-unproven efficacy, more expensive pharmaceuticals, elective surgeries and so forth - so why should they not have access to those options? This is where the traditional model of health insurance could operate similarly to how it always has - except of course that the insurance would be targeted to inherently more expensive products and procedures. There will be a market for this - even if it is expensive and its related costs continue to rise - so it might be worth the experiment. At the same time, any patient should also be able to obtain a desired form of treatment as an out-of-pocket expense.


5) Ending Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Advertising, & Providing Better Data

The U.S. is the only developed country on the planet that permits pharmaceuticals to advertise directly to consumers. This is, frankly, a ridiculous practice, and has led to countless problems in treating all manner of conditions - both real and imagined. Shouldn't a patient be made aware of all of the options available, including which are most effective, which are most costly, which have been in use the longest, etc.? Of course - but this is not what for-profit advertising offers consumers. Instead, a web-based information clearinghouse that is overseen by doctors and other medical professionals can provide educational information on the efficacy of all manner of treatments and technologies. In addition, patients could also weigh-in with their own experiences, ask questions, etc. It would then be incumbent upon California regulatory mechanisms to make sure the data was accurate, and that contributors are real and not just medical industry advertising bots.


6) A Reliable Revenue Stream for the New Healthcare System

Prop 13 Reform

I think a main component of the solution is obvious and straightforward - because we can fix a gaping hole in California's tax landscape at the same time. Article XIII of the California Constitution needs to be amended to eliminate Prop 13 benefits for corporations, commercial property owners and developers, while retaining Prop 13 tax increase limits for residential homeowners. Since this initiative was intentionally deceptive when first proposed and passed - being sold as protection for retired homeowners with a fixed income, when really it was a huge windfall for corporations - it's long overdue to be amended. And of course the fact that commercial property ownership changes hands more slowly (or more deceptively, thanks to some sly legal maneuvering) than residential property just adds insult to injury - making those same vulnerable homeowners liable for a larger and larger share of the tax burden. The solution? A split-roll tax initiative (or legislative amendment) that keeps the protections for residential homeowners, but returns commercial property taxes to current values. One estimate (see http://www.makeitfairca.com/) puts the annual revenue increase from such reform at $9 Billion.


Closing Other CA Corporate Tax Loopholes


According to a recent review performed by State Auditor Elanie Howle
of California's six largest corporate tax incentives, there is approximately $2.6 Billion in tax breaks that have either never been reviewed to determine whether they are actually fulfilling their intended purpose. One of them, for "research and development," is $1.5 Billion all on its own. And, unlike most other states, California has no regular review process for these tax breaks!

And...well...the rest is math. Let's start with the estimated $400 Billion for the current single-payer proposal (SB-562). If $200 Billion can be reallocated from existing Federal, State and local healthcare funds, that leaves $200 Billion. And if administrative overhead can be reduced by 90% (as proposed above in item #1), then the rest of the funding required could be generated by some combination of: closing California's gaping corporate tax loopholes (#6); proposed pricing controls (#2); the transfer of high-cost or ineffective treatments and technologies to boutique supplemental insurance (#4); a reduction in advertising-generated demand (#5); and incentivizing lower-cost, more highly effective healthcare overall (#3). Whatever costs can't be met by these efforts could conceivably be covered through a variable, progressively tiered tax on all Californians. Also, the proposals I've offered here do not require a single-payer system - though that is certainly one framework that could integrate all of these variables.


Conclusion


There are a number of different scenarios that can successfully provide higher quality, lower-cost healthcare to Californians. The major barrier to such solutions has traditionally been the lobbying of medical service providers, insurers and product manufacturers who profit most when patients either a) don't get well, or b) otherwise require expensive specialties, drugs, medical devices or procedures in an ongoing way. But the current, corporate-controlled environment turns the priorities of healthcare upside down. Lobbyists should not be able to override a common sense approach to fixing these problems in California and other places in the U.S. To date, even well-meaning initiatives and State assembly bills have fallen woefully short of addressing some of these longstanding. If elected politicians cannot be swayed to do what's right for Californians, perhaps we need to approach this issue via the initiative process.


References

This approach to CA healthcare was inspired by the Level 7 philosophy and approaches: see http://www.level-7.org

Also, here is a thoughtful overview of how the current single-payer proposal could work, with some caveats: https://rantt.com/honest-thoughts-on-californias-single-payer-healthcare-proposal-c82c2d0b5d39

http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-first-fiscal-analysis-of-single-payer-1495475434-htmlstory.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-drug-prices/

http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/proposition-13-tax-breaks-big-boys

https://www.thenation.com/article/have-california-voters-finally-had-enough-of-prop-13/

https://www.laprogressive.com/make-it-fair/

https://www.couragecampaign.org/press-releases/courage-campaign-slams-passage-ab-2372-smokescreen-fails-address-major-problem

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/article148716959.html

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/Files/Publications/Fund%20Report/2010/Jun/1417_Squires_Intl_Profiles_622.pdf






What is the most practical solution to identity politics?



The most practical solution to identity politics is to abandon individualistic materialism as our dominant belief system. If people view themselves as uniquely different (both individually and as part of a particular tribe), and they view themselves (and their tribe) as having to maintain aggressive competition with everyone else in order to survive or thrive, the result will always be a corrosion of social cohesion and amplification of disunity. On a fundamental level, the fracturing of civil society by identity politics is really a direct consequence of I/Me/Mine commercialistic corporatism - because differences in wealth, economic mobility and economic opportunity have driven the oppression of marginalized groups that, consequently, came to rely on identity politics for internal cohesion and self-liberation. And so, when we grow beyond the moral immaturity of our addictions to capitalism and consumerism, our desire to cling to a distinct, oppressed identity will attenuate. We will begin to focus on what is most fruitful for all of society - the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the greatest duration - rather than scrabbling to secure on own little piece of the pie.

Half-measures would be things like unification of vision - in terms of collective goals - along with enhancing shared values, a collective narrative, and civic institutions that promote a more egalitarian political economy. In other words, mechanisms that enhance social equality in both civil rights and economic status. This has been the progressive agenda from the beginning, contrary to what folks like Charles Tips seem to believe. However, in the face of a juggernaut of capitalism and its inherent class divisions - divisions enhanced by the neoliberal propaganda that champions I/Me/Mine individualistic materialism - such progressive, egalitarian ideals are constantly being beaten down in favor of wealthy (and primarily white) folks expanding and securing their power.

We can see that identity politics remains useful in uniting those who feel oppressed, but it has been destructive to a sense of unity, common purpose, and collective responsibility and equality. Somewhat ironically, it is really the consequence of neoliberal, pro-capitalist rhetoric and activism that identity politics has been embraced by the poor and middle-class white folks with whom Trump’s vitriolic blather resonated. The bigger picture, however, is that nearly everyone is being oppressed by our current capitalist system - this reality is, after all, how the “identity” of the 99% could so easily gel during the Occupy Movement. But, as long as we all continue to invest in individualistic materialism, rather than evolving egalitarian collectivist perspectives and solutions, we will continue to feel isolated, frustrated and alienated - both as identity tribes, and as individuals.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post:

End The Madness - How To Resist The Propaganda Machines

As an attempt to pry well-meaning folks free of the orchestrated spectacle that is keeping us all at odds with each other, I've created a meme to share:

End The Madness

What is the worst damage that Trump could do to U.S. democracy and its Constitution in 4 years?

It is much easier to destroy than rebuild - both in resources, costs and amount of time required. So whatever damage is done may be very difficult to reverse. In this sense I would vehemently disagree with Thomas Friedman and others who have tried to minimize potentially negative consequences. That said, what specific damage (to U.S. democracy and the Constitution) could Trump do?

1. Provide resources and support to Republicans to hold (or possibly increase) the state-level obscene gerrymandering that won them the House via the last census. It should be noted that the resulting makeup of the House does not, by any stretch of the imagination, reflect the actual demographics of the country.

2. Both indirectly and openly expanding funding, support and coordination for ALEC and the State Policy Network (SPN) for a deepening corporate takeover of state and federal legislatures.

3. After far-right appointments to SCOTUS, a continuing rollback of voting protections and access, and supporting efforts to disenfranchise or obstruct progressive-leaning voters (i.e voter roll purges, ID requirements, other responses to voting fraud conspiracy theories, etc.) in cases that come before the Court.

4. Starting a trade war that impoverishes the U.S to such a degree that unemployment, and lack of support from now defunded social safety nets, creates catastrophic economic hardships across the country - all of which could contribute a the breakdown of civil society (inclusive of democratic functions and Constitutional protections) in the hardest-hit areas of the U.S.

5. Tacit endorsement of hate speech, xenophobic bullying, racial violence and violations of civil rights can thoroughly undermine democratic institutions - for example, people becoming too afraid to vote, or to run for office, or to speak truth to power, or to hold elected officials accountable. There is evidence that this has been occurring already.

6. Untempered, open support and praise for brutal, megalomaniacal dictators who are actively trying to undermine democracy in the U.S. and Europe. And yes, of course I mean Putin.

7. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know just how wantonly the U.S. security agencies were disregarding the U.S. Constitution under Obama. Can you imagine the abuses a pompous, insecure, impulsive and spiteful man-child will initiate with those tools at his disposal…?

8. Advancing neoliberal and socially conservative agendas that a) encourage a widening wealth disparity; b) amplify disparities in quality of education (and other public services) according to income; and c) increase populations of poor, unwanted, circumstantially challenged children (if Roe V. Wade is overturned, Planned Parenthood defunded, health insurers and facilities are allowed to deny abortions, etc.). Even if reversed in future administrations, this agenda will likely result in at least one generation of young people being dumbed down, stressed out, and impoverished…even as that generation creates another population boom. And this surge in unhealthy, poorly educated, poorly adjusted, financially stressed citizens will have a hugely negative impact on the quality of U.S. democracy over time.

9. Along similar lines, the reshaping of the Internet to appease corporate priorities (i.e. reversing Net Neutrality) will - absolutely and incontrovertibly - undermine free speech and unfettered access to high quality information and diverse perspectives. And as Internet traffic, searches and access become more commercialized, the ability for citizens to become well-informed in a carefully considered way will be obliterated. We witnessed what the lack of quality information - and abundance of highly distorted propaganda - did to the 2016 election. A fully corporatized Internet will be a final nail in that coffin. (To a lesser degree, defunding PBS and NPR will likely also actively frustrate and dilute capacities for voter self-education and exposure to diverse perspectives.)

10. The relaxing or reversing of other government regulations in favor of corporate interests - or effectual decommissioning of entire regulatory agencies, as the case may be - will multiply, amplify and irreversibly calcify untold negative externalities. And moving SCOTUS farther to the right will just exacerbate and accelerate this spiral. Climate change is only the tip of the iceberg. If what happened under the Cheney-Wolfowitz administration is a foreshadowing, we’re looking at devastating consequences to the environment, wildlife, worker protections, consumer protections, natural resources, and civil liberties. Indirectly, all of this will have a dampening effect on democratic institutions and function.

11. And yes, it is not inconceivable that a POTUS with Trump’s demonstrated poor character, erratic temperament, questionable judgment and nonexistent grasp of the facts could ignite an escalation of military conflict ending in the nuclear obliteration of huge portions of the globe, including the U.S. This would also likely have an impact on U.S. democracy and the vitality of our Constitution.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-worst-damage-that-Trump-could-do-to-U-S-democracy-and-its-Constitution-in-4-years/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Cutting Through The Bunk: Why The World Is Self-Destructing, And What We Can Do About It



"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large..." - Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, December 1778


Like most folks who enjoy tracking the news, opinion pieces and stories circulating on social media, I've been deluged with opinions lately. About why Trump got elected, why liberal ideals are flailing, why cultures around the globe seem to be regressing, why the working class is so angry, why there is an upsurge in nationalistic sentiment, why the global economy is sputtering, why Islamic extremism won't go away, etc. And I have to say, nearly all of the explanations I've seen or read seem to be...well...almost complete bunk. Not entirely, but almost. Even the folks that I admire and respect - and whose writing I've followed for years - appear to be missing what is obvious, and choosing instead to follow the crowd down a rabbit hole of elaborate speculation. It's almost as if our cognitive dissonance between the way we expect the world to be, and the way the world actually is, has hit a hard, thick, impenetrable wall. And, perhaps as an understandable consequence, our collective realm of thought is self-destructing along with everything else. It really feels like all of humanity is undergoing a psychotic break.

But enough of this positive, uplifting preamble. Am I now going to sell myself as the one sane voice in the wilderness? The one person who can see through the fog of delusion, into realms of pure causal clarity? Well I haven't performed any miracles lately, or won a Nobel Prize, or even succeeded at ridding our back yard of its prodigious gopher population...so I can't assert any special knowledge or authority on the state of reality. But perhaps I can at least poke some holes in what I perceive to be a sort of mass hysteria around the current state of affairs, and inspire one or two minds to free themselves from what - to me at least - seems like a glaring oversight of several basic facts, and several fairly reasonable, even predictable conclusions about why we have arrived at this rather bizarre moment in global and domestic affairs. I've also got some proposed solutions up my sleeve.

Okay so let's start with the easy stuff....


HOW DID TRUMP THE IMPERIOUS IDIOT BECOME POTUS?

Trump won the election for four fairly straightforward reasons:

1) Tapping Into a Deeply Felt, Enduring Anger

A large number of fearful, uninformed and relatively gullible people were really angry - and in fact have been really angry for quite a while now - and Trump tapped into that anger and channeled it to his own benefit. How did he tap in? Mainly by amplifying the blame for all white working class sufferings on a Bogeyman painstakingly propped up by decades of propaganda (see #3 below). The groundwork was already laid for Trump in this regard, he simply capitalized on it. And sure, Trump also called upon the timeworn tactics of racism, sexism, Islamaphobia, xenophobia, "pro-life" religious conservatism, and mixed these with extraordinary lies and grandiose exaggerations, even stirring a pinch of Occupy Wall Street speak into the mix. Here again there was nothing new, just borrowed ideas and rhetoric from previous streams of propaganda and populism - his opportunistic tools. I have discussed elsewhere how Trump also deployed a uniquely American flavor of salesmanship, and tapped into longstanding fears about the decline of testosterone and an ascendance of the feminine, and perhaps these were even more representative of his unique character. I've also discussed some of the other factors involved in this post. But the main driver behind the success * of Trump's nationalistic populism was anger - an anger surely shared by many around the globe.


2) Hillary Clinton's Flaws as a Candidate

Hillary Clinton was simply not a winning enough candidate. Despite her capturing the popular vote, a diverse and widely-distributed group of Democrats who showed up for Obama didn't vote at all in 2016 (about 7 million of them I believe), because they simply weren't inspired by Hillary. Another large portion of Democrats in the Rust Belt voted for Trump instead...because they really didn't trust or like Hillary Clinton. And of course when Hillary ran for President previously, she lost the Democratic primary to someone who was simply a more attractive candidate to many people. I'm not saying Hillary wasn't qualified, mind you, just that she wasn't compelling enough to mobilize voters. Imagine, for example, how exciting things could have been if a Sanders/Warren ticket - or a Warren/Booker ticket - had emerged from the primaries. Gosh golly I think some otherwise apathetic peeps might have gotten themselves to the polls.


3) Decades of Relentless Propaganda and Manipulation


A concerted propaganda effort over many years - and costing billions of dollars - was executed by wealthy conservatives (the Koch brothers, Roger Ailes, etc.) to misinform U.S. citizens about anything and everything, mainly to get them thoroughly and irrationally fired up against President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Democrats, the Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, liberal immigration policy, Black Lives Matter, protecting minority voting rights, or anything else smacking of progressive ideology, "big government," liberal elitism or the dreaded socialism. The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, FOX News, Glenn Beck and The Blaze, Rush Limbaugh, RedState, Infowars, Breitbart, and carefully organized Tea Party grass roots activism all propagated very similar (sometimes identical) narratives about the failures and "evils" perpetrated on America by these nefarious, malevolent ne'er-do-wells. Most of this propaganda had little internal logic, and relied on few real facts, generating instead a slew of "alternative facts" that conformed with an alternative Bogeyman/conspiracy reality.

This propaganda has also made a concerted effort to vilify "the liberal media," evidence-based analysis of policies and practices, anything that sounded too "intellectual" or wordy, and even the usefulness or viability of scientific research. This was a transparent tactic to undermine contradictory perspectives that threatened the propaganda narrative - that is, a transparent tactic to undermine the truth itself. As a consequence, a new breed of Republican politician began to surface that could provide a charismatic, often hokey or folksy front for this "anti-establishment" propaganda machine, often without an ounce of real substance to back up their facade. This is part of why the ignorant and silly sound bytes of Michelle Bachman, Todd Akins, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and others seemed to skyrocket them to popularity, and how folks who are clearly unqualified, incompetent or just plain stupid have attained positions of immense power in Republican administrations. It's all part of a clear and deliberate effort to prop up an alternate reality narrative.

We must also keep in mind that any Republicans who disagreed with this narrative or its political offspring were also rapidly ejected from the herd. Skilled, intelligent, well-meaning Republicans were quickly forced to either dumb themselves down and conform to the silliness, or switch parties, or retire. This was all about capturing and retaining political power, a hoodwinking of America to facilitate plutocracy and corporatocracy. And of course we are already seeing the new Trump administration continuing these same distortions and tactics to support their particular reality field.


4) Underhanded and illegal help.


We may not know for some time all the details about Russia's intrusions into the 2016 U.S. elections. We also probably can't know exactly how much they really influenced voter turnout and choices. We do know, however, that these actions were deliberate, well-planned and pervasive. We also know the aim was to influence the specific outcome of denigrating Hillary Clinton, and several other Democrats, so that Trump and other Republicans could win these contests. We also know Russia has been involved - and continues to be involved - in such activities in other countries. And did FBI Director Comey's actions in the weeks prior to the November vote have a significant impact? We may not know that for certain either. In addition, however, we also know that Republicans both gerrymandered many states to provide a majority in both local legislatures and the House of Representatives, and aggressively purged voting rolls of African American Democrats to similarly skew results in their favor locally and nationally. And because the margin of the election wins in some areas (Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, for example) are relatively small, all of these underhanded and illegal efforts combined could easily have made a substantive difference in the final electoral vote distribution.




IS ALL THAT ANGER TRUMP TAPPED INTO JUSTIFIABLE?

Of course it is. It's just been artfully stoked, molded and misdirected away from the real causes of very real problems. At whom - or what - should these folks be directing their ire? Well, let's take a look at what's really going on....

What has caused so much market instability, loss of jobs and a living wage, huge increases in consumer debt, a steadily climbing cost of living, widening wealth inequality, and precipitously declining consumer buying power? Folks, it's not any of the factors being bantered about in the media or expounded upon by most pundits and sages, and it's certainly not anything new (as just one example, real wages have been in decline in the U.S. since about 1968). The underlying problem is kind of like the air we breathe - if we were fish, it would be the ocean we are swimming through; we just can't see it because we are so profoundly reliant upon it. But it's croniest, clientist, commercialist corporate capitalism folks. Really...that's the complete, well-rounded, precise and truthful cause of all these problems. The only things that keep us from seeing this clearly are the fish-in-the-sea/elephant-in-the-room/emperor's clothes phenomenon...artfully reinforced by the carefully crafted propaganda alluded to earlier. But if we are willing to open our eyes to the obvious, this explanation is inescapable.

Let's look take a quick peek at some supportive details.


Capitalism is growth-dependent.


Our current form of capitalism relies on cheap labor, cheap resources and expanding markets to keep growing. Why? Because as standards of living increase, a tipping point is inevitably reached where domestic workers expect to be paid more than companies can afford to pay them and still remain profitable. Why? Because companies are selling products and services to the same workers who are producing them, while at the same time having to pay for other inputs (raw materials, equipment, buildings, taxes, service inputs, etc.), and of course wanting to extract profit from the equation as well. To make matters worse, public owner-shareholders who add zero value to the business itself always want to extract more and more profit for themselves. But you can't have your cake and eat it to. Finally, eventual natural consequences like market saturation, price inelastic demand, and "lower prices are better" consumer expectations add additional restrictions on profit. All of this results in a situation where, once a certain peak standard of living and affluence are reached across a large enough segment of society, there is simply no more room for profit. In this sense, the "middle class" of America is the natural enemy of capitalism, forcing free enterprise to perpetually seek cheaper inputs outside of the United States. This is one reason why the U.S., at only 5% of the Earth's population, has been using close to 30% of global resources to support its standard of living.

So without this growth, profits rapidly diminish and even evaporate. This is a primary reason why globalization has been so critical to the function of capitalism - the desire for inexpensive labor and resources, as well as new populations of consumers, has become increasingly strident. In fact, this growth-dependency can become so urgent and toxic that it causes military conflicts and trade wars in order to secure more low-cost inputs and new market opportunities. And over time, when cheap labor, cheap resources and new markets inevitably become scarce - when there is nowhere else to go - the focus of free enterprise necessarily shifts to increasing various efficiencies. And the first stops on the efficiency train are usually three considerations: labor efficiency, economies of scale, and reducing competition.

1) Labor efficiency. Labor is one of the most expensive inputs to capitalism, and there are a number of strategies to reduce costs once overseas outsourcing reaps diminishing returns. One is automation and computers that permit fewer workers - or cheaper workers with less skill - to create the same output. Another is reducing wages, often by replacing seasoned workers with a younger, lower cost workforce; or by shifting full-time employees to part-time or contract status to avoid paying benefits and taxes; or by breaking and ousting labor unions. Another is increasing the productivity of employees, through expecting longer work hours for the same pay, or restructuring salary to performance-based incentives, or using an intimidating management style of quotas and reprimands.

2) Economies of scale.
Becoming bigger - even to the point of completely monopolizing a given industry on a transnational scale - introduces many potential efficiencies and greater control of all the inputs involved. It also provides greater influence over relationships with suppliers, local governments and distribution channels. The ultimate result is not only a lower cost-per-unit, but more security and leverage over everything from workforce to government regulation. This level of control is very appealing to owner-shareholders who expect consistent profitability.

3) Reducing competition. Here the strategies are also fairly predictable. Either companies will try to position themselves as the only game in town through mergers and hostile buyouts, or they will engage in other anti-competitive business practices that provide a lock on how their products perform in that market. Common anti-competitive practices include things like price fixing, exclusive dealing, dumping products at a loss until competitors have fled the market, and intellectual property protections that guaranty exclusivity or disrupt competition (patenting crops, etc.). There are some very creative and wide-ranging options, though, and I recommend consulting the link above for more examples.

What are the consequences of these practices? Almost always these result in larger and larger monopolies, fewer jobs and lower pay, regulatory and political leverage in governments (sometimes to the point of complete capture of government), and price inelastic demand for an ever-widening array of commodities. At the same time, however, once these approaches are widely and aggressively deployed, the impetus to grow business and profits is still just as urgent...but now the easiest tools have already been used up. The available options have been shrinking. Subsequently, when stagnant or diminishing profits begin to worry investors and frustrate entrepreneurs, the focus has to shift into new territory. This might include:

1) Veblen goods. On the one hand, these luxury items can appeal to a shrinking slice of society with disposable income, who are willing to pay top dollar (read maximum profit) for goods and services with cultural cachet. Innovations in this arena can pay off much more handsomely than a new design for inexpensive mass-produced gadgets.

2) Planned obsolescence, "newer is better" marketing, and meaningless innovation. Ever wonder why everything from dishwashers and vacuum cleaners to housing and cars don't seem to endure as long or perform as well as they once did? Or why there seem to be frenetic updates and upgrades to everything we buy, which a product or service won't work without? Because it doesn't pay to make things that last, or that don't require maintenance, or that can't be upgraded. It's much more lucrative to engineer a rapid turnover of goods, or goods that require constant servicing and enhancement. If consumers can be persuaded to believe that every tiny feature, no matter how trivial or irritating, is a "must have," well then it becomes very foolish to produce anything simple, enduring or fully functional from the get-go...doesn't it?

3) Recurring consumer reliance or addictions. This is a subtler, longer-term strategy that can be very effective. Moving away from single sales to a subscription model, for example. Or medicating the symptoms of chronic conditions with expensive pharmaceuticals, instead of treating the underlying causes. Or pricy "club" memberships that lock consumers into a single source for their purchases, so that they are compelled to recoup their membership fees via that one retailer's "deeply discounted" products. Ironies abound of course. Consider, for example, e-cigarettes marketed to help nicotine addicts wean themselves off of traditional cigarettes, simply trading one addiction for another for equally negative health effects.

However, once again these strategies are only sustainable if there is a large pool of consumers still available with adequate disposable income. But, recalling that labor reduction and impoverishment is one of the prominent efficiency strategies, and that worker-consumer exploitation and dependency have already been in play for some time, existing markets inevitably will contract or become saturated. Add to this the hallmarks of "lowest price!" consumer expectations, owner-shareholder profit expectations, spreading price inelastic demand, and the other pressures we've enumerated so far, and the final straw pretty much breaks the camel's back.

What's left? Where can capitalism go from here...?

Once the easiest efficiencies, marketing strategies and product choices have been exhausted, there is only one thing left to do: abandon production of traditional goods and services altogether. The next step in capitalism's decline is financialization - that is, transitioning to a financial economy. Here profit is sought mainly through speculative investing, elaborate financial instruments, litigious enterprises (patent trolling), increased loan leveraging, and the cultivation of ever-increasing consumer debt. In other words, making money directly from money or through manipulating the law, without the intermediate step of providing an actual service or producing an actual good. And, in keeping with the previously established aims of efficiency, monopoly, dependence and so forth, owner-shareholders become more and more wealthy, while jobs for worker-consumers become fewer and lower-paying, buying power continues to decline, benefits and privileges that were once ubiquitous become more scarce, and debt-slavery replaces wage-slavery as the new norm for the working class. For most people, life gets harder, more stressful and a lot less fair; the American dream of a middle-class lifestyle becomes harder and harder to achieve or sustain. And all of this is happening against a backdrop of promises that each generation would be better off than the last.

Is it any wonder that people are really pissed off?!



But we're not done yet. Eventually, towards the end of this final phase, capitalism flails around for additional labor sources, natural resources, efficiencies, speculations, lending avenues and so forth...but these are increasingly hard to come by. The strategies just aren't working as well anymore, even as owner-shareholders are expecting greater profits, workers are clamoring for more jobs and better pay, consumers are insisting on lower prices, markets are becoming more saturated and less competitive, and more commodities become subject to price inelastic demand. The pressures on the capitalist system only increase. Which is how bubbles are formed, and why crashes occur. Which of course only pisses everyone off that much more.

However, there is one remaining avenue of new inputs, and that is to privatize public goods and anything socially owned. To facilitate this, corporations must aggressively roll back or capture as many regulatory and trade restrictions as possible. And, over the last decades, we've seen all of this playing out not only in the U.S., but globally. In the U.S., we've had the FCC selling off the public broadcast frequency spectrum to corporate bidders; school voucher programs that direct public funds away from public schools; the freezing of EPA enforcement via executive order; the SEC loosening leveraging restrictions; staunch opposition to the ACA and single payer healthcare; vociferous advocacy of privatizing Social Security....It's all clear as day. As for the rest of the world, check out the consequences of the World Bank and IMF's "structural adjustment policies," or who benefited most from our biggest trade deals. At the same time, the capitalist system self-protectively socializes as many risks as possible for its increasingly unreliable experiments, so that it can - like a self-destructive gambling addict - expend a final set of borrowed inputs for a last spasm of profit. Bailouts anyone? Too big to fail? And of course all of the stages I've described generate instability in boom-and-bust cycles along the way, which is exactly what we've been experiencing on a global scale.

Now, rather unfortunately, we are finally and irreversibly arriving at the very end of a death spiral, where capitalism has busily begun consuming itself. There is nowhere else to go. In the next boom-and-bust cycle (or maybe, optimistically, the one after that), there will be nothing left to feed into the world's economic engine. In our current trajectory, stock valuations are a consequence of magical thinking and psychological reactions, with no correlation to anything real. And, like most conditions that are not based in reality, it is totally unsustainable. Yes, it is possible that some new storm of innovations will create a new, temporary ecosystem for profit, and perhaps extend the death rattle for a few more precious months or years. But the end of capitalism is, I think, truly and irrevocably upon us.

So perhaps now it has become clear why people have become so desperate, agitated, angry, and afraid. Not just in the U.S., but all around the globe. Intuitively and experientially, they know the writing is on the wall. Human beings - even the folks who voted for Trump - are not entirely stupid. They sense the game is up, even if they can't admit the underlying causes to themselves. They are witnessing a capitalist system that is no longer generating returns adequate to support civil society - let alone the opulence, excesses and tremendous wastes of U.S. consumerism - and that system is going to take them down with it. And, as the global economy teeters on the edge of the abyss, a rallying cry of the pro-capitalist propagandists gurgles forth: "Just give us one more try! Do if for your country! It's not your fault and it's not our fault...it's the Bogeyman's fault! Just trust us and we will make you great again!" Oh yes, the worker-consumers of the world have every reason to be lividly pissed off - now and for many decades past. But unless we all work together to turn the Titanic, and soon, our suffering will only intensify and the options decrease, until all that is left of capitalism is a set of rotting teeth, gnashing away at nothing in the dark.


WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS NOW?

As folks have been waking up to the reality that our current capitalist system isn't working, a number of dead-end proposals have been put forth for our consideration. These have included:

1) A return to FDR New Deal style solutions engineered by government. This would undoubtedly soften the blow for those feeling the most economic pain, and perhaps create some temporary, well-paying jobs. Increasing taxes on the wealthy to pay for this expansion would also work - in the short run. This was what Bernie Sanders was championing. And this probably would have ushered in a temporary golden age of flourishing quality-of-life for mainstream America, possibly even expanding the middle class once again. But it still wouldn't have solved the underlying self-destructive currents in capitalism that we've explored in this essay, and so, in the long run, it would not have averted inevitable decline and collapse being witnessed. In fact, it might have even accelerated destabilization - by encouraging capital flight, for example, or by amplifying boom/bust cycles and comorbid inflationary pressures, debt burdens, and so forth. So, not a reliable long-term solution.

2) Freeing up the engines of capitalism with laissez faire reforms, reducing government deficit spending, and expanding tax cuts for the wealthy, then attempting to focus beneficial outcomes on the U.S. economy with trade protectionism. This seems to be the solution Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are offering. Unfortunately, not only does this approach fail to address the flaws in the capitalist system itself, it also exacerbates some of the more pronounced factors that undermine overall economic productivity, stability and mobility. In fact, all of these strategies have already been tried in the recent past, and they have just made things worse, and very quickly. Just follow these links or do quick web searches on "trade protectionism," "regressive taxation" and "austerity economics" for relevant disastrous examples and analysis. Oops!

3) Try to maintain a status quo crony capitalist arrangement, with a government just strong enough to facilitate corporate interests, a monetary policy that effectively controls inflation, and taxes just high enough to keep social safety nets from becoming exhausted. This is what Obama did fairly successfully, and I think it is also what Hillary Clinton would likely have done in some variation. It is a strategy that promotes stability, and stretches out the timeline of decline and collapse, likely to its greatest possible limit. If we added Picketty-inspired wealth taxes to this scenario, it might actually stretch things out for decades. But...oh well. The underlying issues we've raised here are still not addressed in any substantive way. We would still be looking at the collapse of capitalism over the longer term.

Okay...if these options would work, what's left to try? Is there a viable escape hatch?

Well that's what I've been thinking about for the past few years. And my unsurprising conclusion is pretty straightforward: we need to replace capitalism with a more egalitarian political economy. Not State socialism - absolutely not. But there are other options, the components of which have actually already been tested and proven in the real world. I provide detailed proposals and supportive information for those on my Level 7 website. But in short, consider thinking of a new political economy as you would a new kind of air to breathe...or a new kind of ocean to swim in...realizing that it will take some time and effort to fully grok all of its dimensions. Then take a steady, considered breath, and dive in.


A LEVEL 7 SOLUTION

I've summarized the basic idea of a Level 7 political economy in the acronym EPIC-SEEDS, which stands for:


E ngaged - Civic engagement and political obligation become fundamental expectations of all citizens, and are tied directly to proportional access to public goods, infrastructure, services and privileges.

P iloted & Precautionary - Starting small, proving the concept, replicating, and measuring the outcomes, impacts and externalities in a multidimensional way.

I ntegrity - Embodying the values, principles and approaches of the desired political economy in all revolutionary activism and successive phases of execution.

C ommons-Centric - Neither privatization nor State ownership, but migrating resource ownership and governance to a user-based, self-organized and self-managed model.


S ubsidiarity - Shifting the center of all decision-making, service provisioning and economic production down to the most local level possible, ideally the community.

E galitarian Efficiency - The aim of both equality of opportunity and equality of outcome for all citizens, in all circumstances.

E volved - Supporting individual and collective moral evolution beyond I/Me/Mine or Us vs. Them, to a more cohesive and compassionate We.

D irect Democracy - At all levels of government, and all levels of free enterprise, in concert with elected or appointed technocrats and managers, while holding representatives and civil servants accountable, and overriding them when necessary.

S ustainable Design - Systems designed to ebb-and-flow in cyclical steady states, without depleting natural resources, destroying cultures or ecosystems, or creating new forms of slavery.



For the full overview of what I think needs to be done - with lots of supportive information and resources on how it all works - please check out http://www.level-7.org. Although the website is becoming fairly comprehensive, the objective was to create a starting point for a more participatory long-term solution. So I hope you will check it out and offer some feedback. We have a long way to go, but the roadmap is clear.



*Footnote regarding the prevalence of anger: It should be noted that the angry voter percentage in the 2016 U.S. elections really wasn't that large in electoral terms. For example, Ronald Reagan won the Electoral College 489 to 49 over Jimmy Carter, whereas Trump only won 306 to 232 over Hillary Clinton. Trump's margin ranks him 46th out of 58 Presidential elections...hardly a decisive win, even when we ignore his record-breaking margin of loss to Clinton in the popular vote.




San Diego's Dirty, Not-So-Little Secret

[Please note: this article was updated on Jan 12, 2017 with new and corrected information]

San Diego Smog circa 1974 - Photo Credit Don Taylor, Creative Commons License 2.0


Really Bad Air

Did you know that San Diegans breathe some of the most polluted air in the country? And that the closer you live to one of our many highways, the worse your health risks will be?

Anyone who has lived in San Diego over the last decade has probably experienced this more than once: Waking up at 3:00 a.m. to an acrid, eye-watering, lung-burning stench; coughing and wheezing while rushing around to close all the windows in the vain attempt to keep the bad air outside; then burrowing back under the blankets in an equally vain attempt to escape the worst effects. Since I moved to San Diego in 2002, the frequency of these pollution events seems to be increasing. Of course, it also depends on where in San Diego you happen to live. When I had an apartment in Pacific Beach, the bad air was present almost every morning on weekdays, but quickly dissipated with the rising sun. Now, living in East County, the "home invasion" of wicked smells occurs just once or twice a week, usually in the middle of the night. Again, though, the frequency does seem to be increasing...and the intensity of the stench is getting worse.

So what is going on? Is this just a natural consequence of living in a single-driver car-addicted society? That has been a frequent criticism of neighboring Los Angeles and its surrounds, where smog events and air quality health alerts are much more prevalent. And there is data to back up the assertion that most of the smog comes from cars - along with plentiful jokes and anecdotes about Angelinos driving two blocks from their house to purchase a bottle of water. And although there are similar statistics for San Diego's increasing traffic, I think the "car culture" argument is really a massive red herring.

And here's why. Anyone who grew up in the U.S. will remember the days before emission standards, testing and control technologies. That high, almost fruity and acidic aroma from the back of a running vehicle was just a fact of life in the fifties and sixties. Cars stank. So let's call that "classic old exhaust" - or C.O.E. for short. Then, in the 1970s, health concerns prompted Clean Air legislation, and catalytic converters were required in U.S. passenger vehicles. Over time, as older cars aged out of what was driving on our streets, car exhaust smells began to change. Occasionally we would encounter the rotten egg plume of a failing catalytic converter, and there might still be an occasional 1960s VW Bug or restored Mustang that would blast us with a reminder of the good old days, but for the most part the worst offenders were being removed from the roads.

Or so I thought.

After I moved to San Diego and was assaulted by high concentrations of pre-1970s C.O.E., I just didn't understand what was happening. In Seattle I had lived right next to two major highways for years, and never had to breathe air this acrid and toxic. What was was causing this? I wrote emails to different researchers at universities in San Diego, asking what they thought the reason could be. I received no response. I called them and left messages. Still no response. I then emailed the San Diego Air Pollution Control District with the same question. I received no response. I called the San Diego APCD and left messages - twice. No response.

So I began to speculate. What could be the source of all this nasty air? Were there a growing number of cars on the road that were somehow evading emission controls? As if to confirm this suspicion, I began to notice that, while driving behind certain newer vehicles in slow traffic, I picked up on the pre-1970s C.O.E. odor. I would then look at the plates of these newer vehicles to see where the cars were from, and discovered that, most of the time, they had Baja plates from Mexico. Most of the time...but not always. Sometimes the vehicles had current California registrations. When I asked around regarding these observations, San Diego natives confirmed that not only did most Mexico vehicles not require the same emission controls as here in the U.S. (not even catalytic converters), but that many people would buy the cheaper Mexico models, bring them into the U.S., and then work out various ways to get around emissions testing and other requirements when they registered them in California. It was also not unheard of, they said, for vehicles made in the U.S. to be sold across the border, only to have their catalytic converters removed and emissions controls deactivated before being driven back into the U.S. The converters weren't needed in Mexico, after all, and were worth upwards of $100 each.

What? Seriously? Was this really that common...? And as if in answer to my incredulity, within the next couple of months I witnessed the San Diego Police Department performing "spot checks" of vehicle emissions on the side of the road. These looked like the setups police use to funnel potential DUIs into a checkpoint - with the cones, flashing lights and multiple police cars. But instead of having drivers take a breathalyzer, the police tested the exhaust. Here is more on these random "Mobile Smog Checks:"

http://www.mercurynews.com/2013/05/10/surprise-bay-area-drivers-have-cars-examined-at-random-smog-checkpoints/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoTCSRgvPaM

http://www.policestateusa.com/2013/routine-smog-checkpoints-impede-california-roads/

Apparently, these random checks could become more sophisticated and widespread in the near future:

http://www.smogtips.com/remote_sensing.cfm

According to a California Highway Patrol contact that I spoke with, the mobile smog checkpoints the CHP facilitates are an effort of the California DMV and BAR to ensure that local Smog Check stations and technicians are not circumventing good practices for emissions testing. As such, the mobile testing stations are a potential source of revenue for the State, as expanded by AB 2289 (see https://smogcheck.ca.gov/pdf/Citations_Penalties_AB2289_2_13_13.pdf). In addition, one vehicle testing resource I spoke with also indicated that some mobile stations are set up specifically in areas where local communities have expressed concern about potential violators. In both cases, the ongoing investment in technology and human resources makes it clear that uncorrected emissions violations and re-failures of corrected issues are a real problem. Here are some charts from the BAR's 2016 Smog Check Performance Report that use this roadside data to illustrate the long-term and ongoing problem:





That said, I didn't think much more about this until a few more years had passed, and the C.O.E. events became worse and more frequent. Eventually, after my wife Mollie began to suffer serious health effects from the bad night air - and I myself was getting headaches and interrupted sleep when the stench woke me up - I filed a formal complaint with e APCD. At long last I received a call from an inspector at that agency. And you know what he said? Unless I could pinpoint the source of the pollution, and the exact times it regularly occurred, his agency could do nothing. I explained that I thought it was from cars without emission controls, and was the most extreme around 3 a.m., though at irregular intervals of days or weeks. Apologizing, he indicated that "general vehicle traffic" was not under his agency's jurisdiction. He apologized, but said there was nothing he could do.

I then contacted the Ombudsman's office of the California Air Resources Board, where I was invited to make public comment at a Sacramento Board meeting. As I live in San Diego that's not something I can easily do, so I was then referred to an emissions researcher at a private company. He was extremely helpful, and clarified many of the moving parts involved in regulating emissions here in California. His recommendation was that I contact the Bureau of Automotive Repairs, as they are the agency who would be most involved with end-user violations here in San Diego County. I then filed a complaint with the BAR, so...we shall see how that pans out. However, BAR can't do anything about polluting vehicles with Mexican registrations that are driving across the border....


So, apart from moving away from the horrific San Diego air for the sake of our health, what are the options?

First, here are some points of research to consider:

1) According to https://transborder.bts.gov, as of July 2016 a combined total of about 100,000 trucks and 2.5 Million passenger vehicles were entering California from Mexico every month on average, and these numbers remained fairly constant throughout the previous year as well. From the known profile of commuting and commercial activity between U.S. and Mexico, we can also be fairly certain that the majority of these vehicles do not meet U.S. vehicle emission standards, and that many if not most do not have catalytic converters.

2) The only substantive consideration of pollution impacts from Mexico's vehicles was triggered by some NAFTA-related laws and court rulings about truck transport - and only truck transport. These allowed more trucks to enter the U.S. - and travel further into the U.S. - without complying with U.S. emissions standards (see https://www.arb.ca.gov/enf/hdvip/bip/naftamextrk.pdf). At one point, the EPA stepped in to provide Mexican truck-drivers at some border crossings with upgrade grants for their vehicles to bring them up U.S. standards (see http://archive.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/04/11/20110411arizona-mexico-truck-pollution-regulation.html). In a somewhat ironic development, however, Mexico then loosened restrictions on pre-2007 U.S. truck sales in Mexico, so that any U.S. fleets that weren't compliant with 2007 emissions standards could be unloaded by U.S. companies there. This, in combination with the NAFTA-related increase in Mexican manufacturing and exports, meant that a large number of pre-2007 trucks were snapped up by Mexican transporters...and driven right back across the border to either pollute U.S. air...or receive taxpayer-funded EPA upgrades (see http://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/nafta_blowback_fueling_used_truck_boom_south_of_border_in_mexico). Again, however, this is only attempting to address commercial trucking, not passenger vehicles.

4) According to the EPA, transportation is responsible for some 50% of nitrogen oxide, 30% of VOCs, and 20% of particulate pollution (see https://www.epa.gov/air-pollution-transportation). Although non-road sources (trains, boats, planes, etc.) do contribute to these numbers, the most acutely felt impacts of pollution in urban areas are from on-road vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.). And the denser the traffic and closer the proximity of residences to major traffic routes, the greater the health risk to those residents (see http://now.tufts.edu/articles/big-road-blues-pollution-highways).

5) The American Lung Association has consistently rated air quality in San Diego with an "F," their worst rating. This is mainly the result of ozone pollution, which is of course a consequence of fuel combustion - roughly half of which can be linked to on-road transportation for most of the year. However, historically and currently, nearly all other pollutants (particulates, CO, NO2, etc.) have also sustained higher averages in San Diego and the rest of Southern California (see http://www.usa.com/san-diego-ca-air-quality.htm).

6) Health impacts from this level of pollution are severe. Many researchers have made the comparison between living beside a highway and smoking. And even living in a town with moderate vehicle pollution levels can effect health over time - in particular, ozone and particulates increase risks for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as risks for cancer, reproductive harm, developmental harm and premature death (see https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/air-pollution/ and http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/).

7) Catalytic converters reduce emissions of CO, hydrocarbons, VOCs and NOx, which in combination with sunlight create ozone. ("Ozone formation is driven by two major classes of directly emitted precursors: nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). The relation between O3, NOx and VOC is driven by complex nonlinear photochemistry" - see http://www-personal.umich.edu/~sillman/ozone.htm). In combination with other, now standard emission control technologies in U.S. vehicles, catalytic converters reduce these emissions by up to 90%.


The 72% Solution

Taken altogether, where does all of this data lead us? Well, we have a good approximation of how many vehicles are crossing the California border each day, to drive through and around San Diego County without catalytic converters. We don't have exact figures on how many vehicles registered on this side of the border are trying to cheat on smog tests, but from my informal records of the routine assaults on my olfactory I've experienced while driving in San Diego over the past decade, I think that number would have to be at least 10%. Without exact numbers or AADT data that is user-friendly from California DOT, can we come up with a rough guestimate of what percentage of vehicles are driving around San Diego County each day that might be categorized as "gross emitters," or contributing directly to unhealthy levels of pollution? Sure. Just using AADT for I-5, I-8 and I-15 to propose a baseline (from http://www.interstate-guide.com/), then subtracting the in-bound cross-border traffic from Mexico in combination with an estimate of local smog-cheaters, how about:

(87,000 + 65,000 [10% of 739K-87K]) of 739,000 total vehicles = 20.57%

If we then adjust for trucks (which average just 3.7% of total traffic, but contribute 11% of on-road emission volumes), we arrive at a possible number of 22.83% of total vehicles on the road daily. But that isn't an accurate percentage of the pollutants those vehicles contribute, since we haven't adjusted for the lack of catalytic converters. Being generous, we could say that this 22.83% actually contributes eight times the ozone precursor pollution (per vehicle) compared to vehicles with catalyzed emissions. Which is how we can arrive at roughly 72% of the ozone-precursor pollution from on-road vehicles being produced by vehicles without catalytic converters. If my guestimates are correct, then just over half of these are vehicles driving legally across the border, and just under half are being operated illegally by folks who circumvent smog checks.

72%. And we wonder why, despite such rigorous smog enforcements on California drivers, Southern California has such crappy air....

Even if these numbers aren't exact, we're still talking about an enormous volume of PREVENTABLE pollution here. If I'm only half-right, addressing vehicular polluters from Mexico - and intercepting smog cheaters and re-fails of smog-checked vehicles that reside in San Diego County - would have a huge impact on quality of life and health in San Diego.

It would sure be nifty if this unhealthy problem could be addressed soon - before my wife and I are compelled to leave San Diego for good.



For more info:

U.S. Air Pollution Wiki:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_pollution_in_the_United_States

California Traffic Census:
http://dot.ca.gov/trafficops/census/

San Diego GHG Emission Data for On-Road Vehicles:
http://catcher.sandiego.edu/items/epic/GHG-On-Road1.pdf.pdf

Which is more useful for society to believe in, free will or determinism?

Thanks for the A2A Robert.

Historically speaking, the answer to this question has generally depended on what utility is being sought, and by whom. For example:

- Theological determinism and religious fatalism have been quite helpful in pacifying followers within many different religions over time. So from the perspective of the religious elite who are interested in the conformance of followers, it has been quite a useful tool.

- In the same way the Divine Right of Kings - which has a similar flavor to theological determinism - helped stabilize the right of succession and pacify the unruly masses. So again, for Kings and Queens it was extremely useful.

- In any form of democracy, if the people believe that they have “free will,” this can provide a similar pacifying utility when the democracy doesn’t really represent the will of the people. Here again, it is quite useful for anyone in an elected position of power - and for the folks who bankrolled their campaign - to encourage this belief among the electorate in order to maintain an oligarchic status quo.

- It is also quite handy for owners of corporate monopolies when consumers believe they have “freedom of choice” - that market competition is providing better products at lower prices, whether or not that is actually the case.

- In the U.S., we routinely see the enhancement of free will promoted in competing political ideologies. Quite often, however, the outcome of persuading voters that one ideology is better at promoting or providing free will than another is usually increased oppression and exploitation of those same voters. In other words, just as with the previous examples, the “belief in free will” is most useful for the hucksters trying to establish or maintain their own influence.

Now, lest anyone think I am being overly pessimistic, I personally think it is vitally important in a democracy for the electorate to both believe in and insist on free will. Because whenever voters become fatalistic or begin to think their vote doesn’t really matter, they tend to abdicate their civic responsibility and obligations, and disengage. The greatest corrosive force to democracy is apathy - which is essentially letting other forces determine outcomes, instead of actively participating to shape an outcome. The challenge, however, is to protect and educate democracy sufficiently for the voice of the people to be artfully expressed using their own judgment…instead of their just being conned by snake oil salesmen.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Which-is-more-useful-for-society-to-believe-in-free-will-or-determinism/answer/T-Collins-Logan

As a liberal, what annoys you about some other liberals/progressives?

Well I’m definitely liberal. Here are some beefs I have with my left-leaning cohorts:

Hypocrisy. Say they love the planet but consume conspicuously and drive all over town to find just the right organic produce. Say they advocate worker’s rights but won’t boycott a company who uses slave labor but makes a product they want. Say they are anti-bankster but don’t use a credit union. Say they are tolerant but reflexively criticize or villainize certain groups (evangelical Christians, for example). Say they care about the poor but won’t open their homes or hearts to them. Say they despise the greed of Wall Street while working hard to increase their personal wealth and diversify their stock portfolios.

Blind - or numb - to the causal chain that underlies most issues liberals care about. At the root of nearly every problem that liberals want to solve are crony capitalism, individualism, materialism, coopting of democracy by corporations, and the worshipful enshrinement of private property. But instead of addressing these issues head-on, liberals tend to promote bandaids that may temporarily ease the pain of a fundamentally destructive system, but never really change it.

Confusing what sounds or feels like a caring action (but is actually codependent or enabling) with what is effectively compassionate and constructive. Usually this is expressed by abstracting personal and civic responsibility. For example, middle class whites giving money to civil rights organizations instead of making close friendships with people of color and actually sharing social capital. Or liberals only engaging politically by voting for a candidate or initiative every few years that is only superficially pandering to them, while ignoring day-to-day interaction with their community or local governments that could really make a difference. Or giving money to a homeless person instead of spending time with them, sharing a meal, and getting to know their situation.

Apathy, Ignorance, Smugness, or Childish Immaturity? In this last election 7 Million Dems who voted in 2008 didn’t vote. And according to a recent PEW study, nearly half of the folks who didn’t vote in 2016 are content with that fact. Even if they didn’t vote “on principle,” not finding Hillary Clinton “likable” or “trustworthy” is a pathetic excuse for allowing an insane, narcissistic, erratic, ignorant, foolish, intellectually crippled blowhard to become POTUS. It boggles the mind.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/As-a-liberal-what-annoys-you-about-some-other-liberals-progressives/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Open Letter: Apology from U.S. to the World for Electing Trump


Hi Folks. We’re sorry about Trump - for a number of reasons.

On the one hand, we’re sorry that nearly half the U.S. electorate:

• Is unable to think critically or separate fact from falsehood.

• Could not see Mr. Trump for the erratic, narcissistic, blowhard demagogue that he is.

• Is swayed by conspiracy theories, irrational fear-mongering, neoliberal propaganda, yellow journalism and false advertising.

• Confuses gambling of inherited wealth with business acumen.

• Has the mistaken impression that voting once every four years is the only political obligation necessary to support civil society.

• Allowed entertainment value to override wisdom and common sense.

• Actually believed that Trump would follow through on his campaign pledges.


You might wonder why so many people fell under the spell of this mass-hysteria. Here are some likely contributing conditions:

• Poor diets and insufficient exercise, which negatively impact brain development and function.

• Tribal conformance and groupthink brought on by insular and homogenous communities.

• Frustration, anger and mental illness, brought about in part by the multigenerational stresses of waning social status and economic immobility.

• The immaturity and entitlement induced by commercialistic habits, compulsions and dependencies.

• Economic insecurity resulting from globalization and the boom/bust cycles of growth-dependent capitalism, along with the ever-enlarging wealth inequality created by monopolization, cronyism and clientism.

• Rapid cultural and technological change, which were also accelerated by growth-dependent capitalism.

• Below-average analytical and emotional intelligence, which interfere with the capacity to comprehend or navigate complexity.

• Willful ignorance as a lazy, amoral choice.


We are sorry about these conditions, too, because they are a consequence of our ongoing committment as Americans to invest in conspicuous consumption, atomistic individualism and greedy materialism as our guiding lights, while at the same time decimating our public education system, news media integrity, and cultural truth metrics. We have also routinely abdicated our political obligations to corporations and individuals with huge concentrations of wealth, allowing them make more and more of our decisions for us – and take over more and more of our government and civic institutions – and we’re sorry for that, too.

On the other hand, those who appreciate complexity, want to champion progressive values, and believe in a more participatory, informed and egalitarian future are also sorry. Because we didn’t make our case to the American people, or effectively counter the ridiculous spectacle of Donald Trump…or in many cases even go out and vote. Shame on us.

So for all of this…and for the inevitable suffering of so many millions of people that will result from a morally and mentally crippled Trump administration…we are also truly and deeply contrite. In our confusion and pain, we the people of the United States of America have allowed an impulsive, feckless idiot to become our leader. Intuitively, most of us knew this was a bad idea, and that “making America great again” was really just a last-ditch attempt for poor and middle-class white people to feel like their penises mattered (or feel like their father's, husband's or son's penises mattered, as the case may be). But, like tantruming children, too few wanted to face the reality of that shrinking decline…or have much compassion for it...so a lot of folks lashed out.

Again, so sorry.


What is needed to improve the amount and quality of civic engagement in the United States?

I think there are several issues in play, and we will need to address all of them for civic engagement and a sense of responsibility to be fostered. This means removing barriers as well as inspiring participation - and also holding folks accountable to some degree. Mainly I think we need to return governance more directly to the people - and in a more distributed and localized way - so that citizens have “skin in the game” as it were. Currently, our elected officials and their work are too far abstracted from the day-to-day concerns of average citizens, and this creates a “consume and forget” model of electoral abdication.

To address this I think we first and foremost require more frequent and direct forms of democracy, and some of my ideas about that are discussed here: Direct Democracy. Also for the long term, I would offer proposals around community involvement (see: Community Engagement) that emphasize non-governmental as well as governmental institutions and processes - many of which are well-tested in the real world. I also envision a system of social credits for utilizing essential infrastructure and services that is tied directly to civic participation (see: Social Credits System).

At the same time, we will also need to remove substantive barriers to folks even wanting to be involved - and ensure they have enough accurate information to do so skillfully and meaningfully. Regarding the former, I discuss the some of the primary concerns here: The Spectacle; Commercialist Distortions; Neoliberalism; Oppression of Women; and The Tyranny of Private Ownership. Regarding the latter, I would promote major revisions to education, the press and public information management that depart from today’s coopted and corrupted practices (see: Education).

Of course not all of this can happen at once. But if we don’t address all of these issues to a radical degree, I just don’t see change happening. The systemic failures and opposing forces are just to great. In terms of first steps, I discuss some of those here: L7 Action

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-needed-to-improve-the-amount-and-quality-of-civic-engagement-in-the-United-States)

December 3, 2016 Thought-of-the-Day

"The global complexity and interdependence of our current era has vastly exceeded the average ape's grokking capacity. This is one reason why the Right has so easily hoodwinked its rank-and-file, and the Left finds it so challenging to convey the criticality of its agenda. In everything from quantitative easing to carbon cycle feedbacks to perverse incentives in for-profit healthcare, ignorance and complexity create a fertile space for rampant propaganda. Add to this a consumer mindset that externalizes all authority and problem-solving, and a media environment that perpetuates gnat-like attention spans, and consumption of that propaganda quickly attains religious intensity. The resulting ideological lockstep on the Right, and the muddled insecurity on the Left, are not the natural state of human beings, but ones that have been carefully engineered and marketed to mimic tribal conformance at one extreme, and untrustworthy outsider status at the other. The irony, of course, is that the "untrustworthy outsiders" have an intuitive grasp of the truth, and are actually in the majority. They are just demoralized because they can't explain their position in pedantic sound bytes."

-T.Collins Logan