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 civil rights leaders throughout history. 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; in the evolving discussions around "racial capitalism" -- 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

Do non-college educated, financially disadvantaged people think they know more about economics than educated white-collar professionals do?

I’ll try to answer this question by describing what I see going on underneath it. In this instance, several forces are at work that undermine “educated” assessments of any kind:

1. The human-created economic realities-on-the-ground have become much more complex - and globally interdependent - than perhaps any time in human history.

2. At the same time, consumers have been trained through commercialism and advanced communications technology to pay only a vague amount of attention to reductionist, hyper-simplistic sound bytes offered by mainstream media - and often ones crafted by supposed “experts” - that generally ignore complexity or nuance in favor of truncated, black-and-white quasi-facts.

3. Those whom the media selects - or who have self-selected - to become representatives of the “expert” class are often not all that bright, and not all that educated, but simply have the drive and/or language skills to become valued sound byte wizards.

4. In order to package lockstep ideologies for mass conformance, politicians and political propagandists further muddy the waters with deliberate distortions of reality-on-the-ground that frame their POV in the most favorable light, further disrupting their adherents’ grip on what is really going on.

5. Add to this the psychological stresses of modern society, poor diets, lack of exercise, lots of neurologically and biologically active chemicals introduced by human industry, and a seeming increase in the incidence of mental illness.

Now when you take all of these elements, stir them into a big cauldron of fascist populist sentiment, then superheat that concoction with the flames of authentically felt economic pressure (shareholder impatience, job insecurity, stagnant wages, resource scarcity, growing income inequality, exploding financialization and debt, boom-bust volatility, price-inelastic demand, monopolization, narrowing profit margins, etc.) the result is fairly predictable: poor choices in an increasingly nonfunctional democracy.

So I would say it has little to do with education or class, and a lot more to do with the pathologies, anxiety, economic insecurity and societal tensions created by capitalism itself.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Do-non-college-educated-financially-disadvantaged-people-think-they-know-more-about-economics-than-educated-white-collar-professionals-do)

How did Donald Trump win the 2016 Presidential Election?

In no particular order, Trump won by:

- Conning vulnerable, gullible people into thinking he was on their side.

- Exploiting a U.S. consumer mentality that allows itself to be “sold” a product because of the exaggerations and overconfidence of the salesperson instead of actual facts.

- Targeting an ideological class that is emotionally invested in tribal, lockstep groupthink, and has proven itself highly susceptible to manipulations that amplify fear, and capitalize on ignorance.

- Repackaging the inflammatory rhetoric of conservative talk shows of the past decades - almost verbatim - while branding it as his own “straight talk.”

- Exploding the complacent overreach of a progressive-minded media which celebrated rapid social change, even as those changes alarmed and angered roughly half of the U.S. electorate.

- Appealing to nostalgia around the glory days of white male privilege, then molding it into nationalistic sentiments.

- Lying with conviction, and repeating those lies so often that folks who either had low IQs, or were desperately rationalizing, began to accept them as true.

- Boasting about grabbing women’s pussies without their permission.

- Having an opponent lacking enough in charisma and inspirational vision that nearly half of the registered voters in her party stayed home.

- Unabashedly amplifying unprecedented, underhanded, and in some cases illegal tactics of third parties that were very likely coordinated with his campaign (Russian hackers, FBI disclosures, conspiracy-mongering, etc.)

- Demonizing everyone in opposition, thereby creating the illusion of independence and strength.

- Being a gifted extemporaneous stump speaker.

- Having a broadly recognizable celebrity brand (in the U.S. we say our celebrities are the closest thing we have to royalty).

- Prioritizing winning at all costs.

- Being at the right place, at the right time in history.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Donald-Trump-win-the-2016-Presidential-Election)

The Unseen Tragedy of a Trump Presidency…and Our Collective Responsibility

Between A Rock and A Hard Place


Like many other progressively-minded folks, I am in still in shock over what happened last night, and likely will be for some time. I have an image burned into my memory of a team of seasoned journalists finally conceding to what the voting results meant, sitting around the table in stunned silence, staring at their hands. Fifteen seconds of dead air said it all. And now those same pundits are attempting to explain away the errors in their predictions, pointing to a much deeper and larger pool of angry white folks than anyone imagined as a primary factor for Trump’s victory. So I wanted to speak to that group, along with my more like-minded progressive friends, in exploring exactly what this election means for the United States of America.

The real tragedy in this election will not be the thousands of young women who, once Roe v. Wade is overturned, are either forced to obtain illegal abortions, or to live in poverty without support as they struggle to raise an unwanted child. The real tragedy also won’t be the millions of Americans who lose their health insurance, are unable to obtain adequate coverage for chronic conditions, or can’t afford healthcare once the Affordable Care Act is repealed. It also won’t be the immigrants whose families are ripped apart by accelerated deportations, or the millions of businesses – including the farming backbone of America’s food supply – that close down because they can’t find workers for entry level jobs at subsistence wages. And it won't be a runaway train of "Trump effect" bullying against the LGBT community, people of color, nerds, disabled folks, social outcasts and the other traditional objects of fear and hatred by ignorant white people. The real tragedy will also not be those billions among our next generations who, because of the U.S. abandoning global climate agreements and strategies, will have to navigate a chaotic weather, rising sea levels and an explosion of tropical diseases. All of these may be predictable outcomes of a Republican majority under Trump’s leadership, and they might be very unpleasant for Americans to suffer through, but they are not the most extreme travesty now in the works.

What is really the most tragic and distressing consequence of this election actually pertains to all those angry white folks who voted for Trump. Why? Because he promised he could help them. But here’s the rub regarding that, folks: Trump can’t help you. The demographics of the U.S. are still going to shift to a white minority population, even if all immigration were to be cut off. All those people of color who are U.S. citizens are still going to have families, and the population trends will remain basically the same. Good jobs are still not going to be available to U.S. workers, because no industry can afford to pay U.S. workers a decent wage and still produce a profit for goods sold either in the U.S. or on the global market – it has been true for some time that U.S. companies depend on cheap labor and resources sourced outside of the U.S. to maintain the growth and affordability of their products. This is one reason real wages have been in decline for many decades. In fact, you could say that the economic isolationism championed by Trump is about the most effective way to destroy any chance of jobs or a living wage in the U.S. And because Trump’s tax policies will focus on benefiting the most wealthy Americans, and will do absolutely nothing beneficial for the middle and lower classes (possibly even raising taxes on those groups - see Batchelder), this whole combination of tactics is almost guaranteed to make the plight of most white, middle class, blue collar Americans already struggling to make ends meet a hell-of-a-lot worse. Trump’s strategies will also burden Americans with increasing amounts of debt, as we must of necessity plunge further and further down the rabbit hole of financialization. A ballooning national deficit will merely be the tip of this spear.

In terms of international relations, jihadi terrorism, friendliness with Russia and so forth, the prospects for improvement are equally dire. But of course the U.S. isn’t the only player on the world stage, so who knows: maybe these issues will resolve themselves despite any poor choices we make in terms of U.S. trade or foreign policy. But my main point – and the one that I hope will evoke some empathy and compassion for angry white America from my progressive friends – is that all those folks who voted for Trump are now truly and resoundingly fucked. Because of their blindness and resentment regarding the inexorable realities of the modern world, they have chosen a government that will make things much, much worse for themselves over the short and long term. Americans voting against their own best interests has happened before – most recently with the eight years of a Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz debacle – but this hard lesson hasn’t yet been fully learned by the American electorate. Perhaps it never will be. Perhaps we humans are just prone to making irrational choices when we are fearful and distressed, and the consistent Republican investment in amplifying such fear and distress in order to win elections is now reaping its just rewards.

But, for our dear angry white Americans: remember those “elite” you have blamed for taking away your liberties, eroding Christian values, creating terrorism, ruining the U.S. economy and threatening your way of life…? Well, you just elected more of them into office. Gingrich, Juliani, Trump, Pence and their ilk are not your champions or your friends, they are a potent team of self-obsessed, arrogant, power-hungry sociopaths who will take America deep out into the woods, bend her over a log of lies and delusion, and violently ravish her – economically, politically, socially and spiritually – very much against her will. All the while they can of course invoke Randian, Libertarian or neoliberal propaganda that rationalizes such actions as “American exceptionalism,” further empowering corporate oligarchy at the expense of U.S. citizens. But you will likely be too busy trying to survive to fully appreciate how you have been duped. This is what you’ve done…to yourselves. And so this is why I sincerely feel progressives should go beyond patience, beyond endurance and tolerance, beyond kindness and sympathy, and reach out to console and, yes, help Trump voters as best they can in the coming months and years. Those who understand what the outcome of this election really means must overcome our disappointment and grief, and arm ourselves with agape. Because when the Trump Administration is done raping and pillaging its very own supporters, those fellow Americans will not just feel doubly betrayed and doubly hurt, they will feel cold and alone in those haunting woods, with copious amounts of patriotic blood streaming endlessly from their…wherevers. And they will need our help.

So to explore longer term and more realistic solutions to our current dilemma – as well as what activism we can engage in to move us toward those solutions – I would encourage folks to visit my latest website: http://www.level-7.org, and in particular the Action Guide. What we are now facing may indeed be a chaotic transition of sorts (take a look at my friend David MacLeod’s thoughts on this topic at his Integral Permaculture blog), but if we can shift our focus away from damage control to a new, truly workable vision for tomorrow, we just might emerge from the next few years with a chance of healing and hope. This is our collective responsibility. We can no longer be passive consumers of domestic politics, trusting the advertising claims of the product we are being sold during the election season, then disengaging from civic responsibility the rest of the time. To fuel our optimism, we also know that left-leaning folks are the real majority in the U.S. - it's just that half of us didn't vote in this election. So we all need to be more conscious, informed and proactive purveyors of our democracy persistently and perpetually. Together, we must fully understand what is happening in our country and around the world, and make thoughtful decisions about how to proceed. And if we can care enough about each other to recognize the real pain we all share – and how to remedy the conditions that caused it through our own cooperative efforts – then our vision for a more harmonious and mutually supportive future could actually become real.

My 2 cents.

Do conservatives and libertarians think empirically?

Well there are some very lively and thoughtful responses here! I’ll try to come at your question and its broader context from a slightly different angle:

1. Nearly all statements by people in discussions are learned, adopted, repeated and post-rationalized. Original thinking is extremely rare. Further, most adopted concepts and rationale are a consequence of emotional convictions grounded in values transmitted by our parent culture, then focused by the groupthink of whatever tribal loyalties we have developed over time. There are exceptions to this - outliers who reject the status quo within which they are embedded - but even those outliers eventually “find their tribe” somewhere else, and commit emotionally to that tribe’s ideological frame. This is simply what most humans do over time - regardless of our political orientation or how committed we may be to being independent thinkers.

2. Self-espoused empiricism is often a thinly veiled form of scientism or hyper-rationalism - a sort of irrational faith in the comforting order of logic and reductionism that excludes an extraordinary scope of exceptions - sometimes because of bias, but more often due to an inability to grasp the relevance of information outside of a comfortably narrow (i.e. too exclusionary) context. Sometimes this is an understandable consequence of overspecialization, and sometimes this is due to innate limitations of intelligence, communication style or learning style. Here I have indeed noticed that objectivists, neoliberals and anarcho-capitalists seem to trend more towards the Asperger’s end of the spectrum, while progressives, environmentalists and egalitarian socialists seem to trend toward the felt-reality end of the spectrum. Among both groups, we find those who see “common sense” as a temporary collective construct, akin to mob rule, that cannot be trusted; and we also find those who believe it is an intuitively obvious, widely shared and deeply felt conviction. The difference being the methods by which each has arrived at those conclusions - conclusions whose formulations are again heavily influenced by point #1.

3. There is bell curve for general intelligence, and it is probably distributed equally across the entire spectrum of political ideologies. Keeping in mind that G is only one kind of intelligence (and probably not even the most important kind to human survival IMO), this means that only 2–3% of those who espouse a given ideology actually understand that ideology in a deep or multidimensional way. Among that 2–3%, an even narrower slice have the emotional intelligence, sophistication of language, breadth of exposure to competing ideas, and moral sophistication to transcend their own biases. Then, of that extremely rare group of people, I would bet that less than half of them have real-world experience with actual praxis. And of that final experienced group, perhaps 10% have any interest in participating in social media discussions in their areas of knowledge - and even then only sporadically. So we’re likely only talking about something like, I dunno, .001% of folks in a given moment across all media? That’s something like 3,258 people in the entire U.S., divided up into representative ideological chunks. And how many of those do you suppose spend time on Quora…or specifically when you happen to be participating in a given conversation? The odds are fairly small, I think, that you will get a real cream-of-the-crop exchange here at any time.

4. As others have pointed out, there are many gradations of conservatism and libertarianism - all across the spectrum. Neoliberal or neoconservative? Anarcho-capitalist or libertarian socialist? And I think there is also a growing population outside of those traditional delineations. Suppose someone says they are fiscally conservative, socially progressive, believe in smaller government but also in regulated markets, aren’t a fan of bloated entitlements, but feel that social safety nets should be a given in the developed world, don’t generally approve of war but think Putin’s ego should be constrained even if it takes military action…? What does that person get to call their political ideology? I think such people are more common than we might realize…especially young people just beginning to engage in political activities. Perhaps we need a label-free environment devoid of ideological entrenchment for more productive conversations about today’s most pressing issues?

With these fragments of thought in mind, I think it would be very difficult to induce generalizations about groups of people, or the ideologies they purport to represent, on Quora - and even more difficult to have constructive conversations about complex ideas in this medium. For the most part, we are all just talking to ourselves here. But there is value in that of course.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Do-conservatives-and-libertarians-think-empirically/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

Revolutionary Integrity: Chaotic Transitions vs. Compassionate Transformation



There is a potent mythology circulating within our modern Zeitgeist that revolutionary transitions must be chaotic, disruptive and destructive. I think this is a mistaken assumption, but it is grounded in reliable observations and experiences that permeate history, psychology, biology, spirituality, politics and personal growth. First we can take a look at those evidences, and then some alternative examples from which we can discern a more sensible course for constructive change.

Where did this investment in chaotic transitions come from? Here are a few of the enduring memes circulating today:

• From ancient times, the Greek, Judeo-Christian, Hindu and other mythological metaphors of violent destruction and rebirth: the fiery rebirth of the Phoenix; the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (and other “dying-and-rising God” narratives – see Dying-and-Rising-God); the Great Flood myths; and the trials and temptations of the Hero’s Journey (Campbell); the chaotic End Times scenarios from various spiritual traditions, etc.

• Milton Friedman’s theory that, in order to implement a new policy or system, one must engineer an economic and/or political crises, accelerate a nascent crisis, or simply take advantage of a crisis in process at a regional, national or international level. Friedman demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach in different countries during his lifetime in order to promote a neoliberal ideology. Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism explores this process in vivid detail.

• Clear evidence that, in natural ecosystems, death is a necessary component of ongoing viability: one species will routinely consume another; parents must die for their offspring to flourish; evolutionary adaptation generally follows a fitness advantage passed on and refined in subsequent generations; and so on.

• The belief embodied in many spiritual traditions that each individual must relinquish a sense of self-importance or ego-identity in order to grow spiritually; a “death-to-self,” obliteration of individual ego, or realization of “no-self” is a necessary component of spiritual maturity.

• “Hitting bottom” in the Twelve-Step tradition. In this view of addiction and recovery, a person’s self-destructive behaviors must first produce substantive and irrefutable damage in their lives before they will consider seeking help or beginning the road to recovery.

• The observations of historians, philosophers and economists that cultural revolutions and societal advancements throughout history have been facilitated by highly volatile historical circumstances, rebellious grass-roots movements, new information or disruptive technologies. From religious wars to new economic systems to new forms of government to advances in individual and collective freedoms, turmoil seems to have been a reliable precursor for change.



However, I think this widespread assumption that chaotic transitions are inevitable is no longer as reliable as it perhaps once was. There are a number of reasons for this, and here are what I believe to be the most important ones:

• Superagency – Individually and collectively, humanity has exponentially increased its power through communication, transportation, industrialization, militarization and other technology. This has an amplifying effect on both deliberate outcomes and unanticipated ones, so that each personal, regional and cultural choice produces an enormous cascade of enduring consequences. In this context, previous patterns of death and rebirth cannot apply; the scope and reach of human will have now obliterated any Phoenix opportunity. And as our technology and population footprint expands, compassionate transformation must replace chaotic transitions as our standard of change – or the human species and possibly even the Earth itself are not likely to survive.

Exponential Complexity – This is close kin to superagency in terms of its impact on change. The level of complexity with which the modern world operates – and upon which an ever-increasing number of human beings rely for existence – has surpassed the level of any of the take-down-and-rebuild upheaval witnessed by previous eras. Our systems of commerce, resource distribution, healthcare, global transportation, energy, food production, education, research, innovation and just about everything else require extraordinary coordination, standards-based planning and specialized skillsets to implement and maintain. Rebuilding such complexity in a new form from the ashes of chaotic collapse is simply unrealistic and naïve.

Strong Evidence for Alternative Approaches – For me this begins at the individual level, witnessing how client-based psychotherapy grounded in trusting relationships are so much more successful than confrontation groups or highly directive approaches; because empowering the client allows them to heal themselves and keep using tools to maintain their own well-being. In organizations, I have witnessed firsthand the constructive impact of shifting from top-down management styles to more inclusive, bottom-up decision-making as the result of a voluntary choice to empower workers – and of course this has been documented in many places (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workplace_democracy). Elinor Ostrom’s research on Common Pool Resource Management schemas arising organically around the globe also has demonstrated the viability of bottom-up, collective decision-making. On larger scales, throughout recorded history we have successful nonviolent movements in many countries (see Nonviolent Resistance and Nonviolent Revolution). Although the outcomes often involve compromise, nonviolent approaches have provided a more fluid avenue to healing and reconciliation among opposing viewpoints (for more information on nonviolent action, visit http://www.aeinstein.org/). And finally we have the evidence of state initiatives and referenda in the U.S., and of a more pervasive direct democracy in Switzerland at all levels of government, which came about without a single riot or drop of blood.


In my own efforts to envision and reify positive change on many different levels, I have sought to explore and embody transformative practices and ideals that are fundamentally constructive, additive and synergistic – a multidialectical synthesis rather than an inherently dominating or destructive process. Which is why I am calling this compassionate transformation. It involves these primary components, the details of which are discussed in more detail throughout my writings about Integral Lifework:

• An acknowledgement of personal responsibility, consciousness and planning to bring about constructive change; a commitment to personal agency must supersede reliance on institutional agency or externalized dependence – which ultimately lead to disconnection, apathy and self-disempowerment.

• The persistent guiding intentionality to work toward outcomes that provide the greatest good, for the greatest number of people, for the greatest duration – doing so skillfully, in ways that acknowledge and support both obvious and obscured interdependence.

• A focus on nourishing, nurturing and strengthening all dimensions of being in ourselves and others, with the primary aim of exercising compassionate affection, but also to encourage moral maturity and higher altitudes of individual and collective moral function. Our core strengths, resilience and creativity will issue from these mutually supportive relationships.

• A profound investment in understanding, respecting, including, honoring and celebrating diverse experiences, perspectives, cultural traditions and levels of understanding in all participatory mechanisms, while at the same time integrating them (in the sense of interculturalism), rather than encouraging isolation or separateness. Here we appreciate our togetherness, necessary interdependence, and uniqueness all-at-once.

• Patience and acceptance with the process of healing, educating and transforming self, family, community and civil society. This will be a difficult challenge. There will be setbacks. All of us are likely to stumble through confusion, loss, distractions and emotional turmoil; there will be internal chaos in the midst of liberation. And the only meaningful answer to this pain is self-directed compassion - a stubbornly enduring love-consciousness.


At the same time, I recognize that some things do pass away in the process; the synthesis may sometimes be subtractive regarding previous perspectives, memes, values systems or ideologies. For example, regarding the state of our current political economy, we do need to disrupt the status quo’s glamorous spectacle of excess and distraction, built as it is on unsustainable overconsumption and self-absorbed materialism. Together, we must prompt an awakening of conscious participation from our fellow worker-consumers, and definitively end the exploitative reign of owner-shareholders. And yes, this will likely involve attenuation of individualism, acquisitiveness and ego. But it is not necessary to drag “the man behind the curtain” out into the public square and flog him to death, or burn his palace to the ground. We can wreak havoc on the illusion, overturn the banksters’ tables, and eliminate complacency and dependency among our fellow citizens…without inducing chaos or a complete breakdown of society. Instead we can remove the curtain, throw open the palace gates, inspire and educate mass movements, and demand pervasive change – all without rancor, murder or rage. The more profound difference between compassionate transformation and chaotic transition in this regard is that our grounding attitude is a letting go – a careful, caring and tempered relinquishment of previous patterns, rather than their violent or aggressive destruction, oppression or repression. Passion with compassion; activism with humility. This is not passive by any means, but accepting, supportive, nonjudgmental and active from a place of loving kindness; it just invites the same collective participation it designs into reforms, and doesn’t excuse itself to lord it over others “for their own good.”

This combination of reasoning is what led me to promote what I call revolutionary integrity. Many throughout recent history, from Gandhi to Friere to Martin Luther King, have expressed the intuitive logic of embodying the values one desires for the future in the current modes of revolutionary action. Carl Boggs, Wini Breines and others wrote extensively about this idea with respect to sociopolitical movements of the sixties and seventies, describing it as prefigurative politics. Many years earlier, Ralph W. Sockman said this about the issue: "Be careful that victories do not carry the seed of future defeats." And long before this, a rebel from Nazarus told his overzealous disciple: “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” So this is really the core of what revolutionary integrity is about: we are just amplifying the assumption that, if we don’t embody our values in a transformational process, we will in fact sabotage the outcome. The means must embody the ends. There will be re-synthesis and adjustment along the way – that is obvious, as ideological and methodological purity almost always obstruct common sense solutions – but this does not mean that our quality of dialogue, standards of ethics, the vision towards which our incremental steps lead, the intensity of compassion with which we regard all participants, or the humility by which we relinquish personal opportunities at power for the common good will ever be compromised in any way. But if we insist that crisis is a necessary precondition for change, we will be inviting crisis to be an integral part of whatever new systems we invent.

In a very real sense, our lingering attachment to the idea of chaotic transitions is a substantive impediment to collective progress. It is a sign of our vestigial attachment to patterns of behavior which probably made sense when ancient tribes found themselves under constant threat of conflict, resource scarcity, existential uncertainty and violent power struggles. It is much like an abusive family’s expectation that all their communication and emotion be mired in excessive drama; or how a codependently enmeshed couple might catastrophize all disagreements and disconnections; or how someone with a personality disorder might threaten to commit suicide if someone doesn’t return their phone call. And perhaps it will take a generation or two of promoting holistic, multidimensional nourishment, healing from trauma, breaking familial cycles of abuse, and relaxing PTSD-like cultural reflexes in order to fully open ourselves up to more complete and effective ways of compassionately being. But I sincerely believe that is exactly what we need to do to both envision an egalitarian, thriving future for humanity, and to actualize it.

My 2 cents.

The Sex Appeal of A Bullying Hater



After watching the second Presidential debate last night I finally realized what makes Trump attractive to so many people. There are countless ways to describe the phenomenon, but I think a lot of the language is either inaccessible to modern sensibilities, or perhaps too casually dismissed by them. Culturally, probably as a consequence of postmodern skepticism and doubt, we have simply forgotten what certain kinds of evil look and sound like – and why they can be so seductive. And I think this is one reason why nearly half the U.S. electorate has fallen under Trump’s spell. Allow me to illustrate what I mean with some quotes from a previous time – a time when it was still considered “politically correct” to view the world in terms of good and evil, or darkness and light.

From Proverbs 6 (http://biblehub.com/esv/proverbs/6.htm)

A worthless person, a wicked man,
goes about with crooked speech,
winks with his eyes, signals with his feet,
points with his finger,
with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord

There are six things that the LORD hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.


From Proverbs 18 (http://biblehub.com/esv/proverbs/18.htm)

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.
When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
and with dishonor comes disgrace.

A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.

A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
and like a high wall in his imagination.
Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor.


From Matthew 12 (http://biblehub.com/esv/matthew/12.htm)

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”


In modern parlance, we tend to view destructive forces and habits more psychologically. In Trump's case, that he is obsessed with enlarging his own ego, or that he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or that he is stuck in an early stage of social and moral development, or that his inherited wealth has allowed him to maintain various self-aggrandizing delusions, or that emotional abuse at an early age has made him mean and vindictive, or simply that he has spent so much of his life satisfying his most base and animalistic impulses that he is now wantonly compelled to keep doing so. And these may be ways to frame parts of his behavior – and indeed they may have contributed to Trump’s corrupted condition, opening the door to the deeper currents in play. But I think there is clearly also a spiritual archetype involved that should not be ignored. There is real “evil” at work here – not just a bad-boy persona run amok, but a force intent on perpetuating and amplifying chaos, destruction and death by any means possible. And a bullying hater with daddy issues is a perfect collaborator and vehicle for this agenda.

This is, I sincerely believe, one reason why so many people are drawn to Trump. He has the age-old allure of the Rapacious One – exciting us with his passionate vitriolic invective, distracting us away from his faults and failings by aggressively attacking those around him, casually shrugging off the hurt he has done to others, dissembling and deceiving as easily as breathing, stirring up fear and resentment to serve his own ends, surrounding himself with people who are hungry for hate and blame, and doggedly propping up his own self-importance. Anyone can be drawn into this glamor, but particularly those who lack discernment, or who have numbed themselves to the darker impulses of human nature. As an embodied archetype, their have been many "Donald Trumps" throughout history, always striving for the same aims: To pull as many people as possible down into a maelstrom of vicious loathing and spite, to excite them with prideful arrogance and a writhing lust for vengeance, and to saw away at the foundations of civil society itself in order to amass more self-serving praise, attention, mammon and power. In the sense that “pride goes before a fall,” Trump is greedily herding as many followers as possible off that cliff with him.

From Proverbs 24 (http://biblehub.com/esv/proverbs/24.htm)

Be not envious of evil men,
nor desire to be with them,
for their hearts devise violence,
and their lips talk of trouble.

A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Wisdom is too high for a fool;
in the gate he does not open his mouth.
Whoever plans to do evil
will be called a schemer.
The devising of folly is sin,
and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.


From John 8 (http://biblehub.com/esv/john/8.htm)

“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”


Folks, the Donald Trump archetype is what seductive evil looks like. Plain and simple. We have either just forgotten how to see it clearly, have softened our convictions about the persistence of such archetypes, or we are deluding ourselves…almost as much as we are being deceived. There is perhaps no clearer evidence of this than a widespread pattern: The same people who devoutly suspect Hilary Clinton of nefarious dealings and a lust for power will embrace Donald Trump who transparently and boastfully celebrates these same traits in himself. In recognizing this – and, in particular, perceiving the bent and deceitful will of Donald Trump so clearly during last night’s debate – I felt additional shards of worry pierce my well-being. Remember how easy it was to laugh off this absurd buffoon when he first started running for POTUS? Remember the chagrined disbelief when Trump won the Republican nomination? Remember being stupefied – and perhaps even a little impressed – by how effortlessly Trump continued to dodge all criticism and accountability? Or the growing incredulity as his polling numbers remained so high and his supporters so loyal, despite one revelation after another about his casual cruelty, brutish appetites and banal character? This is one way such evil succeeds – by encouraging our skepticism that it has any real influence or chance of winning; by glossing over all incompetence, ignorance and discrediting facts with pompous bluster…while maintaining the illusion of strength as it thrashes past the finish line. When I shared my reflections with my wife Mollie this morning, she said “I thought evil would be smarter.” Indeed, didn’t we all?

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


In terms of our response, I think we can return to the same wisdom traditions for insight. We can stand up to evil, call it out for what it is, and press it back into the dark crevices from which it sprang. Those skilled to do so can also radically embrace the Shadow - healing and integrating its pain with compassionate affection. In either case, drawing courage from the Light, we are no longer swayed by fear.

From Proverbs 24 (http://biblehub.com/esv/proverbs/24.htm):

If you faint in the day of adversity,
your strength is small.
Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?


From John 11 (http://biblehub.com/esv/john/11.htm):

"Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him."



My 2 cents.

The Problem of Feminine Power: Testosterone, Cultural Evolution & the 2016 U.S. Elections

Western culture has a problem with empowered women. From a historical perspective this is easy to observe – and we’ll cover some of that briefly – but the more interesting and relevant question is: why? Why have women been so persistently held back, oppressed, dismissed, denigrated, ridiculed, shamed and abused both institutionally and culturally in so many Western societies? Why, in a country like the U.S.A. where liberty and opportunity are so highly prized, have women been subject to these same prejudices? And lastly, it seems obvious that any cultural currents underlying the denigration of women are particularly relevant in the 2016 U.S. election – but what is really going on here?

About the history. Some potent reminders of the subjugation of the feminine:

• Around 85% of the witches executed in Europe and the American Colonies during the witch hunts of the 15th through 17th centuries were women.

• In medieval Europe, women who spoke their minds in public – or challenged their husband’s authority – could be subjected to public shaming via iron masks that they wore for a day or longer.

• It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that women began to receive substantive rights to their own property in the U.S., Britain and Europe; before that, husbands and fathers controlled their property.

• The post-enlightenment awakening to the importance of higher education for women resulted in the first all-women colleges in the mid-1800s and a growing concern for primary school education for girls all around the globe. Up until this time, however, it was mainly men who were encouraged to pursue education (other than in a religious context, such as Catholic convents). In many Muslim countries, however, female education has trended in the opposite direction in recent decades.

• Women’s suffrage around the globe is a particularly glaring indication of female disenfranchisement: it wasn’t until 1920 that women had the right to vote in the U.S.; 1928 in the United Kingdom; 1944 in France; 1946 in Italy; 1952 in Greece; 1954 in Columbia; 1955 in Cambodia; 1990 in Samoa; 2015 in Saudi Arabia.

• In terms of basic human rights, 189 members of the UN felt it imperative to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981. As of this writing, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, Iran, the Holy See and the United States have refused to sign on.

• Considering that women in many parts of the United States – and many parts of the rest of the world – still have challenges asserting both their reproductive rights and their right to equal pay, we can see that the double-standards regarding female empowerment persist into modern times.


Shaming Masks - Photo Credit Craige Moore, Creative Commons License 2.0


Is this longstanding prejudice in the Western world a consequence of religion? No. The mistrust and disempowerment of the feminine has nothing at all to do with religion – though religious institutions have happily taken up female oppression and regressive conservatism in service to their parent cultures. As Christianity has been the dominant religious institution in the West, we can explore it as an example. In the New Testament, Jesus is a radical feminist for his time. He elevated women’s positions above cultural norms, honored female disciple’s behaviors and attitudes above his male disciples, responded to women’s requests and admonishments even as he chastised men's, ignored cultural prejudices around female sexuality and physiology, and forgave women of their most culturally despised sins. And, for a time, this liberation of the feminine endured; in the early Church, women held positions of authority, influence and honor. In fact, there are only two short Paulian verses in all of the New Testament that place women in subjection to men, and there is a high likelihood that those were introduced (“interpolated”) into the scriptural canon long after the earliest Christian texts were written. (For more on this topic, see this excerpt from A Progressive's Guide to the New Testament.)

So what happened? Pre-existing culture happened. Everywhere we look in those first few centuries of spreading Christianity, the surrounding cultures were astoundingly oppressive toward women: beginning with North African culture, Jewish culture, and Roman culture…and eventually arriving in Northern Europe. These were societies where women were treated as slaves, traded like chattel, and sometimes killed (“exposed”) at birth because they were less desirable than male offspring. And as Christianity gradually gained institutional authority in these regions of the world, it also gradually adopted the dominant memes of those cultures. Jesus’ example and the practices of the early Church regarding women were almost completely abandoned. So what began as a seemingly deliberate attempt to liberate women was often turned on its head in favor of existing cultural traditions.

Now Northern European cultures are an interesting, diverse and complex study in themselves – so can we really generalize about “anti-feminine” sentiments in this way? I think we can, mainly because of the historical evidence. We know of only one European culture that had hints of strong matriarchal traditions, and that was the Picts, whose culture and language had been diluted, assimilated or erased by the end of the first millennium. But, as alluded to, the West isn’t the only place where women are second class citizens. Many North African cultures have a problem with empowered women as well. And here again it has nothing to do with religion, colonization by Northern Europeans, or any of the other lazy explanations that are frequently invoked. Take for example female genital mutilation and child brides – these traditions predate the arrival of Islam, Christianity and the northern invaders by centuries, and persist equally across these cultures regardless of the dominant ethnic, religious, economic and political orientations. For example, Ethiopia is a predominantly Christian country with completely different geography, ethnic groups and politics than Mali, a predominantly Muslim country; but they both practice FGM to an astonishing degree (74% and 89% respectively), and child brides are bartered off at about the same rate in both places (41-60%). Here again, cultural traditions seem to be the dominating factor, far outweighing any other influences.

But we must return to the why. Why are women so habitually denigrated? One theory that has been advanced by anthropologists and other researchers is that the cultural value of women was higher in peaceful and resource-abundant regions of the world than where resources were scarce or there was more competition with other inhabitants (see Hayden, Deal, Cannon and Casey). As the theory goes, because men had the physical advantages to become successful hunters and warriors, men gained prestige and authority in environments where those traits were important, and women’s roles became more supportive or subservient. Another theory posits that the introduction of writing and literacy pushed institutions and cultural authority away from the holistic and concrete oral traditions perpetuated by women, and into a linear, abstract and reductionist realm dominated by men (see Shlain). Another theory promotes the idea that the advent of privately owned land, agriculture and animal husbandry introduced the idea of reproductive ownership and control of resources through inheritance, where provable lineage and female reproductive capacity became essential mechanisms of patriarchal power that men felt compelled to control (see Ryan and Jethá). Yet another theory is that male-centric, warlike tribes steeped in cultural habits of domination invaded more egalitarian, cooperative and peaceful regions where women participated as equal partners, and proceeded to subjugate those cultures to the warlike-masculine-dominating archetype (see Eisler).

Although all of these theories have interesting evidence and merit, I don’t think any of them adequately explain female oppression. There is simply something missing – something more fundamental, more persistent, more universal…and more inherent. What is it? Well I think the underlying issue centers around the relationship between testosterone and similar dietary, cultural and physical habits that have arisen independently around the globe. Yes…you heard me: testosterone and dietary, cultural and physical habits. Bear with me here, as I think this will all come together nicely. To appreciate how this synthesizes, we need to understand something about human physiology: specifically, we need to appreciate the effects of testosterone on human behavior and development. Here are some of those well-documented correlations. Testosterone:


1. Beginning in the eighth week after conception, testosterone stimulates fetal differentiation to become male.

2. Strongly influences development of muscle mass and strength (and retention of these over time).

3. Has tremendous impact on sexual desire and impulses.

4. Increases feelings and expression of vitality, aggression and confidence.

5. Strongly correlates (and changes) with position of social dominance (higher testosterone reflects a higher position of dominance) and a desire to compete.

6. Seems to correlate with increased objectification of sex partner as a means to gratification (higher testosterone = higher objectification; interestingly, there is evidence that estrogen has a similar effect).

7. Offers strong correlations with violent criminality (higher testosterone levels in the most violent criminals).

8. May contribute to impatient, impulsive, risk-taking personality traits.


We should note that there are genetic predispositions, socialization, learned behaviors and other factors in play as well in all of this – and that correlations between certain behaviors and testosterone may indicate more of cofactor relationship than direct causality – but for now the details of those discussions will remain outside of our scope. Also, we should appreciate that many of these correlations are equally true for both women and men. What, then, in the most simplified terms, stimulates or sustains testosterone production as people age? Here are some broadly held conclusions regarding that:



1. Intense exercise, especially in bursts of activity and using the largest muscle groups.

2. Intermittent periods of fasting.

3. Having lots of sex, and lots of thoughts about sex.

4. Low carb, low sugar, low grain, high protein diet that includes healthy fats.

5. Receiving regular doses of Zinc (oysters, crab, other shellfish, beef, chicken, pork, beans, garlic, mushrooms, spinach, whole grains).

6. Receiving regular doses of Vitamin D (seafood, egg yolks, beef liver, beans, mushrooms, cheese).

7. Maintaining low levels of body fat.

8. Consuming foods with BCAAs (like cheese and cottage cheese).

9. Engaging in aggressive, risk-taking or violent activities.

10. Maintaining a competitive, dominance-oriented worldview and behaviors.



Can you surmise which cultures – historically – have promoted nearly all of these testosterone-enhancing components of diet, cultural values and physical habit as part of their societal norms…? Quite interestingly, most of them happen to be the very same cultures that have dominated the globe for centuries. Speaking specifically to pre-industrial proclivities of British, European and (post-colonization) North American cultures: what were the dominant features of day-to-day living in terms of diet, social mores and activities? Consider the habits, attitudes and appetites of explorers, the colonizers and imperialists, warmongers and revolutionaries…all those dominators who reveled in engineering competition and subjugating others in every aspect of life? Certainly we could have a chicken-and-egg debate around which came first – high testosterone levels or the conditions that helped to maintain them – but the historically prevalent power brokers and change agents in these cultures seem to be poster children for testosterone-enhancing lifestyles.

We can then even piggyback onto Jared Diamond’s hypothesis in Guns, Germs and Steel, asserting that perhaps testosterone has been one more actor that helped facilitate the Eurasian hegemony. And inherent to that testosterone-reinforced dominance (or at least thematically and biologically consistent with it) is patriarchy, male chauvinism, and general devaluation of the feminine. Even when women are themselves “masculinized” by testosterone and testosterone-enhancing activities, they likewise become aggressive, competitive, dominating, risk-taking and violent – establishing their primacy over everyone else who is “weaker.” Thus a primary feature of testosterone-reinforcing diets, culture and physical habits could at once be both the subjugation of other cultures, and the principle of “masculine” dominance, objectification and commoditization of others – from slaves to sex workers to sheeple...and most certainly "the weaker sex."


Testosterone-Dependent Dominance Systems

Now when we take a moment to step back and think about this hypothesis, one thing that rapidly becomes clear is that much of modern Western society is no longer conforming to its historical testosterone-producing advantages – at least not in many substantive ways. Habit-wise we have become much more sedentary, are consuming a lot more sugar and carbs, are gaining a lot of weight, and are generally amplifying the preconditions for Type II Diabetes in several ways. We are also exposed to a host of industrially produced antiandrogens (pesticides, insecticides, phthalates in plastics, and parabens in soaps and pharmaceuticals) that disrupt testosterone expression. Which begs the question: is the same level of testosterone-induced behavior still in play? Well I think it is…but only for those who succeed within the vestigial socioeconomic systems, traditions and institutions preserved from earlier eras. Remember the correlation between social position and testosterone? Well when human beings deliberately operate within a system that encourages and rewards aggressive competition, dominating tactics, oppression of anyone perceived as “weaker,” physical and sexual prowess, and patriarchy, the primacy of testosterone and its ongoing production is also encouraged in those who dominate. And that symbiosis amplifies itself over time, as testosterone in turn reinforces the attitudes and behaviors that produce it. It is a classic “The Wolf You Feed” dynamic where the testosterone-rich dominate the testosterone-poor.

Which is certainly one reason why – in our competitively capitalistic, hierarchically corporatist, domineeringly commercialized culture – men receive more pay than women, owner-shareholders lord it over worker-consumers, law enforcement perpetrates violence against citizenry, girls are sexually objectified at a young age, nearly half of all women experience sexual assault, the Stanford Prison Experiment had such predictable results, and nearly half the electorate fears allowing an empowered and experienced woman to become POTUS. It all fits hand-in-glove. And it doesn’t seem to matter how cooperative, genteel, educated, mutually supportive, peaceful or egalitarian a society becomes – the tyranny of testosterone can still undermine all such progress and reverse cultural evolution toward fascist sentiments and masculine-authoritarian leadership styles. More than just promoting a “Strong Father-Ruler” archetype to quash any spark of matriarchy, the tyranny of testosterone becomes a biological imperative to perpetuate reproductive primacy and control. In a pervasive – perhaps even global – societal reflex to stave of cultural male menopause, the fear of feminine power has become a sort of mass hysteria; irrational to its core, but also grounded in the physiological realities of the developed world that explicitly or implicitly erode testosterone-dependent dominance systems. One has to wonder whether the rise of Islamist fundamentalism in the developing world isn’t at least in part another indicator of this same hysteria: men seeking to reassert masculine power as they see it being eroded around them.

Thus feminine power is not merely about a woman having positional influence, it’s about a woman exercising power dynamics that are alternative and contrasting to testosterone-related, "traditionally masculine" ones. It’s about a different mode of social organization, a different flavor of collaboration, a different pattern of interaction and communication, indeed a radically alternative political economy. Is it time to let go…? To elevate and embrace feminine power, and attenuate the masculine? I think it probably has been for some time, but even as the collective balls of society continue to shrink, the more conservative and fearful elements of our culture thrash against the inevitable, hoping through their frantic, last-ditch efforts to secure just a little more time for testosterone’s rein. And so we arrive at the 2016 election, where the archetype of feminine power has at least partially been embodied in Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, by contrast, has clearly expressed himself to be shaped by traditional masculine power, with no hint of the feminine and a clear discomfort with anything resembling feminine power. And now Hillary, as the Democratic nominee for U.S. President, has become the sole locus for cultural male menopause hysteria, with all its attendant fears and worries around demasculinization. But it is not because Hillary is a woman and Donald is a man that this archetypal tension runs so deep – it is because they each represent such different orientations to power…and to testosterone.

Before concluding, I think it responsible to at least give a nod to men’s movement. I actually think that issue of oppressive gender roles applies equally to men, in that men often feel trapped in the same cultural expectations that should concern all equal rights activism. In terms to causality or blame, it doesn’t really matter that the mechanisms that brought, for example, male dominance of civic institutions into being were “patriarchal” or “misogynistic” by nature, if the roles and responsibilities regarding men that are championed or imposed by those institutions are subjectively oppressive for men. For example, the gender inequality we find in military service, or high-risk jobs, or how custody and child support are awarded, or the imposition of a breadwinner role, or indeed differences in suicide rates and criminal sentencing. In these areas, the men are definitely at a disadvantage, and any remedies we seek to enable greater equality should take such disadvantages into account. In this context, I think we should be aiming for a clearer demarcation between what I have described as testosterone-driven attitudes, proclivities and behaviors, and what “should” define masculinity. In fact I think we can point to testosterone as a central actor in the systemic oppression of everyone - both women and men. That said, I realize that I have probably reinforced a dualistic gender bias by referring to masculine and feminine power…so perhaps we need to come up with a more gender-neutral, multidimensional language in such discussions. In this sense, it appears I still need to escape the cultural conditioning of my own language, as I have admittedly been immersed in some fairly radical feminism from a very young age.

To wrap things up, there are currently a few contrasting theories about the impact of testosterone on human cultural development. One indicates that lowering levels of testosterone in humans around 50,000 years ago facilitated more prosocial behaviors, and therefore stimulated the first art, technology and blossoming of culture (see Cieri). Another goes to the opposite extreme by asserting that testosterone is responsible for critical masculine functions and advances in human civilization (see Barzilai). Another hypothesis elevates the role of cultural conditioning in how much testosterone is generated in certain situations, indicating that biology itself is shaped by culture and reinforces that culture (see Nisbett & Cohen, and Richerson & Boyd). It is this last theory that I think is the most interesting, because it indicates a more nuanced relationship between the internalized beliefs that result from cultural conditioning, and how our bodies respond and adapt to culture according to those beliefs. The implication is that our choices and experiences over time will shape both our individual psychology and collective cultural evolution – not just in how we consciously shape our institutions, but in how our internal hormonal cocktail conforms to, and facilitates, those societal expectations.


For further reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_rights

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_motivation_and_hormones

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiandrogen

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/200905/the-testosterone-curse-part-2

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201205/the-triggers-sexual-desire-men-vs-women

http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/07/27/increase-testosterone-levels.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/men/features/can-you-boost-testosterone-naturally#1

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/sexual-health/in-depth/testosterone-therapy/art-20045728

http://www.medicaldaily.com/chopping-trees-increases-testosterone-levels-more-sports-plus-natural-ways-men-boost-hormone-253849

http://www.catie.ca/en/treatmentupdate/treatmentupdate-185/nutrition/can-vitamin-increase-testosterone-concentrations-men

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260793461_Hormonal_contraceptive_use_and_the_objectification_of_women_and_men

https://today.duke.edu/2014/08/feminization

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/712842.html



Do moderate Muslims really support terrorist acts by radical Muslims, as right-wing conservatives claim?

Thanks for the A2A. No that is not a viable argument.

There is actually some good research on this from Pew, Gallup and others. I would check it out by searching at their sites. However, here are some examples:

General overview of Muslim beliefs around the globe: Pew report on Muslim world paints a distressing picture

Interestingly, among all religions polled in the U.S., Muslims were the LEAST likely to support violence. See Most Muslim Americans See No Justification for Violence

Here is a good overview of research on Muslim attitudes towards terrorism:

Muslim attitudes toward terrorism

And here is a more complex overview of attitudes of tolerance and what contributes to them: Views of Violence

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Do-moderate-Muslims-really-support-terrorist-acts-by-radical-Muslims-as-right-wing-conservatives-claim)

My Open Letter to the Bernie-Or-Bust Folks: There Is A Better Way

To start off, a quick summary of where I’m coming from:

• Bernie supporter
• Long-time opponent of corporatocracy
• Long-time environmentalist
• Long-time health advocate
• Open Source proponent
• Noam Chomsky fan
• Active in Occupy movement
• Disgusted with status quo
• Have never had any elected official I voted for represent my priorities
• Not a fan of Hillary Clinton
• Firmly believe a revolution is required to create a better world
• Written essays and a book about post-capitalist political economies

Hopefully these add a tiny bit of cred with angry Bernie supporters around what I’m going to say….

There have been many revolutions throughout history that I think can help us understand how to effectively counter tyranny, oppression and oligarchy. Some by way of positive example, but many more by way of negative example and warning. As recently as the Arab Spring we have both: Tunisia as a positive example, vs. pretty much everywhere else where oppressive conditions are now much worse than they were before the uprising. But in looking at Tunisia, we still see all of the same tensions and pressures that exist in the other Arab countries where the revolution has failed – in fact most Tunisians seem to feel that real progress has been slow. But what was the difference? Why haven’t things fallen apart?

Mainly this was due to a handful of Tunisian civic organizations that worked together to broker a compromise between newly elected Islamists, members of the overthrown Ben Ali regime, and other political parties. These civic organizations included the local Human Rights League and General Labor Union, UTICA (Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts), and the Order of Lawyers. In other countries, like Egypt, Syria, Libya, Jordan, Algeria and Yemen, such organizations were not strong enough to counter a pervasive tendency to settle disagreements with oppressive and divisive tactics and, in the worst cases, brutal violence. Where in Tunisia the struggle for control remained embedded in democratic processes and dialogue, in these other countries the impulse to dominate and contain any opposition overflowed the bounds of civil society.

IMO this is an incredibly important lesson for us here in the U.S. Why? Because it illustrates that non-governmental organizations can play a key role in the political process, helping mold it into constructive outcomes. Is there still government corruption in Tunisia? Sure. Is there still fear among the population about the conservative Islamist agenda? Of course. Is there a possibility that civil society in Tunisia might still devolve if the brokered compromises cannot hold? Unfortunately, yes there is. But there are also now demonstrated civic change mechanisms to allow at least some progressive improvements to inch slowly forward without completely alienating other factions.

As with the Arab Spring, the ratio of positive to negative outcomes for other uprisings around the globe has been fairly constant: perhaps 1 in 8 succeeds to create a better, more just, more stable situation for its people. Have things gotten better in South Sudan, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Hong Kong or Venezuela after recent activism, protests and revolutions in those countries? On the contrary, in most cases they have gotten considerably worse. In other words, there is no guarantee that disrupting, undermining or even overthrowing the status quo will result in a beneficial outcome.

Perhaps you can sense where I am going with this. Basically, as I see it, if there is sufficient momentum in the U.S. to disrupt the status quo via political or other means, this year’s presidential election could produce unsavory outcomes closely mirroring the consequences of the Arab Spring and other recent uprisings around the globe. We could, for example, end up with a deluded megalomaniac with the knowledge and attention span of a gnat commanding the most powerful military on Earth. Or we could have far-right obstructionists take complete control of Congress. We could have eight years of new pro-corporate, anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-poor Supreme Court Justices receiving lifetime appointments. We could have another economic downturn resulting from laissez-faires government policies, tax breaks for the rich, and risky investment behavior. We could have all of this.

And for what? What would that accomplish, exactly? It’s not as if only the foolish idiots voting for Trump would be punished for their stupidity and ignorance – we would all be punished for their stupidity and ignorance. And as the economic, political, civil rights, religious and other freedoms and choices consequently become fewer and harsher in the U.S. for a majority of its citizens, the right-wing neoliberal fear-peddlers could keep the flames of hatred, anger and blame burning ever-so-brightly in America. Because, just as with so many of the Arab Spring countries, the darkness and despair would all but extinguish any lingering hope.

That is, unless we can follow Tunisia’s example and strengthen our non-governmental civic institutions instead. I think that is where the tremendous energies of those who feel disappointed, disillusioned and disenfranchised in the U.S. could be focused. Instead of using a protest vote in November to rail against an unjust system, we can turn to more effective revolutionary efforts and apply our passions there. After all, that’s precisely what wealthy corporations do when they lobby Congress or use A.L.E.C. to push self-serving laws through state legislatures. For progressives, there are all sorts of organizations involved in battling the neoliberal agenda – from overturning Citizens United, to trying to pass constitutional amendments against “corporate personhood,” to environmental activism, to holding corporations accountable for malfeasance, to ensuring voting rights for the oppressed….hundreds of opportunities to engage. And again, to be clear, this is exactly how right-wing fanatics have influenced U.S. politics: by investing their time, energy and money in ultra-conservative organizations and movements over years and decades.

In other words, we should never believe that putting all of our eggs into one basket (i.e. electing Bernie) would be a sufficient solution to the systemic problems we face in America today. I think that, in many ways, this is an illustration of how our consumer mentality has corrupted the political process: instead of actively engaging the long arc of the moral universe, applying ourselves each day with diligent effort to right the wrongs of plutocracy, we want justice right now. We want a quick fix. We want a hero, a champion, who can promise the execution of a new vision without our having to participate and work hard to make that vision real. This is a hallmark of consumer society, where we are told – every day, and often every minute – that real answers can be obtained at the click of a button, and all our needs can be met with an instantaneous purchasing decision. But enduring change requires real commitment over long stretches of time…not just one vote.

So this is why I’ll be voting for Hillary in November. Not because I buy her campaign hype. Not because I think she’ll represent my interests. Not because she will genuinely pursue the revised Democratic platform that Bernie helped shape. Not because I think she will keep us all safe or keep the U.S. out of wars. Not because she cares about children. I do not believe any of these things will impact the long arc of the moral universe in profound ways. What is much more critical, in my view, is that the very small, painfully slow and incremental changes to our unjust status quo that a Clinton administration is likely to champion are infinitively better than the descent into mayhem and destruction a Trump presidency guarantees the world. Relative stability - even if it is distasteful stability - is preferable to precipitous backsliding. It’s that simple.

And, in the meantime, I can roll up my sleeves and involve myself in the countless other avenues of activism and reform. For example, perhaps I can begin to address the obvious corruption and failures of the DNC - through my sustained effort over time. That’s just one thing that could really make a difference in our democracy. Whereas not voting for Hillary this fall…well, it might feel principled and righteous in-the-moment, but it won’t do squat to fix the problems with the DNC, or any of our broken institutions or social maladies for that matter. It will just fuel more suffering and injustice for a majority of my fellow citizens – it will actively do harm to many innocent people – and that would just make me complicit with the tyrannical jackasses who are manipulating the current shitshow to serve their agendas.

My 2 cents.




Why did the United States become a capitalist society?

In short: because wealthy Americans wanted it to. Before industrial capitalism came into existence, our Founding Fathers held the view (which was fairly common throughout Europe during preceding centuries) that people who owned land were somehow better (smarter, more educated, more blessed, etc.) than those who did not, and should hold the most power in any government. In fact this is how the term “entitled” originated. We inherited this mainly via the cultural heritage of Great Britain, IMO, but what was unique about the U.S. was that it maintained this prejudice in a democracy. And, since then, we’ve never really shaken off that legacy. So when industrial capitalism did take hold, the wealthy quickly began exerting their influence to bend government to their will, as well as manipulate the democratic process. It’s how we ended up with bizarre concepts like “corporate personhood” as a feature of law, and why so many politicians throughout U.S. history have been in the pockets of big business. In many ways, U.S. commercialism is just a revised formula for feudalism - a new face on a very old concept. The main difference - as reflected by many of the answers in this thread - is that the modern serfs have swallowed the propaganda that they now have economic and political freedom. Which of course is true only up to the point where the modern serf’s actions begin to interfere with the status (i.e. wealth and influence) of the modern vassals.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-did-the-United-States-become-a-capitalist-society)

How could the US political system be restructured so that it would motivate politicians to make policies that benefit all Americans?

Thanks for the A2A Joel. Some relatively easy steps that could help greatly:

1) Revoke corporate personhood as a feature of law, and nullify all subsequent related rulings that favor corporate speech, corporate money as speech, etc.

2) Publicly fund elections (at each round of campaigning, everyone gets the same amount of airtime, funding, etc.)
Outlaw SuperPACs and corporate lobbying organizations like ALEC - businesses (or anyone with high concentrations of wealth) do not need representation in government, period.

3) Authorize recall elections for all public offices.

4) Implement Swiss-style direct democracy at local, state and national levels to counterbalance legislators who are not reflecting public interests. For example, 100K direct votes in Switzerland can freeze implementation of any legislation passed at the national level.

5) Strengthen the initiative process at the state level and outlaw corporate advertising for or against any initiative (since it will no longer be protected speech).

6) Institute civic lotteries and for public offices that counterbalance elected officials (city councils, for example, could be appointed by civic lottery).

7) Create a computer-generated districting plan for all states, based strictly on population distribution alone, which updates with each census.

8-) Create mechanisms for additional parties (other than the Dems and GOP) to be represented.

9) Institute severe penal consequences for anyone attempting to bribe public officials or corrupt the democratic process (tamper with voting machines, etc.) either directly or by proxy agents. Mandatory 25-year sentences with no possibility of parole would be a good start.

10) It should be said that wherever there are extraordinary concentrations of wealth, those entities will work the system to become players, creating favorable outcomes for their agendas. In fact, it is those special interests that have worked very hard to prevent many of the steps listed above from occurring. These ideas are not new. So, ultimately, the most reliable long-term solution will likely be to move away from capitalism altogether.

My 2 cents.

(from Quora question: https://www.quora.com/How-could-the-US-political-system-be-restructured-so-that-it-would-motivate-politicians-to-make-policies-that-benefit-all-Americans)

An Aha Moment: Why So Many Republicans Love Trump

The original Trump-Pence logo
I just finished reading Jane Meyer’s New Yorker Article about Trump’s ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz. (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all) It’s a truly chilling account, depicting Trump as a sociopath who craves money and attention above all else…and who will do just about anything to obtain these things. But as I read Schwartz’s account, an insight began to gain momentum in my mind, and by the end of the article, I was sure that the insight had merit. I finally understood why so many Republicans love Donald Trump. I think it’s simple, really: it is because they can see both their ideal selves and their real selves embodied by him. And in embodying precisely that intersection so artfully, Trump has them fully hypnotized.

Allow me to explain.

First, the ideal self that Trump offers is really the gold standard of American commercialism: a larger-than-life personality, grandiose expressions of wealth, an indefatigable confidence in his own abilities, a fearless dismissal of anyone who disagrees with him, a joyful disregard for any facts that might get in his way, a boisterous and frequent display of “the art of the put-down” against any competition….It’s all there in one shiny package, everything that has been tirelessly promoted in salesmanship seminars for decades – and everything that poorly educated worker-consumers have been conditioned to believe equates a distinctly American flavor of success.

Why am I so familiar with this ideal? Well I worked in sales early on in my career, and later became a senior IT manager in what was primarily a sales company. I’ve been tricked into attending Amway rallies, have been pitched every imaginable multilevel marketing scheme, and years ago read countless books on sales techniques. I was so immersed in sales culture and philosophy when I was young because I did not have a college degree, and selling stuff was the easiest and fastest way to earn a decent living. In fact, at age twenty-one, I purchased my first home in Seattle from the proceeds of sales commissions. Then, one day when walking home from selling things people didn’t need to people who couldn’t afford them, I found myself looking down at my feet for the entire length of that journey. I felt demeaned, small and dirty for having become such a good salesman; in fact I was beginning to earnestly hate myself for it. Why? Because a salesman will do anything, believe anything, say anything, agree to anything, present themselves as anything, indeed invest their whole being in pretty much anything – no matter how unpleasant, unethical or inimical to their own core beliefs and values it may be – if it will just facilitate a sale. On that long walk home, my very nice shoes, expensive raincoat and uncomfortable suit and tie seemed to be taunting me with these simple truths.

On the front lines of a sales force, salespeople will joke easily about “hiding the stretch marks” around their mouths for the things they have done to close a deal. Higher up in the food chain, however, the investment in a product, company or brand is so complete – the sales beliefs and self-talk so absolute – that such jokes are frowned upon. These higher level managers become the priests of an unquestioning huckster religion, and the flames of zealous conviction radiate out from them as they inspire the soldiers of their chosen faith at morning company pep talks and regional sales conferences. So it is really no surprise that many of the various pyramid schemes have looked to fundamentalist churches to recruit new believers to their brand: the wiring is already there to believe unquestioningly, and then fervently proselytize. Again, I can also relate this to my personal experiences…for I, too, was swept up in a fundamentalist religious experience, not coincidentally as I arrived at the height of my sales training and abilities. The philosophies, narratives, self-justifications, objectives and trajectories of fundamentalist religion and American salesmanship are, in my view, functionally inseparable. They are cut from exactly the same cloth, as organizations like Amway have elegantly illustrated (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amway#Religion).

And so we arrive at the real self that Trump also embodies. In my twenties, I abandoned both sales and fundamentalist religion, and quickly regained a more authentic compassion for my being – along with a more realistic self-perception and self-worth. But a large number of rank-and-file Republicans, indeed the ones who seem to most devotedly praise Donald Trump, are still stuck in that self-deceiving delusion. They have rationalized and internalized an enormous body of lies that supports their chosen value system, and done this so completely that they no longer recognize what a lie looks like – or what the truth looks like. Thus they must fully invest themselves in bizarre or farcical inventions: that climate change science is a hoax, Obama was born in Africa, liberals want to take away everybody’s guns, homosexuality and welfare have destroyed the American family, Saddam Hussein had links with Al Qaeda and 9/11 (and/or there was evidence of WMDs that justified invading Iraq), capitalism has saved the world, immigrants and foreigners abroad have taken the best U.S. jobs, every failure of the market has been the result of government interference, the Postal Service and Medicare aren’t socialism, the U.S. Constitution was grounded in Judeo-Christian ideals, competition drives innovation, consumers are rational but voters are not, corporate monopolies are more ethical and efficient than government, unions are the reason American companies fail, that voter election fraud is rampant in the U.S., that corporations are people and Citizens United wouldn't corrupt the political process, and so on. An endless chain of unfounded lies, building one upon the other, to prop up profoundly distorted and destructive beliefs. And so identifying with Trump is a perfectly natural next step for these Republicans - because, at his core, Trump operates within the same fractured, self-deceiving reality that they do. Like attracts like.

Exciting mutual resonance, the real and ideal Republican selves then intersect perfectly in Donald Trump: he himself is hopelessly lost in a thought-field of self-deception that makes him look fantastic, projecting a veneer of confidence and success over a long string of personal failures, propping up a flagging ego that is completely blind to its own inadequacies and delusions, while easily fixing blame on others. He is a poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect) that many Republicans so often seem to exhibit; a Great White Hope that will lead America back to the glory days that – as an equally distorted and revisionist view of U.S. history – further justify Republican beliefs. Trump is an almost supernatural expression of all the hallmarks of right-wing extremism: an immense tolerance for cognitive dissonance, the desperate reaching of confirmation bias, and a reflexive denial of any personal responsibility or accountability for past failures. The fusion of identities, purpose and conviction becomes complete. Trump emerges as a glistening Angel of Light, deceptively but artfully leading the deluded masses into the Bottomless Pit…all the while cajoling and assuring them with his glossy glamor of fake success. Thus the joyous marriage of Trump and the Republican electorate cradles itself in self-reinforcement, an ever-growing orgy of homogenous falsehoods that fortify self-righteous prejudice and arrogance.

Now I do know some thoughtful conservatives who are shocked and dismayed at Trump’s meteoric political success. They are appalled by his rhetoric, sickened by his character flaws, and bewildered that so many of their fellow Republicans have fallen under his spell. But as devout Republicans, they will still vote for him. Why? Because they have rationalized that he is the lesser of two evils. In other words, they are ignoring the clear signs that Trump is obviously much less suited to be POTUS than Hillary Clinton, and denying the excess of evidence that should warn them away from this immature, impulsive, megalomaniacal huckster having access to America’s nuclear launch codes.

Just my 2 cents.

7/23/2016 Update: I came across these Jerry Falwell, Jr. quotes in a recent NPR interview (see http://www.npr.org/2016/07/21/486854408/political-star-power-comes-out-for-day-3-of-the-republican-convention). It's a somewhat surreal example of the very behavior I describe in my post above:

"You know, it was funny that rank-and-file evangelicals were ahead of all the leadership. They saw for decades conservative Republicans had made promises to them on issues that were important to Christians and conservatives when they were running for office. But when they won, they didn't keep those promises. And I think, you know, like the song by The Who "Won't Get Fooled Again," I think they just decided no more. We want somebody who maybe makes mistakes and maybe sort of talks off the cuff and may not get it right all the time, but at least he's not bamboozling us."

"I just see how Donald Trump treats other people, and I'm impressed by that."

"He doesn't talk like we do as evangelical Christians, and so his way of describing his faith may not appear to line up with others. He just expresses his faith in a different way than many evangelical Christians do."

"Yeah. I've never seen any arrogance...I think he's very outspoken, and I think he is - what's the old saying? If it's true, it ain't bragging."

"But I - but I just - I just know you don't get where he is in life by not telling the truth or by being dishonest in business and by treating your employees unfairly. And it's just not possible."

And lest anyone doubt that Jerry Falwell, Jr. is approaching a full-fledged schizophrenic break with these bizarre assertions, here are two articles that go a long way to refuting every single one of them:

"Donald Trump’s Deals Rely on Being Creative With the Truth" (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/17/us/politics/donald-trump-business.html)

"Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy"(https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trump-is-a-unique-threat-to-american-democracy/2016/07/22/a6d823cc-4f4f-11e6-aa14-e0c1087f7583_story.html)