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)



Why do SOME intellectual Democrats think Socialism is a fiscally positive Economic plan when it's SO proven internationally to be catastrophic?

Thanks for the A2A Glenn. I have read through your comments to other answers and think I have an understanding of where you are coming from and what you are looking for. So here goes….

- The kind of “socialism” that Bernie Sanders is selling is mainly a fairly vanilla New-Deal-Democrat-styled socialization of certain services, industries, infrastructure, etc. as part of a mixed economy, to generate a broader base of public goods. It wasn’t really considered a “radical socialist” idea in FDR’s time (at least not on the Democratic side), and Sanders’s proposals are really harkening back to that New Deal vision. From the perspective of the Left, the New Deal remedies are viewed mostly in a positive light, because their impact on the poor, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed in the U.S. population over time has mainly been positive (using specific metrics). So, for example, in terms of health, standard of living, purchasing power, longevity, home ownership, infant mortality, economic mobility, employment, labor relations, etc., things got a lot better for those groups than they were during the Depression.

- Since the end of WWI, however, there has been a concerted effort by the far Right to demonize anything smacking of Soviet communism, which has often involved conflating Marxist-Leninism with the social democracies in non-Soviet European countries, as well as with progressive initiatives in the U.S. (or at least placing them in the same Boogieman bucket). Of course these are all quite different flavors of political economy - and none of them is really “socialism” in the ideal sense - but that is a separate conversation. Thus the far Right likewise attacked FDR as a communist and fascist, insisting that smaller government, lower taxes and a freer market were a preferred outcome over New Deal policies.

- Fast-forward to modern day. The far Right - which became associated with the term “neoliberal” in the 1950s and thereafter - has gained significant traction in defining its “smaller government, lower taxes, freer market” narrative, successfully countering the the New Deal Democrat meme so that it now appears to be “radical” or “far Left,” when it’s actually centrist in historical terms. Neoliberal Republicans have done such a good job of this, in fact, that many conservative Americans believe things like “all socialist economies have failed,” or “the free market is responsible for our greatest technologies and innovations,” or “free market capitalism has single-handedly improved the living standards of everyone around the globe.” Now it doesn’t really matter if these are factually true statements - in reality they aren’t - because so many people believe that they are. And belief is a powerful thing: powerful enough to consolidate an often unquestioning ideological, political and economic conformance.

And there you have it. That is why many Democrats (and independent Bernie Sanders supports) view the creation of public goods as a positive thing, and can accept the term “socialism” as a description of New Deal socialization and regulation.

I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Glenn Nall: very very helpful. i am admittedly far from knowledgeable in this Socialist philosophy. did you read the response from the Norwegian young socialist democrat? i was floored by even the idea that free education, healthcare, social programs have succeeded anywhere. she is very articulate and knowledgeable, and she knows why (at least she thinks) it works in her country, unlike the things we hear from our own counterparts who seem to just hear the word Free and stop there (probably because they have to go get ready for the Trump rally demolition).

The problem I have, as I explained to this young woman, is that I just don’t hear any defenders of ANY form of Socialism using these definitions.

Has BernieSandals EVER described his idea of Soc. in these enlightening terms? Has anyone publicly? It seems to me that all of this knowledge is shared amongst a very select few people who have made it their business to know these things. The large majority of today’s voters who want Birkenstock Sandals’ (can’t help it - i really like the guy but for his politics) socialism I’m sure cannot tell you why they do.

I’ll admit to being a victim to some of the Right Rhetoric, if as you say this has succeeded in some countries. Of course, my conservative bent would raise other issues with which i would not agree in such a society, i’m guessing. But my socially accepting bent might. I’ll have to ask them. :-)

You and the young lady have opened my eyes to some potential learning.

I read this “Origins of Political Correctness” a few times, and in it this Neoliberal and Right stuff is referred to (Marcuse and his Freudian/Marxist sabotage of the vulnerable Left in the 60’s…?). I’m wondering how that version aligns with yours… The Origins of Political Correctness

I’m very grateful for your time in offering me a civil explanation. These are rare. I’m a Conservative, fiscally, mainly because i cannot disagree with the idea that free enterprise and competition is how business succeeds, since it’s how humans are naturally built to behave. and because it’s what has always worked, party lines aside. and because it’s clear that that’s what the USConstitution meant.

but i really wish to be open to new ideas and to accepting other people no matter how wrong they are - just kidding. no matter how different we are. If a form of free edu. and healthcare is presented that works and doesn’t close down every other company, i’m all for it, of course.

i’m rambling. thanks


Thanks for the thoughtful reply Glenn. I agree with you that many of the terms we throw around in the general public discourse are not always well understood, and it doesn’t help that here in the U.S. those definitions may be different than elsewhere around the globe…and may even change in different regions of the U.S. And of course mass media often muddies the waters even further, as does the seemingly spiraling polarized rhetoric of Right vs. Left. So boiling things down into what we might call “ideologically neutral” language can be challenging. :-)

As to what Bernie Sanders voters actually think about X, Y or Z - that’s tough to nail down. It’s a pretty diverse crowd. Some probably do think the platform is all about “everything for free!” Others probably read it more as “take from the rich and give to the poor.” Still others are more focused on social issues, and don’t give a damn about economics. Bernie himself has certainly been sparse about the details. For me personally, as a libertarian socialist I’m more interested in disrupting the status quo and moving away from crony capitalism, where government has come to mainly serve the largest corporations, and a constitutional democracy of the people, by the people and for the people has become a farce.

Regarding Political Correctness, there is no question that Marx had a profound influence on socioeconomic thought over the last century, which is why every person who wants to be informed about world history during that period should carefully read Capital (and not just critiques, summaries or praise of it). However, in the speech you linked William Lind is promoting a conspiracy theory (see Frankfurt School - “cultural marxism” subheading) that connects too many dots in unsubstantiated ways. It’s just not tenable, and has a similar feel to the Illuminati conspiracies at the other end of the spectrum. There is no coordinated attempt to “overthrow western culture with political correctness and multiculturalism,” and this is the playbook Lind is alluding to. Instead, what Lind, Buchanan, Weyrich and others are upset about are just progressive ideas that slowly have gained a foothold over time - some of which were indeed promoted by Marx and other socialist writers, and some of which came into focus through other movements, activists, artists, politicians, etc. They are representative of a predictable, generational zeitgeist shift that, perhaps ironically, seems to be a predictable result of affluence, knowledge diffusion, and mass communication…rather than conspiracy. And when we look into “cultural marxism” literature for supportive evidence, what we find are bizarre declarations like “Jews and homosexuals having prominent positions in the media is proof that Cultural Marxism is succeeding in the U.S.A.” Um…not really. It’s just proof that prejudice, tribalism and insecurities around race and sexual orientation are relaxing a bit - just as they tend to do in most affluent, well-educated advanced societies. We could just as easily blame marijuana for these developments…and of course be just as mistaken.

Regarding “successful socialism,” in all mixed economies, including here in the U.S., some socialized sectors work well, and some don’t. The USPS was surprisingly efficient, cost effective and popular for most of its existence…until Congress made it pre-fund its retirement program 70 years in advance. After that debacle, USPS threatened to operate in the red for the first time in its history, and since then has lost both prestige and profitability as it desperately cuts services. IMO the retirement pre-funding was a deliberate sabotage of one of the most successful and longstanding “socialist” institutions in the U.S. AmTrak hasn’t done so well. Medicare is a mixed bag. K-12 education in the U.S. has been all over the place and has been yanked hither and thither by what have often been ill-advised top-down policy decisions. Federal monetary policy itself (and ironically Milton Friedman’s “monetarism” in particular) can also be viewed as “socialist” in that it represents central economic controls (rather than relying solely on the market) - and here again, sometimes it has been helpful, and sometimes it has seemed ineffective. Fisheries and BLM have been pretty inconsistent, likely also because they get jerked around by DC politics and pocket-lining clientism - while also being glacially slow to respond to necessary change.

Interesting stuff to be sure.

(see https://www.quora.com/Why-do-SOME-intellectual-Democrats-think-Socialism-is-a-fiscally-positive-Economic-plan-when-its-SO-proven-internationally-to-be-catastrophic)

Of Pot, Guns & Trump: The Origins of Irrational, Destructively Conformist Groupthink

Obviously this short post won’t persuade anyone currently in the thrall of active lemming events, as these collective memes are highly resistant to contrary evidence. In fact we could say that one of the chief characteristics of such movements is their promotion of habitual confirmation bias and an extremely high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Probably the easiest way to appreciate parallels between the way pot fanatics, gun fanatics and Trump supporters think is to chart out some of their more exaggerated claims. And by “exaggerated” I simply mean without sufficient basis in fact to be embraced as accurate; that have too little supportive evidence to reveal any causal relationships; and that are essentially non-rational ideas living mainly in the imagination of their proponents. Some examples:



I could of course spend a few hundred pages documenting why the beliefs of each group are “inaccurate,” and perhaps I will expand this into an essay at a later time to do just that. However, there is a much easier approach, which is to challenge proponents of pot, guns and Trump to produce supportive evidence for their claims. I have done this on countless occasions, with invariably reliable results: they can’t. Instead, I will hear statements like these in response – often using exactly the same wording – from each group:

“Well the government suppresses all the good data about this. They don’t want anyone to know the truth.”

“I know there’s really good research that proves what I’m saying – I just can’t remember what it is right now.”

“I don’t trust those kinds of academic studies. They get proven wrong all the time.”

“If you’d seen what I have seen, you’d know what I’m saying is true.”

“You don’t understand what’s at stake here. This is much bigger than facts.”

“The proof is all over the Internet. You just have to look.”

“Everybody knows this is true. I’m surprised that you don’t.”


And so on. And even when a seemingly reasonable piece of favorable research surfaces (such as John Lott’s work on crime stats and gun ownership), it quickly turns out that the research methodology is flawed, and that countless other studies have come to different conclusions using the same data.

So what is happening here? From the perspective of Integral Lifework, explanations are fairly easy to hypothesize. Human beings want to have more personal agency; long for acceptance and community; are understandably overwhelmed by modern complexity and seemingly contradictory information all around them; are angered at being used and manipulated by forces beyond their control; feel out-of-sync with the rapid pace of change around them; and often make impulsive emotional decisions in reaction to all of these antagonistic variables. It’s perfectly understandable. In response to the many demands, pressures, stresses and inequities of the modern world, well-meaning folks will rely on purely emotional reasoning to react or choose a course, then seek solace and support in like-minded communities. And, thanks to mass media, the Internet, and a proliferation of propaganda fueled by both self-serving enterprises (gun manufacturers, pot growers or Trump himself) and fanatic adherents, it has become relatively easy to energize and maintain blindly conformist mass-movements…as long as you keep things emotionally charged and the facts a bit fuzzy.

I should interject here that it isn’t entirely fair to label this kind of reflexive-groupthink-adherence as “idiotic” or “ignorant.” This observation is an understandable one – and one I myself have sometimes slipped into out of exasperation - but it’s a bit unfair. Why? Because it is much more likely that the aversion to critical thinking among these groups issues from genuine insecurity, anxiety and ongoing suffering. As human beings, we need community, we need a purpose, we need to feel useful and connected and important. In fact, these are essential dimensions of nourishment in the Integral Lifework model. And when we suddenly find ourselves part of a movement that energizes our being in these dimensions (and perhaps for the first time), it is very difficult to step back, take a breath, and critically assess the validity of our trajectory. And this is especially true when our fundamental needs have not been met for years or decades – when we have been deprived, distracted and anesthetized away from taking good care of ourselves by a mainly consumerist, externalizing and infantilizing model of well-being.

What is the solution? Alas, in the short term, we’ll probably just have to ride each of these populist waves to their unpleasant conclusion. History seems to indicate that only when folks are allowed to obtain what they think they want, then realize it isn’t providing the expected result, will they become open to alternative approaches. And even then, we humans have a tendency to commit ourselves to one ill-considered path after another until we eventually find our way. Personally I believe we will have to move away from capitalist orientations entirely, with the consumerist model fully exhausted, before civil society can grapple with constructive alternatives to enduring human problems.

In the long term, I still believe there is hope…if we can survive into an era when reflexive groupthink fueled by fear and insecurity infects smaller and smaller numbers of people, until it passes away entirely. In the meantime, we can promote more nuanced and multidimensional avenues of healing for personal confusion, anxiety and suffering. In fact, as humans are meaning-making, self-justifying organisms that relish imitating each other and joining in communal activities, alternatives to more caustic memes must be perpetually generated. Something is required to fill the void. That’s what Integral Lifework practice tries to advocate, albeit one person at a time. But as long as capitalism prevails, lowest-common-denominator mass marketing will continue to promote self-serving, ultimately destructive habits of consumption, where large numbers of people will keep lavishing their personal power, money and passion on ineffective or counterproductive attempts to lessen their fear and pain – options like pot, guns and Trump.

My 2 cents.

How Can We Best Address 'The Gun Problem' in the U.S.?

From an email exchange around gun control....

I have been trying to piece together the contributing vectors of a bigger picture for large scale consequences - somewhat unique to modernity - that you've touched upon. Causality is a tricky issue with so many moving parts, but here is where I am at this point...still working out all the details....

Here are the (relatively) new variables that I believe contribute to these often unmanageable or unanticipated outcomes:

1) Superagency. Individuals - mainly through knowledge diffusion and technology availability - can have far more disruptive power at their disposal than previous generations. And by disruptive I mean both creative and destructive power. This is what makes terrorism on the scales we've seen it possible, makes rapid introduction and adoption of disruptive innovations possible (Elon Musk comes to mind), and is equally responsible for self-amplifying economic instability (runaway computer trades, for example). Combined with increased population, this helps exacerbate the potential for rapid change and disruption on scales that could never have been anticipated.

2) Complexity & Interdependence. Although human systems have always tended toward complexity, that complexity is now being amplified and abstracted exponentially. You would think this would have a counterbalancing influence on superagency, but in fact I think it feeds into it due to equally amplified interdependency: the "breaks in the chain" you allude to now go both ways, as it is now equally quite difficult to predict outcomes of complex systems or to sustain existing trajectories. It is fairly simple to disrupt complex systems (be it a power grid or a global economy) because their components are so intimately interconnected; it is equally simple (compared to the past) to create cascading social change (Arab Spring via social media) and explosive economic productivity (Chinese free enterprise zones) on very large scales in terms of both local and global population impacts.

3) Delayed Understanding and/or Willful Ignorance. There is a significant delay - both culturally and individually - in both comprehending and adapting to variables #1 and #2. This results in very human but ultimately misinformed attributions of causality for both constructive and destructive trends and events. In essence, we want to understand what is going on around us, but we don't, so we make stuff up or cling to oversimplifications. We then (increasingly, I think) deploy confirmation bias to align all emergent events with an existing (but woefully incomplete) causality matrix. Over time, when confronted with ever more complexity, interdependence and superagency, this incomplete attribution (and consequently inadequate strategic and tactical reactions) gets further and further out of sync with what is actually happening, even as our reactions becomes more entrenched and reflexive.

4) Change Pressure. This is mainly a characteristic of capitalistic efficiencies, in that innovation has tremendous commercialistic force behind it, along with massive resources to enable its reification. The speed with which a new drug, gadget, entertainment trend, etc. can be "brought to market" and replicated is...well...astounding. And, built into an increasingly global consumerism is an inherent "newer is better" mindset, so that the production/consumption cycle is frenetically amplified.

Now you might say that variable #3 isn't new...this is a normal human response that has led to things like scapegoating, fear and prejudice throughout human history. You might also say that variable #4 isn't really new either - the lemming effect likely predates capitalism. But I actually think it's quite different now, mainly because of variables #1 and #2. In other words, those with delayed understanding and/or willful ignorance can still have an extraordinary impact on the course of human events because they ALSO have superagency within complex and interdependent environments; and, likewise, change pressure is both facilitated by superagency and culturally cemented with interdependent complexity. In a nutshell, we could say that, as a species, we just haven't caught up with our own power yet; we haven't developed sufficiently (individually or culturally) to grok the entirety of the world we have built for ourselves or navigate skillfully. And, until we do, both horrific and wonderful things will happen that outpace our collective ability to manage or anticipate.

With this said, I think the only way we can remedy this situation is to attenuate ALL of the four variables in play. That is, diffuse superagency, simplify complexity and relax interdependence, increase understanding and entice curiosity, and reduce change pressure. I have a few ideas about how to accomplish these things that involve encouraging moral development and a more multidimensional understanding of the world...however, that is for the longer strategy. In the short run, I really believe that, without addressing all four variables concurrently in pretty aggressive ways, it's going to get a lot worse for all of us before it gets better.

Briefly, regarding gun control, I think some ways this approach could play out in the short run might be:

1) Diffuse Superagency: Reverse the ubiquity of powerful weapons - and the ability to fabricate them - amid the civilian population. Perhaps this could be done via a voluntary buyback program as long as item #3 below is fully implemented at the same time? And part of this would also need to rely on #4, so that companies' incentives to excite more demand and lobby against regulation is reined in a bit.

2) Simplify Complexity & Relax Interdependence: This is a longer term goal, but in the short run we could encourage more subsidiarity regarding all weapons laws, with strict enforcement of containment between communities. For example, allowing a State (or city) to pass their own local laws regarding firearms, to be respected by all visitors, with federal laws focusing on interstate and international commerce. I would of course also advocate the use of the pilot principle to test such a framework.

3) Increase Understanding & Entice Curiosity: Aggressively develop non-lethal alternatives to firearms that can fulfill 2nd Amendment considerations - and then educate people about their advantages. At the same time, collect more comprehensive firearms statistics (in explicit contradiction to the NRA's lobbying efforts...) to better understand causal relationships between crime and all weapons (both lethal and non-lethal).

4) Reduce Change Pressure: Adhere to the precautionary principle (from a regulatory and policy perspective) regarding the lethality and availability of all new weapons in the marketplace. In addition, hold companies accountable (monetarily and criminally) for exacerbating superagency by marketing high-lethality weapons to civilians.

My 2 cents.

How has the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County vs. Holder impacted voter turnout among minorities?

In answer to Quora question "How has the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County vs. Holder impacted voter turnout among minorities?"

It's horrific. In several states it immediately inspired legislation that makes it much harder for the poor, the elderly and minorities to vote - and much harder for them to challenge voting restrictions moving forward. And of course we should remember that Section 5 was designed specifically for historic abuses in these very states. In very real terms, this demonstrates how important it is to avoid appointing activist ideologues to SCOTUS. For a thorough overview of the consequences, check out these links:

'Shelby County': One Year Later

Voting Rights Act: After Supreme Court Ruling, 2016 Election Could Endanger Black, Latino Rights

Also check out this Harvard study on the impact of voter ID cards on the poor:

http://today.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/FullReportVoterIDJune20141.pdf

And of course most of the voting restrictions in these states were created to counter totally non-existent "voter fraud." There is zero evidence to support the existence such voter fraud on a large scale (we're talking fractions of one percent of total votes in even the most egregious cases) - so this is just about conservative fear-mongering and the ongoing march of ALEC to control the election process (see Flurry of Voter ID laws tied to conservative group ALEC).

My 2 cents.

Comment from Bruce McKinney: "But did the ruling reduce voter turnout among minorities? The primary election is over. It can be compared to previous elections. What was the result?"


Bruce unfortunately that metric won't help us. Turnout simply has too many input variables (type of election, voter interest in current candidates, state of the economy, major issues in the news at that moment, number of voting locations, hours of those locations, etc.) to reflect impact of a change in law. In particular, the number of folks who show up to vote, but who can't do so for various reasons (long lines, unadvertised changing of voting locations, arbitrary changing of voting hours, misinformation about voting days, removal of folks from voting register, etc.) isn't consistently measured in turnout stats - and a LOT of this is going on right now all over the country. In fact there seems to be a concerted effort to disrupt voting access in just these ways. What we can measure are things like complaints or lawsuits...which have increased considerably...but of course those too have external factors involved, so they can't really be relied upon either. However, it's really clear what's happening if you look closely: take North Carolina's changes to voter registration rules - they are now out of compliance with other aspects of the NVRA (not just Section 5), but the obstructive changes happened immediately after the SCOTUS ruling. Now...are there metrics that clearly show that NC has disrupted countless people's ability to vote? Well....no. But that doesn't make the impact of their efforts any less deleterious - or their intent any less obvious. It's pretty clear what they are trying to accomplish...at least to me within a broader context. As to that context, I recommend perusing this paper: http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1159&context=bjalp.

My 2 cents.


What are the most egregious examples of Obama's lack of transparency?

In answer to Quora question: "What are the most egregious examples of Obama's lack of transparency?"

Thanks for the A2A Joel. IMO this criticism of Obama is probably the most valid, and unfortunately also the most egregious. The fact that Obama campaigned on increasing government transparency is just salt in the wound. Here are some examples:

After a brief initial relaxation in FOIA denials, the Obama administration consistently escalated denial and foot-dragging on FOIA requests over time. In fact right now the FOIA performance has been 50% worse than the Bush administration.

The most aggressive prosecution of "whistleblowers" of any administration - often utilizing the Espionage Act to silence revelations of corruption, waste, illegality or mismanagement that has nothing to do with national security.

The secret expansion of the Drone assassination program and inclusion of U.S. citizens as targets.

Increased restrictions/managing of Press Corps coverage of the President (anywhere) and denying access to Executive Branch officials except on background.

* Shielding the CIA from investigation into torture and detainee abuse using the state secrets privilege.

In part I think this is a legacy of the expansion of Executive power under the Patriot Act; the U.S. remains in a perpetual state of war, giving POTUS additional authority to, in this case at least, violate Constitutional protections and circumvent the War Powers Act. (For more info on this do some combined searches of the Patriot Act, AUMF, and Article II of the Constitution.) Obama's secret use of power is likely a potent example of absolute power corrupting absolutely as the original checks and balances provisioned by the U.S. Constitution have been increasingly obliterated in a post-9/11 world.

My 2 cents.

What are some actual reasons why people think Donald Trump would be a bad president, not including his appearance/wealth?

In answer to Quora question: "What are some actual reasons why people think Donald Trump would be a bad president, not including his appearance/wealth?"

It's simple: Trump lacks the appropriate skills and qualifications. For example:

1) His view of reality is not factually grounded. It is not possible to make good decisions if 75% of what he says is a misrepresentation or distortion of fact (see 75 percent of Donald Trump's statements have been lies, fact-checkers prove), even if he only believes 50% of what comes out of his mouth.

2) He's a bully. In his rhetoric, demeanor, stated policy choices, etc. Trump clearly enjoys putting other people down and keeping them there in both the workplace and on the campaign trail.

3) He is ignorant. We've had ignorant presidents before (Ford, Reagan, George W. Bush, etc.) but Trump's significant lack of knowledge puts him in a special category. Just do a search on "Trump ignorant" to see how many people - foreign and domestic - observe this quality in him.

4) He's an authoritarian quasi-fascist. The main tenets of his ideology (as far as it can be identified at all) are nationalism/exceptionalism, racism, sexism, hatred, egotism and a boastful arrogance powered by the Dunning Kruger effect. Frankly he doesn't appear bright or educated enough to fully comprehend fascism, let alone operationalize it, but he promotes all of its least attractive qualities.

5) We've seen this type of leadership before in recent history, and it didn't end well. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito and their ilk have all shared many of Trump's traits. Should we perhaps learn from this...?

Examples of Trump's behavior in these areas are...well, all over the Internet.

Comment from Michael Williams: "T Collins - you seem educated, well-informed. So my question is this - and take it as a voter wanting to learn more - do you seriously think Stalin, Hitler, etc comparisons are legitimate and fair? I listen to the man talk everyday, and to me, he seems like a populist. Is that a foreshadow sign of authoritarian governing? It's not like his ideas are exact opposite from every candidate...I am losing the place where he is so different on the issues. I understand his demeanor is strong, but isn't that what we want in a meeting with Putin? Ol Jeb cant even talk without a stutter. Look forward to your response...I just want to become more educated."


How someone comports themselves in front of a camera has very little to do with how they would lead, and charismatic rhetoric won't work well in addressing the real complexities of global statesmanship. We can examine Trump's many failed businesses, his strong propensity to lie, his neofascist rhetoric (racism, nationalism, populism, hate-speech, encouragement of violence, etc.), and the fact that his own office is filled with pictures of himself (even on his desk), and quickly recognize the same megalomania and narcissism that infected other quite dangerous leaders in the past - to wit Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini. In this sense, the comparison is quite fair. And this sort of populist bullying is not new in the U.S. either - don't forget Senator McCarthy. My point is we have seen all this before. History is quite clearly on the verge of repeating itself. And yes, I agree that Putin is also a megalomaniac, but I don't think that warrants a neofascist response - containment need not be aggressive or totalitarian to be firm.

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

How can conservatives and progressives differ so on fundamental questions of right and wrong?

Some thoughtful answers in this thread. Here’s what I would add as an abbreviated overview, in the format of Characteristic: Conservative ← → Progressive.

Moral Judgements: Traditional, Conditioned, Confident and Unquestioned, Authoritative, Reflexive, Tribalistic, Egoic, Projectively Oriented (Self-to-Other), Permanent, Rigid ← → Considered, Tentative and Conditional, Dynamic, Altruistic, Inclusively Oriented (Others-to-Self), Temporary, Intuitive, Flexible

Values Emphasis: Group Belonging/Acceptance/Dependence, Individual Safety and Sovereignty, Negative Liberty, Personal Power and Responsibility, Winning ← → Emotional Independence (Individuation), Collective Safety and Opportunity, Positive Liberty, Collective Power and Responsibility, Sharing

Primary Beneficiaries of Ethos: Established Privileged Class and Individuals Who Share Same Values ← → All Classes and Values Orientations Collectively

Dominant Drivers: Fear, Anger, Aggression, Conflict, Hurt, Acquisitiveness, Grief, Disconnectedness, Perpetuating Us vs. Them ← → Compassion, Acceptance, Harmony, Generosity, Joy, Connectedness, Perpetuating Togetherness

Cognitive Evaluation Patterns: Black-and-White Categorizations, Fact-Resistant, High Tolerance for Cognitive Dissonance, Doubt-Resistant, Belief-Centric, Pessimistic ← → Nuance and Gray Area Categorizations (Ambiguity), Fluid Evidence-Based Revisions, Suspended Conclusions, Doubt-Susceptible, Belief-Skeptical, Optimistic

Dialogical Extremes: Legalistic, Callous, Pedantic, Autocratic ← → Wishy-Washy, Bleeding Heart, Endless Dialogue, Analysis Paralysis

There is more along these lines, but as you can see it is almost as if we are talking about to different species of human being. And in fact that may not be out of the realm of possibility. We may be observing genetic predispositions that predictably express as “conservative” or “progressive” phenotypes over time. That is, actual differences in the types of intelligence or perception available, different access to empathy, abstract reasoning capacity, tolerance for complexity, ability to grow and mature in various dimensions of self, etc. And if these differences really are this fundamental, then the ability to compromise or synergize may be limited.

However, I think something else is in play…namely, that a lot of effort - and money - has been thrown into exploiting conservative characteristics to serve corporate political and socioeconomic agendas. The reason we see so many conservatives thinking, spending, speaking and voting in lock-step is because their susceptibility to groupthink has been consistently and pervasively manipulated for many decades. This has created a unified front of bizarre, factually frail, often conspiracy-driven attitudes and beliefs that energize conservatives to act against their own best interests, but for the clear benefit of corporatocracy.

Meanwhile the progressives are not unified, are unclear about their political and economic priorities, and are unable to act as swiftly or decisively as conservatives to consolidate power.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/How-can-conservatives-and-progressives-differ-so-on-fundamental-questions-of-right-and-wrong/answer/T-Collins-Logan

If political ideologies are unrealistically Utopian then shouldn't we ditch them for something practical?

In answer to Quora question "If political ideologies are unrealistically Utopian then shouldn't we ditch them for something practical?"

Thanks for the A2A Arion.

This question creates an interesting tension. For the person who believes a particular "Utopian" proposal is achievable, "practical" solutions may seem cynical or overly compromising. For the person who is focused on short-term achievements within an existing system or context, viewing themselves as a Pragmatist, "Utopian" is dismissed as "pie-in-the-sky." For the person who believes they know what the Utopian is aiming for, and what the Pragmatist is aiming for, but has a plan to achieve those desired ends through moderating a different central assumption or tacitly accepted factor, proposing a seemingly unrelated approach that hasn't yet be considered - well, both the Utopian and the Pragmatist may take issue with this seemingly irrelevant approach (let's call this Outlier), and dismiss the Outlier as either not understanding the problem, or not appreciating the best mechanisms for resolution. Then of course we have the Radical, who is committed to disrupting and perhaps even destroying the status quo, because they view the ideas and efforts of Utopians, Pragmatists and Outliers as equally weak and ineffective.

Throughout history, we have also seen various combinations of these perspectives in a given person or movement - or phases of development in cultural or institutional changes that seem to parallel these positions. But really, it is incredibly difficult to persuade any of these positions that the other positions are attractive, possible or viable...and that amplifies polarization and gridlock in any polity. So what is the way out? One way out is facilitated by another type of person: the Political Genius. This is someone who can weave together disparate perspectives to create a working solution, a solution that appeals to each perspective as having the potential to satisfy their ideology in some way, but which is actually not aimed to satisfy them but something entirely unanticipated (by anyone but the Political Genius) - in other words, it aims for a much more surprising outcome that falls squarely into an entirely different, often undisclosed ideological bucket. And these Political Geniuses are understandably rare - and are usually not seen as Geniuses at all, except by those who have cultivated a particular lens of historical and contextual appreciation. Another way out is spontaneous popular uprising that operates entirely outside of the established system at first, but whose ideas are integrated into existing civic institutions. We saw this happen to a limited degree with the Occupy and Tea Party movements. Lastly, another way out is either self-induced or externally-imposed calamity, which forces everyone to reconsider their positions in light of a harsher reality with more limited choices.

From a global perspective, we seem to be approaching the point where, if a new Political Genius or popular uprising does not nudge the status quo into a amore sustainable trajectory, humanity will encounter the mandatory adjustments induced by global calamity. And of course this same inevitability seems to be echoed in smaller scale in many countries, cities and communities. Now IMO there are other mechanisms that can help create ongoing flexibility, so that neither calamity nor uprising nor special Political Genius are required to facilitate change. Among these are a combination of scientific inquiry, direct democracy, moral development, multidimensional education, and more egalitarian and participatory economics. But are these ideals Utopian, Outlier or Pragmatic? I consider them to be Pragmatic, but a Tea Party person might see them as Utopian, and a Statist Progressive might see them as Outlier...and so on. Thus we come full circle to the need for a Political Genius, popular uprising or disruptive calamity to set us on a different path...at least until these other mechanisms of advanced civil society can be fully operationalized.

My 2 cents.

Why do some Americans want the US to become socialist?

Quora answer to "Why do some Americans want the US to become socialist?"


First a correction to your primary assumption: *the U.S. already IS socialist*. The U.S. Military, our highway system, our national park system, the U.S. Postal Service, Medicare, etc. are all examples of socialized enterprises. A primary aspect of socialism is simply public ownership of services and production. The other aspect is public management of the economy, and the U.S. has that as well through its many regulatory agencies, the Federal Reserve, its federal monetary policies and so on. That is why the U.S. economy is described as a "Mixed economy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_economy)," because it contains elements of both socialism and market capitalism. So that's one important point: you might want to rephrase your question as "Why do some Americans want the U.S. to become more socialist?"

The second important point is that there are many, many different kinds of socialism. When I have conversations with conservatives who aren't very well educated on this topic, they will often lump communism and State socialism into the same category as libertarian socialism and democratic socialism. *But these are all distinctly different things*. It would be like saying that Switzerland has the same political economy as Cuba - and of course that's just silly. In the same vein, most folks would probably never say that "China is capitalist," right? But in reality they are the largest example on the planet of mixing "State capitalism" with "Marxism-Leninism" to create a form of market socialism. But a well-educated person would never say that China is an example of "democratic socialism" either, because this (along with many other forms of successful socialism) aims to be both democratic and egalitarian (see Socialism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism) for a good overview)...which China certainly is not.

So to answer the question as I've reframed it, the reason some Americans want the U.S. to become more socialist is because they observe other countries that are more socialist thriving with high standards of living and quality of life - just as other answers have pointed out. I have lived in a more socialist country in Europe and I really miss some of the benefits that country offered. **But there is also a distinctly "American" reason for wanting additional socialism in the U.S.**, and that is because America has always championed a government by the people, for the people. That was whole point of the American Revolution, right? But America has become a cronyist, clientist State capitalist plutocracy, with wealthy individuals, corporations and other special interests manipulating the democratic process, the legislative process, and the judicial system. The American people no longer have a substantive say in their own government or the rule of law. So one thing socialist systems like those in Switzerland can offer is more public control over the economy, more public control over goods and services, and even more public control over the legislative process. There can still be the advantages of a competitive marketplace, just without the corporate behemoths pulling all the strings and monopolizing whole industries. This is really a fantastic way to return democratic power to the people - through direct democracy and subjection of nearly all enterprises to public decision-making.

Right now the American people - and especially the poor and working class - must suffer the tyranny of those with the most wealth. But under distributed forms of socialism with more direct democracy (libertarian socialism, democratic socialism, community-centric socialism, a self-managed economy, etc.), all Americans will be able to participate. And isn't that what American democracy is supposed to be all about...?

My 2 cents.

What are the differences between conservatism in the United States and various countries of Europe?

Quora answer to "What are the differences between conservatism in the United States and various countries of Europe?"

Conservatism exists everywhere, and shares many similar characteristics (emphasis on free market solutions, reduced taxation, socially conservative, etc.) to its representations in the U.S. There are significant variations, however, in each culture that make each manifestation of conservatism unique, so beyond some broad generalizations the differences can be substantial; you would need to do a careful analysis of the evolution of conservatism in each country to fully appreciate the nuances. It would be incorrect, however, to say that the U.S. is "more conservative" than any European country. Some examples below.

CDU/CSU of Germany (currently has the most influence in Germany): Christian Democratic Union of Germany

Conservative Party of Norway (currently has the most influence in Norway): Conservative Party (Norway)

Conservative Prarty of the UK (currently has the most influence in Parliament): Conservative Party (UK)

See also: Conservative parties in Europe

That said, what has been upsetting the center-right apple cart in the U.S. over the past two decades has been the increasing capture of the Republican party by either far-right neoconservatives or far-right Tea Partiers. Although quite often the more extreme elements of these groups are in the minority, it is the rise (and relentless rhetoric) of these minorities that has made the U.S. conservative political spectrum seem more than a bit radical (or batshit crazy, as the case may be) to the rest of the world. There have been times when far-right elements have engineered similar upsets in European countries in recent history, but the far-right dominance of the Republican political narrative seems to have no end in sight, thanks to folks like Trump, Ryan, Cruz and their ilk. Also consider the commandeering of the U.S. House of Representatives by relatively small group of Tea Partiers, who have been both strikingly outside of the mainstream, and enduring in their chokehold. I suspect the reason this right-wing extremism appears from the outside to be more pervasive in the U.S.A. is because of how our political parties and government are structured; if we had more parties and a parliament, for example, there would be much more diverse representation and less ability for extremists to hold everyone else hostage (threatening government shutdowns, insisting on a majority-of-the-majority to authorize legislation in the House, and so on).

My 2 cents.

Is the United States morally good?

From Quora answer to: "Is the United States morally good?"

No, the United States government is not morally good. Though I'm sure many people working in our government aspire to do good - even some of the politicians - they are constrained by the following corruptive pressures, all of which could loosely fall under the heading "the coopting of democracy by special interests:"

1. **Distorted political campaigns** - huge (in the billions, as I'm sure you're aware) amounts of money spent by very few individuals to influence election outcomes and the political priorities of parties and candidates.

2. **Rampant clientism and cronyism** - the quid pro quo of backroom deals resulting from "access" granted the wealthiest supporters, sometimes to the point of their being appointed to influential government positions.

3. **Plutocratic legislation** - legislation at all levels of government written by corporations (rather than legislators) to protect their own interests.

4. **Weakened or corrupted regulatory and judicial power** - the ability to countervail the agendas of special interests or their influence has been diluted by the appointment of ideologically sympathetic judges, by the evisceration of existing protective laws, and by active lobbying that discourages regulatory enforcement.

Now if these special interests (in largest part plutocrats) had the promotion of our collective well-being as their core agenda, then the answer to your question might be "yes, it's good!" But they don't. In our current State capitalist system, these elites have demonstrated time and again that they are much more interested in engineering the best possible means of enriching themselves. And, as history documents, this has meant exploiting, enslaving and putting workers at risk; consuming natural resources until they are depleted; caustically polluting water, air, food and other necessities of life; and creating an ever-larger gulf between the rich and the poor. Greed is not good, it is incredibly destructive. But this is how capitalism has always worked, and despite decades of reforms driven by a few courageous leaders, grassroots activism and widespread civil unrest, the tyranny of commercialistic plutocracy keeps marching on.

So even though the U.S. Constitution is a pretty darn "morally good" Constitution, and democracy has proven itself to be a "morally good" system when it functions properly, and we have many folks in our government who aspire to be "morally good," all of this has been undermined by relatively few callous, self-serving, egotistical power-mongers who thrive unchecked within corporate capitalism. It is much easier to destroy than to create. And, as a result, in the course of amassing ludicrously huge amounts of money in unethical ways, the plutocrats have created generations of poor people, people with lung cancer, obese children with Type II Diabetes, people addicted to prescription drugs, poorly educated people, people who vote against their own best interests, a domestic populace armed with increasingly lethal weapons, astounding levels of consumer debt, sweat shops and prison factories all around the globe, a few wars to expand resource and labor availability, foreign populations increasingly radicalized by what they view as U.S. imperialism...and of course climate change. The special interests did it all, and none of it has been "morally good." Well, except for the fact that I can get almost anything I could want delivered to my home in two days using Amazon Prime; I guess that was worth sacrificing the Constitution, democracy, and the well-being of all humanity.

My 2 cents.

(P.S. If you are interested in some source material that supports what I've said, I'd be happy to provide it. Just be specific about what you would like to know.)

How reflective of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are currently the rights of US citizens?

In answer to Quora question: "The United States of America: How reflective of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are currently the rights of US citizens?"

Thanks for the A2A. What makes your question a bit difficult to answer is the question of intent behind certain provisions of the U.S. the Constitution, and the question of interpretation and codification by State legislatures and our judiciary in the intervening decades, and how all of this has manifested in various locations around the U.S. I suppose to generalize in the laziest possible way, we might say that, in practice (i.e. the reality on-the-ground):

1) Poor people and people of color don't have the same Constitutional rights as rich white people do in the U.S.

2) Gun laws all around the U.S. frequently reflect different interpretations of the U.S. Constitution.

3) Constitutional protections against unjustified searches and seizures are viewed quite differently by law enforcement in different parts of the U.S.

4) There is an ongoing debate across the U.S. (and as a frequent component of court cases challenging new and existing laws) regarding the power individual States retain vs. the power the Federal Government can exercise, and what the Constitution stipulates in this regard.

5) In the U.S., equal protection under the law is usually directly proportionate to one's affluence and social position.

6) Hard-won rights supported by the Constitution can be taken away quite easily - for example, the Supreme Court's overturning of voter protection laws in the Southern U.S.

7) Freedom of religion has been pretty well respected as a fundamental cultural value - as long as it doesn't conflict with other individual and collective rights.

8)The Patriot Act has done tremendous damage to Constitutional protections in the U.S., and continues to erode Constitutional standards in all levels of law, and in all branches of government.

9) The 8th Amendment has been routinely trampled into the mud by law enforcement, our judiciary and our prison system. It's a travesty really.

10) 9th Amendment expansions are frequently challenged by conservatives and Constitutional "originalists" who can't see past the end of their ideological nose. (For example, abortion rights.)

My 2 cents.

Tonight's Debate Shows How Out-of-Touch Democratic Party Is Right Now

Let's do some simple math:

1) The DNC has decided to have CNN host the first Democratic debate.

2) Only 70% of U.S. households have cable subscriptions, and that number is falling quickly - especially among younger viewers - to standalone broadband streaming services; according to the research firm SNL Kegan, the "cord-cutters" and "cord-nevers" are a rapidly growing demographic.

3) Cable subscriptions are even less common among minorities and the voting poor.

4) CNNGo, CNN's TV Anywhere service, is only available to cable subscribers, and has not yet followed standalone streaming subscription models (a la HBO, CBS, etc.). But, even if it were available as a standalone, this would require a computer or other streaming device, again eliminating the voting poor from the equation.

So, essentially, the DNC has clearly and loudly decided that young people, minorities and the poor don't need to see this debate, even though these groups are essential demographics in the Democratic party's voting base (see https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/economic-demographics-democrats/).

I have the distinct sense that, like their current frontrunner Hilary Clinton, the DNC is happy to emphasize quid-pro-quo arrangements with Corporate America. In fact, perhaps it is the DNC's tacit support of Hilary that led to their choice to have CNN be the exclusive broadcaster of this first debate. After all, they wouldn't want Bernie Sanders, so popular among young people with less access to CNN, to fuel his positive momentum.

As of this writing, it appears that six of the ten Republican debates, along with four of the Democratic debates, will be freely available via broadcast television. But if either party wanted to provide "a bigger tent," then all of the debates should have been freely accessible to everyone in the U.S.. For Democrats, this was a lost opportunity to demonstrate a meaningful difference in their promotion of a more liberal democracy. So...shame on the DNC says I.

(For additional data regarding U.S. media access, see http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/profiles/United-States/Media, https://www.ncta.com/industry-data and http://usfinancepost.com/changing-demographics-may-put-comcast-nasdaqcmcsa-out-of-its-cable-tv-business-9998.html.)

What are the weakest positions/arguments held by moderate to liberal Democrats?

In answer to Quora question: "What are the weakest positions/arguments held by moderate to liberal Democrats?"

I am still a registered Democrat because I am a political pragmatist and the Democratic party has some of the very few politicians and policy positions I can admire, and I have to be registered to vote in the primaries here in California. At my core, however, I am a libertarian-socialist. That said, some of the arguments/positions I find troubling among liberal Dems include:

1) Political Correctness and its corollaries of cultural sensitivity and aggressive feminism. All of these are predicated on the presumption that anyone in a "position of privilege" in society is obligated to self-oppress in order to compensate for that privilege. In the U.S. it is mainly white males who find themselves at the blunt end of such expectations. Although I do believe in compassionate, empathic understanding of alternative experiences and perspectives, and that power dynamics in a given situation need to be understood and appreciated, personally I think the PC movement created classic codependent "walking on eggshells" behavior that predictably self-defeats in its attempts to engineer cultural change. Why? Because it doesn't authentically empower anyone, it only synthetically and dishonestly disempowers those considered to be in the position of privilege, creating a false vacuum for those who feel disempowered or disenfranchised to fill. But the privileged still hold all the power, as they are the ones conceding it; they are just exercising that power through a kind of condescending permissiveness. Sure, language and attitudes can be violent and oppressive in horrific ways...but self-editing and self-oppression can be just as violent, without having any substantive effect on the power dynamics of a given relationship.

2) The anti-vaccination movement has been a surprise to me. This appears to evidence the kind of herd mentality we usually see more prominently on the conservative end of the political spectrum, and I am frankly bewildered by it. As I think another comment touched upon, the science just doesn't back up the linkage of vaccinations and autism, and the known risks (lower herd immunity) far outweigh the speculated benefits (lower probability of autism spectrum disorders). It is much more likely that upticks in autism statistics are the result of other environmental and genetic factors and increased awareness and diagnosis of autism itself. However a few comments here equate the vaccination paranoia with a desire for GMO labeling, and that is a conflation that simply isn't warranted. There is plentiful data to support limitation on the use of GMOs and the wisdom of informing consumers about the genetic manipulation of their food. Only a few researchers paid by big agriculture have represented GMOs as completely safe...they are just getting a lot of airtime.

3) Blindness to the shortcomings of various candidates. This has always been true across the political spectrum but Dems have tended - until quite recently I think - to be openly critical of their own, something most Republicans seem careful to avoid. This began with Obama and seems to be spilling over onto Hilary Clinton. Both of them have done a number of really awful things, things that contradict their own expressed values and longstanding values of the Democrat political platform, and Dems seem increasingly to be turning a blind eye to those shortcomings. Is this a case of supporting "the lesser evil" in the eyes of voting Democrats in order to win elections? I dunno. But I find it pretty distasteful.
My 2 cents.

What policies created the current large U.S. public debt?

Answer to Quora question: "What policies created the current large U.S. public debt?"

I think to fully understand U.S. debt we have to understand a certain kind of psychology that David Durham touched upon - albeit quite humorously - in his answer.

Imagine that you have a popular government program that actually funds itself, but that by doing so this program deeply offends a fundamental belief about how the world works, a belief that cries out "No big government!" at every opportunity, and uses the same big hammer of lower taxes to operationalize this belief. What is a person to do about such a successful, self-funding program? Why it needs to be gutted of course. It needs to be made so dysfunctional or controversial that it either loses popularity or can no longer fund itself...or both. And when U.S. Postal service was forced to pre-fund its employees' pensions 75 years in advance (see the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was passed without a recorded vote), the impact was predictable. Since that time, the Postal Service has not only struggled to stay comfortably in the black (as it had in the past), but also has eliminated popular but less profitable products and services, and been unable to maintain the customer service level that previous generations have so admired. In fact, in 2012 the USPS experienced its first ever default on a treasury payment.

We see the same psychology behind attempts to roll back Obamacare (which, even by conservative estimates, is clearly projected to help reduce the federal deficit) and countless other government programs. It doesn't matter if those programs benefit all Americans while reducing federal spending, because such success represents an ideological threat to the "no big government/we want lower taxes" camp.

But who are these dastardly naysayers...? Since Republicans are often the loudest and most transparent proponents of this ideology, it would be easy to make this a partisan issue. But Democrats are not innocent here, they are just less vocal. For example, that 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act had plentiful Democratic support for its first (failed) vote in 2005. So who or what is really behind this idealogical movement...?

It's pretty simple really: just follow the money. The parties that benefit most from the hamstringing of government - either those agencies that regulate commerce, or programs that compete with free market alternatives - are the largest multinational corporations. From the perspective of these megaconglomerates, a strong U.S. government is a pesky barrier to profit that must be brought to heal. And, in the best case scenario, the U.S. government should be making money for these corporations, not just staying out of the way. Thus pork barrel projects and excessive military spending do, strangely, go hand-in-hand with an insistence on lower taxes and smaller government, revealing the true motivation behind all of these habits. In contradiction to the battle-cry of libertarian freedom, all of this is really just carefully orchestrated propaganda intended to bend "big government" to capitalism's will, and create a reliable flow of cash into the pockets of folks who have essentially become plutocrats. It is these same influences, after all, who are increasingly successful at manipulating the U.S. political process with Dark money. In support of this overall view, I recommend you watch these: The Billionaires’ Tea Party, Hidden Wars Documentary and United States of ALEC | Moyers & Company | BillMoyers.com.

In specific answer to your question, crippling deficits and accumulation of huge debt are the natural consequence of the "no big government/we want lower taxes" meme. Just as the Postal Service will continue on its downward spiral, so will the the U.S. Government as a whole, becoming more dysfunctional, gridlocked, incompetent and unpopular, to the point when a majority of Americans have lost confidence in the whole affair. Oh wait...that's already happened! Which is exactly what benefits the plutocrats the most, so that they can continue the manipulation without entirely undermining the rule of law that sustains commerce, or losing the lovely cash machine of federal overspending. They are counting on the U.S. government to be "too big to fail," but just weak enough to be easily controlled. Of course many folks at the top of the capitalist food chain would like you to believe that big government inherently causes its own inefficiencies, when in reality many of its greatest failures (including the current paralyzation of Congress) are deliberately orchestrated. Are organizations like the Bilderberg Group behind this orchestration, or is this government-debilitating strategy just the natural habit of commercialism and huge concentrations of wealth? Time will tell. But the point is that there is a specific agenda driving every policy decision that leads to larger U.S. deficits and debt, and that most Democrats and Republicans at all levels of government are just pawns in the game.

My 2 cents.

Why does the media concentrate on conservative political donors?

Answer to Quora question: Why does the media concentrate on conservative political donors?

Because the conservatives spend a lot lot more. Billions more. But they do it through what is called "dark money." See below. I also agree with Scott D. Feldstein that the nefarious intent is a lot more explicit, and efforts are specifically tailored to get people to vote against their own best interests. I copied the following quote from a similar discussion at: T Collins Logan's answer to Why do so many Americans believe limiting corporate election financing violates freedom? I recommend you read that post as well for additional context.

"In 2014, some 71% of all spending was "dark money;" that is, the donors were undisclosed (thanks to Citizens United and other activist rulings.), see Undisclosed spending in elections threaten American democracy. A lot of this involves groups funded by both sides, but the vast majority are conservative, and that has been true for some time (88% of dark money in 2010 was from conservative orgs, 85% in 2012, and in 2014 it was about 2:1 in favor of conservative orgs, so the liberal orgs are slowly catching up). For more info see Ad Spending Tops $1 Billion; Dark Money Groups Buy Significant Share. And guess who was behind the lion's share of conservative organizations flooding these elections with dark money? The Koch brothers (see Record spending in 2014 midterm elections result of 'dark money' from unidentified donors). We're talking $400 Million here from the Koch orgs in 2014...which of course dwarfs Steyer's measly $73 Million. But the real point IMO - and circling back on the main theme of my post - is that when you read through these articles, everyone is concerned about the same thing: too much big money in politics, whether undisclosed or not, and regardless of political leaning. And so yes, to directly answer your question: we need to curtail this trend in ALL political campaigns, and from ALL ends of the political spectrum. Otherwise this is effectively the end of a democracy that represents anyone but the plutocrats."

Why does the media concentrate on conservative political donors?

Answer to Quora question: Why does the media concentrate on conservative political donors?

Because the conservatives spend a lot lot more. Billions more. But they do it through what is called "dark money." See below. I also agree with Scott D. Feldstein that the nefarious intent is a lot more explicit, and efforts are specifically tailored to get people to vote against their own best interests. I copied the following quote from a similar discussion at: T Collins Logan's answer to Why do so many Americans believe limiting corporate election financing violates freedom? I recommend you read that post as well for additional context.

"In 2014, some 71% of all spending was "dark money;" that is, the donors were undisclosed (thanks to Citizens United and other activist rulings.), see Undisclosed spending in elections threaten American democracy. A lot of this involves groups funded by both sides, but the vast majority are conservative, and that has been true for some time (88% of dark money in 2010 was from conservative orgs, 85% in 2012, and in 2014 it was about 2:1 in favor of conservative orgs, so the liberal orgs are slowly catching up). For more info see Ad Spending Tops $1 Billion; Dark Money Groups Buy Significant Share. And guess who was behind the lion's share of conservative organizations flooding these elections with dark money? The Koch brothers (see Record spending in 2014 midterm elections result of 'dark money' from unidentified donors). We're talking $400 Million here from the Koch orgs in 2014...which of course dwarfs Steyer's measly $73 Million. But the real point IMO - and circling back on the main theme of my post - is that when you read through these articles, everyone is concerned about the same thing: too much big money in politics, whether undisclosed or not, and regardless of political leaning. And so yes, to directly answer your question: we need to curtail this trend in ALL political campaigns, and from ALL ends of the political spectrum. Otherwise this is effectively the end of a democracy that represents anyone but the plutocrats.

Why do conservatives oppose environmental causes?

From Quora discussion: "Why do conservatives oppose environmental causes?"

Only a few decades ago, you couldn't generalize about this topic as you have in your question. There were, for example, a lot of conservative hunting groups lobbying Congress, happy to be in league with various "liberal" conservation movement organizations, to preserve wilderness. There were Nixon's extensive efforts as Tom Buczkowski mentioned. And further back you may recall that it was the conservative railroad industry that teamed up with "liberal" folks like John Muir to secure our National Park system. More recently, though, you will see phrases like "Green is the new Red" bantered about by both conservative and progressive pundits. There's a lot more vitriol and polarization than ever before. It seems the natural antagonism between those who wish to prioritize profit in unsustainable ways, and those who wish to preserve natural resources for future generations, is heading for a climax. And I think this is actually a fairly predictable development, for one simple reason: natural resources that were once easily obtained are becoming less plentiful and harder to procure, while at the same time the environmental damage of unregulated (or poorly regulated) industry is reaching a scope that was never imagined. To put it another way: at the same time that profits a naturally constrained by resource scarcity, the negative externalities of current and historical industrial activities are threatening to undermine new avenues of profit. [Think petrochemical companies vs. Colony Collapse Disorder (bees); fertilizer companies vs. massive fish die-offs in the ever-expanding "Dead Zone" in the Gulf (Mississippi Delta, etc.); timber companies vs. soil depletion (can't grow trees); mining companies vs. toxic runoff and silt clogging (decimated fisheries); pharmaceutical companies vs. medical efficacy (drugs that do more harm than good, or don't perform as well as placebo); fracking vs. toxic aquifers, etc.]

So it makes perfect sense that this has become a more aggressive ideological battle, and one on a much grander scale, than it has ever been before. It is in this context that Exxon-Mobile (and other Big Oil) spent millions to promote skepticism about climate science - until they were called out on it and the CEO resigned. It shouldn't surprise us at all that there is a sort of panicked groupthink that reflexively pushes back on scientific consensus, environmental concerns, corporate whistleblowers, outcomes resulting in human disease or loss of life, or other obvious negative externalities, because the engines of industry need to keep running full speed ahead, the coffers need to remain full, and the shareholders happy...and all of this is becoming a lot more difficult. Remember when the Tobacco industry insisted that a) tobacco wasn't hazardous to human health, b) adamantly denied that their companies had carefully researched how to create a more addictive product, and c) declared that nicotine wasn't addictive at all? Yeah. They even lied to Congress about it - right before all those internal documents were leaked revealing their hypocrisy. As you suggest in your question, that is indeed the psychology of profits over people, profits over the environment, profits over the future for our kids, and profits over all forms of sanity. But because the stakes are now so high - because the tensions between profitability and environmental concerns are so great - the rhetoric is that much more hyperbolic, and the lies and distortions that much more pronounced.

As an afterthought...you may be interested in reading about the Precautionary principle. It makes sound, reasonable, agreeable sense in every regard except one: it slows down capitalism. Slightly. And why is that bad...? And that there is the crux of the issue, IMO.

If we can all agree that I know what to do with my own money (needs), then why does the Democratic Party think this principle changes on a national scale?

From Quora discussion: "If we can all agree that I know what to do with my own money (needs), then why does the Democratic Party think this principle changes on a national scale?"

I'm not sure why you are singling out Dems, since Congressional deficit spending has been leapfrogging over itself for decades, regardless of which party has had the majority (let's hear it for "pork barrel!"). But to the heart of your question, I would simply ask:

- When was the last time you had a group of 100 or more U.S. veterans over to your house for dinner...and then provided them medical care...at no charge?
- Are you an expert in developing immunizations for lethal viruses, and do you have a lab in your basement to work on those? How's that going?
- Can you deliver some legal documents for me, from a California address to a Florida address, in less than four days, for 49 cents?
- Can you explain, in detailed economic terms, how an unregulated banking system could avoid boom/bust cycles?
- When was the last time you negotiated an international trade deal (G8 or otherwise)?
- Do you know how to pilot an aircraft carrier? Can you do that single-handedly?
- Do you own a Roadtec RX500 Cold Planer Milling Machine, and if so would you mind if I borrow it to resurface my street?
- And of course: what is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow...?

I actually sympathize with the sentiment behind your question: I feel there should be a lot more direct democracy in the U.S., a lot more citizens councils (selected by civic lottery) making decisions in specialized areas of government, and lot fewer self-selected megalomaniacs in any positions of power who don't really represent the electorate's interests. But it is specifically the scope, complexity and specialized knowledge of collective decision-making that has necessitated representative democracy in the U.S. since its inception. In fact we would do better to call it "technocracy" as that scope, specialization and complexity continues to increase exponentially. But this trend also requires that we have smarter, more educated, and wiser "technocrats" to help us make good collective decisions. A salient example of this is research into basic science. When Congress voted down funding for a new particle accelerator back in 1993 (see Superconducting Super Collider), they effectively eliminated U.S. research from this essential area of physics. Now American physicists court the folks at CERN. So much for American exceptionalism. But the point is that if we had a panel of preeminent U.S. scientists who were selected by lottery to both inform the public and advise Congress on such decisions, and whose recommendations had more political weight than the voices of the largest donors to election campaigns, then I suspect the outcome would have been quite different.

Do governments have a moral obligation to use tax dollars to assist poor people?

From Quora discussion: "Do governments have a moral obligation to use tax dollars to assist poor people?"

In an ideal world, any form of government would champion consensus morality, and enable a rule of law that reflects that consensus. That is the whole point of government, after all, and the attraction of democracy is that it is intended to broaden that consensus. You can quickly identify some of the moral fundamentals in the formation of U.S. federal government in our Constitution's preamble:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

To understand what terms like "blessings of liberty," "domestic tranquility" and "general welfare" actually mean (in a moral sense), you need only study the Constitution further...well, and study the full unfolding of U.S. history since then! But speaking to your question (again, in the U.S.), we read further in the Constitution:

Section 1, Article 8: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States..." Section 8 then goes on to enumerate the scope of government tax spending, such as in regulating commerce, establishing post offices and roads, printing money, promoting "the progress of science and useful arts" through trademarks and copyrights, maintaining a military and waging war, and so on.

So the U.S. government, from its inception, has been (morally) empowered to collect taxes and "provide for the general welfare of the United States" in various ways. That is, it was intended to have this moral authority imbued by a consensus of "We the People." Again, though, how has the meaning of these terms (liberty, welfare, tranquility) evolved in this context...?

There has been understandable debate over how narrow or broad of an interpretation the U.S. Congress has in its discretion to define general welfare, liberty and domestic tranquility, and to tax and spend accordingly at the federal level. You can read about some of this debate at these links: General Welfare clause and General Welfare. However, by following the development of both the Constitution itself (via the Amendment process), court rulings over many decades, and the elaboration of specific rights in State constitutions, what constitutes the expression of these moral imperatives in U.S. law has become more and more refined. It is exceptionally clear, for example, that the federal government has a critical role in championing civil liberties (our individual rights to practice religion, have free speech, own a rifle, not be searched without a warrant, to have speedy trials by a jury of our peers, to not be subject to cruel or unusual punishments, etc.). And of particular importance is the 9th Amendment, which states that the previously defined Bill of Rights "shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." In other words, we have a lot more rights not enumerated in the Constitution. This is, in fact, how all Americans were secured the right to use contraceptives (Griswold v. Connecticut) and have access to assisted abortions (Roe v. Wade).

In keeping with the spirit of Article V and the 9th Amendment, we have additional amendments that secured additional rights (again at the federal level), such as freedom from slavery or involuntary servitude (13th), the right to due process and equal protection under the law (14th), and the right to vote regardless of race, skin color, previous servitude, gender, ability to pay a tax, or being 18-20 years old (15th, 19th, 24th & 26th). And all of these obviously contribute to liberty, domestic tranquility and providing for the general welfare. However, some state constitutions go a lot further, and are very clear about the inclusion of assisting the poor, providing education, and promoting public health as part of the moral scope of their governance and taxation (see 'To Promote the General Welfare' | ACS). New York's Constitution is particularly transparent when it reads in Article XVII that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state."

As you can see, the use of tax dollars to "assist poor people" is an ever-evolving issue. The 24th Amendment and the subsequent Voting Rights Act were specifically targeted to assist the poor in voting - an instance which irrefutably supports the use of taxes to fulfill moral obligations to the underprivileged. The 13th Amendment certainly targeted the poor as well, as did the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. And how can the 5th/14th Amendments' Due Process clause be fulfilled (i.e. no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law) without poor folks being appointed a public defender? Again, here taxes are being spent (predominantly) on poor people. But of course the extent of governmental powers to proceed in this fashion is still a hotly debated topic. At one end of the spectrum are those whose romantic, unrealistic ideals of anarchy or unfettered capitalism resist any authoritative form of government, and at the other end we have folks who unrealistically romanticize the extent to which government can act for the public good. In reality, our current "mixed" political economy (see Mixed economy) is somewhere in the middle, struggling to balance variations of these interests and ideologies. But the point is that, until the U.S. Constitution is specifically amended to limit the government's moral obligation to promote the general welfare, liberty and domestic tranquility through taxation, that is precisely what government is intended to do. The only substantive debate in the political mainstream regarding this obligation has been what should occur at the state level vs. what should occur at the federal level.

I hope this was helpful.

Why are more liberals not libertarians?

From Quora response to "Why are more liberals not libertarians?"

I think it would be helpful to clarify your terms. Both progressives and neoliberals can be classified as "liberal," but with very different political orientations. Left-libertarians and right-libertarians are both "libertarian," but they are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of economic models and vision of what the anarchistic endgame looks like. After reading through all 108 answers here, I was surprised that so few folks who answered your question actually clarified these variations, which are pretty essential. Sure, it is easy to conflate "libertarian" with anarcho-capitalist, since the Koch brothers and their ilk have done an excellent job reframing the Tea Party movement in that light. And it's easy to assume anyone who self-identifies as a liberal is NOT a "classic liberal," but left-leaning on issues of social justice. However, IMO it is absolutely essential to differentiate and use the appropriate terms for the ideologies being discussed. That said, kudos to the half dozen folks who did elaborate on these nuances in their answers. :-)

With this said, I am definitely both a "progressive" and a "left-libertarian." It's quite easy to be both, because on the one hand a progressive prioritizes improving the quality of human existence for all people, however that may be accomplished (see Progressivism) and on the other some form of transitional libertarian socialism (see Libertarian socialism ) seems like an excellent direction to take from where we are now to reify progressive values. The details of how to get there is - as with any new vision - where the real debate begins. I have some ideas I proposed in a recent book (you can download a free copy here: Political Economy and the Unitive Principle : T.Collins Logan : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive), and Noam Chomsky is also of course a great source for this brand of libertarianism.

So the real issue here as I see it may be that not many people have informed themselves about what the terms "libertarian" and "liberal" really represent.

My 2 cents.