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

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

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

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

As always, feedback is welcome via emailing tcollins@integrallifework.com

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

Thanks for the question.

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

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

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

Why are Western democracies failing...?

Thanks for the question.

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

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

Thanks for the question Alex.

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

So that leaves us with two distinct questions:

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

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

These are fairly easy to answer, IMO.

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

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

In proposed order of the overall scope of benefit:

China
Russia

Turkey

Pakistan

Iran (though this will likely be countered by Israel)

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

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

Canada and Mexico (as a joint trading block)

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

India (if it can ever get its act together)

My 2 cents.

Why are economists giving up on Milton Friedman theories?

Thanks for the question. So here’s the deal with Friedman…

IMO a lot of his theories sound really good — especially to those who lean toward market fundamentalism (Austrian School folks, Rothbardian right-libertarians, Randian objectivists, neoliberals, etc.). And Friedman’s self-confident style of discourse — often pedantic and even combative — has added to his appeal…again, especially for certain kinds of personalities and ideological leanings. And one lasting truth is that Friedman does have some interesting ideas, and that some of those ideas have what we might call “partial merit.” Friedman’s monetarism is a good example, since it only holds true under very specific conditions — conditions that support a relatively constant and self-adjusting velocity of money. And since there have been short periods where this kind of predictability and stability were available, Friedman’s views were vindicated by the use of monetary tools at those times. But when new variables have been introduced into the picture — indeed when the larger, longer and predictable macroeconomic economic cycles are taken into account — then the stability of monetary velocity and long-term “neutrality” break down…and break down fast. And Friedman’s prescriptions break down right along with them.

There are things I like about Fiedman — his promotion of guaranteed minimum income, for example — but, like many of his other ideas, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support the efficacy of that approach. And…and this is the really important point IMO…there is a LOT of evidence that whenever Friedman or his Chicago Boys got involved in economic policy in a given country or region, things got pretty bad for those populations. All around the globe, developing countries in particular are still reeling from the structural adjustment policies, aggressive privatization, loosening of government regulation and other bad advice that Friedman promoted over 40+ years. And this is why economists are “giving up” on Friedman’s ideas…not because they don’t have “partial merit,” because they do. But they also — by and large — have had pretty disastrous results whenever they were not implemented within, and constrained by, what is essentially a more Keynesian macroeconomic framework.

In this particular case (the linked article for the OP’s question), the “permanent income hypothesis” again sounded really good — reasonable, predictable, rules-based. Friedman was a genius at bringing order to chaos. It’s just, well…people, and markets, and the consequences of economic policies, and the highly variable inputs and outputs of all human systems, remain pretty chaotic regardless of the rules (or, in this case, expectations) imposed on them.

My 2 cents.

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

Thanks for the question.

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

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

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

Thanks for the question.

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

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

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

Is the United States economy due for a correction?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

What tears a culture apart?

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

1) Culturally reinforced atomistic individualism, coupled with willfulness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

8-) Promoting multiculturalism instead of interculturalism.

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

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

My 2 cents.

How often do you have emotional or psychological experiences that are beyond your ability to comprehend?

I found this question particularly amusing because there are certain areas of my life that I consistently find to be “beyond my ability to comprehend.” I’ll touch on those in a moment, but first I wanted to offer that I think the vast majority of emotional and psychological experiences that people have are — at least initially — beyond their ability to comprehend. It’s just that human beings are very skilled at post-rationalization/post-justification, so that they will project their preferred (or habitual) veneer of meaning onto a given experience almost reflexively…whether it has anything to do with a confirmable reality.

Okay, with that said, I find the following emotional and psychological experiences beyond my ability to comprehend on a regular basis:

1) I get really, really angry when people cut into a ticket line, or use the HOV lane when there is only one driver in the car, or claim they are next at the deli counter when they really just arrived, etc. When I see someone being greedy, selfish and deceitful like this the anger just fills me to the brim. But why? Why do I become so upset? This is just how some people are — they really don’t care about anyone but themselves. Why can’t I just be more accepting and compassionate towards their flaws and weaknesses…? I dunno. But it’s got me stumped.

2) When Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. Presidential election I was stunned — truly in awe of how utterly gullible, ignorant and foolish American voters could be. But my awe was quickly replaced with a deepening depression that has lingered ever since. Why can’t I shake this sense of doom and gloom? Why can’t I just work positively toward the next election and effective change, instead of regurgitating my disbelief and confusion each day? Why do I suffer through such sadness, and why can’t I shake it? Sometimes I will evoke the image of Gandalf confronting the Balrog in the Mines of Moria, and that helps. But most of the time, it’s all truly beyond me.

3) Throughout my life I have known some folks who are really hilarious. Not in a contrived, calculated way…but just natural comedians. They breathe humor like it’s just regular air. I am so bewildered by this. Even now I can think of things that some of them have done or said — or an expression they made with their face once — and just start laughing. Laughing and laughing. And that spontaneous humor is so wonderful and precious, and I cherish it. But what is it, really, at its essence? Where does it come from? And why do I think it’s so funny…?

These are just some of the bewildering aspects of my particular existence.

My 2 cents.

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

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

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

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

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

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

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman: Averaging Wrong Answers

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

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

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

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

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

Seasoned bump-fire shooter with $99 kit:

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



Pretty obvious amateurs giving bump-fire a try:

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



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

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

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

My 2 cents.

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

How is fascism created from "capitalism in decline"?

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 2 cents.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



References:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Why are people like Noam Chomsky (considered the greatest philosopher today) never interviewed on major media stations?

Chomsky’s views were not considered all that radical or non-mainstream in the 1960s, when institutions, government, corporations and the societal status quo were being challenged and questioned en masse. He was part of the populist wave of salient criticism and intellectualism of that era.

However, since the concerted neoliberal efforts to recapture media, cultural institutions and government since the early 1970s (see Lewis Powell’s Memorandum: Attack On American Free Enterprise System), Chomsky has been pushed farther and farther out of the mainstream - and certainly the mainstream media.

Just consider how successful the neoliberal agenda has been on several fronts in its expenditure of billions to increase its cultural and institutional controls over civil society - and most particularly with respect to the media - while lining the pockets of the wealthy along the way:

1. Election of **Idiot #1** (Ronald Reagan) as puppeteered by the Kitchen Cabinet, resulting (among many other neoliberal priorities) in the end of the Fairness Doctrine and a generally persisting “anti-government” populism, regressive taxation and militarism

2. Complete takeover of the IMF/World Bank to facilitate self-enriching globalization

3. Creation and lavish funding of conservative/far right media

4. Further globalization under Clinton, as well as a more aggressive onset of regulatory capture

5. Installation of **Idiot #2 **(George W. Bush) under the careful handling of Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, with a handsome war profiteering success and decimation of government institutions, and near complete regulatory capture

6. Inventing then corrupting the Tea Party movement

7. At long last capturing the election process itself (dark money protected under corporate personhood “free speech” via Citizens United)

8. Election of **Idiot #3 **(Donald Trump) as a direct consequence of the economic impact of neoliberal policies on the folks who so angrily blamed everyone BUT the neoliberals!

Now how could the media, who are so carefully directed by these wealthy elite, ever interview someone who pulls back the curtain to reveal the aging rich white dude pulling all the levers…? We’re much more likely to witness Milton Friedman’s artful propaganda being replayed instead…because that feeds the false narrative rather than contradicting it. And, as a final nail in the coffin of Chomsky’s media viability, he of course says and writes stuff like this: What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream, which basically explains that mass media - even public and academic media - is a parasite feeding off corporate wealth and, unwittingly or complicity, fulfilling their agendas.

My 2 cents.

Post-Postmodernity's Problem with Knowledge

Sell Sell Sell


This may actually be a pretty straightforward problem, with a challenging but nevertheless obvious solution. Here's my take....

I would propose there are nine primary forces at work in present-day knowledge generation, dissemination, evaluation and integration, which I would sketch out as the following inverted values hierarchy:

A. Titillation to entertain or make money.
B. Arrogant ideological agendas.
C. Tribalism and groupthink.
D. Extreme, self-protective specialization of informational domains and language.
E. Democratization and diffusion of knowledge.
F. Appreciation of an ever-increasing complexity and interdependence of all human understanding.
G. An understandable fluidity of exact knowledge.
H. Critical self-awareness.
I. The humbly inquisitive ongoing search for truth.


What seems immediately evident when looking these over is that personal and collective values have tremendous influence on the efficacy of a given approach to knowledge - and, perhaps most importantly, this influence can and does defy any institutions created to sustain a more diverse or fruitful values system. For example:

1. If the profit motive reigns supreme, then titillation to entertain or make money will trump all other variables. This has clearly had a role in news media, where entertainment and sensationalism have far outpaced accuracy or depth. More subtly, this has also had an impact on scientific research, where competition for grant money has distorted methodology and data in order to attract sufficient funding.

2. If a particular belief system is venerated above everything else, then arrogant ideological agendas destroy truth in favor of persuasive propaganda - especially when combined with tribalism and groupthink. We see this with religious indoctrination and exclusionary bias (i.e. denial of empirical evidence), with conservative news media that promote neoliberal political and economic agendas, and with the refusal of institutions of higher learning to allow truly diverse or controversial perspectives among their events and curricula.

3. When democratization and diffusion of knowledge is prioritized above every other value, then we end up with the armchair Dunning-Kruger effect, where folks believe they have mastered a complex discipline after reading a few Internet articles, and are then able to confidently refute (in their own estimation) the assessments of more educated and experienced practitioners in that field. Social media seems to provide considerable reinforcement of such knowledge-distorting self-importance - as do participatory systems and institutional dialogues that refuse to qualify or evaluate sources of information or their veracity, and give all input equal weight.

4. With extreme self-protective specialization, we end up with isolated islands of understanding that do not fully comprehend or appreciate each other - and in fact often can't function harmoniously together in society. One consequence of this are graduates of universities who are preoccupied with scholastic performance at the expense of actual learning, or who cannot understand their field in a way that actually adds value to its execution in the real world. In other words, an education system that rewards one narrow flavor of performance, while devaluing creative productivity in order to generate compliant specialists.

There are also some nasty values combinations in the post-postmodern era that seem increasingly pernicious in the destruction of knowledge, mainly because they deliberately exclude F, G, H & I - that is, the humbly inquisitive ongoing search for truth, fluidity of exact knowledge, critical self-awareness, and appreciation of ever-increasing complexity and interdependence. Really, whenever these four characteristics are deprioritized or absent, insight and understanding tends to be thoroughly crippled. But let's briefly take a closer look at each of these fundamentals....

What is "critical self-awareness?" I think it could be summarized many ways, such as taking one's own opinion with a grain of salt, or having a healthy sense of humor about one's own understanding, or being able to effectively argue against one's own position and appreciate its flaws - i.e. some of the central themes of postmodern thought. The "humbly inquisitive ongoing search" is certainly a kindred spirit here, but also implies that our journey towards the truth is never-ending; it's not just humility about conclusions, but about the process of seeking itself. Appreciating the "fluidity of exact knowledge" is an additional variable to balance out other, less rigorous impulses. It means there will be few black-and-white conclusions that are accurate; that ambiguity and imprecision are inevitable; that assertions should be tested in small arenas for limited periods, rather than as sweeping revisions; and so on. This fluidity does not, however, insist on a nihilistic or dismissive orientation to qualitative truth; on the contrary, it can recognize and integrate absolutes while remaining keenly aware of context. And, finally, "complexity and interdependence" means that we will of necessity be synthesizing a collective understanding together - there isn't much opportunity for elitist leadership or vanguardism, except perhaps in a few highly abstracted or technical areas. In other words, functional truth is perpetually intersubjective. At the same time - again as a balancing factor to the diffusion and democratization of knowledge - we will also need to appropriately weight the insights of experiential "experts" to help us navigate complexity.

These four characteristics can be viewed as attitudes, character traits, virtues, priorities, beliefs, operating assumptions, etc. The point is that if we prioritize these four above all considerations - subordinating our other beliefs, reflexes and desires to them - we can begin to formulate a healthy, fruitful relationship with knowledge, both culturally and interpersonally. If we don't prioritize these characteristics...well, then I suspect we'll keep making the same kinds of errors that have led us into our current state of apoplectic befuddledom. We simply can't afford to constrain the four essential qualities of truth-navigation in a straight jacket of what really should be extraneous and subordinated values and habits. And thus we arrive at a proposed values hierarchy that maximizes the utility of any approach to true and useful knowledge:

A. The humbly inquisitive ongoing search for truth.
B. Critical self-awareness.
C. An understandable fluidity of exact knowledge.
D. Appreciation of an ever-increasing complexity and interdependence of all human understanding.

E. Democratization and diffusion of knowledge.
F. Extreme, self-protective specialization of informational domains and language.
G. Tribalism and groupthink.
H. Arrogant ideological agendas.
I. Titillation to entertain or make money.

As you can see, this is simply an inverted version of the current status quo. Okay...if we can entertain this thesis, how do we get from here to there? Well I think education about this issue will help, but really we need to evaluate what is generating the memetic force of competing values hierarchies, and disable or de-energize that force wherever possible. How is it that titillation to entertain or make money has gained such prominence? Or that arrogant ideological agendas or tribalism and groupthink have usurped both the scientific method and common sense? Why has extreme, self-protective specialization so often shattered collaborative, interdisciplinary exchanges and synthesis? And how has the democratization and diffusion of knowledge rallied itself into such a farcical exaggeration...? Is there a common denominator for all of these trends...?

Well I think the answer is pretty straightforward, and I along with many others have been writing about it for a long time - it was Aristotle, I believe, who most clearly identified the same core issues we face today. The central problem is our highly corrosive form of capitalism. But perhaps I should forsake my own confidence for a moment and - applying the very virtues I've exalted here - humbly offer that a culture of acquisitiveness, infantilizing consumerism, competitive egotism and blindly irrational faith will likely not facilitate the four essential qualities humanity requires for thriving and productive knowledge. And I do believe this is a cultural decision - one in which we have all become complicit, and have all reinforced through tacit acceptance of the status quo. To break free of our shackles, we will need to let go of some of the habits and appetites we most covet and adore. But I could be wrong. Perhaps we can achieve equilibrium through our continued bluff and bluster, through ever-greater fabrications, self-deceptions and carelessly conspicuous consumption. That seems a risky bet to me...but again, I might be mistaken.

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

Why haven't Russians awakened to the fact that Putin is leading Russia to economic destruction, or can Putin prevent it from becoming publicly known?


Historically, “strongman” governments like Putin’s routinely make temporary economic improvements that bolster popularity and offer an illusion of ongoing wealth production (while skimming as much off the top as possible, of course). Putin seems to have done the same. Further, his tight control over politics, media, other elected officials, major industries, the judiciary, banking and so forth make it fairly easy to perpetuate that illusion for the Russian people. It’s kind of like when dictators win “elections” for decades by 99%. Eventually, however, the “get rich quick” schemes that inherently avoid developing a robust, sustainable and competitive economy, and instead focus on raping, pillaging and hoarding of local resources (or neoliberal exploitation and monopolization by another name), will eventually hit a wall. In developing countries this is called “the resource curse.” What Putin seems to be banking on is expanding his economic and political footprint by military force, which is a very old method of sustaining economic expansion - and in a strongman’s case, prestige as well. Study any megalomaniacal dictator in history, and you’ll find they all did pretty much the same thing that Putin is doing. Until someone stood up to them, or their resources were ultimately depleted. It’s unclear what will arrive first to end Putin’s popularity, but once the Russian economy begins to stutter (and I do believe it eventually will) - perhaps as a result of increased sanctions and containment strategies, or because of a countering military action that frustrates expansion - it will become harder and harder for Putin to sustain the illusion of prosperity and maintain popular support. Perhaps that is why he has worked so hard to get a friendlier…asset into the White House?

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Why-havent-Russians-awakened-to-the-fact-that-Putin-is-leading-Russia-to-economic-destruction-or-can-Putin-prevent-it-from-becoming-publicly-known/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Why is Ayn Rand not received well in Academia?

The U.S. has somehow created an amazing space for populists, hucksters, fake gurus, TV evangelists, carpet baggers and narcissistic blowhards to not only generate broad and sustained appeal, but garner actual followers who support them and happily propagate their views. Ever read L.Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics? It’s half-baked pop-psychology mixed with pseudoscience, but Hubbard’s influence somehow still endures in the form of Scientology. In the same vein, Ayn Rand just offers an amateur pseudophilosophy of atomistic materialist individualism, packaged in a fictional narrative that attracts undiscerning adolescents. But pseudoscience is not science, and pseudophilosophy is not philosophy - the basic standards just aren’t being met. Yet manipulating fictional, populist narratives to serve personal or ideological agendas is how these kinds of movements begin in the U.S.

Consider how Milton Friedman (and later the Koch brothers) influenced the “populist libertarian” narrative, shaping a vehicle for spreading neoliberal propaganda and actualizing a crony capitalist agenda; there is very little “libertarian” in what became of the Tea Party movement, but its eager adherents don’t seem to realize that. Also consider how Donal Trump used right-wing conspiracy rhetoric to wrap half the U.S. around his little pinky - again appealing to populist sentiment and playing loose-and-fast with facts. And because the U.S. seems to have a cultural predisposition for elevating these bizarre narratives to celebrity status, they often come to be viewed by a poorly educated mainstream consumer with spotty critical thinking skills as either part of some provable knowledge base - a scientifically validated truth - or part of academia’s intellectual lineage. I suspect this cultural quirk exists at least in part due to a hyper-commercialization of the American psyche, conditioning it to addictions and external dependencies for the sake of profit. But these phenomena are just part of a haphazard spectacle - an illusion that keeps Americans distracted, entertained, and eagerly promoting plutocratic priorities while voting and spending against their self-expressed values and interests.

Now there are folks who are outsiders to academia who have offered some original and in-depth thought in various disciplines - Ken Wilber and Colin Wilson come to mind - who have gradually gained a grudging acceptance in academic discourse. But these rare exceptions have occurred not because of the popular appeal of these thinkers, but because the quality of their thought. And alas, L.Ron Hubbard and Ayn Rand simply do not rise to that level.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Jack Fogg:

"I would agree that there is very little libertarianism in the Tea Party movement. There is also nothing libertarian about Donald Trump. Ayn Rand opposed libertarianism as well.

Two questions:

1) What is the difference between pseudophilosophy and philosophy? All philosophy is one’s opinion, by definition.

2) Can you name a single argument of Milton Friedman’s supporting crony capitalism?"


Excellent questions, Jack. A competent description of the many ways Friedman enabled and propagated crony capitalism can be found in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine. I don’t always agree with how Klein presents her case…but she offers a lot of persuasive and verifiable evidence in her book. That said, you asked for a quote…however, I would steer you instead toward what Friedman actually did in his involvement with different governments over the years. Friedman’s rhetoric was artful…but his actions belied his true intentions. Everything Friedman accomplished (even while he was vociferously speaking out against crony capitalism) enabled corporations to take control of entire countries through their cosy relationship with government - and, in particular, encouraging government repression of opposing voices, ideologies and competing enterprises (i.e. the result of Friedman’s influence first in Latin America, and then via IMF and World Bank “structural adjustment” policies). And how did he accomplish this? Through himself engineering deliberate government actions and policies of course…not through his vaunted free market at all. The hypocrisy of the Chicago School in this regard is truly astounding. Here in the U.S., just look at Friedman’s most enduring legacy among economists and policy makers: monetarism! In other words, government intervention in free markets! But Friedman was a true artist when it came to rhetoric that distracted people away from what he was really engineering…which was an amplification of crony capitalism at almost every turn.

Regarding philosophy: there is a long tradition of critical inquiry into ontology, epistemology and the nature of mind. While each philosopher did indeed contribute their “opinion” (as you point out), they did so within a specific framework of language, established concepts, and an internal and dialogical consistency of thought. To appreciate the continuity of this tradition over time, I would encourage you to research the concept of dialectics. Ayn Rand, on the other hand, simply inserted her opinion into the cultural thought-stream of her time, without really understanding or honoring the tradition behind many of the concepts she was using. For example, she completely misunderstands Aristotle - not just in some nuanced or subtle opinion-aspects, but in a blatant-face-plant that reveals a fairly pronounced ignorance of the Philosopher. She essentially abuses a few quotes from Aristotle to support her positions, positions which completely contradict his broader themes. It’s embarrassing, really. It would be like me saying “quantum physics proves that cigarettes are a Promethean muse,” or “what Jesus said about the poor proves that corporations should rule the world.” It’s just idiotic.

I hope this was helpful info.

Comment from Anton Fahlgren:

"Very interesting. I think many people feel that what you’re saying about american culture being good for tricksters is right, is there more evidence for this than the examples you mentioned? If it is true, is it because the population is more gullible and/or because the culture breeds these over-the-top persuaders?

Donald Trump, a great example of what you speak of, got over 40% of votes, albeit in a two-party system. His rhetorical counterpart in Sweden where I live has around 15–20% of the vote."


I think the reasons are likely many, and could include:

1) The conditioning from corporate commercialism to externalize all solutions, authority and choices

2) The “newness” of the culture itself (in terms of national identity and traditions) and the consequent willingness to explore uncharted or experimental ideas

3) Very poor diets, which impacts both cognitive development and real-time critical thinking skills

4) A multi-generational experience that extraordinary risk-taking (in methods, systems, ideas, objectives, etc.) can in fact lead to amazing leaps forward in innovation and accomplishment

5) A high tolerance for cognitive dissonance among certain segments of the population (mainly conservatives who rely on fear-based reasoning)

6) A pervasive delight in spectacle, and eager willingness to “see what happens next”

7) The “spoiled child” entitlement syndrome: all strata of society believing they deserve to have whatever they want, mainly as a result of that expectation getting positively reinforced over time (i.e. national independence, ample natural resources, hard-working immigrant populations, victories in two World Wars, business accomplishments, technology accomplishments, etc.) without a clear understanding or appreciation of WHY these things happened

There are probably many other contributing factors, but these come to mind as the primary ingredients for what we are witnessing.

Muhammad Ali




I've been confronted with what seems like a fair amount of grief lately - about some small stuff, and about some bigger stuff - and Ali's death came as a shock. Arriving so unexpectedly, it invoked a bizarre dissociation before the tears came. I didn't understand why at first, and then it hit me: Ali wasn't just my childhood idol, he was the tip of the spear for everything I believed defined masculinity for most of my life. Indefatigable courage. Poetry of heart. Eloquence in adversity. Standing on principle. Belief in self. Integrity. Physical prowess and grace. Willingness to speak one's mind, regardless of the personal cost. Intelligence. Persistence. Thinking deeply about one's beliefs, then being willing to abandon cherished plans in order to live by those beliefs. Being multidimensional...and good at it. All of these things and more have remained with me for years, and Muhammad Ali was the anchor that held them in place without my fully realizing it. Even in death, he is still there, grounding the value of these qualities in my psyche; but the living force that so beautifully animated them has shed its mortal coil. That will take some time to integrate.

Now that I have thought about this, I also now know why I have allowed Ali's symbolic presence to languish in my subconscious: It was because he also offered less than positive lessons that have been very difficult for me to learn. That sticktoitiveness can become stubbornness, and stubbornness, in turn, can have tragic costs. That truth can become mean and arrogant, and that this can both undermine its effectiveness and demean the person who speaks it. That idols can have flaws. That physical violence against another human being - no matter how refined and artful in its form - is really just horrific animalism at its core. These lessons do not diminish Ali in my eyes...I don't think the young boy within my heart will ever allow that. That boy will still cheer and prance with delight at every jab and punch that Ali made with his fists and words. But those lessons temper the qualities I so worshipped in Ali back then, and rearrange the priorities of what it means to be a man - even as I am still learning them myself.