Blog Archives

How to Weaponize Love

weaponize-love

 

No matter where you grew up, no matter what you think about me or the world we share, I want you to understand that I love you. You are human and you deserve to be loved, no matter what. We have all absorbed ideas from the world around us and many of these ideas were designed to prevent us from appreciating one another and to promote a false narrative of scarcity that is used deliberately against us all. It doesn’t matter who is ultimately responsible for this, because we don’t need that information to solve this problem. Lets begin with the understanding that I love you as we approach any disagreement we may have.

When I stumble onto a comment thread full of insults and anger, I don’t engage in order to feel superior or prove others wrong. I’m not trying to make them think the same way I do. I’m hoping to convince them to think more deeply about the source of our conflict. Even if we are ideological enemies, I acknowledge they have enough intelligence to engage in the issues and real compassion or they wouldn’t be there in a struggle to make the world a better place. We both want to fix what it broken and that suggests we can find common cause.

If you want to solve the problem of human suffering, it helps to ask the question “who benefits?” from conflict that has been manufactured by the power structure. There is a game the “ruling class” has been winning for centuries and it is called Polarization; a.k.a. “divide & conquer the peasants, keep them  busy fighting for the scraps that fall from your table while you grab all the wealth their labour has created and abscond to your bunker on a private island before they figure out how you’ve deceived them and come after you with torches, pitchforks and a noose or a guillotine.” Read history and you will see this play out over and over again when corruption gains a toehold and infects a government.

Greed leads to corruption, inequality and injustice, which causes increasing suffering which can then erupt in revolution which may lead to positive change or create a police state. Fear is the ultimate weapon that is used to keep people under control. The one force that is powerful enough to overcome this vicious cycle is human compassion, as we’ve seen in every successful revolutionary movement in the past century. Solving human suffering requires compassion, which is why polarization and maintaining conflict is so important to the powerful forces of greed, corruption and tyranny. I am learning everyday how to reject ideas that are designed to weaponize fear and preserve the dysfunctional status quo. Whenever I catch myself  feeling smugly superior to another person, I stop and think: “How am I allowing polarization tactics prevent me from appreciating this person’s unique gifts and finding common cause with them?”

You may find this hard to believe, but when I engage a person who appears to be ‘troll,’ I can de-escalate from an argument to a conversation just by refraining from insulting them. When I stick to ideas and ignore the results of social conditioning, I can even find common ground – yes, actual agreement on many important issues. My experience tells me we can defeat the powers of corruption, fear, greed and tyranny by weaponizing love and human compassion. If you want to see evidence of how this works, just observe those who care for others.

Think about how conflict is encouraged within and between all kinds of groups:

  • Liberals vs. conservatives vs. environmentalists
  • Natives vs. colonists vs. immigrants vs. refugees.
  • Men vs. women vs. MRAs vs. feminists
  • Middle class vs. low wage workers vs. unemployed vs. homeless
  • International banks vs. developing nations vs. transnational corporations vs. planet Earth

 It is amazing to watch what happens when we start paying attention to what we all have in common. We’re all human and we want life, health and happiness for ourselves and our families and friends. We all want to get along with our neighbours. We want to offer help to those who need it, just as we hope help will be available to us when we need it. We didn’t get to the top of the food chain by defeating larger predators in single combat, but by working together for mutual benefit. If you have more than you need, consider building a longer table instead of a higher fence because human progress is based on cooperation, not competition.

Imagine a world where people are worth more than profits and justice is more important than ‘shareholder value.’  Imagine a world where every institution respected human dignity and the fundamental rights of all people to life and health. Imagine dismantling institutions that poison, maim and kill.  Imagine people everywhere sharing their gifts and strengths to end corruption and build a better system based on cooperation instead of competition.  Imagine how we can use the power of social media to organize people instead of anesthetizing them.

Do your own research. Learn about anti-corruption legislation. Learn about alternatives to consumerism, like libraries that lend toys, tools and kitchen appliances. Learn about seed banks and urban agriculture. Consider joining a credit union. Every problem has a solution, most have several and you don’t have to pick just one. When you find a idea that you think will make your world a better place, share it with others, because we’re all like neurons in a global brain, transmitting important knowledge far and wide. We can solve all our problems by working together, so lets end polarization. The drums of war are beating, but I have no fear because I have the one defensive weapon that can never be overcome, not even by my death. I have love.

 

Destroy the “One Ring” of Corporate Greed

awakupedia

 

I stand with Standing Rock because I recognize they are at the front line in the war to save the biosphere from greedy   corporations. People need to learn the truth about who really has the power today, and why the truth is hidden.  That is why I’m building AWAKEupedia, to build a collection of  IMPORTANT LINKS WORTH SHARING. #ILWS is a hashtag people can use to spread awareness about any issue, including DAPL.

It is important to understand that solving any of the life-or-death problems we face requires us to ACT to take our power back. Americans will not enjoy democracy again until they dismantle the corrupt two party system controlled by Oligarchs. If you are sick seeing no progress while greedy billionaires continue raping the planet to death, consider sharing and discussing these ideas with your friends and family:

  1. Giving the Senate to democrats means Bernie Sanders becomes chair of the Budget Committee.
  2. If you think climate change is a big deal, even Ron Paul thinks you should vote for the Green party
  3. Don’t buy the narrative of ‘inevitability’ the media promotes. It is a lie.
  4. Don’t get important information from corporate media sources, they spew propaganda.
  5. Don’t lose sleep about who ends up in the white house this time around, the secret government is real.
  6. The way to take democracy back is to by-pass the whole corrupt political system using ANTI-CORRUPTION ballot initiatives, starting at the municipal and state level.
  7. The way to save the biosphere is to establish ANTI-ECOCIDE laws at the local, federal and international level.

 

 

Before the Flood Needs a Sequel

earthrisekillingmemeI just watched Before the Flood on National Geographic, hoping that the filmmakers dug deep enough to get to the root of the problem. Although the film is a strong call to action, I was disappointed that it didn’t follow the story far enough to locate and identify the source of political inaction in America.  The sad truth is that corruption is so extensive, and the political institutions so compromised that voting will not fix this problem unless and until anti-corruption ballot initiatives are passed in every state and eventually in Washington to get fossil fuel money out of the political process.

One of the saddest moments of the film was scientists blaming themselves for failing to inform the public, but that failure cannot be laid at their feet. The fourth estate – the news media – has failed spectacularly, an there is little hope for improvement now that corporate ownership is more concentrated than ever. The mainstream media frames issues and shapes public opinion. Algorithms on social media and Google are manipulated to promote the same narrow view of what is possible. Noam Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent” exposed the Propaganda Model but having accused the media of complicity, that understanding of power was  never allowed to bubble to the surface of public consciousness in America. It is time to wake up and connect the dots between political corruption, corporate malfeasance, and media complicity. We need to lay the blame where it properly belongs. As Utah Phillips said:

The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.

This is no time for blind optimism, but fear of the future won’t help either. The time has come to get angry at the crimes fossil fuel companies commit, especially in North Dakota. We need to recognize that what is ‘legal‘ and what is ‘right’ may be very different, in a world where corporations have been allowed to write laws that members of congress often don’t even read.

Before the Flood is a great documentary, but like the Paris Accords, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. I strongly recommend that in his next film, DiCaprio focus on the obstructionist fossil fuel corporations, even if they threaten to sue. If we’re too afraid to step on the toes of the oil giants, we cannot hope to stop them from destroying the biosphere. They have too much power and they are not going to give it up voluntarily. The world would be a better place if the biggest multinationals were broken up into smaller units.

The next film I want to see will focus on the current DOJ investigation of the horrifying fact that EXXON KNEW about man-made climate change in 1981 and spent decades hiding the truth and lying about it. A crime of that magnitude should result in prison for perpetrators and the company should be liquidated.  Ecocide should be recognized as an International Crime Against Humanity under the Rome Statute and people of all nations should demand that their governments ratify the treaty. We need to fight to take back control of our governments and hold the fossil fuel giants to account. We can all begin by standing with Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Climate Crisis Solution: Reclaim Democracy

earthrisekillingmemesmall

I just watched the trailer for “Before the Flood” and spotted a serious error made by one of the talking heads interviewed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest documentary. The interviewee says:

“Politicians will do what the people want them to do. Once the American people are convinced, the politicians will fall in line very quickly.”

This fundamental error is the reason climate change is still getting worse. Gilens and Page wrote a paper that demonstrated in 2014 that although politicians respond well to the wishes of billionaires, the average voter has “little or no independent influence” on public policy. This is a difficult fact to accept, as is the reason people have not been shouting louder about the climate crisis.

Ten years ago Al Gore tried to convince us of “The Inconvenient Truth” (2006) that climate change was the most pressing issue of our time. Gore was correct, but his ideas were attacked and marginalized by organized right-wingers. The documentary “Merchants of Doubt” (2015), based on a book of the same name, unmasks the climate deniers, but fails to appreciate the role the corporate media plays in controlling the narrative. For that you have to go back to “Manufacturing Consent” (1992), to learn how the Propaganda Model works. The consolidation of media ownership is part of an even larger problem described in “The Corporation” (2003) which makes the case that if  a corporation was a person, they would be considered a psycho.

This is the fundamental root problem of climate change. The biosphere is not under threat because you ate a hamburger this week (although it would be better if you didn’t). The problem is that the greed of billionaires is out of control. The climate scientists are not experts in the politics of power. The mainstream media produces propaganda instead of journalism. Corporations are abusing eminent domain not for public good, but for private profit because the Supreme Court condoned their behaviour. Politicians on both sides of the party divide are beholden to their major corporate donors. The average voter is learning that, worse than being ignored by  elected representatives, even if their vote is accepted, it may not even be counted at all. Once we finally realize that the root cause of climate change is a lack of democracy, the way forward becomes clear.

When a critical mass of people wakes up, our peace officers will stop acting like rent-a-cops doing dirty deeds for greedy billionaires. Anti-corruption laws, driven by grassroots action and ballot initiatives, can take government out of the hands of corporations and Wall Street banks, and restore it to the people. Electoral reform can break the corrupt two-party system and ensure that paper ballots are used to audit electronic voting machines. The debate system can be opened up so smaller parties are not unfairly marginalized. When the people take back their power they can stop greedy corporations from destroying the biosphere and solve all kinds of problems.

Every problem has a solution, most have several and you don’t have to pick just one. If you want to be part of the solution, share these ideas with your friends, family, co-workers, clients, classmates and neighbours. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

 

 

Important Links #WorthSharing

Opinions are like arseholes – everybody has one. Facts are more useful, but can be manipulated, spun and suppressed. If you feel something is going very wrong in the world, you’re not alone. Opinions differ on which of the many problems we face is the most important, but consider this: problems like gun control, political corruption, poverty or climate change will not be solved unless and until the electorate reclaims the power to do so. Too few realize the extent to which a handful of greedy billionaires control both the social/cultural narrative and public policy. We live in a world that increasingly resembles the Matrix: a web of lies and fabrications designed to keep the rich and powerful, well, rich and powerful. Manipulation of thought and public opinion is becoming somewhat more transparent, but also more dangerous.

I don’t have all the answers, but I try to understand where things go off the rails by seeking the views of some of our greatest thinkers. I hope this ‘starter set’ of links will help people with their own learning.  As you review these links, notice that I put this list together BEFORE Trump stacked every department and regulatory agency with billionaires who will benefit by further dismantling the checks and balances that used to safeguard the democracy you no longer have.  Threats to the working poor and the biosphere have never been greater.

  1. AMERICA IS NOT A DEMOCRACY:

Great video explains the problem: ‘Corruption is Legal in America’ : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tu32CCA_Ig

Evidence for the video above and proof you don’t live in a democracy – ‘The Princeton study’:  https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf

Politicians admit it: https://theintercept.com/2015/07/30/politicians-admitting-obvious-fact-money-affects-vote/

Income Inequality chart (outdated – was already horrifying but now its MUCH worse!):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM

6 men have more wealth than half the planet: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/02/20/morbid-inequality-now-just-six-men-have-much-wealth-half-worlds-population

What people want:   http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/norton%20ariely%20in%20press.pdf

Important Documentary “The Corporation”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y888wVY5hzw

Very important documentary (also on Netflix):  https://vimeo.com/ondemand/requiemfortheamerican

Warning from a Billionaire:  https://www.ted.com/talks/nick_hanauer_beware_fellow_plutocrats_the_pitchforks_are_coming?language=en

How they get away with it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RPKH6BVcoM

What they’re getting away with;  http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2014/11/17/fixed-fortunes-biggest-corporate-political-interests-spend-billions-get-trillions/

Lobbying facts: https://represent.us/action/5-facts-lobbyists/

and finally, here is a brilliant NON-PARTISAN solution to the problem (the American Anti-corruption Act): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhe286ky-9A

Canada isn’t much better, because if you replicated Gilens & Page here, you’d get the same results despite 2 unique features:

1. First-past-the-post elections often give 100% of the power to a party that earned less than 40% of the votes. That’s how we ended up with NAFTA.

2. ‘Party discipline’ tells MPs to vote the way the ‘leader’ tells them regardless of what their constituents want.

2. VOTING ISSUES – cheating happens, just not like the GOP thinks:

Florida’s Implausible Primary Results:  http://www.hollerbackfilm.com/blog/wass-can

Strip & flip: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/is_the_2016_election_already_being_stripped_and_flipped_20160404

Whistleblower video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEzY2tnwExs

DNC primary:  http://hubpages.com/politics/Election-Fraud-Report-Seeks-to-Decertify-Primary-Results-for-Hillary

Gerrymandering;  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/03/01/this-is-the-best-explanation-of-gerrymandering-you-will-ever-see/

State corruption rankings; https://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18822/how-does-your-state-rank-integrity

Better voting system:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End-to-end_auditable_voting_systems

Electoral Reform; why first-past-the-post is unfair:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo&feature=youtu.be&list=PLrWOPUJBrn62lagQRxaMcsOPi4bhXttP_

*new* NY Democrats admit illegal primary purge:  https://gritpost.com/nyc-board-of-elections-violated-law/

3. The “DEEP STATE” governs (why Obama promises were not kept) :

Vote all you want, the secret government won’t change; https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/10/18/vote-all-you-want-the-secret-government-won-change/jVSkXrENQlu8vNcBfMn9sL/story.html

https://theintercept.com/2016/10/27/when-cia-and-nsa-workers-blow-the-whistle-congress-plays-deaf/

Police State:  https://theintercept.com/2016/10/12/do-not-resist-the-police-militarization-documentary-everyone-should-see/

Shadow Government: http://www.salon.com/2016/01/05/controlled_by_shadow_government_mike_lofgren_reveals_how_top_u_s_officials_are_at_the_mercy_of_the_deep_state/

Foreign policy; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RC1Mepk_Sw

Ron Paul; http://anonhq.com/ron-paul-vote-want-secret-government-wont-change/

Double Government: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-double-government-…/5411785

Glennon Article: http://harvardnsj.org/wp-content/…/2014/01/Glennon-Final.pdf

War is a racket:  https://archive.org/stream/WarIsARacket/WarIsARacket_djvu.txt

Inverted totalitarianism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_totalitarianism

4. CORPORATE MEDIA FAILURE:

Great conversation about the failure of the fourth estate:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnqfYKdC1_8

“Manufacturing Consent”:

Chomsky explains the ‘propaganda model’  in less than 7 minutes  (I know his voice is as exciting as listening to paint dry, but that last sentence really ties it up and puts a bow on top): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RPKH6BVoM

Military/NFL propaganda: http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/the-super-bowl-promotes-war/

5. “TRADE” AGREEMENTS:

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS);  http://www.citizen.org/investorcases

TPP is the dirtiest deal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnC1mqyAXmw

TPP rules: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhJ_2Nx-e9Q&feature=youtu.be

TPP, TTIP & TISA:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rw7P0RGZQxQ

Essential documentary ‘The Corporation’ should be show to EVERY student in high school:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y888wVY5hzw

Universal Basic Income – because a) We’ll still need to eat when all the jobs not shipped overseas are done by robots, and b) rich people don’t create jobs – consumers do.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqESogRgrYw

6. ECOCIDE is a Crime Against Humanity:

http://eradicatingecocide.com/the-law/what-is-ecocide/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/apr/09/ecocide-crime-genocide-un-environmental-damage

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2010/may/04/top-10-ecocides

https://www.endecocide.org/examples/

Water crisis documentaries list; http://www.watercache.com/blog/2011/10/must-see-water-documentaries-provide-insight-into-future-water-crisis/

Pipeline Spill Stats map/video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rxqUXqPzog

Great lakes threat;  http://www.ecowatch.com/first-ever-footage-of-aging-tar-sands-pipelines-beneath-great-lakes-1881801621.html

Funny #NoDAPL video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9TR9G5bd7w

Abuse of Eminent Domain threatens EVERY American homeowner:    https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/03/12/the-devastation-caused-eminent-domain-abuse/yWsy0MNEZ91TM94PYQIh0L/story.html

7. CORPORATE CRIMES (a very small sample) :

(Thanks for some excellent links, Shane Alg)

– Exxon knew about the catastrophic effects of anthropomorphic CLIMATE CHANGE by the 1980’s, buried the knowledge and lied about it. See pg 13 of this document: http://insideclimatenews.org/sites/default/files/documents/AQ-9%20Task%20Force%20Meeting%20%281980%29.pdf

– Merchants of Doubt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8ii9zGFDtc

– Lead in Flint’s water:  http://www.detroitnews.com/…/epa-stayed…/78719620/

– Chromium 6 (toxin) may be in your water:
https://www.theguardian.com/…/chromium-6-erin…

-Valeant raises price on lead poisoning drug 2700% after Flints criminal disaster
https://www.statnews.com/…/valeant-drug-prices-lead…/

-Pesticides driving bees to extinction
https://independentaustralia.net/…/epa-confirms…

-Dupont knowingly poisons our water, spreading cancer
http://www.nytimes.com/…/the-lawyer-who-became-duponts…

-Hydraulic fracturing turns Oklahoma into the earthquake nightmare
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/induced/

-Unprecedented gas leak in California town makes neighborhood uninhabitable
http://m.csmonitor.com/…/Huge-gas-leak-undermines…

-Neighborhood explodes in flames, killing eight, due to poorly maintained gas lines
http://www.mercurynews.com/…/pge-found-guilty-on-six…/

-Oil companies allowed to inject toxic waste into California aquifers
https://www.propublica.org/…/ca-halts-injection…

– Koch Brothers poison a town:  http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-whistle-blower-accuses-the-kochs-of-poisoning-an-arkansas-town

– Cheney Loophole:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-grandia/how-cheneys-loophole-is-f_b_502924.html

– More reasons Cheney should be in prison:  http://wakeup-world.com/2015/03/17/revealed-fracking-used-to-inject-nuclear-waste-underground-for-decades/

– Prison slavery: https://news.vice.com/article/prisoners-all-over-the-us-are-on-strike-for-an-end-to-prison-slavery

– Fluoride & cancer?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClqK7XvfLg0

– Fluoride as a neurotoxin; https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/fluoride-childrens-health-grandjean-choi

– Geneticist David Suzuki explains why GMOs should be labelled: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl0-Ds6Cioc

– et tu Disney?  https://splinternews.com/disney-retaliates-against-the-la-times-after-damning-ex-1820120649

– owned by one of the richest men on the planet:  http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/zara-istanbul-unpaid-workers-inditex-bravo-clothing-tags-notes-a8037256.html 

 

8. IMPORTANT NEW LINKS:

If there is one dynamic we need to understand it is how the ruling class uses divide & conquer tactics to prevent us from finding common cause and working together on solutions to the most fundamental problems. One way they do this is to play the polarization game by using identity politics to split people who suffer into the smallest demographic groups possible in order to prevent them from finding common cause and organizing to solve the most fundamental problems that underlie the suffering of many different groups. This article uncovers a clear example of how this works:  https://www.truthdig.com/articles/black-panthers-think-black-lives-matter/

Divide and conquer is such an effective tactic, its not just the ruling class that uses it: http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/31/media/russia-facebook-violence/index.html

You can be anti-unfettered-capitalism without being literally Stalin: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/10/how-to-be-a-socialist-without-being-an-apologist-for-the-atrocities-of-communist-regimes

Finally, an obscure bit of history we can learn from:  https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/10/anti-rent-war-movement-feudalism-new-york

Please let me know in the comments if any links are broken and need fixing or if you have good links to share.

Thanks!

ps: ‘Murica needs a new hat:

 

Dear American Voter

greed

When Bernie Sanders said if you’re white you “don’t know what its like to be poor” during the heat of a democratic debate, I knew exactly what he was getting at, even though he didn’t phrase it well. If you are white and poor, you are not poor BECAUSE you are white. If you are white and poor in America, you are NOT poor because a non-white person took your cookies. If you are poor and white, it is because the greed of billionaires is out of control.

The political system has been so corrupted by crony capitalism that the millions of poor Americans now include not just blacks, Latinos, seniors and students, but increasing numbers of hard-working whites whose jobs have been shipped overseas. It is now clear that the rising tide of economic recovery is not lifting boats punched full of holes by the corporations who hijacked the government and write the laws and tax code for their own benefit.

Things are bad, but there is a silver lining in this storm cloud. Now that the ranks of the poor have grown to include millions more Americans, they have a common cause against the multi-national corporations. America is now an Oligarchy and if the TransPacific Partnership is ratified, it will be impossible to restore democracy without violence and bloodshed. The neoliberal ideology of selfishness has been exposed as morally bankrupt, destructive and unsustainable.  This is why America is feeling the Bern.

#BernieSanders2016 #FeelTheBern
http://www.facebook.com/connectallthedots

U.S. IS NOT A DEMOCRACY

“He never let the truth get in the way of a good story” was a line of dialogue from TV show that probes the depths to which the human mind can sink. A good narrative is so compelling it can blind us to the truth. This quirk of human nature has been exploited by con men for centuries and Maria Konnikova’s “Born to be Conned” in the New York Times provides some interesting examples of smart people who fell prey to con men. The other key to a successful con game is that people want to believe in good; that the bad guy will get his comeuppance and that hard work will be rewarded. This is the narrative our culture trumpets via books, film and television, but we’ve been conned.

Consolidation of media ownership has enabled the cultural narrative to be controlled by a shrinking group of players. The occasional mea culpa, like Bill Moyers’ Buying the War, is supposed to satisfy the masses that the free press is still working, but the conclusions reached in the documentary contradict that view. Although the producers don’t pretend that the media’s failure to challenge the evidence leading up to the war in Iraq was unique, they fail to explore any potential solutions. This supports the spreading view that mainstream news is nothing more than corporate propaganda.

The mainstream media is no longer the free press that is necessary for a functioning democracy. The stories that don’t get told are often the ones that citizens in a functioning democracy most need to hear. Moyer’s documentary tells one such story about the unheard reporters who were correct that the Bush Administration was lying like a rug. Another important story that is getting short shrift is that the United States is no longer a democracy. It’s worth repeating: your Federal Presidential Constitutional Republic is no longer a democratic institution, but an Oligarchy. Government “of the people, by the people, for the people” as Lincoln put it, has largely perished in the United States.

The influence the average American voter has is so small it has a statistical significance “near zero.” This is from an academic study published in 2014 and was ignored in the mainstream media. In a functioning representative democracy, the knowledge that your democracy isn’t representative of the vast majority of people and therefore doesn’t function would be considered newsworthy. While MSNBC was almost the only mainstream outlet to run the story, they did so under a limp headline and let the story die of neglect. The flip side of the story is that if you’re a billionaire, you still have all the representation money can buy.

“Democracy” and “Freedom” are as American as apple pie, and represent core beliefs that citizens embrace as part of their identity. Presenting evidence that their core beliefs are untrue doesn’t go over well because of the psychological phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance.” This refers to the same mental discomfort a child feels when an older sibling first spills the beans about Santa Claus. Our natural human habit of avoiding pain means we tend to cling to false beliefs if the truth contradicts our long-held worldview or core values.

The pain of cognitive dissonance, the unwillingness to accept that the Bush Administration deliberately lied in order to start a war which killed thousands of Americans, contributed to the outcome that the perpetrators got away with it. That kind of massive injustice isn’t supposed to happen in America, but there are other examples. The Vietnam War, which killed over 58,000 Americans, was triggered by an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin that didn’t happen. During the Gulf War 30 years later, columnist Sydney Schanberg reminded journalists that they’d been “bamboozled” by President Johnson about Vietnam, but also lamented “the apparent amnesia of the wider American public.” Liars keep getting away with it because people prefer a soothing lie to a painful truth.

The media could do things differently, in theory, but how many reporters are willing to speak truth to power in the current climate of corporate consolidation and downsizing? What does that say about the news we see today about ISIL in Syria? The fact that the CIA largely created ISIL doesn’t get much play in the U.S., but the Guardian ran the story in the U.K. back in June. Today the drums are beating for Americans to risk their lives in a futile effort to solve a problem created by their own government. The OrwellianWar on Terror” not only cannot be won, but winning arguably isn’t even the endgame. The military-industrial complex that outgoing President Eisenhower warned of benefits enormously from ongoing conflict. Peace doesn’t pay, even for reporters.

President Obama recently gave a speech on terrorism and gun control, asking Congress to support the bombing of ISIL in Syria. He looked as grey and weary as any U.S. president approaching the end of his term. It could be that his administration, like the media and the public, are being swept along by forces beyond their control. It could also be true that the owners of major defense contractors are quite pleased with the direction things are going. The gun dealers enjoy increased sales in the wake of mass shootings as they warn America to arm themselves against the threat of home grown terror.

If the news media had fulfilled their traditional role, members of the Bush Administration would likely be in jail for war crimes by now and the 9/11 Commission might have reached very different conclusions. It used to be said that knowledge is power, but even though knowledge is more freely available than it has ever been, the game doesn’t seem to have changed much. In the 2016 elections, the U.S. may reach a significant tipping point where the population finally catches on and takes a course not charted by the establishment. President Bernie Sanders may be a game changer, as he seems to be the only candidate willing to acknowledge the truth about the serious flaws in the system, let alone fix them. Pay attention to the media bias against Sanders and towards the establishment’s choice, but don’t expect to see coverage of the Democracy Spring event or the represent.us anti-corruption campaign. If you want to live in a functioning democratic republic, use social media to share important knowledge while you still can.

 

Click the embedded links to find sources and/or interesting supporting material, some of which is rather offbeat.

Also recommended:

Corporations can edit Wikipedia too, but SourceWatch is an awesome website to help you figure out the agenda behind a press release. Here are a few of their portals;

Wage Crushers

ALEC Exposed

A Wiki on the Koch brothers

This interview, in two parts, with Noam Chomsky. It from about 25 years ago, but stands the test of time.

This Ted Talk about who rules the world.

puppets

Cognitive Dissonance is a Killer

Middle-aged white guys are killing themselves at alarming rates and the experts don’t know why. The suicide rate for men in their 50s increased 49% in the decade ending 2010. According to the CBC;

A recent study, co-authored by this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, Angus Deaton, found that a long-term decline in death rates changed direction in 1999 for middle-aged, non-Hispanic white Americans, especially for the segment of that population with only a high school degree or less.

I don’t think the trend is surprising nor the reasons mysterious and, despite what the “men’s rights” windbags contend, it is not the fault of women or feminism. These men who are failing to thrive were brought up in a kinder, gentler world, where income inequality was considerably less. When they were growing up, the middle class was booming and every generation seemed to be better off than the one before. That is clearly no longer the case. Working class Joe did what society expected him to do, but the rewards that were promised have not been not forthcoming.

The new reality of low economic mobility coupled with extreme income inequality grinds against the deeply entrenched, but now mostly false, belief that the “American Dream” is possible. Millions of Americans have been shoved out of the middle class into poverty, and the depth of that poverty is getting worse. In short, the working class white guy has finally figured out that he’s been lied to, and he feels duped and powerless. He didn’t see it coming, so he feels he’s failed to protect and provide for his family. That is a heavy burden to carry alone, and traditionally, men have been socialized to be stoic and not reach out for help, so they suffer in silence until it becomes too much for some of them to bear.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. – Wikipedia

If we’ve been lied to all these years about the American Dream, what other core beliefs are just delusions? Here’s a hard one to swallow: America is no longer a democracy. Let that sink in. The ideal that Lincoln put forth in the Gettysburg Address of government of the people, by the people, for the people has indeed perished in the United States of America. The government is now more accurately described as a corporate-controlled Oligarchy. An academic study done by experts at Princeton and Northwestern concluded in September 2014 that policy decisions are driven by the economic elite and the average voter has a level of influence on public policy that is “near zero.” That’s right, the average voter has no power, no influence on the legislative process. Let. that. sink. in. This is a really tough truth to absorb. That uncomfortable feeling – a painful sense of betrayal – is called cognitive dissonance.

It not news that money is power and power is money. What many failed to notice is that there has been a massive transfer of wealth into the pockets of the 1% from the rest of us.  The ultra-rich are hoarding vast amounts of capital and passing it down to their children, so the oligarchs at the top of the pyramid are using and abusing inherited wealth to buy influence and control politicians and policy. The game is rigged. The concentration of media ownership means that mainstream media does not distribute truth, but propaganda that shapes public opinion to keep people distracted from the fundamental shift of power into the hands of the economic elite. We could solve the energy crisis by hooking up a generator to George Orwell spinning in his grave.

Middle-aged, working class white guys are now on a level playing field for the first time with millions of others from marginalized groups who can’t help but think “karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?” The powers that be have always used our differences to divide us with the political weapons of fear and anger. Even the poorest white people considered themselves better off (or just ‘better’) than their black neighbours. There is certainly a tradition of dis-empowered men building up their own egos at their wives’ expense. If even the formerly privileged white guy finally realizes he’s just as screwed as everyone else, what is left to divide us with? Many men still cling to the idea that competition is better than cooperation. When a critical mass of people understand that compassion is more likely to lead to happiness, we may see a shift in consciousness that leads to greater social justice, reduced inequality, and greater prosperity for the 99%. However, that isn’t going to happen in an Oligarchy.

The way out of this mess isn’t rocket science. The same forces at play in the U.S. have been at work in Canada, where we finally kicked out a right-wing Prime Minister in favour of one who promises to reform the electoral system to make it more fair to voters. Electoral reform is the key to taking democracy back. In Canada it means getting rid of first-past-the-post so our votes aren’t wasted. In the U.S. the biggest issue is campaign finance.  Now that Americans are learning that they don’t live in a democracy anymore, what are they going to do about it?

Edit: Bernie Sanders could have done amazing things.  Perhaps people will wake up by 2018.

 

Here are some links to some other interesting ideas;

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/03/financial-crisis-corporate-power-george-monbiot

 

Some Problems GMOs Won’t Solve, and Some that it Will.

The latest article widely shared by the ‘anti-label’ community seeks to simplify the debate and steer it away from the real issue. The one key issue that GMO labels will absolutely address is transparency. There is a reason food producers are obliged to list ingredients and nutrition information on packaging. The consumer needs this information in order to make informed choices, if that is what they wish. Of course, there are plenty of shoppers who look at price tags and ignore ingredients, and they will likely continue to do so. The principle of “Informed Consent” means that withholding information is wrong, even if you believe on the available (however limited) evidence that there is probably no harm in long-term human consumption of a diet high in genetically engineered foods.

The safety issue is a red herring. The pro-GMO lobby often try to trip people up by saying there is no proof of harm when in truth, the types of research that would answer questions of safety with respect to long-term human consumption have not been undertaken. Nor does anyone expect that sort of study to be undertaken by the GMO promoters, as they have nothing to gain by it, but everything to lose in a simple cost/benefit analysis. With respect to the four arguments raised by Nathanael Johnson in Grist;

1. Too much technology in my food

The author correctly raises questions about the process of mutagenesis, in which chemicals or radiation is used to trigger mutations in the target organism. Changes to the genome that emerge from this process are unpredictable and may affect any part of the genome, so why isn’t mutagenesis among the genetic engineering processes that we demand labels for? Good question, and I thank Kevin Folta at the University of Florida who first brought this issue to my attention.

In my opinion, telling us whether or not our food should be labelled is not the job of science. The role of scientists should properly be to help inform policymakers and the public of the differences between various types of genetic engineering and to be clear about what existing research does and does not tell us about the possible repercussions with respect to human health. When considering a hundred billion cows that ate GMO feed for 90-120 days and were still healthy at the end of that period, just before they were slaughtered for food, we cannot draw the conclusion that feeding RoundupReady or BT corn and soy to human children year after year will have no affect on their health. Thus recent headlines asserting that the “GMO Debate is Over” were demonstrably false, and Forbes and/or Jon Entine should have changed that article’s title accordingly. Even if labels don’t reduce the amount of ‘technology’ in the food supply they are essential to uphold the principle of “informed consent” that underlies existing labelling laws.

2. Pesticides

I’m not wading into the whole complex pesticide issue except to say this. I think it would be awesome to know what chemicals are applied to the food in the produce aisle and/or what chemical residues remain on/in the food and in what concentrations. A girl can dream. Even though problems associated with pesticide use won’t be solved by labels, labels are still a good idea.

3. Corporate Control

The premise that this problem won’t be solved by labels is not a valid argument against labeling. The problem of corporate control of food is somewhat overshadowed by corporate control of everything else on this planet including our post-democratic governments. People who came out in droves to protest inaction on climate change are starting to catch on that the solution involves taking back control of the government and regulatory agencies from the corporations that successfully bought them. The revolving door between regulatory agencies and industry needs to be policed to curtail corruption. Regulatory capture has accelerated the capitalist processes of deregulation that have been gathering steam since the 80’s and this trend needs to be reversed. Even though they won’t solve the problem of corporate control, labels are still a good idea.

4. Patents

I can’t think of any impact food labels will have on any issues around patents.  If I’m missing something, I’m sure somebody will tell me in the comments, but once again, no matter what you think of patents on GE technology, indicating the use of such technology in the food we buy is still a good idea.

The conclusion Nathanael Johnson reaches is this:

I don’t buy the idea that if we throw lots of information — in the form of labels — on our products, we’ll be able to shop our way out of our problems. Rather than banking on this tenuous market solution, we could be addressing these issues directly.

This is true. Fortunately we are not forced into an either/or situation. The idea that “every problem has a solution” is a truism, but it may be more helpful to notice that most problems have several possible solutions and that we don’t have to pick just one. Labels can’t solve all the problems, but they are still a really good idea.

GMO Apologist Funding and the End of Democracy

I’ve been poking around for information on how the money flows from the GMO Lobby to the relatively small cadre of apologists who defend them. When clicking through links about genetic engineering (GE), the same names keep popping up. If you follow the pro-GMO money it tends to lead back to the very corporations who stand to rake in massive profits by keeping people ignorant about what goes into their food supply.

taylor

As a starting point, let’s look at Kellogg’s funding of a recent study suggesting that 100 billion cows were healthy right before they were slaughtered for food after ingesting GE feed for only 90-120 days. The study came out of the University of California at Davis, which gets lots of research funding  from ‘industry partners’ .

When I started clicking links to the Kellogg Foundation I found some rather odd data. The branding on their website is all about helping children. Nothing in the mission statement about the quality of cow feed. So I searched their grants page for UC Davis and found a number of awards adding up to over six million dollars, only a pittance of which went to grants that had anything to do with children. I fail to see how grants to livestock feed studies mesh with the stated mission of the Kellogg fund.

psychopaths

This sort of inconsistency leads to accusations of corruption and money laundering akin to what the Grocery Manufacturers Association did during GMO labeling campaigns in California and Washington state. Kellogg’s funnelled money into both of those campaigns due to concerns that GMO labeling will eat further into their profits, down 16% in the 2nd quarter. This setback was attributed to changes in eating habits rather than the boycott of Kellogs products to protest their opposition to labeling their GE foods.

trickle

I’m not attacking the scientists involved in pro-GE studies. They probably believe that they’re doing good work for the benefit of mankind. Noam Chomsky explained in Manufacturing Consent how the systemic filters ensure that the people who get ahead in the media are the ones whose outlook meshes with that of their corporate masters. There are similar filters operating in academia.

foxguard

Let’s turn our attention to the cozy group of GMO cheerleaders who jumped on that feeding study like a duck on a junebug and started sharing the shit out of it. I first found it on a Facebook page and followed the links to an article in Forbes by Jon Entine. He’s head of an outfit called the Genetic Literacy Project. Sourcewatch follows the funding through front groups and networked organizations that are funded by right-wing think tanks and ultimately the Koch Brothers, who also support anti-labeling laws.

When I started sharing my views on Twitter, I got into a lengthy exchange with Kevin Folta at the University of Florida. I didn’t find any links to Kellogg’s there, but I did stumble onto some fascinating reports on how the Koch Brothers bought a department and tried to buy the presidency of another of Florida’s state universities. Of the 12 institutions in Florida’s state system, UFlorida has the largest endowment and enrollment and also appears on the list of recipients of Koch brothers’ largesse. Unfortunately, a lack of transparency makes it impossible to determine how much Koch influence might be exerted at UF.  Regardless, it is clear that Folta has solid connections to the Genetic Literacy Project and other GMO cheerleaders who present at the same conferences.

occupytea

Why should you care who funds whom? It’s not just that a handful of corporations are trying to get a stranglehold on the world’s food supply. You should care that YOU DON’T LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY ANYMORE. Let that sink in. This is not just my opinion. Princeton academics have documented this fundamental shift to oligarchy. Predictably, this story received almost no coverage in the mainstream mediaChris Hedges  describes what has happened as a corporate coup d’etat. The same kind of stealth tactics that Big Ag pursues have also been used with great success by Big Pharma, Big Oil and Big Tobacco and Wall Street took it to a whole new level.  Naomi Klein‘s new book, does a great job of explaining how capitalism is destroying the biosphere.

let that sink in

If the corporations have already won, as Hedges and a great deal of evidence suggests, what are the people to do?  Citizens in the U.S. and Canada will have to take back democracy from the ground up, starting at the municipal level. (Take a look at what they’re doing in Seattle if you need some inspiration.) In every election at the provincial/state or federal level the number one issue we need to demand accountability on in Canada is ELECTORAL REFORM. In the U.S., campaign finance needs reform to address the corruption and legal bribery that has quietly robbed the people of their power.

people

Expect the bullshit machine try to scare you with all manner of reasons to keep the status quo. Don’t drink their kool-aid. An estimated 400,000 people who hit the streets of New York on September 21st to demand action on climate change were just the tip of the iceberg.  As more North Americans realize their country has been stolen by the .001%, I predict we will see even larger crowds in the street. The police state cannot prevail against a populist uprising.

permit

Billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer points out that when economic inequality reaches the record levels we are seeing, the result tends to be an uprising or a police state. Then Ferguson happened and showed America the police state had already arrived. Peace is a good thing. Nobody wants a violent revolution, but maintaining the status quo is not an acceptable option to anyone who values their civil rights or the biosphere we depend on for survival. If you don’t get off your arse and demand your democracy back, you will condemn your children to live as serfs on a poisoned planet, who think they are ‘free’ because the media told them so.

feudalism

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