Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Empire Has No Clothes

In some ways, it could be argued that the system we call the United States of America has already lost it's momentum... Worse. In some ways, our system has already been monkey-wrenched and mugged. Worse. We've already consumed our easy to get resources. We've already polluted our back yards... Even worse. We've been immersed in American capitalist supremest culture so completely that we're unwilling to see the obvious. The Empire has no clothes.

That's what this financial meltdown has been all about.

We've been slapped with a reality check.

That reality check; we're not prepared for the present, much less the future.

But we don't want to think about it. All we want is for things to be like they used to be. Of course, that's the one thing we cannot have. We want an economic recovery, when what we need is an economic discovery. Part of that discovery is that we've been living a multi-layered Ponzi scheme. Next to nothing is sustainable.

We now know, without a doubt, that the “free market” can be played. The whole world has been played. Everyone who was anyone had a scheme to get filthy rich. And the consequences? Nobody really thought about the consequences. We still don't really want to be responsible.

They say that if we pump a few hundred billion dollars into the system and tighten up regulation a bit, consumer confidence will start building and we’ll pull out of this recession within a year.” And though we need these changes: “What they don't point out – and don't seem to understand – is that this prosperity came at a staggering price. We got rich by violating one of the central tenets of economics: thou shall not sell off your capital and call it income. And yet over the past 40 years we have clear-cut forests, fished rivers and oceans to the brink of extinction, and siphoned oil from the earth as if it possessed an infinite supply. We've sold off our planet's natural capital and called it income. And now the earth, like the economy, is stripped.”

... The party's over. Remember peak oil? Its already happened here in the US. How about peak water? Peak metal? Peak soil? Even peak food? We've got some real heavy issues to confront very soon. We simply can't afford to get into another war over resources (like we did in Iraq). Yet, though it all sounds so awful, for some people this means profit. That's what's wrong with our economic system.

We keep thinking in terms of profits (from scarcity).

- We need to be thinking in terms of benefits (from creating abundance).

We keep thinking in terms of paper wealth.

- We need to be thinking in terms of natural wealth.

We keep thinking in terms of status.

- We need to be thinking in terms of purpose.

We keep thinking in terms of better stuff.

- We need to be thinking in terms of better experiences.

We have flogged this horse long enough.

We can't go back.

The world has changed. We can argue about whether we caused it, but what we need to do is adapt.

Obama ran on a platform of “change.” But actually, the change has already happened. Our whole world has changed. The big question is; will we change with that change, or will we let it overwhelm us?

The American people can change. We want sensible, sustainable, healthy change. American people can create better ways of doing things. We are creative. But many of those in power don't want change. It might not be good for their profits. The real question is can we fix our systems enough to change – or will it be the same as it so often is with politics; too little, too late?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You Were A Fascist

If you were an American living here in the U.S. between late 2001 and January 15, 2009; you were living in what could be technically described as a Fascist Dictatorship.

Is there proof? Now there is:

President Obama just declassified critical memos written by “President” Bush's lawyer, John Woo, which nullified the Bill of Rights and created a legal dictatorship.

What... you didn't know? Don't be so surprised, truth is the first casualty of war.

You didn't read about this in the news. No wonder. It was classified. Secret. That's right, the documents that gave President Bush dictatorial powers were too sensitive for American citizens to know about. We weren't supposed to know that Bush's legal team had declared him Commander-In-Chief, with the self-awarded right to do anything he wanted to, to anyone he wanted to, for whatever reason he chose. Of course, there was one requirement. Bush would have to call you a terrorist. But once the enemy combatant claim was made, he could do anything he wanted with anyone his military or “intelligence” forces could kidnap – including Americans. That sounds like dictatorial power to me.

Were there death squads? Apparently so. Seymour Hersh (the reporter who first informed us of the My Lai massacre) has revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney headed an “executive assassination team” – that had no Congressional oversight. “Under President Bush's authority, they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people ... and executing them.” ...Of course we were at war, but that's not the point. The point is that Dick Cheney, without having to answer to anyone, could have almost anyone in the world killed... all he had to do was give the order.

The elephant in the room is, of course, Iraq. There were no Iraqis in the 9/11 attacks. There were no WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq. And the Bush Administration knew all of this. The United States invaded a country that had neither attacked us, nor were a real threat to us. (Even if they would have had WMDs, it would have been mass suicide to use them. Doesn't anybody remember MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) theory?) The Bush Administration knowingly lied about WMDs to get us to invade and occupy a country that wasn't a military threat to us. That's what dictatorships do. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, including thousands of patriotic Americans. And what for? Well... some military contractors made billions – and some big oil corporations got no-bid contracts. They (including Dick Cheney) got richer. However, our dollar is now on the brink of total collapse from 10 trillion dollars of deficit spending during the Bush terms.

And the press? Weren't they supposed to tell us about all this? One Woo memorandum said that “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.” The Bush Administration felt they could shut out the press if they were so inclined. Nonetheless, most reporters kept quiet on their own, since they all knew about the warrantless surveillance going on. Evidently, reporters knew that rocking the boat would have gotten them worse treatment than suspected communists during the McCarthy era.

But of course, there is another reason the mainstream press overlooked our little 7-year trial dictatorship. Only a handful of corporations controlled most of the mass media. For years, it was already known within the news business that promotions were only for “team players.” Most every reporter with a penchant for honest reporting had already been weeded out.

Which leads us to my Fascism accusation. Just what type of governmental system did we actually have? It doesn't make any sense that we had a Democratic Republic Dictatorship. That's a contradiction of terms. We only had Socialism for the banks and military/industrial complex. And we obviously weren't Communists. That only leaves something new – a new form of concealed proto-Fascism.

But where were the goose stepping troops? We didn't have any goose stepping troops. How could there be Fascism without goose stepping troops? Of course, that's not actually what defines a fascist state. Let's consider the dictionary's definition of Fascism; “a system of government characterized by dictatorship, belligerent nationalism, racism, and militarism.”

  • I've already shown that we were a “secret” dictatorship.

  • Our military spending is more than the next 14 countries combined.

  • I'd say our unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq has proved us to be belligerently nationalistic.

  • And for a while, if you were a Muslim, many Americans immediately suspected you of being a terrorist. That sounds pretty racist to me.

Were we fascists? I wasn't. At least I thought I wasn't. But reality is more complicated than that.

Another more technical definition of one form of “Fascism” is; an unholy alliance between the military, rich industrialists, and radical right wingers. If you don't believe we had that during the Bush Jr. years, you're probably one of those three.

During the Bush years the wealthy who owned the mass media convinced the radical right wing fundamentalists that stealing another country's oil and bringing them “American” values was what God somehow wanted – and if you didn't agree with them, you weren't a patriotic American. Of course, that's the Cliff Notes version of the argument they used, but the results were the same.

And the results? The results were exactly what you would expect considering what the real goal is for fascists. Fascists want to get filthy rich, and they don't care who they hurt in the process. Fascism is about money. In my opinion, fascism is the ultimate corruption of capitalism. And it doesn't last for long. In very short order, all of the sheep get fleeced. And then the system collapses. Is this sounding familiar?

But it could have been worse. When the financial system first started to collapse back in Fall of 2008, the Bush administration could have declared martial law. (This was a real possibility. We were already in a state of partial martial law after the Patriot Act.)

If President George W. Bush did anything truly extraordinary during his terms as President, it was not declaring total martial law. For that, I admire him.

However, declaring martial law last Fall wouldn't have been easy. The Bush administration had alienated the military by their tactics in Iraq. The Bush administration was very unpopular due to the “war,” the economy, the environment, etc. And activists on the internet were getting the message out. These guys didn't have our best interests in mind. In reality, declaring total martial law wouldn't have been a slam dunk. It very likely would have failed.

We Americans like our freedom. If we really knew how close we came to losing it all, we might have stood up and said no for a change.

...But then again, I guess we did.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Where's Cancer's X-prize?

What's wrong with the drug companies?

The answer is really simple.

They're getting paid for doing the wrong thing.

The “free market” system gives the best rewards for creating drugs that only treat, not cure patients. The logic is simple. Why make a cure that you only sell once, when you can sell a treatment for the rest of your patients' lives. The really big money is in keeping people sick.

With a totally “free market” system, we can't fix this. Its just a flaw of the “free market” that a company's best customers are like addicts. It is just a flaw of the “free market” that the ultimate goal of maximizing profits leads to making your customers as desperate as addicts. Its just a flaw of the “free market” that leads the drug companies to wish to manipulate and deregulate the U.S. regulatory system until its difficult to tell the difference between the legitimate drug industry and the street corner pusher.

Even free markets need some regulations. Even free markets need some direction. In a free country, is it legal to steal? Of course not. Without some conscious purpose, a free market is just corporate anarchy.

But we can fix this. We can pay the drug companies to come up with cures. This is sort of like the “free market,” but with a purpose and a conscience.

We could set up the equivalent of an “X-prize” for diseases. (You may recall the X-prize is essentially a reward for accomplishing something groundbreaking.) Wouldn't it be great if we could give a reward for curing cancer? How about a really big reward that would entice even the biggest corporations?

I'll bet we've spent billions during the war on cancer over the past decades. And we'll keep spending more if we don't find a cure.

What if we set up a prize for a treatment that rids us of at least 98% of all cancers. The treatment would have to be non-invasive and have few side effects. It would also have to be relatively inexpensive. In other words, we would pay good money for a practical cure for cancer.

Where would we get the money for this huge prize? Where is the money now? Right now the money is being drained from our savings accounts and insurance companies. That's right, the drug companies have lots of our money from the “treatments” they charge us (and often overcharge us) for.

Why not set up a tax on drug “treatments” that don't cure us? We would have to set things up so that the drug companies, not the consumers, would actually pay this tax. And to limit price gouging, the tax could be much higher for price increases greater than inflation.

Even a 1% tax would really add up over the years. If there had been a 1% tax on drug treatments for cancer for the past 50 years, the reward would now be astronomical! Every company, lab, and university on the planet would be scrambling for the prize.

In fact, I suspect that if we had offered a huge “X-prize” for curing cancer, we might already have a cure by now.

What would something like this X-prize take? Unfortunately, it might take the restructuring of our government. So much drug money influences our politicians now that doing the right thing is an uphill battle... But, we could get the drug companies on our side if Government funding were to match the contribution they provide. This would double the size of the prize – and bring new money into the health care system. I'd bet the drug companies would go for new profit opportunities.

Of course most importantly, in the long run, if we can find cures to the major illnesses that plague us; we will save far more money (and lives) than with our present system.

Isn't a cure worth paying for?

Maybe we just don't understand how to direct a “free” market.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The REAL Controversy

To the mass media, a controversy means money. Controversies get people to pay attention, which gets companies to pay for advertising. However, there are controversies that reduce advertising dollars – controversies that make advertisers look bad.

The reality of the “free market” controlling the mass media is that the mass media doesn't tell the whole truth. We all know this, and have passively accepted it. We even continue to spend money with those who actively manipulate our information.

Presently, our own money is being used to bore us into submission. And since omission is a form of a lie, our own money is being used to mislead us into believing what advertisers want us to know.

Moreover, our perception of today's relevant controversies has been manipulated into extraordinarily simplistic “us and them” concepts. This has been so ingrained into our minds that we often actually believe (without thinking) that this is just the way things are.

Take for example; the mass media has handed us two choices for how to view the world – you're either a Conservative or a Liberal. This simply cannot be more oversimplified. Are those who control the mass media actually trying to confuse us?

If you ask a conservative what a liberal is, your answer would be quite different from the answer a liberal would give you. Actually, Conservatives and Liberals can't even clearly define themselves. As the investigative reporter, Greg Palast once said; “In confusion is profit.”

So, why the confusion? Why not talk about the actual controversies? We know what they are:

  • Up until the economic crisis, the rich were getting richer, while the rest of us were getting poorer.

  • Those who actually caused the economic crisis have been bailed out with our tax dollars and (inflationary) deficit spending.

  • Those with money have the influence to convince our government to effectively take from those without influence.

  • Companies have influenced our government to privatize government functions in such a way as to provide less services for more money.

  • Our budget surplus from 2000 was squandered... and much worse.

  • In order to maximize short-term profits, companies have sold out American labor to foreign competitors.

  • In order to maximize short-term profits, companies have environmentally sold out future generations – and all life on Earth.

  • Established companies have been able to suppress competitors with safer and cleaner technology.

  • The military/industrial complex has been bleeding the civilian economy dry for decades now.

  • And our public airwaves have been bought out by corporations committed to convincing us that these stated controversies are less important than the vague differences between the Right and Left.

I'll tell you why we're not actually talking about the real controversies in America; because if presented in a way that made sense, most of us would agree about what needed to be done. Remember the saying “Divide and conquer.” By arguing ethereal concepts like Right and Left, we ignore what's really going on.

What's really going on? This:

  • The rest of the world sees the US on the same path as the Soviet Union, about to collapse, and yet today America is not addressing the issues that collapsed the Soviet Union.

  • The war on the rich is being waged by other rich people.

  • Our government is being run by lobbyists.

  • There is indisputable proof that other health systems work better than the American system – people in other countries live longer (and they haven't always). Yet Americans have been led to believe a system without price gouging and non-paying insurance companies would be a bad thing.

  • Drug companies don't get rewarded for coming up with a cure. So, we get stuck with expensive “treatments” for life.

  • We're still fighting a war on terrorism against a country that never attacked us (not even on 9/11).

  • For 30 years; the fossil fuel industry (although polluting, profiteering, and running out of resources), has received orders of magnitude more subsidies than renewable energy.

  • etcetera

  • etcetera

  • etcetera...

What's really going on is that the greedy have run our nation into the ground.

President Obama is in an extraordinarily difficult position. He has been handed a country that is a mere shell of it's former self. This reminds me of South Africa after Apartheid. (They gutted the system before the black guy took over.)

But President Obama is also in a unique position to lead us into the 21st century. We now realize we've been lied to. We're open to better ideas. We want change. This is his moment. History may someday see President Obama as even greater than President Franklin D Roosevelt. His challenge is greater. He not only has to fix the economy, but he has to do it in such a way so that we can support far more people in an increasingly environmentally fragile world.

Obama won't be able to do it on his own. In fact, I have doubts he wants to. The American people will have to see through the smokescreen of the mass media – and push hard for real, sensible reform – and change that ultimately leads to a sustainable economy.

Its not about Right or Left.

Its about fixing our failing systems.

After 30 years of neglect, we'd better be in a big hurry.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

we won

As everyone knows by now, the two coal-fired power plants planned for the Central Great Basin in White Pine County, Nevada have been delayed indefinitely.

We won.


Actually, everyone won. We'll all breath better now.

It has been a tough battle. Our odds looked pretty bad at the start. We didn't win any popularity contests. We always felt outnumbered. And we always felt we were fighting City Hall.

For a while; I felt like I was the only one in White Pine County who believed we could stop these companies from bringing us their problems.

I remember our first coal meeting. The people of our neighborhood got together to discuss there being a major pollution source being constructed less than 5 miles from our homes. Nobody there was happy about this. Nonetheless, after the representative from the power company explained to us what their plans were, we had a discussion. I was astounded by what I heard.

No one seemed angry. Everyone was upset, but not to the point that anyone looked upset. Everyone kept their composure – in the face of being poisoned. But worse, they all kept their expectations low. Most of the people in the meeting would have been happy if the power company just built the massive coal burner a little further away.

...These people were the resistance?

I can only speculate as to why their aspirations were so low. Maybe they felt so overwhelmed by the circumstances that they felt powerless to stop it. Maybe they felt that they might be ridiculed for dreaming that we could stop this. Maybe they just didn't know yet how dangerous living near a coal-fired power plant really is.

I got up after everyone else had spoke, and I said what none of them would. I said we should try to stop this thing. I said we should at least try.

...Now I realize that neither I, nor Bristlecone Alliance stopped the construction of these coal-fired power plants. But we did our part. And I believe we made a difference.

I am both grateful and proud. We did it. We encouraged the transition to safer, 21st Century technology.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Our Prime Directive

I was recently reminded of the “prime directive” watching an encore presentation (rerun) of Star Trek – Next Generation.

If you've ever watched Star Trek, you'd remember that the “prime directive” was very important... hey, it was the “prime” directive.

This got me to thinking. We should have a prime directive. Humanity should have a prime directive. Maybe you can help me out here. I don't really know what that prime directive should be. But I guess I would start with something like; “to respect all life.”

This isn't anything new. Our ancestors often had cultural traits “to respect all life.” I would say this is merely common sense. But a common sense prime directive makes sense to me. Our prime directive should make “common” sense. In fact, it should make sense not just now, but also in the long run.

A prime directive should be well thought out, yet obvious to anyone.

...And then I got to thinking. Wait a minute. We already have a prime directive. But it was not well thought out. It's never been voted on. It's never even been openly considered. But there it is – standing out like an oh so sore thumb. Humanity has decided on a prime directive without ever consciously having thought about it. Our civilization's prime directive? “To make as much money as we can.”

Present day humanity's prime directive is to be as greedy as possible – essentially at all costs.

If there is intelligent life out there, it's no wonder they don't wish to associate with us.

Our prime directive is to care only about money.

Our prime directive is to convert anything of tangible wealth into money.

Our prime directive will ultimately lead to the conversion of everything of real wealth into money – which is only a perceived wealth. (Hey; you can't eat money.)

Our prime directive is to consume and pollute everything on our planet.

Our prime directive is effectively to self-destruct as quickly as possible!

It is time for our civilization to consciously decide what we really want.

Otherwise, we'll only get what we think we want.


OK, here goes – my personal prime directive (subject to revision):

To learn from the past,

to plan for the future,

to respect all life.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Where There DEFINITELY Was A God

What if you visited a parallel universe where there definitely was a God?

What if there were a place where everyone just knows all about God, right from birth?

What would it be like if there were no mystery?

There would be no need for a Bible, Koran, or Talmud. Everyone would already know what God wants.

There would only be one church – in all of history. Because no one would be confused.

The church wouldn't need money. Money would obviously be trivial to this more revealed God. (In fact, if this God wanted people to go to church; maybe all people would have to do is pray for a church – and one would just miraculously appear.)

Yet, the people would not pray for God to change things, because they would know and appreciate this all-knowing God's will and purpose.

Since this God is all-powerful in this parallel universe, there would also be no Heaven and Hell. It would only make sense there – that if God created you knowing that you would end up doing whatever he created you to do, your destination is God's decision. And if God loved his people, he wouldn't create any of them destined for Hell.

...Of course, these people would still have free will. They would simply not be created so flawed that they deserve Hell. The only thing anywhere near hellish for them would merely be the undesirable consequences of their actions.

...And maybe the people there would know God so well that they would realize that God will not rescue them from a crisis they themselves create... Consequently, the people there would act rationally.


In this parallel universe where God definitely exists; the people would trust their common sense, they would not need to financially support authorities who scare them into submission, and they would logically take on the responsibilities to which God has entrusted them.

Maybe even, in this parallel universe where God definitely exists, everyone would respect all of God's kingdom – even each other.