Occupy Movement: What’s Next? - Occupy These
An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
Our political system in the United States is
excessively influenced by the domineering influence of rich people and narrowly
focused corporate entities.
Corporations have only two primary legal purposes: to minimize the liabilities of owners,
executives and shareholders, and to maximize the profits received by this
group. These purposes are generally
achieved at the expense of the greater good of all the people in the nation as
a whole. A wide range of other interested
parties compete to maximize their own self-interested advantages, and political
corruption allows this intense competition to be skewed, complicating the
national equation of fairly determining the best courses of action to allow and
The “invisible hand” that guides outcomes
in this competition of interests does not steer us anywhere near the optimum
path, or the fairest, most sensible, or most-likely sustainable one. Of all the
many interest groups that compete for perks and privileges in the USA,
entrenched interest groups occupy the inside track, so they drastically distort
our national priorities. In the
process, they undermine democratic fairness and prevent the most societally
desirable usages of resources and energies.
As a result, the aggregate impulse is to strive to satisfy
short-term-oriented exigencies and expediencies. Since entrenched interests are heavily vested in the status quo,
they oppose fair-minded reforms and selfishly defend the gravy train of the way
things are. The fossil fuel industry is
probably the most politically powerful of these interests, as revealed in Jane
Mayer’s book Dark Money: The Hidden
History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.
Special interest groups that represent
young people and future generations are significantly less well-funded than
special interests representing narrower interests like banks, Wall Street fat
cats, corporate executives, businesses involved in the sprawling
military-industrial complex and the fossil fuel industry, the gun lobby, large
unions, senior citizens, retired people, social conservatives and the Christian
Coalition. Interest groups are much
less well-funded that support protections of the environment, progressive
ideas, humanitarian causes, smart governance and egalitarian initiatives. This aspect of our political system deplorably
makes the status quo exceedingly misguided.
The Supreme Court essentially ruled in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases that Big Money should be allowed to have unlimited
influence in financing our elections.
This decision helped facilitate the distortion, corruption and
perversion of our national decision-making.
These rulings are arguably two of the worst decisions in our nation’s
entire judicial history, right up there with the dreadful Dred Scott decision
that ruled the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and held that no
African-American could be an American citizen.
Since Mark Twain famously observed that “We have the best government that money can buy,”
he would have laughed ruefully to see that five unelected government officials
(the conservative Justices on the Supreme Court, including Antonin Scalia who
died in February 2016) officially sided with giant corporations against the
vast majority of American people, and effectively authorized them to subvert
our democratic processes. Many secretive Super PACs were created as a result of
the Citizens United ruling, and they
have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to support narrow agendas that
generally serve to undermine the greater good.
United ruling is antithetical to our founding principles, so our
representatives should rightly now enact new laws to specifically limit the
outsized influence in electioneering and lobbying wielded by wealthy
individuals and corporations. These laws
should stipulate that corporations are legal entities that have larger
responsibilities to society, and that they do not have the same rights as
people. If our representatives
dishonorably continue to be unable to agree to strengthen our democracy, then
citizens should demand a Constitutional Amendment that would serve as a
declaration of independence from corporate power and reduce the influence of
what Thomas Jefferson called “the aristocracy of moneyed corporations.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Let us realize the arc of the moral
universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This has demonstrably been true in a big picture sense ever since
our nation was founded, but the proverbial pendulum swings back and forth
between progress and regress, and the last three decades have seen some
significant retrogressive trends. When
people are allowed broader freedoms of behavior, there is a tendency for
prosperity to be more narrowly shared, and for the distribution of wealth to
become increasingly concentrated in the hands of only a relative few. And when
corporations are given too much unaccountable laissez-faire latitude, socially
undesirable outcomes result, like the maximizing of private profits while many
costs are “socialized” by being allowed to be externalized onto society as a whole
-- and onto all people in future generations.
and injustices naturally increase under such conditions. The economic insecurity of the public can
consequently become so extreme that remedial measures become necessary. If reforms are not made, then anger and
frustration can create insistent demands for radical change, or alternatively,
reactionary measures like giving support to an authoritarian con man who claims
he’ll impose fixes on the country. Stubborn
opposition to fairer national policies in the face of widespread
dissatisfaction and political protest can aggravate dangerous revolutionary
forces. This increases the power and
motivation of people who militate for the overthrow of the abusers of privilege
and power. In reaction, repressive
forces gain more traction, and some of our cherished freedoms become more
likely to be taken away.
It would be more sensible, and more
patriotic, to champion more enlightened attitudes, and to invest in smart
social insurance policies that serve to make our societies fairer.
man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course
is patriotic and which isn’t … To decide against your conviction is to be an
unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country …”
When John Lennon and Paul McCartney
witnessed widespread political protests in 1968, they foresaw the possibilities
of positive revolutionary change, and they imagined new societies that would
place greater value on empathy, compassion, love, expanded personal liberties
and more enlightened understandings.
Let it be! The Beatles sang
these lyrics in their evocative song, Revolution:
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You say you'll change the Constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead
all right, all right!
Farsighted solutions to global dilemmas are
contained throughout the Earth Manifesto, along with a wide-ranging variety of
good plans for a more salubrious future.
A detailed summary of specific ideas awaits anyone who is concerned in
the many proposals in Common Sense
Revival, and in Part Four online.
A Classic Earth
Manifesto Ecological Aside
“In the nineteenth century, anti-capitalist critics
like Marx insisted that economics must be contained within an ethical
context; they contended that social
justice counted for more than industrial efficiency or private profit. In the late twentieth century, the
environmental movement is trying to teach us that both economics and ethics
must be contained within an ecological context.”
--- The Voice of the
Earth, An Exploration of Ecopsychology, Theodore Roszak
We would be wise to see the world through
the most accurate understandings possible, and to seek broader social and
ecological truths. Efforts to more
clearly understand the biggest and most consequential issues might prove to be
one of the most existentially important undertakings ever conceived. Courses of action should be pursued that are
saner and more consistent with the greater good in the long run. These ideas lead to the transcendent need
for a Bill of Rights for Future Generations that would provide overarching
guidance to us in our national decision-making. Essentially, a new ecosystem-centered morality is required.
“Our duty to the whole,
including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain an unprincipled
present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The
movement for the conservation of wildlife and the larger movement for the
conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit,
purpose, and method.”
--- Theodore Roosevelt
The wise Lakota Sioux Indian leader Sitting
Bull gave a haunting speech at the Powder River Council in 1877, which appears
at the end of the proposed Bill of Rights for Future Generations in the Earth
Manifesto. In this speech, Sitting Bull
almost lyrically bemoaned the arrogant, treacherous, wantonly wasteful and
mindlessly destructive ways of hubris-filled, Manifest-Destiny-proclaiming
pioneers and the ruthless U.S. Army during the genocidal intrusion onto Native
American lands by thousands of hunters, miners, trappers, adventurers, settlers
and missionaries in the nineteenth century.
Here are Sitting Bull’s words:
“Behold my brothers, the Spring has come; the earth has
received the embraces of the sun and we shall soon see the results of that
love! Every seed is awakened and so has
all animal life. It is through this
mysterious power that we too have our being, and we therefore yield to our
neighbors, even our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves, to inhabit
Yet, hear me, people, we have now to deal with another race --
small and feeble when our fathers first met them, but now great and
overbearing. Strangely enough they have
a mind to till the soil and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the
rich may break but the poor may not.
They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and
those who rule. They claim this mother
of ours, the earth, for their own and fence their neighbors away; they deface her with their buildings and
their refuse. The nation is like a
spring freshet that overruns its banks and destroys all that are in its
Sitting Bull’s nickname was Hunkesi,
meaning “Slow” because he did everything with care and he never hurried. Doing things with care, rather than
mindlessly, seems like a good plan!
Sitting Bull could not have imagined, from his vantage point long ago,
the full extent to which the flood of humanity would wipe out native North
Americans and transform and degrade the land, forests, streams, lakes,
wetlands, fisheries, wildlife, wilderness areas, and even the oceans and the
atmosphere in the century to follow.
There were, after all, less than 50 million people in America when
Sitting Bull spoke his incisive words in 1877, and relatively few of them lived
in the beautiful lands of the Wild West.
Today, there are more than 321 million Americans, and large numbers of
them reside in Western states.
Quite noticeably, the means and methods by
which we are all together exploiting global resources today are phenomenally
reckless and imprudently heedless of consequence, as if there will be no
tomorrow. This is my story, and I’m
sticking to it: there will definitely be a tomorrow! We should make sure that honest big picture considerations of
reality guide our national priorities, and that we fairly evaluate the
probabilities of how our impacts will affect our collective choices and
Barry Commoner, known as “the Paul Revere
of Ecology,” died at the age of 95 in September 2012. He was a scientist and ecological activist who realized that the
pollution of the environment and expanding social inequities and aggression in
warfare are related issues of a central problem. This problem is that capitalist economic systems emphasize
profits and technological progress without adequate regard for the detrimental
impacts they have on people and natural ecosystems. As a result of this form of misguidance, real harms to untold numbers
of people are discounted, and threats to the ecological commons are
disregarded. The time has come today
for us to address the big problems we face, and to stop denying them, and to
take bold steps to solve them.
Today, the most financially fortunate people tend to work assiduously
to fortify their positions on Easy Street.
They do this even when conditions on Main Street are unnecessarily
challenging, and when circumstances on “the wrong side of the tracks” are becoming
dangerously unsafe and ever more unjust.
Rich people exploit our increasingly corrupt political system and the
narrowly purposed and amoral tool of legal incorporation to gain the
preponderance of wealth for themselves.
We simply cannot allow rich people to continue to abuse the inadequately
restricted power of their moneyed influence.
We cannot let them be so doggone dominating of our national
policy-making. To best create more
sustainable and safer societies, we should redesign the rules of the system to
ensure greater fairness and reform our political system to prevent it from
facilitating the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the
few. And we should manage our economy
and resources more wisely.
It is practically insane for people to deny the implications of
overarching ecological truths. It is
deeply unwise to allow opportunities for higher education to be made
significantly more expensive. It is
highly unfair to saddle students with large amounts of debt at high interest
rates for their educations. It is
foolishly risky to allow the economy to be destabilized by risk-taking bankers
and overly leveraged speculators, and to be reluctant to help those who lose
their jobs or their homes as a result.
It is an extreme injustice to perpetuate an unfair system of health care
that denies coverage to millions of people and allows profiteering in medical
care to drive costs up at a much faster rate than the general rate of
inflation, year after year after year.
It is nearly madness to continue to allow the most fortunate people to
dictate our national priorities. And it
is crazy to allow vested interest groups to create conditions that make the
vast majority of citizens more stressed and insecure.
Remember that our Founders established a
brilliant framework for fair-minded governance in the USA by creating a
representative democracy that assured the people they would wield the political
power in the nation. Our Founders realized that competing interest groups with
narrowly selfish goals would threaten democratic fairness and civil liberties.
Our elected representatives have unfortunately failed to adequately safeguard
the power of the people. They have allowed special interests to dominate our
public decision-making and become deeply entrenched in our politics, thus
contributing to unnecessary unfairness in the status quo.
The good news is that power still
constitutionally belongs to the people, and it still ethically belongs to the
people. This is true despite extreme
partisanship in Congress that prevents fair compromises and smarter long-term
planning that would help ensure the greater good. Power still belongs to the people despite the Supreme Court
having blatantly pandered to moneyed interests in recent years while
conservatives held a narrow 5 to 4 majority on the high court. It is high time that a new political
movement gathers together the voices of the people to revolutionarily reform
our economic and political systems.
Grassroots power is needed. And it should be virtuous grassroots power,
not a perverse form like grassroots “astroturfing” lobbyists who promote public
propaganda to gain more perks for vested interest groups. Grassroots power is needed instead of
excessive influence by zealots who champion anti-progressive taxation plans and
expanded entitlements for corporations and increased prerogatives for
businesses to externalize costs onto society.
The Greater Good
Everyone does better when everyone does
better. Despite the tautological truth
of this observation, powerful vested interest groups still work tirelessly to
try to convince us that everyone will do better only if we pursue a
single-minded strategy of giving more benefits to the wealthiest
Americans. Right-wing ideologues and
partisans in conservative think tanks, and politicians who are beholden to
moneyed interests, have all been claiming that the best national plan is to
perpetuate the status quo of providing the preponderance of benefits of our
economic system to the wealthy. This is
the way, they say, to create well-being that will trickle down to everyone
By yielding to these demanding voices, and
by adhering to myopic and self-serving policies, an ever-more extreme
concentration of wealth in the hands of the few has resulted, along with
concomitant on-going outrageous increases in inequality and inequities. These outcomes are proving that the
trickle-down theory is actually a colossal deception, and that smarter
approaches should be put into effect so that we create a society that will be more
fiscally sound, socially fair and ecologically responsible.
Dr. Jane Goodall
once made the following insightful observation (paraphrased):
"Someone said that we do not inherit
the earth from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children. But look at the world around us. This sentiment is technically not in the
least bit true. We aren’t borrowing
from our children. Borrowing means that
we will pay it back, but we aren't paying back. We are in actuality STEALING from our children ..."
instance of this theft is the scheme that caused the national debt to spike
from less than $1 trillion in 1980 to almost $20 trillion today in order to
slash taxes in a regressive way that mainly benefitted those who earned the
highest levels of income.
Clearly, the time has come today for us to
embrace common sense fairness by honestly reforming our economic and political
A Simple Solution for
the National Debt Crisis
Trickle-down economic theories have gone
hand-in-hand with ideological expediencies that facilitate huge increases in
the national debt. The Earth Manifesto
Implications of the Two Dueling Santa Claus Strategies in Political Economics contains
an entertaining and sobering assessment of the many ways this state of affairs
has come to be.
Business magnate Warren Buffet has
suggested that federal budget deficits could be ended “in five minutes.” --
“You just pass a law that says that anytime there’s a deficit of more than 3%
of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.” Of course, our current representatives in
office would never pass a law like that -- well, not unless there was intense
and sustained pressure from their constituents. Occupy that thought!
Warren Buffet’s point was that it would be
a good plan to “put the incentives in the right place”. By doing this, our representatives would be
prevented from continuing to cheat future generations and they would be forced
to make the difficult decisions related to generating revenues and controlling
spending that are necessary to honestly bring the budget more nearly into
An even better idea is recommended in One
Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies. This plan would give the primary deciders in our political system --
wealthy people and big corporations -- a compellingly powerful motivation to
strongly support federal budgets that do not rely on large deficits year after
year after year. It would really put
the incentives in the proper place.
Check it out -- it is under
“Balanced Budget Initiative”.
The pretext that
national governments are “broke” is being used to impose austerity measures on
people in countries worldwide. This
pretext is also being used to undermine vital protections of the environment
and torpedo family planning programs, sell off public lands, close parks,
thwart common sense regulations, eliminate funding for important public
interest broadcasting, and pander to those who advocate pet projects that are
aligned with retrograde ideas and backward-looking ideologues.
has created an animated documentary, The
Story of Broke, which can be viewed online right now. The video provides a better understanding of
important and provocative issues associated with the misuse of our tax dollars,
and it shines a bright light on the misleading idea that desperate measures
must be taken because our nation is broke.
Annie Leonard refers to the established status quo as “the Dinosaur
Economy”. She points out that too much
money is given to entrenched companies through imprudent perks like tax
subsidies, risk transfer subsidies, freebie subsidies, and resource extraction
subsidies. She also examines the folly of allowing businesses to externalize
pollution and toxic waste clean-up costs upon society for things that should be
required to be included in the prices of all products and services. Annie
Leonard’s original The Story of
Stuff is also valuable to watch, as is The
Story of Change.
The concept of a smarter structuring of
incentives in our economy is a key to solving many of our most serious
problems. The perspectives of Pigou
Club economists corroborate this contention, as related in Existence, Economics, and Ecological Intelligence. In summary, if we were to institute a boldly
forward-thinking system of incentives and disincentives and take smart action
to implement new long-term strategic plans, we could transform our nation into
a leaner, fairer, safer and more responsible society. This would be an honorable way to give greater respect to future
generations. By doing so, we would alter
the current patchwork of perverse incentives and subsidies that characterize
the Dinosaur Economy. We would also
change the parameters of the jerry-rigged political system that has been
designed to satisfy the influence of power-abusing special interest
groups. In place of this outmoded
econopolitical system, we should establish an improved system that advances
goals of sensible and wisely conceived national planning.
A proposed smarter structure would help
ensure that we would collectively do the best things for the greater good as
naturally as “falling off a log”. In
this new scenario, the everyday acts of work and life and aspiration would
accumulate into a better world as a matter of course, not merely as a matter of
exceptional personal virtue, vague good intentions or conscious altruism.
on Envy and Jealousy
In sporting contests, enthusiasts for
winning teams exult in victory, while supporters of defeated teams show signs
of disappointment, frustration and chagrin.
There is a natural pleasure in victory and an equally natural sense of
agony in defeat. Buddha would have said
that attachment to outcomes itself is a main cause of mental difficulties such
as angst, anger, envy, jealousy, disappointment, humiliation and suffering. John Fowles, on the other hand, made a
cogent point when he wrote in The
“We are designed to want; with
nothing to want, we are like windmills in a world without wind.”
In our societies, people who are
financially fortunate adopt an attitude similar to the exultation of
winners. They often lord it over others
who are less fortunate, as if they are intrinsically and deservedly
superior. Rich people are too often
seriously unempathetic and uncompassionate toward people who are financially
less fortunate. They also tend to abuse
the power of their wealth to make the gap between their own good fortune and
the worser fortunes of others wider and wider.
It is astonishing that people can begrudge others food stamps while
defending tax rates on millionaires and billionaires that are near their lowest
levels in 85 years.
Envy and jealousy are profoundly powerful
impulses in our human psyches. Envious people wish they had the good fortune of
others who are more fortunate. Jealous people react to those who are envious by
staunchly defending the systems and policies that allow them to continue to
enjoy their good fortune. Just as a man
with a sexy, attractive wife can be extremely jealous of any aspirants to the
attentions of his mate, those who are wealthy often jealously defend policies
that guarantee prosperity and security is not more broadly shared.
In the arena of growing disparities of
fortune between the rich and the poor, both envy and jealousy can turn
ugly. I feel passionately that a magnanimous
and generous-hearted attitude in victory or good fortune is much more honorable
and respectable than an inconsiderately selfish and greedy and hard-nosed
posture. In any case, it is time bold
steps are taken to ensure that our societies are made fairer. These steps need not cost that much, and
they would be a smart and sensible insurance policy for all.
Addressing Too Big to
Since our political
system is too dominated by vested interests, we are failing to properly address
the transcendent challenges of our time.
One hundred years ago, corporate conglomerates had grown too big and too
powerful to prevent them from indulging in anti-competitive monopoly practices
and other highly unfair activities, so President Theodore Roosevelt acted to regulate
business actions and to monitor labor relations, and to steer the national
economy in a fairer direction. One step
he took was to create a Department of Commerce and Labor that had a
cabinet-level official in charge.
Roosevelt and his
successor William Howard Taft engaged in ‘trust-busting’ to break up big
businesses into smaller, less powerful organizations so that they would be less
capable of abusing the power of their size. The biggest offenders in those days
were John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, J.P. Morgan’s giant railroad
conglomerate, the Northern Securities Company, James B. Duke’s American Tobacco
Company, and Andrew Carnegie’s U.S. Steel.
These wealthy “robber barons” were indignantly and adamantly opposed to
trust busting, but the government successfully required these huge companies to
be split into smaller organizations for the greater good and safety of the
American people. Unsurprisingly, we
seem today to be incapable of pursuing similar courses of action because
conglomerate entities have grown too big and too politically powerful to be
adequately controlled, and they have sprawled across the planet like giant
organizational octopuses on steroids.
Theodore Roosevelt called for new “Square Deal”
policies to curb the abuses of power by corporate entities. His goal was to root out corruption and
reduce the exploitation of workers and farmers and consumers. As a part of his Square Deal, Roosevelt
farsightedly worked to ensure that resources were conserved and public lands
were protected. Today, because
corporate conglomerates are much larger and more global in influence, they
dominate our economy and largely control our national decision-making. Bureaucratic interests in government and in
public-sector unions also play significant roles, and all these interest groups
together are making it nearly impossible for the American people to implement
smart common sense reforms and limit abuses of power -- and to honorably
safeguard the future. The Supreme
Court, while it had a narrow 5-4 majority of conservative Republican-appointed
corporate facilitators between 2006 and 2016, stood on the wrong side of
history by helping enshrine corporate power.
One of the more important issues in the November
2016 elections is whether we will go backward with more ideologically extreme
partisans on the high court or more forward-looking Justices.
for the Supreme Court should be men and women of integrity who will honestly
stick to their oath of office. “I solemnly swear (or affirm)
that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right
to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially
discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as under the
Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."
D.J. Trump has already proposed ten candidates
that he might appoint to the Court and they are all excessively ideological and
partisan. For this reason alone, I feel
strongly that this represents overwhelming grounds for the people to choose
Hillary Clinton and to reject Trump.
The tendency of banks and merging corporate
entities to become “too big to fail” is a crucial concern that needs to be
addressed. Again I think of the stark observation made by former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in 2009:
“I want to be very, very clear: too big to fail is one of the biggest
problems we face in this country,
must take action to eliminate too big too fail.”
Ben Bernanke was
talking about the too-big-to-fail phenomenon from the perspective that big
banks have become too big and powerful to prevent them from creating serious
risks to the entire financial system and the international economy. The trend toward mergers in the banking
industry has only increased since the economic crisis of 2008, so banks
have become bigger and systemic risks still persist. This problem requires much more scrupulous attention and focused
Public debt in the
U.S. and European nations threatens to create another global economic crisis
that will likely prove, sooner or later, to be even more wrenching than the
recent Great Recession. We should take
bold, honest, and effective steps to prevent such an eventuality!
today have become much more multi-national than they were a century ago. They ruthlessly take advantage of workers,
violate laws, evade taxes, exploit natural resources, externalize costs onto
society, exacerbate Tragedy of the Commons outcomes, and contribute
substantially to forcing huge amounts of debt onto our heirs in future
generations. As a consequence, too big
to fail has taken on new complexities that have even more crucial
In addition to banks
being too big to be prevented from creating unacceptably far-reaching risks to
the international economy, too big to fail has become a domineering aspect of
international corporatism. Corporations
(1) too powerful to be held responsible and
accountable for acting in ways that are consistent with greater good goals;
(2) too influential to be prevented from
squandering resources and overly exploiting workers;
(3) too profit-prepossessed and
liability-evading to be allowed to operate in a poorly regulated laissez-faire
(4) too amoral and unscrupulous to be allowed
to have equal rights of “personhood” with real citizens;
(5) too influential in the media, thereby
causing negative consequences by misusing the tools of mass persuasion and
deceptive advertising and distorting propaganda;
(6) too shrewd to be prevented from preying
on children in their efforts to market junk food, thus contributing to a
national obesity epidemic, as well as wasting resources in general by promoting
(7) too deep-pocketed to be prevented from
using phalanxes of lawyers and accountants to cheat on taxes and further
corrupt our political system;
(8) too narrow in legal purpose to be
(9) too unaccountable to be prevented from
rashly contributing to gathering ecological risks like global warming and
associated disruptions of global weather, temperature and precipitation
(10) too sprawling
around the globe to be adequately controlled or kept from abusing laws of
(11) too powerful to be prevented from
radically contributing to ever-growing disparities of power and compensation
between executive management and all other employees;
(12) too influential to be kept from
contorting the societies in which they operate by making them more unfair, more
inegalitarian, and more unjust and giving ever-more perks, privileges and power
to the few while imposing austerity on the many; and,
(13) too narrowly-focused in empowering the
military-industrial complex and a U.S. national security state through
excessive secrecy, authoritarian policies, misallocated spending, and the
perversion of our national priorities.
An Introspection into the Actions of
Lawyers and the Nature of Corporate Wrongdoing
Large quantities of harmful wastes are being
created by mining operations that
seek gold, silver, iron, copper, tin and other minerals and fossil fuels. These wastes often pollute
creeks, rivers, wetlands, underground aquifers and oceans. The process of removing the tops of mountains to extract coal
is especially damaging to the environment.
Drilling for oil and spilling it in thousands of incidents annually also
contribute to the despoliation of natural ecosystems. Fracking for natural gas is degrading the land, contaminating
groundwater, spewing dangerous methane into the atmosphere, and even causing
earthquakes. Large industrial pig and cattle ‘farms’ are
also contributing to air and water pollution.
Big corporations involved in these activities are
required by law to make efforts to prevent wastes they generate from getting
into rivers and underground aquifers.
Often, unfortunately, they fail.
Sometimes the Environmental Protection Agency levies fines for such
infractions of laws, but this does not usually happen. Why not?
Corporate lawyers are shrewdly able to game the system and get their
employers off the hook. This
effectively allows these corporate entities to evade their proper roles as
socially responsible civic entities that support good citizen goals.
Lawyers, of course, are
to be found on both sides of every legal conflict. One of the most egregious and influential involvements of lawyers
can be found allied against environmental protections and the public
health, rather than in their favor. One
of the most dangerous ideas that corporate lawyers have ever managed to foist
upon society is the odd interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment by the
Supreme Court to misconstrue its intent to justify granting rights of
personhood to corporations.
But look here!
The Fourteenth Amendment was enacted after the Civil War to guarantee personal rights to newly
freed slaves, NOT to organizational entities.
The Amendment includes clauses
that ensure all citizens of ‘due process’ and ‘equal protection’ under the
law. In a terrible irony, numerous
cases have been adjudicated that interpret this law to primarily guarantee
rights to corporations rather than individuals. This has resulted in many outcomes that are
grotesque miscarriages of justice in our democratic republic.
Corporations have used this legal justification to
significantly increase their capabilities for abusing the power they hold over
people and public lands. This point is
powerfully portrayed in the insightful book The
Corporation - The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, and also in the
fascinating film “The Corporation” that
is based on the book.
This book and film basically ask the question: “If a corporation actually were a person,
what kind of person would it most resemble?”
Using the “Personality Diagnostic Checklist” of the World Health
Organization to make this determination, an incisively clear indication was
discovered: corporations frequently act
like anti-social psychopaths.
Big corporations, in their aggregate activities, resemble psychopaths in
many ways. They frequently demonstrate
a reckless disregard for the safety of people, they are often deceitful, and
they mislead people in order to make bigger profits. Many of them show a callous unconcern for the feelings of real
people, an incapacity to feel guilt, or a failure to conform to social norms
with respect to lawful behaviors.
These attributes are not merely the results of
activities of “a few bad apples.”
Corporations often make a type of cost/benefit analysis with regard to
breaking the law. They take into
account the chances of getting caught and the cost of fines that would be
associated with their wrongdoing. And
they often choose to violate the law when corporate accountants and lawyers
determine that it would be the most profitable thing to do.
“Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual
profit without individual responsibility.”
--- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
A study of the 100 most egregious instances
of guilty pleas by corporations in violations of laws reveals a distinct
tendency for corporations to make these analyses to determine whether or not to
obey the law. When they choose to
violate laws because potential profits exceed the probable costs of fines, they
do so partially because they have deep pockets and are able to employ cadres of
often-unscrupulous lawyers and other professionals to advance their narrow
Corporations also basically bribe
politicians to enact laws favorable to their interests. They help get policies implemented that
reduce their taxes, or hyper-stimulate the economy, or create speculative
bubbles. Then, when inevitable economic
downturns occur, they treat workers ruthlessly, terminating thousands of
employees to strive to remain profitable.
And they lobby for bailouts from taxpayers for rash gambles gone wrong.
“Corporations are people, my friend”, remarked
Republican Mitt Romney in a particularly barbed and condescending rejoinder
that was directed at a heckler in the crowd while he was on the presidential
primary campaign trail at the Iowa State Fair in August 2011. Elizabeth Warren, the candidate who won her run for
U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, pointed out the
obvious. “No, Mitt, corporations are
not people. People have hearts. They have kids. They get jobs. They get
sick. They love and they cry and they
dance. They live and they die. Learn the difference.”
A watchdog magazine named Multinational Monitor published an article in 2008 titled “20
Things About Corporate Crime.” It is an
eye-opener! “20. Corporate crime inflicts far more damage on
society than all street crime combined.” … “17. Corporate crime is under-prosecuted by a factor of, say,
100. The flip side of this is that
corporate crime prosecutors are underfunded by a factor of, say, 100.”
Monitor states that “we’ve
never had a year like 2008.” The severe
financial crisis was emblematic of the worst aspects of our corporate-dominated
political and economic system. Over and
over again, we see that these harmful characteristics include improper
political influence, non-enforcement of laws, misguided deregulation,
fraudulent activities, insider crimes, short-term thinking, and widespread
allowances that let costs by externalized onto workers and the general public.
The bottom line is this: Institutions that are practically
anti-social and psychopathic have grown in power and influence over the years.
Corporations are, by law, primarily liability-avoiding, profit-prepossessed organizations
that circumvent social and environmental responsibilities and strive to pay a
minimum of taxes. Their actions are
basically amoral. Even when they are
giving generously to good causes, or “greenwashing” their activities, it is
generally for marketing or public relations purposes. Their lavish spending on public relations often includes efforts
to convince people that their true nature is responsible, caring, honest,
fair-minded, environmentally sound and ecologically sane, but this is
demonstrably not true in far, far too many instances.
The 2005 documentary film McLibel provides a chilling understanding of abusive business
practices and pernicious tactics that corporations sometimes use to intimidate
people and censor criticisms. The film
highlights nefarious efforts by corporations to stack courts with
“conservative” judges who oppose the best interest of consumers. It makes clear the extent to which big
corporations around the world try to control consumers and workers, and to
maneuver governments into doing their bidding.
case involved the fast-food franchise McDonald’s and two protestors who had
produced a damning pamphlet entitled “What’s Wrong with McDonald’s? --
Everything They Don’t Want You to Know”.
McDonald’s vindictively sued for libel, and the ensuing libel trial
became the longest in British history.
“It will go down in history as the most expensive and disastrous public
relations exercise ever mounted by a multinational company,” according to a TV
Today, lawyers for the oil industry are vigorously
defending their corporate clients from unfolding revelations that their
scientists and executives were aware of the risks of burning fossil fuels in
altering the gaseous composition of the atmosphere, and yet they covered up this
knowledge and unethically waged a disinformation campaign to sow doubt about
So it can clearly be seen that in many
instance, instead of helping solve the overarching problems that face the U.S.
and humanity in general, big multinational corporations are making many of the
most pressing problems worse, contributing to environmental destruction,
pollution, resource depletion, cruelty to animals, economic inequality, fiscal
imbalances, violent strife, and ill health for millions of people.
Rationalized greed and organizational
mandates for narrow self-interest should give way to more humane values. Corporate violations of law reflect blatant
hubris. If management were to be held accountable for damaging activities, the
incidence of such harms would be reduced.
A terrible legacy of the
ascendancy of corporate power in modern societies is that workers are being
exploited, the public is being harmed, resources are being squandered with
profligate abandon, and ecosystems are being poisoned, damaged, or
destabilized. This legacy is a form of
insidiously-harmful tyranny of current generations of people alive today
against all people in future generations.
Many rich people and CEOs may be smart, innovative, friendly,
accomplished, fun-loving, or generous for the most part, but in their roles as
leaders who enable these abuses of power, and as participants who are complicit
in them, and as persons making huge profits from this facet of the status quo,
they are acting as villains.
Here’s a thought-provoking perspective:
century and a half after its birth, the modern business corporation, an
artificial person made in the image of a human psychopath, now is seeking to
remake real people in its image.”
--- Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of
Profit and Power
The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a serious blow to the
rights of people when it ruled in January 2010 to overturn long-standing legal
precedents that had been designed to limit the highly unfair influence of
corporations and unions in American elections. This narrow decision has
undermined the fair representation rights of individuals, and ramped up the
power of Big Money in our political system.
This ruling has further distorted and corrupted our decision-making
processes. I find this to be a
crucially important understanding, as evaluated in Common Sense vs. Political Realities: An Anatomy of Dysfunctionality,
an in-depth analysis of this problem and the ruling in the Citizens United case.
interest groups should be given fair representation in our societies,
including young people under the age of 18 even though they are not allowed to
vote. The interests of all people in future generations should also be better
represented. To achieve these sensible
goals, we should limit the corrupt tyranny of insider influence on our
politics. Our Founders did a great job
creating a democratic republic that has withstood the test of time, but today democratic
governance is being excessively undermined by Big Money and corporate abuses of
essentially stated in the Declaration of Independence that whenever a political
system becomes destructive of the goals of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness, We the People have the
right to alter the Government and lay new foundations for governance on such
principles and forms of organization that shall seem most likely to effect the
safety and happiness of the people. It
is our right, and indeed our obligation, to institute fairer, saner, and more
prudent public policies. Let’s do so,
Let’s just do
right -- this will gratify some and astonish the rest.”
--- Mark Twain
Property versus People
Freedoms in America have been strongly
wedded to private property rights. The
Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution is near and dear to
the heart of many Americans because it involves issues concerning “just
compensation” for eminent domain seizures of private property by the government
when such takings are deemed necessary for civic purposes like building
Even more contentious issues are found in
“imputed takings” that occur when socially desirable zoning or regulations are
created as “public uses”. Complex legal
issues are involved in planning decisions that may directly diminish the value
of a property or proposed development, but it is surely in the public interest
to be able to make such choices without excessive costs. Common law ‘public trust doctrines’ hold
that governments must act to protect public land access and uses, and natural
resources as well. This issue is of
considerable interest to landowners and free market conservatives -- and to the
best interests of people and communities as well.
An associated corporate type of “taking” is
found in international trade agreements that allow foreign corporations to sue the
United States government for actions that undermine their investment
“expectations” or hurt their business. By giving higher priority to protecting
corporate interests than promoting free trade and competition that benefits
consumers, provisions like this are demonstrably wrongheaded.
The novelist, philosopher and intellectual
Ayn (rhymes with ‘mine’) Rand popularized a view of business industrialists as
heroic individuals who utilize economic and political freedom to generate
wealth in a free-market capitalist economy.
She felt passionately that such individuals should be allowed to make
money with a minimum of government regulation -- and that they deserve to keep
a maximum amount of their earnings by paying a minimum in taxes. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan
Greenspan and other officials enthusiastically embraced her points of
view. They pursued anti-regulatory
schemes like the ones that led to the disastrous Savings-and-Loan debacle of
1989. Another consequence was the even
more costly Inside Job of the
financial crisis and economic recession that began in 2008.
Fine, fine, fine, Ayn
and your disciples, if you want to lionize greed as a virtue. But it is obvious that when greed
contributes to increasingly extreme inequities between the Haves and the Have
Nots, it is socially undesirable. When
someone fiercely promotes initiatives that lead to radical increases in
inequities, it is like a socially detrimental vice, not a virtue. This is especially true if greed leads to
impulses being unregulated, undisciplined and unaccountable so that speculation
is excessively stoked, incentives are undesirably distorted, and systemic
economic setbacks arise that disproportionately affect the Have Nots.
Fair competition and
fair trade, to be sure, can have positive influences in our societies in many
ways. For instance, the contrast
between the quality, dependability and safety of automobiles today is dramatic
in comparison to 50 years ago. This has
resulted from intense competition between American auto manufacturers and
foreign automakers like those in Japan and Germany. However, the insidious
expediency of using seductive advertising to stimulate demand for large
fuel-inefficient SUVs and trucks has stimulated a compulsion to buy
unnecessarily powerful fuel-wasting vehicles.
Automakers have marketed these vehicles aggressively because profits on
them are higher than profits on smaller, less polluting vehicles.
The persuasive marketing
of large cars and trucks has unfortunately caused many misallocations of
resources and a socially and environmentally negative squandering of fossil
fuels. Partially because gasoline is
much cheaper in the United States than in most other nations, we have the
lowest average fleet mileage of almost any country in the world, and our
industries run at only half the energy efficiency of businesses in Japan and
Germany. These trends are contributing
to global warming by emitting unnecessarily large amounts of greenhouse gases
into the atmosphere.
Global warming is responsible for a record number of
extreme high temperatures around the world so far this century, and for severe
droughts in many places and other costly impacts of changing weather patterns
in the drought-afflicted Midwest in the summer of 2012 were beginning to agree
it would be wise to start creating effective incentives to mitigate global
warming, rather than to continue denying current and future costs of ignoring
ecological interconnections. And people
in places like southern California who are experiencing a fifth drought year in
a row in 2016 are witnessing these impacts with an ominous visceral
Our best strategy would be to follow an honest and
reasonable “no regrets” approach that is focused on actions and behaviors that
are consistent with shared prosperity and the common good. This “no regrets” idea is the basis for the precautionary
principle. As enunciated in
Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, this
principle states that “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible
damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for
postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”
--- Comprehensive Global
Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview
The whole issue of individual freedom and
social responsibility is explored in Earth Manifesto essays like Ayn Rand, Jack London, and a Fountainhead of
Philosophy; and in Freedom – Utopian Idea and Unifying
Objective; as well as in Comprehensive Global Perspective. Check them out!
Environmental Impact Assessments
Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 in
recognition of the far-flung impacts and conflicts of interest associated with
industrial undertakings and real estate developments. This legislation required that environmental impact assessments
(EIAs) be done to determine the impacts and collateral damages likely to be
caused by proposed activities. EIAs are
required to be completed by an independent party so that all identified issues
involved are fairly considered. This is
a big step beyond the heyday of environmental obtuseness that characterized the
hydraulic mining of the Sierra Nevada foothills in the nineteenth century.
assessments generally address direct, on-site effects of
developments alone, but not larger considerations. It is clear that almost all real estate developments cause a
multitude of additional indirect effects through such things as the
mining of resources, the production of building materials and machinery, the
consumption and transportation of goods and services during construction, and
additional land and energy use for activities involved in mining and
manufacturing services. There are also
associated impacts like increased traffic and vehicular emissions related to
on-going services by housekeepers, gardeners, landscapers, plumbers and other
The indirect effects of real estate
developments are often an order of magnitude larger than the direct effects
assessed by EIAs, and include national and global environmental impacts like
increases in greenhouse gas emissions and the stimulated depletion of both
renewable and non-renewable resources.
Intricate complexities and interconnections are involved in all
large-scale activities, so all nations should begin to take into account the
bigger impacts that our collective activities are having on the health and
balance of our home planet’s ecosystems.
Let’s collaborate together!
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and
right-doing, there is a field. I’ll
meet you there.”
--- The Persian poet Rumi
Hot Coffee -- Another Take on
An intense on-going struggle is taking place between
lawyers who strive to defend the rights of individual people and opposing
lawyers who work to strengthen the power and privileges of big businesses. Corporate entities abuse the power of their
deep pockets to get organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other
political “front groups” to wage a sustained campaign to elect
corporate-friendly conservative judges to courts at county, state and federal
levels. To the extent they succeed in
stacking the courts, our civil justice system is imbalanced with impulses
toward undermining workers’ rights and protections of consumers and the
Other similar efforts to benefit big corporations at
the expense of people’s rights are found in laws that limit supposedly “frivolous
lawsuits”. Likewise, laws that impose
caps on jury-imposed damages, or that require mandatory arbitration rather than
seeking remedies in the civil justice system, can be seen to erode the power
and rights of ordinary Americans. Additionally, conservative Justices on the
Supreme Court have ruled in recent years to undermine efforts by numerous
plaintiffs to participate in class-action lawsuits.
These initiatives reduce legal costs and liabilities
of corporations and allow them to evade penalties for harms that their actions
cause in a wide variety of cases.
Comprehensive understandings of these manipulations of the civil justice
system reveal that, in the bright illuminating light of big picture understandings,
our legal system is deeply corrupted by the influence of Big Money.
The documentary film Hot Coffee provides provocative perspective about the inimical
influences that big corporations have in court cases and judicial
elections. Corporations are legal
entities that are the primary instruments used to maximize earnings and limit
liabilities. Big Media collaborates to
help “catapult the propaganda” in order to achieve these goals.
No matter how fervently propaganda is propagated by
giant corporations, Wall Street moguls, right-wing think tanks, Fox News
commentators, Big Media promoters, CEOs, hedge fund managers, the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce and a myriad of other generously-funded front groups like the
billionaire Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, the truth is often very
different. Extensive social, financial,
and environmental problems exist that should be boldly addressed. And these challenges require proper
priorities, smart and forward-thinking legislation, and adequate funding to
Rich people and big corporations are highly
effective in limiting their liabilities.
This makes it nearly impossible for us to collectively deal with the
overarching challenges that face us in an honest and fair manner. The greatest economic and political
challenges of our times are the sustainability of the environmental commons,
the stabilization of the world’s population, and the mitigation of
destabilizing extreme poverty. To
properly cope with these problems, we need to fairly cope with real causes, not
merely the symptoms.
Our attention, energies and resources have been
diverted from these challenges by a focus on irresponsible profit-making and
hot button social issues, and by gambits like the prosecution of an extremely
costly international “war on terror”. Instead of being distracted by a narrow
focus on these diversions, we need to foster global cooperation toward
achieving goals that are consistent with the greater good. To achieve this, a fairer
balance of power between corporations and the people must be established!
Let Voters Have a Voice!
Governor Jerry Brown of California stated
in March 2011 that far-right extremists were opposing his plan to let the
people of California vote on matters that intimately concern them. Republicans wanted to prevent people from
having a say in the public policies of our states and nation, as if politicians
know what the best course of action should be for the common good, and as if
they can be trusted to decide fairly!
Republicans have been leading the corporate
charge to eliminate environmental protections and even the Environmental
Protection Agency itself. They have
been stubborn in their striving to protect banks and Wall Street from reform
efforts that would protect consumers, limit risky financial leverage, create
smarter incentives, constrain systemic risks, and rein in rapacious greed. They want to eliminate crucially important
rules, government oversight, and corporate accountability.
Meanwhile, bureaucratic government entities
grow like proliferating algal blooms, creating often-onerous red tape without
effectively solving problems or limiting the influence of big businesses. The largest and most ruthless businesses
tend to benefit at the expense of small businesses and working people. The federal government has built an
increasingly unaffordable National Security apparatus in the U.S. military and
Intelligence establishments, and these institutions have been intervening
overly aggressively in the affairs of other peoples in nations worldwide. The primary purposes of these activities
appear to be to further the aims of the war services military-industrial
complex and stimulate profit-making and other ends that are often deceptively
cast in patriotic and nationalistic frames.
We Americans can and must change this state
of affairs. We should diminish the
power and influence of corporations by reducing the access of Big Money in our
politics. To do this, we should enact
smart Campaign Finance laws and Fair Elections legislation. We should also enact
serious Congressional ethics reforms and much more stringent rules governing
the activities of lobbyists. And we should formulate a law like the 2009
proposal for an Arbitration Fairness Act that would end the predatory practice
of forcing non-union employees and consumers and others to sign away their
rights to legal protections and access to the courts.
Mutates, Confirming the Theory of Evolution!
The seriously satirical
humorist Andy Borowitz once suggested in a funny assessment that “The U.S.
policy of exporting democracy abroad has meant that there is very little of it
left at home.” Ha! Borowitz went on to speculate that (this was
in the year 2011), if the U.S. continues to export democracy at the current
pace, we “may completely run out of it at home by the year 2015.” A sudden burst of hysterical laughter
emanates viscerally from within.
The Republican Party was
once a political organization known for integrity, civic-mindedness and fiscal
discipline. In recent decades, however,
Republicans appears to effectively be against democracy altogether. Evidence of this contention is found in the
fact that Republicans in many states across the nation have been taking actions
to disenfranchise millions of voters.
Republicans spearheaded a movement in 1978 to deny the majority of people the
right to make civic funding decisions by getting the egregiously unfair
Proposition 13 passed. This was a law
that changed the requirement for all budgetary decisions involving tax revenues
from needing the support of 51% of the people’s representatives to needing
67%. Fast forward 33 years, and the GOP
in California in 2011 had basically “moved the goal posts” to prevent people
from being able to vote on revenue-continuation measures as proposed by
Governor Jerry Brown, even though such measures were needed to help deal with
the State’s recession-exacerbated fiscal problems at the time.
It appears that
Republicans need a come-to-Jesus epiphany of some sort. They seem to cherish the memory of George W.
Bush’s proclamation that HE was “the Decider.”
As he simple-mindedly stated in July 2001, “A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier,
there's no question about it."
Today, Republican candidate Trump has grabbed this idea and run with it.
I love our
country. Let it be. Let it be -- Let’s keep it a democracy! And let’s make it a fairer place!
Insights into Deep
not be too moral. You may cheat
yourself out of much of life so. Aim
above morality. Be not
simply good; be good for something.”
The surge of progressive grassroots energy
represented by Occupy movements gave hope that some constructive change would
be effected to reduce economic unfairness.
After all, economic unfairness and the increasing concentration of
wealth and power in the hands of the few are political phenomena that are
characteristic of capitalist systems as well as being factors in socialist or
communist ones. Once we sensibly
understand this true nature of things, we are more likely to be able to create
fairer systems that are more responsible to all the citizens in a country as a
Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess was a
founder of the deep ecology movement.
He felt strongly that people need to begin conceiving of themselves in
an ever-widening process of self-identity.
This new kind of self-realization would place more value on doing the
right thing for ourselves AND for the greater good, and to do so without
feeling it is merely an altruistic course of action that is contrary to
This would constitute a “greening of the
self” that would help ensure that our societies would become more socially and
ecologically sane. This new form of
self-actualization would not require sermonizing or moral exhortation to
motivate people to act in ways more closely aligned with the greater good.
Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy observes that
we are living in a period that she sees as “an essential adventure of our time:
the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining
civilization.” Calling this the “Great
Turning”, Ms. Macy indicates that this movement involves an expansive awareness
of who we really are as evolving social beings. Such a greening of the self will hopefully be more attuned to a
new willingness to accept greater responsibility toward others, including all
the countless people to be born in future generations.
most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are
on the way to destroying the world -- we’ve actually been on that way for quite
a while. It is that we are beginning to
wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our
world, to ourselves, and to each other.”
--- Joanna Macy
Human clans managed to flourish during the
many millennia of our hunter and gatherer days by cooperating together to
minimize violence within their groups.
Clan groups whose members willingly worked with each other for the
greater good of the group had survival advantages over less adaptive clans that
were more selfishly individualistic.
The size of groups in which human beings
live has grown steadily over the millennia, especially in the past two
centuries when human numbers have increased from 1 billion to more than 7
billion. As a consequence, the need has
grown for us to find ways to create ever-more expansive versions of the greater
good rather than following old ways and pursuing narrower goals. As our senses of self grow more inclusive,
it may help us overcome our alienation from the rest of creation. Otherwise, the mindless abandon of our
assaults on the natural world and our resource-depleting and
wildlife-slaughtering activities may make today’s challenges seem minor by
This adaptive and evolving modern sense of
self leads us again to a shared understanding:
we are all in this world together, interconnected and
interdependent. This realization should
help inspire us to collaborate together more fully to create healthier and more
The Century of the Self
When we closely explore issues involving
our selves and our values, we discover fascinating things. I highly recommend watching the provocative
BBC documentary The Century of the Self. This four-part film provides a surprising perspective of the enormous influence
exerted in the world by the ideas of Sigmund Freud and his nephew Edward
Bernays and his daughter Anna Freud.
This compelling film can be viewed on the Internet. Take the time to watch it (in total, it is
almost 4 hours long). It is easy to
toggle along so that it can be watched in convenient segments at your
leisure. Take notes!
Edward Bernays more or less invented the
persuasive art of public relations. He
was called “the father of spin” in a 1998 book by Larry Tye. Bernays developed clever uses of propaganda
that appealed to people’s subconscious minds and utilized methods of mass
persuasion to stimulate mass consumption.
His far-reaching efforts helped transform our economic system from one
that sold products and services based on needs to a demand economy based on
expanding and stoked desires.
Bernays believed that people could be made
to feel good about themselves and find self-gratification by shopping and
buying things. Partially as a
consequence, citizens in our societies have become more materialistic and more
passive consumers rather than being actively involved good citizens. It is a somewhat pathetic thing for our
self-identities to be defined to such a large extent by shopping and possessing
things. Materialistic worldviews like
this are distinctly contrary to sensibly conservation-minded levels of resource
Our Founders recognized in the Declaration
of Independence that governments derive their just powers from the consent of
the governed. In glaring contrast,
Edward Bernays saw that mass persuasion could be used to engineer consent
through manipulative strategies that use the media to play on people’s desires,
insecurities, and fears.
One of Bernays’ early successes was
achieved by covertly contriving events for his business clients to secure news
coverage without the need to pay for advertizing. This was clever because it saved the cost of paying for ads to
get attention for a client’s products. A
classic instance of this took place in 1929, when Bernays created a “Torches of
Freedom” campaign targeted to encourage women to smoke cigarettes in
public. That campaign linked resistance
to cultural discrimination against women with the freedom for them to light up
cigarettes in public. It was a campaign
that had the insidious ulterior motive of promoting Lucky Strike cigarettes, so
it had terribly unhealthy long-term side effects, including a costly increase in
lung cancer in women. “What billed itself
as a feminist promotion of the emancipation of women was in reality a public
relations ploy to open a new market for tobacco by getting women addicted to
Edward Bernays enthusiastically enjoyed the
ballyhoo hype of a media circus. If he
had lived today, he would likely have desired to work for Fox News to
manipulate public opinion. The most
radical propaganda activities that Bernays employed were political, according
to Wikipedia, and were conducted on behalf of the multinational corporation
United Fruit Company. Bernays was
involved in a propaganda campaign to brand General Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, the
democratically elected president of Guatemala, as a communist. Guatemala was known as a “banana republic”
because of the overwhelmingly influential role that United Fruit Company played
in dominating Guatemala’s politics.
Bernays’ efforts helped the CIA in its efforts to overthrow General
Arbenz in 1954. This sordid story of
covert operations makes it perfectly clear that multinational corporations,
aided by the federal government and the CIA, sometimes actively strive to
subvert democracy and control people by psychologically manipulating them.
Sigmund Freud saw people as primarily
driven by dark forces and powerful sexual urges, so he used psychoanalysis as
“a talking cure” to unearth his patients’ unconscious drives and hidden
motives. He did this in the belief that
bringing these feelings into conscious awareness would help people lead
healthier lives. In pathetic contrast,
his nephew Edward Bernays ironically used psychological techniques “to mask the
motives of his clients as part of a deliberate strategy that was aimed at
keeping the public unconscious of the forces that were working to mold
Bernays also exploited feminist ideals,
according to one commentator, to serve as a “systematic re-engineering of the
morals of women as a way of moving them out of the home and into the workforce,
thereby lowering wages and weakening the power of organized labor and the
working class family.” Hmmm … these are
obviously complex issues. Only 25% of
women were in the work force in the 1920s, and more than twice that percentage
work today, so megatrend shifts have definitely taken place, for better or for
When I was first pondering these ideas in
2012, Republican Newt Gingrich was running for president, and he seemed to be
using similar ideas by shrewdly suggesting that children should be used as
workers in schools. He claimed that this
would teach poor kids a work ethic, and drive down wage costs, and save a lot
of money by getting rid of unionized janitors and professional custodians. Are child labor laws “truly stupid”, as
Gingrich egregiously asserted? Or was
this just another right-wing attempt at “radical social engineering”?
In more modern
times, shrewd operatives like Richard Berman have been ruthless mercenaries in
working to shape public opinion
and defend the status quo in many industries. Berman has been dubbed “Dr.
Evil” for his similarity in appearance and alleged lack of a moral compass to
the arch villain in the Austin Powers series of movies. Berman is known for using tactics to “win
ugly”, and for having masterminded public relations campaigns against animal
rights, labor unions, minimum wages, environmental groups, green building
organizations, food watchdogs, and even Mothers Against Drunk Driving, as well
as initiatives designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate
Assessing the Role of
Conservatism in American Society Today
modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral
philosophy; that is,
the search for a superior moral
justification for selfishness.”
-- American economist John Kenneth Galbraith
Radical conservatives have been corrupting
our politics for years and distorting our national understandings to advance
the self-interest of the wealthiest people in our society. Conservative politicians obediently advocate
regressive tax policies and de-regulatory dogmas, and champion fraudulent
supply-side economic theories and “trickle-down” ideologies. They seem to be obsessively enamored with
the curiously deceptive story that giving tax breaks to millionaires and
billionaires is the optimum way to create jobs and make America better. This shrewd strategy generates big financial
contributions to politicians so that they can gain power and continue to wield
Conservatives also deny the nearly unanimous
scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is causing global warming and
disruptions of global weather patterns.
These ploys are cynically shortsightedly, insidiously dangerous, and
Social conservatives have been nakedly
exposing themselves in the past three decades by embracing ideological
absurdities as if they are the Holy Grail itself. Many of them deny the greatest and most expansive human
understandings ever achieved. They cling to antediluvian creation myths despite
extensive scientific knowledge of the billions-of-years-old genesis of the
physical universe, and the eons-long unfolding expansion of galactic matter and
energy, and the biological evolution of life on Earth. They deny these things in defiance of
numerous discoveries of the scientific disciplines of astronomy, astrophysics,
geology, biology and genetics, and they deny them despite the extensive
evidence of millions of fossils of antecedent forms of life that are found
around the planet.
One unfortunate part of this is that
religious extremists in the U.S. and abroad are contributing to dire conflicts
worldwide. Live-and-let live attitudes
and cooperative problem solving would be better ways of relating to others than
contributing to violent conflicts around the globe. A new worldwide religion, as provocatively proposed in Revelations of a Modern Prophet, might
be a more positive development than continuing with the way things are. This
new religion would be more ecumenical, tolerant, and respectful of Earth and
its ecosystems, and of all the other forms of life upon which we depend for our
well-being. Such a new religion would
be more responsible in its founding tenets for the wise and providential
stewardship of Mother Earth and her natural resources.
The awe-inspiring mysteries of the Universe
are far more profound and astonishing than the simple and simplistic doctrines
and parochial, closed-minded, antiquated stories and explanations of most
established religions, so they deserve greater understanding, reverence and
you devote a little time to studying the staggering photographs taken by the
Hubble telescope, you will be scrutinizing things that are for more awesome and
mysterious and beautiful -- and more chaotic and overwhelming and forbidding --
than any creation or end-of-days story.”
--- The late journalist Christopher Hitchens
Can We Find Common Cause?
The Occupy Movement
should be able to find common cause with the Tea Party because both groups
oppose corporate corruption and huge amounts of deficit spending. People who support the Tea Party movement
tend to have the mentality of small business people, so they oppose organized
labor and bridle at being required to provide benefits to workers. They also tend to oppose regulations, taxes,
lawsuits and bailouts. This movement
unfortunately is anti-liberal, anti-intellectual and against government
solutions to problems, and it opposes universal healthcare because ‘Obamacare’
(the Affordable Healthcare Act) is regarded as too opprobrious in its
requirements for businesses that employ more than 50 employees to provide
health insurance for employees. This
requirement strips away one of the most significant competitive advantages of
small businesses -- being able to save money by not providing health insurance
to employees. Overly complex tax
returns also bother small business owners, as do health inspectors, employee
health and safety regulations, environmental protections, and other
requirements they regard as merely “red tape”.
understanding. After the fiscally
disastrous years of the George W. Bush presidency, Republicans were trounced in
the 2008 national elections. But the
Right made an astounding comeback in the 2010 elections by using a “hard-times
swindle”, according to historian Thomas Frank.
The Right did this “not by deception alone -- although there has been a
great deal of this -- but by offering an idealism so powerful that it clouds
its partisans’ perceptions of reality.”
This idealism consists of free-market ideology and laissez-faire
corporatism coupled with anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-government, anti-union
and even anti-scientific dogmas.
Thomas Frank, the author
of the compelling book What’s the Matter
with Kansas, has written another book titled Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback
of the Right. This insightful book
provides a fascinating perspective of the public outrage sparked by the
recession that began in 2008. The loss
of millions of jobs and millions of homes to foreclosure, and the bailouts of
banks, Wall Street institutions, the behemoth insurer AIG, and American auto
companies struck anger and cynicism into the hearts of many Americans. The
perpetrators of this economic debacle put on masks of righteous grievance and
shifted anger away from the obvious culprits, and directed it toward liberals
and Democrats, branding them as “socialists”.
People should have been
outraged by the regulatory permissiveness that allowed giant banks to take big
risks and force taxpayers into bailing them out. They should oppose unregulated trading in risky financial
derivatives. They should be angered at the many ruses of vulture capitalists,
and trickle-down deceptions, and mortgage fraud, and widespread home
foreclosures, and the risky policies of bubble economics. Amazingly, their anger was instead channeled
against underwater homeowners, organized labor, progressive taxation, and
sensible government regulation and oversight of the economy. Instead of criticizing the status quo of the
Bush years, the Right transmogrified people’s anger into a defense of the
systems that have wrought such worldwide turmoil, hardship, political
instability, and public debt. Under the
cover of these developments, corporations and apologists for the Right have
been able to escalate their war against the collective bargaining rights of
employees and protections of consumers and the environment.
movement has adopted a variety of outright falsehoods as articles of
faith. Conservatives wrongly blame
Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Great Depression. They assign most of the responsibility for the mortgage meltdown
and the Great Recession to the federal government. They blame President Obama for bailouts of banks and Wall Street,
and for the need for stimulus spending to prevent another Depression. They believe deregulation is the solution to
economic malaise, instead of recognizing it as having been a primary
contributing cause of the 2008 credit crisis.
They deny the adverse effects of subsidized fossil fuel industries on
global warming. And they have embraced
socially conservative authoritarianism, despite their “Don’t Tread On Me”
Insights into The Authoritarians
conservatives tend to be “authoritarian followers”, according to Bob Altemeyer,
who has outlined a list of twelve revealing tendencies in the behavior of
people in the Tea Party. He examines
many studies about authoritarian followers and the authoritarian leaders that
they obey. Altemeyer concludes in his
interesting online book The
Authoritarians: “… the greatest
threat to American democracy today arises from a militant authoritarianism that
has become a cancer upon the nation.”
that it is “mind-boggling” that conservatives revere those who serve their
country in the military and give their lives defending freedom, and yet they
simultaneously support moves to take people’s freedoms away. He asks, “How can they go on believing
things that have been disproved over and over again, and disbelieve things that
are well established?” He also
wondered, “Why do their leaders so often turn out to be crooks and
it turns out, and fervent believers in the righteousness of white supremacy,
and right-wing hate groups have often been behind domestic terrorist incidents,
gun violence, repression, and Sagebrush Rebellion defiance in the U.S. since
2001. And Mr. Trump’s triumphant
crushing of his political opponents in the 2016 primary elections is
An example of the
illogical inconsistencies of staunch social conservatives is the fervent desire
of many Republicans to criminalize abortion while simultaneously eviscerating
programs that address women’s and children’s healthcare and poverty and fair
treatment. It is as if they believe
that “life begins at conception, and ends at birth,” as Rep. Barney Frank once trenchantly
It seems clear that
the Republican Party has become radicalized in the past several decades. Anti-tax, anti-government spokesmen like
Grover Norquist encourage obstruction and pledges to never ever compromise. The Grand Old Party has been hijacked by
“conservatives without conscience”, but people should demand more
fair-mindedness and integrity from their political representatives!
Yay! for the
Perspectives of Mark Twain!
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing
I have a great respect for Mark Twain’s
brilliant drawling sense of humor and his use of incisive wit to lampoon human
follies. I love the sincerely wild
exaggerations he employed to good effect in many of his entertaining stories.
These droll perspectives make his stories occasionally preposterous, but
enthralling. His creative wit and
wisdom are admirable, and his sharp tongue and pen were honorable when he used
them for serious purposes, like when he criticized political corruption, Gilded
Age inequities, and unjust American imperialism.
will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and
actions of the bad
people, but for the appalling silence of
the good people.”
--- Martin Luther King, Jr.
My inherited Twainian impulses encourage me
to ridicule the follies of domineering influences in the world today, and to
lampoon their failings and hypocritical aspects. My own personal character is much more mild-mannered than Mark
Twain’s, and perhaps less cynical and more self-effacing, and less
deterministic. Rather than laughing out loud at the latest reports of human
folly, I tend to smile broadly and whistle under my breath at instances of
sensational stubbornness, shortsightedness and selfishness.
After hearing the proclamations of one of
the relatively few remaining climate change deniers, and seeing how
suspiciously self-serving their affiliations are, or witnessing the odd
prophesies and beliefs of End Time Rapture prognosticators like the now
deceased Harold Camping and the Left
Behind series writer Tim LaHaye, or pondering the curious assertions of
apologists who stridently support policies that will make rich people richer
and poor people worse off, one could be forgiven for thinking that the late
Warren Hellman may have glimpsed a kernel of epiphany when he observed,
“Sometimes in this world, it’s hard to believe that only half the people are
dumber than average.” Ha ha!
If you tune in to Fox News, you hear all
manner of talking heads agreeing that President Obama’s policies have been a
terrible failure, and denying any culpability for George W. Bush having gotten
us into trillion dollar wars using borrowed money and for having increased
federal government spending like a drunken sailor, and for having crashed the
economy. The fact that Republicans have
stubbornly obstructed every initiative Barack Obama has tried to implement to
fix the mess he inherited is disgusting.
This sabotage has hurt millions of people, and was undertaken to advance
ridiculously narrow power obsessed (and racially tinged) goals.
It is stunning to realize that the
overriding goal of Republicans is to elect a “conservative” president who will
slash taxes on rich people and giant corporations to levels even lower than the
current multi-generational lows. This
is madness. Harsh spending cuts would
be required to offset the staggering losses of revenue related to these radical
tax cutting plans. Republican proposals
are crazy that would slash spending on public education, infrastructure
investments, public safety, the social security safety net and environmental
protections. It is more or less financially impossible to balance the budget
with such retrogressive, cynically-inegalitarian, counterproductive,
lame-brained and idiotically-prioritized plans. “Heck of a job, Brownie!”
Two years after first writing these words,
Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas achieved a signal and pathetic
achievement. After slashing state taxes
and shifting the burden of taxes from high incomes to low incomes, Kansas is
suffering serious shortfalls in revenues and being forced to cut public funding
for education and social safety net programs.
This is a disastrous outcome for the people of Kansas, and astoundingly,
Sam Brownback is blaming the black guy in the White House for the state’s
woes! “Hell of a job, Brownback!”
"Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously
and the politicians as a joke."
--- Will Rogers, the widely admired and plain-spoken “Favorite
Son” of Oklahoma
Satire and ridicule are effective in
exposing absurdities and hypocrisy. As it turned out, the many candidates for
the 2012 Republican presidential nomination proved to be an entertaining field
for ridicule by late-night comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill
Maher. Negative political ads and the
numerous Republican primary debates were as dramatic as a bizarre episode of a
soap opera farce. The conservative
electorate flip-flopped like a fresh-caught fish in a hot frying pan, trying
desperately to find a better alternative than the establishment candidate, Mitt
Romney. They briefly embraced bizarre
Michelle Bachmann, and even Rick Perry (oops!), then Herman Cain (whoops!),
then Newt Gingrich, and then Rick Santorum.
Libertarian candidate Ron Paul even garnered significant support in many
states. The Catholic religious
fundamentalist Rick Santorum actually won the Iowa caucuses and some primaries
like those in Alabama and Mississippi.
Some of these candidates flip-flopped on
many issues. They faced the distinctly
challenging task of pandering to a disparate and acrimonious coalition of
laissez-faire economic fundamentalists, far right social conservatives, angry
Tea Party reactionaries, way-out libertarians, and deluded and intolerant
religious fundamentalists. Mitt Romney
had flip-flopped the most during his career, having appealed to voters in the
relatively liberal state of Massachusetts to become its Governor from 2003 to
2007 and then finding it necessary to try to out-compete the scattered
selection of extreme conservatives who wanted to win the 2012 Republican
The presidential primary debates between
Republican candidates were a first-class saga of heated exchanges, extreme
positions, mistakes, rude and generally dishonest attacks on President Obama,
and stubborn obedience to dogmas that call for “you’re-on-your-own economics”
and more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Rick Perry made a curious error of
forgetting during a televised national debate that the Department of Energy was
one of the government agencies he wanted to eliminate. “Oops!”
Sigmund Freud might have had a field day with a glaring omission like
that, considering how deeply beholden Rick Perry is to the fossil fuel industry
in Texas. Rick Perry ostensibly wants
Big Oil to be able to maximize profits at the expense of increased air and
water pollution, regardless of the effect that such policies would have on
people’s health and in exacerbating disruptions of the global climate. He seems to care much more about corporate
profits than preventing harm to the health and prospects of millions of
people. In any case, Rick Perry would
surely agree that once the media has good reason to ridicule you, the assault
of laughter will seriously compromise hopes for gaining greater power!
As the 2016 presidential race has unfolded,
absurdities seem to be reaching new depths.
The Way Things Are
Since our political representatives are
intently pre-occupied with pandering to the narrow interests of rich people,
and since NOW would be the best time to begin to change this state of affairs,
I appeal to all wealthy people to accept progressive changes in laws that have
provided them with overly generous windfalls while ratcheting up budget
deficits and forestalling wiser priorities.
It is a very poor plan to allow rich people to get an increasing
concentration of the nation’s wealth while forcing the middle class and the
working poor to struggle harder and harder.
The imposition of ever-harsher degrees of hardship on poor people and
the young is simply wrong and dangerous.
Dr. John Bowlby
once noted: “All
of us, from the cradle to the grave, are happiest when life offers us a series
of excursions, long or short, from a secure base.” This feels quite true, and from this point of view, efforts that
make the majority of Americans increasingly insecure constitute a dastardly and
unconscionable strategy, especially when the goal is merely to let rich people
pay less tax.
“The United States already ranks second among
modern nations, just behind South Korea, in the share of its workers in
low-wage jobs, while too many companies lobby for ever lower taxes and ever
smaller wages and ever fewer worker rights in order to protect the mighty
torrents of greenbacks flowing into their coffers. A better balance would make America better off.”
--- David Cay Johnston, The Corporations that Occupy Congress
their adamant intent to protect the privileges of wealthy people,
“conservative” politicians are even willing to sacrifice the future well-being
of our descendants by reducing protections of the environment and letting
corporations externalize costs onto society.
A supposed need for deep cuts in spending is being used as a pretext to
significantly reduce protections for millions of acres of public lands,
including national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, wildlife
preserves, wetlands and even national parks, wilderness areas, national
monuments, State Parks and open spaces.
This is crazy!
Smackdown of Sorts
sent Republicans a clear message about “conservative overreach” in the 2011
elections. Voters in Ohio repealed a
law that stripped public-sector union employees of collective bargaining
rights. Arizona voters recalled a
rashly anti-immigrant state senator.
Voters in socially-backward Mississippi rejected a so-called
“personhood” amendment that would have given fertilized human eggs -- and even
cloned cells! -- the full rights currently assured, more or less, to real
Social conservatives and self-righteous
religious fundamentalists apparently believe fervently that fertilized human
eggs should be given the same privileged status of personhood as people who
have already been born. This eagerness
to give expanded personhood rights to fertilized eggs goes hand-in-hand with
doctrines that seek to take away the civil rights of women and children and
immigrants and lesbian women and gay men.
This bizarre bastardization of morality and our national laws is a
direct assault on human rights. It is
reminiscent of the essential madness of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, in which patriarchal authoritarians in a future
world twist values and use mind control to manipulate people, and they cook up
similarly misguided plans to repress the populace.
Many conservatives support the idea that
corporate entities should be treated as persons under the law even though this
diminishes rights and fair representation of people in our democratic
republic. This is one reason that
corporate rights and power and influence should be more strictly limited. It is also a prime reason that a “Saving
American Democracy Amendment” to the Constitution, as proposed by Senator
Bernie Sanders in 2011, should be enacted and ratified to reduce the untoward
influence of Big Money in our politics.
Seriously: The Top Ten
Ways “Conservatives” Try to Make a Mockery of Our Democracy
It seems like conservatives often oppose
democratic fairness. The Top Ten ways
they do this are:
Conservatives are working tirelessly to disenfranchise millions of poor
voters. They are doing this in dozens
of states that have Republican Governors and legislatures. They claim to be concerned about voter
fraud, but transparently target their efforts to disenfranchise poor people,
young people and minorities who tend to vote for Democrats. These Republicans are ostensibly doing this
to satisfy their topmost goal of winning at any cost, no matter how unethical
their ploys. This is consistent with
their Strict Father impulses to gain domineering power by any means
necessary. Call this Integrity Deficient.
Conservatives stubbornly oppose a fair-minded tax structure where everyone pays
exactly the same rates on all levels of income, with progressively higher rates
on higher levels of income. They
propose, instead, cutting taxes on the highest income earners while effectively
borrowing money from future generations to finance this plan. Call this Treacherously Misguided.
Conservatives insist on eliminating regulations and reducing the accountability
of banks and Wall Street speculators and giant corporations. Call this Transcendent Dishonesty.
Conservative leaders refuse to make fair-minded compromises on a wide range of
issues, including efforts to limit contributions made by billionaires and giant
corporations to Super PAC funds that are unfairly altering election
outcomes. Call this Loyally Traitorous.
Conservatives strive to stack the Supreme Court with corporate fundamentalists
and social conservatives who are outside the mainstream of judicial
thinking. Call this Wily Coyote Shrewd.
Conservatives side with corporations, rich people and corporate executives in
striving to undermine the rights and benefits of workers. Call this the Tricky Dick Syndrome.
Conservatives are making concerted efforts to limit the rights of women to use
contraceptives and plan their families, and they work to deny women the option
of terminating a pregnancy even in cases of rape, incest or the risk of a
woman’s death. By choosing such extreme
courses of action, they refuse to recognize the fact that the growth in the
world population, which now exceeds 7 billion people, is a significant factor
in exacerbating all the most serious global problems that confront
humankind. Call this attitude
Ruthlessly Uncompassionate and Bizarrely Contradictory.
Conservatives support policies that effectively create an ever-growing
disparity between the financial security of rich people and all others, and an
ever-widening gap between people in matters that affect economic security,
adequate medical care, and the health of ecosystems that sustains us. Call this Super Cynically Hypocritical and
All But Criminal.
Conservatives want to give corporations and embryos the rights of personhood
even though such actions reduce the rights, prerogatives and well-being of all
Americans who are already alive right now.
Call this Sublimely Absurd.
10. Conservatives champion Military
Keynesian hyper-spending and borrowing, and other short-term-oriented goals, at
the expense of future generations. Call
this Conspiratorially Sneaky.
An Aside on Militarism
Steinbeck’s haunting words, penned in 1940, again reverberate in the
interstices of my mind:
time ago a Congress of honest men refused an appropriation of several hundreds
of millions of dollars to feed our people.
They said, and meant it, that the economic structure of the country
would collapse under the pressure of such expenditure. And now the same men, just as honestly, are
devoting many billions to the manufacture, transportation, and detonation of explosives
to protect the people they would not feed.”
no one seems to believe that Congress is filled with honest men, particularly
not since the infusion of Tea Party Republicans in the 2010 elections and an
on-going purge of centrists. But our
representatives sure are devoting enormous amounts of money to the military,
and the clamor is deafening for spending less on social programs that would
otherwise make people generally more secure.
Total spending on the U.S. military was an estimated $18 trillion from
1980 through 2015. Curiously, this is
about the same amount that the national debt increased during this period of
time. We have effectively borrowed the
total cost for military spending in the past three decades. It is outrageous for people today to steal
from our descendants to finance such wasteful spending. We are, in effect, trying to gain national
security now by mortgaging the future, even though this almost certainly will
make people in the future less secure.
In addition, it
seems obvious that the aggregate well-being of the people in our nation is much
more endangered by proposals to make substantial reductions in programs that
ensure social security than it would be if we cancelled weapons systems that
have little real likelihood of mitigating actual threats to our national
are many opportunity costs associated with squandering so much money on the
military. Less money is available to
invest in vital things like good public education, energy efficiency, the
conservation of resources, research and development, physical infrastructure,
universal healthcare, environmental protections, and national well-being in
The U.S. has been engaged in high levels of
deficit-financed spending on Cold War conflicts, military personnel, armaments,
munitions, wars, and military occupations ever since World War II. Spending on the military-industrial complex
has increased by more than 70% since 9/11/01 to fight an endless “War on Terror”. Ideological arguments are advanced claiming
that spending on the military using borrowed money is a positive economic
stimulus. This strategy, known as
Military Keynesianism, is a risky fiscal undertaking that employs reckless and
unfair expediencies of borrowing enormous amounts of money from people in the
A more honest national policy would be to
pay-as-we-go for military expenditures.
To finance high levels of military spending, it would be appropriate to
assess higher taxes on imported oil, since much of our military spending is
targeted to ensure the continuous flow of oil from Middle Eastern nations. A Pigouvian tax strategy like this would
raise money to reduce budget deficits, and it would also make the real costs
clearer to the American people of aggressive militarism and the stationing of
hundreds of thousands of our troops abroad.
We can no longer afford to spend so
wastefully on the military. It is
extremely shortsighted to continue to pursue hyper-spending Military Keynesian
policies. The reasons we have been
unable to tightly control military expenditures are primarily because of
extreme partisan strife, brinksmanship, political pandering, fear mongering,
macho posturing, hawkish propaganda and the powerful motive of profit-making on
war services. It is unfair to our
descendants to obtusely allow these impulses to drive our national
policies. Expedient deficit financing
is radically out of step with sensible means of determining pragmatic,
affordable, fair-minded, and rational courses of action. Check out Reflections on War -- and Peace for more comprehensive
understandings related to these issues.
Osama bin Laden was assassinated in Abbottabad,
Pakistan on May 1, 2011 by an intrepid team of U.S. Navy SEALS. Soon thereafter a sound recording surfaced
on the Internet of eerie calls-to-prayer that are commonly heard emanating from
minaret towers in Muslim countries, followed by a sudden interrupting staccato
of gun shots and then the American national anthem struck up in a rousing
triumphal orgy of exultant gloating.
Yes, siree! Only ten years and
$1 trillion, and we finally vanquished this arch enemy. Yahoo for us! Intrigue, violence, mayhem and murder – “ya
gotta love it!”
But let’s sober up!
This sensationalistic event closed one chapter on a CIA project gone
very, very wrong. One need not be a
sleuthing detective to be aware that the U.S. was responsible for vaulting
Osama bin Laden from obscurity into a position of power, influence and
notoriety in world affairs. We gave him
financial and logistical support in a covert operation in Afghanistan known as
“Charlie Wilson’s War” in the 1980s. In
this affair, the U.S. clandestinely supported Osama bin Laden and Muslim
guerrillas known as mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviet military in
Here again, truth is sometimes be stranger
than fiction. This intrigue resulted in
the end of the Cold War in 1989 when the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union was
bankrupted and its costly military intervention in Afghanistan came to an
end. This American intrigue, however,
spawned a new ideological enemy. In a
classic case of blowback, Osama bin Laden tapped into the powerful anger of
long-suffering Arab frustration and humiliation, and used the tactics of
indiscriminate terrorism and ruthless extremism to oppose what they regarded as
the new infidel, the United States. The
militarism, interventionism, exploitation, domineering overreach, and
hubris-filled ethnocentric supremacism of the U.S. led many Muslims to regard
the U.S. as “the Great Satan”. This
helped rile extremists and recruit new believers to their oppositional causes.
After the Soviets were finally defeated in
Afghanistan, the Taliban came to power.
This was a vicious group of backward-looking, women-oppressing, opium
trafficking, terrorism-supporting rulers who shared a perspective with Osama
bin Laden that the Americans were the new foreign infidels. This point of view provided an impetus for a
succession of terrorist attacks, including the shocking 9/11 airplane
hijackings and attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
Now that we have sobered up after the
killing of bin Laden, we should focus on deeper causes rather than just
symptoms. Let’s begin to address real
underlying issues of the desperation of billions of people, and of far-reaching
injustices and abuses of power.
Let us clearly see the implications of the
fact that violent opposition provides counter-support for what it supposedly
opposes. It does this by signaling,
energizing and strengthening what is opposed.
Our economic sanctions and military presence in the Middle East have
created serious conflicts with Islamic peoples and terrorist groups. This has given them strength and more
opportunities for expanded recruiting.
In reaction, the existence of this opposition has had the adverse
unintended consequence of strengthening the power of the authoritarian right
wing in the U.S.
Five years after Osama bin Laden was
killed, Islamic extremism is proliferating around the world, and civil strife
in places like Syria and Yemen are creating a refugee crisis and posing
increasing risks around the world.
After the end of the Cold War, some people
sensibly expected a large “peace dividend”.
But no such thing ever materialized.
The debt-financed profiteering of companies involved in the military and
industrial complex had become too powerful a runaway train to be
controlled. A range of special interest
groups like wealthy people, corporate investors, CEOs and corporate managers
who are the primary beneficiaries of arms manufacturing and the war services
industry are too addicted to the military-industrial-congressional complex to
allow it to be sensibly controlled.
Basically, the potential for a broadly
shared peace dividend has been co-opted by the agenda of a small segment of
society that profits from wars.
Not long after the end of the Cold War, a
new nebulous enemy came along to justify endless war and rapid increases in
military spending, year after year after year.
This was just what the writer George Orwell had predicted -- a perpetual
war replete with propaganda and secret police who would combat an amorphous
enemy. George Orwell saw that the
primary purpose of permanent war would be to sustain authoritarian governance
and to control dissent by feeding popular insecurity, fear and hate.
This new rationale for endless war and
military empire sprang into existence with al Qaeda’s terrorist tactics. No peace dividend was gained after our
withdrawal from the costly military occupation of Iraq because we had
destabilized the region and now Islamic State extremists are creating further
contagion in the region. Conservatives
in Congress continue to effectively use fear and the need to maintain defense
industry jobs to promote an on-going continuation of the status quo. The U.S. spends more money on its military
than almost all other nations on Earth combined, and it now seems obvious that
we should make sizeable cutbacks in this out-of-control area of spending. Lavish spending on the military, together
with rapidly increasing expenditures on prisons, are means of fighting the
symptoms of problems instead of the causes.
We should properly re-prioritize and formulate wiser, more effective and
more comprehensive solutions.
The Sentencing Project is a group that has been
providing research and advocacy for prison reform for almost 30 years. This group points out that the U.S. has the
highest rate of incarceration of people in prisons or jails of any nation in
the industrialized world. This
extremely high rate of incarceration is unprecedented in our country’s
history. The number of people locked up
grew 375% from 1980 to 2008 -- while the total population grew just 34%. This is a form of social repression, and a
very costly one, and it has serious moral and social consequences.
Consider the “Three strikes and you’re out” laws
that have been passed in about half the States in the U.S. The Three Strikes law in California has been
called “the worst criminal law in the country” because of the fact that a third
offense need not be a violent crime or a serious felony, and yet it results in
an automatic life sentence. More than
8,000 inmates have been incarcerated for life in prison in California because
of the Three Strikes law. The costs of
three-strikes incarcerations exceed $40,000 per inmate each year, and this cost
will increase significantly as prisoners get older and need more medical care
before they die.
The third felony for some of the criminals in
California has been a minor crime that does not merit such harsh
punishment. California can no longer
afford the high costs of imprisoning such offenders for their entire
lives. In some ways, this is a kind of
unethical scam oriented toward profiteering that seems designed to benefit
prison-builders, and to create jobs and perks for prison guard unions. This gambit is supported by Strict Father
ideologies in our Incarceration Nation. This state of affairs is wrong-headed, and
CIVIL JUSTICE SYSYTEM NOW!
A Summary of Reform
In addition to congressional and legal
efforts to reduce corporate influence in our politics, we should
revolutionarily reform our economic and political systems with measures such as
-- Commit to a Bill of Rights for Future
-- Reform the U.S. tax system to make it more
steeply graduated for income and capital gains.
-- Enact a new Square Deal, as discussed
herein, and also in Existence, Economics,
and Ecological Intelligence.
-- Act to make our national laws consistent
with sensible Precautionary Principles, as elucidated in Intelligent Precautionary Principles Enunciated --- Holy Cow!
-- Reform campaign finance laws to make
elections fairer and cleaner.
-- Eliminate “too big to fail” by limiting the
leveraging of risks by banks, and by preventing abuses of power, and by
breaking up giant corporations into less powerful entities;
-- Create a national bank with interest rates
that are relatively low to compete with private banks that indulge in excessive
profiteering and predatory banking practices;
-- Create a public health insurance option to
compete with the monopoly practices of giant health insurance companies, or
actually find a way to implement universal healthcare.
Pass a new national law to specifically limit rights associated with claims of
I urge people to evaluate these ideas,
inhabit them, and help actualize them!
OCCUPY folks, let’s get ready for far-reaching and smart reform, and
contribute to it, and help make it happen!
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
9/10/11, revised 10/11/12 and 11/12/13 and 6/12/14 and
5/01/15 and 8/02/16
important and germane paragraphs were unceremoniously evicted from the
Introduction to Common Sense Revival, and
are included here so as not to be lost in my Germinating files.
beliefs can be indispensible to our identity and moral guidance and well-being,
but they can become toxic, as with paranoid superstitions, religious
supremacism, blaming of others, irrational conspiracy theories, the championing
of unnecessarily harmful profiteering, or the tough tendency to believe in
‘Second Amendment remedies’ to cultural, political or religious
societies are changing rapidly, people tend to become more worried and feel
left behind. Some feel they are victims
of democratic choices they oppose, and this can cause them to seek someone to
blame, or to have a hard time adapting.
They can also become more susceptible to anger and ideological
manipulation and beliefs in blanket anti-government dogmas. History shows that authoritarian rule
generally finds fertile ground in outrage and discontent and feelings of
victimhood. And when people are afraid,
they have a propensity to become more closed-minded to contrary evidence.
David Aaronovich once stated: “People
who share a muddled, careless, or deceitful attitude toward gathering evidence
often find themselves drawn to each other’s fantasies. If you believe one wrong or strange thing, you
are more likely to believe another.”
narratives make people feel good, so they develop attachments to the stories
they hold dear, no matter how shallowly rooted in evidence or fact the stories
may be. This can make course
corrections difficult. Beliefs in ideas
that are nonsensical or verifiably false can create dangers for those who hold
such beliefs, and for others as well.
Sadly, religious fundamentalists are having too many negative effects on
American society today. But even worse,
considered in a larger context, the impacts of such extremism on conflicts
between Christians, Muslims and Jews worldwide are making the world a much more
destabilizing and fraught with far-reaching risks for doctrinaire differences
between Shia and Sunni peoples in the Muslim world to be causing so many
violent conflicts. We clearly need all religions to evolve to strongly support
peaceable coexistence between people.
Established religions should seek to become more ethical, and more
socially and ecologically responsible.
They must become more inclusive and relevant, and less prone to causing
terrorist carnage, and they should stop being small-minded about hot button
social issues. Instead, they should
begin to act in ways more conducive to social justice and the greater good!
myths and scriptures and sermons are variously symbolic, metaphorical, poetic
and parable-like. As such, they touch
us in profound emotional ways and resonate with our deep spiritual impulses. This is why these stories are so effective
in helping us understand who we are, and in giving us purpose and meaning and
guidance, and in providing us with feelings of hope, belonging and solace.
But it is absurd to misunderstand the
in-group and out-group nature of these stories, and to cling to fundamentalist
literal interpretations of them. And
when these stories become too far removed from reality, and from what is best
for the whole group (which really represents the true moral good), the
religious edifice built on the stories can disintegrate and leave a society
that these ideas are evolving, and all insightful bigger picture perspectives
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Germinating ideas (added here to fill
space created when I reduced the font size in this essay from Comic Sans 11 to
Comic Sans 10):
might recall the piece in The Onion, that
well-known purveyor of satirical content, which concerned a teenager whose
parents decided to euthanize her because she was only "capable of
texting and rolling her eyes". The
many provocative subtexts of this piece of humor are marvelous. I roll my eyes at this cleverly devised
image of a girl utterly absorbed in texting and so rebelliously cynical as to
roll her eyes in response to any situation.
Modern times are strange, indeed!
my eyes at the credulity people have at plausible but absurd things. For instance, just after the Republican
National Convention in Cleveland in July 2016, a headline article
appeared all over social media stating "Trump Accidentally Fires Off ‘Boring Mike Pence’
Tweet During VP Speech Before He Can Stop Himself. This turned out to be an Onion piece -- which had Trump tweeting while his Vice Presidential pick was
on stage at the RNC: "Boring Mike
Pence lacks any charisma or charm, total disaster very hard to watch. Doing a lousy job. Knows nothing about
turned out to have been another satirical piece by The Onion that was mistaken for authentic news. Truth can be stranger than fiction!
powerful impact of television and modern social media on public opinion and on
people's awareness and understanding of issues is so profound and complex as to
be incomprehensibly hard to fully understand. But these influences on our
conscious and subconscious minds have led to ours becoming a shallow Sound
Bite Society that is characterized by bumper sticker sentiments and
impassioned opinion and insular echo chambers reverberating with
consequentially extreme partisanship, a plethora of impactful confirmation
biases, and far too many demonizing recriminations.
It is true
that Hillary Clinton has said many things to get elected that may be
inconsistent with earlier positions.
For instance, she has had an evolving stance on gay marriage. In the year 2000, broadly consistent with
public opinion and the majority of Americans at the time, she stated: “Marriage has historic, religious and moral content that
goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has
always been, between a man and a woman.”
By 2007, she had evolved into fairly supporting the rights of gay people
to be accorded respect when she stated:
“Well, I prefer to think of it as being very positive about civil
unions. You know, it’s a personal
position. How we get to full equality
is the debate we’re having, and I am absolutely in favor of civil unions with
full equality of benefits, rights, and privileges.” Then in March 2013, she openly embraced marriage equality. Political science professor Paul Kengor
noted at the time that Hillary Clinton had finally "endorsed gay
marriage," stating that he believed she had undergone "an honest
shift". This took place in advance
of the Supreme Court deciding in favor of gay marriage for people in all 50
the question is not whether Hillary has been dishonest or inconsistent or
defensive deceiving, but whether her current stand is one most fair to civil
liberties -- or whether it would be preferable to have a leader who is
unwilling to evolve and uncompromising and rigid in their ideologies.
is a crucial understanding. The need is
very strong for us to be able to adapt flexibly to rapidly changing economic
and social and environmental conditions on Earth as the consequential 21st
century unfolds. Humanity cannot afford
to have an American leader who obstinately denies the risks of climate change. Humanity cannot afford to have the most
powerful country in the world run by a go-it-alone narcissist with demonstrated
divisive tendencies and belligerent authoritarian impulses and reactive
propensities to lash out at dissenters and crushing opponents using scurrilous
means learned from 20th century dictators and demagogues,
particularly including Adolf Hitler and Senator Joseph McCarthy who engaged in
the red-baiting and blacklisting of liberals and artists and intellectuals in
the early 1950s.
believe that evidence shows the Democratic option is dramatically better than
the Republican option and that polls should show Hillary Clinton leading Trump
by a wide margin. But the conservative
political media complex, led by Fox News spin and right-wing talk radio personalities,
has been stunningly successful in broadly maligning Democrats and
misrepresenting facts and sowing doubt and divisiveness and trickle down big
lies, and working tirelessly to subvert our democracy in favor of wealthy
conservatives and dominion-demanding religious reactionaries. This “success” seems like a vast right wing
conspiracy to dominate politics even though what they offer is so ignoble,
grabbing for power not by offering better ideas but by trying to dishonestly
fool the people with deceptive propaganda and by restricting voting rights,
gerrymandering congressional districts, and stacking the courts with
ideological conservatives who will put the interests of corporations and
religious fundamentalists over the interests of the general welfare of the
doubt have managed to cast deep suspicions on Democratic principles and make
people think that Republicans are more honest, but I feel strongly that our
best option, by far, would be to elect Hillary Clinton in November 2016 and
then demand that she and our congressional representatives honestly work
together, in good faith, to implement national plans that are truly in the best
interests of the 99% of Americans rather than the top 1%.
need for positive adaptive change is great, and undeniable.