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                  Beam Me Up, Scotty!  The Earth Manifesto Arrives

                                                                                An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

                                                                                                                             October 2008

Hi!  Clear-eyed Tiffany Twain here, introducing the Earth Manifesto.  A rush of ideas jostles for attention and expression and priority.  Big Picture stuff.  Vital perspectives.  Far-sighted thoughts.  The essays in the Earth Manifesto seek truth in probing Olympian considerations of our existence and the important issues that face humanity.  The primary purpose of these writings is to fairly, objectively and accurately analyze what’s happening in our world today, and to use clear understandings to propose progressive solutions that are socially and ecologically propitious.

The United States has fallen into the trap of creating economic bubbles that have made us vulnerable to a financial collapse of the entire global economy.  Our nation has also, under the Bush/Cheney regime, made the most costly blunder in American foreign policy history by being suckered into preemptive wars and seemingly endless and destabilizing military occupations of Muslim countries in the volatile Middle East.  How could this state of affairs have come to pass?  Why has this happened?  And what can we do now to save ourselves? 

Questions like this are exhaustively explored in the Earth Manifesto.  It is clear that the vast majority of the American people want similar things:  a country in which our families are safe and the economy is fair and functional and sound;  a society in which there are good opportunities, education is affordable, everyone can get their medical needs met, and prosperity is broadly distributed;  a world that is not embroiled in unjust wars;  and a planet where the air is clean and pure fresh water is widely available and there are protected open spaces and parks and National Forests and Wilderness Areas and wildlife.  How can we accomplish these greater good goals?  Startlingly different ideas and perspectives are held about both priorities and methods, and powerful interest groups strive to gain influence and control in order to gain benefits that are often contrary to the common good. 

There are far better ways to achieve the greater good than to allow dysfunctional aspects of the status quo to prevail.  A radical disconnect exists between the policies of those in power and the best interests of the majority of Americans.  Politicians have been failing us during these times of unprecedented global challenges.  Our political system thrives on conflict, and those in power divide people and distract them to keep them from uniting and implementing public policies that would advance the good of the majority and of people in future generations.  Instead of fair-minded goals, insider interests champion the privileges of small minorities of wealthy people and corporate CEOs.  Since politics has dramatic effects upon all our lives, the 2008 Presidential election is extremely important to our future.  The stakes are high, and the candidates offer us dramatically different ideas and policies.

Overarching Considerations

In the great 1975 film, Three Days of the Condor, the character Joseph Turner (played by Robert Redford) discovered a plot to invade the Middle East for its oil.  Imagine that:  war for oil.  War for oil!  In the film, Joseph Turner disparagingly asks a CIA operative, “Boy, what is it with you people?  You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?”  The response of the CIA operative is chilling.  He basically says that when Americans begin to run out of oil or food, we will not really care how our government goes about getting it, we will just want our leaders to do whatever is necessary, no matter what is involved and no matter how shortsighted.  Injustice, aggression, violence, warfare, resource exhaustion, ecological disasters, even figuratively eating the seeds of the harvest of future prosperity … whatever!  This attitude of desperate expediency is epitomized by the fervent chant at the recent 2008 Republican Convention in Minnesota:  “Drill, Baby, Drill!”

Desperate needs seem to play into the hands of the greedy.  Knowing the short-term orientation of people’s desires and behavioral propensities, it is clear that a restructuring of our economic and political systems is needed to forestall foolishly shortsighted expediencies.  Our goal must be to create outcomes that represent “the greatest good for the greatest number of people over the longest period of time”.  This is the essence of conservation and smart planning and precautionary wisdom -- and of fairness to people alive today as well as those to be born in the future.

Americans have been gambling that our priorities are good and proper.  But an objective evaluation reveals that our priorities are misguided and radically askew.  More than 80% of Americans say they think our nation is headed in the wrong direction.  The main reason for this is that our economic and political systems are structured to primarily benefit rich people and corporations, not workers and the majority of people.  At the heart of the discontent that people are feeling is our faltering and inequity-filled economy.  Another big issue is the fact that we are fighting extremely costly wars abroad.  For extensive insights relating to economic forces affecting us here in October 2008, see Reporting Live from the Ground Zero Bleacher Seats in the Mega Bubble.  And for many valuable insights concerning peace and militarism and war, check out Reflections on War.  Both essays can be found on links to the Earth Manifesto Home Page. 

One way to fix our corrupt political system would be to institute public-financed Clean Money/Clean Election reforms that would reduce the influence of narrow special interests.  This would reduce the power of corporate lobbyists so that they do not consistently dominate our public decision-making.  Serious Congressional ethics reforms should also be put into place to hold politicians accountable for dishonest activities and political shenanigans.  Effective regulations and oversight of banks and other financial institutions are needed once again to keep greed and fraud and speculation from destabilizing our economy and harming prospects for long-term prosperity.  The best way to channel self-interested motives into the greater good is through the freedom-respecting and market-oriented approach of using wisely focused and far-sighted incentives and disincentives.  As the brilliantly sensible businessman and author Paul Hawken wrote in The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, “We must design a system … where doing good is like falling off a log, where the natural, everyday acts of work and life accumulate into a better world as a matter of course, not a matter of conscious altruism.”  Think about it!

We need to find good ways to make our representatives work together to find common ground between competing interests.  The culture of conflict and deception in Washington, D.C. prevents us from achieving greater good goals.  We must demand that our representatives reach fair consensus on common ground in every issue, and that they make reasonable compromises to advance clearly prioritized national objectives that are consistent with the general good over the long run.  Clearer priorities will allow us to keep our government from being hijacked by greedy interest groups at the public expense.  As Alan Greenspan, the economist and former long-time Federal Reserve Board Chairman writes in his 2007 book The Age of Turbulence, we should regard compromise as “the price of civilization, not an abrogation of principle.”

The Earth Manifesto explores these issues in depth, together with bigger questions of human nature, competitive urges, underlying motives and ecological truths.  Emotions and hype run high on the political scene, so I encourage readers to put on a logical Mr. Spock thinking cap and read on.  Emotional hijacking on an individual level can be harmful enough to our relationships and well-being, but on a society-wide basis, it is anathema to fair-mindedness and sensible progress toward better communities. 

I encourage readers to evaluate these important ideas objectively and honestly.  These essays have been written to help people see through deceptive and simplistic worldviews and narratives that paint complex issues in ways that are black-and-white and overly simplistic.  It is inaccurate and dangerous to see Americans as good and others as evil, for good and evil run through each of us.  Politics must evolve from stubborn partisanship and “you’re either with us or against us” vindictiveness, and winner-take-all paradigms to become nobler and fairer in embracing the common good and peaceful coexistence. 

Question Authority!  “Rebel Against Something Because Everything Ain’t Right! 

Countersupporting “Evil”

Terrorist acts and threats have given greater power to right-wing political forces in the United States.  Why is this?  The late and great John Fowles wrote about this phenomenon in his provocative book The Aristos, calling it “countersupporting”.  Unjust actions tend to strengthen the resolve of those who oppose injustices.  Militarism and imperialism strengthen impulses for terrorist retaliation and other forms of blowback.  Repression begets resistance, and arrogance begets resentment.  Humiliation begets anger and frustration, and violence often begets violence in reaction. 

These are powerful tendencies in human nature.  This is why Golden Rule fairness and honest diplomacy and smart statesmanship are better underlying principles than reactive policies like the Bush Doctrine of “preemptive war”.  As the human population continues to increase rapidly, competition intensifies and motives strengthen for strong countries to use force to get oil and land and fresh water and competitive advantages and domineering control.  We simply must find more effective ways to prevent aggression and resource wars.

Will and Ariel Durant were respected philosophers and historians who thoughtfully noted in their compelling book, The Lessons of History, that war is the ultimate expression of competition.  Modern wars are extremely unjust and destructive, so the need is strong for us to find effective means of preventing them.  General Douglas MacArthur once wisely said, “I believe that the entire effort of modern society should be concentrated on the endeavor to outlaw war as a method of the solution of problems between nations.”  Hallelujah for that sentiment!  Let’s commit our nation to this effort!

The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

Mark Twain is one of America’s most famous writers.  He was an immensely popular personality in his day, and a great American hero to boot.  Born in 1835 in the slave state of Missouri, he was steeped in a culture that was conflicted over slavery, so his novels provide trenchant insights into the collective psyche of his times.  Mark Twain struggled with the biases of the society he grew up in, and in doing so he created classic characters like Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, Judge Thatcher and the slave Jim.  He used clever satire and biting humor in his writings and public lectures to expose absurdities in the human condition and to delve into the profound conundrums of the Civil War period and its aftermath.  Later in his life, during the Spanish-American War, he became a leader in the “Anti-Imperialist” movement.  He opposed hawkish American expansionism that was a natural extension of the ruthless hubris of “Manifest Destiny”, which so devastated the Native American Indians.  He spoke out against U.S. attacks on Spain in Cuba and the Philippines in 1898 and subsequent military occupations of those countries, writing these words:

“… I have seen that we do not intend to free, but rather to subject the people … We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem … It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make these people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way.  And so I am an anti-imperialist.  I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”

Almost 100 years have passed since Mark Twain’s death in 1910, yet today we are still grappling with the legacies of both slavery and imperialistic impulses.  Our great nation still labors under the shadow of momentous conflicts and grave inequities, despite remarkable progress that has been made in freeing slaves, giving women the right to vote, and establishing protections for workers, consumers, investors and the environment.  Here in October 2008 we are faced with an extremely important Presidential election that pits Barack Obama, a liberal black man, against John McCain, an old white guy who is championing orthodox ideologies of the radical right that include tax-cutting for the rich, deficit spending, cronyism, corporatism, deregulation, aggressive militarism and religious fundamentalism.  We can’t afford four more years of this right-wing governance.

Two quotes succinctly summarize the colossal contradictions that characterize our two dominant political parties. 

“The Republicans are the party that says that government doesn’t work, and then gets elected and proves it.”

          --- Conservative P.J. O’Rourke

  A liberal is “a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” 

                                                                                                --- Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Robert Frost

The challenges facing Americans are daunting and unprecedented in their global ramifications, and the contrast between the presidential candidates and their ideological positions could hardly be greater.  Both political parties are talking about change and reform, because the Bush/Cheney administration is widely regarded as being so unfair, inegalitarian and irresponsibly profligate with government spending.  It is becoming clear that it is harmful to the public good to overly indulge in deficit spending and corruptly embrace cronyism, corporatism, authoritarian abuses of power, religious fundamentalism and military aggression.  Both parties claim to be best qualified to fix the serious problems of our economic and political systems, and the American people seem to be having a difficult time deciding who to believe  -- and who to trust. 

The late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota believed that politics should be about far more than power, money and winning at any cost.  He once said, “Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.  It’s about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and in the world.”  Ah, such wonderful ideals!  Democrats have unfortunately been too poorly organized to be effective in overcoming and rebuking the ideologies and emotional appeals of right-wing conservatives, despite the obvious high costs and inequities and failings and detrimental outcomes of the ideas and doctrines espoused by the powerful radical right and financial elites.  It is time to let a new generation lead, and a progressive one, not an old generation and a political party with a sadly retrogressive record.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the failures of our political system.  Republicans are more focused on ideological consistency and winning at any cost than are Democrats, and since they have dominated our nation for the past eight years, they have much more responsibility.  Moderate Republicans have traditionally represented integrity and fiscal responsibility and limited government, but under the Bush/Cheney regime they have made the federal government more radical and fiscally irresponsible and domineering.  They have helped create the largest budget and trade deficits in our nation’s history, and they have eliminated common sense regulations, oversight and supervision that served to protect the economy from systemic risks. 

They have also ruthlessly launched costly “preemptive wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, and violated the Geneva Conventions against prisoner torture.  They have exploited public fears, stimulated divisiveness, belittled opposition, and suppressed dissent.  They have aggressively expanded Executive power and infringed on checks and balances established by the Constitution.  They have abused their power to diminish people’s civil liberties, and deceived the people to advance a narrow, highly unfair economic and social agenda.

They have appointed corporate-friendly judges and Supreme Court Justices who do not really represent the mainstream of majority public opinion;  and they have pandered to the religious right rather than to moderates or secular interests.

Politics and the Shortcomings of Democratic Capitalism

Politicians pretend that politics revolve around a contest of principles.  But make no mistake about it:  politics, at its core, is the collective expression of competing and conflicting interest groups that are primarily concerned with making money and gaining influence and power, NOT with advancing honorable principles.  And the contest is not at all fair.  We theoretically have a representative democracy, but most of the power is wielded by vested interest groups that rig the laws and regulations and even the judicial system in their favor at every turn.  In the process they corrupt our brilliant constitutional system in order to gain private advantages at the public expense.  They defend their privileges and stubbornly oppose real reform.  They avoid accountability and evade responsibility for the harmful impacts of their actions.  They largely ignore the greater good and the interests of young people who cannot vote, and they forsake the interests of future generations.

Ambrose Bierce, one of the most influential journalists of the late 19th century, published a satirical dictionary in 1911 in which he defined politics exactly as described above:  “Politics, n.  A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.”  And also, “Politics, n.  The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”  Satire often contains incisive wit and wisdom, and these two definitions surely address the cynical heart and the manipulative soul of politics today.  It is not principles that politicians are most concerned with, despite disingenuous rhetoric to the contrary;  it is the interests of insiders and corporations and Big Money donors. 

Honestly!  We must pay attention to what politicians actually do, not just to what they say.  We must recognize their motivations and hidden agendas.  Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."  The right wing, exploiting fear and anger that Americans felt after the 9/11 attacks, have fooled the people for years, but their reign is coming to an end.  Or will they somehow convince voters to give them four more years?  As the old says goes, “Fool me once, shame on you;  fool me twice, shame on me.” 

Long ago (in 1936) the Supreme Court recognized that “An informed public is the most potent of all restraints upon misgovernment”.  In light of this fact, we should strive to ensure that politicians and the mass media present comprehensive and honest versions of facts so that citizens are able to make well-informed decisions.  By doing this, our democracy will function more properly and in ways that are more broadly beneficial. 

Judging from economic trends and political developments of the past decade, American politicians are seriously misleading us.  We must see through all the deceptive rhetoric and spurious arguments and manipulative spin and ridiculous misrepresentations.  We must clearly understand the true motives that are at the center of political maneuvers.  It is important for us to see that our democracy is actually more of a money-driven plutocracy than a fair democratic republic, and to act to change this state of affairs.  Movements for Clean Money and Fair Elections are one way that we could effect revolutionary change in our corrupt system.

Almost 2,400 years ago, Plato expressed the wise philosophical opinion that a society should be ruled by its wisest citizens.  Such means of governing would be honestly guided by the common good.  Plato viewed democracy with skepticism, regarding it as absurd that an ignorant and selfish person would be given the same voice as an intelligent, broadminded and public-service-oriented citizen.  It is sad but true that those who achieve power in our nation are rarely wise, or selfless, or truly compassionate, or farsighted.  As Winston Churchill once said,

“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.  No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.  Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

I personally love our democracy and its substantial protections of human rights like the freedom of expression.  Our Founders recognized that tyranny poses many threats to life and liberty and property, so when they created our Constitutional democracy they instituted a strong system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative and judicial branches of the federal government.  They did this to prevent injustices and abuses of power like those the British had imposed on the American colonies. 

People love freedom.  To ensure individual freedom in a society, some regulation of individual conduct needs to be instituted, for otherwise complete freedom for all results in anarchy, lawlessness, chaos and increased insecurity.  Thus the first condition of freedom is ironically that it be must be limited.  The primary task of government is to establish order by defining the privileges and responsibilities of its citizens.  It does this through laws and law enforcement and a system of courts and judicial proceedings.  The best leaders make decisions about optimal courses of action by striving to adjudicate between competing interests and fairly balance the desires of individuals and businesses with the greater good of the community. 

Since government is a primary province of power and influence, special interest groups and scheming politicians who seek to gain privileges and shirk responsibilities tend to corrupt the system.  Deficit spending, entitlements, subsidies, earmarks and tax cuts tilted to benefit the wealthy are all essentially political gambits that pander to elite factions of society.  Instead of creating policies that are sensible and farsighted, politicians use these irresponsible political expediencies to gain and maintain power.  These strategies are oriented toward politically self-serving goals of getting re-elected, NOT toward advancing public interests in a fair and sustainable way.

It is vastly preferable to find common ground and comprehensive solutions to problems rather than to fail to solve them.  Most problems do not go away;  they tend to get worse when they are not addressed.  History shows that the best way to deal with issues, both domestic and foreign, is to enact fair compromises.  Bipartisan efforts get the best results.  Stubbornly uncompromising partisanship and ruthlessness are generally quite counterproductive.  Dirty politics, blaming the opposition, ‘gotcha politics’ and demonizing others are all tactics that obstruct progress toward fairly solving problems.  When such polarizing tactics are used, dysfunction results and it is hard to plan ahead and make good decisions.  Furthermore, obsessions with scandals, sensationalism, celebrities, mindless entertainment and alluring titillation divert public attentions from clear understandings of issues and their best solutions.  Public ignorance, deceptive spin, political propaganda, snide mockery on talk radio, and unbalanced journalism all harm our democracy. 

Money and the peddling of influence drive our economic policies and political initiatives.  Corporate lobbyists dominate Washington D.C., and their mission is to promote the interests of insiders.  Their political lapdogs on the radical right use emotionally manipulative gambits and ideological stances on hot-button social issues to get voters to support laws and policies and corporate subsidies that give great advantages to special interest groups at the expense of the public.  We must see through “trust me, friend” reassurances and political masquerades of those who are trying to gain power for ideological control or selfish advantage.  When we recognize the private privileges that are being advanced in the conduct of public affairs, we are better able to judge what is proper, appropriate, desirable, fair, sensible, honorable and acceptable.  The criteria that we should use in deciding what policies are best should be (1) Golden Rule fairness, (2) consistency with the common good, and (3) the probable impacts on people today as well as in future generations. 

The November 4, 2008 Presidential election looms ahead of us, and the stakes are very high.  Both Republicans and Democrats recognize that the Bush/Cheney legacy has been one of enormously costly damage to the greater good, so both parties are claiming to support dramatic reform and positive change.  Both Barack Obama and John McCain claim that they are the best candidates to make the changes needed.  John McCain has the more difficult sales job since he supported orthodox Republican positions more than 90% of the time in the past eight years.  Who can we trust?  As a progressive, I feel that it is clear that Barack Obama is a much better bet.  He is smart, adaptive and extremely well organized.  He is a great communicator who has proved to be effective in mediating concerns of both conservatives and liberals when he was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review.  These are qualities that we need in a leader, and not “90% the same as Bush” John McCain!

No amount of lipstick can figuratively conceal the disturbing details of the wrongheaded Republican priorities in the past eight years.  Progressive-minded people must courageously stand up to the coalition of wealthy people and CEOs and religious fundamentalists that put George Bush and Dick Cheney in office, and make it clear that working people, women, children and the environment must not be left behind in the policies we formulate.

Ruthless Competition versus Desirable Cooperation

Imagine being an astute, objective and logical observer like Spock from the planet Vulcan in the famed TV series, Star Trek.  Given the responsibility to report on the essence of human nature on planet Earth, Spock-like observers would note that human interactions are characterized by genuinely cooperative impulses as well as highly competitive urges.  Though people have a distinct commonality of interests, we are often involved in serious disagreements and violent conflicts.  Since this is the case, the best interests of humanity would be served by cooperatively creating powerful mechanisms and incentives that maximize fairness and true justice, and that simultaneously reduce inequities and mitigate inequalities.  To accomplish this, we need to transcend the politics of extreme partisanship, deceptive manipulation, divisive polarization and dishonesty.

Conflicts of interest naturally abound in human societies.  To prevent tyranny over the majority by the people in power, our Founding Fathers established a representative form of democratic government in which checks and balances were instituted to prevent inherent impulses toward tyranny, inequality, unfairness and injustice.  This grand progressive experiment in government “of the people, by the people and for the people” rejected the historical domination of people by privileged elites.  Many corrupting influences subvert these founding principles.  It is somewhat of a miracle that our great American experiment in democracy has prospered for 232 years now and managed to survive all the challenges that have arisen during this interlude, including anti-democratic political ploys, intense political struggles, a Civil War, two World Wars, Cold War nuclear weapons threats, McCarthyism, empire building, foreign adventurism, terrorism, financial panics, economic recessions and depressions, natural disasters, severe environmental assaults, and revolutionary changes in demographics, technology, communications and mass media.

So far in the early years of the 21st Century, many factors are complicating the challenges that our civilizations face.  Rapid population growth, irresponsible corporatism, disruptive globalization, terrorist attacks, Peak Oil, domineering superpower military interventionism, right-wing ideologies, climate change, hurricanes, floods, droughts and intense wildfires are all accelerating these existential challenges.  As a consequence, our democracy is confronted by gathering threats to our national security, as well as to our personal liberties.  The economy is faltering, and banks are going bankrupt.  Our national debt is spiking upwards.  Our military is being over-stretched in “preemptive wars”.  Inequities are increasing and our political process is failing us.  The checks and balances in our government are being subverted by factions hungry for power and special privilege.  Fraud, corruption, deception, fear-mongering, military aggression, unbalanced deficit spending and indeed materialistic consumerism itself all pose grave threats to our future prosperity.  Greedy rich people are acting with extreme shortsightedness, and needy poor people do what they must to survive.  Ecological sanity is under attack, and biological diversity is under siege.

To deal effectively with these enormous challenges, we must act boldly and wisely.  We need to work together to make our societies fairer and more sustainable.  Much can be done, and great hope resides in courageously addressing these challenges.  An extensive list of prescriptions for a fairer and more secure world can be found throughout these writings, and they are succinctly summarized in “One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies“ and in “Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity.”

I highly recommend the illuminating book by columnist Robert Kuttner titled The Squandering of America: How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity.  This book gives readers valuable and surprising insights into the workings and complexities of our economic system and our democracy.  It provides insight into the risks of having the government and the Federal Reserve encourage financial speculation and expanding debt and excessive leveraging.  It also shows how insider activities and deregulation and conflicts of interest cause big problems and how private equity firms, investment banks and hedge funds have created systemic risks that require costly government bailouts to keep the system from falling into a destabilizing recession.

Comprehensive Global Perspective II

The human race is the dominant species of animal on earth.  Our ability to think, communicate, learn, understand the past, predict the future, and plan ahead allows us to take advantage of a wide range of habitats and resources.  It seems clear that better understandings of human nature and history are valuable for us to achieve the goal of creating more stable and enduring economies and a healthier populace and institutions.

Knowledge is critically important to human survival.  This is even truer today than it was when our species relied on hunting and gathering to survive, or in those long millennia when agriculture allowed agrarian societies to prosper.  Many lessons can be learned from the study of the rise and fall of human civilizations.  Dominant superpower America must recognize the risks and cautionary historical facts related to the decay of empires.  Civilizations have historically arisen in response to successful dealings with great challenges.  Civilizations grow when they respond appropriately to such challenges, and they enter a period of decline when they fail to cope. 

Seven primary traits are said to typify the decay of the far-flung Roman Empire and the British Empire.  We must avoid channeling these traits as if they are a desirable and predestined script!  The decline of civilizations generally occurs because of the following combination of causes:

1.  Resources are squandered and depleted;

2.  An unfair plutocracy becomes established that is characterized by an ever-growing disparity between the fortunes of the rich and the poor;

3.  Political corruption and mismanagement become widespread;

4.   The military, because of a dangerous arrogance of power, becomes bloated and overextended in costly and debilitating foreign wars;

5.  The public is divided by inegalitarian domestic policies and becomes effectively disenfranchised, so the populace becomes increasingly cynical and apathetic; 

6.  The people grow complacent and are diverted by lavish sports spectacles and other forms of distracting entertainment and materialistic indulgences and foreign wars;

7.  There is a massive influx of people and their customs from abroad.

History shows that as empires climax and decay, the ruling elites become ever more desperate, corrupt, anti-democratic and authoritarian in their drive to maintain their power.  This dynamic certainly seems to be playing out in the United States today. 

President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people against the ‘disastrous rise of misplaced power’.  He noted that we must be alert to make certain that we find positive ways to ensure “that security and liberty may prosper together.”  For our civilization to succeed rather than collapse, we need more forward-thinking leaders!

World War II was caused by the world domination plans of Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy and Emperor Hirohito in Japan.  More than fifty million people died in the conflict that ensued.  This severely discredited the extreme-right form of political organization known as fascism, which had appealed to people during the terrible social insecurity of the 1930s Depression.  An apocryphal list of strategies that fascist regimes use in power was propagated during the 2004 election.  These strategies were ones that were said to characterize fascist regimes like those of Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, Franco in Spain, Suharto in Indonesia, and Pinochet in Chile.  Fourteen primary traits of fascist regimes were identified.  It is valuable to consider the cunning Machiavellian schemes used by such governments, and the ominous parallels they have with those of the Bush/Cheney administration during the past eight years.  Think carefully about these 14 characteristics of fascist regimes:

(1)  Corporate Power is Protected.  The industrial and business elites of a fascist nation are often the ones who put the government leaders into power.  This creates a mutually beneficial relationship between business and government, and a power elite that consequentially ignores the common good.

(2)  Obsession with National Security.  Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

(3)  Rampant Cronyism and Corruption.  Fascist regimes are almost always governed by groups of associates and cronies who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability.  It is common in fascist regimes for fraud and corruption to occur, and even for national resources to be appropriated or outright stolen by government leaders.

(4)  Supremacy of the Military.  Even when there are widespread domestic problems, military forces are given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and vital domestic agenda items are neglected.  Soldiers and military service are glamorized, and secret police organizations undermine civil liberties.

(5)  Controlled Mass Media.  The media is either directly controlled by the government, or it is indirectly controlled by government regulation, conservative ownership or right-wing media executives and spokespeople.  Censorship, especially in war time, is common.

(6)  Powerful Nationalism.  Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other propaganda and paraphernalia.  Flags and flag symbols are seen everywhere on clothing and in public displays.  Loyalty, patriotism and conformity are demanded.  As Sinclair Lewis warned in his 1835 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying the cross.” 

(7)  Religion and Government are Intertwined.  Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion.  Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when their policies or actions are diametrically opposed to the actual major moral tenets of the religion.

(8) Identification of Enemies and Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause.  The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to overcome a perceived common threat or foe.  Racial, ethnic or religious minorities and liberals, communists, socialists, progressives, terrorists or other groups are blamed.

(9)  Disdain for Human Rights.  Because of fear of enemies and perceived needs for greater security, the people under fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "necessity."  The people tend to look the other way or even approve of such tactics as torture, coercive and punitive interrogations, long incarcerations of prisoners, and even summary executions and assassinations.

(10)  Rampant Sexism.  The governments of fascist nations are almost exclusively male-dominated.  Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid.  Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

(11)  Labor Power is Suppressed. Labor unions are either eliminated entirely or are severely suppressed, because the organizing power of unions and workers is seen as a significant threat to fascist governments.

(12)  Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts.  Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education and academia.  It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested.  Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

(13)  Obsession with Crime and Punishment.  Under fascist regimes, the police are given extraordinary power to enforce laws.  The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism, and national police forces have virtually unlimited power.

(14)  Fraudulent Elections.  Sometimes elections are held in fascist nations, but they are generally just a sham.  Such elections are often manipulated by emotional appeals and smear campaigns against opposition candidates.  Legislation or fraudulent schemes may be used to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and to manipulate the media.  Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Most Americans believe strongly in freedom and democracy, and oppose tyranny and the infringement of liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.  I believe that Barack Obama represents by far the best hope we have to regain our integrity, fairness and respect in the world.  He represents a better potential president than John McCain because McCain and the Republican Party are representatives of the right wing and of religious fundamentalists who have usurped so much power in the United States in the past eight years.  It also should be a significant consideration that the next president will likely appoint one or two new Supreme Court Justices, and our nation can ill afford more right-wing judges to be appointed for lifelong terms who will side with corporations against people and maybe even overturn important precedents like the Roe vs. Wade decision.

I strongly believe that we must make bold corrections to our political course to ensure that our great country does not go further down the path towards authoritarian domination of our diminished democracy.  We must not let the “security racket” and hyped-up threats of terrorism pave the way to the loss of our freedoms and democratic governance!

Ecological Considerations

The basic thesis of many ideas in the Earth Manifesto is that if we embrace bigger narratives and wiser and more comprehensive understandings, we will be able to achieve a saner and healthier future.  The overarching context of these ideas is the big picture of what contributes to the long-term best interests of humanity.  The insights and even epiphanies of ecological philosophers should inform all our decision-making.  When we take into account our collective responsibility for the wise stewardship and smart usage of natural resources, we will be able to achieve better outcomes.  To measure our progress in achieving greater good goals, we should fairly assess the probable impacts our actions will have on the well-being of our children and people in future generations. 

Imagine being an enlightened spiritual leader like the Dalai Lama, in touch with the essential soul of humanity and the wisdom of the ages.  Given the responsibility for educating people concerning understandings of the human condition, you would likely advance a simple truth:  the prosperity and survival of the human species is ultimately dependent on people working together well enough to make their livings in ways that do not destroy the ecological underpinnings of our individual and collective well-being.  We need to harmonize our activities with the natural world to a greater extent, and refrain from single-mindedly trying to control and modify and dominate and pillage nature at every turn. 

A recent report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature indicates that almost 50% of species of primates on Earth are threatened with extinction due to human activities that include hunting, logging, mining, the burning and clearing of tropical forests, and other forms of habitat destruction.  These actions are contributing to the demise of many species of life on Earth, but it is particularly serious that we are driving so many primates to extinction because they are our closest living biological relatives.  Mammals are classified into 29 biological orders, and we Homo sapiens belong to the order Primates.  The extinction of primate species is one aspect of the unraveling of the web of life that is resulting from our concerted assault on nature and the inadvertent impact this is having on other forms of life. 

Chief Seattle, a Native American leader in the Pacific Northwest, warned the U.S. government in 1844 against the misuse of land, water, air, and animal life.  He said, “Whatever happens to the Earth, happens to the children of the Earth … All things are connected, like the blood that unites one family.  Mankind did not weave the web of life;  we are but one strand within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”  Now, 164 years later, the truth of this observation becomes clearer.

We live in times of accelerating change in human affairs.  Rapid population growth is causing aggregate demand to increase for fertile soil, food, fresh water, forest products, mineral resources, and fossil fuels.  These trends are causing an intensifying competition over resources.  Most countries compete in accordance with laws of demand and supply and the rigged rules of the economic systems that prevail, but in their hubris some nations abuse their power and launch wars over resources and ascendancy.  As a result of these circumstances, a number of overarching threats confront the human race.  Included among these threats are resource depletion, ecological harm, biological extinctions, water and air pollution, widespread poverty, starvation, exacerbated conflicts, and the consequences of Peak Oil and human-caused global warming and related climate changes.

Whether using reason or emotion, an epiphany lies before us, in plain view.  We need to pay closer attention to nature, and to better understand her ways.  It is vital for us to honestly recognize nature’s limits and the sensitivities of natural systems to our impacts.  When we do this, it becomes obvious that it is imperative to channel our behaviors more fairly and consistently toward ecologically propitious long-term goals.  By doing this we can help ensure the general welfare and protect the best interests of future generations. 

One reason we strive to control and dominate the natural world is that we have anthropocentric worldviews.  We think we are separate from nature.  We cultivate beliefs that the human race was created by a supernatural being that made the Earth for our dominion, like the God of Genesis in the Bible who tells us to be fruitful and multiply, and to replenish and subdue the Earth and its denizens.  We unfortunately seem to be conveniently ignoring the part about our replenishing Creation, and we are abdicating our responsibility for protecting its vital signs and exercising faithful stewardship of its bounty.

This is a practical matter, as well as an ethical and spiritual one.  We must manage our use of Earth’s resources in wiser ways, and make intelligent provisions to staunch the inexorable depletion of these resources.  We also should rightly recognize that we derive a wide array of extremely valuable ecosystem services from the Earth.  These services are crucial to all aspects of human well-being, so we must not irreparably damage them! 

Ecosystems services are provided by (1) wetlands, which mitigate flooding, purify water, and provide rich aquatic nursery habitats;  (2) forests, which regulate stream flows, protect topsoil and fisheries, and provide wood, fiber and critically important carbon sinks;  (3) wild areas that provide sustenance to wildlife and ensure biological diversity;  (4) birds, bees and various other pollinators that provide crop pollination and seed dispersal;  (5) natural systems that keep insects, pests and diseases in check;  (6) the natural symbiosis and resilience found in biological diversity and ecosystem health that help maintain Gaia’s balance;  and (7) public lands and open spaces that offer recreational and aesthetic and spiritual values. 

Scientists estimate that ecosystem services contribute more to the international economy every year than the gross national product of all countries in the world combined.  Despite this great value, we are messing with Mother Nature and harming her ability to continue providing these services! 

Most people generally don’t give much consideration to the larger implications of impacts that humanity is having on Earth’s ecosystems and the other denizens of our home planet.  Nor do we show enough concern for people in the future.  Our motivations, aspirations, ambitions, narrowly selfish interests and competitive drives are causing damage to the very foundations of our existence.  We are foolishly indulging in profligately wasteful consumption that is stimulated through clever marketing, debt financing, government subsidies, bubble economics, changing fashions and planned obsolescence. 

The consequences of our materialistic consumerism are becoming ever more obvious.  We are depleting Earth’s topsoil, clear-cutting forests, harming habitats, killing wildlife, destroying wetlands, squandering resources, and polluting streams and lakes and oceans.  We are overfishing the oceans and damaging coral reefs and causing extensive oxygen-depleted dead zones in the seas.  We are even altering the composition of the atmosphere, so we are basically upsetting the balance of nature upon whose health we depend for vital ecosystems services. 

In addition to these ecologically foolish activities, we are allowing Big Business to externalize costs onto society and the environment like those associated with the prevention and mitigation of pollution, the clean-up of toxic wastes, and impacts related to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.  Recognizing these facts, it is crazy for us not to make concerted collective efforts to overcome these obstacles and to change the behaviors that are contributing to such inauspicious developments.  The time to make positive changes is NOW, while reasonably good alternatives are still available.

A cynical bumper sticker spotted recently is savvy but seditious.  It states:  “At least the war on the environment is going well.”  Ha -- But not really so funny!

Greed and tyrannical impulses and misguided idealism and status seeking through extravagance are powerful forces that seem to be inherent in every society.  Knowing this, we should plan ahead more wisely and establish effective mechanisms to ensure more sensible courses of action.  This is how we could avoid the adverse developments and dangerous consequences of our aggregate activities and reactionary responses to events.  Schemers and scammers abound in this world of ours.  To presume, out of some ideological conviction, that financial institutions and businesses and governments will operate best without sensible regulation and adequate oversight is to deny human nature, and to invite fraud and help facilitate swindles.  This is an economic issue that is explored in detail in Reporting Live from the Ground Zero Bleacher Seats in the Mega Bubble, where the unethical schemes of people like Charles Ponzi and Phil Gramm are investigated.

To be candid, this is simply NOT the best of all possible worlds.  Things could be better on our home planet.  Policies could be fairer.  We could extricate ourselves from our ruinously expense military occupations of Middle Eastern countries.  We could choose budgetary priorities that are more beneficial to society than those that command the current allocation of our taxpayer dollars.  We could ameliorate the cumulative environmental impacts of our actions, and make them more nearly sustainable.  We could implement bold energy conservation initiatives and better vehicle mileage standards and greater efficiencies of fossil fuel use.  We could invest more sensibly in alternatives to oil instead of fighting wars for access to other people’s fossil fuel resources.  We could spend more money on initiatives designed to ensure peaceful coexistence and good neighborliness.  We could create effective international laws and institutions to prevent military interventions and wars.  We could make positive social changes like reducing malnutrition and poverty.  We could make international trade fairer, and do more to prevent diseases, and lower the price of education, and provide women with better reproductive health care, and improve fresh water supplies and do more to protect the environmental commons. 

Marketing Strategies and Political Gambits and Their Impact on Governing

Politics is at the heart of many of the problems facing us, so the perspectives of the former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan are worthwhile.  In his book What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, he makes a compelling case that the methods used in politics in our nation’s capitol today have strong parallels to the strategies used in war.  He cites the famous military treatise written by a Chinese general about 2,500 years ago, The Art of War, in which tactics are extolled for managing conflicts and positioning and maneuvering and deceiving enemies.  The Art of War has been used extensively in its applications not only to warfare but also to corporate strategies and politics, so its insights are valuable for understanding political events.  When we consider the strategies of politics-as-war, we see that continuous political campaigning can seriously affect the process of governing itself.  The use of emotional appeals to achieve narrowly partisan goals and ideological objectives contributes to our national failure to effectively and responsibly address the problems facing us. 

Instead of allowing our leaders to distract and deceive and divide us, we need to unite to overcome what are really, in the larger scheme of things, relatively minor differences between people.  Together we need to deal with the looming limits and big challenges that face the human race.  We need to prevent irreversible damages to Earth’s common areas and stop unsustainably exploiting resources.  To do this, we must redesign our economies and alter our habits by sensibly using smart regulations and intelligently designed incentives and disincentives.  This is a precautionary good plan. 

‘Politics as war’ tactics have been successful in short-term partisan triumphs, but they are failing us in the bigger scheme of things.  This makes it imperative that we find constructive and visionary ways forward.  We must strive for fairness and peace and sustainable existence rather than narrow victories of conservatives over liberals, or rich people over the masses, or capitalists over communists, or Christians over Muslims, or Shia over Sunni, or evangelicals over agnostics, or human beings over the natural world.  The many conflicts of interest in human societies are made worse by drives for economic ascendancy and political dominance.  Differing cultures, ideologies and supremacist religions add daunting complexities to these conflicts.  Still, we must move forward. 

Our creativity and imagination give us great cause for hope, but this hope springs from intelligence, and not ignorance;  from clarity, not denial;  from creativity, not closed-mindedness;  from commitments to more meaningful values and the greater good, not merely shortsighted pandering to vested interest groups;  from true justice not ruthless heedlessness;  from perseverance in the face of adversity, not despair;  from faith in humanity, not mindless certitude in a jealous or vindictive God;  from enthusiasm, not apathy;  and from working together to achieve clear purposes, not just stoked partisanship.

It is an unfortunate characteristic of human nature that whenever wars and crises threaten, impulses toward authoritarianism gain traction.  Leaders promise security in return for the surrender of freedoms and civil liberties.  Demagoguery increases, and fears and insecurities are exploited to gain more power.  Tyrannical drives insinuate their influences into decisions and policies.  Leaders in democratic governments attempt to convince the people that they are acting to make citizens safer, but they are often unscrupulous in their exploitation of opportunities for gaining short-term benefits for insiders and the powerful and privileged. 

With the constant danger that war compulsions will unduly affect politicians and governments, we obviously need to have better mechanisms in place to prevent war.  For philosophical, entertaining and revelatory explorations of ideas related to war, I highly recommend two of the essays on the Earth Manifesto website:  Tall Tales, Provocative Parables, Luminous Clarity and Evocative Truths: A Modern Log from the Sea of Cortez, in which John Steinbeck’s ideas about human nature and wars are considered, and the wide-ranging treatise, Reflections on War.  They both contain important insights.

Communism, Capitalism, Ideology and Sensibility

Inequities and injustices abound in the U.S. and in the world.  Existential challenges are increasing in their global scope and seriousness, and seem to be converging toward catastrophe.  “It is elementary, my dear Watson,” as Sherlock Holmes might have said:  we should reform our institutions and our economic and political systems so that they become saner and fairer and offer greater mutually security.  Established interests must yield to ones that are more conducive to the general welfare and the common good.  Greater responsibility for people in the future must be required in the pursuit of individual self-interest. 

The interplay between economics and human nature underlies many of the circumstances of history.  The titanic struggle that has taken place in the past 150 years between capitalism and communism has largely been an expression of competition between economic systems.  Communism generally used central planning to direct economic activities, and such centrally-planned economies are plagued by inefficiencies and distortions inherent in totalitarian control of government.  Significant malaise occurs when human motives are suppressed and individualistic selfish interests are not allowed to be freely expressed.  Central planning involves excessively tight government regulation, and this causes misallocations of resources and competitive disadvantages.  It also tends to inhibit innovation and misdirect capital investment and facilitate social repression and ignore the damages to the environment associated with industrial activities.

Capitalism, on the other hand, has been buffeted by harsh social inequalities and cyclical booms and busts.  It has also fared poorly in dealing with social ills caused by rapid industrialization.  It is ruthless in its sink-or-swim economic ideologies.  Sensible laws are required to prevent abusive monopoly business practices, unsafe conditions for workers, exploitive child labor, excessive working hours, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and socially irresponsible environmental impacts.  The growing conglomerate power of corporations is dangerous to people when it is not adequately regulated.  Misguided regulation allows people in capitalist economies to express harsh impulses that can severely harm others.  It often results in fraud, predatory banking practices, the cheating of consumers, bankruptcies and costly bailouts.  The narrow bottom-line best interests of corporations are simply poor substitutes for the long-term best interests of the people.

A sensible balance is needed between under-regulated laissez-faire capitalism and over-regulated central planning.  Centrally planned economies do not deliver the optimum good to society, and neither do rigged ‘free’ markets.  Without proper balance, priorities are perverted and too much economic instability arises.  As John Fowles notes in The Aristos, capitalism “contains the seeds of its own transformation, and it is high time it started to nurture those seeds.”  Yes, it is!

The speculative excesses and lack of regulation that characterized the boom times of the Roaring Twenties in the United States led to the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Severe problems caused by this economic calamity led to government intervention in the economy and an impetus to put into effect broadly progressive New Deal initiatives that helped create a vibrant middle class and a sound economy for more than four decades.  Then in reaction, anti-progressive and anti-regulatory zeal grew after Ronald Reagan became president, and it is now culminating in the second Bush Administration.  Deregulation has reached an extreme today that is too lenient in vitally important respects, and this has facilitated financial shenanigans and banking abuses and a general triumph of corporate power.  Deregulation and the lack of oversight that accompanies lax regulation have helped create speculative bubbles through the use of financial instruments that bundle together hundreds of billions of dollars of risky home mortgages in so-called ‘mortgage-backed securities’.  The aggressive promotion and sale of these “securities” is proving to be disastrous, because as the real estate bubble deflates, the underlying collateral for these securities loses value.  Enormous losses on investments are being incurred by millions of people as a consequence.  The collapse of the real estate bubble itself is wreaking financial hardships on many people who are having their homes taken away through foreclosures.  And the overall trend of deflating housing prices is causing retail sales to stall and unemployment to spike as the convenient “ATM” of home equity loans that has driven the economy for years falters in tandem with the drop in inflated home values.

Knowledge, Historical Perspective and Common Sense

The nightly news on television may present us with “the first draft of history”, but this news contains a corporate establishment version of events of the day.  To the extent that early versions of history consist of misleading information and deceptive spin, it makes informed decision-making more difficult.  Thus it behooves us to strive to make sure we have more accurate understandings to strengthen our democracy and improve our societies.

The media is strongly influenced by the ideological biases of argumentative ‘propaganda pundits’.  There are too few television journalists with integrity and civility like that demonstrated by the late Tim Russert, who died in June 2008.  Instead, many adhere to stubborn partisanship that is opposed to progressive plans that would make the world a better place.

On the same day as Tim Russert died, a local newspaper reported the words of the valedictorian at a high school graduation.  She spoke about properly preparing for the future.  She mused that we all make mistakes, and that we must LEARN from our mistakes.  A famous businesswoman once attributed her success to GOOD decision-making -- and when pressed as to how she developed the skill to make good decisions, she said that her wisdom came from what she had learned earlier by making BAD decisions!  Let’s actually learn from our mistakes.  Part of good preparedness is to understand things as clearly as possible.  As Maya Angelou once wrote, “Nature has no mercy at all.  Nature says, I'm going to snow.  If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that's tough.  I am going to snow anyway.”

American politicians have been failing to ensure adequate preparedness in our society and they have been making many markedly bad decisions so far this century.  They don’t seem to be learning the right lessons from their mistakes.  This makes it crucially important for us to understand the real nature of the problems we face and the issues related to them.  While Republicans managed to win the presidential elections in 2000 and 2004 (more or less), they have done a poor job of leading in the best interests of the people.

The ‘policy cocktail’ that Ronald Reagan championed in the 1980s is being proven to be detrimental to the majority of Americans.  Consider these aspects of the Reagan initiatives, as ratcheted up immoderately by George W. Bush and his neoconservative supporters:

(1) Trickle-down economics in the form of drastic reductions in marginal tax rates, from 70% to 28% in Ronald Reagan’s first 7 years, has made the gap between the fortunes and privileges of the super-rich and the rest of the people in America unprecedented in its extremes and glaring inequities. 

(2) Fiscally imprudent strategies that encourage budget deficits every year and large increases in the national debt have caused the U.S. to become the world’s largest debtor nation instead of its biggest creditor, and they have also led to a big decline in the value of our dollar.  Both of these trends have far-reaching negative consequences.

(3) Rapid increases in defense spending and cuts in social program spending are contributing to serious adversities for millions of Americans. 

(4) The idea that markets should be deregulated has allowed speculative greed to reign, and an accompanying dearth of oversight and accountability has contributed to a worldwide crisis in housing, equities, banking and finance.  In the absence of good oversight and sensible regulations, widespread fraud and misrepresentations have taken place.  The inevitable recognition that risky mortgage-backed securities are actually fiscally unsound is causing enormous losses and severe instability in global credit markets. 

(5) Free trade policies that are unfair and environmentally damaging are turning out to be bad public policy to the extent that they result in trade imbalances and stagnant wages in the United States and the loss of millions of jobs in domestic manufacturing.  The NAFTA trade pact that came into effect in 1994 has caused social turmoil and violent conflicts in places like Chiapas, a poor rural agricultural state in southern Mexico, and it has had the unsettling effect of significantly increasing illegal immigration to the United States. 

(6) Anti-union activities by corporations are contributing to the diminishment of middle class prosperity and the unfair excessive enrichment of the already wealthy.

It is instructive to consider the fascinating brouhaha surrounding the May 2008 publication of Scott McClellan’s book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.  Scott McClellan worked loyally for George Bush for seven years, culminating in his position as the White House Press Secretary from July 2003 to April 2006.  The controversy that arose in reaction to his book’s publication reveals much.  Bush loyalists were outraged over McClellan’s contentions in the book not because the perspectives are erroneous, but because McClellan is regarded as having betrayed the President by setting forth a clear-minded and critical analysis of the nature of politics in our nation’s capitol.  As an author, Scott McClellan reveals fascinating insider details about the “culture of deception” and winning-at-any-cost strategies pursued in Washington, D.C.  He gives us insights into “permanent campaign tactics” that are required in our system of governance.  These tactics clash with more broadminded strategies in which people cultivate rational debate and civil discourse and act to further the common good.  Such tactics are oriented toward vanquishing opposition rather than achieving a smart and fair-minded consensus, so they obstruct the proper implementation of the most appropriate and beneficial courses of action.  

A rich vein of nuance can be mined by considering this issue of loyalty.  The Press Secretary is the official voice of the administration, and it is the job of the Press Secretary to explain and defend the president’s policies and to brief the White House Press Corps with the official spin on current events.  Anyone who thinks that the Press Secretary is forthright and completely honest is deluding himself or herself.  The Press Secretary is sometimes not fully briefed on White House intentions and actions, as was the case with the politically vindictive Valerie Plame identity leak scandal.  On other occasions, the Press Secretary knowingly “shades” the truth, providing the press corps with ideological spin and cherry-picked information and evasive or duplicitous answers to questions.  The White House thus seems to adhere to the ‘mushroom theory of management’:  they “keep the people in the dark and feed them on bullshit”.  When people are misinformed, democratic decision-making is degraded.

Mark Twain once said,

“My kind of patriotism and loyalty is loyalty to one’s country, and not to one’s institutions

   or officeholders.” 

The President and all our representatives in Congress are required to take an oath of office in which they swear to support and protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  Loyalty to our country should take precedence over party loyalty, or loyalty to the president, or loyalty to ideologies that run counter to the general welfare and the greater good.

Bush loyalists prefer not to address the increasingly obvious fact that the American people have been betrayed by the President.  Remember what George Bush said when he was a candidate for president:  “I’m a uniter, not a divider”.  He swore to bring honor and integrity and dignity to the White House.  He said that he believed the United States should not engage in nation-building activities or interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries.  Perhaps he should have given more heed to the words of Mo Udall, a Presidential candidate in 1976:  “Lord, give us the wisdom to utter words that are gentle and tender, for tomorrow we may have to eat them.”

The President has acted very contrary to his implied promises.  His tenure of rule has been one of the most ideological, uncompromising, fiscally irresponsible, secretive, dishonest, inegalitarian, divisive, anti-environmental, imperialistic, militaristic and corporatist in all of American history.  Dick Cheney and George Bush have basically betrayed core principles of conservatism and fiscal discipline and smartly limited government.  They have aggressively expanded the power of the executive branch by asserting greater executive privilege in many arenas.  They have stonewalled Congress and refused to provide subpoenaed information.  They have covered up actions by the administration that violated the nation’s laws.  Shrewd lawyers for the White House and the influential Office of Legal Counsel have aided these efforts, despite the many ways in which these Machiavellian tactics have had adverse consequences for the American people.  For deeper perspectives on these understandings, read the book by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Charlie Savage titled Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.  These initiatives are practically Nixonian in their treachery!

Defenders of George W. Bush professed to be perplexed by the understandings in McClellan’s book.  But readers of the book are barely surprised by the widely acknowledged content of McClellan’s perspectives concerning the nature of politics in Washington D.C. and the facts about the selling of the Iraq war to the American people.  Likewise, the whole story surrounding the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame case, together with the incompetence and ineffectiveness and bumbling cronyism in the federal government’s response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, are causes for larger concerns about our political system. 

Scott McClellan provides compelling insights into the often disingenuous and sometimes self-delusional bubble of White House politics.  McClellan gives President Bush a generous amount of respectful credit, contending that George W. Bush was considered to have “a proven ability to calm the partisan waters, bring people together, and achieve positive results” when he was the governor of Texas.  If this was true, George Bush certainly has been ‘born again’ on the national scene, with the help of his radically arch-conservative Vice President Dick Cheney.  He has become a divider, an irresponsible spendthrift, an evangelist for vested interests, an exploiter of people’s insecurities, an inveterate war promoter, a stubborn authoritarian in advancing expanded executive privileges, and a man who has created negative outcomes for the vast majority of people in the United States and the world.

The chapter in Scott McClellan’s book on “Selling the War” provides provocative perspective.  President Bush had begun a carefully scripted campaign in September 2002 to convince Americans that war with Iraq was inevitable and necessary.  Larry Lindsey, the president’s chief economic adviser at the time, offered “an analytical opinion as to the cost of a possible war with Iraq:  somewhere between $100 and $200 billion.”  This estimate ironically came at the same time that Bush was rhetorically urging fiscal restraint, so it irritated the president, who seems far more concerned with “staying on message” and getting ‘good press’ than actually being honest and getting good results.  The “loose-cannon comments” by Larry Lindsey were one of the reasons he was forced to resign soon thereafter, in December 2002. 

As it turns out, the cost of the Iraq War will eventually cost our nation more than $3 trillion, according to the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.  This astounding and obscenely high cost includes such things as the deferred costs of veteran’s health care and disability compensation and replenishment of military equipment and interest expenses.  To spend so much money on this terrible misadventure is shocking and awful! 

American citizens should be righteously outraged about these current trends and this wasteful spending on an unnecessary war.  We should be loyal to our country and our Constitution by finding more effective ways to limit abuses of power.  We should demand that the federal government be made more open and transparent.  We should insist on serious reforms of our political system to limit the institutional bribery in our elections and legislative processes.  Voters should throw out all of the rascals who have betrayed the trust given to them.  In their place, we should elect people who will more honestly address the domestic and foreign policy issues that face us, and be more fiscally responsible.  Candidates in the future should demonstrate honest concern for the longer term in their policy making, and use constructive diplomacy on the international stage, and work harder to prevent war, and stop pandering so exclusively to narrowly-focused special interest groups.

Those who voted for the Bush an Cheney ticket have had their loyalty and trust betrayed.  Republican leaders have been disingenuous and dishonest about the motives for war.  They have ruthlessly pursued cynically shortsighted policies.  The public’s attention has been diverted through a focus on divisive hot-button social issues, and people’s insecurities have been exploited through the hyped-up of fear of terrorists and enemies, and nationalistic impulses that accompany military aggression have been inflamed.  Meanwhile our pockets have been picked, and these politicians have used their selfish ideological initiatives to undermine our true national security.  It is astonishing how much money we have spent on the military at the expense of fiscal discipline and priorities that are more important in people’s lives.

Truth or Consequences

“I am a firm believer in the people.  If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”                                                                 

                                                                                 --- Abraham Lincoln

Politicians unfortunately play very loose with the truth and the facts.  As Maya Angelou says, “There's a world of difference between truth and facts.  Facts can obscure the truth.”  In 2006, the Merriam-Webster’s #1 Word of the Year was “truthiness”.  The American Dialect Society defines truthiness as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.”  Enough truthiness, politicians!  Let’s demand honesty and responsibility and true accountability in our policy making.  As Bill Moyers says, “A democracy can die of too many lies.” 

Bad Reporter is a newspaper editorial cartoon in comic strip format that contains the slogan "The lies behind the truth, and the truth behind those lies that are behind the truth."  The truth is frankly complex.  It is subjective and slippery, and is often obscured and distorted.  To tell the truth, there are MANY lies and misrepresentations that lurk behind political rhetoric and ideological arguments.  It is the fascinating truths behind these distortions that are valuable for us to fully understand.  The comprehensive truths behind earmarks and energy policies and failed attempts at ethics reforms, for instance, cast an entirely different light on what’s really happening in our societies.

Ideologues cherry-pick information and frame it in plausible narratives, but their reasoning is often simplistic and specious.  They make assumptions that are disingenuous rather than comprehensive.  To fundamentalist believers in authoritarian ideologies, the ends justify the means, so those who sell these stories are much more like hucksters and confidence men than honest citizens.  They play on people’s selfishness, biases, faith, trust and fears to gain power, and then they roguishly exploit this power to mold policies to their narrow advantage.  They rely on people being gullible, ignorant and disenfranchised in order to keep from being held accountable for unfair and unethical abuses of power.  Let’s not be gullible;  let’s strive to better understand, and to make a difference with our votes!

During the Cold War, Americans were led to believe that the Russian people and the Chinese people were brainwashed by their Communist governments.  This was an accurate assessment to the extent that the media in totalitarian nations is tightly controlled, so people are misled into believing those official versions of the ‘truth’.  The rigorous control of information is a fundamental characteristic of authoritarian governments. 

We Americans often fail to see that we also are subjected to brainwashing when we are spoon-fed political spin by the White House Press Secretary and other “propaganda pundits” and radical right-wing talk show hosts and marketing experts.  Manipulation of public opinion is a lucrative full-time activity in Washington D.C., and the sound-bite highlighting of conflict and controversy glosses over critically important aspects of issues. 

Truth, according to an old proverb, is the first casualty of war.  Truth is thwarted in wartime partially because the independence of the media is diminished when fear, insecurity and violence overcome the integrity of journalism, and when the media strives to conform to a nationalistic line.  The control, management and distortion of information about the war in Iraq has been facilitated by the media, and this complicity with war hawks has helped make it easier for the United States to get into this costly and unjust military action and occupation.  Such complicity also aids the government in suppressing sensible and valuable opposing voices. 

The military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans about in 1961 has acquired influence that is unwarrantedly powerful.  This influence represents a distinctly “disastrous rise of misplaced power”.  We surely should find more effective ways to prevent this influence from endangering our liberties and democratic processes.  As Dwight Eisenhower noted, “We should take nothing for granted.  Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Before the presidential election in 2004, George Bush talked about ushering in “a new era of integrity inside the Oval Office”.  He stated:  "The people have spoken,  They said they want change.  They said it's time to clean up Washington.  They are tired of politics as usual.  They're tired of the pursuit of self-interest that has gripped Washington.  They want to see an end to partisan bickering and closed-door decision-making.  If I'm elected, I'll make sure that the American people can once again place their trust in the White House." 

Yay for those sentiments!  But, honest to God:  this may be fine speechifying, but it is complete hogwash!  As Mark Twain once sarcastically said on the issue of trust, I don’t believe it would sound any better if it were true." 

The Bush Administration has failed to act in accordance with the high-falutin’ words with which it has reassured us.  Instead, it has made a sustained effort to undermine the power of the people by pursuing courses of action that alter the fundamental principles of our democracy and the balance of power established by our Constitution. 

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

                                                                                                           --- George W. Bush, July 27, 2001

George W. Bush is now coming to the end of his two terms in office.  He is leaving our nation embroiled in two costly wars in the Middle East.  The economy is suffering a meltdown as housing and stock market bubbles are deflating, and we should understand that these bubbles were irresponsibly stimulated by the short-term-oriented policies of the government and the Federal Reserve. 

Businesses fire workers who make mistakes or who are incompetent, or if they cheat the company.  They fire managers who squander assets or misuse their positions for personal advantage at the company’s expense.  But government tends to be a much more forgiving employer;  it generally holds its employees to lower standards of competence and responsibility than private employers.  At the highest levels of federal government, elected officials act with even less integrity.  They betray the trust of citizens when they advance narrowly partisan, short-term oriented, inegalitarian and unsustainable policies that exploit the nation’s natural resources and public lands to benefit a small fraction of the populace -- the rich and the powerful -- at the expense of the majority and all in future generations.  They even spend their political capital trying to cajole us into believing that these gambits are best and necessary, and that they will TRICKLE DOWN to benefit society!  Statistics prove that Reagan Revolution policies like tax breaks for the rich and hyper-spending on the military do one thing for sure:  rather than trickle down, they facilitate the GUSHING UP of wealth to the very richest people.  For these reasons, I feel strongly that the Republicans should be ‘fired’ at the polls on November 4th.  Vote for Barack Obama!

The Dangers of Recent Presidential Precedents

Superman, the original comic book hero, was known for his ‘good guy’ principles.  He represented ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’.  He spent his time protecting people from arch-criminals, and saving them from evil villains and calamities.  We want our leaders to be supermen and superwomen, but gosh, power unfortunately corrupts, and in superpower America, power leads to arrogance and abuses of insider influence for profit, and to self-aggrandizement and the evasion of common-good responsibility and expedient actions oriented toward maintaining power. 

Above and beyond the harmful social and environmental legacy being left by the administration of George W. Bush, a loaded automatic weapon is figuratively being left lying around with its safety catch off, ready to be used by presidents in the future to potentially abrogate the civil liberties and security and prosperity of the American people.  This weapon comes in the form of new precedents established by the White House that dramatically expand the power of the presidency and reduce the ability of Congress to perform its vital oversight responsibilities.  Such power facilitates abuses of influence by the few, to the detriment of the many.

Our Founding Fathers specifically gave Congress the responsibility for making decisions to involve our nation in wars.  The Bush Doctrine of preemptive wars and the abuse of power by the executive branch to engage in wars abroad are actions that usurp the responsibilities of Congress as set forth by the Constitution.  This is only one of many ways that make this precedent-weapon dangerous.  Other aspects of this executive power grab are contained in the president’s unilateral abrogation of several important international treaties, and in his unprecedented use of signing statements to avoid following laws established by Congress.  Stains on our moral standing in the world in the form of ‘extraordinary renditions’ of prisoners to other countries and ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ and torture-like abuses in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons are also perverse precedents.  Further, the abuse of the system by classifying enormous amounts of information as “secret” serves to subvert our democracy by limiting and controlling public knowledge and awareness.  Warrantless wiretapping programs and egregious provisions of the Patriot Act and suspensions of habeas corpus rights of detainees and other incursions on privacy and civil liberties give the office of the president more power, and sets a precedent that could be even more seriously abused in the future. 

The Bush Administration has also relied on a foolish and unprecedented increase in the national debt to achieve its goals.  It has irresponsibly indulged in the insidiously risky expediency of deficit financing to achieve its objectives.  By spending profligately and borrowing enormous sums of money to pay a significant portion of the cost, the Administration has acted to minimize taxpayer resistance, but it is harvesting grave unintended consequences and financial instability.  This represents a colossal failure to honestly and prudently face difficult budgetary decisions. 

Another means by which the Administration has promoted a narrow agenda of regressive and unfair social policies and short-term-oriented environmental policies is the placement of political operatives in federal agencies.  Such appointments have served to undermine the public service purposes of these agencies.  The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, in particular, have become highly partisan, and these agencies have acted in many ways that are distinctly contrary to the best interests of the people.  

The Administration is leaving us with a Supreme Court whose rudder has been jammed to the right, giving corporations more power and making it easier for the executive branch to abuse power in the future.  Republican appointments to the Supreme Court have emphasized intensely ideological economic fundamentalism and social conservatism.  Whereas the moderate tenures of Chief Justices Warren Burger and William Rehnquist closely reflected public opinion, the appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito have tilted the judicial agenda toward the radical right.  This endangers centrism and fair-mindedness.  It expands corporate and executive power, and gives religion a more powerful influence in our government.  It threatens to deny or overturn civil rights and privacy rights and reproductive rights of Americans.

The ‘oil guys’ in the Administration are leaving us addicted to oil and wars for oil.  The net benefit to society of increasing mileage standards for vehicles has been estimated to be in excess of $2 trillion.  Nonetheless, the White House has suppressed such findings by the EPA, and for many years the Bush/Cheney crowd has opposed better vehicle mileage standards and carbon-dioxide emissions limits.  Now Republicans are seizing on public anger at high oil prices to exploit people’s ignorance and promote drilling initiatives that will do little to reduce gas prices but will further enrich Big Oil.  When we should be boldly pursuing independence from our oil addiction, and cleaner energy policies by developing renewable alternatives and conservation and efficient usages, this drilling ploy is hindering progress.

Fairer and more farsighted governance is vitally important to achieve our best national interests  The official subversion of democracy by our leaders is lamentable.  So is our system of institutional bribery and influence-peddling to corporate lobbyists.  This is why we need publicly-financed Clean Money and Clean Elections to help elect more honest politicians.  See “The Top Ten Official Ways to Subvert American Democracy” for more expansive insight into how our democracy is being undermined.  This can be found at the end of the Earth Manifesto essay entitled “Freedom - Utopian Idea and Unifying Objective” (see the link on the Home Page).

Political leaders should strive to unite people around common good purposes rather than to divide them to accomplish narrowly ideological objectives.  Instead, a politics-as-war syndrome has been dominating American political strife for many years.  Karl Rove, the “architect” of George W. Bush’s political success, has made this state of affairs worse.  He was instrumental in creating a toxic atmosphere in which good public service is subordinated to negative attacks, misinformation, distortions, “gotcha politics” and the belittlement of liberals.  Rewarding loyalists and punishing people who advocate different policies may help strengthen political parties in the short run, but they hurt common causes.  The oversimplification of complex issues and portrayal of issues in deceptive black or white terms is detrimental to our nation.  The 2008 election campaigns are becoming similarly ideological and negative in tone and content.

Narrow partisanship and tendencies in Washington D.C. towards “politics as war” have been used to obstruct wise and mutually advantageous compromises.  Instead of fairly and constructively governing, great energies have been poured into selling the public on wars and narrowly-focused ideologies and socially regressive agendas.  It is time to change this!

As Scott McClellan writes, “… once the election is over, elected officials of both parties -- especially those in positions of leadership -- owe it to the public to work together on solving the country’s problems through deliberation and compromise.  For most of American history, they have done just that, even after hard-fought, even brutally negative election campaigns.”  It doesn’t work that way these days!  Both of the political parties in our restrictive two-party system are driven by hard-line elements that are not willing to compromise.  Secrecy and a lack of openness and candor and forthrightness result in suspicion and distrust.  The “blame game” divides people, makes them defensive, and prevents smarter collaboration.  These factors make rational debate and a sensible consensus harder to achieve.

A clever new video from Jibjab was recently shown on the Web at jibjab.com.  This video provided a fun and insightful take on political campaigning and the long presidential campaign that is now in its final two months.  The video is titled Time for Some Campaignin’.  It uses the tune from Bob Dylan’s 1960s political anthem that called for revolutionary change, The Times They Are A-Changin’.  Here are some of the lyrics sung by caricatures of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton and John McCain and other politicos:

Citizens gather from both far and near

For a ritual we practice every four years

When we promise you anything

You wanna hear

To win the crown we’re chasin’

Oh, its time for some campaignin’

Yes, it’s time for some campaignin’!

We spend billions of dollars

To make our points clear

To get you to step up

And cast your vote here

Then we spin you around

And poke you in the rear

Oh, its time for some campaignin’

Yes, it’s time for some campaignin’!

Parody can be healthy for our perspective.  By poking fun at a topic, parodies draw attention to both pathetic weaknesses and appreciative strengths of the things they lampoon.  Parody and satire are used in TV shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.  They give us a humorous look at serious issues of the day, and give us good entertainment as well as a healthy and light-hearted basis for evaluating ideas and helping to see how more honest approaches can make a positive difference.  In any case, I wonder if we can find better ways of preventing politicians from figuratively poking us in the rear!

"Everything is changing.  People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."

                                                                                                                                        --- Will Rogers

Will Rogers (1879 – 1935) was “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son,” and a highly-regarded humorist, social commentator, motion picture actor and international celebrity.  This observation was rather prescient in light of the high regard many people have for Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, and the very low regard for members of Congress!

John McCain advocated the shortsighted expediency of a “gas-tax holiday” during his primary race.  Now he emphasizes oil-drilling as a main tenet of his energy plans.  He is using rhetoric about honesty and integrity in his campaign that is similar to the less than forthcoming rhetoric used by George W. Bush when he was a candidate.  He claims he is committed to making substantive policy changes.  Can we trust him?  He has, after all, sided with the Administration more than 90% of the time in his Congressional votes.  His proposed tax policies would result in more debt and even larger disparities of wealth and privilege.  His plans to privatize the Social Security system are a throwback to the failed initiatives that President Bush tried to sell the nation, and his healthcare ideas are a continuation of the unfair practices that currently characterize healthcare in the United States.

Furthermore, McCain’s “bomb bomb Iran” tough-guy militancy does not even pretend to recognize the need for the U.S. to extricate itself from the military occupation of Middle East countries.  Shall we have a conversation with Iran before we let the bombs fly?  Shall we levy increasingly antagonistic sanctions on Iran, a country that we have surrounded by military occupations on both its eastern and western borders? 

Imagine Canada and Mexico being occupied by a foreign power, for any reason whatsoever.  How happy would Americans be with that?  Would we not have some very serious concerns for our national security, our sovereignty, the safeguarding of our natural resources, and the legitimacy of our regional influence?

It may be that it is human nature for leaders to occasionally hijack followers into launching wars on others, but it is our overarching obligation as citizens to demand that more effective laws and international institutions be developed to prevent such compulsive wars and violent episodes of aggression.  We need to find better ways of keeping such men as Adolf Hitler and the Bush/Cheney crowd from using their monomaniacal obsession with control, dominance, and profiteering to drive their nations into costly, unjust and devastating wars. 

Albert Einstein was correct when he observed, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  To trust John McCain and the Republican Party to lead our country for the next four years would likely compound the folly of the past eight years.  If we want real change, and an end to our unnecessary wars and brutal military occupations of other countries, and if we want a greater potential for positive societal outcomes, Barack Obama offers a much better bet.  We need revolutionarily different priorities in our policies, not flawed ideas, not subterfuge, and not continued support for the business-as-usual status quo or right-wing think tank rationalizations. 

Women in particular must recognize these facts, because the simple fact of the matter is that patriarchal conservatism is inherently sexist and contrary to women’s best interests.  Right-wing policy prescriptions that exacerbate inequities and undermine women’s rights are simply unacceptable.  Women of the World, Unite! 

Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin may be a clever and attractive woman, but she sure does not represent the best interests of women or the American people.  She has little in the way of foreign policy experience.  She toes the Republican line of Big-Oil-first energy policies, and she expresses disingenuous doubt about whether humanity is contributing to climate change.  She sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species, apparently worried that the listing would interfere with expanded oil drilling in Alaska.  She helped gain more pork barrel earmarks per capita for Alaska than any other state in the union.  She is a right-wing religious conservative who is anti-choice, and she supports abstinence-only sex education and purportedly believes that Creationism should be given equal treatment to evolution in public schools.  She is secretive and demands unswerving partisan loyalty.  We need more honest secular leaders in the White House, not ‘more of the same’ ideological extremists like those in the Bush Administration!

Defend the Freedom of the Press!

The death of Tim Russert is a tragic development.  He was one of the fairest and most honest of TV journalists.  He asked tough questions, and actually LISTENED well to responses.  The judgment of the American people has been clouded by biased perspectives that swirl across the airwaves and through our consciousness.  Our tempers seem short, and we are not objective when our emotions are crassly manipulated as they have been in the last seven years of constant terror alerts.

The documentary film Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism provides a fascinating perspective on how the unfair and unbalanced reporting of Fox News distorts the news and creates misleading ideas in the minds of the public.  And the film WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception gives viewers understandings of how the government and corporate media and the Pentagon strive to influence policy by “managing people’s perceptions”.  When reporters were embedded with troops during the initial stages of the invasion of Iraq, for instance, they were used to help sway public opinion in support of the war.  Administration efforts were designed to propagate the views of operatives in right-wing think tanks while simultaneously reducing objectivity and eroding the independence of the media.  Debate was muzzled, valid criticism was blunted, and dissent was marginalized.  The American people would be wise to evaluate the news with healthier doses of skepticism, and to demand more accurate information.  As the old bumper sticker advised, Question Authority!

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of the press.  A free press protects the right of people to know whether their government is acting honestly, or fairly, or lawfully.  The people at FreePress.net are among the many who are concerned that Big Media is failing us in this regard.  They believe that media reform is crucial for creating more accurate news, and for advancing a vibrant, diverse and independent media to ensure that our democratic institutions operate effectively and responsibly and truthfully.  The media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) indicates that large news conglomerates and an excessive concentration of media ownership can limit the spectrum of viewpoints expressed, thereby eroding journalistic integrity.

The Bush Administration has proposed a reduction of 56 percent in the budget for public broadcasting in 2009.  This would put unbiased news even more at risk, and limit the points of view to be heard.  It would also reduce educational and cultural programming that millions of Americans prefer to commercial media.  Nice going, guys!  Big Business and privileged elites sure seem to hate it when any truth gets out that might interfere with the good gig that they have going!

No matter what our leaders tell us or what spin they employ to sell military aggression, the roots of war can be seen to be deeply entrenched in the fertile soil of economic competition and strife.  In 1776, the Revolutionary War was fought for the freedom of the thirteen American colonies from British mercantile exploitation and taxation without adequate representation.  Eighty-five years later, the Civil War began a fight over the economic issue of slavery and the right of slave-holding states to secede from the Union.  Today, war profiteering has become a major factor in the motives of those who promote preemptive wars and military occupations of other nations.

The Secession of the Successful

Astute observers note that the United States today is being afflicted by a new kind of civil war and secession.  This conflict is taking place in the form of initiatives that have been described as the ‘secession of the successful’.  The upper classes and rich people have revolted against paying fairly-graduated progressive income taxes, even though these taxes treat every taxpayer equally by assessing the exact same income tax rates for everyone on every level of income. 

This conflict pits wealthy people against the middle class and the poor and our children and those in future generations.  Rich people use their outsized influence to reduce the share of taxes they pay, and to demand cuts in social program spending.  These programs have been designed to deal with problems caused by the ugly underbelly of capitalism and the social ills associated with it, including discrimination, the ruthless exploitation of workers, racism, sexism, urban crime, suburban sprawl, drug use, pollution and other consequences of industrialization.  It is highly privileged people who primarily benefit from policies that stimulate economic inequalities and stoke deficit spending and war profiteering and government bailouts of financial institutions. 

The upper classes can afford to live in gated communities and send their children to private schools, so they are not especially interested in national investments in urban infrastructure or public schools or initiatives that create fairness of opportunity.  Since the beginning of the Reagan Revolution, the rich have gotten much richer while millions of workers toil longer hours and are more productive yet are being left behind. 

We live in an era of rapid demographic, economic and social change, so most people feel uneasy, insecure, fearful and vulnerable.  Add this to feelings of envy on the part of the “Have Nots” and jealousy on the part of the “Haves”, and it is not surprising that conflicts and social turmoil are becoming dangerously exacerbated.  To cope with these changes and feelings, many people manifest a defensive fortress mentality.  Others champion adaptive change and choose to be nimble, flexible, mobile, outgoing or assertive.  It is natural under these circumstances to want to either barricade oneself in a safe place or to seize the bull by the horns and make the most of change.  Either way, our efforts are made to assert control in our lives and over the circumstances that affect us.  Many people strive to control others to make them conform to their own views of morality.

We are at a critical juncture in human affairs.  We should seize this opportunity to strive to be versatile and adaptive and far-sighted.  Charles Darwin proposed a cogent conception of the scientific theory of evolution.  His basic thesis is not clearly understood;  he wrote that the most adaptable species were the ones that survive the processes of natural selection.  It is not necessarily the most ruthlessly competitive, or the most physically fit, or the most intelligent species that survive.  We can learn from understanding this, and realize that we must be flexible to prosper.  We should not allow those who are stubbornly inflexible to control our societies in the face of rapidly changing circumstances and increasing imbalances of power.  So, let’s remember Charles Darwin and champion more adaptive and progressive national policies!

Vital Domestic Issues Require Priority

Several big domestic issues clamor for closer attention and boldly constructive fixes, including our healthcare system and Social Security and Medicare.  Let’s consider these, using logic like that of Mr. Spock and honoring values like public service and positive results that have been professed by Scott McClellan and many others.

Social Security and Medicare are faced with daunting demographic and financial challenges because the Baby Boom generation is now reaching retirement age.  There are about 78 million American baby boomers, who are people born between the years 1946 and 1964.  The first 3 million of this group will reach 62 years of age in 2008 and become eligible to collect Social Security funds.  It would have been wise for our nation to have planned ahead better with sound public policies for the retirement and health care for these people. 

But instead of creating a sound retirement plan, a Social Security and Medicare system was formulated that is in some aspects similar to a giant Ponzi scheme.  Workers are required to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and their employers are required to match these taxes, and then the government immediately uses this money for other purposes than setting it aside and investing it for the day the workers retire.  This is an unsustainable plan.  The demographics of an aging population in the U.S. are driving this system toward impaired solvency.

Efforts to “save Social Security” will come up in the next Administration -- and so they should!  Republicans and their big contributors on Wall Street will float their plan again for privatizing this system with personal retirement accounts, so it is important to understand the true nature of the Social Security system.  Our goal should be to ensure that solutions are not just forms of corporate-friendly gimmickry like so many other government initiatives such as the Prescription Drug Act of 2003, the Bankruptcy Act of 2005, the recent Farm Bill, and deficit spending in general.

All workers currently are required to pay 7.65% of their wages as payroll taxes (except, bizarrely, for our Congressional and Executive branch representatives and other federal employees!).  Of this 7.65%, about 20% of the money (1.45% of wages) goes to Medicare and about 80% of the money (6.20% of wages) goes to Social Security.  These percentages have more or less remained unchanged for two decades despite the demographics of increasing numbers of retirees relative to the numbers of workers contributing, and despite the astonishingly rapid rate of inflation in healthcare costs over the course of the past eight years.  The costs of these programs are spiking significantly upwards.  This complicates our budgetary challenges at the same time that we are devoting so much of our discretionary budget to fighting wars.

On the surface, George Bush’s 2005 plan for Social Security was sensible.  Save the retirement funds and invest them at a better rate of return!  Unfortunately, we currently do not save the funds at all, so to make the transition to such a plan, additional borrowing of perhaps $2 trillion would be required.  Borrow money from future generations so that workers could invest it in the stock market for a better rate of return?  What a shell game -- and a risky gamble!

Understand this:  all Social Security funds are already essentially commingled with all other government revenues, and they are spent in full.  On top of spending 100% of these revenues, the government borrows hundreds of billions of dollars of additional funds each year to finance its profligate and fiscally irresponsible ways.  The Republican plan for Social Security was to create private accounts for younger workers who could choose to divert between 2% and 4% of their income to invest it in “safe” stocks (which are very hard to find now in the bear market of 2008!).  In other words, this plan would have allowed workers to divert to personal accounts one-third to two-thirds of the 6.20% each employee personally pays in payroll taxes for Social Security.  The influx of funds to the stock market would no doubt drive up share prices in the short run, but once again an enormous bubble would be created like the equities bubble of the late 1990s and the current housing bubble.  Bubbles eventually burst.  This plan would not ensure retirement security!

Scott McClellan details the plan of battle that the Bush administration pursued in early 2005 to advance their Social Security privatization scheme.  This plan came just after the second stunningly close Bush/Cheney election victory.  George Bush claimed a broad mandate (really!?), and came up with a “sketchily designed” plan.  Here is how McClellan describes the two-fold approach to getting their agenda implemented:

(1) “educate the public about the economic and fiscal problems facing Social Security and the need to fix them.  The goal of this effort was to create a crisis mentality, which would give us a better shot at getting the necessary public support to bring about bipartisan backing for our reform plan in Congress.”

(2) “shape the solution and make sure that personal retirement accounts were part of it.”

McClellan points out that the Administration was “leapfrogging many of the vital steps and jumping straight to the stage in the process we found most congenial -- the public relations effort.”  He poignantly added, “It was all vaguely reminiscent of the way we’d short-circuited debate over the necessity for war in Iraq and chose instead to turn it into the subject of a massive marketing blitz.  We used a similar approach as we planned the Social Security campaign.  With Iraq it was a threat that needed confronting, with Social Security it was a crisis that needed solving.”

To summarize, the Administration once again tried to create positive spin while distorting the facts, confusing the public, deceitfully hyping up misinformation, and then letting corporate lobbyists design a plan that would create huge fees and big profits for a relative few at the expense of sane public policy.  Large costs would eventually be borne by people in the future, but in the interim there would be big profits for Wall Street firms and “momentum investors”.  More, more!  Again, again!  Crash, crash!

As a consequence of similarly short-term-oriented policies, healthcare has become a serious issue in the United States.  We are failing to provide good healthcare to millions of people who do not have insurance.  When illness prevention and primary care access are limited, then more people visit high cost and overly stressed emergency rooms.  The incidence of preventable illness rises, and so does the mortality rate for those who seek care only when they have an emergency or a serious health crisis.

About 25% of the $2 trillion in annual healthcare expenditures in the U.S. goes to billing costs, bureaucracy and profits, so an estimated $500 billion is being squandered on paperwork and ‘red tape’ and insurance company profits.  This money could be used to finance a reform of our healthcare system, and help to provide coverage for the 47 million people who have no insurance and the tens of millions who are ‘underinsured’ and the untold numbers who do have medical insurance but are cheated by insurance companies when their treatments or claims are denied. 

It is unconscionable that healthcare insurance premiums have increased by about 100% in the last 8 years, and profits of insurance companies have increased by over 1,000% while wage increases have averaged only 25% or so.  This is obscene!  Both individuals and businesses are being adversely affected by these trends.  Profiteering at the expense of people’s health and well-being, whether in the field of insurance, prescription drugs, military affairs, retirement security or housing fraud, is morally if not criminally wrong.  Such things should be better managed and more strongly controlled and regulated. 

Trends such as these make it necessary that we change our political system to reduce the powerful influence of lobbyists and other forms of influence peddling.  When white collar crimes occur, they should be punished just as severely as blue collar crimes, and all crimes should be punished to degrees that are proportional to the negative impacts they have on victims!

The fundamental concept of insurance is that everyone contributes to a financial pool, and then those who suffer adversities for indignities related to the purpose of the pool are paid to help them out of difficult times.  The fairest and most efficient form of medical insurance would be a universal pool that rewards healthy choices and preventative health maintenance, and yet also does not abandon those with diseases or preexisting conditions.  Such an insurance system would not be fragmented and focused on profiteering, and it would save on costs related to marketing and red tape.  Profit obsessions have corrupted our current system by driving health insurance companies to deny coverage for people with medical problems.  Investors benefit, but this is a stupid and unfair system, and quite immoral.  This is market fundamentalism at its worst.

 “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.”        

                                                                                                                                                  --- Mark Twain

Few have had the courage to stand up and make the honest and hard decisions that are required to address the demographic and actuarial and financial implications of increasing costs of our aging population.  Let’s focus on dealing with this set of problems, and transcend the distractions of politicians who strive to divert our attention and resources from these issues in order to implement a narrow agenda and facilitate profiteering. 

Government officials and our representatives have made the vast majority of Americans less secure by establishing economic and foreign policies that pander to the short-term-oriented objectives of Big Business and Big Money.  We have allowed the taxes paid by corporations to be dramatically reduced in recent decades.  We have implemented policies that have significantly increased the national debt.  We have essentially exported manufacturing jobs abroad, and built a bigger and more wasteful government bureaucracy.  We have allowed our nation’s solvency to be impaired.  Rapid inflation is taking place in commodity and food prices.  Divisive policies have facilitated our involvement in wars and brutal occupations of other countries.  Injustices and conflicts are increasing.

Grave unintended consequences accompany our national complacency with these aspects of Establishment policies.  Big Money has perverted our priorities and allowed Big Business to have an overly dominating influence in the formulation of our laws.  Think about this!  Corporations are single-mindedly focused on making bigger profits, so by allowing them to rig our system to achieve narrow profit goals, we have significantly weakened our currency, facilitated the foreign ownership of our companies and assets, increased economic and environmental risks, ramped up unwisely excessive consumerism, and allowed the externalizing of serious worker and environmental costs onto society.  We have simultaneously failed to include a fair share of corporate taxes in the price of products and services.  By allowing corporations such injudicious influence, we are essentially risking our collective well-being and prosperity. 

It is an absurd irony that politicians are making us all less secure in these ways.  It is oddly foolish to allow people in other nations to buy up American companies in industries that are vital to our national security interests.  Trillions of dollars are accumulating in “sovereign wealth funds”, which are investment funds of foreign governments that are being accumulated from enormous profits being made by oil-producing countries and others.  These so-called sovereign funds are buying up U.S. companies and assets, earning the privileges of gaining an ever-bigger share of the profits that we so eagerly and shortsightedly allow businesses to make at the expense of the greater good.  And since foreign governments control these sovereign funds, they are not transparent and often have different priorities and values and ulterior motives.

Patriots should be concerned at this outcome of narrow ideologies and misguided initiatives that have driven developments in the world in the past decade.  It is a simple fact that these shenanigans go hand-in-hand with excessive privilege and inadequate transparency.

More Foreign Policy Considerations

One of the most critical ways in which our leaders have deceived and misguided us since the terror attacks of 9/11 is in the arena of foreign policy.  James Madison, who is known as ‘the father of the Constitution’, wrote this:  “Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded”.  The main reason for this is because war invariably leads to higher taxes, expanded public debt, curtailments of citizen liberties and deceptive propaganda. 

War is a shortsighted expediency that allows rulers to increase their powers at the expense of citizens, AND to do so using the public’s money.  War is the parent of armies;  from these proceed debts and taxes;  and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few,” Madison observed more than 200 years ago.

Foreign policy is strongly influenced by hawkish ideologues who are closely tied to corporate profits and private greed.  Pronounced levels of corruption and waste in Pentagon spending are practically obscene, according to Robert Scheer in his book The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.  The desires of citizens to have our national security assured has been exploited and perverted by our system of “disaster capitalism”.  This has weakened our nation, and probably caused a strengthening of terrorist resolve.  Our moral standing in the world has been undermined, and our national debt has been driven rapidly higher.  These outcomes are detrimental to our national security, and have certainly NOT made us safer. 

We create antagonism and stimulate motives for retribution and terrorist attacks when we perpetrate injustices on others.  Aggression is costly, and economic inequities and the ruthless humiliation of ‘enemies’ makes us less safe.  This outcome tends to obstruct the evolution and defense of open societies and makes peaceful coexistence more difficult to achieve.  The best way to harvest peace is by sowing justice.  We must not let Lady Liberty die in the name of fear, authority, and fomented national insecurity.

Smoke billows and mirrors flash.  Bombs burst in air.  The little men behind the curtain speak through a giant megaphone.  A voice bellows, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  I am the great Wizard, and I am a man of peace bringing freedom and democracy to those who need it.  Trust me.  Trust me!  Believe!!”  Meanwhile, the men behind the curtain are trying to give people an impression of their omnipotence and righteousness, despite their insidiously unfair intentions, and they scurrilously send surrogates into the crowd to rob everyone during the distraction.

The “power of now” is inestimable.  The choices we collectively make today will extensively affect the actual circumstances that influence the fate of life on Earth in the future.  We can and must find better ways for people “to make a living, not a killing.”  Our leaders have milked the divide-and-conquer routine for long enough;  it is time that we try unite-and-cooperate methods for a while!  New approaches are needed to accomplish the common good goals of ensuring the general welfare and creating a more propitious world for our descendants.  Smarter and more fair-minded approaches are needed to help humanity flourish -- and indeed to make it more likely for other critical species of life on Earth to survive.

All competitors share some interests in common.  It is time for us to manage our economic system in ways that recognize the commonality of interests rather than using gimmicks to make strife worse and perpetuate unfair advantages for the powerful.  We must redesign our economic and political systems to ensure that they are fairer, and act to prevent the widening of inequities.  We must prevent trends toward authoritarianism and repression.  We need to institute incentives and disincentives that powerfully motivate people to do the right things rather than the far right ones. 

To determine what policies are proper, they should be assessed according to consensus values.  We should make fair and honest calculations in cost/benefit analyses and accurately assess impacts on the greater good.  Otherwise, dysfunctionality will reign and the risks of hardship, financial turmoil, widening injustices and even social chaos and revolution mount.  We need to find better, more peaceable ways to resolve our competitive conflicts and nationalistic impulses, and find effective ways to prevent the use of brute force. 

The ideals of freedom and democracy are great, to be sure, but we cannot act with unilateral aggression to impose them on others in violation of the sovereignty of other countries.  An important insight of Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, is that the U.S. must not proceed unilaterally because we are not infallible or omniscient.  If we cannot persuade other nations that share similar interests and values of the merits of proposed uses of military power, we should not use it.  We cannot continue to let ourselves be blinded by the premises of those with selfish, solipsistic, and ideologically distorted worldviews.

I call for greater pragmatism in this regard!  We must stop trying to conquer others, or to forcefully convert them to our way of thinking and living.  Let’s learn more about other peoples and the nuances and complexities of issues, and think ahead a bit further in all our considerations.  Live and let live!  Even the religious conservative Patrick Buchanan echoes this sentiment;  check out his book, Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart.

National policies are a reflection of societal values, and of the established balance between competing interests.  Ideally, this balance would be dynamic and respect the majority of people and underprivileged minorities as well as the privileged few.  It would also give rights to those who are disenfranchised, not just more perks to the powerful and the well-to-do.  It would protect the young as well as the old, and generations in the future as well as the current ones, and other vital forms of life on Earth as well as human beings.  

Proper prioritizing is needed to create saner communities and better societies.  We would be well-advised to seek to get the most ‘bang for the buck’ in our national spending decisions.  We should act in ways that are fiscally, socially and ecologically responsible.  We should commit our national resources in ways that recognize the long-term greater good.  No matter what kind of government prevails in nations worldwide, balance is generally distorted in favor of small groups of the most influential people.  When policies become too unfair or too myopically shortsighted, they pose a threat to social stability and the continued prosperity of the whole.  This is one reason that economist Alan Greenspan calls INEQUALITY the Achilles’ heel of capitalism.

In summary, all is not well on planet Earth.  It would behoove us to believe that we have the power to change things, and to stand up with courage and clear purpose in acting to change the world in positive ways.  It is productive to act as though life has meaning and purpose and positivity, and to be hopeful and confident in the face of adversity, and to strive to change things that should be changed no matter how challenging the circumstances.  So let us speak up and demand a better world, and work together to make it so! 

The “Blessed Unrest” of the greatest movement in world history -- a multifaceted movement for social and environmental justice that encompasses millions of organizations -- is having positive impacts on fairness, wiser planning and ecological sanity.  Such trends need to be embraced and encouraged, not resisted and obstructed by established interest groups that strive to advance and defend the business-as-usual status quo.  Check out Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest for deeper perspectives on this topic. 

Some say that many people have gone from denial to despair over the daunting challenges facing us, but there is hope!  A new paradigm of understanding needs to be developed to deal providentially with current global economic and environmental crises.  Despair is self-defeating, so it is not useful, in any case.

Margaret Mead once famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Small groups of dedicated politicians also change the world, sometimes for the better, but all too often for the worse.  We can take back America from the current group of Neoconservative ideologues who, by almost any gauge, have had a seriously detrimental impact on our society, economy, environment and world.  YES, WE CAN!

The Long View of Humanity’s Evolution

Early human societies were matriarchal, as evidenced by ancient stone sculptures representing the Earth Mother that have been found in many places by archaeologists.  Females and motherhood and fertility were honored.  The very survival of prehistoric human beings depended on a keen awareness of the threats and opportunities afforded by wild animals and plants in the natural world.  Connections to Mother Nature were more inherently meaningful and profound than today.  It is likely that there was much greater respect for feminine virtues like earnest cooperation, empathetic understanding, constructive communication, clan connectedness, nurturing caring for others, moderate self-restraint, and peaceable conflict resolution.

Barbarian patriarchal warrior cultures overran these matriarchal societies during prehistoric times.  Male gods then became ascendant in many mythologies and religious doctrines.  These male-dominated cultures brought a dog-eat-dog world of supremacist striving and violence and subjugation. 

Our distant hunter and gatherer ancestors first figured out how to cultivate crops about 10,000 years ago, and this innovative discovery allowed tribes of people to settle down and create food surpluses.  This caused dramatic and even revolutionary changes in the roles of males and females in early civilizations.  People congregated in villages and towns, and technological advances later led to the Industrial Revolution in which cities were established and grew in size to accommodate workers who mass produced goods in big factories.  These trends made patriarchal ascendance even more pronounced, and the concentration and centralization of economic power and wealth grew and grew. 

Unprecedented demographic changes have accompanied this evolution.  The population of human beings has tripled in numbers in just the past 70 years.  Billions of people have moved to urban areas, and then many cities deteriorated and became less safe, so millions moved to suburban areas.  Urbanization and other human activities began to have unmistakably deleterious impacts on vital ecosystems upon which we depend.  Inequities in human civilizations became glaring, and seem to be increasing.  During the 1960s, broad movements took place that advanced women’s rights, civil rights and environmental protections.  These movements were accompanied by a make-love-not-war idealism and an attendant “tune in, turn on and drop out” counterculture and a sexual revolution that accompanied widespread use of contraceptives like ‘the Pill’.  In reaction to the Sixties, male dominated puritanical conservatism and corporatism spurted out in a backlash that started in the late 1970s and has reached its peak under the policies and attitudes of the Bush/Cheney crowd of neoconservatives and religious fundamentalists.

This history highlights the contention that the ways of men are failing us.  Global transformations in economic systems and the environment are making it desirable for us to once again give greater respect to women and feminine virtues and the healthy balance of Mother Nature.  It is apparent that we need to once again embrace the feminine or matriarchal values adduced above, including a more nurturing caring for Mother Earth.  It would be propitious for humankind to cultivate and empower these more ethical, honorable, and compassionate perspectives in our societies. 

What Does God Say, and What Would Jesus Do?

The Bible and the Koran are the greatest stories ever told, judging from the longevity and force of their influence.  God in these ‘holy books’ is a Supreme Being, and a suspiciously human-like being at that.  Believers envision God as a male with a curiously father-like character.  “He” has noble qualities;  ‘He’ is all-knowing, loving, merciful and just.  “He” also has ignoble qualities;  ‘He’ is jealous, judgmental, anger-prone, ruthless and extremely partial to believers.  Those who speak for this God are often narrow-minded and oddly sexually prudish and sexist and anti-gay and antagonistic to the dignity and rights of women.  Established religions encourage hope for a better life AFTER the one that believers are actually living, and they try to instill fear in believers so that they will act according to the commandments of the church or mosque.  “Believe! -- God loves you! … and give money!” 

There are socially positive aspects to established religions, but there are also highly negative ones.  Religions are prone to being hijacked by fundamentalists and extremists who use them to exhort followers to supremacist, conflict-causing, hateful and sometimes even suicidal ends.  If there is a Creator, “He” rules with detachment, and does not intervene in human affairs.  So if we want to be saved, we must act to save ourselves.  That’s my opinion!  Check out Revelations of a Modern Prophet for deeper introspections into the anthropocentric nature of worldviews, and of more sane spiritual perspectives.

The time for supporting positive change is NOW.  We cannot let either partisan politics or religious traditionalism impede this adaptive change.  We need new ways of seeing our world, and greater enlightenment.  Rather than quixotically tilting at phantoms or feverishly rubbing magic lamps in hopes of discovering a generous genie, we need to find better and more honest leaders, and leadership needs to become more constructive, and principled, and collaborative, and farsighted, and non-ideological.  It must help Americans work together for the greater good.  We furthermore need honorable statesmen in international affairs, not cheerleaders for aggression and preemptive wars! 

Captain James Kirk of Star Trek was known for his original thinking, and though he had serious flaws, he also had important leadership qualities.  Good leadership is desperately needed in the world today.  As Scott McClellan writes, “To me, leadership means uniting people around a common purpose, rather than dividing them along ideological lines.”  Hallelujah for that sentiment!

Businessman Lee Iacocca spoke out passionately at the age of 82 to demand better leadership in America.  In his book Where Have All the Leaders Gone, he analyzed the qualities of good leadership that he had learned during his long and distinguished career.  He pointed out the serious shortcomings of today’s leaders, and cited “Nine C’s of Leadership” that are valuable in achieving good governance:  good character, honest communication, creativity, competence, fair convictions, charisma, courage and common sense. 

It will be vital for our next President to demonstrate these qualities.  I believe that the greatest asset of Barack Obama will be his ability to assemble a team of progressive-minded people to help guide our nation in smarter, fairer and more sustainable directions.  The extensive experience of Joe Biden will help in achieving this goal.  Let’s elect them!  And then, let’s put powerful pressure on the new Administration to REALLY make positive changes for the greater good over the long term.  And let’s make sure ecological considerations have significant weight!

“What we are before is like a strait, a tricky road, a passage where we need courage and reason.  The courage to go on, not to try to turn back;  and the reason to use reason;  not fear, not jealousy, not envy, but reason.  We must steer by reason, and jettison -- because much must go -- by reason.”

                                                                                                                    --- John Fowles, The Aristos

I urge readers to check out the extensive and comprehensive understandings of big issues on the Earth Manifesto website.  See the magnum opus, “Comprehensive Global Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview”.  Or consider the implications of the “sensational Romance of Lichenology” in “Tyrants and Damsels and Associated Insights”.  Ponder the important insights in “Reflections on War”, including the observation by Mark Twain about imperialist aggression that could have saved us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives:  “It is easier to stay out than get out.”  

Again, for detailed ideas on the top priorities that we should be pursuing for a better world, see One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies, and the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity.  Also, peruse one of my favorites: Tall Tales, Provocative Parables, Luminous Clarity and Evocative Truths: A Modern Log from the Sea of Cortez.

Beam Us Up, Scotty!


           Dr. Tiffany Twain  

               October 2008

P.S.  Rare opportunity:  Be the first person in history to discover the writings in the Earth Manifesto and to respond to the Soliloquies found herein.  Think about the ideas conveyed in this essay, and in my fascinating Modern Log from the Sea of Cortez, and then compose your clearest and most thoughtful impressions of the ideas expressed.  Send it to me at the following email address:


Some day all of these writings may be among the most important ideas ever elaborated, and your feedback, or editorial input, may be included!

 “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.

                                                                                                                      --- Maya Angelou

An earlier version of this essay was published on August 8, 2008, a date of good omen for prosperity and good fortune.  Yay for us!  One of my ‘fantasies’, as expressed in September 2004 on the cover page of the original Earth Manifesto (Part Seven on the Home Page) is the following brazen and hopeful sentiment: 

“Ideally, the Earth Manifesto is destined to become the most influential manuscript of the 21st Century.” 

    What if it did?!