Superficiality

A recent NPR report on “All Things Considered” was titled, “Today’s Americans Duck Knowledge.”  According to a new Pew Research Center for People and the Press survey, most Americans are no more knowledgeable about current affairs today than they were years ago.


I’ve been searching for a word to describe the current state of affairs in our country.  While toying with the idea of “ignorance” and “apathy” seems to be in vogue, these seem to be too harsh, in a way.  While they certainly apply to some degree, there are extenuating circumstances.  Being fair, the very necessities of living can make even the most intelligent and caring of people less involved in political and social change than they would be under other economic or personal conditions.


Another word being used is “cynicism,” which denotes a disbelief in hope and man’s seemingly inherent ability to change.  There are antidotes to cynicism, probably more so than for ignorance and apathy.  But for a certain number of people, cynicism has become a shield, of sorts, that presents a barrier to growth and the evolution of a greater consciousness.


In a recent article by a friend, (Thank You, Janet!), a description of our daily existence referenced the idea of superficiality.  A light bulb went on and I began wonder whether this was a cause or effect of the other conditions being discussed, and a major basis of our problem.


The evidence of superficiality is all around us.  I confess that I’ve never seen anyone actually buy any of the grocery store tabloids, but they continue to be published, so they’re making money somehow.  The standard news programs and most of the pseudo-news programs are inundated with nonsense information.  For example, of what significance is the jail sentence of a tabloid notable or the current drug/rehab/hair problem of an entertainer in relation to the short and long term effects of an imperialistic and ill-conceived war?   Being generous, I might say that we need such entertainment to keep from going completely deranged with the obscenity of greed, power and ignorance of our so-called political system as well as much of our “Dilbert” business world.


Admittedly, there is comfort in just plopping down in front of the TV with a humorous or inane video, a bowl of popcorn and a Guinness draught.  It’s probably therapeutic in some way, as long as it doesn’t become an escapist habit.  As someone once said, it’s okay to want to visit Disneyland, but not to want to live there.


But at some point, perhaps we could take responsibility for ourselves and the world in which we live.  And the real issues are not superficial.

THE OBAMA FACTOR

Based on my observations and current information, it occurs to me that Barack Obama may be the person to lead America as President and that he would be a breath of fresh air in that office.  I’ve written previously about the characteristics we might seek in our leaders and he appears to epitomize a majority of them.

 
There is a video out that depicts how America could become in 500 years if we continue on our current path.  “Idiocracy” fantasizes that Americans follow their baser instincts and become an ignorant society, allowing themselves to be fooled by greedy, corrupt forces, including big corporations and politicians.

 
One might say that we are truly headed along that path already, having allowed our leaders to take us down the wrong road on a number of issues, not the least of which is the war in Iraq.  It is a bit unnerving to still find so many people who do not explore issues rationally; but who base decisions on what they read in the standard newspapers and hear from most of the television stations.

 
Of course, one might say the same thing about my observation here.  I don’t know Barack Obama personally and am basing my thoughts on what I have heard him say when speaking publicly and in his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”  It is clear, however, that his background supports his words and he has a history of following through on his ideals. 

 
The process of running for the office of President is grueling and will offer many opportunities for us to see many sides of the candidates.  Opponents will try to make sure that the seamier side of the individuals will be known – whether it be true or not. 

 
But I hope that adding the Obama Factor to the race will bring the whole process to a higher level – raising the “bar” on what the full measure of our national leaders should be.  And, hopefully, this is a step in getting us out of the ignorance, apathy and cynicism that many have come to expect and back into the active process of nominating and electing the best person for the position.

HEALTH CARE RESPONSIBILITY

Health care will be in the news this year, specifically how to provide health care access to the millions of Americans who currently don’t have insurance or who are underinsured, such as through the “discounted” benefit plans or through Health Service Accounts (HSAs).  The latter have become popular with employer groups who are trying to reduce their health benefit costs by placing the onus of the responsibility on their employees.  This is somewhat the form that existed before there were insurance companies and the associated insurance “premiums.”  People paid for necessary services out-of-pocket and, if necessary, made payment arrangements with the providers for services that were not immediately affordable. 


Somewhere in the process there were times when grateful patients paid for services in goods they themselves had grown or produced.  These times will never return, of course.  We truly need to develop a rational approach that will provide universal access to services with a means of payment within reach of all people and reimbursement acceptable to all types of health care providers.


In California, this year will see at least four ideas proposed in the legislature, including one from Governor Schwarzenegger; but the only truly feasible one is still SB 840 offered by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (see item below).  The other proposals are piecemeal, more costly and less efficient than necessary and simply “band-aids.”


But I want to propose another form of responsibility for health care that is seldom discussed.  It is obviously not a popular idea or it would be accepted widely, which it isn’t, for reasons that social scientists perhaps would have some explanation – we simply do not want to take responsibility for our own health, by which I mean taking those steps that would obviate the need for extensive insurance coverage at all.


We have become too reliant on the medical-pharmaceutical complex to take care of our medical needs.  When asking a group of people whether they have a “health plan,” many will readily state that they do and will specify that they have Blue Cross, Aetna, Health Net, etc. or a third party administrative arrangement through an employer or union.


What I mean by a “health plan” is simply a personal plan for getting and staying healthy.  There are hundreds of books published on the subject as well as a myriad of infomercials touting products to prevent disease and health food stores with aisles of products and information.   The only difficult part is to simplify it all so that it doesn’t seem like such a monumental task to maintain health and so that we don’t spend excessive amounts on things that simply aren’t what they claim to be.


After nearly 40 years of study and investigation into the subject of health and wellness, I’ve narrowed the process down into some simple steps, most of which require no additional spending.  The following mnemonic will help remember the elements of the plan:


W – Water, an essential element.  Our body’s cells are mostly water and remaining properly hydrated is key to health.  Most water in the US is acceptable, some is better than others as measured by impurities and Ph level (optimal is 7.0-7.2 range).  Much of the bottled water is no better than what comes from the tap.  Water is a basic part of nutrition in general, which is probably the toughest element to address.  We like to eat and we like “tasty” foods, which generally means fatty foods.  I have investigated and tried a variety of approaches to a health diet and have ended up taking the best information and applying it the best I can to daily practices.  For a period of about 5 years I was religiously vegan and other than an initial drastic weight loss, I didn’t realize much difference in overall health.  In fact, my cholesterol level, which was one of my primary reasons for doing this, didn’t drop at all.


E – Exercise. Another tough one.  It is scientifically proven that with proper nutrition and exercise, we will maintain appropriate weight and overall health.  Again, I’ve tried numerous programs and equipment, which usually ends up in one of our garage sales.  It’s obvious just by looking at the general population that regular exercise is not a priority for most people. Proper exercise will help with rest or relaxation.  Our world is moving very fast and we are expected to keep up with it.  Well, what would happen if we didn’t.  Sleeping is the only time that our bodies can regenerate and you can’t “catch up on it.”  Lost sleep is lost. 


L – Laughter.  We take life much too seriously.  “Laughter is the best medicine” has been addressed in many ways and I personally find it so.  If necessary, I’ll pull out a funny video to watch and just laugh out loud.  It puts everything into perspective.


L – Love.  This is very simple.  Unfortunately, love is misunderstood and, in fact, can be taken to mean something that is detrimental.  The closest true meaning of “love” is forgiveness. 


It’s everyone’s responsibility to learn the path and the answers for themselves. Finding the personal motivation is key. I have no fear of death; but I don’t want to be in pain, in a nursing home or be taken care of by a family member or friend. That’s what keeps me “on the plan.”


Again, it is just information and each person is responsible for exploring for themselves and implementing what works for them. Our health is our responsibility. Just remember the fourth of the Four Agreements, always do your best.


This is an extremely brief summary.  Each element can be expanded upon and discussed, which my wife and I do occasionally in individual or group sessions. Anyone interested in this can do so in a response to this web log item.


Thank you.

9/11 Facts?

(NOTE: If this is your first visit to this site, I invite you to read the Editor Profile, Guidelines/Disclaimer and Objective for this web log by clicking on these sections under “Pages” on the right side. It may be helpful, as well, to read the first entry, “Introduction,” and check out the “Links” to get the general sense of the web log content. Also remember to Register (bottom right side) and that the comment section is at the bottom of each web log entry.) 

I’ve already stated that I wouldn’t post conspiracy theory materials and I’ve waited on the 9/11 stories until more scholarly information could be found and presented rationally.  It is also my intent to not point fingers at those who perpetrated this act, since this does not help us obtain our goal: peaceful revolution and regime change through public education, one-to-one if necessary, until we can make the leadership changes that will return America to the high level of respect it once held and to a true constitutional democracy instead of domestic tyranny.

To that end, I offer the following for your consideration:

C-Span Airing Of L.A. Conference Shows Mainstreaming Of 9/11 Truth
Fresh injection of credibility advances movement

Paul Joseph Watson/Prison Planet.com | July 28 2006

A decision that many of us were waiting on with baited breath – C-Span’s scheduling of the American Scholars Symposium highlights – infused the 9/11 truth movement with a fresh injection of credibility and exposure to more mainstream audiences.

The panel featured incredible presentations by 9/11 Scholars for Truth founder James Fetzer, BYU Physics Professor Steven Jones, President of the Institute for Space and Security Studies Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret., Filmmaker and Radio Broadcaster Alex Jones, and Terrorism Expert Webster Tarpley.

C-Span viewers witnessed what many consider to be the most hard hitting conference to date including the most professional and credible speakers ever assembled.

Many have expressed a degree of frustration that some quarters of the 9/11 truth movement are not as bold in their stance when drawing conclusions about 9/11 evidence as is necessary to make an impact. The American Scholars Symposium was crystal clear in its summation that 9/11 represents an inside job carried out by criminal elements within the US government. The deliberate implosion of the twin towers and Building 7 allied with the reversal of routine air defense procedures leave no other explanation than the fact that the attack was a self-inflicted wound.

Preaching to the choir is a method best left in the past and the C-Span airing is a positive step towards reaching out and educating those who remain in the dark about the staggering volume of evidence which clearly indicates that the official story behind 9/11 is a fraud.

The distinction, background and high esteem of the speakers at the conference, coupled with C-Span’s notable reputation as a bellwether of the mainstream body politic, provided for a perfect symbiosis to advance the credibility and critical acclaim of the 9/11 truth movement as something far weightier and more influential than a cadre of conspiracy theorists – a label still peddled by fading elements of the blowhard establishment press.

It is vital that you focus your educational efforts solely on those who are still unaware of cover-up pertaining to 9/11.

———————————

9/11 Symposium: Professor Steven Jones
Professor Steven Jones gives an illustrated keynote speech about the role of incendiary devices used in the destruction of the twin towers and Building 7. Jones has often been cited as the torch carrier for a newly defined 9/11 movement characterized by science, common sense and credibility.

9/11 Symposium: Lt. Col. Bob Bowman
In this presentation Bowman discusses the ignorance surrounding the events of 9/11 and its aftermath and details the NORAD cover-up surrounding intercept procedures that were not properly executed on that day – drawing from his own experience as an Air Force pilot and his Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Nuclear Engineering from Cal-Tech.

9/11 Symposium: Professor Jim Fetzer
Fetzer details the implausible collapse of the twin towers according to the melting point of steel in comparison with the temperature of jet fuel. This 78-minute high quality presentation also covers the controversy at the Pentagon in depth with slides to accompany the discussion.

William Rodriguez: 9/11 Hero
Rodriguez passionately engages the audience and discusses the relentless media circus that followed him in the days after 9/11 and his eyewitness accounts of explosions in the underground basement levels of the towers

Thank you,

Joe

THE PARTY’S OVER

 From the Editor: Garrison is one of my personal favorites, particularly his NPR series, “A Prairie Home Companion.”  While he writes about one particular political party, our problem is much broader – spanning a corrupt leadership in both major parties and major agencies, e.g. CIA, NSA, FDA, NIH, etc.  Only concerned and alert citizens will be able to make the necessary changes.

*******

Note to Republicans: The party’s over
Ineptness has ruined the GOP
Garrison Keillor       

CHICAGO TRIBUNE June 7, 2006

People who live in mud huts should not throw mud, especially if it comes from their own roofs. As Scripture says, don’t point to the speck in your neighbor’s eye when you have a piece of kindling in your own.

I see by the papers that the Republicans want to make an issue of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the congressional races this fall: Would you want a San Francisco woman to be speaker of the House? Will the lectern be repainted in lavender stripes with a disco ball overhead? Will she be borne into the chamber by male dancers with glistening torsos and wearing pink tutus? After all, in the unique world view of old elephants, San Francisco is a code word for g-a-y, and after assembling a record of government lies, incompetence and disaster, the party in power hopes that the fear of g-a-y-s will pull it through in November.

Running against Pelosi, a woman who comes from a district where there are known gay persons, is a nice trick, but it does draw attention to the large, shambling galoot who is House speaker now, Tom DeLay’s enabler for years, a man who, judging by his public utterances, is about as smart as most high school wrestling coaches. For the past year, Dennis Hastert has been two heartbeats from the presidency. He is a man who seems content just to have a car and driver and three square meals a day. He has succeeded in turning Congress into a branch of the executive branch. If Mr. Hastert becomes the poster boy for the Republican Party, this does not speak well for them as the Party of Ideas.

People who want to take a swing at San Francisco should think twice. Yes, the Irish coffee at Fisherman’s Wharf is overpriced, and the bus tour of Haight-Ashbury is disappointing (Where are the hippies?), but the Bay Area is the cradle of the computer and software industry, which continues to create jobs for our children. The iPod was not developed by Baptists in Waco, Texas. There may be a reason for this. Creative people thrive in a climate of openness and tolerance, since some great ideas start out sounding ridiculous. Creativity is a key to economic progress. Authoritarianism is stifling. I don’t believe that Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard were gay, but what’s important is: In San Francisco, it doesn’t matter so much. When the cultural Sturmbannfuhrers try to marshal everyone into straight lines, it has consequences for the economic future of this country.

Meanwhile, the Current Occupant goes on impersonating a president. Somewhere in the quiet, leafy recesses of the Bush family, somebody is thinking, “Wrong son. Should’ve tried the smart one.” Five years in office and he doesn’t have a grip on it yet. You stand him up next to British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a news conference and the comparison is not kind to Our Guy. Historians are starting to place him at or near the bottom of the list. And one of the basic assumptions of American culture is falling apart: the competence of Republicans.

You might not have always liked Republicans, but you could count on them to manage the bank. They might be lousy tippers, act snooty, talk through their noses, wear spats and splash mud on you as they race their Pierce-Arrows through the village, but you knew they could do the math. To see them produce a ninny and then follow him loyally into the swamp for five years is disconcerting, like seeing the Rolling Stones take up lite jazz. So here we are at an uneasy point in our history, mired in a costly war, a supine Congress granting absolute power to a president who seems to get smaller and dimmer, and the best the Republicans can offer is San Franciscophobia? This is beyond pitiful. This is violently stupid.

It is painful to look at your father and realize the old man should not be allowed to manage his own money anymore. This is the discovery the country has made about the party in power. They are inept. The checkbook needs to be taken away. They will rant, they will screech, they will wave their canes at you and call you all sorts of names, but you have to do what you have to do.

A MANUAL FOR CHANGE – PART II

It would almost appear that Americans have finally become sufficiently fed-up with our pseudo-democracy to usher in a new wave of inevitable reform, based on the information that I’m receiving of late.  I would like to believe this is true; but I was born close enough to Missouri to have a bit of the “show me” attitude in my genes.
 
Ignorance and apathy have no role on the path to freedom and democracy.  I hope I am understood that I am using these characteristics non-pejoratively, as I simply cannot put myself in everyone’s “moccasins” nor in everyone’s “classroom” of life.  There are many valid reasons that people do not understand the significance of political and economical action on their lives and their descendants.
 
Perhaps if the appropriate person can be found, a “savior” if you wish, enough people will become interested in taking action to select national leaders who not only will take us in the right direction; but will also garner the respect of the rest of the world.
 
To that end, I will attempt to initiate a discussion to outline 1) characteristics and traits we may want to see in our leaders and 2) the process by which that person would come to lead our country:
 
Characteristics:
Humble:  This does not equate with “weakness” in any form; but indicates a lack of arrogance or false pride.  None of us know everything and accepting advice from those knowledgeable in specific areas is a sign of strength.  Being “ego-less” is a great strength.  In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Ambition is the final step toward failure.”

Rational:  This relates to using intellectually sound judgment and good sense.  For example, when relating to people of different cultures, a rational person understands those differences sufficiently to engender mutual respect in communicating with each other.

Ethical: Probably many people believe that “ethics” and “religion” are synonymous; but they are not.  In fact, a “religious” person could be completely unethical.

Wise:  A wise person has the ability to discern and judge properly as to what is true, right and prudent.

No religious affiliation: I bring your attention to the “Related Other” links on the right side of this site, particularly to “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason,” a book by Sam Harris.  One site missing relates to the book “American Theocracy” by Kevin Philips, because I haven’t read it, yet.  I did, however, listen to an interview with him and was thoroughly impressed.  He goes back quite a way in Washington politics and has a fantastic memory.  You can guess from the title of the book what the main subject will be.  Now we can add Theocracy to Corporatocracy and Nerocracy. George W. Bush is an excellent example of someone using religion to his/her best advantage and, thus, is an example of a theocratic leader. (By the way, a recent news magazine points out that the conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere is that “President Cheney” runs the country.  He and his cohorts are advocates of Corporatocracy and the “New World Power” and they will do anything, legal or not, to assure its continuation.  They have decided to “Let Bush be Bush,” which is the reason for his more frequent blundering.)

Sam Harris makes a very convincing case for the hypothesis that religion is the cause of evil, terrorism, etc.  Behind every religion is some form of “god” and a “holy book” that supposedly lays out the way its followers should live.  Some people who have read and studied these books realize that they represent the works of people who had to make up a god with human characteristics, as has every culture in the world.
 
A fundamentalist christian would have to be able to drink poison and not die, just as a fundamentalist muslim jihadist must, according to the word of god, kill any infidel who defiles god’s holy land or people.  Jews also must believe that certain land and rights are inherently theirs by the “word of god.”  And so it goes….    “god bless America” or “allah be praised” are meaningless.
 
So, another characteristic of our “perfect” candidate is that s/he be an atheist.  (I would accept “Theo-Atheist” since there is a God, just not the ones that we have made up.  I would also accept someone who participates in a religion; but is wise enough to put that aside and use reason, ethics and wisdom in leading our country.)
 
Independence from all “special interest groups:”  This is obvious.  Accepting bribes means that the person has no reason, ethics or wisdom, only greed, and we’ve had enough of that.


Process for selection of our leader and national representative to the world:
Previously, I brought to your attention to the link on the right side under “Links: Democracy” to “Cleaner Congress,” which notes how we can elect national leaders who have no debts owing to “special interest” groups.  A recent link added, “Democracy Land” refers to http://www.unity08.com, which proposes an interesting electoral approach, contrary to that which continues to promote the same methodology, which keeps us in deep doo-doo, as it were, at every election.
 
Perhaps we could combine this idea with something creative like having the finalists for the presidential election be chosen initially through a “draft” mechanism, similar to what was used before we had a “voluntary” military service, or through a process similar to the jury service selection currently in use.  Names are selected randomly and people are eliminated through a series of screenings until only a few, the best of the best, as it were, remain to be presented to the country as candidates.
 
We could call it “Survivor: Presidency 2008,”  “American President” or “Last President Standing.”   🙂
 
 
Anyway, this is just to get the thought process moving and I invite all comments and suggestions.  We may survive under our present system; but the chances are slim and the price we pay is too high.
Thank you,
Joe
 

A Manual for Change – Part I

                                                           
“The national government may be in the hands of sell outs and ideologues, but there is still work to be done.”   Jim Hightower
                                                           
 
Before getting to the subject of a Manual for Change, two important questions must be asked and answered.  First, do I really care if the situation changes or not?  After all, we’ve been living in a form of autocracy, including  the corporatocracy, Nerocracy, crime, greed, arrogance and ignorance of our national leadership for many years.  Do I care, for example, that as a middle class citizen I’m paying for and supporting this corruption and “legal” crime. How do I feel about that?  I personally feel somewhat badly about it, because I was aware of some of it; but generally gullible like, apparently, many Americans, and “life went on.”  I’m as guilty of apathy as anyone.  I’ve read the stories of those who stood up to the government and refused to pay taxes, or a portion of them, because the money helped an immoral and unethical cause.  They suffered the consequences, but perhaps they did so with a clear conscience.
 
The second question is more difficult.  If I decide to actively participate in the change, can I do so peacefully, without being driven by anger and hatred, because if I point a finger of blame at anyone, it might as well be me.
 
We’re all going to die anyway and how that happens may not be our choice; but does it really matter?  And the change probably won’t happen in our lifetime.  Look at how long it took for women to gain the most basic of human rights.  Just consider what the efforts of a rather shy homemaker, wife and mother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, along with her friend, Susan B. Anthony, did for this nation.
 
Take a minute or two and consider this.  Depending on your personal answer, read on or just stop and get on with your life.
 
*****
I’ve had ideas roaming around in my brain on how to get to an actual Manual for Change of our corrupt government when, true to the “100th Monkey Phenomenon,” (check it out at Google if you’ve forgotten it) I find out that the idea and action are already happening around the country at the grassroots level.  According to Jim Hightower, a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker author, including the book “Thieves in High Places: They’ve Stolen our Country and it’s Time to Take It Back,”  “…grassroots people are so much stronger, more resilient, and more American than the gooberheads at the top, and they’ll not be long held back.”
 
One of the main concerns I had was how could anyone reach high office and not  “owe” something to a special interest group, whatever form that might take.
 
As it turns out, there has been a movement underway for some time called “Clean Elections.”  Again, you may want to check under Google to see all that is happening.  In the past decade, 8 states and 14 cities have passed “Clean Election” laws to end the money chase and other states and cities are moving toward passage of such laws this year.
 
This means, among other things, that regular people  can run for office because public financing is provided to candidates who agree not to accept money from corporations or other favor-seeking interests.
 
And it works!  According to Jim Hightower, in Maine in 2000, for example, half of the state’s senators and 30 percent of house members were elected without taking a dime in special-interest money. Today, 83 percent of its senate and 77 percent of its house is made up of legislators who ran “clean.”  And not only that, Maine became the first state to pass a bill providing health care for all of its people!!  This could never have happened in a political situation dominated by private campaign contributions.
 
On many other issues on which Washington is the enemy, great progress has been made. (You won’t hear about this in the mainline media.)
 
So the answer to apathy is to join with the grassroots groups that are taking action and making progress.  Become part of the renewal right where you live.
 
There is always a way.  When I was stopped by the U.S. Department of State from mediating a truce with Usama bin Laden against killing Americans when our national leadership wouldn’t, I started this site and I continue to write letters to newspapers and to government leaders.  If enough people did even this much, we would begin to see change.
 
But what about finding those leaders, and what qualities should we be seeking in them?  Think about it and let me know.  I plan to cover this next.  I’ll give you a hint on a couple ideas I have: think about a version of the Selective Service System (Draft) and the jury service selection process….
 
Thank you,
Joe

Viva Chavez!

A recent Reuters news article noted that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered special training for the country’s military forces and civilians to repel an invasion by U.S. forces.  The training adopts a doctrine emphasizing “asymmetric war” or resistance against a more powerful foreign force.
 
True to form, U.S. officials are attempting to portray Chavez as a negative influence in Latin America.  I don’t know President Chavez personally; but I do know what our leaders are capable of, as does anyone who has read information by noted people, knowledgeable on the subject..  I would tend to believe and support President Chavez to do what is necessary to protect his country from U.S. imperialism.
Other factors are building that spell trouble for Americans, primarily the low approval rating for GWB.   The good news is that people are finally catching on that we have corrupt, inept and criminal leadership.  The bad news is that the Rove machine must go into high gear to re-instate the “fear factor” in us to help the ratings, particularly before the November elections when many seats in congress will be up for change.
 
This could mean that we might expect an “al-Qaeda” attack on Americans or on American soil itself.  Michael Scheuer, the former CIA chief of counterterrorism has noted that GWB’s policies have helped to strengthen al-Qaeda and that the most likely point of attack is Houston, TX, by means of a truck crossing the border from Mexico. 
 
Based on additional information, I believe that should al-Qaeda decide not to attack in a timely way for some reason, our CIA “al-Qaeda impersonators” could fill in for them.
 
If there is no attack, GWB can then claim that his security measures are effective.  He wins either way.
 
This might not even be of interest to many people, were it not for the fact that our leaders have no concern for the deaths of innocent people, when it furthers their agenda.  It then stirs up a “patriotic fervor” that also works to their benefit.
 
It appears that there’s “no way out,” which, in fact, there may not be under our current structure.  But I’m an optimist and will, soon, discuss a “Manual for Change.” (Your thoughts on this are always welcome. I have one idea I’ll present later.) We can always just smile at the situation because death is really not a bad thing.  In some spiritual thought, it’s just another step of life.  I just have a problem with the pain that may be associated with it.   🙂

Joe

 

The Modern Neros

Thank you, Thom Hartmann.  The article below is a rational summary of the current world situation.  I differ with the sense, probably not intended, that this is a relatively new phenomenon. I believe that we are experiencing a re-creation of world affairs that have repeated themselves century after century.  The Roman Empire never fell, it just changed names.  And the leaders’ names have just changed a bit as well.  Instead of Nero, Caesar, Alexander, etc. we now have the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bush (I and II), Reagan, and Clinton.  (Not so impressive, name wise, I’ll admit, but no less dangerous, arrogant or greedy.)     So I would add “Nerocracy” to the new dictionary along with “corporatocracy.”
 
After reading this article and other submissions to this and other sites, as well as numerous relevant books, you may have a number of reactions – anger, fear, *hopelessness, depression, disgust, for example; or you may feel inspired to action.  What specific action may not be clear and within a few days of “normal” life, the “feeling” may just go away. 
 
If, however, the feeling remains and is fortified by ongoing information received from reliable sources, you may be among those who want a *”Manual for Change.”  What can us common folk do to get our democracy back, have a true voice in running our government and create a relative modicum of balance, compassion and cooperation in the world? 
 
Think about it.  We’ll discuss it further……
                                                                                   
(*Thanks to Leah and Janet for your “words.”)
*******
Monday, February 27, 2006  
 
Published on Monday, February 27, 2006 by CommonDreams.org

When Americans No Longer Own America

by Thom Hartmann
The Dubai Ports World deal is waking Americans up to a painful reality: So-called “conservatives” and “flat world” globalists have bankrupted our nation for their own bag of silver, and in the process are selling off America.

Through a combination of the “Fast Track” authority pushed for by Reagan and GHW Bush, sweetheart trade deals involving “most favored nation status” for dictatorships like China, and Clinton pushing us into NAFTA and the WTO (via GATT), we’ve abandoned the principles of tariff-based trade that built American industry and kept us strong for over 200 years.

The old concept was that if there was a dollar’s worth of labor in a pair of shoes made in the USA, and somebody wanted to import shoes from China where there may only be ten cents worth of labor in those shoes, we’d level the playing field for labor by putting a 90-cent import tariff on each pair of shoes. Companies could choose to make their products here or overseas, but the ultimate cost of labor would be the same.

Then came the flat-worlders, led by misguided true believers and promoted by multinational corporations. Do away with those tariffs, they said, because they “restrain trade.” Let everything in, and tax nothing. The result has been an explosion of cheap goods coming into our nation, and the loss of millions of good manufacturing jobs and thousands of manufacturing companies. Entire industry sectors have been wiped out.

These policies have kneecapped the American middle class. Our nation’s largest employer has gone from being the unionized General Motors to the poverty-wages Wal-Mart. Americans have gone from having a net savings rate around 10 percent in the 1970s to a minus .5 percent in 2005 – meaning that they’re going into debt or selling off their assets just to maintain their lifestyle.

At the same time, federal policy has been to do the same thing at a national level. Because our so-called “free trade” policies have left us with an over $700 billion annual trade deficit, other countries are sitting on huge piles of the dollars we gave them to buy their stuff (via Wal-Mart and other “low cost” retailers). But we no longer manufacture anything they want to buy with those dollars.

So instead of buying our manufactured goods, they are doing what we used to do with Third World nations – they are buying us, the USA, chunk by chunk. In particular, they want to buy things in America that will continue to produce profits, and then to take those profits overseas where they’re invested to make other nations strong. The “things” they’re buying are, by and large, corporations, utilities, and natural resources.

Back in the pre-Reagan days, American companies made profits that were distributed among Americans. They used their profits to build more factories, or diversify into other businesses. The profits stayed in America.

Today, foreigners awash with our consumer dollars are on a two-decades-long buying spree. The UK’s BP bought Amoco for $48 billion – now Amoco’s profits go to England. Deutsche Telekom bought VoiceStream Wireless, so their profits go to Germany, which is where most of the profits from Random House, Allied Signal, Chrysler, Doubleday, Cyprus Amax’s US Coal Mining Operations, GTE/Sylvania, and Westinghouse’s Power Generation profits go as well. Ralston Purina’s profits go to Switzerland, along with Gerber’s; TransAmerica’s profits go to The Netherlands, while John Hancock Insurance’s profits go to Canada. Even American Bankers Insurance Group is owned now by Fortis AG in Belgium.

Foreign companies are buying up our water systems, our power generating systems, our mines, and our few remaining factories. All because “flat world” so-called “free trade” policies have turned us from a nation of wealthy producers into a nation of indebted consumers, leaving the world awash in dollars that are most easily used to buy off big chunks of America. As www.economyincrisis.com notes, US Government statistics indicate the following percentages of foreign ownership of American industry:

· Sound recording industries – 97%
· Commodity contracts dealing and brokerage – 79%
· Motion picture and sound recording industries – 75%
· Metal ore mining – 65%
· Motion picture and video industries – 64%
· Wineries and distilleries – 64%
· Database, directory, and other publishers – 63%
· Book publishers – 63%
· Cement, concrete, lime, and gypsum product – 62%
· Engine, turbine and power transmission equipment – 57%
· Rubber product – 53%
· Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing – 53%
· Plastics and rubber products manufacturing – 52%
· Plastics product – 51%
· Other insurance related activities – 51%
· Boiler, tank, and shipping container – 50%
· Glass and glass product – 48%
· Coal mining – 48%
· Sugar and confectionery product – 48%
· Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying – 47%
· Advertising and related services – 41%
· Pharmaceutical and medicine – 40%
· Clay, refractory, and other nonmetallic mineral products – 40%
· Securities brokerage – 38%
· Other general purpose machinery – 37%
· Audio and video equipment mfg and reproducing magnetic and optical media – 36%
· Support activities for mining – 36%
· Soap, cleaning compound, and toilet preparation – 32%
· Chemical manufacturing – 30%
· Industrial machinery – 30%
· Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities – 30%
· Other food – 29%
· Motor vehicles and parts – 29%
· Machinery manufacturing – 28%
· Other electrical equipment and component – 28%
· Securities and commodity exchanges and other financial investment activities – 27%
· Architectural, engineering, and related services – 26%
· Credit card issuing and other consumer credit – 26%
· Petroleum refineries (including integrated) – 25%
· Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments – 25%
· Petroleum and coal products manufacturing – 25%
· Transportation equipment manufacturing – 25%
· Commercial and service industry machinery – 25%
· Basic chemical – 24%
· Investment banking and securities dealing – 24%
· Semiconductor and other electronic component – 23%
· Paint, coating, and adhesive – 22%
· Printing and related support activities – 21%
· Chemical product and preparation – 20%
· Iron, steel mills, and steel products – 20%
· Agriculture, construction, and mining machinery – 20%
· Publishing industries – 20%
· Medical equipment and supplies – 20%

Thus it shouldn’t surprise us that the cons have sold off our ports as well, and will defend it to the bitter end. They truly believe that a “New World Order” with multinational corporations in charge instead of sovereign governments will be the answer to the problem of world instability. And therefore they must do away with quaint things like unions, a healthy middle class, and, ultimately, democracy.

The “security” implications of turning our ports over to the UAE are just the latest nail in what the cons hope will be the coffin of American democracy and the American middle class. Today’s conservatives believe in rule by inherited wealth and an internationalist corporate elite, and things like a politically aroused citizenry and a healthy democracy are pesky distractions.

Everything today is driven by profits for multinationals, supported by the lawmaking power of the WTO. Thus, parts for our missiles are now made in China, a country that last year threatened us with nuclear weapons. Our oil comes from a country that birthed a Wahabist movement that ultimately led to 14 Saudi citizens flying jetliners into the World Trade buildings and the Pentagon. Germans now own the Chrysler auto assembly lines that turned out tanks to use against Germany in WWII. And the price of labor in America is being held down by over ten million illegal workers, a situation that was impossible twenty-five years ago when unions were the first bulwark against dilution of the American labor force.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote of King George III in the Declaration of Independence, “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation…” he just as easily could have been writing of the World Trade Organization, which now has the legal authority to force the United States to overturn laws passed at both local, state, and federal levels with dictates devised by tribunals made up of representatives of multinational corporations. If Dubai loses in the American Congress, their next stop will almost certainly be the WTO.

As Simon Romero and Heather Timmons noted in The New York Times on 24 February 2006, “the international shipping business has evolved in recent years to include many more containers with consumer goods, in addition to old-fashioned bulk commodities, and that has helped lift profit margins to 30 percent, from the single digits. These smartly managed foreign operators now manage about 80 percent of port terminals in the United States.”

And those 30 percent profits from American port operations now going to Great Britain will probably soon go to the United Arab Emirates, a nation with tight interconnections to both the Bush administration and the Bush family.

Ultimately, it’s not about security — it’s about money. In the multinational corporatocracy’s “flat world,” money trumps the national good, community concerns, labor interests, and the environment. NAFTA, CAFTA, and WTO tribunals can – and regularly do – strike down local and national laws. Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man” are replaced by Antonin Scalia’s “Rights of Corporate Persons.”

Profits even trump the desire for good enough port security to avoid disasters that may lead to war. After all, as Judith Miller wrote in The New York Times on January 30, 1991, quoting a local in Saudi Arabia: “War is good for business.”

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author of over a dozen books and the host of a nationally syndicated noon-3pm ET daily progressive talk show syndicated by Air America Radio. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are “What Would Jefferson Do?” and Ultimate Sacrifice.

Why Do We Let Government Corruption and Health “Non-Systems” Continue?

[Let me first of all apologize to anyone who is offended by the words to follow.   And the first one I forgive is myself, because I am no different than many other people.  It just took time and life changes to make me understand that I could no longer sit back and be quiet about certain situations and that I could not live with an “Us vs.Them” philosophy.]


As I receive positive feedback to the information posted on this site, the question came to me: “If so many people agree that we have corrupt “non-systems” that need reforming, why do we then let it continue?”


One answer came to me.   Mostly, we are all talking to ourselves, that is, “preaching to the choir.”


I know that some people voted for Bush because of his responses and appearance during the debates.  (Note 1:  Overnight polls showed that Kerry and Edwards had “won” the debates by wide margins.  Note 2: How many people realize that the debates are not “real” but staged, much like the scripted “reality shows” on TV that so many people are enamored with.)


I also have heard that many people voted for Bush because he was a “born-again christian.” (Some pastors even brought up the issue that he was the only one to vote for if you valued your “eternal soul,” or something to that effect.)


I know there are people who take the stance that “Nothing you can say will change my mind.”  But I also know there are others who are willing to take in new evidence and base decisions on reason.  One has to ask, for example,  whether any “christian” would kill innocent people rather than engage in dialogue and negotiation to achieve a modicum of peace without killing; but the history of christianity is replete with episodes of great harm done in its name, e.g, the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. Another consideration is that to profess to be a fundamental Christian would mean you would have to follow the bible literally, e.g., kill or torture anyone who didn’t “follow the Word of God,” etc. and you would be considered a very bad person by society.  (Do you remember that the biblical Jesus condoned slavery?)   Does all that sound familiar?  The Jihadists are simply following the literal principles of their bible, which says that they will be rewarded for killing us and dying as martyrs because we have not followed the rules of their particular religious dogma.


So, correct information has to get to those people who need it in order to make rational decisions.  Perhaps we can add more names to our email distribution list with this web log site and other pertinent information – names that “we’re not sure of where they stand on these issues” or perhaps those that we are afraid of imposing ourselves on.  We might be surprised with the result.  And without it, reform will just not be possible.  You won’t “lose friends” if it is presented gently and with genuine concern for their feelings.  Remember, many people believe that they are “right” and nothing you say or do will change that.  But simply by changing ourselves, we can have a positive effect.


Those involved in “book clubs” might suggest some books that could bring up interesting conversation and open doors to personal change. (See suggested books on the right side, for example.)  The authors of those books would also make excellent guests on radio talk shows.


On the health “Non-System” reform issue, letters of support to legislators are extremely important.  The first measure to work on is SB 840 (Sen. Kuehl), which will soon have its accompanying bill to address the financing issue.  Californians can locate their legislators and also get information on the progress of bills at http://www.legislature.ca.gov.  Of course, there’s always the need to let the governor know how you feel on an issue, because even when it does pass this year, he can still veto it. 


It’s important for non-Californians to support this system, because when it’s successful here, the concept will spread to other states, as well.  I don’t believe we’ll have a rational plan at the national level until we get the government corruption issue addressed.


I met a doctor recently and casually began discussing both reform issues.  He gave me another insight.  Americans enjoy television and television is a mind-numbing drug, and the people watching the programs are probably believing what they see and hear.  Many are entertained by current information on Paris Hilton or who is divorcing whom or having whose baby, etc.  This is just a fact and probably won’t be changed until they have their own personal experience to make them open up and want to change.  But they are still our brothers and sisters and maybe under different circumstances will hear something that will change their lives, thus changing all of our lives.


There is also the issue I brought up earlier about the many numbers of people who are just busy staying alive and keeping one step ahead of the collection agency. Or they are going to school to improve themselves and just get caught up in the necessities of daily living.  They couldn’t care less about these reform issues because they believe, incorrectly, that they  “aren’t affecting me directly.”   The correct information should be at least offered to everyone in a way that is understandable and even discussed with those adults who can’t read, so that they can make rational decisions.


*******

Now for the forgiveness and possibility of  personal change part…


I was raised a roman catholic, but developed a deep skepticism about religion and dogma in general early in life.  My wife and I were active in the charismatic renewal within the church itself, as well as Genesis II (eventually banned by the catholic church, I believe) and other well-meaning  programs. I considered myself a bible scholar, even to the point that I believed there is a “God” who created the world and everything in it. Among other judgments, I had “righteous anger” against the practice of homosexuality as being “offensive to God.”  I’m not making any excuses for these types of beliefs.  It’s just the way it was at the time, and it was part of my life lesson.


One of my classes in college was “Comparative Religions,” co-taught by a Georgetown University trained Jesuit priest and the protestant theologian who began the “God is Dead” philosophy.  This continued to open my mind drastically, as did my classes in ethics, philosophy and psychology.


I was trained in the military service to kill people in many ways for the “good of my country” (I rather enjoyed this…) without questioning the morality of it.  And I was trained to electronically spy on the “enemy.” (I REALLY enjoyed this part.)  Imagine what the technology is today compared to what we had in the late 60’s and try to believe that the NSA cannot track your calls and emails.  The NSA measures its computers in “acres.”  The first Cray Supercomputer was built for NSA and they received all the upgrades, etc.  NSA recruits the finest mathematical minds and analysts available from the best universities.  I simply laugh when told that we are not “illegally eavesdropping on Americans,” or the spin that even if it is illegal, it is “necessary to protect America from “terrorist activities.” (See again the comments from John Perkins in his book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” and at the web site noted to the right.)  The humorous part is that al-Qaeda is highly unlikely to communicate entirely through these standard methods.  They are not a single country or source to spy on.  This is a religious imperative built on “cells” of individuals all over the world.


If you’re wondering what this all has to do with the reform issues,  I’m just saying that people can change, and it just takes ordinary people changing to help end our ignorance and apathy, so that we can transform America, which will eventually have an effect on the rest of the world.


Thank you,

Joe