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    March 12, 2022

    Ukraine: This Changes Everything

    Trying to keep an open mind on the Ukraine catastrophe, I've listened to some who say the catastrophe in Ukraine is the fault of the West, the U.S. in particular. I have been a critic of U.S. foreign policy in many ways, and opposed practically every war we've been in since World War II. I know it's possible to be misled by misinformation and indoctrinated with propaganda. I allow that I may at any time be wrong, may have been misled. And I always reserve the right to change my opinion if I discover that I've been wrong. So I listened to some of the arguments of those who say that the situation in Ukraine is the fault of the West, NATO, and particularly the U.S.

    The story I heard, roughly speaking, was that the U.S. gave assurances to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union, that NATO would not expand to the east, toward Russia. Then NATO proceeded to break those promises and the treaty organization brought in countries formerly within the Soviet sphere, to the point where NATO was practically right on Russia's border. Russia considers that a threat. Russia needs a "buffer zone," they said. We don't want NATO coming to our doorstep.

    Okay, so I can see some validity in an argument about agreements made and broken. That argument may be true, and if so, it has some validity. At the same time, the idea that this expansion of NATO is necessarily a threat to Russia relies on the embrace of the old Cold War premise that there is some inherent military or territorial conflict going on between Russia and the West.

    Allowing nations that border Russia to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is not inherently a threat to Russia. NATO is a defensive alliance, saying anyone who attacks any one of us will have to deal with all of us. There is nothing in that charter that should necessarily be a threat to Russia, unless Russia has aspirations for expansion, or wants to re-establish the borders of Soviet times. The NATO treaty is not based on an aggressive stance. Being neighbors does not necessarily imply a threat.

    Indeed, Russia wanted to be part of the G7, of the world community. Russia was not being attacked by these former Soviet satellite countries that freed themselves from Soviet domination. Without that underlying assumption that we are enemies at war, that argument falls apart. It was an argument worth listening to and respecting across a diplomatic table. In that context it had some legitimacy, agreements made and broken. As to whether that constituted a direct threat to Russia, I haven't seen that connection made yet. I've only seen it stated as an unquestioned premise.

    It seems obvious that Putin is embracing the logic of the Cold War. He has said the fall of the Soviet Union was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century." He really wants to bring the world back to that place in history. He dreams of re-establishing the Soviet Empire at its height, though under a different name. He doesn't care about communism, a workers' state or any of that. There is no ideological basis on which to unite the country, not communism, surely not democracy, only nationalism. The only thing he wants to do is re-establish is the historical Russian Empire.

    And in this he will fail. The same forces that brought down the Soviet totalitarian system, notably electronic media and the information revolution, will prevent him from exercising the kind of control over information in Russia that he needs now, to keep his people from learning the truth about the war in Ukraine.

    In Russia you may go to prison for 15 years for calling it a "war." But he can't exercise that kind of control outside of Russia. And he can't keep all foreign media out of Russia.

    So for those who are saying the Ukraine catastrophe is the fault of the US and NATO, I could acknowledge some legitimacy to the complaint about agreements broken, but there is no way to stretch that complaint into a justification for what Russia is now doing to Ukraine. There is no way to justify it. No ivory tower theorist can now stand back and say the West is to blame for Putin's destruction of Ukraine.

    You can defend some of Putin's arguments, and in many cases justifiably criticize U.S. foreign policy. But I can't see anything, can't imagine any argument that would justify this barbaric carnage launched in Ukraine by Putin.

    It's not even good for Russia, or for Russia's ruling elite, or even for Putin himself. So the only explanation I can come up with is that it was a huge blunder based on Putin really believing his own BS, that Ukrainians would welcome the Russian army, support them and thank them for liberating them from Nazis. How else could he have blundered so badly?

    It's that weird difference between imagination and reality. Once he crossed that line from threat to actual attack, his power in reserve began to dissipate, and the drain continues as his project continues to fail. He's painted himself into a corner. The only way he can win, to take over Ukraine and change the regime, is to destroy it. The attack was based on the misconception that the Ukrainians, or most of them would welcome the Russian takeover, or else merely cower in fear and roll over and accept domination.

    Now Putin is trapped in a no-win situation, painted into a corner. At home he's trying to maintain the fiction that Russia is not attacking Ukraine, only conducting a precise surgical strike to take out an illegitimate Nazi government for the benefit of Ukrainians. That argument cannot hold up if he continues to pulverize the country. He cannot dominate the country without a scorched earth policy. And he can't do that and say he is saving the country. That can only go so far.

    Putin was much stronger when he was making his arguments, but holding a posture of restraint. Now that he has unleashed his power in this way, he has weakened. He has shown his true motivations for territorial expansion as well as his weaknesses. He can no longer position himself as the moderate counterweight to the excesses of the West. He could sometimes credibly make that case in the past, when it was the U.S. that was engaging in outrageous foreign interventions. But he can't now.

    Putin crossed a line, a point of no return, when he decided to express his grievances with a military attack on Ukraine. That changes everything. There's no going back for anyone. Let's just hope for as prompt and peaceful an outcome as possible.

    May 20, 2020

    A New Journal of the Plague Year

    It's been two months now since the lockdown began and people seem to be getting over the shock and starting to settle into the new realities that were difficult to even comprehend when the Coronavirus first came rushing upon us in mid March.

    It all came upon us with such a rush, like an invisible tidal wave, that it was hard to get one's bearings or to even keep track of events. Now that the changes seem to have slowed down a bit, I've decided to keep a journal of life during the time of the Coronavirus to mark the changes from here on out.

    The speed of the advance in March was breathtaking as the numbers screeched up from zero to thousands and thousands in only a couple of weeks. The whole world was shell shocked to suddenly be forced to recognize the factual existence of this terrifying science fiction threat to humanity. It threatened to decimate our economic system, and maybe even our social cohesion. The way the numbers were skyrocketing in exponential progressions, it seemed as if it might even be the end of humanity.

    Our mighty species, dominated by the great economic powers of the world was forced, for once, to bow to nature. To admit that we were overpowered and had to beat a retreat. We had to hole up in our homes until the scourge had passed.

    Who could say how bad it could get once the chain reaction of exponential growth was underway? Would our social order collapse into some kind of savage tribal warfare from the pressure put on individuals of a collapsing world order? Was this the lead-up to the social collapse that was the backstory of The Hunger Games? Who could have known then where things were headed? And still now, in late May, who knows where this is headed?

    But now after two months of it, to have had New York, which became the tragic global epicenter of the disease, finally prevail over the disaster, the shock is wearing off. The reflex to quickly jump right back to where we were, to pick up exactly where we left off, is strong. It's a natural reaction whenever one is hit with a shock, to scramble recover one's bearings as fast as possible and to return to the previous state with minimal disruption. But that reflexive impulse is bound to bump up against some of the same natural barriers that caused the lockdowns to be a necessary survival measure in the first place.

    As much as we may wish to return to where we left off, the world is now different, irrevocably so. We want to recover as much of the best of those times as we can, but some aspects need not be dragged into the future.

    It is a new world, there is no doubt about it. There is nothing anyone can do about that. The change is already manifest. There is no turning back the clock of history. The prerogative we do have is that it is now up to us to make the new world that we now inhabit as good as we can. We are building this new world now through our actions.

    Nature Tames Humanity

    Soon after observing the awesome power of nature seize the fate of humankind through the the Coronavirus I came involuntarily to a view of it that many may find offensive, but nonetheless I couldn't shake it from my head.

    If you look at all this from the standpoint of the many animals we humans have driven or are driving close to extinction, all the habitats we are destroying, the way we are ravaging the earth and even disrupting the natural cycles of climate, then it is easy to see us, the human species, as the antigen, and the Coronavirus as the antibody.

    From the standpoint of the natural system, human beings had become like a cancer. We were overpopulating, draining our environment of resources, turning beautiful places into garbage dumps. We were making the earth an inhospitable environment for human habitation. And yet we could not stop. We were locked into cycles that fed the big machine. Our legal system, our institutions, our economic system forced us to stay locked into that wild cycle even as we could see that our way of life was leading to an unsurvivable future.

    We could see it, but we couldn't act on our knowledge. The machine had too much momentum. Everything had to keep going to keep everything else going. Even as wildfires ravaged California and Australia, the savage destruction of the Amazon increased in momentum. We were like a species gone mad, ravaging the earth.

    Then suddenly nature produced an antidote to that kind of behavior. The virus showed us that if we couldn't stop ourselves, we could still be stopped. And we were. We will surely pick up again and try to get roughly back to the civilization we left behind. But it will be different. It has to be. And that can be something good.

    When Charles Koch, the surviving Koch Brother and shadowy puppet master of the Republican Party, started putting out the word through his Heritage Foundation and his networks of control that the economy had better get churning again, Trump and the Republicans quickly dropped into lockstep to obey his order. When Koch threatens to turn off the money faucet, Republicans get into motion. When he threatened to turn it off if he didn't get the major tax cut he wanted before the 2018 election, McConnell's do-nothing Senate and Paul Ryan's similarly unambitious House of Representatives, suddenly managed to produce some legislation to give the Kochs and the other oligarchs another large chunk of the public's funds.

    So now the marching orders are to open the economy, and since American Way of Life doesn't allow government assistance to citizens such as European countries are providing, Americans are desperate to get back to work.

    And there's an election coming up. Eric Trump went on Fox News a day or so ago and said the pandemic was nothing more than a hoax to try to unseat Trump and that it will disappear after the election. It's being used to stop him from doing rallies, Eric said. So now we may see lots of Trump rallies get going again, and they may well spread the virus widely. So we shall see how that develops.

    Though the changes may have slowed down for the moment, there is little doubt that we have many wild and turbulent events to look forward to in the coming months. So now I am beginning my Journal of the Year of COVID to mark the events and comment on them. Perhaps some others will follow these markings.


    May 30, 2020

    A Rebellion Against Health Practices

    Those first few days in March when COVID-19 burst upon us, it came on so fast and hard that it was disorienting. It was like suddenly being thrust into a sci fi movie. Things were happening that were too monumentally horrifying to accept as reality.

    The rapid speed with which it spread around the world, the number of people infected, the spiraling numbers of deaths, the ghastly reports of kind of death it was, the way the disease suddenly mushroomed so that a person could go from mild symptoms to death within a day, it was all just too much to assimilate. I felt like I was in a daze, never really comprehending the full magnitude of what I was hearing, of what other people were going through. I don't even know how many weeks went by in that state of maximum emergency.

    I guess many people didn't ever assimilate it and now want to forget or not believe it ever happened. Maybe none of us have fully grasped it. How can you make sense of "100,000 deaths" in something like two months? How can one human being fully understand the reality of that? If it didn't affect you personally, I guess you could be convinced that it was all a big hoax.

    Now the emergency has let up a little. New York is no longer a battlefield with bodies piling up in trucks, quiet nights pierced only with the sounds of sirens, people dying because there aren't enough respirators and other hospital facilities to provide for what they needed to survive. Now even though the virus is still spreading rapidly throughout most of the country, people are understandably tired of being pent up, and worse, that their incomes have vanished. Of course everyone wants to see businesses get going again so they can survive.

    In some European countries they have taken a different approach. They are having the government compensate people for staying home and participating in the national effort of stopping the spread. That way people don't have to risk their lives in order to restart their income.

    That idea doesn't fit the dominant American political philosophy, so it's not happening here. Unfortunately, opening too soon will probably extend the health crisis, so we'll be in it longer. Even though it will allow many businesses to get going again, if the pandemic gets too far out of control it may hurt them later.

    But America is the laboratory of Social Darwinism and laissez faire capitalism, and although our death rate for COVID-19 is far higher than any other country by any measure, ideology trumps all. If you want government "small enough to drown in the bathtub," which was the conservative motto coined by Grover Norquist and embraced by virtually all the big Republicans since Reagan, then you can't expect much better when a crisis hits. You asked for no government and you got it, right when it would hurt the most.

    New York is over the hump now, still suffering from the disease but not in a full-blown crisis any more. Much of the country is still in the early phase of their own episodes of it.

    I just read that two weeks after the Supreme Court of Wisconsin overturned the governor's shut down order, the state has seen a big spike in COVID cases and deaths.

    I worry for the people who think wearing a mask is an infringement on their constitutional rights. Someone told me she objected because it's "government overreach."

    I told her if she was about to get run over a bus and someone threw himself upon her to knock her out of the way, her right to not be assaulted would have been infringed. But if he saved my life by pushing me out of the way of the bus, then his infringement on me would not be what would be on my mind.

    It's not government overreach when someone we elected to look out for our "general welfare" institutes a policy in an emergency that will help save us all from harm if we all join in. And we join in not because we are being tyrannized, but because we believe the person we charged with the responsibility to take care of those kinds of things has proposed a reasonable policy for that situation. It's a major emergency, and that's the way a society has to behave in an emergency. We have to join forces and follow sensible guidelines.

    Margaret Thatcher, who led the conservative revolution in the UK at the same time Reagan had his revolution in America, famously said, "There's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families."

    But as a government official, I think she must have realized that there are some things that require some kind of community effort, even government action. A pandemic is one of those kinds of things.

    The pandemic was such an emergency, so devastating that it required leadership. I was happy when the governor of New York took charge and met the challenges. I didn't feel any need to rebel against the idea of wearing a mask or social distancing. I don't tend to "go with the crowd" on most things, movies, TV shows, books, products, new trends or fads of any kind. I'm very resistant to such things. But in this case, it seemed to make good sense and I was happy to join in.

    I guess there's about a two-week lag time in watching the effects of loosening the restrictions. I'll be watching closely, hoping for the best. But with the hard facts of cause and effect it looks like COVID is probably going to be around a long time.

    May 24, 2020

    A New Relationship with Nature

    I had a terrible day in which I got hit with a bunch of fraudulent charges on my bank account from some scammer and the bank was not helping me and I spent hours on hold, or battling with voicemail robots or tangling with actual humans trying to persuade them to help me, and it was a miserable time. Finally, when I had done all I knew how to do and was overcome with futility I took a break and walked outside.

    And wow! I saw the trees in their voluptuous spring bloom against the bright blue sky, breathed in the rich sea hair, chilly with a spark of warmth to hint of summer coming on, and I felt instantly different. I was re-grounded and much better. And it reminded me of what I learn over and over: that nature is the most reassuring friend.

    Of all the changes the global human community has gone through during the havoc created by COVID, I think the most profound change underlying all the rest is a new relationship with nature.

    Nature has spoken to us in a language much more profound than any political ideology, or all the propaganda we ever heard that promoted environmental destruction. In America we've been indoctrinated for a generation into a belief system that holds that greed is good, that money is the greatest good, and if something doesn't make money there is no reason for it to even exist, and that extends to human beings. But nature reached its limit with us and with one crack of the whip showed us where the real power is, and forced us to change our ways.

    Of course most people want to get "back to normal" as soon as possible, but we know that we will never be quite back to what we were. And no matter how much Charles Koch may order his politician and media army to force the world back to the previous normal, that message from nature was a lot more powerful than all the pro-fossil fuel propaganda of the last 20 years.

    Having traveled to many of the world's most beautiful and often endangered places, I have developed an image of a society that is operating according to a system that is not sustainable. Economic principles are often leading to absurd tragedies, such as the fact that the existence of a market in Asia for rhino horn as an aphrodisiac is leading toward the extinction of the rhino.

    This is an example of a process that leads to an outcome that benefits no one, beyond the immediate demands of a market. If rhinos go extinct, even the people buying rhino horn will not be happy. And yet it goes on, and it does threaten the extinction of the rhino, though great efforts are being made to stop it.

    The same kinds of absurdities are playing out all over the world. The Amazon Jungle, the last great jungle, the "lungs of the world," consisting of ancestral forests that have evolved essentially for eternity and cannot be replaced, is being destroyed wantonly, rapidly, almost feverishly, by profit seekers who seem to be almost rabid to pull whatever profit they can out of destruction.

    The scientific experts in these matters warn us of climate change and a myriad of other dangers brought about by our rapaciousness. The most intelligent people around the world with the most acute survival instincts pay attention to those experts and know that our present way of life is not sustainable. And yet no one knows how to stop it. The machine cranks on. We all take our place in our part of it. We donate our life energies to fuel it, and it proceeds to destroy our planetary home.

    As a species we are intelligent enough to understand what is happening, that our present ways are leading to destruction. But we can't stop. No one knows how to put their hand on the lever and stop the machine. Conscientious young prophets like Greta Thunberg call us out on our insanity, our paralysis in the face of a planetary mortal threat: Why aren't you doing anything? And we shrug.

    It's as if we are hypnotized by our own habitual ways of looking at the world. And now suddenly a global catastrophe has stopped us. Nature has shown its might and forced us all to pay attention. It's a "be still and know that I am God" moment. Nature has much larger forces it could unleash on us. It's being gentle. It's time we paid attention, while we still have a habitable environment in which to live.

    The change has already taken place, and now we will see how it manifests as the shockwaves move through all the structures of civilization as the world works through this change. What will the world look like after the COVID period? And rest assured, COVID will have its name on a period. This is a huge event, far too big for us to perceive this close to it.

    We will watch how it manifests now. There will be no turning back. But I'm quite optimistic about the future, oddly enough, even when there seems so little to indicate any positive outcomes. Still. The foundation has been shaken, our civilization will reassemble itself on a new footing. What that will look like is yet to be seen. But I do have reason to be optimistic.

    This catastrophe in which 100,000 Americans have already died has laid bare the weaknesses of our society as it is structured to deal with any incident of any magnitude that may strike a society in the 21st Century.

    The weaknesses of our society to deal with a variety of problems such as natural disasters are revealed to us in various incidents, Hurricane Katrina, the devastation of Puerto Rico, the human rights catastrophe at our southern border. The spotlight shifts from one disaster to another, and then public attention moves on to the next news cycle and the next disaster, or scandal, or Trump's latest attack.

    Now we have an incident that focuses the consciousness of practically the entire world on a single point. As vulnerable as democracy is to ignorance and demagoguery, I find myself trusting the majority when it comes to considerations such as the destruction of the planet. It's really only a small minority who think it's profitable to destroy the environment, and therefore it's justified. Most people really don't believe that.

    So I think the massive natural disaster of COVID has delivered a message that has already changed humanity a little, an amount that may prove to be highly important when we look back in coming years. Now that it's happened irrevocably, I'm eagerly anticipating the changes.

  • FreeUkraine

    Throughout history, the really fundamental changes in societies have come about not from dictates of governments and the results of battles but through vast numbers of people changing their minds -- sometimes only a little bit.

    Some of the changes have amounted to profound transformations -- for instance the transition from the Roman Empire to Medieval Europe, or from the Middle Ages to modern times. Others have been more specific, such as the constitution of democratic governments in England and America, or the termination of slavery as an accepted institution. In the latter cases, it is largely a matter of people recalling that no matter how powerful the economic or political or even military institution it persists because it has legitimacy, and that legitimacy comes from the perceptions of people. People give legitimacy and they can take it away. A challenge to legitimacy is probably the most powerful force for change to be found in history.

    To the empowering principle that the people can withhold legitimacy, and thus change the world, we now add another: By deliberately changing the internal image of reality, people can change the world. Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in.

    Willis Harman Global Mind Change

    March 10, 2022

    Homage to Ukraine – The Human Factor

    On Thursday, February 24, the day Putin invaded Ukraine as the world stood stunned, the New York Times published a discussion of some of its opinion writers. The key phrase was “The World has Changed Overnight.” That seemed to be true that morning, and several days later it still seems true. It feels as if someone hit the reset button of history, and we are in new, uncharted territory. But the narrative of those early hours has turned upside down.

    Putin launched into an existential political act, existential because the end could not be known, and because it radically changes the situation from the previous one, in which that act could not have taken place.

    Initially it was the image of a giant superpower bearing down on a country that seemed all but defenseless in the face of one of history’s mightiest military machines. Surely that was the image Putin wanted to project, one of such overwhelming power that the Ukrainians would buckle under the threat and throw in the towel rather than suffer the damage that Putin’s army was capable of inflicting. Putin told Ukraine to surrender, lay down any resistance and submit to his rule. In theory, he could have prevailed by massive intimidation. But the Ukrainians threw out the script and re-wrote it while the world watched, with a different kind of awe than what Putin had in mind.

    Oh, he must be so furious! They didn’t buy into his script. He wants to reassert Russia as a major power player on the world stage, a counterpoint to American power, as in the days of the bipolar Cold War world. And now this little country, which he should have been able to pick off with little more than a swaggering display of power, is mucking it up.

    He should have been able to bring them to capitulation within days. But when the Ukrainians didn’t buckle, the whole world was galvanized, in favor of the underdog. By his calculations, Putin had it all, a massive military machine that he could bring right to the border of Ukraine. Behind that was the threat of his nuclear arsenal, which he didn’t even have to mention for it to evoke terror. But when the conquest did not go as planned, and he saw the world aligning against him, he brought out the nuclear arsenal as an explicit threat, a sign of how desperate he is so soon after launching this world-changing event.

    So it is that the Devil fools with the best-laid plans. Now Putin is in the world he re-created, but it did not go as he wished. In your daydreams when you strike a foe, you may knock him out in one punch. But in waking reality when you strike someone, you don’t know what will happen. When someone launches into war, he enters a realm in which no one can predict with certainty.

    Within days, the world started to see a very different picture than the one Putin wanted to project. I began to see Putin as a career KGB spy who became extremely good at exercising covert power, manipulating elections and stirring up social unrest in democratic countries, assassinating political opponents even after they had escaped to foreign countries. His lifetime dream was to assert power overtly on the world stage and to re-establish the historical power of the Soviet Union. But when it came to Ukraine his plans failed to take into consideration the human factor. The 21st century is not going to see a re-establishment of the Soviet Union. The forces that brought it down, notably freedom of information, will not allow it.

    Many have speculated that Putin, like many successful politicians, is sociopathic or narcissistic. But without getting into such technical terms, it’s easy to see he’s a man without much conscience, empathy or human feeling. That aided him in his rise because he’s not hampered by remorse or conscience. But now it may prove to be his undoing.

    We can’t yet know whether his military advantage may not still succeed in suppressing Ukraine under his thumb. But whether he can sustain his power over the country seems unlikely at this point. No doubt, now that he’s been stymied and is a wounded bear, he’s even more dangerous. But the spirit of the Ukrainian resistance, and the rallying of anti-authoritarian sentiment around the world, has provided great hope in the eternal struggle against bullies and tyrants.

    Ukraine, as personified in its President Zelensky, has captured the imagination and affection of the world. I know many others feel as I do in that I had not been moved to travel to Ukraine in the past, but now I am. My first impulse under the impending invasion would have been to run for cover. But now the Ukrainians have been so inspiring that it makes me want to go there and share in their feeling of solidarity, of standing up to tyranny. It feels like it must have felt during the Spanish Civil War when the first resistance to fascism in the world appeared among the feisty Catalonians. It makes me want to go join them.

    Putin must have really believed his own propaganda that what had happened in Ukraine was just a western manipulation, that the government was artificially propped up by the west and that if the people of Ukraine were given the alternative of re-joining the Russian sphere, they would be content to do so. But the fiery resistance has proved him sorely wrong. That spirit is nothing manufactured. It comes from the hearts of the people, who have had 30 years of self-determination, free of Russian dominance, and they don’t want to give it up. They are willing to die to protect their homeland from invasion and domination, and the Russian soldiers have no such motivation. They are merely following the orders of a dictator. They have no morale. They have no cause to fight for. They don’t want to attack Ukraine.

    What started as a terribly grim series of events, a return to the dark days of World War II and Soviet oppression, has turned into a glorious demonstration of the power of the human aspiration for freedom and self-determination.

    I learned something about that aspiration back in the 1990s on my first visit to China as a guest of the China National Tourism Administration, the government tourism authority. I traveled with a guide trained and employed by the Chinese government. And I was taken back to hear him say that the founder of modern China, Sun Yat-sen, in the first days after the last emperor, had taken inspiration from Abraham Lincoln. Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles, on which the new nation was built were based on Lincoln’s vision of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

    This came from a government employee, who certainly had no wish to buck the authority of the Beijing government. So, I could assume it was official political orthodoxy in China. The idea that the Chinese revered Lincoln really turned my head around. While we call China a communist, authoritarian country, that is not how they see themselves. They call themselves a people’s republic. My Chinese guide showed me that the government maintains its power not just on a display of power, but on a sense of participation of the people. They believe they are part of a country that represents them and their fellow citizens.

    It showed me that the aspiration for freedom and self-determination runs very deep in the hearts of people everywhere. I would venture to say it is universal. And any tyrant who disregards that aspiration, will come to a bad end eventually. This is the human factor that Putin, deep in his chambers, where he sees only a few close enablers, lost sight of. As a result, I think we may be witnessing Putin’s Waterloo. He may have finally gone a step too far.

    Meanwhile, though Ukraine is experiencing destruction and will probably see a good deal more before this is over, it is also experiencing a kind of renaissance of spirit. When this is over, when Ukraine is freed of Russian dominance, I think the world will want to rush to Ukraine to share in that spirit directly. I know I will.


    September 13, 2020

    Making America White Again

    I came across an article the other day that said that many Trump supporters are more interested in keeping America's power structure white than they are in preserving democracy.

    With the natural evolution of things, and America's gradually shifting demographics toward a more diverse society, these two things may be mutually exclusive.

    Here's a fragment from the article:

    In a January 2020 survey fielded by YouGov, a slim majority of GOP voters agreed with the statement "The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it." Nearly three-fourths agreed with "It is hard to trust the results of elections when so many people will vote for anyone who offers a handout." More than 40 percent agreed that "a time will come when patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands." More than 47 percent concurred with the premise that "strong leaders sometimes have to bend the rules in order to get things done." And on all of these questions, most of those who did not agree were merely unsure.

    Those white people who see America's rising diversity as a threat to their social and political position may be attracted to Trump because that is exactly his pitch to America from the day he rode majestically down the Trump Tower de-escalator to declare his candidacy for president.

    "Mexico is not sending its best people, he said, "They are sending drug dealers, criminals and rapists." That set the tone for his whole campaign and it continues into the second campaign. He followed up on his campaign promises by cruelly treating refugees coming into the U.S. at the southern border by taking children, putting them in cages where some got sick and died, many were sexually abused and many lost. None of this seems to have registered in the minds of Trump supporters.

    People who lost their jobs through NAFTA and other laws that favored corporations off-shoring their operations to save on labor costs, or who lost their homes through shenanigans on Wall Street that caused the economic system to collapse in 2008, may not have a very sophisticated view of what happened to put them in the bad position they are in. So when a demagogue gives them a target for their fear and tells them their problems are caused by immigrants coming from "shithole" (meaning "nonwhite") countries, they may believe it. And obviously many do.

    There's also an undercurrent of fear from people who have been in a dominant situation, kept others down (people of color or women) and now fear that if they lose their edge, they may suffer retribution. What if they are treated the way they have treated the oppressed in the past?

    As the country becomes inhabited by an increasingly diverse population, the percentage that is white is declining. Obviously the power is shifting. We have women and people of color in Congress in increasingly high numbers, as well as throughout the other power positions of society.

    That may not bother you if you are secure in your share of the world's bounties. But if you hit hard times in 2008, and were then persuaded by Tea Party propaganda that it was not the financial industry and the Wall Street operators who robbed you, but was "the other," the Black people, the immigrants, the leftists and socialists, etc., then you may be persuaded by Trump's pitch.

    Some white Americans who have fallen into hard times are rightly afraid of what is going to happen to them, and it's possible to arouse those fears and channel them into political advantage. That's exactly what Trump has done. He may be ignorant of most world affairs, may have never read a full book and can't spell on Twitter, but he has an unerring instinct as a demagogue.

    His success is astounding. He has become the Grand Wizard of the United States, untouchable by any of the laws or norms that have previously restrained politicians who would abuse power and proclaim themselves autocrats.

    His followers are impervious to any suggestion that their leader is not the immaculately created messiah they see him as.

    That's about a third of the country, apparently. Someone said that Germany discovered that one third of its people would murder another third while a third watched.

    This, along with countless other parallels with Germany as the Nazis took control, are truly frightening. Every day it creeps further.

    Today I see that Roger Stone, Trump's felonious friend and partner in crime, is suggesting that if Trump loses the vote count he should declare martial law and imprison the Clintons and Mark Zuckerberg.

    This is one of those "trial balloons" that are used to get people used to thinking of things that would previously have been considered unacceptable. Now it is no longer unspoken, and maybe it can be turned into action.

    A very human reaction to this is a quick flash of panic followed by the reassuring thought, "Well, at least it's not me. I am still safe here. Who cares if he imprisons that prick Zuckerberg or those arrogant Clintons?"

    But that's how it happens, that's how fascism creeps. I hope everyone has heard the quote by the German naval officer turned cleric Martin Niemöller. Even if you have heard it before, it bears repeating at this moment.

    First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    In the US today this progression has already proceeded a good bit. We already have concentration camps at the southern border. But they are just immigrants, just refugees, what do they matter? Trump said, "They are not people." And besides we're desperate. It's kill or be killed.

    We've already had strange paramilitaries going into cities to beat down demonstrators with tear gas, clubs, and guns with supposedly "nonlethal" rubber bullets, but if you've seen the effect of those bullets, it's nothing to take lightly.

    Trump says openly that he will cripple the post office to prevent people from voting by mail. Why? Obviously to ward off any challenge to his power. He speaks openly of ruling for life. He expresses open admiration for autocrats like Putin, Mohammed bin Salman and Kim Jong-un and his desire to wield that kind of power. And he is going for it. Can there be any doubt about this?

    We have progressed many steps down the line toward fascism, almost the same model as in Nazi Germany under Trump. And this is how he behaves when facing an election. When this one is over, and he has retained power somehow, do you expect him to suddenly moderate himself?

    It really is time to consider our actual options. Many have said we are in a battle this time for the soul of the country. Armed conflict and civil war are not impossible. When Trump stood up for the Kenosha kid who killed protesters with an AR-15 and said the kid was defending himself, he sent the message that he will support vigilante killers. We are truly facing a battle for the soul of the country.

    On one side we have whites who do not want to lose the advantage they have had, and if it takes fascism to maintain their superior position, then that's okay with them.

    On the other side you have those who still love the ideals embodied in America's founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and they think maintaining those ideals in this country is more important than maintaining white supremacy. They would rather hold onto the ideals of democracy and equal justice than a power structure based on race.

    It's unlikely that the original authors of the founding documents envisioned a pluralistic society in which people of many ethnicities shared in the benefits of democracy. But they did lay down a framework for a democratic republic that became the model for people and countries around the world.

    Today I see people coming into this country from Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as Europe, who come here because of that ideal, because it inflamed a passion in their hearts to be part of that American dream.

    I find the new generations of immigrants to be the ones who actually do believe in those ideals. Many of those who are established here, who have benefited from those ideals in their lives, don't want them to be extended to others because they think it may threaten what they have. They are the ones who want to pull the ladder up behind them, keep what they have and hell with the rest.

    So it's the people from the "shithole countries" who are the real believers in democracy, and the established people who support Trump, who would rather see autocracy, as long as they can be in the favored group.

    This is hard stuff to swallow, but it's one of the only ways I've been able to make sense of why so many people support a conman who is so obvious in his immorality and criminality.

    So there it is. That's the choice that faces us now, in November if we are lucky enough to have an election, and beyond, no matter how the Battle of the 2020 Election turns out.

    Those who wish to keep America a white majority will not succeed. They are on the wrong side of history. The evolution is happening. It doesn't mean white people will be oppressed by other ethnic groups. It means we'll have a pluralistic but democratic country.

    Do you want a white-dominated America? Or do you want a diverse democratic American republic "of the people, for the people and by the people"?

    I know where I stand, and if voter turnout is huge I will be in the majority. And hopefully then that democratic ideal will not "perish from the earth," or from America.

    August 15, 2020

    On the Edge of Authoritarianism

    When I started keeping this Journal of the year of COVID I didn't want it to be a political blog per se. I was very resistant to slipping into a political discussion. The main reason for that reluctance was because today politics means Trump. Trump dominates the news, all the time, every day. I like many others have Trump fatigue. I just prefer not to raise the subject most of the time because what can be said at this point?

    Way back before the election of 2016 Trump had already committed enough offenses to be scandalized off the public stage forever. It was hard to imagine how he could get worse than being caught bragging about "grab 'em by the pussy," or mocking a reporter with a disability, or boasting that he could shoot someone and not lose any support. If his supporters were not swayed by any of that stuff, and countless other vulgar offenses, what could possibly sway them?

    Now we are nearing the end of the fourth year of the Trump presidency and somehow Trump has kept himself in center stage the entire four years, virtually dominating the headlines every single day, and somehow he manages to continue to get worse, to present new realities that continue to shatter everything we thought we knew or believed at one time.

    But it is practically impossible not to talk about politics in this time when we not only have a massive catastrophe of more than 165,000 Americans dead from a pandemic that Trump still refuses to offer a plan to deal with or to take any responsibility for. We're in a massive economic cataclysm. And on top of all that we now have Trump essentially dismantling the U.S. Post Office and openly telling us it's because he wants to stop mail-in voting (even though he does it himself).

    The USA without a functioning postal service. Even though that is mandated in the Constitution, the Repubicans want to privatize it so one of their cohorts can use it as a cash cow. That's how Putin made his oligarch friends rich in Russia.

    Dismantling the post office also turns out to be another tool for voter suppression, among all the tools they are already applying to insure a continuation of their minority rule.

    Trump came right out and said he was cutting off funds to the post office so that it could not handle mail-in voting. Rachel Maddow made an interesting point the other night. In authoritarian countries, the dictator openly rigs the elections because it's a show of his power. In America when elections are rigged it's undercover and they always like to maintain the pretense that they won the popular vote fair and square.

    But Trump breaks this pattern because he's a dictator with authoritarian ambitions and is now openly defying anything at all that would stop him. Like dictators he admires, he is now openly admitting that he's trying to suppress the vote. What does he have to lose? They failed to remove him from office. He believes the Second Amendment gives him the power to do "anything I want."

    Though it would seem to be barely possible, Donald Trump continues to get worse: more destructive, more uncontrolled and more criminal.

    Now it is openly discussed even in mainstream media that Donald Trump, as Michael Cohen said when he testified in Congress, does not plan to give up the White House and will not leave peacefully even if the voters manage to overcome the suppression and vote against him.

    Michael Cohen, by the way, has reiterated his claim that Trump will not leave office peacefully in his book Disloyal, A Memoir, which will be released soon.

    Cohen also said that Trump did indeed collude with Russians in their attempt to get him elected. And Trump admits that he's had several conversations with Putin in the last few months. I'm sure his Russian patron has given him some good ideas and techniques for autocrats.

    We now have to really be concerned about a takeover of the country by an authoritarian regime composed of Trump allies from Putin to the Koch organization. We really don't know what they will spring on us next. But it's clear that they are lethal and will stop at virtually nothing to hold and increase their power.

    So this is life during COVID. We have a reality show host who is deconstructing the country and wreaking havoc in his efforts to hold onto power. He has a wily and lethal ally in Putin, and plenty of other frigntening political forces in the U.S.

    We are in some very perilous times, my friends.

    Independence Day, July 4, 2020

    Be Careful What Reality Tunnel You Get Stuck In

    During these highly strange, volatile and uncertain times I find myself obsessively tied into the media and the internet to find out what is the latest world-shattering event. It can be exhausting and wearying looking at what is happening online and trying to sort through and evaluate the range of opinions you encounter. As I cruise around the web via social media and various sources of information I find myself dipping in and out of what seem to be altogether different realities.

    We hear a lot about "the Political Divide," the great line between the Red States and the Blue States. But rather than a mass divided in two down the middle, it seems more like a fragmented landscape with many different camps of opinion, each living in its own world mutually exclusive of others. The Obliterated States of America.

    These vastly different points of view about the simple matter of wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of COVID do not just stack up in a Left-Right configuration. I find all sorts of strange divisions across the political landscape.

    A Patchwork of Policies
    Prominently we see a faction on the far right that frames the idea of wearing a face mask as an egregious intrusion upon their rights, and that's what they are focused on, what makes them so angry. They don't want to talk about the disease or how it spreads because they don't believe it exists anyway. They believe Donald Trump when he tells them it's merely a Democratic hoax devised to bring him down.

    Then there's another, apparently larger group of people who say it's not a political issue, it's just a matter of science, just looking at the cause and effect of what has enabled some countries to contain the spread while we are increasing our infections, hospitalizations and deaths at a rapidly accelerating pace.

    These are generally on the center left part of the spectrum, people who are not necessarily politically minded at all, but just see the threat and the most practical ways of stopping the spread.

    But these are only a couple of generalizations about the range of opinions on this issue. There are many other variations. As usual, some seem to have drifted so far to the left that they have ended up on the right, or holding positions in common with those on the far right, though perhaps for different reasons and arriving there from different directions and premises.

    I came upon some recent posts of a prominent New York writer who is characterized as a "media critic," more or less in the tradition of Noam Chomsky or Neil Postman. Back in the days of Bush, Cheney and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars I found myself pretty much in line with this guy's opinions. Now nearly 20 years later I discover that he has evolved in a different direction than I have and seems to inhabit a different universe than what I am seeing.

    In earlier times I generally agreed with his criticisms of the news coverage of major media. But in the world of Donald Trump everything has been turned upside down and inside out.

    In one of his recent posts he said, "There is no pandemic." The hospitals in Dallas are operating as normal. The story we hear on the media is a "government-media" lie, designed to oppress us as the economy collapses and we become increasingly desperate and vulnerable. Masks do not protect you, he said, they will kill you.

    I like to keep an open mind. I've found myself to be fundamentally wrong many times and have had to radically change my world view to accommodate new knowledge and insight.

    Certainly I see some truth in some of these statements. I do feel that we as a people are becoming increasingly desperate and vulnerable as we take one body blow after another. We're punch drunk.

    And yes, the masks don't technically "protect you." Even those who advocate wearing masks don't say that they protect you, rather that they protect others from you. So you have to hope that while you are making efforts to try to protect others that they will do the same for you. If we all wear masks, we protect each other.

    And yes, it seems possible that a mask could kill you under certain conditions. If your breathing was totally sealed off and you kept breathing the same air, it would run out of oxygen and you would suffer from hypoxia or hypercapnia. But that's not really happening to all these millions of people wearing masks. They don't create a perfect seal.

    To take those grains of truth and ramp it up into "Masks don't protect you, they will kill you," seems a huge overreach. It's provocative and will get your attention, which seems to be its purpose. But by its choice of emphasis it is at best misleading. It sounds like a mask has no purpose but to kill me, and if I put one on I will probably die soon.

    It's admirable to be a contrarion if your purpose is to show the errors of politicians or the media. But sometimes it seems the purpose is just to stake out a unique niche in the mediasphere that sets you apart from the herd. You can present yourself as one who always knows a little more than most other people. And to prove it you can say something that is really shocking, and has at least some truth in it, if you can parse it.

    But I can't buy this idea that "there is no pandemic." It's real. I have known people who have been infected and ravaged by it, people who died. The healthcare workers who appear in videos pleading with people to please take the disease seriously because the emergency is putting them through hell are not actors. This is not some elaborate production of the Deep State.

    There is some reality to the concept of "Deep State." But it has little application to the problem of whether or not to go along with the safety measures designed to protect us in this dire emergency.

    I've heard many other opinions and speculations that are far from any of these outlined here so far. There's a lot that is intriguing and deserves further attention. Maybe we will have to completely change our models of how viruses work, of what is actually killing people.

    At first we heard the COVID was only affecting older people. That turned out to not be true. We heard that it was mostly people with pre-existing conditions, and then it seemed that morphed into "only" people with pre-existing conditions. There was a lot of "They were about to die anyway," or "They died of something else but the cause of death was listed as COVID because it was the last thing they got…"

    But most of that stuff is turning out to be untrue. I know people personally who have been devastated by it. It's not just another strain of the flu and it is real. And places that have strictly practiced social distancing and masks and hand washing, have brought it under control.

    Now we have the rest of the world to compare our performance with. It is like a controlled scientific experiment that shows differences in outcomes from different approaches to handling the pandemic. And clearly we are at the bottom of the barrel globally. We've done worse than anyone any way you measure it.

    But that doesn't matter to those who reject science as a matter of principle. Anyway, because we have let it get out of control while other countries reined it in, they are opening again and we are in the middle of a raging increase. And now they are shutting us out. That's another body blow to American business and especially the travel industry.

    So those who pushed to disregard safety precautions in order to open the economy again have instead thrown the economy back on its heels again and forced governors and mayors to backtrack on earlier plans to open. Meanwhile other parts of the world are getting back to normal business again.

    Mass Confusion from the Top
    If we in America had had a unified vision of leadership at the top instead of this balkanized patchwork of confusing and contradictory information and guidance, we might have been able to really open by now as European and Asian countries have done.

    Since Congress or Facebook or the administration have not done much of anything to prevent it happening again, it's likely that Russian intelligence is still using brilliant schemes such as Cambridge Analytica did in 2016 to sow dissension among Americans, feeding their fears with horrifying stories to rouse them into hating and distrusting their neighbors.

    Perusing this vast landscape of diverse opinion can be wearying, frightening and confusing. But this is a time when we can't afford the luxury of apathy.

    When I read that a progressive writer that I used to largely agree with was saying that there is no pandemic, Dr. Fauci is an evil gnome and masks are an insidious plot to kill you, it made me shake my head and wonder if I were losing my grip on reality. But it seems Timothy Leary was right. We all live in our own, separate reality tunnels.

    Leary, the Harvard professor who became famous as an advocate of psychedelic drugs, coined the term "reality tunnel." It refers to the idea that we all perceive the world through our own filters based on our beliefs and conditioning. In a sense we all live in separate realities.

    As I look at all the various world views I come across on the internet in relation to any issue, I have to try to figure out what's true and what's not for me.

    If we all live in our own reality tunnels, I guess it follows that there must be a larger reality that contains both yours and mine and everyone else's. I guess the first step is to recognize that the way we see things is not necessarily the only way to see them, that my reality is not necessarily the same as others are living in. And maybe we can start to try to see that larger reality.

    That might provide some hope that we can learn to live together, as Sly Stone said, like "Everyday People."

    Summer Solstice, June 20, 2020

    Breaking News! Civilization Collapsed

    For those who have been fearing that things have gotten so crazy that civilization might collapse, take heart! It has already happened. You have survived. We are now in the ruins of civilization. Each action we take, large or small, is shaping the new world that will grow up out of the ruins of this one.

    In 1851 Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, "We should see the scientific, literary and artistic Zeitgeist declared bankrupt about every thirty years: for during this period the errors contained in it have grown to such proportions as to crush it by the weight of their absurdity, while the opposing view has at the same time been strengthened by them."

    This is what has happened. This time it's not a world war that swept away the previous civilization, it's a deadly viral storm. But it has already killed more Americans than World War II. It is laying the foundation for the next world. It already has changed the world, fundamentally, at its core.

    In America, in the world at large, we were ready for big change. We had outgrown the last cycle of history. The old system became ingrown, with useless vestigial organs, overburdened with baggage from the past, old ways of doing things that were outmoded, ineffectual, due for overhaul.

    Michael Moore in 2016 reported that many of the people who voted for Trump didn't particularly like him or agree with him, but were just so frustrated with the political system they wanted to throw a bomb into it. And Trump, probably even moreso than many of his supporters would have actually wanted, came through with that promise. He has blown it all up.

    So here we are in the ruins. And many people will confess to you now that they don't want to go back to the old normal, even if it were possible. And it clearly is not. Every day we get farther away from that old normal, that now-extinct world, and the new world continues to take shape around us.

    It's a volatile time, a time when there is tremendous energy crackling in the air, like an electrical storm, but not the regular meteorological kind, but rather a storm in human affairs.

    It is a time that is ripe for new ideas, new ways of doing things. It seems that if someone has a good idea, now is a good time to come forth with it. The world has been exploded into fragments, and as the pieces fall back to earth and the dust clears, we will see that the foundation of the new world has been laid while our eyes were blinded by flying debris, while most of us were not aware that the old world was just a ghost.

    The global viral attack that has beaten humanity into submission has brought to mind a term I have not heard for a long time: Noosphere. The concept was developed by the Jesuit Priest, paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and the Russian-Ukrainian geologist and geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky in the 1920s. It refers to the realm of mental activity, the field of consciousness that surrounds the earth.

    Linguistically, the word "noosphere" is analogous to terms from the earth sciences: atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water) and lithosphere (land). The term "biosphere" was coined in 1875 by geologist Eduard Suess, to refer to the realm of living things on the surface of the earth.

    Vernadsky saw the noosphere as the third stage of the earth's development after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life).

    The term "cybersphere" came much later, after the development of the field of cybernetics in the 1940s. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it refers to the realm of information technology and electronic communication, especially the Internet.

    The emergence of the cybersphere amplified the evolution of the noosphere. It created an infrastructure for a sort of world brain, which we now experience through the internet.

    Now the global pandemic of COVID-19 has provided a focal point for the world's consciousness.

    Never before the emergence of COVID-19 has so much of the world's consciousness been focused on one single thing. If the noosphere is the layer of mental activity in the world, surely it reached a new level of development with the shockwave launched by COVID-19.

    That's what put us in a new world. Now were are watching the manifestations of that change unfold. The Black Lives Matter movement was catalyzed by the death of George Floyd, but it represents an explosion of anger, frustration and heartbreak of countless such incidents going back centuries.

    This explosion leading to a new level of intensity and focus in civil rights consciousness happened in the midst of the COVID crisis that we're still in the middle of. Whether it could have happened without the COVID crisis no one can know. But the explosion of the long-simmering issues did actually happen in the aftermath of the shockwave that COVID shot around the world, in the new environment created by the pandemic.

    The change is already manifest. Now we are just watching the chain reactions of that seismic shift in human affairs.

    The new civil rights movement took place in what is already the new world created when COVID shattered the old one.

    Here we are.

    It's going to be really interesting.


    June 12, 2020

    COVID Synergies and Chain Reactions

    I started this journal a few weeks ago saying that "now that the changes have slowed down a bit..." it might be a good time to start a journal to document the changes of the COVID period, because soon after big changes, people adapt to the change, get used to the new world and forget the old one. So before the old world has slipped too far from memory, I wanted to note some things down for reference later.

    At the time I was reflecting the attitude in the society at large. New York's numbers of COVID deaths had been worked down to near the vanishing point. Many parts of the country were falling into line behind Trump's urging to get the country open again. The attention of the public and the news media seemed to have exhausted itself over the constant hammering of bad news for three months while people were mostly cooped up in their homes. There was a great need for moving on.

    But if it seemed that things had slowed down a bit, we were firmly jolted out of any sense of calmness when the cold-blooded police murder of an African American man in Minneapolis caught on video set off a massive wave of protests around the country and then around the world.

    It became clear again that the changes were not going to slow down. We weren't going to go back to anything like what we used to think of as normal. And on top of that, the COVID nightmare was probably still only at its beginnings in terms of the overall damage it will do to our country. The population is still under intense pressure from changes that have debilitated the economic system, put millions out of work and killed more than 116,000 so far and continues to kill hundreds more every day.

    Now we have all these different major theaters of activity going on simultaneously: The COVID pandemic, an economic collapse with massive unemployment, social disorder based on unresolved issues that have simmered for hundreds of years in America, and a presidential election. This list is not all of it either.

    The COVID pandemic itself is multi-layered. It has become a global health crisis of unprecedented proportions, and of course we are highly conscious of the economic damage from shutting down most of the country's public affairs. Less noticed, but ulimately even more important, is the effect the global shutdown has had on nature. And in general the effect in that arena has been strikingly positive. But the improvements we have seen in the environment are a reminder that the problem of climate change resulting from carbon emmissions is also an ongoing crisis. It's really the mother of all crises, the one large enough to cancel out all the others.

    All these things are going on, and we are dealing with unprecedented political conditions in the United States and beyond as well. We have an election coming up at a time when it will probably still be dangerous for people to be in close proximity with strangers. We have a president who has put out the signals that he does not want to give up the office even if election results indicate that he lost. He is already contesting it and it hasn't even happened yet.

    So we are in something of a maelstrom. And there's little anyone can do about how all these events will play out on the macro level. The forces that are in play with the unleashing of all these events togetheer are beyond the control of even the most powerful people on the planet.

    No one knows where all this is heading. It's difficult to predict the course of any series of events because there are side events that may impinge upon the progression you are observing. Now we have a number of major, earth-shattering events going on at once. They are affecting each other, and will continue to affect each other in synergistic ways.

    Synergy is based on the idea of the whole of something being greater than just the sum of its parts. Buckminster Fuller defined it a little more specifically as "behavior of integral, aggregate, whole systems unpredicted by behaviors of any of their components or subassemblies of their components."

    The Beatles as a group packed a massive explosion of power that could not be explained by looking at the work of each individual alone. There are millions of examples of synergy and most people can probably think of some. But now we have synergy among several fields of events taking place at the same time. Each of these are invididually world-shattering events. Now we're getting them all together and they will continue to effect each other in unpredictable ways.

    Not only do we have synergies taking place between simultaneous events, we also have the time element. Things are happening in succession in time. Synergies can take place between parallel chains of events, and events can set off chain reactions. So all of these things are happening at the same time.

    The Mother Event was the COVID pandemic, leading to the global shutdown. The shutdown changed everything. It put people in quarantine in defense of their lives. It curtailed people's social lives, in many cases cut off their incomes, kept people confined, and that set the stage. When the George Floyd murder took place, it happened in that context.

    Daily life had changed fundamentally for most people. Conditioning was broken. Many of the things that were previously considered imperative were stopped. For three months people had experienced a different sense of time and space, a different kind of life.

    It was in this context that a series of murders of black Americans happened in short succession and caught the attention of a large number of people and suddenly something just exploded, and millions of people were in the streets protesting something that has gone on relentlessly in America since the end of slavery, but had almost always gone unpunished.

    Suddenly this time all the rage bottled up in four centuries of white supremacy broke loose. Like a single particle of dust that sets off the crystallization of frost on a window pane, the killing of George Floyd was one of thousands that have gone without accountability. But it became the catalyst. It was the one that set off a reaction so powerful that it looks like it's really going to change American society in regard to racism.

    This series of events also showed that the urge for change in America is strong enough that even a deadly pandemic cannot necessarily keep people from going out and demonstrating for a redresss of grievances.

    The millions who demonstrated were mostly nonviolent, but there were looters and anarchists and agents provocateur in the first demonstrations. The first the demonstrations against police brutality were answered with massive force and brutality, making the case vividely for the demonstrators that there was something systemically wrong. After the wave of revulsion of the public to the scenes of police beating demonstrators, the overreaction was tempered and the demonstrations continued mostly peacefully for days stretching into weeks.

    So we have many events taking place simultaneously or in sequence and many random combinations of events. But with so much of the population engaged now as a result of the pandemic, the recession and the demonstrations against police brutality, the democratic principle is in operation. We are beginning to see how the power of majorities can really effect change.

    Once again, when the attention of the vast majority is focused on a single point, the will of the majority can be observed in action. And we find that that vast majority really does believe in the principles of the American republic, government by the people based on justice and equal opportunity to be a part of a thriving, productive society.

    I see no reason to think that the pace or degree of change will lighten up in the near future. We will probably continue to be hit with unprecedented events that throw us into new realities. But lately when I see that millions of people are stirred up enough to come into the streets to demonstrate for justice, fairness, compassion, equality, and to risk their lives to do it, it gives me hope.

    We're up against a lot. According to the known facts and trends about climate change, our prospects for survival through the next century are mathmatically dismal. But when I see people engaged in trying to solve problems, to try to stop the injustice that's built into the system, to try to change things that have gone on it seems forever, it gives me a great deal of encouragement. Our ancestors had to be highly resourceful to get us this far. I am hoping for the best going forward.

    Book Credits:


    In the 21st Century, being naive to the workings of corporate media can get you killed.

    Chomsky For Beginners written by David Cogswell, illustrated by Paul Gordon, published by For Beginners LLC, is a documentary comicbook about Noam Chomsky the man, the linguist and the political voice, but more than anything, it is a guide to media propaganda, how the corporate-owned mass media are designed not to inform you but to manipulate you for the benefit of the owners.

    Order Chomsky For Beginners from Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com

    Interviews with Noam Chomsky

  • Chomsky Interview 1993
  • Interview with Noam Chomsky 1997

    Post Script, Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President by J.H. Hatfield, second paperback edition, published by Soft Skull Press, 2001

    For more on the late J.H. Hatfield, who wrote the controversial Bush biography Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President, see below

  • Behind the Bushes: Fortunate Son by J.H. Hatfield
  • Dilulio and Hatfield: A Study in Terror
  • Hatfield on bin Laden, Bush and attacks by hijacked aircraft

    The following piece was written for the French and Spanish translations of J.H. Hatfield's Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President, published by Editions Timeli in Geneva, Switzerland. (See www.timeli.ch.)

  • The Death of Jim Hatfield [5.15.03]

  • The French language version: La Mort de Jim Hatfield is included in the French translation of Hatfield's Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President, published 2003 in Geneva by EditionsTimeli.

    Le Cartel Bush

    More Book Credits:

  • Introduction to Ambushed By Toby Rogers
  • Introduction to America's Autopsy Report, John Kaminski


    The Web HeadBlast

    9/11 Links

  • Existentialism For Beginners Existentialism For Beginners

    Unions For Beginners AVAILABLE Zinn For Beginners

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    Featured Pieces

  • Andrew Kreig's Presidential Puppetry Who pulls the strings?
  • Ken Burns on Jazz, Filmmaking and America [March 2013]
  • Chomsky Interview 1993
  • Interview with Noam Chomsky 1997
  • The Corporation: It Doesn't Have to be That Way
  • Rediscovering McLuhan [October 28, '07]
  • Martin Luther King and Existential Politics [1.17.03]
  • Alternative Media and the New Paradigm [5.15.02]



    July 7, 2020

    The COVID Revolution:

    How BLM Seized the Initiative and Forced the Final Reckoning of White Supremacy

    The Black Lives Matter movement, supercharged by the COVID-19 catastrophe and catalyzed by the death of George Floyd, has succeeded in reframing racism. In a transformative moment, the movement has seized the issue from the white supremacists, who have come crawling out of the woodwork over the last four years, and redefined it on their terms.

    The White Supremacists, Nazis and Confederates will not get the race war they have envisioned at least as far back as 1969 when Charles Manson tried to make the Tate and La Bianca murders appear as if they had been committed by Black militants in hopes it would set off a black-white race war.

    In the limited binary consciousness of the white supremacist they were unable to imagine that their vision of a white-versus-black race war would never fly, because once their violent racism came out into the full view of America and the world, most would find it repugnant and would reject it with disgust.

    So their black-white race war transmuted into a battle between the racists and everyone else. The white supremacists can only be white, or at least look white enough, but they are by definition limited. The anti-racist side includes everyone else of all colors including most whites, who are not racists, though many of them, like me, may be realizing now that they have always been naïve about racism and never realized how bad it really was.

    Now that this movement of white supremacists has been brought out into everyone's view, people can see them as what they are, a freakish subculture. As they have become more visible and open in their racism and murderousness, most people are repelled and disgusted.

    Some, unfortunately, are attracted to white supremacy, but most don't see their behavior as something to aspire to. Their days are numbered.

    Tipping Point
    Against the backdrop of Trump's public courting of the white supremacists, when the mass consciousness that had been drawn together by the COVID catastrophe shifted its focus to the murder of George Floyd, most people recoiled at the ugly world that was uncovered under the rock Trump pushed away revealing the racist elements still festering under the surface of American life.

    With Trump as president, the white supremacists were having a heyday. They thought their time had come. They had a president that would stand with them and David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. It was their time to come out in the open, rise up and start pushing black and brown people out of the country, or into increasingly subjugated positions.

    The private prison corporations were growing their profits handsomely along with a network of business interests that still profit from slave labor 150 years after slavery was outlawed.

    It had become possible to march in the street with Nazi swastika flags and not even earn the rebuke of the President of the United States. How far we had come!

    But just as they were experiencing what felt like their great triumph, their movement went a little too far and passed the tipping point.

    All of this activity took place in the environment created by COVID-19. The Coronavirus changed the world in fundamental ways we are still trying to come to terms with. It created the fertile ground on which the George Floyd protests would burst into flame and grow almost instantly into a formidable international movement.

    COVID focused the entire world on a single point, the ravages of COVID-19 as it tore through the world. And when the George Floyd atrocity caused the world to shift its focus, it brought a more potent energy to the issue than ever before. It exploded, broke through a threshold, and went into runaway, just as the virus did.

    Once the ghastly torture and murder of George Floyd was made vivid to the world, the vast majority of Americans united in their abhorrence of everything about white supremacy. When the whole country became focused on that issue and on the white supremacists themselves, it became clear how out of step they are with the rest of American life. They appeared as a cranky minority of bizarre characters whose behavior was repellent to most Americans of all varieties.

    The majority of people who embrace diversity includes people of all colors, ethnicities, religions and national origins, and they are united in the beliefs underlying the formation of this country: freedom, justice, equality before the law.

    People have come to America for centuries from all over the world because of the principles articulated in America's founding documents. And once here, Americans of all origins have joined in the struggle to make this country live up to the ideals in those documents.

    Inherent in those principles is tolerance. There is absolutely no place for racism in the vision of American democracy that inspired the world in 1789.

    Jefferson understood that contradiction even though he and others of the original framers were slaveholders themselves. That's what prompted him to write, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever."

    But the barbaric institution, begun in 1619 was already deeply lodged into the institutions of America by the time the republic was formed. Slavery pre-dated the formation of the republic by more than a century. It was grandfathered in by precedent.

    But slavery and the American democratic republic were mutually exclusive. There was no way they could coexist. Slavery was an obscene contradiction of the doctrine of The Rights of Man.

    There lay the unresolvable conflict at the heart of the nascent American republic, and there it sat and festered until it finally exploded into the American Civil War in 1861.

    Barbarism in America
    The practice of slavery in America was so shockingly barbaric that when reports of it reached Europe through a report from America to the British Anti Slavery Society, it outraged Europeans.

    It prompted Arthur Schopenhauer in Germany in 1851 to write that "This book, consisting of dry but authentic and documented reports, arouses one's human feelings to such a degree of indignation that one could preach a crusade to subjugate and punish the slave-owning states of North America. They are a blot on mankind."

    It did eventually come to something like that, though it was the South that instigated the war that eventually led to the abolishment of slavery.

    But although Lincoln proclaimed the end and later Congress outlawed slavery, the Civil War did not succeed in blotting out the white supremacist culture that underlay slavery.

    The process of reforming the slave states and routing out the slaveholder culture was cut short by the assassination of Lincoln. And that contradiction at the heart of the American democratic experiment has continued to fester ever since.

    The murder of Lincoln by a gang of confederates short-circuited the process. Only Lincoln had the moral authority, the strength, the perfect combination of "velvet and steel," as Carl Sandburg put it, to oversee the transition out of the slavery culture that festered within the American republic like a cancer and prevented the country from realizing the vision staked out by the founders.

    The slave culture was so deeply entrenched in American life it looked as if perhaps it could never be removed. The rise of Trump, as a backlash to the presidency of Obama, proved how strong the white supremacist beliefs still are in America.

    In the era of COVID, the issue has burst forth in a way never seen before; with such strength and potency that it becomes realistic to consider the possibility that maybe that long-delayed reckoning will actually take place and America will finally get the "new birth of freedom" that Lincoln spoke of in his Gettysburg Address.

    Excising a Tumor
    It turns out the old jokes of "The South will rise again" were based on some reality. The slavery culture of the south, of the confederacy, with its barbaric, feudal philosophy of white subjugation of blacks, was kept alive by the KKK and the white racist elements of southern society.

    But now all this poison has come to the surface, gushing from the pores of the America body politic. And the body is rejecting it. It's like an exorcism.

    And this time the anti-racism movement seems to have gained too much momentum to be pushed back into suppression. There is a real possibility that the majority of Americans, who actually do believe in the ideals of the founders, will join together and force change, a true confrontation with the devils of racism and a final reckoning with white supremacy.

    There is just no place for racism within the vision of America as a free society. They just cannot coexist.

    What we have to finally come to is a complete denunciation of the white supremacist culture, America's version of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation. We have to dig down to the roots, like a rotten tooth, and pull the ugly, disgusting monstrosity out of American life.

    No one can effectively outlaw racist feelings someone may harbor inside. But racist behavior cannot be tolerated.

    That is how we can go forth from this moment of reckoning. And that may be in the end the greatest benefit that the COVID crisis has brought us.

    Out, damned spot!
    You dignify white supremacy by calling it an ideology. In the global cybernetically connected world of the 21st Century, it's a sickness. A mental disorder.

    There is no civilized way to deal with racism in a modern, multi-racial society that aspires to live up to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, except to outlaw it. Flat out. No racism.

    You can harbor hatreds in your own heart if you insist, but racist behavior will not be allowed. Zero tolerance. That's the way we find a path forward from the present complex of crises.

    June 3, 2020

    On the Streets Where You Live

    Now while the COVID pandemic is still raging, and while the country is still engaged in a war over whether to open things up and let the disease spread where it will, we are now plunged into a new war, ultimately a much worse one.

    It looks as if the evil specter of slavery that has been haunting this country for 400 years is demanding a reckoning. It's not just a natural disaster hitting us this time, but a confrontation with our own history, our still-unresolved issues of race that have their root in that horrible, barbaric institution, which flourished in this country for a longer time than it has been outlawed.

    COVID still is a natural disaster of unprecedented dimensions, a crisis still in progress, and now we are hit by another crisis of great magnitude, and now the two crises are interacting with each other in ways no one can predict.

    This crisis is a natural disaster of human nature. We sometimes look at nature as if we aren't part of it, but COVID has been a cosmic crack of the whip to disabuse us of that naïve notion.

    Now the brutal murder of George Floyd by a gang of police officers has become the catalyst to ignite a nuclear chain reaction of events that is fueled by the energy of all the millions of similarly heartless and savage murders that have taken place over decades and centuries without justice. Even now in 2020, police can murder human beings with no consequences.

    We are seeing now a resurfacing of issues that have burned hot underground for America's entire history, first as a colony and later as a nation.

    The initial reckoning took place in the American Civil War, with more than 600,000 Americans dead, but was left uncompleted because the leader who had the moral authority and the temperament to administer the transition to a post-slavery world "with malice toward none" was cut down.

    We would have been a much better country today if Lincoln had not been murdered. Slavery, the curse of America, has still not been eradicated. The essence of slavery, the culture of slavery still has a strong presence in American life.

    It seems the time for reckoning with that lingering infection cannot be put off forever. Eventually the "terrible swift sword" must come.

    Slavery started in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia. It was outlawed in 1865, 246 years later. It's been outlawed for 155 years.

    I guess it should be no surprise then that the attitudes that underlay slavery have not been fully routed out of this country. And that is the underlying conflict that we are seeing explode during the last several days. Unresolved issues from the time of Lincoln. He was killed before he could administer the actual abolition of slavery. With his moral authority he could have done a much better job of managing the transition than his successor, the southerner Andrew Johnson did.

    The military occupation of the south was curtailed by President Johnson before the reform had time to set in. With the withdrawal of the Union armies, the former slaveholders and racists were able to re-establish their society, with its cornerstone belief in subjugation of the Africans. Though the outward form of slavery was abolished, what followed it continued much of what had gone before.

    After the change to a post-slavery society didn't take place during the rebuilding of the South after the Civil War, things settled back to a modified version of the former status quo. With the best opportunity for reform missed, it never really did happen. The spirit of white supremacy continued to thrive and wield a lot of power in the South. And just as in the time of the Civil War, white supremacy was not confined to the South. That culture had its adherents across America. And it still does.

    Trump was able to capitalize on the underlying racism of the country, to signal to the white rage that went along with so many people having their lives ruined by the Crash of 2008. Trump channeled that rage, which was already misguided by Tea Party propaganda, and used it to gain power. A big part of his power is that bloc of white supremacists, so he is constantly signaling to them, arousing them, inciting them.

    Now the pandemic and the economic catastrophe it has brought on have brought many of these seething issues underlying American life to a head.

    Now while the pandemic is still raging, we are plunged into a new crisis that is deeper, and could cause a great deal more trouble. And this crisis is on top of the pandemic. The danger of people gathering in large groups spreading the lethal Coronavirus will no doubt be greatly worsened by all the demonstrations and civil unrest.

    So we are back to where we were in March in the sense that we barely know from moment to moment what calamity is going to take place.

    These are highly challenging times. Everyone's adaptability is being tested.

    May 25, 2020

    COVID Made Us Kinder

    The last two weeks of March were when COVID devoured the nation. It totally consumed the consciousness of practically everything. It was exhausting, a full-time job just to keep up with it and watch it develop via the news. The country was overwhelmed by an invisible tidal wave that brought disease and death.

    It completely overwhelmed the healthcare systems of New York. We had heard of what had happened in Italy, the sudden wave of mass death. It sounded like a science fiction horror story. It was hard to believe it really happened. And then COVID unleashed its fury on New York. It was stunning and disorienting. It felt as if the world changed at that moment.

    Days stretched out till they felt like weeks. So much was packed into each day that it felt like an extended period. But underneath the horror, in spite of it and even because of it in a way, we also saw something else happen. People evolved. As concentrated as the time was, as heavily weighted with events as each day was, events also exerted influence on people. We were experiencing something new, something with a greater magnitude than we had ever imagined. And it couldn't help but cause changes in people.

    Fortunately for the most part the changes I saw in people's attitudes and behaviors were positive. The great thing about disasters is that people help each other. In the middle of all the horrors, it's the natural inclination of human beings to help each other. That's how we've been such a successful species, in spite of our flaws that sometimes seem self-destructive enough to cancel out all we've accomplished. Human beings are among the most social animals. Our greatest accomplishments were possible only through a high degree of cooperation. In this case, when COVID burst onto the scene, I saw an elevated level of compassion and caring in people in general.

    People started adopting the safety precautions, social distancing. Masks started to appear. When people kept their distance from you in a grocery store or on the street it was a gesture of respect and care. Even while driving in my car on the highway I sensed a new level of awareness and courtesy among drivers. They seemed to be social distancing even in their cars on the highway.

    Everything changed almost instantly. Social distancing recommendations evolved into shelter-in-place orders. Nearly everyone was staying home most of the time. Suddenly Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah were doing their night-time comedy shows from their homes. Stores were closed, except for those offering basic necessities. Everything changed practically overnight.

    But while all these frightening, deadly things were playing out, the basic change in people seemed to be toward more care and concern for each other. Social media evolved to a whole new level of importance. An elderly lady I was in communication with said the "the miracle of social media" made it possible for her to stay in close touch with remote family members in spite of the pandemic.

    Since the initial reaction, which was a wave of compassion and concern of people for their fellow humans there has been a counter-reaction, a politically driven reaction against any change, people asserting that it violates their rights to have to wear a mask when going into a store. But these are politically driven and funded by those who most want to go back to the previous normal that fit their needs so perfectly.

    We don't know how much the next normal will resemble the previous normal. But this has been too powerful a disruption to pass unnoticed and leave the world exactly as it was before the pandemic. We're starting to move back toward a more normal level of activity. But I believe people have changed. We'll see how much the change is sustained. I think people are kinder and more compassionate, both to each other and to the rest of nature.

    This World's for People (Not Corporations)

    An Anthem

    The government has fallen under control
    of a corporate criminal class
    with the power to cause a rupture so big
    it knocked the economic system on its ass
    and when the smoke had cleared it was plain to see
    the heist had been complete
    The wealth had been taken from working people
    to the hands of the corporate elite

    This world's for people
    not for machines
    not corporations
    that's what I mean
    This world's for people
    and that's a fact
    so move on over
    we're gonna take it back

    Politicians feed at the trough
    of corporate donations
    then take the side of their generous friends
    when it comes to legislation
    they live it up and turn deaf ears
    to their constituents' frustration
    When it comes down to it
    the way it is
    we've got no representation

    This world's for people
    not for machines
    not corporations
    that's what I mean
    This world's for people
    and that's a fact
    so move on over
    we're gonna take it back

    The greedy and powerful never learn
    the lessons of the past
    you can only push people down so far
    before they push back up at last
    And I wouldn't want to be in your place
    when it comes round to that day
    when the change comes like a tsunami
    you'd better get out of the way

    This world's for people
    not for machines
    not corporations
    that's what I mean
    This world's for people
    and that's a fact
    so move on over
    we're gonna take it back

    By David Cogswell

    Contact: DavidCogs@aol.com

    Make Noise! Be an Active Citizen!
    Write letters, send faxes, make phone calls to all legislators.
    For a database of Congressional contact information see this Congressional Contact Database or thisCongressional Database. The Congressional switchboard number is (202) 224 3121.

    David Cogswell
    except where noted

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