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On Hubris (or, how to combat ‘scandal fatigue’)

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(Note: Originally written in 2017, this post seems even more relevant today, in 2019).

By Dan Franco, Oakland, California

It seems to be necessary to clear up confusion and doubt. Around the nation today, many are dismayed to see the shabby state or our Republic. Not only that – they believe this situation will not get better. They fear it is only going to get worse, and they are powerless to change it.

They are correct. And that’s the good news.

We’ll get to the bad news in a moment. First though, how could this possibly be good news? Well, simply put, because defeatism is a huge drain on the energy of those who are actually trying to win. It’s good news because those folks will take them selves out of the discussion, and sit on the sidelines while ideas are contested in the arena.

Is this you? Do you feel fatigued, weary? Do you think the Right Wing and their craven business cadres will run this country into a sewer? Are you giving up on pushing back? Good.

I’m not. Outta the way, ya lump! Don’t need ya, kvetching and harrumphing but ultimately not lifting a finger.

As you may have guessed, this note will contain no small amount of ‘tough love’. I aim to ruffle your feathers, but will also offer some perspective and insights that may snap you out of the fugue that likely has been dogging you for months now.

I’ve been around long enough to know that this moment in history isn’t the end of anything; neither is it the beginning. I’m “tanned, rested, and ready” as they used to say in politics before a Cheeto got elected to high office. I’ve got all my tools and weapons prepared, and am motivated for the coming campaign to return America to sanity and fairness. By the end of this letter, I hope you will be too.

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California-based activist Gary Snyder once said, “Don’t feel guilty. If you’re gonna save the world, do it because you love it.” He was right. Activism is hard, and boring. There are endless setbacks and complications, negotiations and surprises. It’s also totally worth it, because often enough you eventually win.

A fundamental problem today is that too many people confuse ‘the world’ with ‘the present situation’. The present situation sucks, and most folk don’t actually think it’s worth trying to save. No really, despite all the hype in the media, the vast majority of people have been tricked, cheated, or plain old beaten down too many times to keep trying. Those who are talking and engaging are a tiny few, they merely seem to be magnified by our 24-hour / 7-day news cycle.

But the World is still very worthy, and our mission needs to be to show people the difference between the two. Then we can present a better example of what can be. We can activate those folks, we can build a nation that finally works for all it’s citizens. You see I was just trolling you in the opening paragraphs, because I know something really important that get’s overlooked all too often.

The people in this land are good people.

They really are. They maybe don’t vote the way you do, don’t embody their faith traditions as you might like them to. Yet they have, for generations, set down roots and built communities and done the tedious but necessary work of creating the towns and cities we call home. Sure, they are often badly misinformed. We can do something about that – and we’ll discuss that in my next letter. What we need to deal with first though is YOU. We need to get you re-vitalized, so you will understand how much power you have.

To do that, we ought to start with some history. I said above that this time we live in isn’t the end of anything, and I meant it. Every generation tends to fall into a trap. I’ve seen it at least three times in my lifetime – the 60’s hippies, the 80’s yuppies, and now again today. It’s the ‘Last Generation’ fallacy, and it’s a dangerous delusion. In the 1970’s all the idealists saw their efforts crash and burn against a tide of indifference and hostility, largely because they’d ‘dropped out’ of society but found out the hard way that they were not free, they had merely moved to a different part of the prison yard.

In the 80’s the Nukes were going to drop on us “any day now”, and so the masses concluded the best thing was to say “I Got Mine” and go out with a bang. Obviously they were wrong, because decades later we are still here. And for a great many Americans, life got steadily better during those 4 decades. How did that happen? Because some folks quietly worked in meetings, on city councils, and at conferences to find solutions where they could.

Now here in 2017 and it seems the only things getting done are protests and demonstrations. Well, those were going on too all throughout those years, and they were as vital then as now. They raised awareness, and then folks set about fixing problems. So from both ends – policy and public awareness, things got done. As they say, ‘good news never makes the front page’ so it’s easy to overlook the thousands of tiny achievements. Instead the ‘big bads’ suck up all the ink – healthcare, a border wall, etc.

Perspective! We cannot let weariness and fatigue at all these scandals and outrages cause us to give up. Because in the face of those, I offer you decades of examples of progress. We cannot defeat ourselves just because the cops are still doing horrible things, or because Wall Street robs Main Street every chance it gets. The problems we face today are solvable; have been already greatly remediated in many cases (compared to decades ago).

Hubris is a concept that comes to us from the Classics, and most folk know about it as the traits of Pride, Vanity, or Arrogance. The current President is a fine example of Hubris demonstrated on a daily basis. BUT – Hubris is not only those traits. Defeatism is also a part of it. So when I hear someone tell me that the problem is too big, or the battle is already lost, I know they too are displaying hubris. And Hubris in all it’s forms is a characteristic each and every one of us should seek to root out and remove from ourselves. It is a mistake for any one of us to presume we have all the facts, that we alone hold “truth”. This is because it often leads one’s thinking to one end of the spectrum or the other, away from the middle where the truth often lies.

Giving in to defeatism is EXACTLY what the opposition wishes for you to do. They have planned and executed a multi-decade strategy, with nearly endless funding, specifically to suppress your voice, to create the illusion that they are right and they are undefeat-able. THEY ARE WRONG.
So, yeah sure, Trumpy is a narcissistic hubristic fool. But so too are far too many on the other side, and that needs to change. Because folks who are unaware of their failings will fall prey to those failings.

So too are those who have said over the last six months that ‘things are not normal’. If only that were true! Things are not ACCEPTABLE, but that is very different. In 240 years we’ve veered back and forth, back and forth, from extreme to extreme in our politics. At every turn there were the same teeth-gnashing and recriminations as we see today. So, sad but true – this is the norm. We got lucky, and for about 30 years it was tamped-down, so that has allowed many to forget that this is the normal pattern. But I need you to focus on the fact that the present situation is not Acceptable, not the suddenness of it. Again, no letting your fears get the better of you.

Having this much naked corruption is wrong; and as we have done before it must be stopped. Having theocrats and sycophants meddling in the affairs of government is wrong; and as we have done before they must be turned out.

We routed the Robber Barons. Twice, technically, if you count both the Great Depression and the Great Panic of the late 1800’s. We enacted strong Civil Rights laws, and seem to be on the cusp of doing so again since it’s become clear that the last round wasn’t sufficient. We cleaned up our air and water. We took a tiny and long overdue step towards fixing our healthcare mess. Nothing about the present regime is new, or goes further than previous ones, let’s get that straight. It seems new and shocking but it’s not. We have so very many resources to draw from, when engaging them in the war of ideas.

So, yeah, sure, if you choose to believe you are powerless to act, then you are correct. “Argue for your limitations, and guess what you get to keep them!” – Richard Bach.

I don’t believe I am powerless, I don’t believe you are powerless. I have witnessed the Occupy protestors go on to organize themselves and quietly get taxes passed for building bike lanes. I have witnessed them get engaged locally in their home cities and cause those places to move steadily leftward and become more progressive. I see that globally we are somewhere in the middle of a vast ‘sea-change’ that began in the 1990’s and is only just now coming into common awareness in the US. I know you, reader. I know that you care deeply, or you would not have read this far. YOU CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS, and the time is coming soon to do so.

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And now for the bad news.

Yeah, sorry, I’m going to talk about the Democratic party now, and how they have every potential to blow it. Not “take us over the cliff”, because as I mentioned above that kind of thinking is a fallacy. But they (at this moment) could screw up so badly that these cretins will solidify their hold on power for generations. That would be a pity, to say the least.

There has been too much ink shed already about the DNC and their heart-rendingly wrong-headed election strategy in 2016. I have to add some more, regrettably, because it’s so important to this discussion. By and large it is far too soon to be taking any lessons from this election cycle. History offers us valuable lessons, but in almost all cases history has been vetted and checked and reconfirmed dozens of times over decades before we safely draw any conclusions.

So I will merely point out that once again Hubris was at play here, and that is such an obvious fact that we don’t need to wait for the academics. The Dem’s by their own admission suffered from a gigantic case of arrogance, and they realized it far too late in the game to alter course. Many in their leadership have not yet accepted this, actually, and *that* is the Bad News of which I speak. Because part of our task is to convince them to climb down from their high horses and start listening to the people on the ground. More than Russian meddling, more than an insurgent Bernie Sanders campaign… more than anything it was their overweening certainty that turned the electorate against them. This too, is not Acceptable. This can never happen again, if they wish to exist as a party. Because their leaders do not seem to realize that this is their last chance. We-the-people have endured their compromises and collusion with Wall Street long enough. We don’t believe in them because their Integrity has become so tarnished.

The Democratic Party is at a crossroads. It must move to the left, far to the left, and it must do it today. Because the people all across this land have already done so. Or, it can be eviscerated in the next election, and my earlier prediction will come true – – it will then break into 2 weaker parties. (The GOP faces a similar crossroads, and similar fate, but I’ve no desire for them to do anything BUT implode so let them go ahead and do so).

All around the world the message is clear – Centrism and Austerity are ideas whose time has passed. They may once have been winning ideas, but no longer. So as you go along be mindful of this fact. The future of this country belongs to those who seek to restore Integrity to the processes of our government. It belongs to those who understand that the next economy will be the one that retires Capitalism and replaces it with a better system.
The past is a useful teacher, and it can teach you many ways to remain enthusiastic about the work to be done in the coming years. Yet it’s also true that the solutions of the old days only go so far. We need not bring them back as creaky scaffolds to build upon. Instead we can invent a more solid foundation by avoiding the mistakes of days gone by. It will not happen quickly, but as you will see in future letters it is indeed already underway.

And YOU can choose to be a vital part of this change – that’s the best news of all.

Push back: where you can, when you can. Get even more engaged locally. Take over your local Democratic party and then stick around for the long haul. Be kind to yourself. “Each one, teach one.” When you can do nothing else, study history, (recent and ancient). Better days lie ahead, for you and yours.

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Programming

Ralph Nader: No to Nukes, Yes to Ketanji Brown Jackson

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Ralph welcomes nuclear weapons expert, MIT professor Theodore Postol, to give us his insights into the possibility and the ultimate consequences of Vladimir Putin employing tactical nuclear weapons in the Russian conflict with Ukraine. And our resident constitutional scholar, Bruce Fein, weighs in on the hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Plus, Ralph answers your questions about the latest Boeing crash and money in politics.

The Ralph Nader Radio Hour is a weekly talk show broadcast on the Pacifica Radio Network. Ralph Nader is joined by co-hosts Steve Skrovan and David Feldman for a lively informative hour of interviews with some of the nation’s most influential movers and shakers and thought-provoking discussions of the week’s news.

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Chuck W.

CHUCK W.: How to create the future when the world is upside down?

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It has been well over 70 years since the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Created by Eleanor Roosevelt and colleagues after the atrocities of WW2, it shows how we can govern through the Rule of Law instead of War.

Combined with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, It provides a roadmap of what we can do to enable a peaceful and healthier co-Existence.
But it takes more than just words. It takes action.

After ongoing failures at U.N. symposiums, this public health leader discusses ways to prevent continual crises from famine and climate catastrophe to violence and safeguarding public health and human rights.

How can we go from thinking about our own Nations to realizing that all decisions we make in one location affect and impact those living in another nation?

This lively discussion features Mobilized News’ Jeff Van Treese and The Other Chuck Woolery (not the TV guy) discussing what we as a society can, could, and must do to prevent ongoing crises.

Chuck Woolery (not the Game show host)

Chuck’s professional grassroots organizing and advocacy successes on global health issues led to his elected position on the respected Action Board of the American Public Health Association (membership of 120,000 US Health Professionals). Later he was then elected by his peers to Chair the United Nation’s Association Council of Organizations (over 110 US based NGOs representing a collective membership of over 25 million Americans). His focus has been connecting local and global issues to US national security interests and using non-partisan fundamental principles to advance public thinking and US policy on vital systems and structures essential to forming a more perfect union and sustainable environment.


Chuck credits much of his successes to his mother’s love, father’s violence, the study of Biology and wrestling (having qualified for the 1972 Olympic Trials only to find out he was seriously not qualified – but was honored to make it that far after a childhood of obesity and sloth.) “We are all”, he says “always wrestling with issues and concerns our entire life. Or we should be — given the persistent changes in our bodies and the world.” “Loving persistence” and “ruthless compassion” are two qualities his mentors offered him. Admittedly to his detriment he usually offers people what they need to know instead of what they want to hear. Chuck is an avid quote collector… one of his many favorites — “Science is my passion, politics my duty.” Thomas Jefferson

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A web of Life for ALL Life

Truths or Consequences

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The Age of Consequences of Systematic Failure: Our existing situations are not problems. They are Consequences

By Chuck Woolery, Former Chair, United Nations Assn., Council of Organizations (not the TV host!) and Steven Jay, Creative Director, Mobilized

“At the root cause of our problems is the failure to recognize that Independence is a man-made concept. The truth of our reality is that everything is connected to everything and therefore, everything impacts everything.  Every action impacts the whole. Mobilized is firmly rooted in this natural law.” –Chuck Woolery

Every day is a new story of systematic breakdown, of tragedy, a shooting, a broken system, the election of an incompetent sociopath, a social media fiasco, or media companies at war with each other.  It’s a constant struggle to keep up with it all.

We feel like screaming from the roof “What the F%&K is going on here?”   Or,   we can go down the rabbit hole and discover the root cause–the epicenter of most of our inherent, continual, and seemingly unsolvable problems.

What follows is a blog Mobilized released a few years earlier.  It is even more relevant now.  Some edits have been made and a few recently relevant events added.  Please share it with others if you find it useful


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The Age of Consequences of Systematic Failure: Our existing situations are not problems. They are Consequences

By Chuck Woolery, Former Chair, United Nations Assn., Council of Organizations (not the TV host!) and Steven Jay, Creative Director, Mobilized

Summary:  After the Great Depression and the end of WWII the general sense of the common good generated by these global calamities gradually disappeared from public discussion.  With the exception of some civil rights activities that did yield important civil progress things have gotten worse. And most agree, things are going to worsen more, before they get better.  This is an examination into why things have gotten worse. And how we must change to change things for the better.

America’s success in the world and our fear of Communism helped fuel individualism, greed, and selfishness (the illusion of individual separation from the whole). This largely un-examined mindset eclipsed the ‘united we stand’ American character. It was an aberration of logic, compassion, and empathy that basically steamrolled American politics into the train wreck we have today. Recently, technology greatly accelerated this dysfunctional trend.  A trend that had been well established by a largely unregulated capitalism system that had spread the dangerous meme of independence globally for the past few decades.

The tragic and lethal consequences are now around us everywhere in the US and abroad.  And instead of recognizing our collective mental flaw that got us here, and confronting it, many people have doubled down on their narratives.  They want to make American Great Again or finance a Green New Deal to bring back the comforts, prosperous conditions, and selfish culture that tragically nurtured our disconnect from reality. The fundamental truth that “United We Stand” – still stands. And divided we are going to fall.   This time it will be a hard fall. One we may not recover from.

  • Trump is not the problem. He’s a consequence. …
  • Climate change isn’t the problem. It’s a consequence.
  • Unprecedented obesity rates, opioid deaths, mass shootings, and suicides rates are not health emergencies. They are consequences.
  • Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water, Honeybees’ Colony Collapse Disorder, Florida’s red tide… these are not environmental problems. They’re consequences.
  • The continuing violence in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria are all consequences.
  • The Russian/Ukraine dilemma threatening nuclear Armageddon or the use of biological/chemical weapons with the potential to spark a hot World War III.
  • Radical extremism, WMD proliferation, and China/Russian cyber hacks are now top national security threats.  Again, consequences a poorly engineered global governance system.
  • Growing economic inequality, fake news, and loss of privacy are not dilemmas.

They are all consequences.

  • These, and most of the other problems we are now encountering at a breakneck pace in newspapers and in our lives are the inevitable consequences of our thinking and actions.  They were not however inevitable.

They are the result of our collective failure to do what we know is needed to prevent such problems.

“Human behavior is the greatest threat to human existence”  Dr. Monty G. Marshall

All Americans have solemnly pledged dozens, if not hundreds of times, “Liberty and Justice for all”. But our desire for comfort, wealth, distractions, popularity, and freedom comes with all too real life and death consequences.

Americans love freedom. It is all we really have.  But freedom also comes with consequences.   Some freedoms have arguably been worth the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives and trillions of our tax dollars. But it has been our overindulgence with freedom without the responsibility that is the fundamental cause of our (and the world’s) growing list of profoundly dangerous, destructive, unhealthy, increasingly lethal, and persistent consequences. Unsustainable consequences that were predictable and often warned about.  Costly consequences that were, and remain, related to a simple conceptual flaw within our mental calculations.

We believe and then act out of that belief that we are independent.  We are not.  Yet, as Americans, we reinforce that sentiment every 4th of July.   In reality, it is only a concept that doesn’t exist anywhere in the known universe.  And it has zero accurate applications here on earth.  Our Declaration of Independence should have been titled the Declaration of Political Separation.  Not as catchy!  But powerfully accurate.

It has been and remains our unyielding faith in, allegiance to, and reflexive defense of this flawed human principle that has mentally disconnected us from much of our personal, civil, environmental, social, health, and economic responsibilities. Like Neo in the Matrix, we all sense something isn’t right… but can’t see the truth;

Every aspect of our lives is dependent on other people, the environment, our nation’s laws, other nation’s laws, and most importantly, the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” which is expressed in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

“Everything is connected, everything is interdependent, so everything is vulnerable”… “this has to be a more than whole of government, a more than whole of nation [action]. It really has to be a global effort.”   CISA (the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) Director Jen Easterly  (Oct. 29, 2021)

The growing mass of undesirable consequences that threaten our freedom, security, and prosperity were as inevitable as they were unintentional. But they are only self-evident when we are honest with ourselves about reality.

Our Founding Fathers understood reality as “Truths to be Self-Evident” based on the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”. Their catastrophic error was failing to codify this wisdom into their new government blueprint — the U.S. Constitution. The consequence was a civil war that killed more Americans than all the wars our nation has fought in since then, combined. And some of those consequences remain with us today.

Far more Americans will die from preventable causes in the years ahead related to global factors SUCH AS terrorism, pandemics, climate change, wars, and poverty because the systems and structures that our Constitution protects today on both the national and international level still fail to codify the wisdom of “liberty and justice for all” in a world of irrefutable and irreversible interdependence.

Interdependence is accelerating due to the advances in technology that are accelerating exponentially.  During the same time, our government’s capacity for change (or adaptation to change) has virtually stopped.  And in some areas, it has actually reversed.

Even before Trump was elected a survey of US national security experts put our own nation’s “government dysfunction” as the second greatest threat to our national security.  Just behind terrorism.  It was higher than, China, Russia, Iran, N. Korea, and Climate Change.  Pandemics were not on the list.

The illusion of Independence underlies most of our short-term thinking, long-term planning, slow policymaking, and reactive actions.

We assume without question our personal, budgetary, institutional, and national independence. The endless war against terrorism (a tactic that cannot be defeated) has only accelerated our loss of freedoms (including privacy) and security. Our modern world of unprecedented and increasingly powerful, affordable, and ubiquitous technological capacity for WMD creation – and the increasing difficulty in accurately attributing the identity of the attacker, put everything increasingly at risk.

Imagine the loss of lives, freedom, and prosperity from a bioterrorist attack or global pandemic far worse than Covid19 or the 1918 Flu epidemic.  Unlike nuclear war, such a biosecurity threat is inevitable. Yet we remain lethally unprepared for a catastrophe that will NEGATIVELY affect every system and structure in our bodies, our homes, our economies, and the world.
We have based our policies on our illusion of independence – instead of obeying nature’s fundamental principles that are used in science and technology to engineering things that work like magic.  Medicine, instant global communications, electrical appliances, and tools that work to save and protect life, while making our lives more comfortable, profitable, and secure.

It is our flawed human assumption of independence that leads us to abuse or misuse many of these amazing science and technology tools — that results in the creation and exacerbation of many of our current health and environmental problems.  Sometimes with catastrophic results.  But easily preventable problems if we had followed the laws of nature and nature’s God.

If you doubt this read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution.  As you do, offer a school grade to each of the five clearly stated intentions to form “a more perfect Union.”

Then consider the fact that Abraham Lincoln wrote that our “Declaration of Independence” is our “Apple of Gold” and our “Constitution” is its ‘frame of silver’.  Yet our elected officials swear an oath to protect the Constitution believing without reservation that it will protect our freedoms and security.  How’s that working out?

Now imagine a government that is engineered on the fundamental principles offered in the Declaration of Independence. A government that … soundly embraces and promotes the responsibility of inclusion with ‘liberty and justice for all’, globally.


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Some have asserted that the primary fundamental principle in both the laws of nature and nature’s God is justice. Note that the foundation of every major religion is the Golden Rule.  To do unto others as you would have them do to you.   Anyone experiencing an injustice doesn’t need to be a religious believer to understand the supreme value of this.  Our US Justice Department offers two quotes engraved in its exterior’s stone.

“Justice is found in the rights bestowed by nature upon man. Liberty is maintained in security of justice.”    And,

“Justice is the great interest of man on earth. Wherever her temple stands, there is a foundation for social security, general happiness and the improvement and progress of our race.”

Yet our federal (and lower) systems and structures of justice are profoundly unjust. They are in fact “legal” systems in which it is better to be guilty and rich than innocent and poor. Many of our laws are simply unjust.   And unacceptable injustices can also be found in our nation’s economic, electoral, education, healthcare, agriculture, military, foreign policy, and intelligence systems.

Is it really any wonder that things don’t work, that Trump has so many followers, wars persist, the environment is trashed, and our society is ailing?

Every time I witness another failing in our nation, a phrase I heard last year comes to mind;  “How healthy can we be if we are well adjusted to a profoundly sick society?” We are afflicted with a societal mental illness;  Before Covid, the Surgeon General rated ‘loneliness” as our nation’s greatest health risk.   Our mind has the capacity to believe anything! Literally, anything. We don’t even do what we know we should.  The spread of fake news and conspiracy theories are just consequences of a flawed and sometimes corrupt government system.   This should all be stunningly clear…as with our inappropriate worship of independence and freedom without responsibility or virtue.

Again.  Every system and structure in our body, our house, our environment, and our world is interconnected and interdependent.  And all depend on the health and sustainable functioning of a just world order.   Our mind’s illusion of independence … disconnects us from our vital needs of love, a safe community, healthy food, and functional relationships.   These vital things we have largely taken for granted.  Thus we have insufficient respect for the natural systems that maintain our planet’s capacity for sustaining all life, human health, future prosperity, and ultimately our species survival.

There is no guarantee … our nation will last.

The Federalists worried that hostile nations could exploit any domestic divisions. George Washington warned in his farewell address that partisan “factions” could rip the country apart. James Madison feared that liberty could be lost by the “gradual and silent encroachments of those in power.” John Adams said, “There never was a democracy yet, that did not commit suicide”. But, many in our Republic praise democracy, and rightfully blame both parties that are dominating our flawed two-party system that persistently delivers the consequences we are suffering today.

Some are proposing the creation of a “People’s Party”.  This puts too much promise in the will of the masses.   It offers a platform based on creative progressive or conservative ideas that are often devoid of fundamental principles. In other words – they would be engineering a political party that relies on creative and popular proposals that could win a majority.  Yet completely incapable of transforming the profound flaws in our current system and structures at either the national or international levels.

FACT:  Earth has an expiration date. And we the American people (and probably most of humanity) still reflect the opinion offered in the second paragraph of their Declaration of Independence.   It states “accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.” That’s bad!

But the tragic news is that the suffering that’s coming in our age of Consequences may be so great that our species may expire long, long before Earth. Given the acceleration of technology (WMD proliferation and AI) already knocking on our door, the majority of Americans or others in the world may not even get the chance to suffer the full effects of climate change. Due to a multiplicity of factors, time is NOT on our side.

If you are seeking the most practical action to take, a ‘justice for all’ system it is obvious that it would not be welcomed immediately by most policymakers or political parties.  Such a goal would require the legal protection of inalienable human rights for all and our environment with the force of law (ie the Rule of Law:  laws made and enforced by a democratic process, applied equally to all, and only used to protect human rights and the environment.    The only other option is what we have now.  The law of force.   This is where the protection of national sovereignty is more important than protecting human rights or the environment.  The working definition of ‘national sovereignty (another human-created concept using international law as it exists today with the UN) is the right of any nation to do anything it wants, to anyone it wants, anytime it wants within its own borders.  And, if it has nuclear weapons, it can do these things anywhere it believes it can get away with it.  Again, this is what we have now.  An irresponsible and unaccountable use of force prioritizing national interests which tends to accelerate chaos.  Chaos that often leads to refugees, the loss of freedoms, lives, prosperity, and our planet’s vital life support system.

There is a third option.  It would require the funding of those rights by the force of political will.   President Roosevelt offered the basics in his four freedoms speech; freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from want and … fear.”  Eleanor Roosevelt led the passage of a detailed list known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Like our nation’s Bill of Rights on steroids- but with no means of government enforcement.   Seven decades ago (December 10, 1948) this Declaration was offered in the context of world security. Those who had experienced World War II, the holocaust, and a new weapon that could vaporize 100,000 people in a second understood the essentials of ‘justice for all’ and these fundamental human rights.  But the UN’s lack of democratic power left it useless in this context leaving states’ rights above human rights.  This structural flaw in the UN resembles the original flaw in the US Constitution that led to our catastrophic Civil War.

What are some of UDHRs rights intended as a foundation for peace?  Universal access to clean water, safe sanitation, adequate food, access to basic health services, basic education, and an equal opportunity to earn a living wage are good starters.

Fortuitously, the fastest, most affordable, practical, and effective means of maximizing this movement of ‘Liberty and Justice for all” (both here and abroad thus laying the foundation for maximizing humanity’s freedom and security globally) is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  These have already been agreed on by every nation in 2015 to be achieved by the year 2030.

It’s obvious that we will not get an enforceable Global Bill of Rights any time soon. But we could virtually enforce most essential human rights by funding the SDGs. The growing array of global threats to our freedom and security demands that we do this as rapidly as possible.

WARNING!   We have been repeatedly warned of the consequences of failing in prioritizing this human security approach.

In 1980 a bipartisan Presidential Commission concluded  “In the final analysis, unless Americans — as citizens of an increasingly interdependent world — place far higher priority on overcoming world hunger, its effects will no longer remain remote or unfamiliar. Nor can we wait until we reach the brink of the precipice; the major actions required do not lend themselves to crisis planning, patchwork management, or emergency financing… The hour is late. Age-old forces of poverty, disease, inequity, and hunger continue to challenge the world. Our humanity demands that we act upon these challenges now…” Presidential Commission on World Hunger, 1980.

Its commissioners specifically warned …“The most potentially explosive force in the world today is the frustrated desire of poor people to attain a decent standard of living. The anger, despair, and often hatred that result represent real and persistent threats to international order… Neither the cost to national security of allowing malnutrition to spread nor the gain to be derived by a genuine effort to resolve the problem can be predicted or measured in any precise, mathematical way. Nor can monetary value be placed on avoiding the chaos that will ensue unless the United States and the rest of the world begin to develop a common institutional framework for meeting such other critical global threats… Calculable or not, however, this combination of problems now threatens the national security of all countries just as surely as advancing armies or nuclear arsenals.”

They also stated “that promoting economic development in general, and overcoming hunger in particular, are tasks far more critical to the U.S. national security than most policymakers acknowledge or even believe. Since the advent of nuclear weapons, most Americans have been conditioned to equate national security with the strength of strategic military forces. The Commission considers this prevailing belief to be a simplistic illusion. Armed might represents merely the physical aspect of national security. Military force is ultimately useless in the absence of the global security that only coordinated international progress toward social justice can bring.”

In 1990 the nations of the world (including the US) agreed on funding a less ambitious but measurable, achievable, and affordable goals for the year 2000.  This was World Summit for Children.  Even though all governments at the time signed a pledge to “make the resources available” to meet these goals, few were fully funded or achieved.

In 2000 another more ambitious set of “Millennium Development Goals” was set for the year 2015.  These were also shorted.  Contributing to the wars, terrorism, climate change, refugees, famines, revolutions, state failures, infectious diseases, international crime, and genocides we’ve seen around the world and hounding us today.  Not as separate issues!  But as interdependent consequence.

If we fail this time in achieving the SDGs the deteriorating global conditions may overwhelm any chance of us or our children setting things right.

The discouraging news would appear to be that achieving these 17 goals would cost trillions.  And especially after Covid’s systemic costs, most governments have no money to spare.

The exciting news is that they don’t need to.  Governments just need the political will to freeze and seize a good portion of the estimated $32 trillion dollars that has been stashed in offshore bank accounts for years.  Thousands of accounts obtained by kleptocrats (dictators), oligarchs (their cronies), criminal cartels (drugs, guns, sex, hackers), violent extremist groups (terrorists, white supremacists…), and the extreme wealthy (avoiding taxes).   Most of these ill-gotten gains…should have been going to basic government services.  Now they can be devoted to basic human rights and environmental protection.

The political will could be generated if the general public is aware that their nation’s security and cherished freedoms depend as much on meeting the SDGs as they do on more military spending or a new “Space Force”.

This level of political will in the US could be achieved by progressives working together. With their millions of members personally petitioning their own Members of Congress with loving persistence.  This strategy and daily tactic is infinitely more powerful than voting every 2 or 4 years, protesting, or counter-protesting. If the peace, environment, and economic/social justice movements and their thousands of organizations came together to focus on one piece of legislation on all 435 House members, 100 Senators, and anyone running for these offices, our currently dysfunctional Congress could finally prove useful.  And Americans would finally have a government of “We the people” “by the people, for the people” with “a new birth of freedom” with “liberty and justice for all” that “shall not perish from this earth.” 

In the long run (if we have one) it truly doesn’t matter who is in office or what party they represent.  If fundamental principles are codified into laws, budgets, and all government action we could have the world we know is possible.  On earth, as it is in heaven.  A sustainable global garden of eating.

Given the multiple threats we face as individuals, nations, and a species it must be clear that few threats can be stopped with military power.  And, many are exacerbated by its unprincipled use.

Our primary goal as voters and citizens must be to recognize our global interdependence as the human race and the profound value of ensuring “liberty and justice for all”.  Make it your personal goal to educate your policymakers on this fundamental reality and act as though your life and your children’s future freedoms and security depend on it.

Connect the dots (everything is connected). See the web of life (all systems and structures are interdependent). Work for justice (always and for all) …or prepare for the consequences (which will inevitably happen and be increasingly catastrophic).

Chuck Woolery, Former Chair, United Nations Association, Council of Organizations
Steven Jay, Founder and Creative Director, Mobilized.news

 


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Roses.

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America loves to think of itself as a rose, in bloom.  We trumpet our freedoms and strength as if they are bright red petals on a summer day.  It’s a damn shame though, that for most of the world, for 6 or 7 decades now, they look at us… and they only see the thorny stem.

It was merely August, 7 months ago, that I decried the pointless and fruitless war in Afghanistan.  It wasn’t ever necessary, was doomed to failure, and represented a complete failure by our leaders to learn any lessons from history.  

I am a pacifist.  War is not the answer, and we’ve had 15,000 years to figure that out.  Over and over again old grudges birthed new conflicts.  So I decry this stupid war as well, the one Putin has started because he has nearly completed looting his home nation of Russia and now needs new lands to loot.  It is a pattern seen over and over again, so the fact that he is the most successful mob boss in the history of the world should not blind us to the fact he is also just another tinpot dictator flailing about in an effort to preserve his gains.  

Those are points 1 and 2: war is bad, and this bum is pretty run of the mill.  Point 3 is less obvious, but the Ambassador from Kenya made it very well in his speech the other day: nurturing grudges from the past does no good, it’s better to look ahead and build a better future.  This is something that is still possible, even though it seems unlikely with tanks rolling into Ukraine.  

Point 4: it’s shockingly hypocritical how we have chosen to ignore so many other conflicts because this one feels ‘closer to home’ for our politicians.  Syria has been mired in a water war for 8 years at least, too bad for them.  Yemen has been trying to throw off the yoke of their Saudi neighbors, but gosh darn it Mohammed Bone Saw is our ally; so you Yemeni’s get to die.  Gosh darn it.  But oh look, Europe has gotten it’s feathers ruffled because 20 years ago a bunch of venal politicians lied to each other and now tempers have flared about it.

Point 5: We must go back to my very first statement: learning from history is a MUST.  We failed to do so in our last 4 wars – – and pretty thoroughly lost them all.  We failed to do so at the beginning of WWII, when we chose to let Spain fall to the Fascists, namely to some guy named Franco.

Not all of us, natch.  Many Americans rightly saw the looming threat, and formed the Lincoln Brigade.  They fought and bled and died alongside the Republicans in Spain.  They lost, but they were on the right side of history.  And so it is with point #5… we need to be on the right side of history here.  

For 9 decades, since fall of 1945, the entire planet has lived under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.  It has, to put it mildly, clouded our judgment.  Most folk have pretended since 1991 that the cloud had lifted, but of course nothing at all had changed.  And so now two very large armies are skirmishing in the winter mud outside of Kiev, and mothers across the planet are wondering how they will be able to shelter their children if fallout comes their way.  

It’s unfortunate that the Russian people are going to be victimized just as the Ukraine’s people are.  They didn’t want war.  But they are trapped under his murderous sway, just as with Stalin and Lenin before him.

Pete Seeger told us that even pacifists should defend their home if it was invaded.  For years I wrestled with that, I told myself that pacifism means nothing if it is not absolute.  Fact is Seeger was right.  And Putin isn’t just invading Ukraine.  He is laying the groundwork for another time of soviet-style darkness for the whole world.  

The rose that America deems itself to be cannot fail this time to prevent the rise of Putin-style Fascism.  It galls me to say it, but this time we must set aside points 1 through 4 because #5 outweighs them all.  This war was preventable, yet it is here, now.  We made a deal with Ukraine when they gave up their nukes, we promised to protect them.  Before all that we founded the United Nations and wrote the UN charter, which specifically demands action in defense of basic democracy and human rights.  For these reasons, and for the ideals that we clung to as we defeated Hitler, this madman must be stopped.  Don’t let Putin’s paid lackeys Carlson and Trump pull the wool over your eyes.  After all, they have labored for ages to undermine the ideals of freedom and democracy.  

So it comes to this: it’s time for the thorns.  

I’m appalled at myself to be calling for war.  So be it, the time for diplomacy came and went, regardless of how I felt about it.  

I am a pacifist, though I never have been much of one.  My hope now is that the Allies act swiftly, and fully.  Don’t ‘half-ass’ it like we did in Viet nam, Iraq, etc.  Make a plan and commit to it.  Make plans not just for the battles but also for their aftermath.  And do it now.  There should not need to be a Lincoln Brigade stood up this time, governments should take the initiative.

The lessons of the Nuremberg trials were stark, and clear, and demanded that we never forget why that war was fought.  Once again a madman seeks to enslave the world, starting with his next door neighbor.  This time we need to rise against the threat, early enough to prevent a global catastrophe.


https://youtu.be/zZXuuKwhVvI

This version of “Morning Dew” features the song’s author, Bonnie Dobson.  It also has a calmness to it that I appreciate, as an older dude.  Of course it’s the most famous anti-nuke song of all time, it has been covered by just about everybody.  I first heard it done by Blackfoot, their version is a barn-burner.  Nazareth, too, tore the walls down with their cover.  But I’m old.  And tired, and this version sums it up best.  No war, no nukes.  The endgame is too horrifying to contemplate.  


https://www.facebook.com/heathercoxrichardson/posts/497064328455471

 

“Rather than form nations that looked ever backward into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known,” Kimani said.

https://www.npr.org/2022/02/22/1082334172/kenya-security-council-russia?

 

https://truthout.org/articles/chomsky-outdated-us-cold-war-policy-worsens-ongoing-russia-ukraine-conflict/

 

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/02/ukraine-russia-invasion-putin-kyiv-interview.html

 

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christopherm51/ukraine-bomb-shelters-russia-attack-kyiv

 

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/44296/what-putins-options-in-ukraine-really-look-like

 

“People who place themselves in the camp of Vladimir Putin are not patriots, they aren’t America First, they aren’t Christians, and they aren’t pro-life.

They’re also not people who get to drape themselves in the flag, or invoke allegiance to this nation, or feign offense at kneeling football players, or spout some red, white, and blue nationalistic nonsense—because they never cared about any of it.” – John Pavlovitz

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2022/02/23/when-americans-support-murderous-foreign-dictators/?

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