Friday, November 30, 2007


As this nation crawled out of the Great Depression, FDR (the only 3 term president ever) made the famous statement "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Today messages bombard us from every direction telling us to be afraid, but I contend that FDR's message is still true.

Ninety-nine percent of the violence in America today is on television. It's not real, folks! Real people have a very difficult time looking a stranger in the eye and hurting him in any way. In fact, most real people will go out of their way, at least occasionally, to help a complete stranger. I can testify because I've often been that stranger. My gratitude abides.

Why would TV producers want us to be afraid? Is it a deep, dark conspiracy? I don't think so. TV and filmmakers will talk about audience demand for the visceral thrills of violence. Pressed a little harder they may admit the truth about what advertisers will pay for. It's a complex system fueled by expensive psychological research. The fact is, commercial media exists to sell stuff, and FEAR SELLS.

People who are afraid will buy more because they don't trust neighbors enough to share. Stuff doesn't satisfy them like the ads implied, so they buy more stuff. Then they need security systems to protect their stuff from the people they fear. Soon they're walled into private enclaves with lots of material goods and few trusted friends. Sound familiar?

Let's not let the politicians off the hook. Too often their messages are laced with fearful stuff about criminals and terrorists. They justify bigger defense budgets, more military training for cops, additional prisons, and more restrictions on civil liberties. It's not hard to see who profits from these decisions. Today the prison-industrial complex is beginning to rival the military-industrial complex for sucking down tax dollars.

The rate of violent crime in the USA has been going down for the last few decades, in spite of prisons that seem designed to insure the continued separation of the criminal class that justifies their existence. Most of the violence is domestic and a huge piece of that perpetrated by soldiers and others who've been taught by their government to use violence to solve their problems. It's a self-perpetuating cycle of violence.

Why do you suppose politicians are now debating torture? It's been against the Constitution since 1791 (8th Amendment) and violates several treaties. There is no legal question about torture. The US Army has been teaching dictatorships to use torture for decades (, but this administration is the first to suggest it may be okay for agents of our government to torture our own citizens.

Let's remember the reason torture is practiced. It does not help obtain useful information. A torture victim will say anything, regardless of truth, to stop the torture. Torture may be used for vengeance against enemies, but the reason to use it is to frighten people from resisting authority. In fact, you don't often need to torture anybody, as long as potential resisters think you will. Now why are our politicians debating torture?

So what are you afraid of, besides your own government?

Poverty? Having been there most of my life, I can assure you it's not so bad. Frankly, most Americans could benefit physically from a little less comfort. When you stop working so hard to keep up with the imaginary Jones, you find lots of time to sing, dance, and laugh with others who've decided to stop being afraid.

The Unknown? Whatever happens when you die is gonna happen eventually. All you can do right now is be the best person you can be. That doesn't mean obeying the imaginary authoritarian father, it means being the nice person you naturally are and accepting the voluntary kindness of others.

Being weird? C'mon, admit it. Hard as you've tried, you've always been weird. Welcome to humanity. We all are.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Those poor saps! You know who I mean, the muscle-heads. The lower middle class Americans who spend more money on their cars than on their houses. This budget analysis often holds true even after they extend their credit on a mortgage they can't afford.

What are they gonna do when gas hits $10/gallon? Anybody who has laid the Hubbard curve of oil supply against the demand cure driven by Chinese and Indian oil use can see the inevitable crunch. You can pray for a techno-fix, but bio-fuels will only put a minor dent in the problem. Americans are about to loose their cars.

I could go off on a rant about the economic consequences of a debt driven nation that doesn't produce what it consumes, but I want to get back to Bubba. Let me just warn that when the Saudi oil field collapses and the Chinese decide to stop loaning money to their best customer so they can consume their own products, the free ride is over. Hyper-inflation and depression will arrive together.

Meanwhile, the muscle-head is busy beating his wife and kids because his family's proudest achievement has been collecting PTSD for generations. When the shit hits the fan, who do you think Fox News will tell him to blame?

Even though the demographics behind this article are accurate, the stereotype is not. Because there's been a healing transformation taking place. People who've been exposed to violence are learning that peaceful conflict resolution works better. Compassionate communication is taking hold for purely practical reasons. Bubba is not so dumb and peace feels better.

We've still got our work cut out for us. To some degree, we all feed the muscle-head demographics. I'm in debt. You burn too much oil. We all get frustrated and forget to respect each other's autonomy. To complete the transformation, we've got to love the muscle-head without accepting muscle-headed behavior.

It seems Bubba is also a pretty good bike mechanic. He remembers Gramma's garden and canning secrets. Perhaps he even had the wisdom to put in some fruit and nut trees. In his heart, he's trying to love his neighbors. He's not gonna let anybody starve.

Reassure him as the American dream unravels. Get him to look away from the TV and into your eyes. Help him to trust other people and fear only the greedy voice that calls him to make somebody his enemy. We're all in this together and we'll need Bubba to make it through.

Monday, November 12, 2007


The USA is governed by the best politicians that money can buy. The sad thing is that few of them even realize they've been bought. It takes some deep analysis to realize how intricate a system we have, where everybody believes he's doing the right thing and collectively we do such horrid wrongs.

For starters College Economics 101 teaches that capitalism rewards ingenuity and intelligence. And too few history courses point out that it has also rewarded thieves and thugs. Thomas Paine made this point well. The accumulation of wealth has legitimized organized criminals in many instances.

But most ambitious young politicians don't have time for such analysis. They buy the popular myth that rich people deserve a better life. Obviously, part of that is access to politicians. And the perks of rubbing elbows with the wealthy are obvious.

Very few votes are bought outright in DC. It's more subtle than that. There is a huge industry based in DC and extending to every state capitol and major city hall in the country. Their job is the distortion of reality to suit the needs of their clients in corporate America.

Mainstream news has always been centrally controlled, but in recent decades the entire news industry has become much more centralized. Fortunately access to media by amateur citizens has also leapt up, but politicians don't give that much credit, except when forced by well organized citizens.

So politicians live in a different world than the rest of us. They believe their understanding of the world is superior to that of most of their constituents, especially if they have access to state secrets. Oh, any politician may resist the elite view on any particular issue, but they meanwhile buy into the big picture.

They also get distracted by "housekeeping." So while the administration was shredding the Bill of Rights, they had protracted discussions about DC cab rates. Congress is, after all, the City Council of the District of Columbia.

How do we get out of this mess? First by supporting those few brave candidates, like Dennis Kucinich, who resist all corporate influence. Then we must build a multiparty democracy from the grassroots. It starts by organizing your closest neighbors. Then we restructure local government, using tools like free media for candidates who qualify by collecting signatures.

Let's work toward living in global villages, each sustainable in locally appropriate ways and linked by a common vision of a world that works. For more big picture ideas, please read Vernon: Proposed Constitution of North America in this blog.