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Offline knarf

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‘Very sorry’: Kim Jong Un apologises for killing of South Korean
« Reply #17130 on: September 25, 2020, 05:19:15 PM »
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NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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Preventing The Unraveling Of America: A New All Inclusive Digital Society...
« Reply #17131 on: September 26, 2020, 08:26:24 AM »
Roadmap With US Sustainable Development Goals

The Depression, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, the Oil Crisis, the end of the Cold War and 9/11 were all seen as writing on the wall of US decline. As I mentioned recently in The Hill, “ yet, despite economic ruin, digital innovators have arisen, leveraging this chaotic time of reinvention in order to develop novel solutions and technologies to fight back, repair and uplift the American spirit –– to keep the dreams that built this nation alive.” The US often has been counted out, but our resilience is always shown in how we come back.

It was recently written in Rollingstone Magazine that America is unraveling. For the first time in our history, the rest of the world pities us. Are we at the end of American superiority? Are we destroying ourselves from within? Consider that presently close to 20% of US families cannot afford to give their children enough food. Then consider that nearly 31% of Americans suffer from energy insecurity.

Is this the last gasp of an era long expired and in need of rebirth?

I say it is fully within our grasp to end the unraveling of the American way of life and move this country to finally fulfill its true potential as the beacon of light to the rest of the world. We need to have a society that works for all, not just few, and we have to put in the hard work.

The Adaptation to the Digital Future

The United States is failing to adapt to the transformative shift of a digital world. This is shown in the fact that it is estimated that almost 40 million people in the United States still lack access to high-speed broadband. Unfortunately, if this lack of foresight continues we will be alongside many other countries that are merely surviving, and will eventually fade off into irrelevance on the world stage.
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There is hope and a roadmap out there, but we must act now as a country. We can look to the private sector for a clear example of how to leverage digitalization to the benefit of the nation.

Digitalization was already an unstoppable tool for rapid scaling and increased profitability before the Coronavirus pandemic. Within the short economic time of a few decades, the companies with the largest market capitalization went from a broad mix of technology, energy and retail companies (Microsoft, GE, Cisco, Exxon, Walmart, etc., in 1999) to all digitally-driven firms (Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, etc. in 2020). Year-on-year profits of companies that embraced 1s and 0s quickly surpassed those of more traditional brick and mortar companies.

The Coronavirus pandemic shifted this digital imperative into an even higher gear. As eloquently stated in April 2020 by Satya Nadella (CEO, Microsoft), “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” Suddenly, most professional workers went fully online, either out of choice or corporate mandate. Google, Apple, Facebook and others all now mandate or offer the option for work from home (WFH) through at least July 2021. WFH for many such employees may continue forever. Substantial stock price increases in 2020 have been realized by firms that quickly amplified their existing or pivoted to new digital offerings.

We must as a nation set reasonable, attainable and trackable goals toward near complete digitalization. The private sector sets a clear example of why the digital economy is critical, but where do we look for the how?

The United Nations shows us how to set Sustainable Development Goals for Digitization

Digitalization alone cannot prevent the decline of American society, but together with the right goals it can help in the context of comprehensive policy guidance. The UN has laid out simple, common sense goals, in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United States could model and deploy. Goals like zero hunger, zero poverty, quality education and clean water are set with actionable steps towards their accomplishment. How do we effectively complement these goals with digitalization to show the United States is a true partner once again with the rest of the world?

Recently, I spoke with Dr. Thomas Campbell, Founder and CEO of FutureGrasp and the former first National Intelligence Officer for Technology within the National Intelligence Council in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He suggested, “The US Government could create a US-focused list of core goals to span Administrations and catalyze a whole-of-government approach to boost the US economy, ensure national security and raise the overall standard of living for US citizens. We could create and execute a United States version of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

The 17 SDGs drive how the United Nations addresses the world’s most complex problems, such as poverty, hunger, health, water and inequality. Each SDG has its own roadmap, with the culminating goal to achieve all of them by 2030. Digitalization could be interwoven into each of the new US SDGs to facilitate them. A US set of SDGs could be a driving force toward a full roadmap to prevent the unraveling of America.

Choose the SDGs we want to align with

The goals already exist in the UN’s framework. We just need to first decide which ones best align with our own and then find a way to use our advanced technology and skills to move them closer to the finish line, thus helping ourselves and all of the world simultaneously.

Which 5-10 goals most closely align with what we in America are currently striving to accomplish? Earlier I mentioned that close to 20% of US families cannot afford to give their children enough food and that nearly 33% of Americans have energy insecurity. Start there and build out. The more people we pull from poverty and the brink of complete destitution the stronger we as a county and as a world power will become.

Suggested SDG Goals for United States


    Zero Hunger
    Affordable and Clean Energy
    Good Health & Well-Being
    Decent Work and Economic Growth
    Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Proven SDG solutions that are already deployed in US

The Zero Hunger goal is seeking to eradicate all forms of hunger by 2030. This includes bringing more sustainable food production systems and technologies into the fold, doubling the output and income of small-scale food producers and ensuring there is sufficient genetic diversity preserved in staple crop seeds.

Here in the U.S. General Mills is aligned already through their series of initiatives involving expanding access to food, working closely with schools in eradicating hunger at the local level and working towards eliminating food waste. Think here, how can the United States as whole use AI to augment the efforts of companies like General Mills?

Affordable & Clean Energy: 13 percent of the world population does not have access to modern electricity. Another 3 billion rely on resources such as wood and coal to cook and heat their homes, which produce harmful airborne pollutants. The Affordable and Clean Energy goal is designed to create access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.

In the U.S. Seneca Meadows Landfill Gas is working towards reducing the environmental impact of a landfill site through methane capture, electricity generation and wetland enhancement. Other such projects with similar goals and foresight need to be propped up and touted by the public and private sectors alike through funding and access to AI technology to streamline and hasten their achievement.

The Good Health and Well-Being: One portion of this goal focuses on reducing numbers to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 births by 2030, in addition to putting an end to all preventable deaths due to disease.

In the U.S. in New York The Founder Institute  founded Kindara, a fertility and digital health company, which was launched to make a difference in the lives of women. They state “Our personal sensor combines rigorous science with cutting-edge technology to quantify the body’s most important physiologic parameter,” explains Dr. Lauren Costantini, Ph.D., Prima-Temp’s CEO. “Priya will allow women to take charge of their fertility with less effort and greater confidence.”

Decent Work & Economic Growth: The way people work is changing, with massive amounts of folks now working from home and the fact that AI and other technologies will replace many existing jobs over the next decade we need to focus on the future of work. The Decent Work and Economic Growth goal is designed to foster sustainable and equitable economic growth for all workers. This is a mission of paramount importance in the United States. With millions of baby boomers leaving the workforce every year we need to find a way through technology, digitization and innovation to ready the next generations to fill those gaps and move the US as a whole forward. 

BASF was actively involved in the development of the SDGs. Per their internal statements “We carry out our corporate purpose, “We create chemistry for a sustainable future,” by pursuing ambitious goals along our entire value chain. In this way, we aim to achieve profitable growth and take on social and environmental responsibility. We are focusing on issues through which we as a company can make a significant contribution”

Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure:  This SDG is designed to build a resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation across the globe. The key emphasis is on developing reliable and sustainable infrastructural solutions that support economic development as well as human well being, while also ensuring financial affordability. This goal’s impact can already be seen in Los Angeles where the city has mapped its policy initiatives to support the SDGs and the City’s efforts to expand shelters, housing and services for the homeless and to provide equal economic opportunities for women and girls. By creating this housing infrastructure the city is helping uplift often overlooked segments of the population. Thus, bringing more people into a stable environment allowing them to be more involved and productive citizens. Cities like Los Angeles need to engage their local innovation hubs to work in partnership to rapidly approach the attainment of the SDGs they choose to pursue.

Steps to implement SDGs for the United States

Implementing a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the United States will require whole-of-government and whole-of-society combined approaches. As SDGs are inherently overarching, interconnected and cut across all aspects of society and the economy, only a fully engaged effort by the US Government in partnership with the private sector will enable them to be achieved.

The US Government Must Lead

It will be critical to engage the White House and Congress to pass legislation and allocate funding toward achieving the SDGs. Baseline assessments like the ‘Facts’ per SDG noted by the United Nations for the world will be needed across all SDGs of their statistical and economic statuses relevant to the United States. Agencies as diverse as the Department of Commerce, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Energy (DOE) and others will need to create multi-stakeholder detailed plans on how they will achieve each SDG within a concrete timeframe, e.g.,by 2030. Sub-agencies should then be tasked for each SDG sub-goal. Senior policymakers should monitor progress and adjust as needed to fund and allocate resources.

The Private Sector Must Lean In

Every American knows that we cannot rely on our government alone to solve our problems. From the private sector we must create a consortium of a full spectrum of investors, corporations, startups and NGOs. This is necessary to catalyze new innovations to support US Government efforts. Investments by private equity and venture capital should stimulate companies to develop new technological capabilities to accelerate SDG sub-goal achievements. Large corporations should work closely with the US Government under major contracts to tackle the SDGs themselves. Close collaboration within the consortium will be necessary. Federal stimulus packages from the US Government may be required.

The Time to Act is Now

It is time for the US Government, our corporate leaders, those in private equity and VCs to work together now to aid in organization, funding, execution and achievement of a set of SDGs for the United States. If we all pull in the same direction there is no limit on what we can accomplish. The economy could grow to heights never seen in human history benefiting every American. With fewer people impoverished, hungry and destitute our crime rates could plummet. By helping the rest of the globe achieve these same goals, our threats from abroad could dissipate to their lowest levels ever. We would put the United States at the forefront of innovation and leadership as we once were. We must act now as time is running out, or the America we once knew and were proud to call our home will continue to unravel.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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Americans Give the News Media a Roadmap for Restoring Trust
« Reply #17132 on: September 26, 2020, 08:59:27 AM »

The Pew Research Center conducted a year-long study examining Americans’ views on the news media. Pew found that less than half of Americans have confidence that journalists act in the best interest of the public, but also that viewers are open to the possibility that the media could win back their trust.

However, a majority don’t seem bothered by this fact. A full 63% believe it is better for the public to be skeptical of the news media. Seventy-five percent say there are things media companies can do to improve confidence in them. The list of specific items on which the respondents want more information from media outlets is pretty interesting:

A full 80% of participants feel that corporate interests influence the news in some way. Another real issue is corrections. Most Americans, 69%, believe news outlets try to cover up mistakes when they do happen. Making corrections more visible and complete may help build more confidence in the news media.

Fifty-one percent say seeing these corrections increases their confidence in a news outlet. A large share of respondents, 63%, say they have not seen one in the last several months. As is often noted, an initial story may get a high number of shares and retweets on social media platforms. The correction only receives a small fraction of the amplification.

Media companies could figure out a better way to communicate when they have made a mistake. Unfortunately, Americans say the most likely reason for an error is carelessness. Taking more care to accurately and widely communicate when corrections are necessary may improve this perception.

While Americans acknowledge that they partake in a different media diet based on their political perspectives, this survey gives a different perspective. While they would like to feel a personal connection to their news sources, most do not. This fact could be a result of the concentration of national news organizations in Washington, D.C., and New York City. These responses have a “you just don’t get me” vibe:

The most important factor for Americans in choosing a news outlet is the journalists’ demeanor. They prefer ones that seem friendly and warm. A close second is whether the outlet shares their views. This preference may be a function of the confusion over whether the commentary is factual or opinion. This distinction is often fuzzy, especially in a 24-hour cable news cycle reinforced by social media:

It is not surprising that many of the responses in the study show sharp, partisan divides. This split is especially true in the age of Trump:

    A major takeaway of the first phase of this yearlong study was that partisan dynamics are the strongest factor in Americans’ trust in the news media and other related concepts. The findings here reinforce that conclusion: Republicans, and especially strong Trump supporters, consistently express more negative sentiments about the news media.

    There are a few places, though, where there is somewhat more agreement, including opinions about whether the news media should be approached with skepticism, perceptions of whether confidence in the institution can increase, and important factors that draw people to their key sources of news.

Participants were asked to evaluate the media in five specific dimensions. Republicans are less likely to express positive views on all five dimensions than Democrats. GOP respondents also attribute mistakes to malice and lack of care at much higher rates:

This difference is magnified when support for President Trump is taken into consideration. A full 61% of those who strongly approve of the president expect the news they get will be mostly inaccurate. This view contrasts with Democrats who strongly disapprove of Trump. More than three quarters (78%) of these respondents expect the news they receive to be generally accurate. As commentator Scott Adams often points out, partisan Americans are watching two different movies on the same screen.

The Pew researchers also note this finding is consistent with other surveys:

    Previous findings from the yearlong study show the same relationship across a number of attitudes related to trust in the news media, including views of journalists’ ethics, trust in the information from national news organizations, and perceptions of the news media’s watchdog role.

There are also significant differences between age groups. Younger Americans, who get most of their news from social media, feel less connected to news sources and report being misunderstood the most:

Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to value diversity in newsrooms and value stories about people like them. On all six dimensions of what Americans find important in selecting a news outlet, white Americans score lower than either minority group:

In looking for trends that could improve confidence in the news media, transparency seems to be a consistent theme for all respondents. Diversity in perspective, age, gender, and race seem to be items that would boost loyalty and trust in a media outlet. This item might be the most critical area to work on since a full 59% of Americans think media companies don’t understand people like them.

Unfortunately, there is a profit motive for things to remain the way they are. As former executive editor for The New York Times, Jill Abramson noted:

    “Given its mostly liberal audience, there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative: they drove big traffic numbers and, despite the blip of cancellations after the election, inflated subscription orders to levels no one anticipated.”

    The Times has long faced accusations of liberal bias, even before Trump got into politics and became its harshest critic. But Abramson’s words carry special weight because she is also a former Times Washington bureau chief and Wall Street Journal correspondent specializing in investigative reporting.

Catering to a specific audience seems to be a workable profit model for many media outlets. With increasing competition from independent media companies and YouTube, finding a niche market seems to be the preferred media model.

Under these circumstances, it is good that a majority of Americans think it is a positive thing to be a media skeptic. It may mean people have to do their own homework to validate the reporting they receive. At least we have devices in our pockets that are up to the task.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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Vatican’s management culture creates tension and insecurity
« Reply #17133 on: September 26, 2020, 09:07:30 AM »

VATICAN CITY — “I had no rights,” said Eugenio Hasler, a former lay official who worked at the highest levels of the Governorate of Vatican City State, the Vatican’s principal administrative office.

A respected official, dismissed in 2017 for no formal reason after a decade of service, Hasler was allegedly let go because he called attention to alleged corruption of his superior. He was summoned to the Pope’s Santa Marta residence where the Holy Father asked him several questions before dismissing him and awarding Hasler’s superior more responsibility the following day.

“In an absolute monarchy, unfortunately, what can be done?” Hasler told the Register.

Others have received similarly abrupt treatment, including the former papal physician, Patrizio Polisca, whom Pope Francis dismissed suddenly and without reason in 2015, as well as three officials at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, let go for similarly unspecified reasons in 2017. Soon after, the Pope decided not to renew former CDF prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s five-year mandate, also without a specific motive. Cardinal Müller called both instances “unacceptable.”

Such a trend also extends to the superiors of other Vatican departments.

In July, the Register reported on how a general culture of mismanagement in the Vatican helps foster corruption, especially in the context of finances, leading to such high-profile cases as a recently-publicized mishandled London property deal.

For that article and this one, well over a dozen current and former Vatican officials were interviewed before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all spoke of an absence of a “rule of law” and accountability among some senior officials of the Roman Curia. Most of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“The behavior is not Catholic or Christian — nor even just of a human standard,” one told the Register at a café near the Vatican. The official said he knew of people who had been “dismissed and given very little notice or reason, they’re just told to go home within weeks, the best-case scenario a couple of months, and they might have worked here for eight to 10 years.”

The management culture, he and other staffers said, resembles that of a court where those who have the ears of power have the influence. Others went further, deriding it as more akin to a mafia-like environment than the Church. Some middle and lower-ranking personnel said they felt vulnerable to the whims of unscrupulous and unaccountable superiors, and unable to speak up for fear of retaliation, including probable dismissal.

Climate of Depression and Lawlessness

Many spoke of very low morale. One official who had worked in the Vatican more than 30 years said he had never experienced such poor motivation, from cardinals and bishops to the lowest officials.

A retired curial cardinal who asked not to be named told the Register Sept. 4 that the Curia is currently “characterized by a climate of depression.”

Other critics voiced their frustration over current work practices, with one source arguing that no mechanism exists to voice that frustration because “when you do, it’s ‘goodbye.’”

Many Vatican officials — both lay and clerical — continue to quietly serve the Vatican and the Church with a high degree of professionalism.

“Among the monsignori are a great number of very conscientious, pious and well-trained persons working amid circumstances that are not very simple,” the retired curial cardinal said.

But those challenging circumstances reportedly include superiors acting unjustly and as laws unto themselves.

One former official who left the Vatican three years ago explained that, in his experience, once someone powerful in the Curia hires a person, then that person’s loyalties “go to the individual, or ‘gang,’ who employed him.”

Often those employees then “take the risk in order to please those in power, even taking a bullet for them if necessary.”

As an example, the source pointed to the famous case of Paolo Gabriele, the former butler to Pope Benedict XVI found guilty of leaking classified documents from papal offices that were central to the 2012 Vatileaks scandal. After Benedict pardoned him, he was given another job but was still paid by the Vatican, working at the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome.

But such corruption and malpractice is not everywhere in the Curia and it depends on the dicastery.

“We must distinguish between those congregations that are working ordinarily and more or less producing results, and those congregations which are not governed well,” the retired curial cardinal said. As an example of a dicastery working well, he drew attention to a recent document issued by the Congregation for Clergy that promoted greater cooperation among parish communities.

Still, evidence of unaccountability and lawlessness among senior officials appears to be a serious concern, and sometimes it spills out into the public domain. In June, Cruxreported that Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta of Argentina, suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians, had returned to work at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the Vatican dicastery responsible for Vatican assets and real estate. As well as sexual misconduct allegations, Bishop Zanchetta is facing charges of defrauding the state. He is awaiting civil trial in Argentina.

Officials who spoke with the Register reiterated that such cases show how much senior officials remain untouchable.

“A Sicilian porter in one of the dicasteries used to tell my boss to be careful with those whom the porter used to refer to as ‘old lions,’” recalled a former staffer. “It was perfectly clear to this simple man that such people belonged to the boss for whom there were no rules.”

The ex-official added, “If you combine the lack of accountability and, of course, the mafia mentality and the absence of the rule of law, it’s no surprise that after two years there’s no sign of the McCarrick report” — a reference to the Vatican investigation announced in 2018 into the disgraced former archbishop of Washington, D.C., but which has yet to be published.

The former curial cardinal agreed that a mafia-like mentality “absolutely” exists, and the presence of homosexuality among clergy, some of whom also tend to operate like a mafia, seems to be is a contributing factor. Pope Francis acknowledged in 2013 the existence of a “homosexual lobby” and a “stream of corruption” in the Vatican. One source described the homosexual element as an especially “tragic aspect” and that it comprises mostly clergy but also many laypeople.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, whose battles against corruption in the Vatican as secretary general of the Governorate led him to be transferred out of the Vatican to become apostolic nuncio to the U.S. in 2011 during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, told the Register Sept. 2 that in “recent decades” the Curia has “gradually altered itself” and now shows “all the distinctive features of a criminal organization.”

“Those in charge, in the typical manner of the mafia, make use of the collaboration of corrupt and therefore blackmailable subordinates,” he said, adding that these senior officials “have every interest” in choosing subordinates who have “a reprehensible way of life” so they can be “kept in check, obey questionable orders, and be discarded without too many scruples.”

Archbishop Vigano cited the Bishop Zanchetta case as one example of many.

Culture Wars

Compounding this perception of lawlessness is how, according to many officials contacted by the Register, expressing faithfulness to Church teaching automatically increased the level of job insecurity.

“If you’ve been outspoken in the past about major cultural issues in ways that are faithful to the Church, you’re immediately labeled and in the crosshairs of senior staff,” said the official in the Vatican café. “Even if you are intelligent in your articulation you’re still going to have watch out.”

Others who have departed the Curia echoed similar concerns.

“There was a constant atmosphere of barely concealed threat,” said one, adding that “morale was rock-bottom when I left a few months ago and you would not believe the relief I feel at having gotten out.”

In addition to the alleged malpractice, spying and wiretapping allegedly remain commonplace, “from the lowest rank to the highest” according to another former staffer. It is an accusation that has been frequently made over the years and to which the Vatican has admitted. The surveillance was “terrible for productivity, as well as in terms of morale,” the source observed. “People chose not to speak on the phone, at least on landlines, as they were controlled.” These surveillance allegations came to prominence in both Vatileaks scandals in 2012 and 2015 and then later with regards to the dismissal of the Vatican’s former auditor general, Libero Milone, in 2017.

Other sources spoke of bullying and misogyny.

“The culture is toxic,” said a former official in an influential dicastery. “People are bullied, then deteriorate and leave. I’ve seen people arrive and they’re nice to begin with, then their characters become distorted.”

Various reasons are given for such problems, including moral degradation within the Church as a whole.

Pope Francis alluded to such a culture in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia in 2014 when he spoke of 15 frequent “diseases” that affected the life of the Vatican and “weaken our service to the Lord.”

Others have attributed the problems to the conflicts between “progressives” and “traditionalists” that emerged after the Second Vatican Council, each fighting for influence, although corruption, favoritism and nepotism have been an issue at the Vatican since its foundation. Still others blame the Holy Father for allowing a culture of fear and intimidation to dominate the Curia, carried out by those close to him, although even during Benedict XVI’s pontificate officials complained of an element of fear and the need for discretion in the face of some Italian officials suspicious and hostile to orthodoxy. “This is absolutely not right, it’s criminal,” said the retired curial cardinal, who added that the extent of such fears was “unprecedented” in the Vatican.

Challenges of Reform Efforts

Some sources complained that not enough headway is being made in reforming the Curia. A new constitution expected later this year may provide some necessary changes, but observers expect the reforms will only be structural.

Another former official argued that the private lives of a good number who worked there “were not consistent with their purported beliefs.” What is needed, the ex-staffer said, are people not just committed to work but to holiness, especially in the highest ranks. “I was naive entering there, but what shocked me the most was that most of the people showed no life of faith,” he said.

Broadening the backgrounds of Vatican staff and moving away from an Italian-majority Curia was cited by some of the sources, with one noting a “huge difference” in officials’ view of “what corruption means.”

The issue was raised during the process of reform under Benedict, in particular examining Italians’ cultural attitude to employment ethics, but it was abandoned, the source told the Register.

Various other suggestions on how to improve morale and improve personnel relations have been raised, including a fully independent personnel directorate. Hasler pointed out that there is the Labor Office of the Apostolic See (ULSA) responsible for employee relations with the Holy See and Vatican City State, but he said that office is not independently governed and “could do nothing” to help him.

Hasler articulated what many in the Vatican are asking for: “Real reform made to the root and not to a façade” following the pontificates of both Benedict and Francis.

Speculation has long persisted that Benedict XVI was overwhelmed by the extent of reform needed, especially after he received the famous Vatileaks dossier, which may have played into his reasons to resign. He tried to structurally reform the Curia but was unable to tackle the endemic corruption and, instead of internationalizing its staff, was accused of re-Italianizing the Curia. But he was well aware of the challenges and the fact that such corrupt practices have long existed in the Church, recalling in 2009 how in the 11th century St. Peter Damian taught that the ideal image of “Holy Church” did not correspond to the reality of his time. The saint “did not fear to denounce the state of corruption,” Benedict noted, for example when “various bishops and abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls” and their “moral life frequently left much to be desired.”

Pope Francis was elected on a mandate of curial reform following the Vatileaks scandal and other elements of curial dysfunction during Benedict’s pontificate. He has openly acknowledged the extent of the challenges he faces, quoting a 19th-century Belgian churchman in 2017 to say that reforming the Curia is “like cleaning the Sphinx of Egypt with a toothbrush.” One vision he has for reform, perhaps partly to counter accusations of misogyny in the curia, has been to include more women in senior positions, but on the whole his reforms have been viewed as decidedly lackluster with little to show for the work carried out by the Group of Nine cardinals charged with drawing up curial reform.

And despite commentators declaring Francis the first “labor pope” on account of his frequent appeals for workers’ rights and the unemployed, Vatican officials say they yet to see much evidence of such rights being implemented closer to home.

The retired curial cardinal noted that at these moments of “worldwide tension, dangers and insecurities, a rock is necessary and that has traditionally been represented by the Church, by the papacy, but now the papacy itself is involved in these changes, tensions and insecurities.”

The Register asked Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, his deputy, sostituto Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, and the Holy See Press Office if they would like to comment on these criticisms of the Curia’s management culture. Cardinal Parolin declined to answer and the others did not respond by the time this article went to press.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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The Catholic Church and the Mafia
« Reply #17134 on: September 26, 2020, 09:32:04 AM »

Pope Francis arrives for a meeting with relatives of mafia victims, in Rome’s St. Gregorio VII church, just outside the Vatican, Friday, March 21, 2014.

The relationship between the Catholic Church and the Mafia is so convoluted, fraught with stereo-types, and misperceptions that it is hard to figure out what is the truth.  Films like “The Godfather” reinforce the image of a Catholic Church that has provided collaboration and support for the Mafia, Mafia bosses who baptize their children in church, attend Mass, wear crosses and pray to the Madonna, their acts of violence intertwined with acts of faith.  This image would be offensive to families of heroic priests assassinated by the Mafia, but there is an element of truth to it.

On Friday, Pope Francis met at a church in Rome with nearly 1000 relatives of victims of the various Italian Mafia groups — the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the Naples’ area Camorra Mafia and the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta Mafia. For 40 minutes during the encounter the Pope sat and listened as the names of 842 people massacred by the Mafia were read out loud.  The Pope then had some powerful words of his own directed at members of the Mafia. He said, “The life that you are living now will not give you pleasure or joy.  The power and money you have now from dirty business, and from mafia crimes, is blood-stained money, it is blood-stained power, and you won’t be able to take it to the after world. Repent. There’s still time to not end up in Hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path.” Powerful stuff.   In 1993, Pope John Paul II also delivered an impassioned call for members of the Mafia to convert on a visit to Agrigento, Sicily.  From the pulpit he intoned:  “I say this to those responsible- Convert!!  One day the judgment of God will arrive.” Friday’s meeting with Pope Francis was organized by an Italian non-profit organization called Libera run by a priest named Don Luigi Ciotti.  Ciotti began the group in 1995 to get more civilians involved in the fight against the Mafia. Libera (check out their website) gets properties  confiscated by the government from the Mafia and turns them into profitable enterprises.  Mafia land is used to grow tomatoes, eggplants, chickpeas, wheat and grapes, to produce tomato sauce, pasta, wine and other food items; the villas of Mafia bosses are turned into stores to sell the products.  Earnings from the sales of these products goes to help victims of Mafia violence. Libera runs summer camps allowing young people to work on these properties, teaching them about the fight against the Mafia. In 2010, I went to Corleone in Sicily (yes, there really is a Corleone) to cover the inauguration of a new store for Libera products in a home once belonging to Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano,  now serving a life sentence in a high-security prison.  In Corleone I had the opportunity to interview Don Ciotti and was impressed by his simplicity, sincerity, humility and determination. (Unfortunately back then I didn’t have a blog so I don’t have as detailed a recounting of my trip and reporting).

For the prayer vigil on Friday Don Ciotti placed around the Pope’s neck the stole worn by Don Peppino Diana, a priest from Casal Del Principe, near Naples, who, on March 19, 1994, was peppered with bullets by Camorra hit men as he prepared for Mass in his church.  Don Peppino Diana was famous for his phrase, “for the love of my people I will not remain silent.”  His fight against the Camorra was detailed in Italian author Roberto Saviano’s brilliant book “Gomorrah, Italy’s Other Mafia.”  What I find particularly fascinating is the way Saviano describes how the Camorra felt they needed to remove Don Peppino Diana because he questioned their use of the Catholic church and its traditions to serve their goals.

Let me quote Saviano: “Don Peppino started to question the bosses’ religious beliefs, to deny explicitly that there could be any harmony between the Christian creed and the business, political and military power of the clans.  In the land of the Camorra, the Christian message is not considered contradictory to Camorra activities: if the clan acts for the good of all its affiliates, the organization is seen as respecting and pursing the Christian good. The killing of enemies and traitors is seen as a necessary, legitimate transgression; by the bosses’ reasoning, the command “Thou Shalt Not Kill” inscribed on Moses’ tablets may be suspended if the homicide occurs for a higher motive, namely the safeguarding of the clan, the interests of its managers, or the good of the group, and therefore of everyone. Killing is a sin that Christ will understand and forgive in the name of necessity.” “Religion is a constant point of reference for the Camorra, not merely as a propitiatory gesture of a cultural relic, but a spiritual force that determines the most intimate decisions. Camorra families, especially the most charismatic bosses, often consider their own actions as Calvary, their own conscience bearing the pain and weight of sin for the well-being of the group and men they rule.”

“When Vincenzo Lubrano (a Camorra boss) was acquitted, he organized a pilgrimage –several busloads of faithful– to San Giovanni Rotondo to give thanks to Padre Pio, who, he believed, was responsible for his absolution.  Life-size statues of Padre Pio and terracotta or bronze copies of the open-armed Christ on Pao de Acucar in Rio de Janeiro can be found in the villa of many a Camorra boss.  In the drug-warehouse laboratories in Scampia, bricks of hashish are often cut thirty-three at a time–like Christ’s age.  Then they halt work for thirty-three minutes, make the sign of the cross, and start up again.  A way to propitiate Christ and receive earnings and tranquility.  The same happens with packets of cocaine, often before they are distributed to pushers, the neighborhood capo blesses them with holy water from Lourdes in the hopes that they don’t kill anyone, especially because he would have to answer personally for the poor quality of the stuff.” “Camorra power does not involve only the flesh, nor does it merely own everyone’s life.  It also lays claim to souls. Don Peppino wanted to bring some clarity to words, meanings and values.”  from “Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia” by Roberto Saviano.  Note: Saviano now lives under police protection because of the death threats he has received from the Camorra. These images of the Camorra, described so well by Saviano, match “The Godfather” film’s scenes showing Mafia boss Michael Corleone baptizing his child, or confessing to a priest.  Again, acts of violence intertwined with acts of faith. Just as at the bottom level where the workers are preparing the 33 packets of hashish, the Catholic church has allegedly also been used at the top level to launder Mafia money.  According to Maria Antoinetta Calabro’ in her book “Le Mani Della Mafia”  (The Hands of the Mafia), for decades the  Sicilian Mafia and its American counterparts used the Vatican bank, known as IOR (Institute for Religious Works) to launder its money.

Her book begins with her investigation into the death of Roberto Calvi, a banker known as “God’s Banker” for his close ties to the Vatican bank – found handing under the Blackfriar’s Bridge in London in 1982, and moves through the investigations leading from that death to the conclusion that the Corleone Clan of the Sicilian Mafia was laundering its money through the Vatican bank. Her book is so detailed, flush with legal documents, citations from prosecutors and investigators that it impossible for me to find a quote that sums it up simply for this post. In 2011, the Vatican bank, under Benedict XVI began the process of joining Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s organization that monitors money laundering and terrorist financing.  The bank has closed down suspicious accounts and in July 2012 passed its first “transparency” test for Moneyval.  Under Pope Francis, it is assumed, that the clean-up of the Vatican bank will be completed. Last fall anti-Mafia prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri, from the Calabria region in Southern Italy said that Pope Francis’ reforms of the church were making the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia “nervous,” Gratteri made these comments in an interview with an Italian newspaper in which he said that the Pope was “breaking down the center of economic power in the Vatican.” “Those who have been nourished by the power and wealth that is directly derived from the church are nervous and agitated,” Gratteri told the paper adding, that he was not aware about a specific plan to target the Pope “but certainly they’re thinking about it. He could be a threat.” Gratteri made those comments at the time he was releasing a new book,  “Holy Water”, written with Italian journalist Nicola Nicaso.  The two recounted the practices of the powerful ‘Ndrangheta Mafia based in Calabria, the toe of the boot of Italy.  According to the authors, many of the local priests and bishops over the years have accepted the presence and the influence of the ‘Ndrangheta and few have had the courage to stand up to organized crime.  The authors noted the ‘Ndrangheta copies Catholic liturgical tradition in their initiation ceremonies, and use religious holidays and Catholic symbols to reinforce their power.

Following the meeting with the Pope on Friday,  Don Luigi Ciotti of Libera and the relatives of the nearly 900 victims of the Mafia took part in a demonstration with tens of thousands of people demanding justice and truth for those killed by the Mafia.  On the words of Pope Francis, Ciotti said, “They were very clear, decisive, and determined.  With these words we can see an historic cultural passage, a clear cut between the mafia and the Church.”  But he also added “We have to go beyond our barriers and Pope Francis has indicated the way.  For example, the fight against the mafia cannot be a rhetorical exercise.”
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Australia’s Trample on the Seal of Confession
« Reply #17135 on: September 26, 2020, 09:34:27 AM »

The Legislative Assembly of Queensland in Australia passed a long-debated bill that requires priests to break the seal of confession in order to report the sexual abuse of children, whether reported or known, to authorities on Tuesday.

Queensland Justice Minister Yvette D’Ath lauded the bill’s passing, saying that the new laws “…create a new offence of failing to report and failing to protect a child from institutional child sexual abuse”. She clarified the bill’s wide-reaching effects, pressing that “the new laws also clarify that priests will not be able to rely on the seal of confession to avoid the reporting of abuse”. Priests that fail to report suspected or known cases of child abuse may be punished in prison for up to 3 years.

Controversy with the Catholic Church and the confessional seal’s role in law is not new. The conflict between secular leaders and the canon law of the Church is the main issue, and it has afflicted Australia as the country tries to find effective solutions to crises of sexual abuse among children among institutions.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, published in 2017, recommended in Recommendation 7.4 that those involved in religious ministry should not be exempt from mandatory reporting laws if they hear disclosed information in a religious confession. The response from Catholic bishops and ordinary priests in Australia has been less than welcoming of these proposals.

In a statement released in 2018 by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the clergy reaffirmed the totality of the seal of confession: “Regarding the issue of the seal of confession, the Catholic Church does not view the sacramental seal as incompatible with maintaining child safety. The Church wants measures that will genuinely make environments safer for children. There has been no compelling evidence to suggest that legal abolition of the seal of confession will help in that regard”.

Last week, the A.C.B.C. communicated to the government of Australia that they would, in accordance with the Holy See, work diligently with civil authorities to implement policies preventing sexual abuse, but the bishops did not hesitate to stamp out the possibility of breaking the seal of confession. The letter talks about confessors encouraging the penitents to turn themselves in and seek psychiatric help while still keeping the disclosed information completely confidential; however, that seemed insufficient to Queensland’s legislators.

All clergy are ordained to Holy Orders as leaders and followers of Christ, blessed with courage from the Holy Spirit, and they are meant to be loyal to the teachings of Christ and the Church. This doesn’t mean that disobeying civil authorities, secular or religious, is justified in all cases, but this courage does allow clergy to disobey laws that are immoral in the sense that they mandate sin and ecclesial disloyalty among those ordained to be Christian leaders. As St. Paul and ten other apostles were executed by authorities for their steadfast preaching of the Gospel, many priests in history have voluntarily faced death, imprisonment, or another civil punishment for upholding the seal of confession.

Canon 983 §1 mandates that the seal of confession is ‘inviolable’, forbidding the betrayal of penitents’ disclosure by their confessors. Can. 984 §1 completely prohibits confessors from using revealed information to the detriment of the penitents.

Punishing priests for not reporting information disclosed in the confessional is one option for the confessors, the other being excommunication that only the Pope can lift. Mandatory reporting laws in religious ministry are usually good and effective at preventing future sexual abuse, but there is no legal basis to force clergy to violate canon law.

Because of canon law, this law should be disobeyed by any cleric wishing to remain loyal to the Church. Because of other reasons, this law should be heavily scrutinized, and it has rightfully faced criticism. The main concern is if it will be effective at preventing sexual abuse cases in the future and allowing for previous cases to be reported. This policy could very well make pedophiles more secretive and less likely to seek help and reconciliation.

A confessor can legally recommend that the penitent turn him or herself into the police and/or to seek psychological help, but there would likely be ethical issues with making this necessary for absolution. Ideally, pedophiles would turn themselves into local authorities, face punishment for their wicked crimes and seek reconciliation with God and themselves, looking towards a reform as a better person. A pedophile can admit with confidentiality to the priest in persona Christi that he/she has egregiously sinned, moving them away from their sins and towards the justice and mercy of God.

A confessor’s role is to forgive sins and to move the penitent towards real amendment in their ways; what exactly does this law accomplish if not moving away from that intended role? If pedophiles cannot enter a confessional without fear, they cannot be truly contrite of heart and cannot effectively reform their lives towards the good. Confessors recommending that the penitent turn themselves into the authorities can help prevent future cases, after all.

Australia’s mandatory reporting laws are not federal, but decentralized to the individual states. Queensland’s effort, in coordination with other states, to prevent additional sexual crimes through these laws is noble, of course, and having these laws apply to religious ministry is good, but a government who blatantly disregards the religious parallel to the attorney-client privilege with no signs of bringing about real change is one worth disobeying.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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    James Altman of St. James the Less Roman Catholic Church in La Crosse said, in a message since viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube, that those who back the Democrats should repent or “face the fires of hell.”

    He referenced “godless politicians” and said the Catholic church is a “moral power,” which justified him commenting upon political issues if lawmakers acted in an “immoral way.”

    “You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period. Their party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic church teaches,” he said.

    He went on to refer to issues such as abortion, claiming “aborted babies” would bar the entrance of Democrats to heaven.

    – Jacob Jarvis, Newsweek

I was all set to make a well-researched and impassioned plea championing the separation of Church and State and its importance to the continued survival of American democracy. Turns out that’s a lot of damned work when all I really need to do is to use the current argument over replacing the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as an example. The woman who appears to be the leading contender, Amy Coney Barrett, is a darling of Evangelical Christians for her strong Christian faith, her belief that women should defer to their husbands, and her implacable opposition to abortion rights.

Remember the days when we at least made a show of believing in impartial justice? Yeah, that was never really the case, was it?

For years now, Conservatives have railed against Liberal activists on the federal bench, when that was really just a smokescreen for their desire to create a judicial environment in which CONSERVATIVE activism becomes the norm. Whether it’s Evangelicals or Radical Conservative Catholics, there’s a cohort of religious extremists in America who have no problem with the idea of tearing down the wall separating Church from State. I don’t believe it’s hyperbole to say that we’re one Presidential election away from seeing America turned into a carbon copy of Gideon from “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

When you hear someone saying “You cannot be a Catholic and be a Democrat” or the equivalent of “God is a Republican,” just know that you’re being fed a load of B.S. that has no basis in Christianity or in reality. It’s not about the Gospel of Jesus Christ; it’s about political power and destroying the vision of the secular system of governance envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Period.

That’s not alarmist. It’s not hyperbole. It’s not me yelling about how the sky is falling. This is real…and we’re closer to America becoming a Westernized version of Iran or Saudi Arabia than you know.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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If Barrett joins, Supreme Court would have six Catholics
« Reply #17137 on: September 26, 2020, 09:51:26 AM »
Roman Catholics account for a bit more than 20% of the U.S. population, yet they are on track to hold six of the Supreme Court’s nine seats now that President Donald Trump is expected to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to fill its vacancy.

It’s a striking development given that the high court, for most of its history, was almost entirely populated by white male Protestants. Catholic academics and political analysts offer several explanations for the turnaround – related to Catholics’ educational traditions, their interest in the law, and – in the case of Catholic conservatives – an outlook that has appealed to recent Republican presidents filling judicial vacancies.

Barrett, a favorite of conservative activists for her views on abortion and other issues, will likely be an ideological opposite of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Jewish justice whose recent death created the vacancy.

Margaret McGuinness, a professor of religion at La Salle University in Philadelphia, noted that Sonia Sotomayor is the only current Catholic justice appointed by a Democrat. The others — Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh and likely Barrett – were appointed by Republicans.

“They were appointed because they were conservative, not because they were Catholic,” said McGuinness. She said Republicans sought nominees who’d be part of an effort to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a nationwide right to abortion.

Catholics also are well-represented in Congress — holding just over 30% of the seats. Yet there's still been only one Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. Trump's Democratic rival, Joe Biden, would be the second if he wins.

Charles Camosy, a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University, suggested that education was a factor in the high proportion of Catholic justices.

“For many decades in the United States, Catholic schools were a much better option for serious students than were public schools, and in many cases still are,” he said. “It is possible that this accounts for a disproportionate number of Catholics getting into very good colleges and then into very good law schools.”

Camosy also observed that the Catholic population in the U.S. “is wildly, almost impossibly diverse.”

“Catholics find themselves on the far left, on the far right, and everywhere else,” he said. “No one should worry that Catholics on the Supreme Court will all agree with each other about matters of legal interpretation.”

He cited Sotomayor, with liberal views, and Thomas, a staunch conservative, as examples.

Roger Taney was the first Catholic to serve on the court when he became chief justice in 1836. He subsequently became infamous for authoring the Dred Scott decision in 1857 that upheld the institution of slavery and ruled that African Americans could not be U.S. citizens.

There was a so-called Catholic seat on the court for several decades in the 20th century. But until the late 1980s, no more than two Catholic justices had ever served together.

Seven of the eight Republican appointees since 1986 have been Catholic or, like Neil Gorsuch, were raised Catholic. Gorsuch now attends a Protestant church; his Catholic mother, the late Anne Gorsuch Burford, was a militantly anti-abortion legislator in Colorado before joining the Reagan administration in 1981 to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

There has been a majority of Catholic justices on the Supreme Court since Alito joined in 2006.

Sotomayor is the only Democratic nominee in that period who is Catholic. The other three -- Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan -- have been Jewish.

John Gehring, Catholic program director at the Washington-based clergy network Faith in Public Life, said Catholics are major players in the conservative legal movement who invest in law schools and in well-funded networks that often serve as pipelines to high-profile judicial appointments.

“The Catholic intellectual tradition has produced giants of liberal thought as well, but in recent decades the right has done a better job building institutions that nurture pathways to power,” Gehring said via email.

“The problem is not how many justices are Catholic,” he added. “The cause for alarm is the court’s ideological lurch to the right, and what that means for health care, voting rights and other moral issues at stake in this election.”

Thomas Groome, a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, suggested the high percentage of Catholic justices was coincidental.

“I don’t think there’s any scheme or plot to bring Catholics to the Supreme Court,” he said. “Catholics are now mainstream in the life of American culture, and they have the resources to get the kind of education and opportunities that are needed if one is going to rise that high.”

Referring to the high court’s six conservatives, Groome said he preferred the term “traditionalist” and expressed his wish that they would not overturn the health care plan implemented by President Barack Obama.

“If they are Catholic in the tradition of Pope Francis or Jesus of Nazareth, the last thing in the world they should do is vote against the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

In 2017, in Senate hearings on her nomination to a federal appeals court, Barrett underwent some aggressive questioning about whether her Catholic faith would cloud her legal judgments.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who seeks to combat perceived anti-Catholic bias, says similar questioning is unlikely this time around.

“That’s because those who made those remarks paid a heavy price for doing so,” he wrote on his group’s website.

Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, acting president of Catholics for Choice, said she remained concerned.

“As Catholics, certainly our faith helps us to form our conscience and our ideas and how we live our faith," she said. "But our religious beliefs should never be a substitute for impartial jurisprudence.”
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Kanye West Told Chris Rock Pootie Tang Is the Most Important Film of the 20th Century
« Reply #17138 on: September 26, 2020, 06:41:19 PM »
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NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There.
« Reply #17139 on: September 27, 2020, 05:13:32 AM »
How life goes on, surrounded by death

Kilinochchi, 2010. Doesn’t look like this now.

I lived through the end of a civil war. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner.

If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

What Life Was Like For Me

I was looking through some old photos for this article and the mix is shocking to me now. Almost offensive. There’s a burnt body in front of my office. Then I’m playing Scrabble with friends. There’s bomb smoke rising in front of the mall. Then I’m at a concert. There’s a long line for gas. Then I’m at a nightclub. This is all within two weeks.

Today I’m like, ‘did we live like this?’ But we did. I mean, I did. Was I a rich Colombo fuckboi while poorer people died? Well, yes. I wrote about it, but who cares.

The real question is, who are you? I mean, you’re reading this. You have the leisure to ponder American collapse like it’s even a question. The people really experiencing it already know.

So I’m telling you, as someone who’s been there, in similar shoes to yours; this is it. America has already collapsed. What you’re feeling is exactly how it feels. It’s Saturday and you’re thinking about food while the world is on fire. This is normal. This is life during collapse. Just read what it says on the tin:

    LIFE! Now with 20% MORE DEATH!

Collapse does not mean you’re personally dying right now. It means y’all are dying right now. Death is sometimes close, sometimes far away, but always there. Usually for someone else, but someday, randomly, for you. I used to judge those herds of gazelle when the lion just eats one of them alive and everyone keeps going but, no, humans are just like that. That’s the real meaning of herd immunity. We’re immune to fundamentally giving a shit.

It honestly becomes mundane (for the privileged). As Colombo kids we used to go out, worry about money, fall in love — it all went on. We’d pop the trunk for a bomb check. Turn off our lights for the air raids. I’m not saying that we were untouched. My friend’s dad was killed, just gone with a land mine. RIP Uncle Nihal. I know people who were beaten, arrested, went into exile. But that’s not what my photostream looks like. It was mostly food and parties and normal stuff for a dumb 20-something.

If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like ‘this is it’, I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says ‘things are officially bad’. There’s no launch party for decay. It’s just a pileup of outrages and atrocities in between friendships and weddings and perhaps an unusual amount of alcohol.

Perhaps you’re waiting for some moment when the adrenaline kicks in and you’re fighting the virus or fascism all the time, but it’s not like that. Life is not a movie, and if it was, you’re certainly not the star. You’re just an extra. If something good or bad happens to you it’ll be random and no one will care. If you’re unlucky you’re a statistic. If you’re lucky, no one notices you at all.

Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else. That’s all it is.
One Ordinary Day

One day, I was at work when someone left a bomb at the bag check at NOLIMIT. It exploded, killing 17 people who were out shopping. I experienced this as the phone lines getting clogged for an hour. My wife experienced it as, well, a bomb, it was 500m from her house. 17 families experienced it as the end. And their grief goes on.

As you can see, this is not a uniform experience of chaos. For some people it destroys their bodies, others their hearts, but for most people it’s just a low level hum at the back of their minds.

What’s that buzzing sound you hear now?

Today I assume you went to work. Bad news was everywhere, clogging up your social media, your conversations. Maybe it struck close to you. I’m sorry. Somewhere in your country, a thousand people died. I’m sorry for each of them. A thousand families are grieving tonight. A thousand more join them every day. The pain doesn’t go away, it just becomes a furniture of bones, in a thousand thousand homes.

As a nation you don’t seem to mourn your dead, but their families do. Their communities do. Jesus, also, weeps. But for most people it’s just another day. You’ve run out of coffee. There’s a funny meme. This can’t be collapse, because nothing’s collapsing for me.

But that’s exactly how collapse feels. This is how I felt. This is how millions of people have felt, including many immigrants in your midst. We’re trying to tell you as loud as we can. You can get out of it, but you have to understand where you are to even turn around. This, I fear, is one (of many) things Americans do not understand. You tell yourself American collapse is impossible. Meanwhile, look around.

In the last three months America has lost more people than Sri Lanka lost in 30 years of civil war. If this isn’t collapse, then the word has no meaning. You probably still think of Sri Lanka as a shithole, though the war ended over a decade ago and we’re fine. Then what does that make you?

America has fallen. You need to look up, at the people you’re used to looking down on. We’re trying to tell you something. I have lived through collapse and you’re already there. Until you understand this, you only have further to fall.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Local MU COVID protest...'We won't die for your dollars'
« Reply #17140 on: September 27, 2020, 07:44:30 AM »
I added this to the "Solutions" post on my new blog...MU is only 20 miles from here!

Passing a megaphone around and wiping it down after each use, MU students voiced their concerns about COVID-19 safety Friday morning.

“Who's health? Our health!”  and “Students over statues” were the rallying cries of about 30 students participating in a protest organized by the Missouri Coalition for COVID Safety . The protest took place on Francis Quadrangle in front of the MU columns, where students held up signs that read “We won't die for your dollars” and “Choi = liar.”

According to its Twitter bio, the coalition consists of “organizations and individuals across Missouri & the University of Missouri System demanding our health and wellbeing be taken into account.”

The organization released a letter of demands, including a call for increased COVID-19 testing, turning to fully virtual learning, the removal of the Thomas Jefferson statue and protection of staff, faculty and students who speak critically of university policies.

Demonstrators expressed their concerns with the way MU administrators are handling COVID-19 safety.

University of Missouri System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi on Thursday told the UM System Board of Curators the university will remain open as long as there isn’t another surge of COVID-19 cases. As of Friday at noon, MU’s tracker showed 95 active student cases. There have been 1,546 total student cases since Aug. 19.

Choi also said there has been 100% compliance system-wide with the new restrictions on wearing masks and social distancing in classrooms.

In August, Mizzou Athletics announced the capacity of Faurot Field’s stadium will be reduced to 25%. Despite this, protesters said they were concerned about the MU football game scheduled for Saturday night against the University of Alabama. As of Sept. 19, the University of Alabama reported 119 student cases for that week.

The protesters also criticized MU’s decision to spend $20,000 on the casing for the Jefferson tombstone, which a number of students have requested to be taken down along with the nearby bronze statue of Jefferson.

“How many COVID tests does $20,000 pay for? We did the math,” demonstrators shouted. “133. That’s 133 tests not getting done.”

Olivia McGee, 21, is a senior at MU and a member of the Missouri Coalition for COVID Safety. She spoke about how seeing the Jefferson statue affects her experience at MU.

“As someone who was assaulted at a college party and someone who knows many people who have been assaulted at this here campus, I don’t think it’s fair, especially to Black students on this campus who have to walk by this statue that is a reminder of a man who kept Sally (Hemings) as his concubine,” McGee said.

Nine groups from the UM System undersigned the letter of demands, including the Sunrise Movement, English Graduate Student Association and College Democrats at UMSL.

Several protesters said they feared spreading the disease to high-risk family members. Others spoke about the risk faculty and staff face by having in-person classes.

Protesters also spoke about getting free testing, comparing MU to the University of Illinois, which has a twice-per-week test schedule for undergraduate students.

“We deserve rapid (and free) tests,” one sign read.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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Presidential Capture: the battle for the Presidency.
« Reply #17141 on: September 27, 2020, 09:38:09 AM »

Foreward: Presidential capture is a form of government failure that occurs when the office of the Presidency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of the President himself, his associates and special interest groups supportive of the President. When Presidential capture occurs, the interests of private individuals, corporations or political groups are prioritized over the interests of the public, leading to a net loss to society as a whole. By its nature Presidential capture abrogates national sovereignty. Repeated claims to be acting in the name of national sovereignty by a captured President should be examined carefully. Today there are very large and powerful industries (e.g. energy, banking, private military contractors) that have captured the office of the Presidency and are now using that power to advance their interests while simultaneously blocking policies at the federal, state or provincial level that many voters desire. Such actions are profoundly undemocratic and if unchecked, may result in the unplanned loss of blood, soil and material wealth.

The President is a puppet.

The unprecedented consolidation of Presidential power during the last 50 years has opened a Pandora’s Box of political manipulation and intrigue. Although it may appear that the Presidency reflects the power and prestige of one man, political insiders know that the truth is a lot more complicated. This is a story about who controls the Presidency and why.

Donald Trump’s White House crowns six decades of regulatory capture. The long term interference in the creation and application of government regulations by private industry has created a perversely inverted system of political influence in which government agencies have become entirely subservient to the industries that they are supposed to regulate. By exploiting their position within the regulatory framework of the government, and society at large, the men and women of private industry confer power and privilege upon themselves, while simultaneously undercutting traditionally democratic processes of public debate and open elections. Power begets more power.

Historically many of the deals struck by Presidential aspirants and their supporters provoke little backlash. In fact, the spoils system of political patronage has been a feature of American governance since the country’s birth in 1776. Individuals with little or no experience in government regularly assume the leadership of many agencies with little or no ill effect. On most occasions, the inertia of the agency, reflected in its culture and carried out by its staff, can mask even the most inept appointee.

For example; President George Bush’s appointment of Michael Brown to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency was a classic spoils system reward for Brown’s political patronage during the Presidential primaries. Brown went on to successfully lead FEMA for two and a half years before Hurricane Katrina exposed his inexperience and managerial incompetence. Before leading FEMA, Brown had been the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association.

Others with some government experience, but no familiarity with the agency’s mission, can pose a far more serious threat to the political health and function of the nation’s governmental agencies. President Trump’s choice of Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development is a prime example of a more nefarious application of the same patronage scheme.

President Trump’s long standing ties to the real estate and housing markets make this type of appointment troubling for its apparent desire to place an unqualified person in a position to benefit the man appointing him. This action reflects a blatant disregard for HUD’s historical mission to serve those in need of housing. Appointees should never serve at the behest of another seeking to profit from the arrangement.

Government agencies chaired by individuals antagonistic to the agency itself are even more concerning. Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA is a textbook example. Pruitt was a self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” when Trump tapped him to head the agency. Unsurprisingly, Pruitt’s short tenure at the EPA was marked by significant regression of environmental protections, political unrest and staff attrition.

Finally, the President’s own antagonism toward the government, often derogatorily referenced as the “Deep State” in his speeches and dialogues with private business leaders, is a further extension of this disturbing paradigm. In this instance, control of the state is desired in order to decrease regulation, lower taxes, and ultimately increase profit realized by the President, his family, and his business associates.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans of this growing existential threat to our democracy in his farewell address on January 17, 1961. He believed that the amalgamation of military sub-contractors, and the politicians who directed the flow of funds to them, presented a clear and compelling risk to the health of the nation. Without vigilance there would be corruption and eventual political weakness. According to Eisenhower, the military-industrial-complex must never be allowed to enrich itself at the expense of democracy.

As one of the most decorated Generals in American history, President Eisenhower knew what he was talking about. Unfortunately, few in Washington listened. Since 1961 the U.S. military budget has more than doubled, growing from approximately 300 billion dollars at the end of Truman’s Presidency to a whopping 721 billion for fiscal year 2020.

This file made available under the Creative Commons Universal Public Domain.

Along with this growth has come a steady decline in the number of active duty servicemen and women in the U.S. armed forces. In Eisenhower’s day there were 2.5 million active duty personnel in the military. Today there are 1.5 million — a 40% drop. So why does our military cost so much?

This file made available under the Creative Commons Universal Public Domain.

The military-industrial-complex has been getting rich at the expense of our democracy. Defense spending, as foreshadowed by Eisenhower nearly 60 years ago, quickly grew during the Vietnam War, declined following the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia, and then ticked up again during President Reagan’s essentially conflict free military build up during the 1980s. The only substantive military conflict during Reagan’s entire two term Presidency was a three day invasion of Grenada in October, 1983.

President George H. W. Bush, our 41st President, briefly boosted defense spending during the second year of his administration when the United States, and a coalition of 35 other countries, pushed back against Saddam Hussein’s violent incursion into Kuwait. The resulting Gulf War raged from August 2, 1990 to January 17, 1991. It was a short, but violent display of American military might.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991, U.S. military spending cooled significantly. When adjusted for inflation, the yearly U.S. military budget shrunk by nearly 100 billion dollars. Today, this five year spending trough remains the lowest point in defense spending history since the Reagan era. When President Clinton took control of the White House in 1992, this defense spending decrease was transformed into a “peace dividend” that served to accelerate the development of new and emerging technologies like mobile communications, personal computing, and creation of the Internet.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 put an end to the socioeconomic windfall born by the end of the Cold War. It also heralded a paradigm shift in the development and use of America’s emerging technologies. The Internet, personal computing, and data collection were quickly weaponized and used to form the backbone of a U.S. military intent upon surveilling the entire world. As a result, the last two decades of American military spending skyrocketed.

Today, this spending growth has nearly matched the level of U.S. defense spending during the height of WWII. This is an astonishing expense when compared to the massive deployment of U.S. forces during the Second World War. Also notable is the duration of this modern day spending spree. The War on Terror, initiated in response to the attacks of 9/11, has far surpassed the length of U.S. involvement in the Second World War by a factor of five.

The costs are staggering. Current estimates place the outlay of U.S. tax dollars during this period at five to six trillion dollars. Even more troubling is the expansiveness of the operation. What began as a targeted response against Afghanistan, the country believed to hosting Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks, quickly metastasized to include Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Northern Africa, the Horn of Africa, Libya, and the Philippines. Critics charge that the length and breadth of the war has been fueled by it’s very existence. For those profiting from the War on Terror this is good news.

Chart comparing growth of top five military contractors with S&P 500.
Chart courtesy of the Financial Times.

How did this come about?

In many respects, the five largest military contractors in the world; Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Raytheon Technologies, and General Dynamics have exercised four decades of unprecedented influence in American politics. Prior to WWII, defense spending had primarily been defined and characterized by its insignificance. WWI was a tiny, isolated financial eruption when viewed in the context of American military expenditure spanning the last 120 years. Following WWII, defense spending increased its yearly baseline expenditure from less than 30 billion dollars a year to over 125 billion. Instead of drawing down spending, as the U.S. had done after WWI, defense spending continued to command a significant portion of GDP relative to pre-war spending after the end of WWII. This growth in spending heralded the creation of the military-industrial-complex that Eisenhower warned America to contain.

Since the end of WWII, the United States military-industrial-complex has sought and engaged in a series of elective wars that have been immensely profitable for military contractors and ruinously destructive to America’s international reputation and its financial health. The Korean War, Vietnam, Grenada, the Gulf War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan comprise a series of conflicts that have left the United States without a single war-free decade since 1950. The last two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, have run concurrently for nearly two decades! Despite countless polls reflecting the American public’s nearly unanimous belief that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be ended, they are still ongoing. Why is that?

The U.S. leads the world in defense spending, much of it attributed to the export and support of weaponry sold to third parties like Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey. The U.S. has also been involved in countless other minor skirmishes and firefights throughout the past six decades. In this scenario, proliferation begets more proliferation. Eisenhower’s admonition has been thoroughly scorned. Expansive sales growth, despite its moral depravity, has been welcomed and extensively rewarded within the halls of Washington’s power elite.

How does Presidential capture relate to the military-industrial- complex?

The concentration of power vested in the Presidency offers a tantalizing avenue of monopolistic control. This is further underscored when viewed in the light of the military’s already out sized influence on the governance and balance sheet of the nation as a whole. Eisenhower warned Americans to be vigilant and protect the nation from the undue influence of misplaced power born by the growth of the military-industrial-complex. He cautioned that only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry could compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our professed desire to engage in peaceful methods and goals of international diplomacy.

However, should the Office of the Presidency and the military-industrial-complex choose to cloak personal and private gain under the auspices of defense, intelligence gathering, and the deployment of military personnel and mercenaries to protect foreign investments abroad, then we may have very well passed the tipping point. Patriotic sloganeering and propaganda designed to deceive rather than educate and liberate the American public is a clear betrayal of Eisenhower’s admonition to create a neutral space that would allow security and liberty to prosper together.

Since September 11, 2001, the black hole of military expenditure has grown exponentially. In an effort to curb some of the spending, which is indicative of an awareness of the high costs associated with this growth, some of the high cost of our military has been off-loaded to private firms and sub-contractors. These outfits, deemed by the military to be better equipped and more efficient than the military itself, are now the unseen, and barely regulated, face of our government’s most enduring obligation to its citizens; their defense.

However, instead of performing functions vital to the defense of the homeland, private military contractors are primarily engaged in protecting natural resources like oil fields and refineries in foreign countries. They also provide security for large, overseas corporate development projects, and look after local government officials and their business affiliates.

This blatant form of protection has nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy and everything to do with outsourcing expensive corporate security measures to the U.S. tax payer. Although Eisenhower may not have foreseen this exact amalgamation of private and public coordination, the combination accurately reflects his concern that the untrammeled growth of this symbiotic relationship would pose a grave threat to the union.

Non-combat defense spending also plays a large role in the privatization of the U.S. military. Vehicle fleet management, food preparation, logistics/relocation services and waste disposal are just a few of the many responsibilities the U.S. military has outsourced to third party vendors. All companies must profit from the arrangement or face bankruptcy. The tail now wags the dog. Democracy serves the military-industrial-complex. Eisenhower was right. Privatization and profit has ruined everything.

Under the watch of the Trump administration, the military-industrial-complex continues to expand aggressively. Its foundation still lies with private military contractors and large energy companies like Exxon-Mobil, but it has also made extensive use of the entertainment and creative industries. Also incorporated into this tangled web of public agencies and military branches are private venture capital firms like In-Q-Tel.

Funded by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, In-Q-Tel is responsible for finding and funding private intelligence and data mining firms like Palantir Technologies and Recorded Future. Social media monitoring and analysis figures prominently in this novel intersection of national security and private enterprise. According to Christopher Wylie, employees from Palantir Technologies assisted in the development of data-based psychographic models used by Cambridge Analytica to plumb the minds of Facebook users in an apparent effort to influence the 2016 American Presidential election.

This convoluted and complex intersection of public and private industry betrays a form of political money laundering that most Americans have not even begun to wrap their heads around. Taxpayer dollars have been used to fund a not-for-profit venture capital firm (In-Q-Tel) that has seeded the creation and growth of a private intelligence agency (Palantir) that has collaborated with another privately owned company (Cambridge Analytica) to harvest the data of yet another private company (Facebook) to influence the 2016 Presidential election.

To further hammer the point home; both private companies are owned by billionaires who openly supported Donald Trump for the Presidency of the United States. Peter Thiel, the owner of Palantir, and Robert Mercer, the owner of Cambridge Analytica, may not have openly conspired to subvert the electoral process but the effect has been then same. Taken together, these men and the groups they represent, comprise an off-shoot of the military-industrial-complex that is acting in concert to develop and perpetuate their control over every aspect of public life. In doing so, the ideological, material and spiritual wealth of the Republic is expropriated and made to serve them.

This tyranny is evident throughout the Trump administration. Rarely does an hour pass without a Trump tweet or an absurd proclamation designed to refocus the nation’s attention upon Trump. This form of relentless self-promotion not only benefits Trump, but it serves to mask the massive military-industrial-complex hiding in his shadow. The notion of a shining capital upon a hill has given way to a monolithic morass of military overreach. Here lies the real swamp of American greatness and exceptionalism.

For some, Trump is predictably serving Trump, whether we like it or not. Indeed, his incessant tweets and meandering press conferences reflect a man bound by the tyranny of his own unbridled id. For these observers, Trump is simply unfit for the office of the Presidency. Conversely, Trump supporters posit that Trump is just being Trump.

This empty headed declaration, on par with the American expression, “It is what it is”, is precisely the type of uniformed discourse that has come to define American critical thought in recent years. The Urban Dictionary describes the phrase as a business term often used to convey a sense of helplessness. Literally, it means “fuck it”. This type of dismissive and imprecise thinking does not bode well for the country. It does, however, offer a mental salve to the many users who feel decidedly impotent when confronting the twin specter of a Trump administration bound to the military-industrial-complex.

How did we get here and what do we do about it?

It does not require a college degree to recognize the end stages of persistent regulatory capture. The unequal distribution of capital, environmental destruction and severe social dislocation play prominent roles in every country where it exists. George Stigler, esteemed economist and Nobel Prize recipient, makes the following argument in his 1971 book, The Theory of Economic Regulation.

“… as a rule, regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit… We propose the general hypothesis: every industry or occupation that has enough political power to utilize the state will seek to control entry. In addition, the regulatory policy will often be so fashioned as to retard the rate of growth of new firms”.

Essentially what Stigler describes is a monopoly validated by the state. Given such a position, why would any organization, dependent upon the continued execution of present day business practices, ever wish to change course? Wikipedia sheds further light on the subject.

“For public choice theorists, regulatory capture occurs because groups or individuals with a high-stakes interest in the outcome of policy or regulatory decisions can be expected to focus their resources and energies in attempting to gain the policy outcomes they prefer, while members of the public, each with only a tiny individual stake in the outcome, will ignore it altogether”.

It’s hard not to conclude that the general public has been disenfranchised by highly organized special interest groups that are capable of spending vast amounts of money to see that their point of view defines the political conversation. In this case “public choice” is a misnomer. Instead, it reflects the similarly twisted linguistic pantheon of Republican concepts like the so-called “right to work law” and “trickle down economics”.

Individuals and publicly funded political organizations do not stand a chance against professionally financed corporate structures intent on furthering the means by which they already dominate a 24/7 political theater. Corporate structures can afford to employ lobbyists, think tanks, research analysts, public relations firms and significant amounts of political advertising to magnify their voice. Look no further than the obscene degree of political fundraising and unparalleled expenditure on advertising costs associated with the upcoming 2020 Presidential election.

The individual voter is at a disadvantage in every arena. He or she is simply drowned out by special interests capable of spending millions to promote their point of view. Recent developments in data mining and the application of social engineering theories further the rich returns available to those with access to this data. Most notably, privately owned corporations that manage and control these data rich platforms are being called to task for their apparent complicity in advancing Donald Trump’s Presidential aspirations. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica stand duly charged. Twitter is not much better.

It should be firmly impressed upon all U.S. citizens that the private control of the power to shape and control the networks by which most individuals communicate is dangerous territory. Serious debate, within the framework of a government unencumbered by corporate influence, otherwise known as regulatory capture, is desperately needed. Public/private cooperation in the creation and development of businesses like In-Q-Tel and Palantir also needs to be addressed. This arrangement, though beneficial to business interests, further blurs the lines of personal privacy and possesses inherent conflict of interest issues brought about by its structure.

Unfortunately, during this transformative time in U.S. history, many Americans find themselves bereft of the tools needed for personal introspection and self-discovery. Computer algorithms, designed to promote consumerism over critical thinking skills have been instrumental in this reorganization of American experience. Instead, we have been forcibly led to believe that doubling down on the use of economic tools to deal with traditional problems of political science will succeed despite the division and social inequality it has fostered. This is the false promise of “public choice”.

Not everyone wants to be fabulously wealthy. Not everyone sees the stock market as the only measure of wealth. There are alternatives to the so-called “disturbing truth” that political leaders, like Donald Trump, simply mirror the selfishness in all of us.

Indeed, it is the collective wish to enshrine our pluralistic democracy upon a shining hill that makes us a better nation. Though merely a dream, this idea of a more perfect union based upon the acceptance of our differences has sustained our country throughout centuries of conflict and political unrest. Clearly, not all politicians are angels, and Washington may indeed resemble a swamp at times, but this is not a reason to stop believing in the concept that binds all Americans to each other — pluralism. The motto of E pluribus unam, Latin for “Out of many, one”, has defined our nation since its beginning. We cannot simply desire to be rich without consideration for those less fortunate. We cannot value some more than others.

It should be made clear to all Americans that the crooked timber of our humanity has been, and will always be, the cornerstone of our ongoing political experiment. We must not aim for perfection in everything we do but seek acceptance of all citizens as our own, unique form of perfection. It is not okay to place blame on recent immigrants, victims of slavery, members of the LGBTQ community or any other defenseless minority, for our own failings. We are all imperfect. Instead, we must strive to reject complacency and the ease of taking solace in the comforts of an illusionary past.

The maintenance of our country requires constant attention. It is an act of selfless devotion, not an act of selfishness. If we are to secure the future, we must stay involved in the development of our country by acquainting ourselves with the important issues of the day, by participating in the electoral system, by volunteering when called upon, and by reckoning with our shared past.

President Trump’s success hinges on the illusion of independence without any acknowledgement of the sacrifice undertaken by our forbears, our parents and the countless civil servants who served our country to the best of their abilities. Our success hinges upon understanding the difference, sharing in the work, and taking responsibility for our mistakes.

It is this action and the motivation behind it that inevitably brings us back around to addressing the implications wrought by the capture of the Presidency. There is a very bold and clear line between believing in something and knowing something. Simply believing in something without knowledge of how or why it exists is merely wishful thinking. The truth is unequivocal. The President is a puppet. Failure to critically examine the means by which the President of the United States has come to office and the means by which he perpetuates his control exhibits both the ignorance and greed belied by the President himself.


Examples of regulatory capture:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — Edward Scott Pruitt — appointed by President Trump.

Lawyer and Attorney General for Oklahoma in 2010. Self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” While running for AG Pruitt received contributions from the fossil fuel industry. As AG Pruitt sued the EPA on 14 occasions. He rejects the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause for climate change, or that CO2 is the primary contributor.

Health and Human Services (HHS) — Tom Price — appointed by President Trump.

As a U.S. Congressman, Price voted multiple times to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office projected that such a repeal would imperil the health coverage of 24 million Americans by 2026. Price has also supported Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare. He opposes abortion and has voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

Housing Urban Development (HUD) — Ben Carson — appointed by President Trump.

Carson is an American politician, public servant, author, and retired neurosurgeon. During his confirmation, some housing advocates were dismayed by his apparent lack of relevant housing experience. During the first year of his tenure Carson issued a statement supportive of cuts to his agency of 6.2 billion dollars (13%) and elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program.

Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) — William J. Clayton III — appointed by President Trump.

Before his appointment, Clayton served as advisor and attorney for an extensive list of banks and Wall Street financial firms. As a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, Clayton specialized in mergers and acquisitions. A partial list of his private sector corporate clients includes; Goldman Sachs, Lehman Bros, Duetsche Bank, UBS, Volkswagon, Pershing Square Capital Management and Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Under Clayton’s tenure as chairman of the SEC, the SEC has charged the fewest number of insider trading cases since the Reagan administration.

United States Secretary of Energy — Rick Perry — appointed by President Trump.

Former Governor of Texas and Presidential candidate. His nomination faced heavy criticism as Perry had called for the Department of Energy to be abolished during his 2012 presidential campaign. During this exchange, Perry claimed that he would eliminate three government agencies if elected. He named Commerce and Education but stumbled on the third, unable to remember the name of the agency he would later be chosen to run.

United States Secretary of the Treasury — Steven Mnuchin — appointed by President Trump.

Former Chief of Information at Goldman Sachs. Mnuchin spent 17 years at the investment firm. His father notably served 33 years at Goldman Sachs and was a general partner at the investment firm from 1967 until he retired in 1990. After leaving Goldman Sachs, Steven Mnuchin went to work for several hedge funds and served on the board of two major businesses that went bankrupt, Sears and KMart. Mnuchin has also been embroiled in several lawsuits that have called into question the integrity of his business and financial practices. As Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin has advocated cutting taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals. He also supports a partial repeal of investment protections afforded by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Democrats Criticize Upcoming Debate For Not Including Climate Change
« Reply #17142 on: September 27, 2020, 05:29:05 PM »
When President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden face off Tuesday night in the first presidential debate, there's one topic they're not expected to get asked about: climate.

Thirty-six senators, spearheaded by Ed Markey, D-Mass., signed a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, urging that climate change receive more attention.

Fox News moderator Chris Wallace plans to ask the two candidates questions from a series of topics ranging from their individual records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy and the integrity of the election.

The senators point to various climate crises — including the wildfires in the West and the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico — writing, "The climate crisis isn't coming, it's here."

"It is critical that every debate includes questions that ask the candidates what they would do to address climate change and environmental injustice. Without these topics, any discussion on the economy, racial justice, public health, national security, democracy, or infrastructure would be incomplete," the letter reads.

Poll: Climate Becomes Top Priority For Democrats; Trump Struggles On Race, COVID-19

A recent poll from Climate Nexus, Vice Media Group and other climate groups, found that 74% of voters said it was important to ask about climate change during the debates. In an NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll earlier this month, climate became the top priority for likely Democratic voters.

An additional topic Wallace plans to address with the candidates is "Race and Violence in our Cities." The framing of the topic has drawn criticism from some corners for conflating the issues of race and violence, with many seeing it as characterizing the nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality as inherently violent themselves.

President Trump frequently campaigns on the idea of "law and order" and has pushed for law enforcement crackdowns in cities because of the protests, some of which have led to violence.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Fareed Zakaria: This is how Republicans keep their power
« Reply #17143 on: September 27, 2020, 05:41:47 PM »
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‘They Put the Blame of Waste on Individuals as Opposed to Companies’
« Reply #17144 on: September 28, 2020, 07:32:37 AM »
CounterSpin interview with Sharon Lerner on plastics and PR

Image from Keep America Beautiful ad, 1971

You may have heard that big oil companies are lobbying the US to put pressure on Kenya to weaken its stance against plastic waste. While publicly claiming to strive for a world free of plastic waste, usual suspects like Shell and Exxon are seeking to use trade negotiations to circumvent rules limiting the so-called waste trade, which environmentalists say will mean turning Kenya, and eventually other places in Sub-Saharan Africa, into dumping grounds. It’s just the latest machination from a plastics industry that is almost as vigorous in their PR as in their despoiling of the planet.

JJ: I have to start with the “Crying Indian,” not just because I’m a child of the ’70s, but I didn’t realize how emblematic it was of what’s been a continued strategy of plastic industries around the question of waste. I wonder if you could tell us a bit about the backstory on that ad, and the context in which it appeared?

SL: So that ad ran in 1971, and it was put out by Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council. Keep America Beautiful is the group we think of as sort of a do-gooder group. Their mission, what they talk about, is keeping our public spaces clean and free of litter. But it turns out that the group itself was begun by the beverage industry, several soda companies, National Soft Drink Association, and it came at a time when there was the beginning of an awareness of the plastic pollution crisis on the part of the public. And it should be noted that the big plastics producers and users were actually aware of the fact that plastic was already accumulating in the ocean, and was quite an ecological hazard.

So that growing awareness helped spawn some protests in 1970 on the first Earth Day, and the folks who were concerned about growing waste—it wasn’t quite so much plastic at that time, it was mostly cans that were being used—but the whole idea of using disposable packaging, that you could have one drink of soda and then just throw out the thing that it came in, was really new. And already activists were becoming aware that, Wow, this crisis is going to affect us deeply. And they had a protest on the Coca-Cola Company, and staged “ecology treks,” they called it, when they went to Coca-Cola’s headquarters with these non-returnable bottles, some of which were plastic, I think, and some, again, cans.

So here’s this growing awareness of this problem, and in 1971, that comes out and really flips the whole frame, right. So what they do with that ad, and others before and after that really hit the same note, is they really squarely put the blame of waste on individuals, as opposed to the companies who produce the waste and profit from the products, and, not coincidentally, the same companies that are funding Keep America Beautiful, and funding the ads that are doing the shaming.

JJ:  Yeah, it’s interesting, because, first of all, it shows that there’s been an awareness of the problem of plastic waste since there’s been plastics; it’s not something that snuck up on the industry—which I found kind of interesting. And then the idea that this ad, that I think many people thought of as, Golly, here’s the industry proactively engaging one of the downsides, potentially, of what they do, and the idea that it was in fact a very targeted intervention, was news, to me at least.

SL: But beyond that, I would say that most people had no idea that it was coming from industry at all.

JJ: Right.

SL: That message gives you this sense that, Oh, we’re just concerned citizens who really care about stopping trash. Well, in fact, it was coming from the companies that made that trash, and nobody had any idea, there was no reason to suspect, that it came from them at all. It very effectively makes people upset about the fact that we are littering and destroying our Earth. But what it does is leave the viewer thinking, I feel terrible about my role in that.

What it doesn’t do—and what was going on in the background, at the same time, the beverage industry was actively fighting these proposals: one, to ban the production of single-use containers back then, but also bottle bills, which was basically this effort to put some of the responsibility for recycling the containers back on to the companies that make them. And, generally speaking, these companies don’t want that responsibility, both because of the expense of it and because of the hassle of it.

So very consistently, over the decades, they have fought these bottle bills, and very successfully. And  right around this 1971 ad, the lobbyists for the industry had effectively swatted down national legislation, or a proposal that would have banned, again, disposable containers, and would have put forward a bottle bill on a federal level.

JJ: Yeah, I almost skip over the fact that, of course, it was “Keep America Beautiful,” which no one was thinking of, really, as a front group, or thinking about front groups at all, for industries. We saw it as just kind of consumers and concerned citizens, taking up the effort.

Well, we think of recycling as local, in some ways. I feel like that’s the association, when in fact it’s a big business, which is of course international. And some of the realities that you and others have reported on, about the business of recycling, which is being presented to us as the answer—but the realities of the business of plastics recycling are heartbreaking, like the Indonesian islands where Coca-Cola has pushed their products, and they now are littering the ground. And then villagers burn that waste, literally poisoning themselves and the food chain, right?

SL: Right. Yeah, and another very upsetting point here is that in many cases, especially when you’re talking about Coca-Cola in these remote islands, it is sometimes Coke itself, but it’s also sometimes bottled water. And many places don’t have potable water, and thus are literally forced to survive on this bottled water, which, in many cases, we’re talking about bottles that they very successfully get to these remote places, but then don’t successfully remove from these places. And then there’s also a lot of really good reporting on the fact that these companies actually drain aquifers, and then sell what ought to be a very public human resource back to people in plastic bottles, at expense, and sometimes expense that they can’t afford.

JJ: It’s very dystopian, and I wanted to say, there’s no hyperbole here: You wrote, “Plastic waste is now widely understood to be a cause of species extinction, ecological devastation and human health problems.” And given that it’s virtually all from oil and natural gas and coal, it also contributes to climate change, and it’s in that context that we’re talking about industry PR to convince people that recycling is sufficient.

SL: I agree.

JJ: One of many things that I found upsetting in your piece from July was the way that the plastics industry is “gearing up for,” as you put it, “the fight of its life.” And, in fact, you were at an association conference in which the keynote came from an expert in actual warfare. What is that telling us?

SL: Yes, I thought that was an interesting choice. No one explicitly explained why they made this choice. I mean, this was someone who had been the captain of a boat that was under attack. And he told the details of this brutal attack, about the USS Cole,and then talked about, basically, his success despite the adversity that he faced. He talked about, in the end, piloting his ship away, with the national anthem blaring, and going on to victory—basically a “hard-fought victory,” is the way he described it.

And I think that the plastic industry very much does feel under assault right now. Really, there’s a growing awareness of how immense and terrible this problem is we’re all facing. And as you just laid out, it’s a health problem, it’s an environmental problem, it’s a racial justice problem at this point, because of the way it’s distributed throughout the country and the world.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)