Archive for April, 2014

Communities that Abide—The XIII Commandments


The manuscript for Communities that Abide is coming right along. The co-authors and I are working away, and it looks like I\’ll be able to start editing sometime within the next two weeks. I am shooting to have the book out in time for the 3rd annual Age of Limits Conference, which will be held over the Memorial Day weekend at the Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary in Artemas, Pennsylvania. I\’ll be running one workshop at the conference (on community formation) and moderating the discussion at another.

Please pre-order a paper copy of your book by clicking the button over on the right. You can pay using PayPal or any credit card—no checks or cash. Also, I will only ship single copies, and only within the US. I will only print the exact number of books pre-ordered, so this is the only way to get a paper copy. I\’ll number and sign all the copies, and ship them out in June. Then I\’ll publish it as an e-book via Amazon, available internationally.

In the meantime, here is an excerpt from the forthcoming book. As will quickly become clear, the sorts of communities the book addresses (ones that abide) go quite far beyond a fancy condo association with a community center, a community garden and some solar panels up on the roof.

If a community wants to abide, it probably should abide by…

The XIII Commandments of Communities That Abide

I. You Probably Shouldn\’t come together willy-nilly and form a community out of people that just happen to be hanging around, who don\’t have to do much of anything to join, and feel free to leave as soon as they get bored or it stops being fun. The community should be founded as a conscious, purposeful, overt act of secession from mainstream society, a significant historical event that is passed down through history and commemorated in song, ceremony and historical reenactment. A classic founding event is one where the founding members surrender all of their private property, making it communal, in a solemn ceremony, during which they take on new names and greet each other by their new names as brothers and sisters. The founding members should be remembered and revered for their brave and generous act. This makes the community into a self-aware, synergistic entity with a will of its own that transcends the wills of its individual members.

II. You Probably Shouldn\’t trap people within the community. Membership in the community should to be voluntary. Every member must have an iron-clad guarantee of being able to leave, no questions asked. That said, do everything you can to keep people from leaving because defections are very bad for morale. One good trick is to give people a vacation when they need it, and one good way to do that is to run an exchange program with another, similar community. There need not be an iron-clad guarantee of being able to come back and be accepted again, but this should be generally possible. Those born into the community should be given an explicit opportunity, during their teenage years, to rebel, escape, go out and see the world and sow their wild oats, and also the opportunity to come back, take the pledge, and be accepted as full members. When people behave badly, the threat of expulsion can be used, but that should be regarded as the “nuclear option.” On the other hand, you should probably have some rules for expelling people more or less automatically when they behave very, very badly indeed (though such cases should be exceedingly rare) because allowing such people to stick around is also very bad for morale.

III. You Probably Shouldn\’t carry on as if the community doesn\’t matter. The community should see itself as separate and distinct from the surrounding society. Its separatism should manifest itself in the way its members relate to members of the surrounding society: as external representatives of the community rather than as individual members. All dealings with the outside world, other than exchanging pleasantries and making conversation, should be on behalf of the community. It must not be possible for outsiders to exploit individual weaknesses or differences between members. To realize certain advantages, especially if the community is clandestine in nature, members can maintain the illusion that they are acting as individuals, but in reality they should act on behalf of the community at all times.

IV. You Probably Shouldn\’t spread out across the landscape. The community should be relatively self-contained. It cannot be virtual or only come together periodically. There has to be a geographic locus or a gathering place, with ample public space, even if it changes location from time to time. The community should be based on a communal living arrangement that provides all of the necessities. A community living in apartments scattered throughout a large city is not going to last very long; if that\’s how you have to start, then use the time you have to save money and buy land. A good, simple living arrangement, which minimizes housing costs while optimizing group cohesion and security, is to provide all adults and couples with bedrooms big enough for them and their infants, separate group bedrooms for children over a certain age, and common facilities for all other needs. This can be realized using one large building or several smaller ones.

V. You Probably Shouldn\’t allow creeping privatization. The community should pool and share all property and resources with the exception of personal effects. All money and goods coming in from the outside, including income, pensions, donations and even government handouts, should go into the common pot, from which it is allocated to common uses. Such common uses should include all the necessities: food, shelter, clothing, medicine, child care, elderly care, education, entertainment, etc. Members who become rich suddenly, through inheritance or some other means, must be given a choice: put the money in the pot, or keep it and leave the community. This pattern of communal consumption is very efficient.

VI. You Probably Shouldn\’t try to figure out what to do on your own. The community should have collective goals and needs that are made explicit. These goals and needs can only be met through collective, not individual, actions. The well-being of the community should be the result of collective action, of members working together on common projects. Also, this collective work should be largely voluntary, and members who are fed up with a certain task or a certain team should be able to raise the issue at the meeting and ask to be reassigned. It\’s great when members have brilliant new ideas on how to do things, but these have to be discussed in open meeting and expressed as initiatives to be pursued collectively.

VII. You Probably Shouldn\’t let outsiders order you around. It\’s best if the community itself is the ultimate source of authority for all of its members. It should have a universally accepted code of conduct, which is best kept unwritten and passed down orally. The ultimate recourse, above and beyond the reach of any external systems of justice or external authorities, or any individual\’s authority within the group, should be the open meeting, where everyone has the right to speak. People should only be able to speak for themselves: attempts at representation of any sort should be treated as hearsay and disregarded. You probably shouldn\’t resort to legalistic techniques such as vote-counting and vote by acclamation instead. Debate should continue until consensus is reached. To reach a consensus decision, use whatever tricks you have to in order to win over the (potentially vociferous and divisive) opposing voices, up to and including the threat of expulsion. A community that cannot reach full consensus on a key decision cannot function and should automatically split up. But this tends to be rare, because the members\’ status depends on them putting the needs of the community ahead of their own, and one of these needs happens to be the need for consensus. Decisions reached by consensus in open meeting should carry the force of law. Decisions imposed on the community from the outside should be regarded as acts of persecution, and countered with nonviolent protest, civil disobedience, evasion and, if conditions warrant, by staging an exodus. The time-tested foolproof way to avoid being subjected to outside authority is by fleeing, as a group. Oh, and you probably shouldn\’t waste your time on things like voting, trying to get elected, testifying in court, bringing lawsuits against people or institutions, or jury duty.

VIII. You Probably Shouldn\’t question the wonderful goodness of your community. Your community should have moral authority and meaning to those within it. It can\’t be a mere instrumentality or a living arrangement with no higher purpose than keeping you fed, clothed, sheltered and entertained. It shouldn\’t be treated in a utilitarian fashion. There should be an ideology, which is unquestioned, but which is interpreted to set specific goals and norms of behavior. The community shouldn\’t contradict these goals and norms in practice. It should also be able to fulfill these goals and comply with these norms, and to track and measure its success in doing so. The best ideologies are circularly defined systems where it is a good system because it is used by good people, and these people are good specifically because they use the good system. Since the ideology is never questioned, it need not be particularly logical and can be based on a mystical understanding, faith or revelation. But it can\’t be completely silly, or nobody will take it seriously.

IX. You Probably Shouldn\’t pretend that your life is more important than the life of your children and grandchildren (or other members\’ children and grandchildren if you don\’t have any of your own). If you are old and younger replacements for whatever it is you do are available, your job is primarily to help them take over and then to keep out of their way. Try to think of death as a sort of bowel movement—most days you move your bowels (if you are regular); one day your bowels move you. As a member of the community, you do not live for yourself; you live for the community—specifically, for its future generations. The main purpose of your community is to transcend the lifespans of the individual members by perpetuating its biological and cultural DNA. To this end, you probably should avoid sending your children through public education, treating it as mental poison. It has very little to do with educating, and everything to do with institutionalization. Also, if a child is forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class, that creates a split allegiance, which you should probably regard as unacceptable. If this means that your community has to expend a great deal of its resources on child care and home schooling, so be it; after providing food, shelter and clothing, it\’s the most important job there is.

X. You Probably Shouldn\’t try to use violence, because it probably won\’t work. Internally, keep your methods of social control informal: gossip, ridicule, reprimand and scorn all work really well and are very cheap. Any sort of formal control enforced through the threat of violence is very destructive of group solidarity, terrible for morale, and very expensive. You should try to enforce taboos against striking people in anger (also children and animals). Use expulsion as the ultimate recourse. When dealing with outsiders, don\’t arm yourselves beyond a few nonlethal defensive weapons, don\’t look like a threat, stay off the external authorities\’ radar as much as possible, and work to create good will among your neighbors so that they will stand up for you. Also, be sure to avoid military service. If drafted, you should probably refuse to carry weapons or use lethal force of any sort.

XI. You Probably Shouldn\’t let your community get too big. When it has grown beyond 150 adult members, it\’s time to bud off a colony. With anything more than 100 people, reaching consensus decisions in an open meeting becomes significantly more difficult and time-consuming, raising the level of frustration with the already cumbersome process of consensus-building. People start trying to get around this problem by hiding decision-making inside committees, but that is incompatible with direct democracy, in which no person can be compelled to comply with a decision to which that person did not consent (except for the decision to expel that person, but most people quit voluntarily before that point is reached). Also, 150 people is about the maximum number of people with whom most of us are able to have personal relationships. Anything more, and you end up having to deal with near-strangers, eroding trust. The best way to split a community in two halves is by drawing lots to decide which families stay and which families go. Your community should definitely stay on friendly terms with the new colony (among other things, to give your children a wider choice of mates), but it\’s probably a bad idea to think of them as still being part of your community: they are now a law unto themselves: independent and unique and under no obligation to consult you or to reach consensus with you on any question.

XII. You Probably Shouldn\’t let your community get too rich. Material gratification, luxury and lavish lifestyles are not good for your community: children will become spoiled, adults will develop expensive tastes and bad habits. If times ever change for the worse, your community will be unable to cope. This is because communities that emphasize material gratification become alienating and conflicted when they fail to provide the material goods needed to attain and maintain that level of gratification. Your community should provide a basic level of material comfort, and an absolutely outstanding level of emotional and spiritual comfort. There are many ways to burn off the extra wealth: through recruitment activities and expansion, through good works in the surrounding society, by supporting various projects, causes and initiatives and so on. You can also spend the surplus on art, music, literature, craftsmanship, etc.

XIII. You Probably Shouldn\’t let your community get too cozy with the neighbors. Always keep in mind what made you form the community to start with: the fact that the surrounding society doesn\’t work, can\’t give you what you need, and, to put in the plainest terms possible, isn\’t any good. Over time your community may become strong and successful, and gain acceptance from the surrounding society, which can, over time, become too weak and internally conflicted to offer you any resistance, never mind try to persecute you. But your community needs a bit of persecution now and again, to give it a good reason for continuing to safeguard its separateness. To this end, it helps to maintain certain practices that alienate your community from the surrounding society just a bit, not badly enough to provoke them into showing up with torches and pitchforks, but enough to make them want to remain aloof and leave you alone much of the time.


This list of… um… commandments was been put together by looking at lots of different communities that abide. It is not dependent on what exact kind of community it is: whether it\’s patriarchal or grants equal rights to women, whether it\’s religious or atheist, whether it\’s settled, migratory or nomadic, whether it consists of farmers or carnival performers, law-abiding or outlaw, highly educated or illiterate, whether it\’s homophobic or LGBT-friendly, vegan or paleo… The only commonality is that they all have children, bring them up, and accept them into the community as adult members. These are biological communities that function as tiny sovereign nations, not one-way social institutions where people join up and die, such as monasteries, retirement homes, hospices and suicide cults. This wide range should allow you to set aside any fears that whatever community you envision forming or joining might be excluded, because, given the very wide range of variations between the communities I examined, finding an exact match to what you happen to like is, first, exceedingly unlikely and, second, completely irrelevant to uncovering the common traits that underpin their success.

The Geneva agreement on Ukraine, translated

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Semyon Uralov,
The talks in Geneva resulted in an agreement that is in favor of all that is good and opposed to all that is bad. That\’s the basic gist of it; but what does that mean? Let\’s translate this memorandum from the language of high diplomacy into the language of the Ukrainian crisis.

Kiev\’s government representative was invited to participate in his role as a potted plant—because there is nothing to discuss with him. On this all the participants were in complete agreement. That is, there is no government in Kiev, in the sense of an entity that exercises sovereign authority over the territory of Ukraine. This is understood equally well in Moscow, in Brussels and even in Washington. Thus, the actual talks were between USA+EU and Russia.

Russia\’s position is that Kiev doesn\’t have a government, it has a God-only-knows-what. It makes no difference what they are called or who they are. They have no power and they control nothing. They do not control the economy, or energy, or the army, or the police, or even their supporters who are running around waving machine guns.

The position of USA+EU: “That\’s not true! There\’s a perfectly nice government in Kiev, we made it ourselves, and we hold discussions and even sign agreements with them.”

In view of the difference between these two positions, further discussion is pointless. Therefore, it is necessary to run an experiment and to establish a simple fact: are the dramatis personae in Kiev a government, or aren\’t they?

The authorities in Kiev have to prove themselves. To do that, they have to disarm and reign in their freaky supporters, grant amnesty to their opponents, and begin to exercise control over the army and the police. If they prove that they are in control, then it will possible to move to the next phase in resolving the crisis.

The ball is now in their court. If they can prove that they are a power, then there will be a step-by-step resolution to the crisis. If they don\’t, then the crisis will be resolved on their behalf, and they won\’t be invited to participate, even as potted plants.

Considering that these personages have already reneged on a previous international agreement—in February of this year—it might have been smarter for them not to sign this one. Because if they don\’t live up to this one either, then nobody will want to offer them political cover—not Brussels, not even Washington.

RIP Mike Ruppert


Mike Ruppert has shot himself. This makes me very sad, but I certainly won\’t think any less of him for his decision to take his own life. Everybody has that option. I\’ll remember him for the happy times we had together, and for the big difference he\’s made in so many people\’s lives, opening their eyes to what\’s really happening in the world.

Business as usual

Ben Newman

[Update: After a lot of unthinking “but we Americans have guns!”-type comments, I held my nose and added a paragraph on that vile topic.]

Thinking about collapse is very useful because it allows you to prepare for it. And preparing for collapse is very useful too—from the pragmatic perspective of risk management. Consider the possibilities.

  • If you prepare for collapse and it doesn\’t happen, then you look a tiny bit foolish.
  • If you don\’t prepare for collapse and collapse does happen, then you look a tiny bit dead.

Now, which would you prefer to be, foolish or dead?

This type of reasoning is very basic, and is used for such things as calculating the amount of insurance to buy or the amount of cash to keep in reserve in order to avoid being bankrupted should the worst-case scenario unfold. In order to do that, you have to have some idea of what the worst case scenario is. People seem comfortable with this kind of reasoning.

There is, however, a problem: most people don\’t seem to be able to wrap their minds around the concept of collapse in the sort of unsentimental, dispassionate way that is required for engaging in practical risk management activities. They can think of a nuclear accident, or a tsunami, or a hurricane, or an earthquake, or a pandemic. They might be able to think of all five at the same time, but that\’s a stretch for most. But the scenario that few people can react to adequately is the sort of gritty reality that is quite probable. Let\’s try a couple of scenarios, and see how you react.

Scenario #1. You live in a major city. Banks are closed and ATM machines are defunct. There is no electricity. Shops are closed and looted. Gas stations are burned out. There is no pumped water and toilets don\’t flush. There is no heat or air conditioning. Garbage isn\’t being collected and there are piles of it everywhere. Roads are impassable and neighborhoods are barricaded from each other with concertina wire and piles of burning tires and patrolled by armed gangs. Home invasions occur with gruesome regularity, especially in the wealthier neighborhoods where there is more to take. Police are nowhere to be found, but there are army checkpoints on all the major roads leading out of the city where people are turned back.

Scenario #2. You live out in the country. There is no electricity, no heating oil or propane deliveries. Gasoline is no longer available, and you can no longer drive 30 miles to the nearest supermarket or Walmart. In any case, these stores are no longer open for business because merchandise is no longer being delivered to them. You used to be on friendly terms with some of the neighbors, but now everybody is afraid of each other. In any case, it\’s too far, and too dangerous, to walk anywhere. Your drinking water used to come from a deep drilled well via an electric pump, which no longer works. There also used to be a sump pump and a dehumidifier in your basement, which is now permanently flooded and filling with black mold. Armed gangs are filtering through the landscape, looking for caches of food and other supplies. They are increasingly expert at what they do, and most people either give up their stockpile voluntarily or die trying to defend it.

Presented with such scenarios, most people react in one of three ways: denial, paralysis or panic.

Denial is where you tell yourself that these scenarios are so incredibly unlikely where you live that thinking about them is a complete waste of time. You may be right about that, but who is to say? Subjective judgments of likelihood are not particularly useful in risk mitigation.

Paralysis is where your gut feeling tells you that this could, in fact, happen, but you can\’t think of anything constructive that you could do about it—beyond trying to not think about it, to avoid distressing yourself to no purpose.

Panic is where you decide to act—by stockpiling food and weapons, or by developing plans to flee in some direction. Once you\’ve done your shopping and planning, and the panic attack is over, you go back to paralysis (nothing more to be done) and then drift back toward denial (since it is mentally the most comfortable).

There is a fourth reaction worth considering, even though it amounts to an ad hominem attack on me as the messenger of doom. It goes like this: “Dmitry, your collapse scenarios are crap. They are depressing, distressing, and none of us can do anything about them except be depressed and distressed, or panic and go shopping for spam, shotgun shells and machetes. Would you please cut it out and stop bothering people with this collapse nonsense?” Sure, got me there, I\’ll stop.

Let\’s do something else instead: let\’s consider that nothing will particularly change, and that things will stay on the same trajectory. Let\’s define some scenarios that seem pretty likely to most of us, because it\’s the sort of gradual change we\’ve been seeing already: the economy will continue “recovering,” meaning that the rich will continue to get richer, the poor—poorer, unemployment will hold steady (as more and more people drop out of the labor force), debt levels will continue to explode, food and energy prices will continue to creep up and so on.

Security theater. We had the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber, so now the TSA makes us take off our shoes and gropes our genitals (or irradiates us with the naked body scanner). We had the wannabe jihadis who got entrapped into trying to smuggle a two-part liquid explosive on board (which, according to chemistry Ph.D.\’s, wouldn\’t have worked anyway) so we can\’t bring liquids through the checkpoint (except for mother\’s milk, but even that has to be tested for explosive potential). Next step: somebody tries to smuggle a bomb in their rectum, and the TSA forces everyone to strip naked and subjects them to a body cavity search, prison style. Even if you can still afford to fly somewhere, would you want to?

Note that this security theater insanity only applies to flights originating from or terminating in the US, and that it has nothing to do with stopping terrorists. You stop terrorists by spotting them, and you do that by interviewing just the promising candidates. Testing for exploding breast milk is just plain idiotic.

Debt slavery. In the past year, student loan debt has grown from 1 trillion to 1.2 trillion. More and more students are realizing that they will never be able to pay back their student loans. Instead, the government, which guaranteed the loans, will garnish their wages, and eventually even their social security payments (should these still exist by the time they reach retirement age) for the rest of their lives.

Borders locked. More and more of these students will realize that their only real option is to leave the country forever. Facing a massive outflow of college graduates, the government introduces exit visas, which require a credit check, and refuses to grant them to entire families, so that a hostage is always left behind. The government also refuses to renew passports for expats who are in arrears on their government-guaranteed debt, creating a refugee crisis. Just as this happens, more and more countries, increasingly fed up with US State Dept. meddling in their internal affairs, decide that they\’ve had enough Americans for now, and close their borders to US nationals.

Retirement cancelled. The already dire demographics, coupled with the flight of educated people mentioned above, mean that there will only be a couple of working-age unskilled workers supporting each retiree. Desperate measures, such as rolling IRAs and 401k\’s into the Social Security Trust Fund, postpone the inevitable somewhat. Eventually the government finds that it has no choice but to raise the retirement age to 100. The vast majority of the baby boomer generation, which did not save for retirement in any case, will find itself destitute.

Medical confiscation. Thanks to ObamaCare, people between 55 and 65 are being forced into the Medicare system. At the same time, Medicare covers fewer and fewer services, with higher and higher deductibles. Since most people lack sufficient cash savings to cover them, they are covered by placing liens on property. Adult children living with their parents (an increasingly common situation) are then forced to sell the house as soon as they inherit it (or walk away from it). The other, increasingly popular option, of course, is to forgo medical care.

Demise of the dollar. So far, because of the US dollar\’s reserve status, the US has been able to fleece other countries while taking on debt at an artificially low rate of interest. As more and more countries (China and Russia especially) are moving away from using the dollar for international settlements, especially in buying and selling energy, the status of the dollar continues to erode. As this process runs its course, the US government will be forced to resort to fleecing its own people. Raising taxes is politically difficult, and so instead lots of other measures will be put in place. There will be lots of so-called “bail-ins,” where depositor funds are used to bail out insolvent banks. Those who own precious metals will be forced to sell them for a fraction of their market price, as has happened before. There will be a low limit on daily cash withdrawals, as has recently been the case in Argentina, Cyprus and Ukraine.

Corporatization. The trend is to concentrate more and more wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer corporate entities. To this end, the government will clamp down on small businesses (which are already suffering because of, among other things, onerous health care insurance regulations). Eventually the government will outlaw self-employment, herding all owner-operators and freelancers into minimum-wage corporate farms. It will be made illegal to buy and sell products or services except through a major corporation (good bye Craigslist). All property transactions will automatically be taxed: sales tax plus capital gains tax. The limit on gift taxes will be dropped to zero: the giver will pay the gift tax on the value; the receiver will have to pay income tax on all gifts received, plus capital gains if they are ever sold. Together with the low limit on cash withdrawals, this will make it virtually impossible for people to directly give each other money without being taxed, or breaking the law.

As the cost of living continues to go up and salaries continue to stagnate, corporations will negotiate special corporate discounts with each other in order to make it possible for their employees to continue functioning. People without a corporate job will find their access to products and services severely restricted. But what really makes it possible for more and more corporate employees to survive is the increasing use of food stamps (EBT cards). Now at 50 million, participation in the food stamps program will grow until it becomes virtually universal, while at the same time the nutritional value of the food it makes available will continue trending down, nurturing the trifecta of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Criminalization. With small businesses and private enterprise made illegal, most people will be forced to resort to illegal activities, under the watchful eye of the NSA. But since putting even more people in jail will be prohibitively expensive, a new, streamlined process of dispensing justice will be put into place: the NSA and the Justice Department will link computer systems, and verdicts of fraud and suspended sentences will be issued by a computer program, in absentia. In keeping with current practice, both the charge and the evidence will be kept secret. The newly minted felons will be dropped from voter rolls, their passports cancelled, their bank accounts confiscated, and their employment (if any) terminated. They will receive form letters informing them of their sentence but most of them will be unable to read it because functional illiteracy rates will go from the current 40% to 80-90%.

Paragon of democracy. The effect of dropping much of the population from voter rolls will paradoxically result in much higher voter participation. After a while the only people allowed to vote will be the politicians themselves, their families, government workers and contractors, corporate functionaries and, of course, the ever-richer 1%. Since those barred from voting will not be counted as voters, it will look like voter turn-out is much higher than ever before. Everyone will celebrate the health of American democracy.

Demise of public education. Public schools will become dumping grounds for mental and physical defectives—junior prisons, if you will, where students are endlessly frisked and strip-searched by heavily armed security personnel and train for life under lockdown. The more promising students will be shunted to highly profitable charter schools, many of them virtual, where students get to sit in front of computers all day, training to take standardized tests, and a single unaccredited teacher oversees more than a hundred of them. Beyond studying for tests, the students will become increasingly resistant to remembering anything at all—why know things when you can Google for them?

Strafed to hell. The US has spectacular and ever-higher levels of gun ownership, along with the use of antidepressants and antipsychotics. It also has a large, well-armed military, which isn\’t very good at achieving policy objectives, but is very good at killing civilians, having killed hundreds of thousands of them in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those dozens of countries the US has invaded over the decades. This military will have to be brought back home due to lack of resources. If this weren\’t enough, the police in the US is already highly militarized. Throw in the narcocartels, which, as I predicted previously, are diversifying away from drugs and into all sorts of other lucrative activities. Add to this already volatile mix a large set of long-standing grievances, over racial discrimination and other injustices. Make the antidepressants and antipsychotics unavailable, throw everyone out of a job, destroy every last vestige of hope in a brighter future and what do you get? That\’s right, a hail of bullets. Those who think that they will be able to stand their ground and defend their homestead need to realize that this is not for amateurs. Dispensing violence is a profession, like surgery. But if everybody has a scalpel (whether they know how to use it or not) then what\’s a surgeon to do?

What should our risk management strategy be in light of such probable, predictable, and rather un-apocalyptically boring developments?

Do nothing? Well, you might not die, at least not right away, but then will your life be worth living? Even if you can\’t think of anything good to do, you might still consider doing something—like drinking a lot.

Prevent them? You\’d have to start with some sort of grass roots political campaign to change the entire system. Suppose you are amazingly successful at it, and manage to change the entire system. And it only takes you 30 years. Oops! Too late.

So, what do you do?

I have an idea, and it\’s really, really simple. What\’s more, it\’s quite cheap, and it totally works… for the time being.

Here it is:

Get the hell out of this country!

In the US, democracy is now a sham


[Guest post by Ray, just in time for April Fool\’s Day.]

The founding principle for this new form of government which emerged in the 18th century, was that the Common Man was the ultimate source of power. Citizen legislators would enact the laws and shape the nation’s destiny. But instead, our republic is now strong-armed by professional politicians. The two dominant concerns of these careerists are to STAY in power and to do the bidding of those who ENABLE them to stay in power. Anyone who doubts this statement might try explaining why campaign finance reform and term limits are perennially “off the table.” Actually, that is an understatement – they aren’t even in the building.

It is bad enough that the President, Congress and the Courts serve the interests of a minority that is so tiny that it is almost microscopic. What is even worse, is WHO that elite constituency is. It is exclusively THE BIGS: Big banks, Big corporations, Big agriculture, Big energy, Big pharmaceuticals, Big health care, Big high tech and the BIGGEST of them all – the military-industrial complex.

The “Vox Populi” – voice of the people is now as quaint and outmoded as telephone booths on street-corners. Even when there is a massive outpouring of disapproval for a policy – such as the enormous public outcry against Iraq Invasion 2 – the will of the people is disregarded. Instead, the “leaders” kiss the sterns of their financial backers. Ten million irate citizens cannot offset a single Halliburton.

But not only has genuine democracy vaporized, its putrid carcass is used against the ordinary person for whom it was initially conceived. Our demagogues give stirring speeches applauding our inalienable rights and the freedoms that our constitution protects. But at the same time, they barely whimper when a whistle blower reveals that the surveillance grid that is monitoring our behavior is beyond the wildest imaginings of Orwell or Huxley. And when the head of the Department of Omnipresent Surveillance admits that he lied to Congress, he is not prosecuted for perjury. Amazingly, he doesn’t even lose his job.

When the President signs the NDAA act which allows for “indefinite detention” of citizens without formal charges or without the right to a lawyer, it should be utterly clear that the boot of Soft-Core Tyranny is now on our neck. And that unchecked and almost unnoticed power continues to grow at an obscene pace. Examples of this are the militarization of small town police departments, the unending malignant growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the cessation of Posse Comitatus which keeps the military from being used as a domestic police force.

But even though our career politicians only represent the rich and the powerful, and even though they abet the steady erosion of our constitutionally ordained rights, it is even worse! That’s because despite making a mockery of democracy at home, they trumpet its virtues abroad. This is shameful Hypocrisy with a capital H.

What they are really trying to spread is not Democracy but Predatory Capitalism. They want to expand the sphere of influence of their financial backers who want greater market share in more and more markets. They do this through subtle intrusion via the IMF and the World Bank. Concurrent with this, they embrace the most corrupt and brutal local politicians they can find. The saying “He may be a genocidal dictator, but he’s OUR genocidal dictator” is not a punch-line in a joke. It is standard operating procedure for U.S. foreign policy. If this kinder, gentler approach fails, then the next steps are assassination or invasion. So the spreading of democracy leaves death, mutilation and destruction in its wake.

So, in conclusion, it appears to me that America is no longer a world-wide exemplar of how to sculpt a civilized society. Instead, it is far down the road to becoming a full-blown Corporate Police State. It has fallen so tragically, that it is now just a self-deluded leper strutting about the global stage – unaware that the theater has already emptied.