Alert on The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

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Liberty Leading the People – Eugene Delacroix, 1830

How did we reach a point where treaties such as the TTIP are presented as “done deals” – where democracy is bypassed and agreements are made in secret? The TTIP is the European/US equivalent of the US Pacific Rim ‘free trade’ agreement. It’s important to know that both ‘partnerships’ are actually binding treaties.

Some of the consequences for the people of EU and the US with the TTIP include:

  1. The “investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) rules.” These Rules will enable corporations to sue governments in cases where they feel they have not had “fair and equitable” treatment. Corporations can sue EU/US governments whenever national regulations are changed in any way that impede a corporation’s “right to make profits” – INCLUDING labor standards.
  1. The ISDS courts takes away the ability of member states to decide what should stay in the public sector and gives the power to decide this to unelected and unaccountable corporations. Such dispute cases are usually heard in secret and “arbitrated by a relatively small group of unaccountable specialist lawyers whose impartiality has been called into question.” [2]
  1. The “regulatory exchange” proposal within the TIPP will force laws that are drafted by democratically-elected politicians to go through an extensive screening process. This process will occur throughout the 78 States, not just in Brussels and Washington DC. Laws will be evaluated on whether or not they are compatible with the economic interests of major companies! Responsibility for this screening will lie with the ‘Regulatory cooperation body’ a permanent, undemocratic, unaccountable and unelected group of European and American bureau/technocrats
  1. The European Commission promises up to one percent GDP growth and massive job creation as a result of the trade deal. But this is not supported –even by its own studies!

As was shown in a leaked EU document, the EU-US Regulatory Cooperation Council as part of the TTIP deal was organized as a permanent structure to ensure the rights of corporate free trade. So where is the permanent structure for ordinary people” to ensure their rights from encroachment from corporate power?

Who is protecting the animals, the air, the plants within consideration of what is best for all? How can we actively challenge words like “free trade” which sound fair but are in fact the opposite? What can citizens do to enhance Freedom of Information laws in their countries? How can we further this type of legislation and enhance transparency?

Some links from the left, right and in between



Present Students, Future Slaves

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The Slave Ship 1840 William Turner

Every generation for the last 30 years has endorsed neoliberal policies, leaving today’s young people not only without a voice, but also saddled with a set of economic, political and social conditions that have rendered them devalued, marginalized and ultimately disposable. Henry Giroux

Philosopher and political thinker, Sheldon Wollin died this month. His claim that the U.S. government operates, not as a democracy but in what he called “inverted totalitarianism” – “every natural resource and every living being is seen as a commodity and exploited to collapse as the citizenry is lulled and manipulated into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government through excess consumerism and sensationalism” and nowhere is this better exemplified than in our student debt crisis.

The average American student debt upon graduation is $29,400 and this while America’s federal government projects a record $50-billion profit on student loans in 2014! This makes the student loan business the most profitable business in America. (ExxonMobil made $44.9 billion in 2012)

The usury attached to a college education in America supports massive  hierarchy, concentration of power and wealth, and greater inequality. The fact that a higher education is financially out of the reach for the majority, ensures that only an elite will continue to control and lead the future of our country.

While profits soar for the government,  the young people have little time for political engagement or creative experimentation. The debt burden forces graduates to make career decisions based on the bottom line.  They don’t have time to become involved in not-for-profit jobs or peace-promoting activities. This level of debt load creates a disconnect from the social needs of the community. In a market-driven society the only obligation is to be a good consumer. The liberal arts and the investigation of subjects that explore the imagination and how power is created is not supported.

What type of future are we creating? Why is it Germany and other EU countries have completely eliminated college tuition?

In 2013 legislators in Oregon unanimously passed a bill that instructs the state’s Higher Education Coordination Commission to develop a “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” plan to finance public higher education. Under the plan, students pay nothing while in school, then pay a fixed percentage of their income (3 percent after a 4-year degree) to fund higher education going forward. This is at the very least a step in the right direction.

Rest in Peace, Sheldon Wolin.

Some relevant links:

The Ripple Effects of Rising Student Debt

Left Behind
A Crisis of Affordability

NY Times Obit: Sheldon Wolin

Solitary Confinement is Torture

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“Solitary confinement can have serious psychological, psychiatric, and sometime physiological effects on many prison inmates. A long list of possible symptoms from insomnia and confusion to hallucinations and outright insanity…The overall consistency of these findings—the same or similar conclusions reached by different researchers examining different facilities, in different parts of the world, in different decades, using different research methods—is striking.”
Brief for Professors & Practitioners of Psychology & Psychiatry

Studies and longitudinal research have show the serious psychological and physiological effects of solitary confinement – yet it is currently being imposed on over 80,000 Americans – and that number is growing.

In the U.S. both adults and children are placed in isolation. Over 62,000 minors are being held in over 2,000 juvenile facilities, and approximately 1 in 5 of use isolation.  The Journal of the American Academy of Child found that incarcerated juveniles had 10 times the rate of diagnosed mental illness as children “on the outside.”

80,000+ Americans live a solitary confinement nightmare. These prisoners are physically isolated and confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day, with only minimal interaction with others.

International laws and guidelines are very clear in saying that solitary confinement has no rehabilitative qualities to support it’s use and that lengthy conditions of harsh solitary confinement constitute either torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Solitary confinement is justified as disciplinary punishment – both as a way to protect vulnerable prisoners and as a way for  prison staff to ‘manage’ difficult individuals. It is used to isolate detainees during the pre-trial stage of investigation, as part of coercive interrogation and it is a method used to lock away prisoners especially those perceived to have mental illnesses this despite the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which states that ‘Imprisonment and other measures which result in cutting off an offender from the outside world are afflictive by the very fact of taking from the person the right of self-determination by depriving him of his liberty. Therefore the prison system shall not, except as incidental to justifiable segregation or the maintenance of discipline, aggravate the suffering inherent in such a situation.’ (Rule 57)

Not only does solitary confinement violate international law and guidelines it also violates the 8th amendment of the U.S. constitution which says,  “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”  And yet, with only a very few exceptions, U.S. federal courts have disagreed – this, despite one U.S. Senate hearing testimony on the psychological effects of solitary which described a prisoner that used thread to sew his mouth shut, another inmate who chewed off his finger and another took a television apart and ate it.

‘Isolation syndrome’ is the name used to describe the consequence of prolonged solitary confinement. Symptoms include anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, paranoia, psychosis, self-harm and suicide.  The only sporadic contact that prisoners have is with guards, despite the research that family contact is one of the most important factors in successful rehabilitation. Solitary prohibits the very thing needed for a new life – access to loved ones and support networks. And while some prisoners are able to construct meaning and occupy their time without going crazy, others are not so able, experiencing severe depression and crushing mental illness.

International observer Tessa Murphy of Amnesty International’s Campaigner on the United States has said, ““The USA’s isolation system is a shocking and outdated form of punishment which should have no place in any country purporting to respect human rights principles. The fact that anyone is able to survive the inhumanity of a system which seems specifically designed to break them is incredible.”

Lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said: “Solitary confinement is one of the techniques used to ‘break’ prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.  Sadly I can testify that it has the sickening, desired impact, and has caused serious mental health problems for the people I represent.  We  should put these ugly human experiments behind us.
Another dimension that is very worrisome and shocking are the for-profit companies responsible for approximately 6 percent of state prisoners, 16 percent of federal prisoners, and inmates in local jails in Texas, Louisiana, and other states. This means for-profit companies decide which prisoners are kept in solitary and for how long. Private prisons have have been shown to use excessive of solitary confinement

The fact is that solitary confinement doesn’t work: One  2001 study of recidivism in Connecticut found that prisoners who had been held in solitary confinement were about 50 percent more likely to be rearrested within three years than those who had not. A study in Washington state found that inmates who had spent three months or longer in solitary were not only more likely to re-offend but were much more likely to commit a violent crime. In the report, Confronting Confinement (Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons) they found, “the disconnect between what we know to work and the laws and policies legislatures implement is perhaps greater in this field than in any other area of social policy.”

Human contact constitutes a basic human need and as such our courts, legislators and prison officials need to recognize the serious psychological and physical pain resulting from isolation. Solitary confinement is torture and it must be stopped.

Some good news:
The movement to end juvenile solitary has gotten a boost from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, whose recommendations on juvenile justice reform have been adopted by more than 200 jurisdictions, including Baltimore, San Francisco, and Dallas County, Texas.

New York City’s Board of Correction voted to end solitary for inmates under 21 starting in January 2016.
Sept 2015: California agreed Tuesday to end its unlimited isolation of imprisoned gang leaders, restricting a practice that once kept hundreds of inmates in notorious segregation units for a decade or longer.

See links for more information. Consider joining organizations like the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated confinement.
The goal of the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) is sweeping reform of New York’s use of solitary confinement and other forms of extreme isolation in state prisons and local jails.

Recommended: The Friend’s Service Committee’s fact sheet : The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice

Brief for Professors & Practitioners of Psychology & Psychiatry as Amici Curiae Support-ing Respondent at 4, Wilkinson v. Austin (Austin V, 545 U.S. 209 (2005) (No. 04-495).

Growing Up Locked Down

The Shocking Abuse of Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons

Recidivism in Connecticut

Confronting Confinement

A Living Income addresses the primary cause of conflict: inequality

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We have been in this care centre for almost four years, living in broken tents and with no one helping us.
Pikas Kapi, Bulolo care centre, Bulolo town, Morobe province Papua New Guinea

Inequality is on the rise worldwide, creating extreme disparities in wealth, education and other areas of human development. Inequality has caused increased marginalization of mostly rural geographic areas and this in turn has caused the rising up of “formerly repressed sectors of society seeking greater independence, power and control.” These countries “were among the most economically vulnerable and least able to cope with crisis.”

Wealth disparity when combined with all the armed conflicts and an abundance of weapons puts civilians at risk unlike in any time in world history. 2014 was a record-breaking year for displaced people. Over 38 million were forcibly displaced within their own country by violence, up from 33.3 million for 2013. 2015 will be even higher and there’s no end in sight. [1]

The corporate media is not compelled to investigate the displaced or to make the connection between inequality and conflict. The media is not compelled to demand solutions. So why do we expect it to?

A living income will allow many more of us to not only read, but read between the lines and challenge the policies of war, the impunity of weapons manufacturers and the prevalence of conflict and poverty – for starters.

A living income would help us understand and challenge the ways and means of conflict so that we can build economic and social parity and give to each other that which we all deserve and desire.

* According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

The ‘Clock Boy’ and Competing Narratives

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This is not America. That is not us. This is not like us.
Mohammed Al Hassen, father of Ahmed Mohamed

What are we indignant about today? It seems being indignant is the preferred response to a world of abuse, violence and destruction. Perhaps the dissonance between living in “the land of the free” and the reality of the U.S. war economy is so great that being in the state of outrage is the only power we believe we have left.

As a country it seems we’ve backed ourselves so far into disassociation from common sense that when a thirteen year old boy is handcuffed, suspended and treated like a terrorist, we don’t immediately ask: How come his teachers didn’t know this student better?

News outlets are the equivalent of the film Roshamon  each touting conflicting agendas. Are we aware of the motives behind the various narratives? Do we question whether or not we are being nudged within using what we think we already believe to then accept and believe something else? How well do we read symbols and question the telling?

We neglect to be  to be indignant about the completely undemocratic activities occurring right in front of us, like the secret trade agreement negotiations – treaties that when they are no longer secret, will dramatically alter our lives and our world. Why haven’t these startling proposals received the media attention they deserve?

Why don’t we use our ‘indignant’ energy to ground ourselves in common sense for the common good?


Nudging News Producers and Consumers Toward More Thoughtful, Less Polarized Discourse

The New Media and Social Change

Karma and I and #AshleyMadisonHack

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I’ve been mulling over the idea of ‘karma’ and voilà, the #AshleyMadisonHack…it’s a metaphor, it’s symptomic, it’s #cyberkarma on a platter! It’s like some dystopian PHD diss-ertation (Western Karma and Full Disclosure ) that you write before you move to Bejing to teach English  touching on so many layers of duplicity, perceived needs, dissassociation etc etc… What a show about our ability to live in alternate realities!

So would we still act and be who we are if everything about us was disclosed?

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Meanwhile, one of 60 million refugees from last year alone … and in spite of the full disclosure of such unnecessary evil, we do not work together to stop this. Should we expect karma to come knocking?

Learning isn’t linear and evolution isn’t something we learn from ‘out there’ and then ingest and feel better …
I think we have to do something, show something, We must evolve ourselves. But for what purpose? Would you wish to reincarnate here again? Is this a world you would want to come back to? Am I getting too woo-woo?

woowoo (Secret Knowledge … invoking Neo- Platonism and Rosicrucianism; rejection of ‘rational’ logic while preaching a reconciliation of science and mysticism: a smorgasbord approach to other revealed religions and ‘teachers’; and a final opt-out to the ‘inner self’ when the going got sticky. Equally significant was the need for lots of money (which was duly forthcoming), and the way that exposure of fraud and scandal perversely strengthened the authority of the most unlikely people, often through their manipulation of paranoia and conspiracy theory.”

If I only consider my own life and I end up despondent and sad because I have only created memories —my karma is not the instant payback variety a la #AshleyMadisonHack, it’s much worse than that. It means I haven’t created anything of lasting value.

Meaning requires creation otherwise it’s ephemeral – like memories.
It’s not ‘pollyannish’ to say that humans have shown the ability to work together along with the worldwide immediate needs of so many  – Karma means action and work as well as cause and effect – and everyday we have a choice  #HeavenOnEarth or #HackedHellOnWheels ?

Migration and Reason

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The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is home for 160,000 refugees who have escaped the brutal Syrian civil war. 6,000 people arrive a day (Getty Images)

The number of refugees has dramatically increased over the past three years with almost 60 million people migrated from their homes in 201440 percent more than in 2011. There exists a false perception that the majority of the immigrants to Europe are economic migrants. But they are not: they flee as desperate asylum seekers, not economic migrants. They flee persecution and human rights abuses.

The main countries of origin are Syria, Eritrea, Somali and Afghanistan while millions are being driven out of the Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon. The Syrian civil war, instigated by the United States and its Arab allies in 2011 has caused more than 3.5 million people over the border with an additional 7.5 million people within Syria having fled their homes from a volatility that is the direct and indirect consequence of the continued and centuries long exploitation of the continent by Europe and the United States. Nobody wants them.

Like modern Gullivers, (see gullible, google, yahoos etc) pinned and nudged to be ‘reasonable’ we watch the jackboot of the Hegelian dialectic speed up time, dismantle countries, and take the lives of children and beings we do not know – people we do not see, people we evidently do not regard as equals.

As Alan Watt recently noted on his radio show, our thoughts about such atrocities are accepted as real, while reason – the part where we recognize that we are all fundamentally similar and equal – that part we can’t seem to access.

Are we not are in danger of  becoming displaced ourselves –  psychologically deadened and damaged by merely observing and not acting to create alternatives to the “…hidden injuries, hidden wounds that have been inflicted on [the] children [of Syria] because of what they have experienced; the behavioral changes, the nightmares that they carry around with them – the way in which they can no longer function as normal children do”?

A wise man said, “the answer is never in the context that created the problem…thus let the past go and create the future.”

Damage of conflict on Syrian Children

What is life like inside the largest Syrian refugee camp

Regulating the Palm Oil Explosion and the Living Income Income Proposal


The current global ‘Palm Oil Explosion’ is an under-reported nightmare. Communities in the ‘global south’ are being pitted against large multinational corporations, banks, and the confusing and changing allegiances represented by the UN for rights to land usage to produce palm oil – resulting in the equivalent of 300 football fields of rainforest being cleared EVERY HOUR to make way for palm oil production. [1]

European financial institutions are behind a significant number of these land grabs. This massive, largely unregulated monoplanting of palm oil has destroyed and is destroying huge swatches of land in Africa, the Papuas of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Indonesia. [2]

In one example, the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) provided a $52 million loan in Uganda to fund a project a palm oil mega farm to oil palm giant Wilmar International. The small community of farmers there were promised better jobs and prospects for the future. It did not happen. Now an entire forest (3600 acres) on a Lake Victoria island has been obliterated to establish a vast plantation The local farmers have received little to no compensation along with the loss of pristine land. [2]

In Liberia a community resisting big agra oil palm plantation on their land have been harassed, coerced and intimidated. “Many are standing firm,” says Silas Siakor, of SDI Liberia. Jogbahn Elder Joseph Chio Johnson said, [they] “must stop threatening our people and accept that our no means no.” [3] – See more at:

Such incidents are widespread and growing: new cases are reported to civil society organizations on a near-weekly basis in countries from Cambodia and Papua New Guinea to Indonesia, Myanmar and Nigeria.

Who is protecting the people who actually live on these lands? Who is overseeing UN IFED? The charter of UN IFED says it was created to “enable rural people to overcome poverty.” If we can’t rely on international organizations mandated to protect and assist indigenous people shouldn’t we rethink our international laws and constraints so that local communities do not lose access to vital land and water resources?  Why should local communities be left with permanent soil erosion, animal abuse, pesticides, deforestation, migratory labor and child labor that accompany monoculture plantations? We do know that the current industrial plantation model as it exists does not respect the rights of indigenous populations. Why not  learn from Africa’s indigenous populations who know how to grow and cultivate palm oil utilizing the common sense application of agroecology and biodiversity?

There is a common sense solution: The Living Income Guarantee proposes that the natural resources of a land and people belong to the people – the ones that live on it. “The nationalization of natural resources and connected enterprises provides an opportunity for the management of the country’s resources by the people of that country – and is, in fact, an extension of direct democracy.”

[1] The Ecologist: (
[2] Pampazuka News:
[3] Global

The California Drought and a Living Income Guaranteed

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We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody. R. Buckminster Fuller

What is the real cause of the California drought – is it weather modification, the federal government cutting off water to farmlands, a cyclical pattern that in geological terms is to be expected? Is it a conspiracy to turn vast tracts of land back to wilderness a la Agenda 21?

Is it possible to know, definitively, the cause of the drought? Are there multiple causes? How can we redress global, national and local abuse — and not spin our wheels looking at the side effects of our systemic misalignment?

750 million people – approximately one in nine worldwide, currently lack access to safe water.Every day 2,300 people die from diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water and basic sanitation. 84,000 people died because they do not have access to clean water.

We know corporations continue to divert unknown quantities of California water to be bottled and sold. We know that there is no state agency  tracking how much water is being diverted from a resource that should be shared among all Californians. Isn’t this analogous to how we allow our creativity, innovative ideas and solutions to be siphoned off and diverted to support a system that does not support life equally – that does not protect the one resource we need most: water?

What usually happens in the educational process is that the faculties are dulled, overloaded, stuffed and paralyzed so that by the time most people are mature they have lost their innate capabilities R. Buckminster Fuller

In 1936 R. Buckminster Fuller came up with the idea of Dymaxion Bathrooms. These bathrooms are equipped with “Fog Gun” hot water vapor showers that use only a cup of water to clean hygienically without soap. He also created a waterless “Packaging Toilet” that shrink-wrapped “output” for pickup for composting. Ordinary toilets use approximately 2000 gallons of pure drinking water per year to flush – and waste – one human’s “exhaust” that, if dried out, would scarcely fill two 5-gallon pails. [2]

We have everything we need to create solutions. We can all have clean water. We can free ourselves from the dictates of the deluded constraints of rampant self interest.

A decent future starts with a decent start – it’s everybody or nobody. Investigate and support  The Living Income Guaranteed – I’m gonna bet Bucky would approve.



The Great Fiction that is Currency


The ‘social scientists’ of human history, in various capacities and at various times, have shown the frightening ease with which the human will relinquish power and autonomy to those they perceive as having more authority and expertise – like in the famous Milner experiment:

“While I was a subject in 1964, though I believed that I was hurting someone, I was totally unaware of why I was doing so.”  (Professor Milgram elaborated two theories based on his landmark study investigating our relationship to authority: his theory of conformism, based on Solomon Asch conformity experiments, describing the fundamental relationship between the group of reference and the individual person. A subject who has neither ability nor expertise to make decisions, especially in a crisis, will leave decision making to the group and its hierarchy. The group is the person’s behavioral model and the agentic state theory: “the essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view themselves as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and they therefore no longer see themselves as responsible for their actions. Once this critical shift of viewpoint has occurred in the person, all of the essential features of obedience follow”.[1]

The world system in it’s efficiency and technology has happily appropriated the ease with which we hand-off of authority to experts. This abdication comes with a price, one we are evidently willing to live with – so that instead of creating the lives we want, taking responsibility for what we have created, we believe we must comply and “come to view themselves as the instrument for another’s wishes.”

These rules are the cause of the vast disparity of wealth and well-being in this world. Our  role as both spectator and participant becomes quite disturbing –  with the increasingly narrow opportunities for self-creation and in an environment increasingly programmed and then presented as “reality” for “it is technology that presents non-reality, which is mistaken for reality.” [2] In our ‘non-reality’ the facts don’t count. Consider our relationship to money: back in early human history someone once convinced another that gold was worth exchanging for time and labor. This fiction – that a piece of metal was worth more than a tree or a cow – became the origin of a leisure class and the private control of currency.

The fiction of currency runs our lives and had created a world that –  as entrepreneur Anita Roddick said, has created  “a religion of maximizing profits” where “everything is legitimate in the pursuit of that goal.” That the World Bank, the International Bank of Settlement, the IMF, and the Federal Reserve are private organizations – themselves charted by the private Council of Foreign Relations and their branches – (offshoots of the UK Milner Group (Bankers) and Cecil Rhodes (Banker) and the Rothschild’s (Bankers) – should prompt serious concern and investigation.

Just as the corporation uses branding to create attractive personalities for themselves, we can create and control the images and content to empower ourselves to challenge the accepted version of currency. The path from spectator to being autonomous can be walked using the technology that is already here and to advance the cause that, contrary to what we have accepted so far,  humans may be trusted with the promotion of values that support all life on earth, equally.

[1] The Milner Experiment:

[2]The Technological Society. Jacques Ellul
Trans. John Wilkinson. New York: Knopf, 1964. London: Jonathan Cape, 1965. Rev. ed.: New York: Knopf/Vintage, 1967.


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