Crowd-sourcing Democracy: part 4-a ~ What We Can do fix these problems and make us all thrive?

March 26, 2018

Orginal beginning copied to a post 03-30-2018 @12:03pm

Part 4-A

What can we do, where do we start?

When I started this post, I already had a longish list of ideas that I started working on last summer. But that was eons ago in today’s bizarre political world. Every day it gets more obvious that Americans cannot depend solely on voting every few years to keep the Ship of State on a true course. We have to act, to become part of the solution.

However, even I, the Eternal Optomost, could little imagine that one of the worst days in 2018 — the 21st century “Valintine’s Day Massacre” at Parkland, Florida high school — would turn yet another horrifying event into an entirely new and incredibly EFFECTIVE non-partisan political movement that is, as we speak (write) reversing the fortunes of the NRA.

It’s just six days after the after the incredible “March for our Lives” in Washington, and more than a month since 17 students at Marjorie Stoneman High School were gunned down by a former classmate wielding an AR-15. But its a whole new ballgame for the issue of those unique killing machines called assault rifles.

Emma Gonzalez, who fights like a girl! ~ Marjorie Stoneman High School student, speaking at the 2018 DC “March for Our Lives”, standing in silent solidarity for the 6 1/2 minutes that 19 of her high school friends were gunned down, w/ 17 fatalities

Since the mid-1970s, the NRA has been the “undefeated heavy-weight champion of the world” (as described by a cable news commentator) that had 100% of our politicians on both sides of the political divide quaking in their boots. But NOT anymore, thanks to high school students like Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and the rest of their dedicated team of teenage Ninja warriors.

In dozens of ways too numerous to list, these high school activists figured out what to say (the TRUTH!), how to say it so people listen, how to fight the entrenched and monied establishment (“we call BS!”).

What they’ve done is to formulate and communicate a message that resonates with the vast majority of Americans of both parties. The word for this is “virtue” — they have given birth to “virtuous cycle” that displaced the vicious cycles that had taken hold of the country and made all but the fringes of far right, far left and those with stratospheric wealth simply hopeless.

The impact of Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and the other dedicated high school activists is not just about gun violence (vital as that is) but all of politics will never be the same. These self-elected Ninja ‘politicians’ have — using truth as their weapon — exposed the exact place where the real crime against democracy takes place: What is to suppose to be a “democratic” electoral process goes off the rails and morphs into a deadly undemocratic ‘pay to play’ process when monied groups — uber-wealthy that represent a tiny statistical minority of the population — are legally allowed to simply ‘buy’ our elections by controlling the purse strings of each and every person running for federal (or state) office.

The Heart of Perpetual Darkness — unlimited, untraceable political campaign money used to sabotage our moderate politicians and bi-partisan cooperation and constitutional interpretations that perpetuate these vaporous notions   

How does this happen? It has far less to do with direct campaign contributions than we might expect. Its all about super-PACs that have NO limits on the amount of money they receive from donors (many millions vs. an individual limit of $2,500), how the money is spent, and in many instances, super-PACs are not legally required to reveal the names of its donors (including corporate donors) or the amounts of these contributions.

It literally could come from Russia, Saudia Arabia or China via once-removed shell corporations. Obviously, this irrational (but legal) process allows our democratic republic to be sold to the highest bidder, with the three international players listed above being the most likely candidates. Our only choices will be between all-out war or learning to speak Russian or Chinese. Horrible as this is to contemplate, this is NOT our worst or most immediate problem.

The big ugly underbelly of this obviously undemocratic (but nonetheless constitutional) activity is HOW political money is weaponized. Its deadly force doesn’t come from contributions to candidates who have extreme views, but by threatening moderates (of both parties) that massive amounts of this Dark Money will be used to fund smear campaigns that will kill any and all chances for election or re-election.

As a US Congressman, Senator or even presidential candidate, you may have so many generous donors that you wouldn’t personally take a dime from the NRA or any of its sister groups. Nonetheless, you dare make campaign statements or not find yourself on their list of Electeds who have voted in any way that the NRA/gun manufacturers don’t approve of. Like the deadly Russian nerve gas recently used in London to poison an ex-Russian intelligence officer and his daughter living,  our national politics are also under international threat, and one’s political aspirations, no matter how noble, how bright, how experienced, can be killed off by small groups of miscreants from very far away.

The Russians/Chinese/Saudis are NOT coming after our guns, they are coming after our Constitution!


What stands between us and responsible, constitutional gun policies had for the last 3 generations been the NRA as a lobbying arm for gun manufacturers.




These Marjorie Stoneman students have bravely and insistently called that for what it is “BS”; the country and its politicians will never again be held in the death grip of the NRA, and money from Russia, Saudia Arabia, China or whoever wants to ‘nuke’ our democracy by using money from super-PACs associated with the NRA or other groups bent on betraying our democratic institutions.






@@@@@@@@@@@@ part 4-b @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Let me start with the bad news and then we can talk about practical strategies to overcome this all-too-human problem

The informed observation of my World History professor was human beings don’t learn from history, but for the most part repeat the same behavior that didn’t work in the past and will have the same dismal, often violent and fatal outcomes. There are many reasons for this – the most obvious being that ‘power’ never gives itself away. People and groups with power reject change and rather than negotiate a mutually acceptable power-sharing arrangement, often choose instead to “fight to the death”. This either turns into a suicide mission or deadly aggression against others of the kind we call “war”.

But not all these issues fall can be attributed to the deep and immutable level of human behavior. A far more familiar issue that leads us as a people and individuals to exercise regrettable decisions and actions is the problem of reliably distinguish fact from other types of ‘information’ — personal opinion, gossip, superstition, mistakes, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and boldfaced attempts to manipulate our beliefs, make fools of us, or entice us to do things that are against our own best interest. a significant number of adults don’t know how to

Public discourse is so important to our democratic process, and the potential for it to be misused, mangled and manipulated by mistakes, purposeful misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, is such a danger that We the People must consider this to be a critical problem deserving of our highest attention and sustained effort.

I think its possible to address this and other issues

“Strong Opinions, Lightly held”

What if we were to get smart about the dilemma-educational opportunity described above – the difficulty that people have in distinguishing fact for opinions, spin — misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda. While the human species has always been vulnerable to this issues, only now have we had technological platforms such as social media, TED-ED talks and computer games to help people to better understand the barrage of information being thrown at them 24-7 in the news and social media.

Knowing how to tell the difference between fact and propaganda is a life-saving skill, as valuable as “drop and roll” if our clothes catch fire and “Stop, look and listen” when crossing the street. In this case, it is giving people a new perspective, one in which information begins as an unanswered question – is it true/accurate/factual? Only when we can be reasonably sure that the info or data point is can be established as true and factual can we then use that information to make personal decisions or to pass on to others.

As mentioned in Part II, the coming second American Revolution (of the Mind) will introduce new ways to think about and deal with information by using blockchain software to verify the authenticity of published information. This would enable news organizations and other groups to identify information that had been ‘spun’ — misrepresented or altered for political purposes.

Talking about Talking: Conversations for Agreement ~ the bedrock civil society

A closely related topic, which I will not go into great detail here, is what I refer to as “talking about talking”. As members of the human species, the thing we do the most is talking and one hopes, also listening.

Just as the ability to distinguish fact from opinion is very helpful, so too is learning about the 3 major and 3 minor categories of “talking” that people do (A) Communicative conversation (equals taking turns talking and listening); (C) strategic conversation (one-way communication from those with authority over us) and in the middle, (B) conversations for agreement in which both parties are equals and participation is voluntary, even if the ‘other’ person is the Pope, President or our brain surgeon.

The three other categories of talking are more minor aspects of verbal communication that includes (a) educational instruction, (b) debates, and (c) arguments.

Understanding these distinction allows us to see and share with others our insight about communication problems. These simple ideas helps all of us to be more effective and less provocative when talking to others, and promotes many more “conversations for agreement” and far fewer trivial arguments, opinionated debates and useless disputes.

‘Hijacking our Amygdale’: Using scientific technologies to identify & help us defend against disruptive assaults on our emotional wellbeing

For the health and longevity of our democracy, We The People need to take into account new sources of information made possible by our increasingly sophisticated and powerful brain-imaging technology, especially in conjunction with A.I. systems like IBM’s Watson Cloud service. With our increasing ability to ‘intelligently’ crunch the data, this new technology has dramatically advanced our understanding how the human brain works, especially when receiving and processing information.

A valuable example of society-changing brain research are studies that identify both our brains and our bones are not becoming fully mature (by standard adult faculties as defined by biology and our laws), until we Homo Sapiens are at least 25 years old. This means society now needs to reevaluate our legal ideas of criminally prosecuting children as adults based on the repugnance of the crime, rather than the ability of the child to fulfill adult responsibilities (does their age legally prevent them from quitting school, driving, drinking, ‘consenting’ to have sex, sign a binding contract or vote?)

We also need to revisit the idea of being fully adult from the standpoint of our legal system; we now know that the human species, in brain and body, does not become fully functional until we are have lived at least 25 years (youngest age to qualify for federally-elected office if 25). Our legal system should reflect the best information available, both scientifically and ethically.

Equally central to our success as a human species are scientific studies on the brain that has identified the vital roll of our emotions when we are processing (or ignoring) information. We like to think of ourselves as purely rational beings, but that is only part of the story.

Unfortunately, human beings frequent experience situations in which other people, by accident or on purpose, directly upset us so deeply that, biologically speaking, the seat of our emotions — our amygdala – has been “hijacked”; we have temporarily become unthinking ‘reactors’, instead of thoughtful ‘responders’ to the situation.

What the term ‘hijacking our amedula’ {Aa-meg-do-la) describes is a profound emotional reaction over which we have no control; we experience a sudden, penetrating and irrational anger, fear or aversion to someone or something, in which we can’t make contact with our ‘ordinary’ thinking brain and instead defend ourselves by lashing out against the other person with emotional attacks (name-calling, character assignation, insults, threats, etc). This is always a losing proposition.

Dictators, despots, kings and political operatives long ago discovered how to reliably manipulate the population by creating fear-based mass hysteria – i.e. simultaneously hijacking the amygdala of a large portions of the population.

When you combine this reprehensible tactic with other politically influential strategies made possible by our 24-hour news cycle and the distributive effects of social media, it’s possible for political candidates to win elections simply being on the side that is the most amoral and who can, with great glee, poison the waters of rational thought. This is the polar opposite of winning election based on substance in the country’s interest — candidate’s proven track record and superior solutions and personal character that demonstrates a working moral compass.

Future topics: Changing the cultural norm that enforces a male gender stereotype that deprives adolescent boys and young men of an emotional life in which its OK/normal to have and express feelings. Instead, they more often than not find themselves being told to “man up”, don’t ever express emotion or people will think you are weak, a ‘wooz’, or (god forbid) a ‘girl’.

Gun violence in general and mass shootings are a male-gender phenomenon. Certainly America’s relationship with gun and violence is an issue but so is the way our culture emotionally hobbles our male children and young men. This is arena for public discourse and action that can save lives without having to fight the NRA or argue over the explicit meaning of the 2nd amendment. This is what countries do when their leaders are not trapping them into two warring camps fighting an artificially enforced political divide so aptly described by Congressman Marco Rubio as: “half the country hates the other half”.