Chapter 18 - The Now and Possible Future
2022 opened with two themes for me. The first was obvious. Any expectations vanished that Covid and the resulting uncertainty was over. New variants were emerging every month and so many Americans (including in Boulder) were not taking precautions any more. This guaranteed that Covid or something similar would be with us indefinitely. Learning to manage Covid cases seemed like the new strategy to be learned, but what that really portended for the future was unclear. It was still unbelievable to me that I lived in a country where over 1 million Americans had died because of Covid and our collective reaction was… oh well.
The second theme had actually begun to emerge in the middle of 2021. Democracy was being threatened by the actions of Trumps MAGA true believers in Congress. The system of checks and balances that was supposed to protect us from extremes on either side of the aisle seemed like something written on pieces of paper that had no teeth in the real world.
The Supreme Court now had a 6-3 conservative majority. At least 4 of the 6 were signaling they were going to reverse 50 year precents like Roe v. Wade. They seemed bent on returning America to some imagined white male, nationalist, Christian identity. One that did not recognize women and people of color as full American citizens. AND we were stuck with these judges for a long time unless we did something about it. So for the moment, if we moderates had grievances we could no longer count on the Supreme Court to give us a fair hearing.
The smart money at the beginning of 2022 was on MAGA Republican forces taking control of at least the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate in the mid-terms. This was partly a result of the traditional wisdom that mid-terms that follow a Presidential election are usually dominated by the party that didn’t win the presidency. In this case, it was the MAGA Republicans.
IF Democrats lost Congress it would end President Biden's legislative ambitions and usher in the beginning of retribution show trials in the House to right the “wrongs” Trump and his allies felt they had been dealt. There would be no policy considerations that would actually help the economy, address climate change or ensure voter rights. Just culture war moves designed to maintain their power and the wealth they grifted from their followers.
If MAGA forces controlled both houses of Congress it felt to me as if we had taken a big step towards ending democracy in this country as we knew it. That may seem hyperbolic, but the narrative analysis we were doing at the Vital Signs of Democracy project all pointed in that direction. The question was… would moderate voters, who make up 65-70% of the American electorate, “wake up” in time to stop that from happening.
One of the other themes that emerged from my transmedia work was “experiential activism.” This theory of the case reasoned that IF you really wanted someone to change you had to move them beyond intellectual considerations to giving them an “experience” of the change you wanted them to embrace. This thought had been around in therapy circles for a long time, but the new VR/AR immersive technologies promised a platform for potentially creating this kind of personal development programming.
As fate would have it, a project showed up early in the year that begged for that kind of storytelling approach. Celine Cousteau, the granddaughter of the famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, approached me with a project she called Guardians of the Rainforest.
As a young girl she had accompanied her grandfather on one of his expeditions up the Amazon to make contact with tribes that had never experienced modern civilization. This exposure had such a profound effect on Celine, that when she became an adult she made a documentary film about these tribes called “Living on the Edge.”
She was now trying to create a museum exhibit that would give visitors some experience of what it was like to be one of these tribal members in 21st Century life. This exhibit was seen by her as an attempt to build support for their protection. The tribes had been given vast tracks of virgin land in Brazilian rain forest near the border with Peru. Helping them cope with the modern world would ensure that they protected these tracks from being destroyed. A real plus for helping to mitigate climate change.
This kind of project had never been done before. It felt a bit like the early days of interactive entertainment when we had no idea how to really create it in the beginning. We worked on the concept for about six months and met some really interesting artists, but the combination of a lack of funding and that it was a bit early in the technology cycle to do what I really wanted to do, the project faded away. Someone was eventually going to do this.
Longing for Community
Another thing I was feeling after two+ years of Covid isolation was the need to be part of a community. When we had created the “Lost in Woonsocket” documentary we met a number of people that were doing really good work helping the homeless. One of those folks was Alan Graham that ran a program called Mobile Loaves and Fishes in Austin TX. ML&F had begun with Alan and some friends making sandwiches and taking them to homeless people on the streets of Austin. That simple beginning grew into a country wide program that utilized “food trucks” to take food and supplies to homeless wherever they gathered.
Spending time with Alan was an inspiration. One day he showed me his next idea for meeting the challenge of the homeless. He reasoned that if you put a roof over people’s head it would be the first step toward reclaiming their lives and getting them off the street. He showed me a prototype that involved five trailers arranged around a circle with a common kitchen in the middle.
For whatever reason, I had thought of Alan at the beginning of 2022 and checked in. What had begun with those five trailers had now grown to a full blown community serving hundreds of residents. He called this village “Community First.” Of all the community concepts I had looked at that were mostly Utopia nightmares, Community First was one that seemed to work. Perhaps it was a model that others would adopt as more “sanctuaries” were created to deal with these uncertain times.
Vital Signs of Democracy
The Story Studio concept that seemed unique was the Vital Signs of Democracy project. I originally envisioned it as a “scoreboard” similar to the “Rotten Tomatoes” website that rated films based on reviewers comments and public input. The VSD concept was my attempt to address the frustration I felt when I looked at some individual story reporting on some aspect of the threats to our democracy. I had no idea if that story combined with all the others that were also emerging was moving us closer to democracy or not.
I thought we could use the Story Studio NLP AI narrative analysis we used to look at the stories we felt were driving our now and future. We would “rate” individual news articles based on what they were reporting on concerning some aspect of a threat to American democracy. We would analyze and rate news stories in ten key news categories and then aggregate those 10 individual news category ratings into a master rating and publish it every two weeks. A simple indicator of the threat level to our democracy based on the news we were analyzing.
I put some of my initial ideas together and began talking to progressive groups that were working on “bridging the divide” between red and blue audiences. In the beginning there was a lot of interest in the VSD concept as a way to drive traffic to their web portals, but the more we talked I realized they thought my level of “alarm” about these threats was too high. They still believed that getting liberals and conservatives together to find common ground was the best strategy. I thought we were way past that point. This theme would continue to play out as the year progressed.
In the World of January
China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, issued a rare joint statement affirming that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."
I thought this proclamation was interesting in that they still believed they had to express this principle in writing after 50 years of nuclear war hanging over our heads. I wondered what were they worried about that would prompt the need for such a reminder?
One concern was Putin trying to re-establish the Russian “empire.” For the longest time he had wanted to show the west that Russia could be a major player on the world stage again. This would result later in the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
China also seemed to be following a similar imperial path that Japan had before the World War II. They continued to threaten Taiwan and build military bases on south sea islands that were not their territory. All the while, the US seemed to be distracted by internal matters.
The number of COVID-19 cases exceeded 300 million worldwide. The toll kept rising with no real cure in site. The inconsistency of the global response seemed to guarantee that Covid would keep evolving and causing additional spikes of infection that we would be forced to manage as a “new” normal.
Another news bite. The first successful heart transplant from a pig to a human patient occurred in Baltimore, Maryland. With all the political and Covid turmoil in play, science continued to make great strides. I often thought about what the world would be like if we spent half the energy and money we did on killing each other on things that would benefit humanity instead. What a different world it would be.
Microsoft announced its intent to purchase Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion.
The deal was the largest acquisition of a tech company in history. Activision had very successful run in the video game marketplace before it ended in a sexual abuse scandal and charges of a toxic work environment for women. Men have traditionally been thought of as the geeks that made video games, even though in my experience women were just as good at it.
In the larger tech world, what makes designers, coders and artists brilliant at what they do is their singular focus on ”child’s play.” This usually does not include a wider education about what it means to be human. That can cause all kinds of immature responses that women usually end up bearing the brunt of. Whether this will improve as we push forward as a culture is hard to say.
Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi was killed in Atme during a counter-terrorism raid by U.S. special forces in north-western Syria. This never ending war against terror continued, this time dominated by a new policy of autonomous “drone” strikes on remote targets.
You would think that we would learn that you could kill so called terrorist leaders and feel some measure of revenge, but their movement continued as strong as ever just like the American revolution did regardless of how many revolutionaries the British killed.
China and Russia issued a joint statement opposing further NATO expansion, expressing "serious concerns" about the AUKUS security pact, and pledging to cooperate with each other on a range of issues.
China and Russia had always been strange bedfellows. A strange mix of East and West, but in a world where they saw democratic nations as their enemy, it made sense they would form some form of alliance while they continued to nerviously eye ball each other. Given China’s accession, this was not a good thing, particularly with the US distracted by all our internal culture war.
The 2022 Winter Olympics were held in Beijing, China, making it the first city ever to host both the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics.
I found it always inspiring to watch athletes compete at this high level, but the Olympics always took on the tone of the country that was hosting them. As I watched the China sponsored winter games I felt like I was watching some corporate version of Olympic competition.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree declaring the Luhansk People's Republic and Donetsk People's Republic as independent from Ukraine, and, despite international condemnation and sanctions, began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Like the US and Russian invasions in Afghanistan and elsewhere, these “military exercises” did not initially turn out the way the Russians had hoped. Ukrainians looked capable of going all in on the defense of their country.
Putin also ordered Russia's nuclear deterrent forces to be on "special alert", their highest level, in response to what he called "aggressive statements" by NATO. The move was condemned by the US. As a result, the “west” decided to come to Ukraine’s aid. Even though Ukraine was not a NATO ally, NATO came together like never before to help the Ukrainians counter the Russian invasion. Putin hadn’t counted on that I suspect.
In an unprecedented move, Switzerland, Monaco, Singapore and South Korea imposed unilateral sanctions on Russia, including the introduction of export controls and asset freezes. The United Nations reported that over a million refugees fled from Ukraine to other countries in the early days of the invasion. Perhaps this “migration” was Putin’s real plan to de-stabilize the democracies of the West.
The biggest breakthrough in fusion energy since 1997 was reported at the Joint European Torus in Oxford, the UK, with 59 megajoules produced over five seconds. (11 megawatts of power) More than double the previous record. Fusion had long been considered the clean technology that would get us off of oil, but its development had been very slow. It was hoped that this breakthrough would speed the practically of this cleaner form of energy.
One of the themes that emerged from the VSD work was the question… would “business” support democratic institutions going forward? I had run into a version of this narrative when interviewing Silicon Valley tech moguls. They REALLY did not want to be regulated by the government, particularly the social media platforms that 45% of the American public got their news from. Their business models were built on promoting conflict between warring factions. Their data grabs and manipulation were off the charts.
These tech pioneers wondered aloud if they really needed democratic institutions anymore to be successful. They had always given money to both conservative and liberal candidates, figuring they would make a deal with the winners, but would they really go as far as to support a more autocratic party, figuring their future would still be assured?
Rob Ryerse, my conservative friend from the Common Good tour in 2018 and I decided to interview business leaders to see if this narrative held any water. What we found was that they were as confused as anyone about the uncertainties brought on by the Covid epidemic. They would not rule out the possibility that corporations might not stand up for democratic norms if the MAGA forces came to power.
There had been some incidents of major corporations like Coca-Cola and FedEX threating to pull their business from states like Georgia when they passed voter suppression laws against people of color. These turned out to be mostly media PR stunts when the smoke cleared. Certainly, BUSINESS preferred the lower corporate taxes and less regulations offered by the MAGA crowd. They really didn’t seem to have any strong feelings about getting Biden elected again in 2024, even if it meant the democracy was on the ballot.
The global death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 6 million.
April - World View
Scientists found the first known dinosaur fossil linked to the very day of the Chicxulub meteor impact in the Gulf of Mexico that ended the age of dinosaurs after 150 million years. I wondered who would find our human bones after some climate event took place that caused our extinction.
In the on-going Ukraine- Russia war the Russian flagship Moskva was destroyed. It became the largest warship to be sunk in action since World War II.
Ukraine claimed to have struck it with Neptune anti-ship missiles, while Russia claimed it sank during stormy weather after an onboard fire. It was clear the Ukrainians were not going to buckle under. What that meant for Europe as winter came on remained to be seen.
The VSD meter project was ready to test. I decided to do a test run with a small democracy organization called The Climate Democracy Initiative that a friend of mine was running to see if our results made sense to people that viewed the VSD meter rating and its supporting news analysis.
World Science View
The Event Horizon Telescope collaboration revealed its first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. In spite of all we had learned about how the Kosmos operated, black holes and dark matter were still a mystery to us. It remained to be seen if we eventually would use these black holes to “galaxy jump” the way we suggested in our sci-fi films.
Also, images from the new Webb Telescope kept amazing us all. We were literally looking at light that had been created at the beginning of our universe.
As our finances dwindled Jennifer and I considered renting the downstairs studio in the Hampton Circle house. We reasoned it would help us with the high cost of the house. It was still a bit weird to think of a stranger living with us, but it turned out that a friend of ours from the Integral community, Bob Richards, was looking for a bedroom and bath as a temporary place to stay after his marriage faltered.
Bobby and Jennifer had connected over the years in the Mary Magdalene work. It was a relationship that had its up and downs as Jennifer sometimes felt Bobby was pushing her to channel Magdalene personalities when she didn’t want to. However, Bobby and I connected again concerning our musings about old age and the “last” chapter. It seemed like a good fit.
One of the people Bobby had been involved with for years was a fringe scientist, named Joe Firmage. Joe had been super successful in his early life as a Internet startup CEO. He made a pile of money, but then one day he had an encounter with an “alien” presence that changed his life. His attempts to tell people about what had been shared with him had been met with deep skepticism by his Silicon Valley tribe. He was bought out of his company. With the money he received Joe established research labs to experiment with the information he had been given about “anti-gravity” devices.
Sci-fi narratives had for a long time postulated that once humans were free from the limitations of gravity we could travel the universe at unheard of speeds. Missions to Mars would take a couple of weeks of travel time rather than months. According to the aliens if Earthlings activated anti-gravity devices it would also show the Kosmos they were ready to join the intergalactic community.
Now, if this sounds a bit farfetched I understand, but remember since 1947 (my birth year) we’d had tens of thousands accounts of human encounters with aliens. These accounts came from all over the world involving all kinds of people. They shared some striking similarities, some of them positive and some of them very dark.
Joe postulated (like others) that the Hiroshima Atomic bomb blast had been a “signature” event in terms of Earth being noticed by advanced civilizations. One of my favorite Star Trek films “First Contact” had played with this idea when Earthers in that story lit up their first warp drive and Vulcans who just happened to be passing by Earth at that moment landed to make first contact.
UFO stories were also rife with coverup conspiracies claiming that the US government and big Aerospace companies had secret relations with aliens at places like Area 51 since the late 40’s. There was an entire pop culture industry that had built up around these stories that included best selling books and films. The “disclosure” of these relationships according to these stories had been kept from the public so as not to freak them out. There was a kernel of truth to this position.
IF it was revealed that we were not alone in the Universe, everything on Earth would change. Religion, economics, social constructs etc. The outcome of such an event was unclear in terms of whether it was a positive thing or not. In our movies, our first instinct was to try to kill the aliens. (usually unsuccessfully) Our primate brains still didn't trust anything that was different.
What surfaced in the conversations with Bobby was that Joe had been selected by the US government to help them manage such a disclosure and that he was about to get massive funding for his anti-gravity research. I was surprised that Bobby wanted me to help him manage the vast funds he would receive from his investment in Joe's work over the last seven years. The only issue with this seeming “fantastic” narrative was that the sole source of information about what was happening was coming from Joe and no one else.
For whatever reason, Bobby and the others involved did not want to talk with the government folks that included, according to Joe, the FBI, CIA and defense industry players. So, in June, in spite of my usual desire for verification before getting too excited, I contemplated that this might be the financial miracle that would pull us back from the brink.
It was not just the money that attracted me to Bobby’s project. As a student of the stories we are telling about the now and future, I had always held the “disclosure” story if it occurred as a game changer for human life on Earth. IF I could be a part of that event in the latter part of my life, it seemed like a worthwhile reason to still be here at age 75.
World View – Bullet Points
G7 leaders gathered for a summit in Germany to discuss the situation in Ukraine. A ban on imports of Russian gold was announced. Although the sanctions against Russia were signifiant, the question remained when the winter came and Russia was no longer providing western Europe with fuel, how the NATO alliance would hold up.
53 migrants are found dead in a tractor trailer in San Antonio, Texas. Almost a daily occurrence these days.
These continuing tragedies were a result of the US having no meaningful immigration policy. We had always been the beacon to which immigrants were drawn, but it seemed like we had lost our way about assimilating this next wave into American society. Liberals blamed conservatives for not wanting to act, but the problem was much deeper than that. And this growing migration was becoming a problem for western democracies all around the world.
Former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was shot dead by an assassin while giving a public speech in the city of Nara, Japan.
It seems that it is always after the fact the lack of security for dignitaries comes to light. In a nation like Japan that prided itself on not having a gun culture, this event was shocking. It remained to be seen if it would have any long lasting impacts.
The Supreme Court in a flurry of rulings overturned Roe vs. Wade, made it easier for more people to conceal a gun in public and stopped the EPA from regulating climate change. These radical rulings signaled that the court dominated by its 6-3 majority of alt-right conservatives could become our worst nightmare. Their rulings, often made with faulty legal arguments, were at odds with what a majority of American people wanted. There was a huge backlash to the court taking away abortion rights from women. The final outcome of this court’s actions was yet to be fully understood.
In one sign of the times, it was suggested that IF the Supreme Court got too radical in its rulings, US federal agencies would begin ignoring their rulings. This “non-compliance” was a narrative theme in both blue and red states. If trust in the National government did break down, state governments or Federal agencies could begin ignoring Supreme Court rulings. This could be a step towards civil war between red and blue forces like we had fought over slavery.
A new, Covid BA.5 variant became the dominating variant in the world.
This new variant was more easily transmitted and seemed to be able to circumvent vaccine protections. New variants seemed to be becoming a way of life that we all would have to manage. The outcome of these uncertainties was unclear in terms of where we were headed in the future.
In July my sense of something larger than myself began to expand in some interesting directions. I had been engaged with my relational story with Jesus since the Lost in Woonsocket documentary in 2008, but even his presence did not seem to encompass all that I was experiencing now. Jesus was a major avatar to be sure, but he was just a part of this larger field of possibilities that quantum research was discovering as well as what was happening in my own awareness. More details on this “evolutionary faith” opening and who/what was influencing me is in the final Twilight chapter.
These notations are from the VSD narrative threat analysis scan test for July 1-31, 2022. They represent the 10 categories of news we were tracking at VSD. www.vitalsignsofdemocacy.com
The good news was there was lots of activity by pro-democracy forces pushing against voter suppression schemes MAGA Republicans were hatching in red states. Some of the push back appeared to be working. GOP efforts to block voting rights reforms were failing. Particularly, citizens in battleground states were signing petitions to protect voting rights.
Black Church Leaders in Georgia also intensified their voting rights push. Partly in response to Georgia’s new voter suppression law, Faith Works, a new project with an initial budget of $2.6 million, organized get-out-the-vote efforts at more than 1,000 churches.
Under court order, GOP officials in a New Mexico county were forced to certify primary election results.
On other not so positive notes…
Nevada MAGA Republicans joined the GOP red wave of nominating election deniers to run for major state offices. Jim Marchant, a former state assemblyman who had said he opposed the certification of Joe Biden’s win in Nevada, was among several election deniers to win primaries for statewide offices, including secretaries of state, attorneys general and governors. Some of these victories had come in swing states that could play a major role in the 2024 presidential election, including Nevada, which Biden narrowly won.
Also, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a redistricting case that could have major implications for voting rights. The radical MAGA judges on the court had suggested they would look at a case that if left standing would give exclusive power to state legislators to decide voting results with no oversight from their State courts or executive branch. This was a radical interpretation of the states role in setting election procedures. If the court ruled this way in their next session, our system of checks and balances at the state level could be threatened. What the MAGA forces were trying to do was “legally” foment a coup if they didn’t like the results of the 2024 elections. They had been stopped in 2020 from doing it illegally, but who knew what the future held.
The question of democracy in America circa 2022 had a lot to do with the MAGA Republicans attempts to govern America from a minority position. IF the majority of American voters would not stand up against these minority opinions, democracy would cease to exist in America.
In a sign that our judiciary system was beginning to hold law breakers accountable, MAGA ally Steve Bannon’s contempt of congress trial began on schedule.
CBS News poll: Americans reacted to the overturning of Roe v. Wade — with 59% disapproving, calling it a step backward. It was not lost on anyone that for the first time in its history the MAGA conservative super majority on the Supreme Court were taking rights “away” from citizens rather than expanding them.
Senator Manchin initially did not support Biden's climate bill. At the same time, the UN issued a climate report entitled: It’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Lake Mead dropped to shocking levels as a result of the drought crisis in the Western United States
US Economy – Dark Money in Politics
Both parties seemed to be influenced by the ever-growing power of dark money in U.S. politics. Although there was lip service paid to ridding our system of these large amounts of dark money, it appeared no one was willing to actively try to eliminate the Super Pacs responsible.
Congress passed its first gun control bill in decades. Although it was limited in its scope, it was a small step towards more rational approach to gun ownership in spite of the continuing expansian of right wing armed militias.
America’s Role in the World
Biden’s made a trip to Mideast but was unable to convince oil producers to lower their prices. This could have a disastrous impact on the mid-terms if fuel prices kept rising.
Ukraine’s demands for more weapons to fight Russian invaders clashed with U.S. concerns that they could fall into the enemies hands.
Personal – At the end of August I attended my first “live” event. We were promoting the launch of the VSD meter with the Climate Democracy Initiative. It was strange being in a room with people. (most without masks) I did not get Covid, so at least I had that going for me.
The ultra-hot weather also continued. It was not uncommon to have 95-100 degree days with 70 degrees at night all summer. This was an increase from our usual experience in Boulder. I kept looking at the temps in the Canadian Rockies and they seemed to be mostly 10 degrees cooler. Something to look into for future sanctuaries.
Democracy was impacted from the results of our narrative analysis scan between August 1st – 31st. The overall threat rating for democracy in America rose to 5 stars from 4 stars in the prior scan, a tossup between America leaning towards democracy or autocracy.
These are notations from our VSD narrative analysis threat scan Aug 1-31, 2022 in order of the key factors list. www.vitalsignsofdemocacy.com
Gerrymandered maps in four states were ruled Illegal by the courts, but because of the closeness to the midterms they were being used anyway.
Judges in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Ohio found that Republican legislators illegally drew those states’ congressional maps along racial or partisan lines. In years past, judges who have reached similar findings had ordered new maps, or had an expert re-draw them, to ensure that coming elections were fair. But a shift in election law philosophy at the Supreme Court, combined with a new aggressiveness among Republicans who drew the maps, threatened to up end that model for the elections in November. This time, all four states are using the rejected maps, and questions about their legality for future elections will be hashed out in court later.
The Arizona Republican Party’s Anti-Democracy Experiment
The aggressive takeover of the Arizona G.O.P. by its far-right wing was made manifest on primary night earlier this month, when a slate of Trump-endorsed candidates — the gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, the U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, the state attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and the secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem — all prevailed.
As a group, they maintained that the 2020 election was stolen, promoted conspiracy theories about Covid and vowed to protect Arizona’s schools from gender ideology, critical race theory and what McCarthyites denounced 70 years ago as ‘godless communism.’ They have cast the 2022 election as not just history-defining but potentially civilization-ending.”
Trump-allied lawyers pursued voting machine data in multiple states illegally.
A team of computer experts directed by lawyers allied with President Trump copied sensitive data from election systems in Georgia as part of a secretive, multi-state effort to access voting equipment that was broader, more organized and more successful than previously reported, according to emails and other records obtained by The Washington Post.
As they worked to overturn Trump’s 2020 election defeat, the lawyers asked a forensic data firm to access county election systems in at least three battleground states, according to the documents and interviews. The firm charged an upfront retainer fee for each job, which in one case was $26,000.
In Michigan, the plot to breach voting machines pointed to a national pattern. The efforts to access the machines jumped into public view when the state attorney general, Dana Nessel (D), requested a special prosecutor be assigned to look into a group that includes her likely Republican opponent, Matthew DePerno.
Culture Wars – Minority vs. Majority Rule
The F.B.I's search of Trumps home at Mar-a-lago ignited violent rhetoric on the far right. Some pro-Trump media figures reacted to the search with the talk of ‘war,’ the clearest outburst of such language since the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
After the Mar-a-Lago search, Fox News decried ‘abuse’ of power. Fox News host Sean Hannity echoed the dozens of Trump supporters protesting outside the South Florida resort by proclaiming that what happened amounted to “a dark day for our republic, the Department of Justice, the rule of law.”
Make no mistake,” Hannity said, “if you are associated with Donald Trump in any way, you better cross all your i’s and dot all your t’s, because they’re coming for you with the full force of the federal government.”
As images of Trump supporters waving flags and holding signs saying, “In Trump I Trust,” played on Fox News, host Laura Ingraham demanded that Republicans purge the federal government if they retook power in Congress in the mid-terms. “When we get power back, it’s time to hold everyone accountable — the military leadership, the civilian leadership, the civil service, and those in Congress who have abused their power,” she said. “All of them have to be held accountable.”
In Trumps exclusive interview with Fox News Digital Monday morning, his first since the raid, he said he had his representatives reach out to the Justice Department to offer help amid the outrage over the FBI’s unprecedented raid on his private residence last week, in which agents seized classified records, including some marked as top secret. Trump was disputing the classification of those records, saying the records had been declassified by him, but offered no proof. The country was in a very dangerous position.
The Independence of Our Judicial System.
A Federal Appeals Court ruled that Trump tax returns must be given to Congress. Trump business entities must turn over to the House Ways and Means Committee. The 3-0 decision was the latest legal blow to Trump, who has repeatedly lost in his efforts in federal and state courts to shield his closely guarded tax returns and business-related documents from various investigations. Trump has argued that all of those probes are politically motivated.
A federal judge on Monday rejected US Senator Lindsey Graham’s challenge to a subpoena to testify before a grand jury in Georgia probing efforts by former President Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn his 2020 election defeat. Graham, a Republican, had argued through his lawyers that his position as a US senator provided him immunity from having to appear before the investigative panel.
Rudy Giuliani was also identified as a "target" of the criminal investigation into possible 2020 election interference in Georgia by former President Donald Trump and others. The lawyer, Robert Costello, said that as part of their efforts to compel Giuliani’s testimony, Georgia prosecutors initially told New York courts that Giuliani was a material witness. But Costello said Giuliani's lawyers were informed Monday that he is a "target" of the probe.
The Cultural Impact of Cable and Social Media News Feeds
On Trump's Truth Social, anti-FBI sentiment exploded with little oversight. Posts on Truth Social included users calling for civil war and advocating for violence against the FBI.
Truth Social, the Twitter-like social media platform backed by former President Donald Trump's media and technology company, was also thrust into the national spotlight Thursday after it was found that Ricky Shiffer, the man who attempted to break into an Ohio FBI building with a nail gun while armed with a rifle, had posted violent threats against the FBI on the platform.
Social media has changed life in America in a thousand ways. Nearly two out of three Americans now believe that these changes are for the worse, but academic researchers have not yet reached a consensus that social media is harmful. That’s been a boon to social-media companies such as Meta, which argues, as did tobacco companies, that the science is not “settled.”
Ensuring a Women’s Right to Choose
Kansas voters overwhelmingly struck down a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove language enshrining reproductive rights in their state. It was a move widely seen as a victory for abortion rights activists. The proposed amendment was the first time anywhere in the U.S. that voters cast ballots on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
Combating Climate Change
In terms of climate relief, the Inflation Reduction Act included a number of measures in the bill Congress just passed. The centerpiece of the bill was a giant allocation toward climate change and energy efforts. It was said that this bill “would be the largest action on climate change ever passed by the Congress.”
If enacted, it would spread money all around the green economy, from $9 billion toward a program to retrofit homes to $20 billion to manufacture more electric vehicles. Automakers like GM (GM), Tesla (TSLA), and Toyota (TM) are expected to benefit from the money as well as the expansion of a $7,500 EV tax credit included in the deal.
Climate groups reacted to Senate passing the Inflation Reduction Act as a monumental day for America’s clean energy progress and global climate leadership. With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the Senate, solar and storage companies were one step closer to having the business certainty they need to make the long-term investments that decarbonize the electric grid and create millions of new career opportunities in cities and towns across the country.
A US Study warned that an "Extreme Heat Belt" would soon emerge in the U.S., In just 30 years, climate change will cause the Lower 48 states to be a far hotter and more precarious place to be during the summer. The findings come from a hyperlocal analysis of current and future extreme heat events published Monday by the nonprofit First Street Foundation. The new report was unique for examining current and future heat risks down to the property level across the country, and joins similar risk analyses First Street has completed for flooding and wildfires.
US Economics - Dark Money
The Fed warned of turbulence ahead in the financial markets. The Federal Reserve's hawkish message on inflation registered quickly in U.S. housing markets as mortgage rates shot up and home sales slowed.
Politicians and strategists consider the soaring effects if inflation on midterms.
Democrats tended to focus on unemployment which was certainly important to the people that are unemployed and their families and communities. But the difference now is 100% of people are impacted by inflation. Republicans argued that the Biden administration said there was not going to be inflation, it was just transitory. And Democrats responded with we hear you, we see you, we're doing everything we possibly can.
With Senator Sinema’s help private equity firms won relief from proposed tax hikes. Senate Democrats agreed Sunday to protect firms owned by the private equity industry from a new minimum tax on billion-dollar corporations, bowing to pressure from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who insisted on making the change to the Democrats’ sprawling climate, health-care and tax package.
The Business Roundtable opposed the ‘Inflation Reduction Act, which, among other things, includes tax provisions they claimed would undermine American economic growth and competitiveness.. But analyses by Wall Street establishments the previous week discovered that the impression on company earnings would seemingly be restricted, although some sectors could possibly be extra affected than others.
Enacting Gun Reform
Supreme Court Ruling Impacts Gun Ownership. The June 23 decision struck down a New York law requiring people to show a specific need to carry a firearm in public. Gun safety advocates, however, emphasized that the court’s ruling was limited in scope and still allows states to regulate types of firearms, where people can carry firearms and the permitting process, including requirements for background checks and training.
Shootings Soared, Philadelphia Awash in Guns. The number of homicides in Philadelphia was on track toward becoming the highest in police records, passing the bleak milestone set just last year. So far in 2022, more than 1,400 people in the city have been shot, hundreds of them fatally, a higher toll than in the much larger cities of New York or Los Angeles. Alarms have sounded about gun violence across the country over the past two years, but Philadelphia is one of the few major American cities where it truly is as bad as it has ever been.
America's Influence in the World
Ukraine made gains in Kherson. In their summer campaign to drive Russian troops from the southern region of Kherson, Ukraine’s forces have decimated Russian command centers and ammunition depots, severed supply lines with precision strikes on key bridges, and sown terror among collaborationist officials with a spate of car bombings, shootings and, Ukrainian officials said, at least one poisoning.
But out in the fields along the Kherson Region’s western border, the Ukrainian fighters who would be called on to deliver the knockout blow in any successful effort to retake territory remain pinned down in their trenches.
As Pelosi Departed Taiwan, China Geared Up for Military Drills. The trip took place against the backdrop of increasingly heated warnings from China, which claims Taiwan as its territory. Beijing condemned the speaker’s visit in strong terms, responding with plans for military exercises near Taiwan. It could also damage a push by the White House to shore up support against China from key allies in the region who analysts say have felt sidelined by the trip. On Wednesday, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, told a regular news conference in Beijing that more punishments for the United States and Taiwan would follow from Ms. Pelosi’s visit.
Chinese military drills circling Taiwan set up a potential standoff. In its warning, China’s military called for all boats and airplanes to avoid the areas it identified for 72 hours. For Taiwan, and the United States military, a key question will be whether they obey the orders or test China’s resolve to carry out the tests by sending boats and planes into those zones.
The standoff is reminiscent of an incident in 1995 and 1996 called the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. Back then, China fired live ammunition and missiles into the waters around Taiwan to signal its anger over a trip by Taiwan’s then-president, Li Teng-hui, to the United States, and to raise pressure before a presidential election. The United States then sent two aircraft carrier groups to the area and sailed one through the Taiwan Strait
Assault on Salman Rushdie. Salman Rushdie stabbing suspect was charged with attempted murder as author remained hospitalized with "serious" wounds. Matar was accused of attacking Rushdie on Friday as the author was being introduced at a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute. The 75-year-old author was stabbed at least once in the neck and once in the abdomen, officials said. Rushdie's agent, Andrew Wylie, said Friday that Rushdie was on a ventilator.
Rushdie remained hospitalized Saturday with serious injuries, but fellow author Aatish Taseer tweeted in the evening that Rushdie was "off the ventilator and talking (and joking)." Wylie confirmed that information without offering further details.
Stress in One’s life.
There a lot of things that can “stress” one’s life, but in my experience the lack of money is the most challenging one. Certainly, troubled relationships or sickness are right up there, but if you don’t have money, your options are limited about what you can do about any of it.
When Joyce and I went through our divorce I was at the top of my Hollywood career. Even though our separation was massively stressful for both of us, I had the money at that point to give her our house and make it possible for her to train to become a real estate executive.
One of the considerations that has kept Jennifer and I together in these last years while we continued to have Matthew to take care of was that he didn’t have a financial option to live separately. The time may be coming where it is not our choice anymore. Money isn’t everything, but it allows you to soften the impact of troubled times. As I come into this last chapter the fact that my finances are depleted is worrisome. This really began to surface in September.
What I had always thought Jennifer and I would do eventually would be to go off as a couple after Matthew was into his own life. Obviously, that didn’t happen because of Matt’s continuing issues with the legal system cocnerning his drug habit and Covid bringing him home. All the qualities that I loved about our relationship I thought we would revisit when it was just the two of us again could not be experienced, partly because of the lack of financial resources. Sometime life does not turn out the way you wish in the time line you designate.
In the World – From VSD September Scans - News Bytes
President Biden announced that Covid was over. He really didn’t mean completely over, but that we had reached a stage where we were managing the virus level knowing their were still cases around. This was a strange thing to admit, but it fit with the fractured response we had to combating the virus.
It was also announced that there was a new vaccine booster that would knock down the threat of the new BA.5 variant. This new vaccine would not prevent one from getting the virus, but would limit the symptoms, require no hospitalization and resulted in no death. It seemed this was the way it was going to be until they found a final vaccine.
Voting and Election Certification
There was some positive news on the voting front. The Election Reform Act was poised to pass in Congress with some bipartisan support including the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. This act modernized the outdated 1887 Electoral Count Act to ensure that electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s public vote for President. It will also make it harder for a small minority of members of Congress to challenge legitimate election results as they attempted to do before the certification of President Biden on January 6th.
Acceptance of election results continued to be a challenge. A dozen Republican candidates in competitive races for Governor and Senate refused to say whether they would accept the results of their contests, raising the prospect of fresh post-election chaos two years after Donald Trump refused to concede the presidency.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy rolled out the GOP agenda for the upcoming elections. The product of more than a year of work, the “Commitment to America” platform focuses on four key pillars — the economy, security and public safety, freedom and government accountability — areas that Republicans say President Joe Biden and his party have failed to address since taking control of Washington two years ago. While the MAGA dog whistles of the “economy” and “public safety” were included, there were very few details of what MAGA Republicans would actually do about any of our current challenges. McCarthy seems more intent on staging “retribution” show investigations of imaginary fraud he claims Democrats are involved in.
Another negative aspect that surfaced this month was the depth of the “fantasy” realms that right wing politicians around the world were living in. This was demonstrated clearly by the election of Giorgia Meloni as the new Italian Prime Minister. Ms. Meloni sees “The Lord of the Rings” as not just a series of novels, but as a sacred text. In Italy, “The Lord of the Rings” has for a half-century been a central pillar upon which descendants of post-Fascism reconstructed a hard-right identity, looking to a traditionalist mythic age for symbols, heroes and creation myths free of Fascist taboos.
And if there was any doubt what Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida had in mind for addressing immigration challenges, a group of migrants filed a federal class action suit against him and other state officials, alleging that he carried out a "scheme to defraud vulnerable immigrants to advance a political motive" when he chartered planes to fly them from Texas to Martha's Vineyard last week. DeSantis continues to focus on Culture War “stunts” to please his base of MAGA Republicans as he positions himself to run for President in 2024.
Ensuring a Women’s Right To Choose
Encouraging news included continuing marches in support of a women’s right to choose around the country. For example, people across the United States skipped work on Friday for a “Day Without Us” protest of the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the federal constitutional right to an abortion.
Also the impact of overturning Roe v. Wade was showing up in the polls. Since June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court issued their ruling, Gallup found the number of Americans identifying themselves as pro-choice rose to a near record high in the aftermath of the Court’s decision.
The Effectiveness of Our System of Checks and Balances
Positive news included new poll results and court cases that appeared to signal that our system was going to hold MAGA law breakers accountable. According to 80 percent of Republican voters said Trump should be treated the same as every American. This is a good sign for the multiple legal challenges Trump faces.
Also, New York's attorney general sued Trump and 3 of his children for alleged fraud. Following a three-year investigation, New York's Democratic Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday against former President Donald Trump. "The complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, to cheat the system," James said at a press conference. The lawsuit also targets members of Trump's longstanding executive team, including members of his family: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump.
The Independence of the Judiciary
A new poll that found a slim majority of Americans supported expanding the Supreme Court as confidence in the institution remained low after a series of “political” decisions in favor of MAGA Republicans. Expanding the court was favored by larger majorities of a number of groups: 63% of Black respondents, 61% of Hispanic respondents, 60+% of those ages 18-44, 60% of women and 56% of those making less than $30,000 per year.
A new Politico investigation revealed that some Supreme Court justices were shielding their spouses’ work from potential conflict of interest disclosures. Ginni Thomas, (wife of Justice Thomas) Jane Roberts (wife of Justice Roberts) and Jesse Barrett’s (husband of Justice Barrett) clients remain a mystery, fanning fears of outside influences. As an independent branch of government, the Supreme Court had long been determined to set its own path on ethics, with each justice left to make their own determination on when to recuse themselves from cases with no enforcement mechanism to hold them accountable. This may change as a result of this discovery.
Another negative impact was the observation that the ‘shadow docket’ was further eroding the Supreme Court’s legitimacy. The impression the justices left when lower courts had gone to great lengths to explain and then the Supreme Court overrides them summarily with no explanation, seems to suggest they were acting for political reasons rather than legal ones.
The Impact on Democracy of Cable and Social Media News
The Biden administration and TikTok had drafted a preliminary agreement to resolve national security concerns posed by the Chinese-owned video app. This agreement still faced hurdles over the terms, as the platform negotiated to keep operating in the United States without major changes to its ownership structure.
In other potentially troubling news, Metaverse developer Roblox, the online game platform that boasted a user base comprised largely of children under 13 numbering in the hundreds of millions, was trying to grow along with its audience. It announced at its developer conference that it would soon allow brands to directly purchase in-game advertising, creating a massive opportunity for companies eager to hook a tech-savvy young audience — and sending shivers down the spines of many parents.
It is still unclear whether the rapid development of Metaverse destinations whose primary mission was to influence young people to buy things was a useful service or just another way to manipulate players behavior and gather their personal data without their knowledge.
Mitigating Climate Change
Positive news included a new level of recognition of the impact of climate change by authorities. Against the backdrop of devastation from two major hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida and the Carolinas, it was finally acknowledged by authorities that hurricanes were getting stronger as a result of warming ocean waters caused by climate change.
David Malpass, the President of the World Bank, shocked the climate world by reverting to the "I'm not a scientist" shibboleth when pressed by a New York Times reporter about his stance on human-caused climate change — during Climate Week NYC. It was unclear what it meant for one of the top arbiters of the Western world's post-war economic order thinking climate change was not a thing? Malpass quickly backtracked, but not before the Nation reported that U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry was agitating for "major restructuring" at the bank.
US Economy and Dark Money in Politics
Economic expert, Robert Reich warned Congress about the REAL causes of inflation. He testified the real cause was not wage-price inflation, but corporate profit-price inflation. In his view, the Fed’s continuing rate hikes would hurt average workers by slowing the economy, making it harder for workers to get wage increases and causing many to lose their jobs. Reich suggested that Congress needed to consider ways to control inflation that limit corporate profits rather than jobs and wages — such as a windfall profits tax, tougher antitrust enforcement, and even temporary price controls.
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan CEO, also warned Congress that current capital rules posed ‘significant economic risk,” He said that higher buffers ‘handicap’ banks at a time when they should be lending more. Dimon’s remarks reflected the tension US regulators have faced since the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, when steps were taken to address weaknesses in the banking system. Critics such as Dimon have complained that capital requirements rules are now too strict. Where have we heard that story before?
Senate MAGA Republicans blocked a bill to require disclosure of ‘dark money’ donors. This legislation would have required super PACs and other groups to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more during an election cycle. This MAGA Republican success at blocking the bill was a blow to Democrats’ efforts to reform campaign financing laws.
Enacting Gun Reform
Sandy Hook parents who had been harassed for years because of the lies told by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones about the Sandy Hook school shootings had their day in court.
This week they ended their silence in a Connecticut courtroom, delivering a wrenching and angry rebuke to Mr. Jones, who for years on his Infowars show and website claimed the Sandy Hook shootings were a “fake” event to gain sympathy for gun reform. The prosecution replayed Mr. Jones lie about Robbie Parkers televised tribute to his daughter the night after her death in the 2012 shooting, calling him an “actor” and his presentation about Emilie “disgusting.”
The far-right conspiracist was facing heightened scrutiny as the bankruptcy of his Infowars parent company revealed a complicated web of corporate entities tied to his family and associates. Jones’ parents and sister control companies are now looking to be paid as creditors of the bankrupt debtor, Free Speech Systems LLC. Other companies run by his personal trainer and an Infowars contributor also had supplier contracts with Free Speech that will be probed during the Chapter 11 case. It is hoped that Jones imprisonment and the financial penalties imposed on his net worth will deter other conspiracy theorists from continuing to tell lies to make money.
America’s Influence in the World
United Nations chief and French president Macron issued dire warnings about the potential decline of democracies around the world. In an alarming assessment, the head of the United Nations warned world leaders that nations were “gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction” and weren’t ready or willing to tackle the challenges that threaten humanity’s future and the planet’s. Macron also warned of a ‘crisis of democracies,’ including in US following years of “pressure” and “destabilization” efforts. The French leader warned “liberal democracies” were facing troubling trends in nationalism, populism and racism spreading in Europe and the US.
The Uneven Economic Playing Field
I also began to wonder as I continued to analyze the news for VSD, IF we really can have a more generative approach to our capitalistic economic system without a major overhaul and a re-imagining of capitalism and what it means to be “successful.”
Left to run rampant, capitalism with its current short term focus is burning up the world and contributing to a continuing economic disparity between the rich and everyone else. Historically, this never turns out well for anyone. Economic expert Robert Reich published some new figures on the consolidation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands that showed the growing gap between the haves and have nots.
Richest 10% of Americans:
1989: Possess 63% of US wealth
2019: Possess 72% of US wealth
Richest 1% of Americans:
1989: Possess 27% of US wealth
2019: Possess 34% of US wealth
Bottom half of US:
1989: Possess 4% of US wealth
2019: Possess 2% of US wealth
Civil unrest based on a financial crisis that mostly would impact the middle class and poor could trigger riots in the streets and a call for martial law and a shift to a more autocratic corporate governance as people become more aggravated.
I had always advocated for incremental change, but as you begin to understand the way our economy is organized to maximize profits for the wealthy and that both MAGA Republicans and Democrats do nothing about it, the circumstances seem to be setting up for a much more radical, rapid response from citizens who are desperate to pay their bills.
As I continued to moderate my view of a force larger than myself at play in the Kosmos, I was reminded of the Buddhist concept of Selfing that I always liked.
The concept of “selfing” outlined finding a balance between the concepts of being selfish and selfless. It suggested that if we are not “selfish” we cannot learn to love and forgive ourselves. AND if we are completely “selfless” we retain no individual energic signature that is the basis of our unique contribution to the evolution of intelligence. To find the balance between the two was the trick.
In June I thought I could raise 30K for VSD to get us through the transition. Bobby had also shown up and I wanted to believe in the Disclosure Project potential. It turned out that I was met with resistance in my progressive politics network as being too alarmist with what VSD was reporting. They still wanted to do the unify and community building approach that they had labored on for years and thought what VSD showed was too negative. I thought we were way past the point of MAGA Republicans and Biden Democrats talking to each other.
And the Disclosure project turned out to be a mirage that perpetrated a blow up between Jen and Bobby. Jen forced him out of the house. She felt that Bobby’s “energy” was dark and filled with entities.
Bobby was a challenged person to be around to be sure, but considering he was giving us $1000 towards the rent I was willing to play along. So, now we were on our own again and I didn’t have a clue where the money was going to come from that would replace his contribution.
Summary: The VSD master rating for the last two weeks remains at High Threat Level 6, even though an uneasiness hangs over American voters about the potential results of the upcoming mid-term elections.
Two individual categories, Voting Rights and Election Certification and Dark Money saw a significant uptick in threat levels in the last two weeks. In this scan both these narratives are rated at a Very High Threat Level 8. This could have a profound impact on the results of the mid-term elections.
Some of the reasons for these higher threat ratings concerning voting and dark money were because MAGA forces announced that IF they didn’t win back Congress, they would claim the election was rigged. This means they would challenge every result that does not benefit them whether there was any proof of fraud or not. This could delay the results being certified for weeks and set a bad precedent for the 2024 elections.
On the economic front, MAGA candidates tightened up Congressional and Senate races in key battle ground states claiming that they were better for the American economy than Democrats. These is no proof in any of their “Commitment to America” plans that they know what to do about high fuel and food prices or the general level of inflation they currently blame on Biden Democrats. If MAGA candidates do end up controlling both houses of Congress, it will be because of Dark Money being poured into battle ground states to support MAGA candidates as they make these misleading claims on the economy and crime.
The Democrats on the other hand were hoping that the boost in the polls they received over the summer because of the push back on overturning of Roe v. Wade would hold until the mid-terms. What we saw in the polls in the last two weeks was that the tide was shifting back to MAGA candidates based on economic and tough on crime issues. In our analysis, the Democrats, except for a few, were not pushing back effectively on these dubious MAGA claims. This could result in them losing control of both houses of Congress.
Other Bullet Points
• 1/3 of American voters believe that threats to democracy are not a priority concern.
• Nearly half of Republican voters say that America should be a “Christian Nation.”
• Some tech elite actively favor a new, center-right-leaning political ideology.
• Midterm GOP victories could bring new abortion restrictions in 6 states.
• Stephen Bannon was Sentenced to Four Months in Prison for Contempt of Congress.
• Biden's unlikely new ally on climate change: Corporate America.
• The Chilling Problem with Kanye West’s Definition of ‘Free Speech.’
• Kevin McCarthy defends ‘blank check’ remark on Ukraine.
I often would go out walking near the Boulder Reservoir when I needed to get some air . It helped me quiet my monkey brain.
On one of those walks it suddenly hit me… “this was actually happening.” What this meant was a less than a comfortable transition from our big Boulder life to something more manageable.
Since the summer I had run the numbers on how much we had left and how far it would take us. When the end of those funds appeared to be November at that point, it still seemed theoretical, but now we were here, it was real.
There were so many things that were up in the air about where Jennifer and Matt would live IF I had to go to California to find work. Would we just sell everything? I told Jennifer at one point to collapse all her stuff into what would fit in her car and a trailer. That seemed impossible with all the stuff we had accumulated in 17 years.
I had gone through all the remaining IL studio stuff, which included left over Integral Life records and old equipment and cleaned out most of it. That left a bunch of office furniture that could be sold to raise money. It felt good to get rid of the garbage. This was something we were going to do anyway when our lease was up at the end of August 2023 but our financial short fall was forcing it now. The worst time to move is in the middle of winter. It just seemed impossible but I swore I would take it a step and a time so it did not feel so overwhelming.
How Had it Come to This?
When I received the money mother left me, it represented a welcome surplus for the first time in a long time. I was still working for Integral Life and beginning to develop a new network to raise money for Story Studio. As I chronicled earlier, God laughs when you make a plan. Just as the transition out of IL seemed like it was going well my cancer took most of 2019 and then when I was just starting to raise money for Story Studio at the end of year, Covid hit and changed everyone’s trajectory.
Even then I still had some clients... so it seemed we would be okay until Covid let up. When Covid got extended I probably should have called it at that point. We still had enough money to make a transition to a simpler life. So, why didn’t I. A lot of it was Jennifer’s and my relationship to money. We had never been able to really talk through expenses, money making opportunities etc. We both just dealt with our own, which meant I was taking care of everything that kept a roof over my head. She didn’t seem like she wanted to know the details.
I guess what I was afraid of is that a “pull the plug now” conversation would also include by default whether Jennifer and I were staying together. About that point we did have some conversations about what might happen when our lease was up in August of 2023. I told her I would not live with both her and Matthew any longer. I wanted the two of us to live together as we had intended. This was not because of anything Matt did, but more about Jennifer’s insistence that she would not leave him until she was sure he could take care of himself.
Without going into a lot of detail, I had been completely OK with keeping a roof over our head through all of Matt’s challenges with drugs, but now that he was 31 years of age, I thought Jennifer had to cut him loose in a kind way. I thought her continuing to “do” for him was giving him the message that he was not capable of taking care of himself. From his perspective it was just easier for us to care for him, but it wasn’t helping him in my view.
Jennifer claimed that she wanted what I wanted so the conversation had stopped there. I am not sure I believed her at that point that she would ever let him fend for himself if he didn’t have plenty of resources to do so, but our financial crisis was forcing the issue. IF she was going to continue to care for him, I would find another place to be and try to support them from there. So, it was a lot. Our transition “plan” was in shambles and I had no idea how this was going to work itself out.
I had shared a bit of this with my sister Jane over the summer. Less so with brother Bruce. We mostly talked sports which was a nice diversion. Jane was sympathetic which was welcome, but in the middle of the fall Jane’s cancer recurred. That was a errant pitch no one saw coming. She would be occupied for some months in 2023 getting the new surgery and follow up treatment.
All I wanted was some peace and a life I could support easily. Didn’t seem like too much to ask but how to get there was not clear. In my conversations with Bruce about Jane’s situation, I decided to bring him into my crisis.
He was amazing. He had made good choices about his own “retirement” but he certainly understood the complexity of mine. Very quickly, he and Virginia offered to loan me a certain amount of money to get through the transition. It was not what I wanted to do, but it did give me some hope that somehow I could make this transition while we looked for our own VSD funding. I had been considering moving back to California to spend more time with Jane and Bruce and their families if I was solo again.
What Stories Actually Mattered to Me at This Point?
I had two narrative properties that I was trying to raise money to produce. “Your Secret Stories” was a web-course I wanted to teach on the importance of the personal stories we tell ourselves. They influence what we feel, think and eventually do with our lives. The hopeful thing about this work was that IF you didn’t like the story you were living, you could change it. Certainly, “my” story needed changing to make this next transition.
The other property was “Vital Signs of Democracy” that I described earlier. I had fully expected to be able to raise the money we needed to make it through the transition but with the exception of some funds from a couple of old friends of mine, we kept coming up zeros. As the midterms loomed it seemed everyone wanted to wait and see the results before committing to anything that had to do with threats to our democracy.
Historically, the midterms that follow a presidential election are not good for the party that won the presidency. In this case, the Biden Democrats. Bidens approval numbers were at a all-time low, and Democratic party candidates for the House and the Senate really did not want to run on his coattails.
The irony of the situation is that in the first two years of his presidency Biden had accomplished more than any president had in a long time. He had gotten us through the worst of the pandemic, he had passed financial aid bills and climate change legislation all with a 50-50 split Senate. But in 2022 world, it didn’t matter what he had actually done, IF the narrative being told did not land with voters. Of course, the MAGA Republicans claimed that they were better for the economy with no actual proof. They got out their old dog whistles of “a rise in violent crime” and “immigration” even though they didn’t know what to do about them either. Unfortunately, the Democrats were having trouble countering the MAGA narratives with something more pro-democracy.
That was until the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and took the right to an abortion away from women after 50 years. First time in history, that the Supreme Court took rights away from voters, but this was the ultra-conservative court that McConnel had crafted by naming three new judges to the court during Trumps presidency. They adhered to the “originalist” constitutional theory which was in stark contrast to the concept of the constitution as a “living document” that was interpreted for 21st century not the 17th.
Conservative justices like Thomas and Scalia had become super aggressive in terms of their attempt to return America to some white, male dominated culture where the rich made out like bandits and the rest of us were just out of luck. The Roberts court had already done considerable damage to America by gutting the Voting Act of 1965 and siding with the rich and powerful concerning donating unlimited amounts of dark money to political campaigns.
The day came that no one ever thought they would see. Roe v. Wade was overturned at the Federal level and sent back to the states to set their own rules. 16 red states immediately passed their own abortion laws that in most cases did not make exceptions for rape or incest. Some went further, criminalizing women or anyone that tried to help them get the support they needed for an abortion.
Now, sometimes you have to be careful about what you wish for. For 50 years ultra conservatives and Christian evangelists had attempted to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now that they had, they didn’t seem to know what to do in terms of the practical ramifications of such suppressive laws. National polls had always shown that 65-70% of Americans thought women should have a right to choose what to do with their bodies, within reason, instead of letting the state legislators dictate those decisions. What we started to see almost immediatly was a growing tide of women rising up and passing initiatives, even in red states, that included a right to choose in their state constitutions and they also began looking at candidates that supported a national abortion law.
This “wave” during the summer had started to change some of the poll numbers in terms of MAGA Republicans support. All of a sudden it didn’t look like a fore drawn conclusion that MAGA Republicans would take control of both the House and the Senate. If that happened, combined with the ultra-conservative Supreme Court it could lean us towards autocratic rule by a minority and away from pro-democracy ideals. Also, the “threats to democracy” narrative seemed like it was gaining traction in the all-important independent voters that would decide the results of the mid-terms. We certainly were seeing this in our Vital Signs analysis.
That all surfaced in the summer but as fall came on, the polling numbers seemed to once again favor MAGA Republicans and the “RED WAVE” narrative being trumpeted from Fox News, but also from some progressive observers. It seemed like we were in trouble as a country.
We tuned in the night of the Midterms and very early it appeared that the Red Wave was nowhere to be found in the key battleground states.
By 10pm it seemed possible that Democrats might hold on to both the House and the Senate. I will let our VSD analysis from the end of November take it from here…
The Hidden Story
Before we get to our summary of our ten key narrative category breakdowns, we want to point to a story that emerged in the last few days. This story on the surface involved a potential national rail system strike.
Although in the short term the Democrats and some Republicans were right to force the unions into a settlement to keep freight moving, the longer term consequences were less clear. The Biden Democrats had always counted on labor unions to support them. Although the power of the unions was somewhat diminished from their halcyon days, union support was still very important to Democrats and a counterpoint to corporate power and greed.
In this case, the rail corporations had implemented a new system of scheduling workers that allowed them to drastically reduce their work force. Those that remained were forced into long over time days with none of the benefits workers in other industries enjoy, like sick days. The result was that the rail corporations generated record profits while their workers were out of luck if they got sick.
When this crisis came to a head this week the White House said they had no choice, but to force the issue and insist the unions honor a potential agreement they had rejected earlier that had included one sick day. Secretary Pete Buttigieg made the rounds of the cable news channels claiming that they had no choice, but to force the workers into this bad deal to avoid a strike. This was partially true in the short term, but the reason this was happening at the last minute was that the Democrats did NOT pick up on this issue six months prior when negotiations originally fell apart. It was hardly a surprise to anyone that this labor issue came to an impasse. So, why did the Democrats not act before this became a crisis?
In our narrative view, this anti-union settlement of the rail strike represents a much larger issue impacting America. That issue is the income gap between workers and corporate management. The wealth in this country is continuing to be consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. If this continues, working class voters will eventually revolt and although MAGA Republicans have shown little interest in them as well, the Democrats could be seen as siding with “big money” and against a voter block that usually supports them.
In all the "noise" it was easy to miss this underlying narrative that a majority of middle class Americans felt there was a wealth gap. If Biden Democrats appear to side with big money interests, this could have a direct impact on their fortunes in the 2024 elections. Even though the MAGA Republicans have only rewarded the rich with tax cuts, the narrative that is out there is that Republicans are better for America on economic issues than the Democrats. In our view, if the Democrats don’t change this narrative, it could really hurt them (and democracy) in 2024.
Narratives Worth Noting
•The anticipated problems with access to voting and certifying results in red battleground states did not emerge in the midterms. This was good news for democracy. The election went relatively smoothly with most radical MAGA election deniers losing their races in battleground states.
However, in Arizona, where an entire slate of MAGA election deniers lost, we saw a conservative county refuse to certify the vote. (even though MAGA Republicans won) Kari Lake, the MAGA candidate for governor, also choose not to concede. Instead she became the anti-democratic poster child for the MAGA crowd refusing to accept the results because she did not win.
While, Arizona is only one state, this continuing MAGA narrative about voter fraud could portend more trouble in the 2024 election if it is close as it most certainly will be. MAGA Republicans are not going away in spite of their losing in some states. Their attempt to undermine our election system is still a potential threat to democracy in America to watch carefully.
•We have already mentioned the importance of the pending Supreme Court ruling on the “independent state legislator theory,” but there are also other questions being raised about some conservative Supreme Court judges having potential conflict of interest issues. It has been revealed that some of these judges have been accepting expensive travel, meals and gifts from right wing organizations.
Why any Supreme Court judge is allowed to accept gifts from anyone is beyond our understanding, but in this instance the cases in question included potential conflicts of interest on important rulings like Roe v. Wade. Some conservative judges have pushed back aggressively claiming these gifts were personal and need not be reported.
What this story points to is a lack of ANY oversight of the actions of Supreme Court justices. If we can’t trust Supreme Court judges to rule without being influenced by outside interests, democracy in America is in trouble. Stay tuned on this one.
•The Justice Department secured convictions for the serious charge of sedition against the leader of the Proud Boys and his partner in crime.
These convictions were the first of their kind in years and suggest that others could be charged with serious conspiracy crimes as well concerning the attempted January 6th coup.
We are also watching the on-going investigations into Trump on a number of state and Federal charges. We had included an article in this analysis that that lays out the odds that Trump, even if convicted, would ever face jail time. It concludes it is very unlikely. One of the narratives impacting democracy in America is our systems inability to hold bad actors accountable. That includes jail time for offenders. It is still too early to tell if the Justice Department is up to the task before the 2024 election.
•Social media platforms were also in the news in this scan, mostly concerning Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and the changes he is making to the platform.
Our democracy is already threatened by the disinformation news environment we find ourselves in because of unregulated social media platforms. IF our primary news sources continue to be controlled by billionaires who have no interest in Federal regulation that would help reduce “fake news,” we will have taken another step towards autocratic rule by the rich and the powerful.
Now that the 2024 election cycle has begun… questions on the economy were front and center. Will we sink into a recession, and if so how deep? In this past two weeks, narratives from the "experts" had come out on both sides. (Yes or Maybe) IF the economy is impacted leading into the 2024 election that is not a good thing for the Democrats if they have not regained control of the economic narrative, reminding voters anti-democratic MAGA politicians and conservative Supreme Court judges only help the rich.
Unfortunately, mass shootings continued to be common place occurrences in this threat scan. Three in the last two weeks alone.
This had resulted in the Democratic Party once again demanding a ban on assault weapons. However, its unlikely Democrats will have the 60 votes in the Senate or a majority in the MAGA Republican House to pass such legislation. This road block to eliminating military weapons from our streets may portend more of what is to come with a spilt Congress. A lack of progress on the important challenges America faces could cause voters to be unhappy. That is not good news for democracy.
Lastly, the influence of America on the world stage is continuing to be tested. Although the Ukrainians had pushed the Russians back, the war was a long way from over as Europe heads into winter. The incident that saw an errant rocket land over the border in Poland reminded us of how easy it would be for someone to make a mistake, overreact and set off a larger conflict. Ukraine insisted for a week that the rocket that killed two in Poland came from Russian forces. That turned out to be not true. The Ukraine war continued to be a very dangerous situation.
Internal unrest has also erupted in China and Iran. In both cases, young men and women were going into the streets challenging male autocratic power. In China's case, they risked being taken to "reeducation" camps and in the case of Iran, torture, rape and death by hanging. Their courage signaled something was brewing, but whether either case was enough to force the autocratic regimes to listen was unclear.
America’s role in supporting these pro-democracy movements is tricky in our current political environment. On the one hand we want to support anyone that rises up against autocratic systems, but IF America is DISTRACTED by our own threats to democracy this is not good news for freedom loving people around the world. That’s why it is so important for American citizens to take these potential threats to our democracy seriously. IF MAGA Republicans win the 2024 Presidential election and take control of Congress, it was likely they would withdraw us from our global commitments, making the global situation even more dangerous.
We had decided to pay our landlord the rent for December using some of Bruce’s loan funds. This would get us to the New Year. The holidays in the middle of winter was the worst time to be packing.
One of my stories concerning the funding for Vital Signs, was that my “network” of friends and collaborators had not responded with any support with the exception of two old friends. Their gifts had kept us going in November, but it was not enough to push our move out date past the end of January.
Nothing to Lose
At this point, we had nothing to lose so Jennifer reached out to two old friends, Margo and John Stiener and told them the truth about our situation. They were shocked. We were good at keeping up appearances. They immediately sounded the alarm and put a plan in motion where they would give us $5,000 from their foundation fund based on the VSD work we were doing. They also promised they would talk to others and see how they could help.
One of the plans I had for Vital Signs was to launch a GOFUNDME campaign in January. I had done a couple of these successfully in the past, but what I needed this time were email lists we could send the invitation to. Along those lines I talked to my old friend Roger Walsh. Roger was a close friend of Ken Wilber. We had done some content development concerning his wisdom teaching. He was doing a very popular podcast called Deep Transformations with John Dupuy another old friend from Integral days. John was one of the first people I had met at my first Integral event and we had helped him and his wife successfully launch his Mediation CD line.
However, we had not talked in a while. We had not left it on good terms. At one point in my tenure as the director of Integral Life I felt that John and his team were using Ken to raise money inappropriately. In my role at that time, I had to defend Integral Life’s right to Ken’s work and brand. That had not set well with John. This also had not enamored me to a certain part of the Integral community, but I was stuck in difficult position.
On the one hand Ken would ask me WHY our revenues were not higher and one of the things I told him was that there was confusion in the Integral Life audience about where they could access his work. In my defending Integral Life’s position in all this, I had irritated John and his tribe. Having stepped away from running Integral Life in 2018, I was not sure as I reflected on what I had done during my tenure, whether on balance I had really applied my leadership skills properly. We had done a lot of great work, but my extended community seemed to drift away during Covid and I was not sure if that was because of the positions I had to take as the leader of the pack. Leadership can be a lonely place to inhabit sometimes and I certainly could not go back and change anything, but this current situation with John and Roger would at least allow me to re-visit it again.
I gently suggested to John we talk again. We had both been through many chapters since our parting and fortunately we seemed to be able to remember the good work we had done together. John and Roger wanted to do a podcast with me on the Vital Signs work so I agreed. It would be one of the first times I had talked about the VSD work in public. I thought that if the interview was well received, John might send our GOFUNDME request to his list, but as this point I was just not sure I could draw water from that well again.
A XMAS Miracle
In our years on Whidbey Island we had a fairly developed community of friends.
When we had left in the middle of our last crisis in 2001 we had lost touch with many of them. John and Margo reached out to a couple we had all known in that context. Lynnaea was a storyteller and had inherited quite a bit of money from her family. We had talked over the years occasionally, but there had not been much connection lately. A Zoom was arranged and we spent 2 hours explaining our situation to them. They were particularly interested in Vital Signs. Lynnaea also mentioned she needed help with her new storytelling web site. I had no idea at that point if they would contribute anything to Vital Signs or not.
Imagine our surprise when they committed 20K to the effort. I was stunned. This would get us through FEB-March and the worst part of the winter. Sometimes, you just can’t predict where help is going to come from until you ask. In this case John and Margo and Lynnaea and Rick were godsends. At least we had a bit more time to conjure up a future.
Year End Health Crisis
Jennifer and I had scheduled our year end health appointments so we could get beyond our Medicare deductible. (side note: Medicare was one of the few government programs that made a huge difference in our lives. When I had my two cancer operations, Medicare had paid thousands of dollars in hospital, surgery and doctor costs. I think I paid about $60 in co-pays.)
Jennifer and I had the same heart doctor. She has always had a heart aortic aneurysm as long as I had known her. It ran in her family, but the enlargement of her artery had not grown in 18 years, so it was just something to check once a year. However, this time a new technician had done the electro-cartogram and had acted very strangely afterwards. They are not supposed to tell you the test results but she had indicated to Jennifer her aneurysm had grown. Not a good thing.
Once again, she ran up against the present state of the health system. Although there seemed to be some concern, she could not schedule an appointment with a specialist for two weeks. In the meantime, Jennifer did her homework and the news was potentially not good. IF her aneurysm was expanded, the only way to fix it was major heart surgery. Crack the chest stuff.
In the middle of everything else this was sobering. How were we going to get through this major life transition if Jennifer was in recovery for 6 months? There was nothing to do, but wait like we had with my cancer to get an specialists opinion.
When we finally saw the surgeon he told us that the tech had overacted. From his viewpoint the enlargement was something to watch, but did not require any surgery at that point. This brought up all the memories of my cancer journey which required you to listen and evaluate carefully what you were being told. It was all to a certain extent guess work. We were relieved to say the least. My heart stress test came back fine, and my three month cancer follow up numbers were unchanged, so we breathed a sigh of relief and returned to our life crisis as before that was unfolding.
Our health challenges really pointed us to something that was happening more and more. We were at an age (like all our boomer friends) when things bigin to go wrong. We had lost a number of friends to fatal diseases and we had others that were severely impacted by chronic health conditions. As I said before, my sister Jane’s cancer had come back after six years. She would have to deal with that in the New Year. My close friend Cliff Branch was also going through prostate treatment that had floored him. We still didn’t have good alternatives to chemo and radiation. They were at best the poison you knew.
The old adage that you have nothing if you don’t have your health was true, but I wondered if the money/life crisis we were going through wasn’t as bad. Getting sick is a challenge to be sure, but if you have money you have options. IF anything else happened in our lives at this point, we had none. Just saying.
Vital Signs Dec 1-15 Summary
Here is what was going on in America and in the world post midterms according to our VSD narrative analysis.
Vital Signs of Democracy Scan Results – December 1-15, 2022
Current Threat Level : High Threat Level 5
Summary: The VSD master threat rating remained the same at a High Threat Level 5. Although we are discovering more about the narrative impact of the results of the midterm elections on our democracy, the VSD threat level remained the same. This was a result of some of the individual narrative categories going up in threat level like “who is winning the culture wars” and some going down in threat level like “a women’s right to choose. In a sense, those that went up and those that went down canceled each other out, resulting in the master rating remaining the same as the last scan period.
The basic narrative theme we look at when we consider all the factors is… what level of UNEASE are American’s feeling about the current direction of the country? Are they more confident our democracy will meet our current challenges or less so? We believed IF voters traversed the 2024 Presidential Election cycle feeling troubled about the state of affairs in America, they would be more susceptible to look for “new blood” to address their fears. For example, they would be much more unlikely to return President Biden to the White House if he runs for a second term.
As we navigated the holiday season and analyzed what the Democrats would get accomplished in the remaining lame duck Congressional session before the MAGA Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, our narrative analysis was suggesting that there were more questions than answers as to the mood of voters concerning who they would support for president in 2024.
Individual Narratives Worth Noting from the December 1-15 Threat Scan.
As you consider these individual narrative bullet points be reminded that the narratives we are the most interested in have to do with the mood of the voters as it influences the stories they are telling to themselves and supporting in the broader culture. In this polarized political landscape, more voters seem to be making their decisions based on the core stories of their tribe. As we watched the post-midterm results unfold, the question to ask yourself was… what impact will the stories being reported on in the news have on the confidence level that Americans are currently feeling about our democracy. AND how might that impact who the voters are most likely to vote for.
• The demographic results of the midterms confirmed that “threats to democracy” and a “women’s right to choose” were two themes Democrats used successfully to blunt the predicted red wave of MAGA Republicans.
• Given the spilt result of the midterms, most observers were predicting that we were NOT out of the woods yet as it concerned threats to our democracy. AND as a result, the 2024 Presidential Election cycle was beginning in earnest NOW!
•The Democrats assumed that after Senator Warnock won the Georgia Senatorial runoff they would enjoy a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
However, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona declared shortly thereafter that she was switching her affiliation from Democrat to Independent.
Most observers were not sure how much that would impact what Democrats wanted to get done in the Senate or whether it potentially complicated the 2024 Senatorial election in Arizona.
As the 2024 Presidential election cycle kicked off, 62% of Republicans would rather have their candidate be someone else than Trump. 59% of Democrats would rather have someone else than President Biden. However, those same voters said that if either Trump or Biden was their party’s nominee, they would vote for them out of party loyalty.
The January 6th committee intended to issue their final report and any criminal referrals they would make to the Justice Department during the week of December 19th. The MAGA Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives on January 3, 2023 promised to shut down the current January 6th investigation or transition it to negating the concern about an attempted insurrection.
•Governor DeSantis of Florida was leading many Republican primary polls for President as an alternative to Trump.
However, any fantasy that DeSantis intends to run as a moderate were dashed this week when he announced he intends to investigate pharmaceutical companies and the CDC for promoting harmful vaccines during the pandemic. This investigation will draw on fringe conspiracy theory narratives.
•The Trump organization was convicted on 17 counts of financial fraud. This outcome is the first guilty verdict of the many legal challenges Trump is facing.
Special Council Jack Smith is ramping up investigations into Trump for the security documents case in Florida and the January 6th attempted coup. Scary dude!
He was particularly interested in who created the slates of fake electors as part of the plan to illegally overthrow the results of the 2020 election.
Elon Musk was prominent in this scan as he continued to disrupt Twitter by firing employees responsible for content moderation and re-instating Trump and other white, nationalists that had been banned from the platform after the January 6th insurrection. He seemed only interested in the attention was is getting rather than the impact his changes at Twitter would impact democracy in America.
The Dominion Voting Machine 1.6 billion dollar case against Fox New continued.
This case was being watched closely as it could result in the first time the Fox News Network would be held responsible for intentionally reporting lies and disinformation concerning the 2020 election and the Covid pandemic.
The challenges of Climate Change were highlighted in a special report on a possible doomsday scenario facing the Colorado river
basin and all the western states that depended on it for their water. Thirsty voters were capable of drastic action.
Inflation rates were cooling, but the Fed continued to raise interest rates. Some observers believed that if this continued, the United States could enter a recession in 2023.
Gun reform continued to be impacted by Supreme Court “originalist” rulings designed to strike down the few gun control laws that were on the books. Cases continued to be decided in favor of gun manufactures because contemporary concepts like “background checks” or “banning assault weapons” were not explicitly mentioned by name in the text of the original constitution. Just crazy and very dangerous.
Uncertainty in the Ukrainian war with Russia continued to drive the narrative that gas prices could go up again based on price caps NATO allies were planning to apply to any sales of Russian oil. Higher prices for food and fuel were issues that presently, MAGA Republicans believed favored them in the 2024 election even though there was no proof of that. Particularly, if their oil company allies begin raising gas prices again because they could. Democrats were still seeking ways they could take back these issues for themselves.
Chaotic demonstrations against the Zero Covid lock down policies caused China’s rulers to loosen Covid restrictions. Although this was better for the Chinese people, there was a danger that because of their low vaccination rates, China would see another big wave of Covid inflections. It was unclear whether such a wave could make it to the United States in 2023.
By any measure it had been a tough year. Many of our revenue producing projects either got delayed or disappeared altogether.
The midterms had turned out better than expected, but we were not out of the woods in terms of of our democracy. It was not clear to me yet, whether folks would find my Vital Signs work valuable as we embarked on the two year run up to the 2024 Presidential Election. The mood of the country according to our narrative analysis seemed really cautious. Our cultural condition as Americas wasn’t as bad as we had feared it could be, but it felt like we had only gotten some sort of temporary reprieve, but the crisis had not been resolved.
As a family, we had received our Christmas financial miracle which made the holidays a time we could also take a breath and prepare for whatever was up ahead. One thing we did know. The calendar would march forward and whatever was next would be revealed piece by piece. Happy New Year was our wish for ourselves and America.