Chapter 18 - The Now and the Possible Future

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2022 opened with two themes for me. Any expectations that Covid and the resulting uncertainty was behind us were dashed. New variants and so many Americans (including in Boulder) not taking precautions any more, guaranteed that Covid would be with us indefinitely. Learning to manage Covid cases seemed like the new strategy, one that was becoming the new normal, 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.

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The second theme that had actually begun to emerge in the middle of 2021 was that 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 challenged by a number of factors.

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Of the three branches of government, Executive, Congress and the Judiciary, the Supreme Court now had a 6-3 conservative majority. At least 4 of the 6 were acting radically, signaling they were going to reverse 50 year precents like Roe v. Wade. They seemed bent on returning America to some white, male, nationalist, Christian identity from some distant past. 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.

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The smart money in Congress at the beginning of 2022 was on MAGA forces taking control of at least the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. 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, the MAGA Republicans.

IF Democrats lost Congress it would be an end to President Bidens ambitions and the beginning of retribution show trials dialed up by Trump supporters in the House of Representatives to right the “wrongs” he had been dealt. No program ideas to actually help the economy, climate change or voter rights, just culture war moves designed to maintain their power and their wealth bilked from their followers.

 

If MAGA forces controlled both houses of Congress it left them one step away from ending democracy in this country as we know 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.

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Experiential Activism - Guardians of the Rainforest 

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 inquiries 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 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 Jacque Cousteau, approached me with a project she called “Guardians of the Rain Forest.”

 

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 had contact with modern civilization. This experience 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 the past and in 21st Century life in an attempt to build support for their protection. The leverage this narrative had that was worth promoting was that the tribes had been given vast tracks of virgin land in Brazilian rainforest near the border with Peru. Helping them survive their contact with the  modern world would ensure that they protected these tracks from being destroyed, thereby 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 do 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 with the homeless. One of those 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 were gathered.

 

Spending time with Alan was an inspiration. One day he showed me his next idea for meeting the challenge of homeless people. 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 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 worked. Perhaps it was a model that others would adopt as more “sanctuaries” were created to deal with the uncertain times.

 

Vital Signs of Democracy

From all the narratives that were emerging from the Story Studio work, the one concept that seemed we could offer that was unique was the Vital Signs of Democracy meter. 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 attempted to address the frustration I felt when I looked at an individual story on some aspect of the threats to our democracy and had no idea if that story combined with all the others was actually threatening our democracy or not.

 

I thought we could use the Story Studio NLP narrative analysis we used to look at the stories that were driving our now and future to “rate” individual news articles that were reporting on some aspect of the threats to American democracy. We would analyze and rate news stories in ten key factor categories and then aggregate those 10 individual 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."

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I thought this was interesting in that they still believed they had to say it in writing after 50 years of nuclear war hanging over everyone’s head. What were they worried about that would prompt such a need for a reminder I wondered?

 

One concern was Russia’s 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.

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China also seemed to be following a similar imperial path that Japan had before the World War II, in threatening Taiwan and building military bases on south sea islands that were not their territory. All the while, the US struggled internally to protect its democracy.

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COVID-19 pandemic: The number of COVID-19 cases exceeded 300 million worldwide. The toll just 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.

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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 think what the world would be like if we spent half the energy and money we do on killing each other on things that would benefit humanity instead. What a different world it would be.

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Microsoft announced its intent to purchase Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion.

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The deal was the largest acquisition of a tech company in history. Activision had quite a successful run in the video game marketplace that ended in a sexual abuse scandal and charges of a toxic work environment for women. Men have traditionally been the geeks that made video games, even though in my experience women are just as good at it.

 

In the larger tech world, what makes the designers and artists brilliant at what they do is their singular focus on ”child’s play.” This usually does not include a wider education on 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.

February

I continued to seek funding for the two projects we were interested in developing as the world hurled towards some unknown future. Vital Signs of Democracy and the Xtopia TV and Metaverse project.

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World View

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 being dominated by “drone” attacks on remote targets.

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The experience that came out of these covert operations was that you could kill their current leaders and feel some measure of revenge, but their movement continued just like the American revolution did regardless of how many people 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. Such difference cultures. A real strange mix of East and West, but in a world where they saw democratic nations as their enemy, it made sense there would be some form of alliance. Given China’s accession, this was not a good thing, particularly with the US distracted by all our internal chaos.

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The 2022 Winter Olympics were held in Beijing, China, making it the first city ever to host both the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics.

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It was always inspiring to watch athletes compete at this high level, but the Olympics always took on the tone of the country that is hosting them. As I watched the China sponsored winter games I felt that I was watching some corporate version of Olympic competition. Also, the strange paradox of the Chinese putting such an emphasis on the collective over the individual, yet the Olympics was mostly about individual achievement. Hopefully not a predictor of future events.

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 over the years in Afghanistan and elsewhere these “military exercises” did not initially turn out the way they hoped. Ukrainians looked ready to go all in defense of their country.  

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Putin also ordered Russia's nuclear deterrent forces to be on "special alert", their highest level, in response to what he calls "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 counter Putin’s aggression. He 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 plan to de-stabilize the democracies of the West.

Promising Science

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 has long been considered the clean technology that will 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.

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March

One of the themes that emerged from the VSD work I was deep into about threats to democracy 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 crisis between warring factions. Their data grabs and manipulation were off the charts.

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These tech pioneers wondered aloud if they really needed democratic institutions anymore to continue 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 and would not rule out 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, but these turned out to be mostly media 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.

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April - World View

As we kept analyzing the news about democracy for the VSD project we marveled at the disassociated stories that prompted all of us to exclaim… “you just can’t write this stuff.” Were we really in a time of chaotic transition as some suggested, where past rationales no longer could be applied to current events? It certainly seemed that we were living in multiple alternative realities that did not mesh.

 

Scientists found the first known dinosaur fossil linked to the very day of the Chicxulub meteor impact in the Gulf of Mexico that changed the world for dinosaurs after 150 million years. I wondered who would find our human bones after some climate event (brought on by us potentially) took place that changed our future as a species forever.

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In the on-going Ukraine- Russia war the Russian flagship Moskva became the largest warship to be sunk in action since World War II.

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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.

 

May

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 the 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 space films.

 

Also, images from the new Webb Telescope kept amazing us all. Literally looking at light that had been created at the beginning of our universe was already leading us to adjust our views of what was out there.

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June

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.

 

Anti-Gravity (call us crazy as science unleashed)

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 and with the money he received Joe established research labs to experiment with the information he had been given about “anti-gravity” devices until it was gone.

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Sci-fi narratives had for a long time postulated that once humans were free from the limitations of gravity they could travel the universe at unheard of speeds. Missions to Mars would take a couple of weeks of travel time rather than months. The most important thing (according to the aliens) was Earthlings activating anti-gravity devices would 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’ve had tens of thousands of accounts of human encounters with aliens. These accounts came from all over the world involving all kinds of people. They share some striking similarities, some of them positive and some of them very dark.

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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 that were just passing by Earth landed to make first contact.

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UFO stories were also rife with government coverup conspiracies claiming that the US government and others had been conducting 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.

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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 conversation 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 Joes story 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 government folks that included the FBI, CIA and defense industry players. So, in June, in spite of my usual demand for verification before getting to excited, I contemplated that this might be the financial miracle that would pull us back from the brink not knowing whether any of it was true or not.

 

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 would be 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.

 

These conversations with Bobby were welcome in that I had someone to talk to at last about my accumulated experience from my isolation during Covid and what it felt like to be emerging into a fully changed landscape. I felt he was a brother in arms in some respects and represented the kind of person I wanted to be in community with.

 

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 major, the question remained when the winter came and Russia was no longer providing western Europe with fuel, how the NATO alliance would hold up.

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53 migrants are found dead in a tractor trailer in San Antonio, Texas.

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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. This would grow as a challenge as climate change impacted poorer nations more than rich ones.

 

Former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was shot dead by an assassin while giving a public speech in the city of Nara, Japan.

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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 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 abortion rights being taken away from women, so the 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 look at ignoring the rulings. This “non-compliance” was a narrative theme in both in blue and red states. If trust in the National government broke down, state governments or Federal agencies ignoring Supreme Court rulings 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.

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This new variant was more transmissional and seemed to be able to circumvent vaccine protections. New variants or other pandemics seemed to be becoming a way of life that we all would have to manage. The outcome of these uncertainties was unclear in terms where we were headed in the future.

 

July

In July my sense of something larger than myself began to expand in some interesting directions. I had been engaged with the relational story with Jesus since the Lost in Woonsocket documentary, but even his teaching did not seem to encompass all that I was experiencing in my morning meditation or out walking. Jesus was a major avatar to be sure, but he was just a part of this large field of possibilities that had started to be noticed in quantum research as well as my own awareness. More details on this “evolutionary faith” opening and who/what was influencing me is in the final Twilight chapter.

 

World View

These notations are from the VSD narrative threat analysis scans for July 1-31,2022. The are in order of the key factors we are tracking at VSD. www.vitalsignsofdemocacy.com

 

Voting Rights

There was lots of activity pushing back on voter suppression schemes MAGA Republicans were hatching in red states. Some of the push back appeared to be working. Some GOP efforts to block voting rights reforms were failing. Citizens in battleground states were signing petitions to protect voting rights IF they have been limited by Republican legislators.

 

Massachusetts high court rejected GOP efforts to block voting rights reforms. They ruled that voters will be allowed to use the state’s expanded early voting and mail-in ballot rules in the September primary.

 

Black Church Leaders in Georgia 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 wave of nominating election deniers to 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. 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 redistricting case that could have major implications for voting rights. The radical MAGA judges on the court have suggested they would look at a case that would give exclusive power to state legislators to decide voting results and certification with no oversight of the State courts or executive branch. This is 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 would be threatened and democracy as a whole would have trouble surviving. 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.

 

Culture War

The question of democracy in America circa 2022 had to do with the MAGA Republicans attempting to govern America from a minority position. IF the majority of American voters do not stand up against these minority opinions, democracy would cease to exist in America.

 

In a sign that our judiciary system is holding law breakers accountable, MAGA ally Steve Bannon’s contempt of congress trial began on schedule.

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News Bytes

 

Abortion Rights

CBS News poll: Americans reacted to the overturning of Roe v. Wade — 59%  disapproving, calling it a step backward. For the first time in its history the MAGA conservative super majority were taking rights “away” from citizens rather than expanding them.  

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Climate Change

Senator Manchin initially did not support Biden's climate bill. The UN issued a climate report: 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

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US Economy – Dark Money in Politics

Both parties seemed to live Inside 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, neither party was willing to actively try to eliminate the Super Pacs responsible.

 

Gun Control

Congress passed its first gun control bill in decades. Although it was limited in its scope, it was a small step towards some more rational approach to gun ownership in spite of the continuing growth of right wing armed militias.

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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 rose.

 

Ukraine’s demands for more Weapons to fight Russian invaders clashed with U.S. concerns that they could fall into the enemies hands.

 

August

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.

 

World View

These are notations from our VSD narrative analysis threat scan Aug 1-31, 2022 in order of the key factors list. www.vitalsignsofdemocacy.com

 

Voting

Gerrymandered maps in four states were ruled Illegal by the courts but because of the closeness to the next election 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, these rigged maps upended 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.

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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.

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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, multistate 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

F.B.I. Search of Mar-a-lago Ignited violent rhetoric on the far right. Some pro-Trump media figures reacted to the search with talk of ‘war,’ the clearest outburst of such language since the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Images of: McCarthy, Rubio, Cruz and Halley

 

After the Mar-a-Lago search, Fox News decried ‘abuse’ of power. Not long after former president Donald Trump said that the FBI had searched his residence and safe at his Mar-a-Lago Club as part of an investigation, Fox News host Sean Hannity echoed the dozens of Trump supporters protesting outside the South Florida resort and claimed that what happened Monday amounted to “a dark day for our republic, the Department of Justice, the rule of law.”

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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.”

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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 retake 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, those in Congress who have abused their power,” she said. “All of them have to be held accountable.”

 

In an exclusive interview with Fox News Digital Monday morning, his first since the raid, Trump said he had his representatives reached out to the Justice Department to offer help amid 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 is disputing the classification of those records, saying the records have been declassified with no proof. 

 

"The country is in a very dangerous position. There is tremendous anger, like I've never seen before, over all of the scams, and this new one—years of scams and witch hunts, and now this," Trump said.

 

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.

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Social media has changed life in America in a thousand ways, and 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, in 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.

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Combating Climate Change

In term of climate relief 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 considered soaring inflation's effects on midterms.

Democrats tended to point to and focus on unemployment which is certainly important to the people that are unemployed and their families and communities. But the difference is 100% of people are affected by inflation. Republicans will argue that the administration said there was not going to be inflation, it was just transitory. And Democrats would have to argue we hear you, we see you, we're doing everything we possibly can. And hopefully inflation will get blamed on somebody else.

 

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.

 

Business Roundtable opposed the ‘Inflation Reduction Act,’ which, among other things, includes tax provisions that would undermine American economic growth and competitiveness,” the group said in a statement shortly earlier than the measure was handled by the Senate. But analyses by Wall Street establishments printed over 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 Effects 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, emphasize 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 sun baked 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. 

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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 developer.

 

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 we 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 that we would 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 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 World – From VSD September Scans - News Bytes

President Biden announced the 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.

 

Culture War

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.

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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.

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And if there was any doubt what Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has 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.

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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 87 percent of registered voters. 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.

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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 Republican positions. 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 defend their rulings 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 news that 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.

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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.

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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 to confront him.

 

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.”

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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 have begun to wonder as I continue 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.

 

Spiritual Realms

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.

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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.

 

October

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. 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.

The VSD threat scan for the last two weeks in October read like this.

 

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.

 

The Lead

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 include MAGA forces announcing that IF they didn’t win back Congress, they would claim the election was rigged. This means they will challenge every result that does not benefit them whether there is 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 have tightened up Congressional and Senate races in key battle ground states claiming that they are 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, many economists are saying their continuing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy could make inflation worse.  In addition, billions of dark money dollars are 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 the overturning of Roe v. Wade would hold until the mid-terms. What we see in the polls in the last two weeks is that the tide is shifting back to MAGA candidates based on economic and tough on crime issues. In our analysis, the Democrats, except for a few, are 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 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.

• Steve Bannon Sentenced to Four Months in Prison for Contempt of Congress.

• The Supreme Court Could Overturn Another Major Precedent.

• 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.

November

Janes cancer reoccurs

Bruce agrees to help me financially – lifesaver

Still a question about where I would land in CA.

How we would get through the transition in CO

The mid-terms happen/results not what was expected – Good news for Democrats but did the danger persist in the details.

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There was a reason that the middle east is often cited in the end of the world prophecies as the final battle ground. In the June elections Prime Minister Netanyahu was finally removed from power. He had been under investigation for years on corruption charges, but had continued as a voice for Jewish extremism in this volatile land. There was some hope that the new Israeli coalition government would finally find a way to co-exist peacefully with their Arab neighbors but we would have to see.

 

Another wrinkle in this story resulted because Trump moved the American consulate to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv the capital of Israel. This was big snub of the Arab populations. Again, Trump had no sense of history or didn’t want to. Jerusalem was rightly claimed by three cultures as sacred ground. The Jews, Muslims and Christians. They had fought countless wars with each other and each had taken their turn governing it.

 

One idea that had been suggested over the years was making Jerusalem an open, international city. This was a reasonable concept, but one that was opposed by most who still apparently believed their side would eventually win. History is not on the side of that perspective. No one ever completely eliminates their rivals. The Nazi’s killed over 6 million Jews in World War II and still the Jewish people came back stronger than ever. Sometimes it seemed like we were so attached to conflict that it was the only thing we can imagine.

 

Follow the Money

On another front, the G7 members agreed on a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15%. That meant the big multinational corporations would at least pay 15% on their profits. This agreement was intended to stop corporations from moving money around the world to avoid paying nation state taxes.

 

This story hit me strangely. The pattern globally was to protect big corporations and let them do whatever they wanted. This seemed to be opposite of that. On closer inspection however, there were enough exceptions for low corporate tax countries like Ireland where US corporations did a lot of business to question the real overall impact in spite of how it sounded. The battle of the have’s and the have nots continued.

 

The Long Arm of the Law

Matt was scheduled to serve his 10 day sentence in the Arvada jail for his December transgression. He seemed relaxed about it until he arrived at the jail and experienced a rude wake up call. For openers, he was left in limbo in a bleak waiting room for an entire day before he was assigned to his cell. Jennifer and his girlfriend try to provide a friendly voice, but the reality of the jail system triggered Matt’s anxiety issues.

 

When Jennifer goes south like this it complicates our relationship. Nothing else exists except trying to help Matt. There had been a certain logic to that when Matt was younger, but now, as he often reminded us, he was 30 years old. Yet, seemingly incapable of managing his life. Matt barely survived, but like before the trauma seemed quickly forgotten. I was still not sure if the experience was enough to scare Matt on to the straight and narrow. This “triangle” effect between the three of us would emerge again in 2022 as our lives came to another crisis point because of finances.

 

Freedom Fighter

At some point, another retro inquiry showed up. This one concerning the laserdisc arcade game I created in the early eighties called Freedom Fighter. This project had been my first attempt to design an interactive movie. In 1981 we partnered with Toei Animation in Japan to create the first truly interactive movie arcade game. The game was a breakthrough on many fronts, but because of the failure of laserdisc units to hold up in dusty arcade environments it had a limited release.

 

I don’t know why I went looking for Freedom Fighter footage on YouTube on that day. It had been part of these latest interviews like all my other hits like Desert, Voyeur and Of Light and Darkness. They were on YouTube. Hours of footage that someone had recorded and posted. In some ways it was the only way these projects could be archived as the actual technology they ran on disappeared. I always wondered WHY someone would spend hours capturing the game play I designed and posting it to YouTube but I was glad to have the footage.

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I did find five or six clips of Freedom Fighter footage

More importantly, there were videos of actual arcade units that someone had restored. It turned out there was a small Freedom Fighter cult following that traded thoughts through a Reddit board. One name kept popping up so in a weak moment I messaged him on his YouTube channel and got an immediate reply. It turned out he had taken on the role of  “historian” for the Freedom Fighter project and had been trying to find me for years. This resulted in me meeting the rest of the club and eventually they did an interview with me.

 

It turned out the few restored Freedom Fighter units were now selling between $20,000 and $40,000 each depending on their condition.

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Why I hadn’t kept one was a mystery to me, but in all my moving around it had been impossible to truck it from place to place and little did we know it would survive the test of time. We did give a unit to Steven Spielberg when it was originally released in 1986 because he thought it was the best movie game he had played, but that unit was lost somewhere on the Universal Studios lot.

 

At the same time as I was walking down memory lane with Freedom Fighter, the Fight for the Forgotten project got canceled. The MMA founder emerged from yet another rehab and declared he wanted their money spent on a documentary film about him. This was a shock because I had committed fully to this network and had let other projects lapse. I wanted to create this global app in the worst way and the F4F project seemed to be the vehicle until it wasn’t.

 

This blip caused a bit of a crisis of confidence for me. Since Integral Life ended I had been trying to build a new network of folks to work with. Covid and all my associated health challenges had stymie that effort. Now, I was starting from scratch with no particular direction that seemed clear. This was also a concern that my Mothers money which had filled in where project revenue lacked, was diminishing way too fast for my taste.

 

This personal dilemma of mine was also echoed in the real world. We still could see no end in sight to the Pandemic lockdown and the only thing we knew was that it was not going to go back to the way it was. In a sense you could say I was aligned with the real world, but in my seventies that felt distressing. I had made the choices that had brought me here. No one else was to blame. How they were going to stabilize in the next chapter I had no idea.

 

Cats Alot

It had been over six months since the last of our beloved cats (Baby Kitty) had died. Our original three Cat beings had shared a life with us for 20 years beginning on Whidbey Island. When they got sick in their old age it was traumatic. We were still recovering from their deaths in the midst of all the other uncertainty, when Jennifer decided it was time to get a new cat. She had befriended a woman who ran a rescue program that had dozens of cats they cared for. She interviewed with them and when she passed the suitability test (we actually had to do an interview on the phone) she found a striped tabby that captured her heart. NEO, as we called him, came home with us and provided some much needed light entertainment in the middle of all the stress.

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NEO became Jennifer’s new obsession. When you rescue a cat you really don’t know their entire history. NEO bonded with Jennifer, but was very standoffish at first with Matt and me. A short time later Jennifer was at the cat store getting something for NEO when she texted me an image of another cat that looked exactly like my Zepher. The last thing I thought I wanted was another cat as I was trying to right the ship, but life does not wait sometimes for stability.

 

We visited him and he was, as advertised, friendly, funny, beautiful and only a year old. It turned out he had been found wandering around on the Navajo reservation and brought to Boulder. He had a bit of a wild streak in him from being on his own, but really seemed to enjoy the home we provided.

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Circling Back Around

With all that in the background, I unexpectedly heard from my old partner David Todd from Cinemaware and Philips POV days. David and I not talked in years but here he was. It was nice to hear his voice.

 

He had retired from the game business and was living with his wife in Oregon. In our catch up, he told me the sad tale of his oldest son committing suicide. Ryan had always been somewhat of a fish out of water with real physical issues, but apparently it had gotten worse. Jennifer and I could relate. No matter how hard you try to help a child get back on track, in the end they have to do it themselves or not. In Ryan’s case it all became too much. That being said, there is no heartbreak worse than losing a child.

 

On a more positive note, I had left the interactive academy awards we had won together for Voyeur and Caesars World of Boxing with him those years ago. They were now packed away and he offered to send me the four that I had something to do with. Best interactive movie, best game design, best story for Voyeur and best sports game for Caesars World of Boxing. When they arrived in Boulder it was like opening a time capsule.

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They reminded me of the excellent work we had done together.

 

Before I get back to what was happening in the world, more retro remembrances showed up. A woman at a Austrian record company called Infinite Fog wanted to license the Wilderness America album and release it again on super quality vinyl.

 

Out of all the albums I had created Wilderness America was the one I did not have a good digital master for. I only had the 50 year old two track audio tape masters and vinyl copies of the album. The licensing money was not that much, but I got a really good digital master out of it. Again, hearing that music after all those years reminded me that it was the last full album I had created before I moved on to the film business. After all those years it was in some ways a last lament that benefited seven different environmental organizations. The end of my first creative chapter.

 

Transmedia

My work with Lena on the Xtopia television show and the related metaverse led to us designing a fake portals called DemocKrazy and Bureau of Now that represented all the characters from Xtopia as if they really existed.

We reasoned we would experiment with driving web/social media traffic to these mystery sites modeled after QAnon game theory. This was all spec work and there was only so much time I could put towards it, but as of July I became officially concerned about democracy in America. I started to shift all my Story Studio interviews to that subject and searched for a way to make a contribution to that conversation while we pushed the big Xtopia idea forward.

(Link- Xtopia design docs/ metaverse structures

 

I was also weary of the Covid isolation and the constant re-booting of my creative work. There seemed no stability in sight so I began to feel that perhaps this was another chapter ending. I had been on this save the world vector in the way I had been since I got back to Boulder after Random 1 for 17 years.

 

Integral Life had shaped much of that for 12 years, providing an phenomenal education, a community and a lifestyle that perhaps now needed to be down scaled if I really wanted to write and work with people on ensuring we had a democracy after the 2024 elections. This concept of the end of a 17 year chapter for me, Jennifer and Matt was a seed that got planted. It would come more into focus in 2022, but that seemed like a long way in the future. (It actually wasn’t given the speed of the cultural disruption that was enveloping us) 

 

I cranked up my LinkedIN network searching for interesting people to interview about this sea change. I also thought these interviews might expand my network and lead me to the next big thing to do. Lots of people responded, but none of them seemed ready or able to pay me for my expertise. My age seemed like more of an issue all of a sudden. More on this recognition up ahead.

 

Firestorms and Other Climate Game Changers

In July over 130 wildfires, fueled by lightning strikes, burned through Western Canada following a record-breaking heatwave in North America that resulted in over 600 deaths.

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California seemed like it was always on fire these days and there were also unprecedented floods in Europe.

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The easy observation was that these unstable weather patterns were partly a result of climate change. The science was there, but it still didn’t seem to be enough to alarm a majority of the folks in the world. The predictions were that more massive weather events and fires were on the way. This ultimately would lead to increased migration of people out of the impacted areas. This migration, particularly in Europe was already de-stabilizing democracies as native citizens felt overwhelmed by foreigners. (people of color or different religious traditions.)

 

Future predictions highlighted this migration of people as a potential factor in the rise of autocratic governments that were not afraid to abuse foreigners or send them back to the hell holes they had come from.

 

Democracies are slow to move in such a crisis. Too many opinions can slow down any real action being taken. The number one cause of democracies collapsing was their inability to address overwhelming problems, thus losing the support of their citizens. In those times, citizens were willing to give up personal freedoms to have a stable autocratic culture. A devils bargain to be sure.

 

Big Brother

One example of an autocratic response to the current world challenges was the discovery that Israel’s NSO group had been using their spyware to target heads of state, activists, journalists and dissidents around the world that were critical of their policies or their abuse of the Palestinians. This disclosure telegraphed the rising awareness of something dubbed “surveillance capitalism.” States and large corporations now had the capability to manipulate their populations by stealing their personal data and using it to feed AI algorithms whose goal was to make the content addictive. 

 

The Chinese version of this was a “loyalty” system that was based on data collected from Chinese citizen’s cell phones. This collection effort tracked everything from who they talked to, what they purchased and where they traveled. Their “loyalty” score could determine if they got a particular job or not or if their kids got into the best schools.

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We had seen this movie. The dystopian tales we tell in our movies, television series and video games about the future all feature some sort of cultural control mechanism that tracks and manipulates the masses. This digital surveillance was not just the purview of sci-fi novels anymore. It was in the world for real. Like NEO in the Matrix, those of us who were awake had to figure out a way to combat this new development.

 

Re-Booted Olympics

The 2021 Summer Olympics were also held in Tokyo, Japan. They were originally scheduled for August 2020, but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it was great to witness the amazing performances of these athletes as always, the Tokyo games seemed like more of a corporate super event in keeping with the rise of the billionaire class.

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An issue that arose at the games that mirrored the impacts of the larger pandemic culture was the mental health of the athletes. Individuals that compete at high levels are a special breed. What we see as a champion is often preceded by long years of work and sacrifice. Out of all the kids that start down the road of becoming an Olympic champion, only a few ever get close. The ones that do and achieve at a “gold medal” level of accomplishment accumulate levels of stress most of us would find frightening. Yet, they push through all of that until they don't. The case in point at the Tokyo games was Simone Biles.

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Since Biles had burst on the Olympic gymnastics scene, she had been as near as you can get to perfect. All her competitors were measured against her. When we watched her perform we marveled at how she kept getting better. She had also been a reluctant witness about the sexual abuse she and other gymnasts suffered from the Olympic teams doctor. In spite of it all however, it was rumored she was going to try something at the Tokyo games that had never been done before by a woman. Then a strange thing happened.

 

In the vault event that she usually dominated, she appeared to get lost in the air in the middle of a spin and landed hard on the mat. Very unexpected for her. What finally emerged was that she had lost her confidence based on the trauma of her sexual abuse. It brought into question the stresses that athletes were under to achieve at that level. As an example, Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimming champion also had a mental breakdown when he finished competing. We kept saying the culture was stressed like never before and in this case athletes were not immune.

 

By the end of July, 2021 the global death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 4 million. This was the biggest loss of life the world had seen since WWII, yet it seemed the news was just being managed as if it was normal. This would continue as the US alone had 700,000 dead by the end of July.

Moving On

Ours is increasingly a celebrity driven culture like it or not. We seem fascinated by the successes and failures of Hollywood stars, politicians, news anchors, and the rich and powerful. Humans have always had a morbid curiosity concerning gossip about the “special” people who seem to live out fantasy lives.

 

With the explosion of social media platforms the celebrity news cycle went from 24-7 on cable to every 15 seconds on Twitter and Instagram. Obsessed is one way you could describe this behavior. It was even influencing who the Trumplikins picked to run for office. Trump had gotten elected partially because he was a TV personality. That seemed to be the new model for Trumplikins. It didn’t matter if they had any skill in governing.

 

Weiner Boy

Not that the alt-right had a monopoly on corruption, wrong doing or abuse of power. Certainly, Anthony Wieners infamous, viral crouch shot became the fascination of millions for a few heartbeats.

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It also indirectly contributed to Trump getting elected. Hilary Clinton had used unsecured communication devices during her time at the State Department. Fox news and the alt-right minions beat the drums to “lock her up” for seeming national security breaches. The FBI thoroughly investigated the stray emails and found nothing compromising. Hillary and her people had been arrogant and stupid, but had not put the country at risk.

 

In the lead up to the 2016 election, with Hillary comfortably ahead of Trump, this FBI findings report seemed to put all the “lock her up” flak from the right behind her. That was until someone in the Southern District of New York office of the Justice Department got around to looking at Wieners laptop.

 

Wiener, in addition to auditioning his private parts on Twitter, was the husband of one of Clinton’s closest aides.

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It was discovered that hundreds of emails concerning State Department business were on his laptop. No one knew if they were copies of the emails already examined or something more. 10 days before the 2016 election, with the race tightening, James Comey, then the head of the FBI, made the unprecedented announcement that the FBI were going to re-open the case.

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There was an unwritten rule that the Justice Department never makes any announcements about candidates in the months leading up to a major election. In fact, the FBI did not announce that they were investigating Trumps connections to Russian assets at the time because of that. President Obama also did not want the Trump investigation to come out before the election for fear of it looking too political.

 

This is where history takes unexpected sideways turns sometimes. Comey, for whatever reason, felt it was his duty to announce the re-opening of the investigation even though it was close to election day. The Trump campaign jumped all over it. Even though 7 days later the FBI announced the emails were nothing they had not seen before, the damage was done. Trump was elected by 85,000 votes in three battleground states.

 

It wasn’t the only reason Hillary lost. A lot of events and personalities played a part in Trumps victory. She and her campaign staff had expected to win and didn’t even campaign in two of the battleground states she thought she had in the bag. She was incredibly arrogant, but in this case Comey, apparently because he was an attention junkie, threw the election to Trump.

 

Ironically, Comey later got fired by Trump for not being loyal enough in some strange karmic twist. Comey then wrote a book trying to explain the logic of his actions making the claim he was a hero for standing up to Trump, but no one was buying it. He would forever be known for getting Trump elected. For whatever reason, call it karma or just bad luck, America was stuck with Trump as president. What that meant at that point we could only imagine.

 

And the liberals were not through yet. Andrew Cuomo the infamous governor of New York stepped in it as well. He was one of the first governors to deal with Covid as it went rampant in New York city so in a sense at the time he was seen as a hero. His younger brother, Chris Cuomo, was a very popular outspoken CNN anchor with a big primetime following.

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Governor Cuomo also had a reputation for being a bully and a hardnosed, old school politician. As a result, people respected his power and his ability, but he also had a lot of enemies. When it was revealed he had acted inappropriately towards women on his staff, very few of his “allies” came to his defense. Andrew was from the older generation of politicians that thought they

could still abuse their female staff.

Governor Cuomo took a hard line against his women accusers, even though there was ample evidence of his wrong doing. His brother Chris, did not report on the investigation on his CNN show at first. However, it turned out he did council his brother behind the scenes on how to blame it on the women. When this news broke, Chris Cuomo was gone from his CNN perch overnight. The alt-right celebrated. Chris said he did it because his family ties were stronger than his responsibility to his audience. The left lost an important voice on the news as a result.

 

Re-Imagining

When the Fight for the Forgotten work went away, I had to step back in August and consider I was literally starting from scratch in terms of developing another network with potential clients that would pay me as I worked on my original projects at Story Studio.

 

I had let some other possibilities go because of my committing to the F4F network. Foolish as I looked back on it. I think I wanted to establish a new work network so badly after Integral Life and the pandemic shut down, I wanted to believe that F4F was the one. I also recognized that I was tired of chasing clients that many times turned out to be dead ends.

 

The consultants gig that requires chasing clients is a never ending quest. The only way to get off that wheel is to develop an original property(s) that pay you relatively passive income from sales of web courses and books. Once, you develop all the videos and other materials for a web course or accompanying print asset, it pretty much runs itself except for the student forum part. I had helped many thought leaders in the Integral Life community do this. Why wouldn’t I do it for myself I wondered.

 

Secret Stories

It is easy to say and difficult to do, but as I looked at what was emerging from the Story Studio work, there was also a “personal” piece that I was excited about. For a long time I had referred to the stories we tell ourselves as our: secret stories. This was because we are often unaware of them or don’t share them with others around us.  AND if you are going to launch a personal web course, I knew the word “secret” was a big attractor in the personal development marketplace.

 

In addition to beating the bushes for potential clients to replace the F4F contract, I developed an outline for a Secret Stories web course and text pamphlet. I had taught interactive entertainment design at the American Film Institute and the USC and UCLA film schools way back in the mid-nineties when I was a big deal at Philips Media and Time Warner. Everyone wanted to get into the interactive entertainment biz back then and I knew just a bit more than most about what that meant.

 

I really enjoyed teaching. It forced me to consider what I knew and put it in a layered engagement so that students could understand it. So, here I was again all these years later. Developing Secret Stories as a web course or the basis for being a guest lecturer at a university seemed an attractive way to get off the never ending journey of finding clients.

 

Once I got the Secret Stories pitch deck and the course outline completed, I sent it out to the people I still knew that sold web courses to the public. I was aware that this marketplace had cooled off in a major way since I had sold courses at Integral Life in 2016, but I was not ready for the sound of crickets I got as a response to my Secret Stories pitch. Most of these past platforms were cutting back on new original work.

 

One teacher/marketer I respected did finally respond. He told me, even as he was moving on from web course work, he loved the idea and just as soon as he got his new pod/video cast launched he would interview me. That would introduce me to his big mailing list.

 

Here is a LINK to Secret Stories pitch deck which lays out an outline for a two hour master course that I would start the public engagement with. I also designed a 10 week course with an expanded version of the material.

 

I kept going back to the old adage I taught clients. If the story you are telling yourself is not working for you, change it. Becoming an author was certainly a different storyline for me.

 

Every I-Phone a Camera

It’s not lost on anyone paying attention that our cell phones have become image capture devices on a global scale for any “news” that is happening around us both personally and culturally. We now have footage from cell phones and bodycams that lets us witness what is happening “live” and distribute those images worldwide in a moment. We certainly saw the impact the bodycam footage had on the George Flood murder, the subsequent BLM movement and the sentencing of the cop that killed George.

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Wars were also on this new menu of “selfies.” Cell phone footage in war zones took us directly into the madness of war and the damage it causes to all involved.

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So, it was no surprise when the story of  a young couples “drive about” emerged in late August that featured a radiant young woman’s adventure with her “boyfriend.”

 

As the story unfolded it seemed the young woman named Gabby had planned on streaming a social media “show” of sorts that would feature footage of all the stops on their grand, family van tour of the western states.

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All seemed to go well for a while. From the footage she posted they seemed like a couple in love enjoying the beauty of the western American deserts.

 

However, her show suddenly stopped being posted and Gabby disappeared. Her family wasn’t immediately concerned. After all they were out in wide open rural areas with limited cell phone coverage, but when they didn’t hear from her after a few days they called the authorities. In a sense, her cell phone left a trail of clues of where she might have gone. The area from Salt Lake City, Utah north into Montana was searched. Police got lot of tips of possible sightings that suggested they had indeed driven out into a remote camp ground before her postings stopped.

 

The boyfriend also unexpectedly showed up back in Florida at his parents’ house. He had driven home to Florida in their van without Gabby and had not let anyone know he was back except his immediate family. They did not contact the police even though Gabby’s picture was all over social media and cable news. Something was badly amiss.

More footage surfaced including the police stopping the two of them at some point in their journey. (bodycams again)

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In that footage Gabby was obviously upset about something, but was being evasive about what it was. You could see the fear in her eyes that something was not right. She mentioned that the two of them had fought and it had turned physical. Even then, the police let them go without really poking into what was going on. At the very least they could have taken Gabby to a protected place, but in one of those terrible moments they said…. “have a nice day.” The story took many twists and turns after that, too many to go into here but ultimately, Gabby’s body was discovered in the remote camp ground, dead from blunt force trauma.

 

The boyfriends family hired a lawyer to handle the questions that were being asked about why her boyfriend had come home without her. The news media camped out on their lawn for days. Eventually, her boyfriend escaped the house and appeared to head into a swampy wilderness area and disappeared. A huge manhunt was conducted. Eventually, they did find his body and a journal in which he admitted to killing Gabby in a fit of rage.

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It was not an uncommon story of love gone bad, but the cell phone footage aspect set the stage for how these stories would be reported from now on. In some cases, the perpetrators would even use their cell phones to document their crime sprees as they happened. This included active shooter events. The media was only too happy to show the clips with the usual disclaimer that “you might find this disturbing.” A new era of citizen news gathering was upon us and I had no idea what role it would play in the dark days ahead.

 

A Post Covid World

Another new Covid variant emerged from India and yet another one from South Africa called Omicron. It seemed the world was learning to manage the millions of deaths in some strange “new normal” narrative frame. More people had died in the US than all our war dead from all our wars put together.

 

We had made a big deal (rightly so) about 3000 people dying on 9-11. As a result we went to war for over 20 years and built inspiring monuments. Yet 1 million people seemed to not register with the public in the same way. You would think with Covid touching so many families of all political persuasions that America would come together for the common good, but these were not normal times.

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Something in my view was fundamentally shifting in this country and it seemed that many American’s just could not be bothered to do the right thing anymore. The right and conspiracy theorists like QAnon (brilliant game theory) loudly proclaimed their individual rights. Any suggestion that they had any responsibility to the people around them was met with the tired “give me liberty or give me death” slogans.

 

It was true that America offered the most individual freedom of any nation in the world, but it was also true the founders recognized that individuals citizens also had a responsibility to come together for the common good in times of war or a deadly pandemic. This second role of American citizenship was seemly being ignored by the red faced “patriots” that screamed their conspiracy theories at the news cameras. It was almost like they didn’t know how the countries system of governance was supposed to work. In turned out with a little digging I found that the mandatory “civics” training that I got in the 7th grade was now only required in 12 states.

 

The understanding of how our system of checks and balances was supposed to work seemed lost on many. The anger expressed by the mobs that stormed the Capitol on January 6th, turned out to be just that… a tantrum. If they had succeeded in their coup attempt, they apparently had no plan about what to do next.

 

It was sort of like Trumps ‘wall.” A great symbolic rallying cry, but a totally incoherent idea when it came to actually building it. We had seen the same thing happen when Bush/Cheney lied to the American people about weapons of mass destruction as a rational for invading Iraq. Even though the military won the battle in record time, there was no plan for nation building once Saddam was gone. You could make the argument that the Iraqi people were worse off as a result of the civil war that continues to rage in that country. We had created a power vacuum with all our patriotic slogans, like the infamous one Bush uttered at one point dressed in a borrowed flight suit. “Mission Accomplished.”

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What Was Behind Us

As we rolled into the fall I started hearing the phase “a post covid world” as if we had passed some unknown milestone that meant the pandemic was mostly behind us. Certainly, the new vaccines were helping and everyone was tired of having to wear masks and avoiding crowded public places, but Covid didn’t care. It just kept mutating into the next more infectious version and in spite of our best wishes, the number of infected continued to go up and down, but did not drop to zero.

 

I was curious about this “post covid world” story so I organized an interview series with a new diverse group of people I chose out of my Linkedin network. This group included business executives, artists, house wives and students. I wanted to know after nearly two years in isolation what stories they were telling themselves about moving forward in an Post Covid world.  There were many opinions about our current state after two years of lock down.

 

Edited video of some the interview comments

 

Some felt that it had changed their lives a little, but most said it felt like their lives would never be the same again. Certainly, the uneven response to Covid in the US guaranteed that the uncertainty would continue. The covid case numbers would go down for a while, people would relax and then the numbers would go back up. And our response, having been heavily politicized, was quite different in red and blue states as if there were two Americas.

 

As I analyzed the interviews from this diverse cross section of people, it was clear we were in uncharted territory. What world would emerge as we came out of lock down was anyone’s guess.

 

It was interesting to note that in spite of the economic downturn that had really impacted middle class and poor people, the billionaires, big tech and the oil companies made record profits during the chaos. This was eerily familiar. In our dystopian films, television series and video games, the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer people was one aspect of the “corporate feudalism” that was previewed in those narratives. I re-doubled my efforts to create another narrative that could compete with this dystopian one and include all the good work going on around the world that was moving us towards a more ‘generative” culture.

 

DemocKrazy

Lena and I had been working on such a narrative in our spare time. We envisioned it as a dramatic television series with an attached metaverse gaming world. Each of these media types offered different ways to experience this new narrative. The dramatic series imagined a group of activists standing up to the wealthy, powerful folks for control of the culture.  Our hope was that the audience would fall in love with the characters in the dramatic television series and relate to their suffering and their aspirations. We wanted to offer an alternative narrative to the dystopian, hopeless one we felt we were sliding into.

 

The attached metaverse was envisioned as an interactive version of the television world. Anyone could enter the metaverse and engage with others in cultural simulations that were incubating potential generative concepts in politics, economics, technology, relationships, culture and spirituality. The metaverse also “rewarded” people for getting engaged. It had its own blockchain system of value exchange. Nothing better than getting rewarded for saving the world.

 

We dubbed the project with the code name Epigraph. Real name... Xtopia  There were plenty of independent artists working on some aspect of these virtual metaverse worlds and digital characters. Below is one we especially liked. The production value this artist demonstrates in his videos was done in his garage. This quality of graphic worlds had only been possible in prior years at the big production houses like Industrial Light and Magic. That put this level of creativity in the hands of millions.

Xtopia/Epigragh was a big vision. Lena had continued to write scripts since our days in the 1990’s when we collaborated on “It Came From the Desert” and “Voyeur.” I had been on a 20 year documentary media journey since then that included the Random 1 series for A&E, the Lost in Woonsocket documentary and Google Ocean. Although, the big XTOPIA vision was the goal, to get there we employed a transmedia approach that envisioned starting small by building an audience and expanding in ever bigger rings of influence as it gained traction. Ultimately we hoped this would lead up to launching the dramatic series and the metaverse gaming world.

 

Our mission at Story Studio since I left Integral Life in 2018 was to chronicle the stories we were telling ourselves about the now and future. From the many interviews with global thought leaders I conducted and the research and analysis of the news we did through our AI NLP platform, we mapped a broad spectrum of narrative themes in politics, economics, technology, culture, relationships, and spirituality.

 

The post-covid interviews raised the alarm for me that democracy in America might be in trouble. As a result of this concern we tightly focused our bad guys in the XTOPIA world as those that wanted to get rid of democratic institutions in favor of rule by the white, rich, minority. We began that conversation with our audience with a simple web portal called “DemocKrazy. (link to)

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Our intention with DemocKrazy was to offer the news stories emerging from our AI NLP analysis platform concerning the threats to America democracy and provide commentary about a narrative that could make sense of where we stood. We would also give them the Vital Signs scoreboard. Were our fears about losing our democracy founded in fact? Were our concerns about the autocratic forces on the right legitimate? If so, what could we do about it?

 

The DemocKrazy web portal was designed so that is was supposedly built by the fictional characters in the Xtopia television series and metaverse. We reasoned we would gather an audience on the site and use that as stimulus for pitching the Xtopia television series and metaverse to the powers at be.

 

When I looked at the big Xtopia project map we created, I was well aware for the first time I might not be alive to see all of it come to fruition. In spite of that we threw ourselves into it and I looked for younger people to train in case I could not make the journey to the promised land it illuminated.

 

Experiential Activism

In a transmedia world, the methods you employ to gain more influence are expanded from just creating a documentary film, game or podcast. The transmedia approach involves creating a “story arc” of the narrative you want to promote and then offering different versions of it in varied distribution mediums to the potential audience. The old advertising adage said people needed to see a new brand four times in different places before they began to pay attention.

 

I loved making documentary films and creating the stories on Google Ocean, but I had begun to ask myself if this was the most efficient way to go about influencing the audience. After all, how many times would I watch a 2 hour documentary these days. My limited, overloaded attention span screamed for a 15 minute version that I could follow up on for more in-depth exploration if I became interested in what it was promoting.

 

We also wanted the audience to have a more direct experience of the cause or narrative we were promoting instead of just telling them about it in a video or book. This “experiential” activism concept was not totally my invention, but it made sense to my game designer. IF people actually experienced the narrative and got rewarded for it, my belief was that they would really embody the importance of it rather than just having an intellectual understanding of it. The XTOPIA metaverse was one such vehicle as well as AR or VR concepts I was interested in that were still up ahead.

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The Evolving News Marketplace

One of the things I noticed when I was analyzing news articles or social media posts about democracy in America was that they reported on fractured pieces of the bigger conversation. If you reacted to a Supreme Court ruling for example that impacted voters of color, you really had no idea of whether that moved us closer to autocratic rule or towards democracy.

 

I also experienced the frothy, heated discussions taking place on-line about regulating social media news platforms as confusing. Most of the participants were young and were unaware we had set boundaries on network TV news and newspapers in the past. These “dialogues”  to me were examples of falling into the trap of the complexity of the “1st Amendment” rabbit hole without first asking what kind of news media environment we wanted that would ensure our democracy.

 

A democracy, by all counts, must vigorously debate the way forward from a common set of facts. In the last five years “the news” had become predominantly opinion driven programing based on alternative narratives that were not factual or promoted someone’s self-serving agenda. Often times they were designed to just suck money out of the audience these narratives were meant to scare. As I saw it, this was contributing to the feeling of hopelessness and despair that was growing in America.

 

Many of the people I interviewed or listened to on web panels or podcasts, particularly the younger ones, struggled with their desire for “free speech” while witnessing the damage that was being caused by the intentional disinformation in our news feeds. Some of these “voices” advocated for violence against school board members and county commissioners that in their view were not red, white and blue enough.

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As a result, America was more polarized than ever and one of the factors influencing that was all the noise that was created around any attempt to make good decisions at the ballot box. IF we didn’t first decide what kind news we wanted in America, all our opinions about 1st amendment rights in my view were meaningless. Worse yet, they were paralyzing so no action was taken.

 

In my view, these free form conversations left us more confused than ever about what was true. This was right out of the autocrats playbook. All they had to do was sow seeds of uncertainty they believed would eventually cause citizens to trade their individual freedoms for a type of cultural stability controlled by them, the rich and powerful.

 

If we didn’t decide first that we wanted a common set of facts from which to debate the way forward, all the intentional “confusers” would distort the meaning of the 1st Amendment so that anyone could say anything, even advocating for violence against others or overthrowing elected officials. That is NOT what the 1st amendment allows.

 

Many who advocate for this distorted version of “free speech” say we don’t know how to safely regulate speech without trampling on peoples rights. In my view, this was simply not true. We have dealt with this in the past very successfully. A network television news show or a newspaper must have a least have two verifiable sources that back up any claim they make. If they publish a story without those sources, they can be sued for liable. The tech social media platforms had made an argument as the Internet came on line, that it should not be regulated like other news services so that it could find its feet as a new channel for expression. This law called section 230 is still in force.

 

In the beginning it may have been a good idea to encourage Internet development, but Facebook and Google now controlled 75% of the news and advertising marketplace. They are quickly becoming “the” arbiters of America culture. Make no mistake, WE know how to regulate what is promoted on cable and social media news feeds so that it is based on the truth. We just need to find the will to do it.

 

And the last question we should be asking ourselves is who benefits from an unregulated news environment. Answer: The tech platforms who have business plans that intentionally promote conflict to attract more eye balls and charge higher advertising rates. That’s why when Zuckerberg testifies before congress he wraps himself in the veil of the protector of free speech when he is actually the one who profits the most from not having our news based on facts.

 

The Scoreboard

For some reason I have always loved scoreboards. Someone a lot smarter than me said this about them…

 

“A scoreboard lets you know how you’re doing. Recent time spent with a group of exceptional leaders who have excelled in sports and life helped me recognize that the absence of a scoreboard can present significant challenges. There are two reasons why it’s important to have a scoreboard. The clock to tell you how long you have to act, and the score, to tell you who is winning.

 

As I was musing about a way to take the overload of news and summarize it quickly in terms how we were doing, something clicked. A scoreboard. Or as it came to be known: Vital Signs of Democracy – monitoring threats to America”

But what would I base the current “score” on? What factors would determine whether we were leaning towards democracy or autocratic governance? I finally realized it was staring me right in the face every time I used our Transmedia AI NLP platform to search and analyze news stories for their impact on democracy in America.

 

There were approximately ten core factors emerging from the AI NLP analysis that seemed to be determining whether democracy in America would thrive or fail. How the results of these factors leaned over the next three years would determine which way America was headed.  Some of them were obvious like voting rights. If all citizens could vote without any impediments then we leaned towards democracy. IF the various voter suppression laws aimed at people of color became the norm, we leaned towards an autocratic system ruled by the rich and powerful.

 

Other factors included:

  • Are the rights of ALL citizens to pursue the American dream protected, encouraged?

  • Would our system of checks and balances hold those that attempted a coup after the 2020 elections accountable?

  • Would our courts rule in the best interests of all Americans or just a small minority?

  • Would business pledge their allegiance to protecting democratic institutions or would they make a deal with the winner of the culture war?

  • Would we regulate social media platforms so they were rewarded for promoting the truth instead of disinformation?

  • Would our continuing responses to a common challenge be politized by either party?

  • Would life essentials like food, water, fuel and shelter available to all citizens at reasonable costs?

  • Would the benefits of innovative technology be available to all citizens?

  • Would America continue to ally with a consortium of democratic nations to   

         combat the power and the actions of authoritarian regimes?

 

Our AI NLP platform rates each of the individual news stories we were covering that week based on its content and then aggregates the individual article scores into a master number based on the expert results of our AI NLP platform analysis. I reasoned we also wanted visitors to the “scoreboard” engaged, so we let them rate the articles themselves and that collective wisdom is then aggregated into a “citizens score.” There were already other scoreboards like Freedom House, FiveThirtyEight and Rotten Tomatoes that give audiences a quick indicator of democracy, a politicians popularity or the worth of a film or television series. Why not democracy?

 

All this musing got rolled up into a pitch deck as I went looking for audiences of voters to test the scoreboard concept with and organizations fighting for democracy that could make use of it. It felt like it was going to be my contribution to democracy in the coming years.

 

Follow the Money

One of the themes I was particularly interested in out of these 10 factors was the role of business and/or corporations in deciding which way America was going to lean. The old adage, “follow the money” if you want to know what is really happening still was in play in my world. I did a bunch of interviews with business leaders and some interesting things emerged.

 

One was a perplexing paradox. On the one hand business wants to have a “stable” marketplace to sell their product or service into. Certainly, the economic disruption caused by the Covid Pandemic had shown us what happens when you have a disrupted marketplace. Folks all over the world were suddenly only buying those goods and services they felt they needed to survive the lockdown. Anything else was left on the shelves. Many businesses, particularly entertainment and food venues, suffered.

 

It’s one of the reasons that digital meeting platforms like Zoom prospered during the lockdown. People needed something so they could engage with each other until the lock down was lifted. The savings rates of American’s also increased. For years American’s had not saved much for a rainy day. During the first phases of the lock downs, savings shot up presumably to be held in reserve for an emergency.

 

So, most businesses were challenged by a disrupted Covid marketplace. That seemed to suggest the business would support democratic institutions that could manage the pandemic because they provided the greatest stability. Who would have predicted that America's response would be partial based on extreme political views. For years, rich people and nations all over the world had parked their wealth in America because they considered it the safest place. They did not want people in the streets from either side desperate to challenge the powers at be. Seemed like this principle made sense and for most it did.

 

However, when I talked to tech executives they weren’t so sure. In some ways their business plans that generated billions of dollars were based on marketing to peoples fears and insecurities. The data they collected on web sites people visited or products they bought were used to manipulate those users to buy more or support a cause. They championed chaos because it meant their advertising rates could go up as more people were attracted the latest dust up.

 

While it had always been true that Google and Facebook gave massive donations to both sides of the aisle, I kept hearing that tech folks were not sure they needed democratic institutions anymore to continue being successful. They certainly did not want any regulations that would limit what data they could collect or manipulate. One exec went as far to say that big tech corporations would stay out of the cultural war between democracy and autocracy and make a deal with the winner.

 

Their vision for the future seemed to suggest an enlightened oligarchy. One in which there was a strong central authority that could offer a stable marketplace, but at a cost to the countries citizens freedoms. The country of Dubai came to mind.

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The royal family ran that country like a corporation. It was very easy to do business there or park your wealth as long as you did not openly oppose the agenda of the ruling family. It was a sort of capitalist system, but one without citizens having any real rights, just the permission to innovate or transact business that benefited the ruling class.

 

When the Trumplikins began passing voter suppression laws or pro-life laws in some red states, big corporations in those states initially made some PR fuss over these new restrictions aimed at people of color and women. For example, Major League baseball moved the all-star game from Atlanta Georgia to Denver Colorado in protest of new voter suppression laws. Unfortunately, most of the fuss died down and major corporations like Delta Airlines, FedEX and Coke went back to work in Georgia when the press moved on.

 

In Florida, where the Disney Corporation spoke out against new Trumplikin state laws prohibiting the word “gay” from being used in schools, Trumplikin Governor Ron DiSantos had the state legislature revoke Disneyland’s special tax district status even though it meant the Florida tax payers would have to pick up the tab that was calculated in the billions. The message seemed to be, you can do business here, but don’t criticize our policies or we will punish you. The very definition of an autocracy benefitting rich oligarchs.

 

As a result of these interviews and what we could see happening with business through our AI NLP platform analysis, we included their role in protecting democratic institutions as one of our 10 factors that would determine if American continued as a democracy or leaned towards something darker .

 

Continuing signs of chaos as the year progresses

What we called the “news” continued to report on the increasing insanity.

 

A student at a Michigan high school killed four fellow students, injuring 7.

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This happened even though the student in question had already been identified as a threat and his parents called in for a conference. Whatever was said at the conference concluded with no one searching his backpack. He was sent back to class. Once there he pulled the gun he had in the backpack and proceeded to kill those around him.

 

Even with a system in place designed to pick up unstable individuals, that system failed miserably because the humans were not paying careful attention. In the end, his parents who knew his history and allowed him access to their gun cabinet were also charged with manslaughter. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring back the dead.

 

Kentucky was devastated by an outbreak of unpredcented winter tornados impacting victims in five rural states.

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The White House issued the usual emergency declarations, but in my view Biden missed an opportunity to show he cared for people in red states by not using the occasion to push the yet unpassed infrastructure bill that included climate change mitigation. Here was a real life example of what people could expect from unprecedented weather events that would have rung true to those impacted. Sometimes the Democrats just seemed they got in their own way.

 

The Congressional Investigation into the January 6th insurrection seemed to get serious by issuing subpoenas to potential supporters of that passion play. True to form however, the main individuals who were served refused to talk to the committee and nothing much happened.

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A few were referred to the Justice Department for enforcement, but no one was put in jail until they complied. There was great celebration when Garland took over the Justice Department from the Trumplikins who had used it to reward their allies and punish their opponents.

 

However, as time rolled by the question emerged… what was taking so long?  Garland claimed they were building a case for the January 6th attack from the ground up starting with the people who actually invaded the Capitol Building, but they hadn’t yet touched the variety of folks who seemed to have some hand in planning the insurrection or had participated in the attempted coup, including Trumplikin members of Congress. The clock continuing to run favored Trump strategy of delaying any consequences until after the mid-terms where they thought they might control at least the House.

 

One story that was floated about why it was taking Garland so long was he didn’t want the Justice Department to look like they were going after individuals because of their politics. The cult that planned January 6th and the attempted coup were all Trumplikins.

 

In more normal times when America swung from moderate conservative to moderate liberal control that may have been the thing to do. But in the present environment when the Trumplikins had blown through any moderate guardrails, a different kind of response was called for. Its one thing to take precautions against a fire breaking out in your home. Its another to continue the planning effort as your house is burning to the ground around you. One real question I had was whether the majority of Americans would wake up in time to counter this Trumplikin move toward autocracy. Time would tell.

 

Doing it Legally

There was one school of thought we were tracking that claimed that those that had tried to overthrow the election, were now looking at where they had failed and were positioning themselves at the state and county level to attempt the next coup… legally. This was not a secret anymore, but the Democrats seemed to continue to wring their hands and let it happen.

 

All this was particularly inflamed by the 6-3 majority the Trumplikins now had on the Supreme Court. Trump had promised he would appoint judges that would overturn long standing constitutional rights like a woman’s right to choose. He now had that majority of “conservative” judges, but worse yet, 3 or 4 of them were actually radically alt right and seemed bent on re-shaping America so that the white minority ruled. If we had lost the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of autocratic attempts to take control of America, we indeed were in a much more dangerous place.

 

Deputization

One example of this was the Texas Senate led by Trumpian Governor Greg Abbot passed a “vigilante” law that allowed anyone (not just a Texas native) to sue anyone that either got an abortion in Texas or helped someone get one.

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This was clearly unconstitutional. It set up a system of private citizen enforcement of a woman’s right to choose that in the past it would have been laughed out of court. Instead this new Trumplikin court let the law stand… twice with no public debate. This method of quiet response was called a “shadow document.” It was a little used procedure for small cases, but here the new judges used it to violate the rights of women in Texas with no public process. If this was an example of what was coming, we were in trouble.

 

Progressive Press

Another example of “we’re not in Kansas anymore” was the treatment of President Biden by the liberal press. By all accounts Biden had inherited a mess from the Donald. To top it off the pandemic still raged on, the economy was suffering and Trump was not going away.

 

Like Obama in 2008 who inherited the economic meltdown created by the Bush administration, everyone said that they would give Biden some time to sort it out. However, their old investigative instincts kicked in. In the name of being fair to Trump, they went after Biden for being too old, and not accomplishing what he had promised. Again, in normal times Biden would have been fair game, but these were not normal times. The real culture war was between democracy and autocracy and this progressive press assault on Biden, in my view, was playing right into the hands of the Trumplikins.

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All though some progressive commentators did acknowledge that we were in uncharted territory, most of the progressive cable news channels joined with Trump TV (Fox) in taking shots at Bidens credibility. Like I said, in normal times this would have been fair game, but as some liberal commentators pointed out, the press should have been less concerned with their ratings and more focused instead on their right to express themselves as the free press.

 

Trump had infamously said “the press were the enemy of the people.” I always loved it when he said ‘press” he didn’t include Fox News and the alt right news services that influenced half of the American electorate. Very few liberal commentators ever corrected Trumplikins when they repeated this lie, so in a sense the image of a radical liberal press seemed true.

 

When Biden's approval ratings headed south, the progressive press went out of their way to point out the drop while ringing their hands about his impossible plight. Instead of looking at Biden’s popularity alone, they could have asked “as compared to what” a more relevant comparison.

 

David Plough, the famous Obama advisor, had been saying that IF the Democrats allowed the 2022 mid-terms to be framed by the right as a referendum on Biden, they would loose badly. If they made them a comparison between what Biden and the Democrats had done and all the Trumplikins had NOT done for the America people, voters would at least have a choice between democracy and something far worse. Democrats at this writing still seemed to be missing this point.

The New Territory

Here is the thing you need to watch for in the future. We all have our opinions about what government should and shouldn’t do. Since the Civil War, America had swung from moderate left to moderate right in terms of it governance. IF one party gained to much power, the voters adjusted the balance in the next election. This had allowed America to stave of other challenges to its democratic institutions over the years.

 

If however, you have one party like now (the Republicans) that abandons their moderate voice and tilts towards the extreme right and all its autocratic tendencies, the country’s political discourse is no longer located between the established guard rails where American’s could count on our system to re-balance itself if it got too extreme at either radical edge.

 

This seemed to be happening with Trumps denial of his 2020 loss. All of our instincts about how to cover the news were being challenged. The true press in my view could not just keep repeating the mantra "keeping the honest" in the way they had in the past. They needed to be, in my view, more concerned with supporting the continuance of democratic norms that included the “free” press and making the comparison to the autocratic system the Trumplikins were promoting. Failure to do that could lead to disastrous consequences.

 

Whose Senatorial Majority?

The week following the 2020 presidential elections there was much celebrating when Biden's win was finally confirmed four days after election day. It seemed America had dodged a bullet. Trump was defeated. The remaining results to be decided were the two Senate seats in Georgia.

 

Biden had pulled out a narrow, unexpected win in the state thanks to black women voters. The two Georgia Senate seats were headed to a special election because no one candidate had gotten a majority. No rest for the wicked you might say. If the Democrats could somehow win both seats (seemed unlikely at the time) they would have a theoretical majority in the Senate with tie breakers (50/50) being decided by Kamala Harris the democratic vice-president. This would give Biden a chance to pass his ambitious agenda.

 

What was hidden for awhile in that good news was that Joe Manchin, the conservative Democrat from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema the Democratic senator from Arizona had other plans.

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A video was released in 2021 purporting to be a Republican operative describing Manchin as being in the oil companies pocket. This did not bode well for Manchin supporting Biden's climate legislation. Those companies were also running glossy ads promoting them as human energy companies. All of that was a lie, but not one that was surprising. 

Arizona Mystery

Senator Sinema was a weird case. She had been elected without doing much campaigning or participating in any debates. She seemed to enjoy support from big corporate money, so her brand of resistance was a bit different than Machin’s. Together however, they voted against the bigger infrastructure bill with most of the climate change measures in it and the Democrats attempt to get rid of the filibuster so they could pass voting reform.

 

Machin claimed he could work out bi-partisan compromises with the Trumplikins, even though there was no sign that it could be done. He failed in all his attempts, wasted a lot of time and in the end voted against most of Biden’s agenda anyway.

 

He, in a sense, seemed to be caucusing with the Trumplikins. Sinema the same. They even opposed the national voting rights act that would have overridden the voter suppression laws in red states and indicated they also supported overturning a women’s right to choose.

 

In the end, both of them were self-serving or believed the Trumplikins would eventually triumph and sought to be on the winning side. In the old days their behavior would have been written off to just “politics,” but with democracy threatened, they represented a real danger to democracy in America.

 

By the end of 2021 American Covid deaths passed 800,000. I still marveled how this new normal was seemingly being ignored by the American people. The anti-VAX forces responsible for many of the deaths were still going full Monty about the government infringing on their rights. It seemed they were continuing to claim the right to make their fellow citizens sick even when it was folks close to them that were dying.

 

As I kept saying the power of cultural stories we tell ourselves can sometimes be stronger than actual reality. The MAGA crowd was bent on reclaiming America for a minority of white people and the mere fact a million American’s had died of preventable deaths seemed was something they could live with in their desire for power.

 

Sports, a welcome distraction

Against the darkening cultural skies, sports provides some welcome distraction in 2021. The San Francisco Giants had risen from the ashes and won a record 107 games. That won them the west after a closely fought race with the hated LA Dodgers. However, they lost had lost in the playoffs to those same Dodgers on a bad call in the final inning of the deciding 5th game of the series. It was fun however to root for the black and orange again, which still included some old favorites from the championship teams like Buster Posey and the two Brandon’s having record years. This resurgence under new management boded well for the future.

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The Warriors and the baby faced assassin, Steph Curry also emerged from a two year playoff drought. They had been decimated by injuries that ended their championship runs and the departure of super star Kevin Durant. They had the worst record in the league in 2019-2020.

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In 2021 Klay had come back after two years of re-hab and they had added some young players that made them competitive again. They were a wonder to watch when they played classic Warrior basketball, passing to the open man, hitting 3 point shots, rebounding and limiting turnovers.

 

Unfortunately, this new Warrior team had a tendency to go to sleep for whole games or portions of games where they made mistake after mistake even though they claimed they knew better. If they did get into the playoffs, it will be interesting to see which team showed up on a game by game basis. They would not be able to lay back and pull it out at the last minute against the better teams.

 

On the college front, Bruce, Jane and I had been Cal football fans since birth.

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We bled blue and gold as we had suffered through the bad teams and celebrated the few good ones. We all nodded approvingly when Lou and Mimi named their son “Cal.”

 

Against that backdrop college football was also undergoing lots of changes. Players were now being “paid” for their “likeness” and “brand.” Although, college players earning money was long overdue because Universities were making millions off their talents, there was still the question if individual players were now the focus instead of loyalties to teams.

 

The transfer portal also allowed college players to easily move to another school. This could impact the continuity of programs from year to year. Cal had always claimed they couldn’t recruit as well as other schools because of their high entrance standards. However, Stanford who had equally high standards had become a successful program so who knew.

 

With these changes, I had no idea if Cal would ever be competitive moving forward. We had already let go of our adult dream to see Cal play in the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl was now part of the college playoff system and no longer the traditional competition between the Big 10 and the Pac 12.

 

The 49ers had also re-surfaced as a title contender again.

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We had reveled in the glory years when they made their 5 Super Bowl runs when Montana, Rice, Young etc. had been gods, but they were long gone.

 

They once again had a good defense and an effective offense, although their new “billionaires” stadium in Santa Clara was a horrible place to watch football and only the well-off could afford the tickets.   

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They had unexpectedly made it to the Super Bowl in 2020, but had lost after leading Kansas City in the fourth quarter. In spite of them doing better I didn’t have much faith in Kyle Shanahan as a coach.

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He definitely had them playing better, but in key games, often times with the Niners leading, he would go sup[er conservative and end up losing.

 

He had been the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons when they had their epic collapse in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. And now he had done the same thing to the Niners. The question remained if he had learned anything from it. In the 2022 season they were also starting a rookie quarterback they had given up three 1st round draft choices for and there were already questions about his ability. Not sure where they were going or if I cared anymore.

 

2022

2022 dawned with no cultural stability in sight. It occurred to me I had been mapping out projects like the Vital Signs of Democracy meter/threat assessment portal and Xtopia that would shape this last chapter I was living into. It remained to be seen if I was just writing this all up for future generations or whether I could find the funds to get them in the pipeline in my lifetime. As I kept saying, time would tell.

 

What was also clear to me was that a 17 year chapter was coming to an end in Boulder. We had quite a run since I came off the Random 1 television series with Integral Life and Ken Wilber in the mix for most of it. We had done a lot of good work, gathered the Integral global community like never before and made sure Ken’s legacy was in place. I had also learned a lot about my own personal development which was reflected in the way I told stories now. I reasoned at my advanced age there was always something more I could do to get closer to my better angels.

 

The pandemic lockdown had scattered the Integral community we were such a part of to the wind. The Integral Center that had been the focus of activities in Boulder was torn down to make way for condos. It seemed to me now that my path lay elsewhere and for the first time I questioned whether that continued to be in Boulder.

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I still loved this town with the mountains close at hand, but in my loneliness during the lockdown I had really missed seeing my family and friends in California. Pre-pandemic I was on the west coast a lot on projects, but it had been two years plus since that had happened. I wondered if my path would lead me west in that direction.

 

Matt was still living with us and his relationship with his mother and the world continued to cause drama in our home. With the work winds changing, I wasn’t sure what Jennifer and I would do. I still loved her and the karmic reasons we had come together were still in play, but in my older age I just wanted less drama and more peace. I wasn’t sure Matt was ever going to take control of his life or whether Jennifer would let him.

 

I certainly understood Jennifer’s deep instincts to continue to make him her priority and perhaps that was the choice she would make vs. the two of us figuring out who we were to each other after 22 years. I had put my old pattern of leaving when it got tough far behind me, but did that mean I wanted it “tough” forever. Time would tell how all that would unfold with 2022 right around the corner..

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