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Who is buying the U.S. midterm elections? 2010-Oct-06 at 12:16 PDT

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We don’t know.  Thanks to the Citizens United ruling – the one that President Obama criticized in his State of the Union speech, where we saw Justice Alito mouth the words "not true" when the Supreme Court was called out – we now have a system where any group can spend any amount of money on any "issue" they want… which is in practice an unlimited supply of money to get particular people elected.

From Midterm campaigns, brought to you by . . . ?, by Eugene Robinson, 5-Oct-2010:

According to The Post, $80 million has been spent on midterm election campaigns by these shadowy "independent" groups — as opposed to just $16 million at this point in the 2006 midterm cycle.

I put "independent" in quotes because this spending is anything but. Officially, groups such as Americans for Job Security and American Crossroads are not allowed to spend on behalf of specific candidates; rather, they are supposed to confine themselves to such anodyne activities as highlighting issues and advocating policy positions. In practice, however, this gives them the latitude to attack one candidate — a Democrat, say — for his or her position on health care, financial reform or whatever.

The Supreme Court made all this possible with its ruling early this year, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which legalized unlimited campaign spending by corporations, unions, trade associations and other such entities. And the independent-expenditure groups with the patriotic names are often structured as nonprofits, which means they are not required to disclose their donors publicly.

I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the specifics of the ruling to know how much latitude Congress has to create a narrower statute that reinstates disclosure or limitation of funding.  It may not have any.  Even if it does, I don’t have any confidence that Congress has the political will to turn off the funding trough it feeds at.

Once again… term limits solves these problems.

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The moral imperative to evolve 2010-Oct-05 at 11:11 PDT

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When you begin to recognize that your own presence here in this world is part of something infinitely bigger than yourself, you feel a sense of obligation awakening within you—a spiritually inspired, soul-level moral imperative to evolve for the sake of the future of the evolutionary process itself. The way you respond to that obligation and to that sense of cosmic responsibility is by demonstrating that the process is profoundly positive—indeed, the process is sacred—through your own example, through your own victory, through your own tangible and unmistakable higher development.

— Andrew Cohen

That’s what it feels like to me, too.

I know Andrew doesn’t appeal to everyone, but he is also the surface for more projection than perhaps anyone else in the Integral movement.  He’s doing honest, hard, good work on developing Integral Spirituality, through his own unique self, and I think that over the coming years more and more people will appreciate how he’s pioneered that field in many ways.

This is just one example of what he’s been thinking.  It’s good stuff, and I do recommend checking it out.

"Winning" a war is never clear-cut 2010-Oct-04 at 10:56 PDT

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More great stuff from Fareed Zakaria.  I disagree with him less frequently than perhaps any other major columnist.

From Even ‘winning’ in Afghanistan would include some failures, 4-Oct-2010:

Critics of the president have seized on the book as proof that he is a weakling who doesn’t have the fortitude to wage war. He should learn from Lincoln, FDR or Churchill, they say, and do what it takes to win. No. Those leaders were engaged in massive wars that threatened their nation’s existence. Obama is prosecuting a complex military intervention aimed at weakening a terrorist organization. It requires less Churchill and more Eisenhower, a tough willingness to make strategic choices and impose limits on the use of American blood and treasure. The United States has spent more than $2 trillion in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is understandable, in fact commendable, that the president does not want to write another set of blank checks for the Afghan war.

In a smart new book, "How Wars End," Gideon Rose, the incoming editor of Foreign Affairs, points out that Americans are chronically disappointed by the way their wars end. Even as World War II came to a close, there was the deep sense of betrayal over Yalta. This is because while waging wars, Americans refuse to think through the political and military tradeoffs needed to get to a reasonable outcome. In Korea we continued to fight for one-and-a-half bloody years over an obscure prisoner-of-war exchange that few remember today. At this point, to get a decent outcome in Afghanistan, it’s less important that the president’s heart be in the fight than his head be in the strategy.

When the U.S. "won" in "democratic" South Korea in 1953, we left an autocratic leader there, who ruled for seven years until 1960, until he was overthrown in a coup d’état led by a general, "heavily criticized as a ruthless military dictator," who ruled until his assassination in 1979, followed by a short period of instability until another coup d’état by another general, enforcing a "despotic" rule until 1987, when the first directly-elected President of South Korea was chosen.

To sum that up… South Korea, this shining jewel of democracy and capitalism, has only been functioning that way for 23 years.  Before that, and for 34 years after the Korean cease-fire agreement was signed, that country was not exactly under any sort of government that we’d like to see.  But the support of the United States and other democracies led to the conditions for that nation to evolve from a Red/Blue center-of-gravity to something like an Orange center-of-gravity… at least as far as the government and economy is concerned.  (That Koreans still hold a significant ethnocentric and bloodline-based view is well-known, particularly through the stigma attached to adoption.)  This is precisely what Thomas Barnett would call a "soft-kill" through connectivity.  Get the economy rolling through connectivity to the rest of the world, grow a functioning middle class, and eventually that middle class will demand democracy.

The time and thought I’ve dedicated to understanding the work of Thomas Barnett has helped me over the years to come to a more reasonable view of what "winning" a war looks like… especially when we’re fighting enemies that we will never sign an unconditional surrender with, like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  Quelling an insurgency requires a thoughtful use of military power to kill or capture those groups fighting to keep that area disconnected from the world, while inviting in NGO’s and foreign direct investment to build structures and economic conditions that turn the population against the insurgency, by showing them that a better life for them and their children is available when they do.

To that extent, Dr. Barnett has been clear for a long time about the exit strategy for any such insurgency: jobs.  It’s the only sustainable exit strategy, and once it takes hold, it’s the one that we can rely on to scale back American military power.  Jobs are what grows that functioning middle class that eventually demands greater and more transparent democracy.  It also generally takes around 8-10 years to pull that off.  Iraq… seven years so far, and right on schedule.  Afghanistan… I count that as two years since we got serious there.

Either way… eyes on the prize.  Functioning democracies in the heart of Islamic Asia.  The conditions for moving an Orange worldview onto center-stage in a part of the world that has resisted that call to growth for centuries.  And we all have seen that once Orange takes hold, it creates an openness into which Green can flow (in a generation or two) and then Second Tier worldviews.  We’ll never get there without establishing Orange.  And that initial establishment of Orange will be messy and will include corruption and will include parties that are hostile to the United States… but I don’t care.  We just have to get it started… and the rest of the goodness will follow, for all of the generations after.

Crowdsourcing for the U.S. Government 2010-Oct-02 at 14:17 PDT

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Some smart person has actually created a website to get crowdsourced feedback on various challenges facing the United States Federal Government.

It’s at http://challenge.gov/.

Some of the challenges offer cash prizes for good solutions, too.

I like this whole idea.

Rahm Emanuel leaves the White House 2010-Oct-02 at 08:08 PDT

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This has been an interesting time in Washington the last couple of years.  We had an incredible combination at the helm… perhaps the smartest man in our history as President, and the best Washington political operator in a generation, with experience at both ends of Pennsylvania Ave., as the Chief of Staff.  I believe we’ll look back on these first two years of the Obama Administration in awe of how much was accomplished in the face of the most polarized Congress we’ve seen in decades.

I remember two days after the 2008 election, when President-elect Obama made his first staffing announcement, and it was to announce that Rahm Emanuel had agreed to leave Congress, and what surely would have been a future as the Speaker of the House, to become White House Chief of Staff.  I remember thinking… you know, I was a big fan of Obama already, but now I’m really a fan.  Wow… Obama and Emanuel together, that’s a combination that works.

And it has.  We’ve seen more significant legislation passed by a supposedly unpopular President in the last two years than anyone ever could have expected, and this during the worst economic crisis – not created by him, but managed well by him – in generations, and during two wars.  Really impressive stuff.

I know that Pete Rouse has been an incredible behind-the-scenes Capitol Hill player for many years, and the main job of the Chief of Staff under President Obama is to get legislation passed, so I’m hopeful that we’ll not see a significant drop-off in effectiveness in this position.

Chicago’s gain is our loss.  I can’t wait to visit a Chicago run by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

And I hope that, one day, he decides to run for President himself.  We’ll be a fortunate nation when that happens.

This is a blog post quoting a news website article about a scientific paper 2010-Oct-02 at 06:19 PDT

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In this paragaph, I like to give some context about why I think this article is truly important.  Then I’ll quote it at length, giving the appearance that this blog post is more substantial than it actually is.

From This is a news website article about a scientific paper, by Martin Robbins, 27-Sep-2010

In this paragraph I will state in which journal the research will be published. I won’t provide a link because either a) the concept of adding links to web pages is alien to the editors, b) I can’t be bothered, or c) the journal inexplicably set the embargo on the press release to expire before the paper was actually published.

"Basically, this is a brief soundbite," the scientist will say, from a department and university that I will give brief credit to. "The existing science is a bit dodgy, whereas my conclusion seems bang on," she or he will continue.

I will then briefly state how many years the scientist spent leading the study, to reinforce the fact that this is a serious study and worthy of being published by the BBC the website.

This is a sub-heading that gives the impression I am about to add useful context.

Here I will state that whatever was being researched was first discovered in some year, presenting a vague timeline in a token gesture toward establishing context for the reader.

To pad out this section I will include a variety of inane facts about the subject of the research that I gathered by Googling the topic and reading the Wikipedia article that appeared as the first link.

This paragraph will be short so no one has to work too hard as they stop reading the quote and start reading whatever else I’m going to write.

The final paragraph will give tremendous praise to Martin Robbins for writing one of the most brilliant pieces of journalistic satire I’ve ever read, and for getting it onto the website of a respected British news organization.

California makes marijuana possession just an infraction 2010-Oct-02 at 00:31 PDT

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I love it when the news conspires with a topic I’ve been talking about.

From California Reduces Its Penalty for Marijuana, by Jesse McKinley, 1-Oct-2010:

A month before California voters decide the fate of a ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that essentially puts those caught possessing small amounts of the drug on the same level as those caught speeding on the freeway.

“The only difference is that because it is a misdemeanor, a criminal defendant is entitled to a jury trial,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said in a statement that accompanied his signature. “In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket.”

It’s not quite decriminalization, but it’s a step in the right direction, and it’s a model that other states can adopt on their way to eventual decriminalization, and eventually legalization.

Legalize it? Integral will. 2010-Oct-01 at 08:29 PDT

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Bill Piper is the Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.

From Sooner or later, marijuana will be legal, by Bill Piper, 28-Sep-2010:

Even though police made more than 850,000 marijuana arrests last year, a recent government report shows youth marijuana use increased by about 9 percent.

Supporters of the failed war on drugs will no doubt argue this increase means policymakers should spend more taxpayer money next year arresting and incarcerating a greater number of Americans. In other words, their solution to failure is to do more of the same. Fortunately, the "reform nothing" club is getting mighty lonely these days — 76 percent of Americans recognize the drug war has failed; millions are demanding change.

In the almost 40 years since President Nixon declared a war on drugs, tens of millions of Americans have been arrested and hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent. Yet drugs are just as available now as they were then.

The racial disparities are appalling. As Michelle Alexander so eloquently shows in her new book, "The New Jim Crow," a drug conviction automatically makes a person a second-class citizen who can be legally discriminated against in housing and employment, denied school loans, and barred for life from serving on juries, accessing public benefits and even voting. While African Americans make up only about 13 percent of the U.S. population and about 15 percent of drug users, they make up about 38 percent of those arrested for drug law violations and a mind-boggling 59 percent of those convicted for drug law violations.

Even if Proposition 19 loses, it will only be temporary. Support for marijuana legalization is growing, and not just in California. Legalization will happen. It’s just a question of how many lives and tax dollars will be wasted before it does. Some vested interests, of course, will fight change until the bitter end. Progress has never been accepted by everyone.

The Boomers failed to get this job done, but the Integral movement will.  The financial, social, and criminal costs involved, and the obvious failures in this "war", are too great a contradiction to be ignored for much longer.

An Integral perspective allows us to consider the difference between substances that are entheogens (like marijuana, MDMA, LSD, ayahuasca, and mushrooms)  and those that are not (like cocaine and alcohol) and to view the use of those substances with more discernment than previous generations have been able to summon.  We’ll bring research and an understanding of these substances, from all quadrants, into crafting new policies that welcome those who wish to explore different aspects of consciousness through these lenses, and yet still prevent behaviors that impact society negatively.

By the way, the word "entheogen" means "God inside us".  Is that clear enough?

You should be able to trip, but you shouldn’t be allowed to drive when you do.  After all, stop signs can have a funny way of remaining the same distance away no matter how close you get to them….