The Threat to Freedom of Speech!


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“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”                    George Washington

“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked.  So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you are in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”                    Noam Chomsky

Americans generally take the ability to express their views for granted…after all, we are taught in grade school that the U.S. Constitution, specifically the 1st Amendment, guarantees that even if you have a very unpopular opinion you have the right to express it.  This is a right that we are born with, not one granted by some king or head-of-state.  As someone who likes to express views on everything from psychology to public policy I appreciate not having to worry about someone knocking at the door at 2am and hauling me off to a detention center for expressing an opinion contrary to what the president at the time believes in. I appreciate, as a writer of fiction that touches on controversial matters (check here for some of my works: ) I can be free to be both creative and explore issues that may not be what would be considered proper topics during a dinner-function at your grandmother’s house.  Lately, however, there are some dark clouds on the horizon in regards to this fundamental feature of American law and culture and people need to be very concerned.

Recently Julian Assange has expressed fear that a Hillary Clinton victory could lead to crackdowns on freedom of speech. In a recent interview he noted that Hillary has been using some sort ofanti-Russian conspiracy (involving those who, coincidently are critical of her) as a campaign issue. You know, fear leads to hate…hate leads to curtailing rights: “”We have the ruling party … running around, calling the opposition leader, in fact multiple opposition readers, and the critical press, foreign agents,” he said. “What kind of press climate is going to exist afterwards, especially if Hillary Clinton is elected? It will be perceived to be a validation of that hysteria…So the press afterwards will be cracked down upon, and online publishers, and people on social media,” Assange added. “It will lead to a very harsh climate where the First Amendment will be eroded.””

A few years back, as secretary of state, Hillary warned that the USA was losing the “information war.”  If what she meant was that the US no longer had a monopoly over its own citizen’s sources of information she was right.  When Hillary grew up there was only black and white TV sets and you were lucky to get the three major networks at that time. Cable was not an option. You probably only had a daily newspaper in your community as well. To maintain the narrative was not so difficult then. For instance, the media in the early 1960s knew of John F. Kennedy’s affairs but did not report on them. There was a sense that this could reduce the prestige of the president at a time when the Cold War was at its height. There were alternative sources of information to be honest, but those were often just newsletters that reached a very specific cliental. So again, while there was the right to say as you pleased, and to read and listen to whatever you chose, your access to such sources was quite limited.

As for Hillary’s warning, she is quite aware that the internet makes that monopoly of ideas impossible.  A person can hear about an event but then check out videos on YouTube or Liveleak and see if what they heard is what really happened. They can access British news sources on the US political process and see if there is something being left out of the story being presented by the US corporate networks. In fact, they can access American-based information sources from all across the political spectrum (left, right, middle, alt-right, green or whatever) or even access RT or other foreign outlets.  The world is at our fingertips.

However, this is seen as a threat by many within the American power structure. In the past you could pepper the news with stories intended to slowly demonize your objective until everyone insisted you do something to stop [insert foe]. Today the people who turn to the internet can easily see through the deception and refuse to give their consent. That makes it extremely difficult to mobilize the public. Think of the impact having today’s internet choices during the run-up to the war Bush instigated against Saddam in 1990. I really doubt Bush could have persuaded the public to go along with it.

Of course domestic agendas are difficult to promote as well.  Many freedoms have eroded away since 2001 but one can only imagine what the situation would be like had there been no means by which to bypass the corporate media or official government pronouncements.

So is Hillary the only one who would likely erode the freedom of speech in what Assange calls a new age of McCarthyism? No, she would have to have support not only from the other branches of government but also from the media itself. What of a Trump victory? Well, did he not have some nasty things to say about whistle blower Edward Snowden? Regardless, just as the media has been used to promote wars, or not speak up in regards to domestic surveillance, if you can frame issues into an “us” v. “them,” or as Bush said, “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists” then you can work to sell the idea that people should give up some freedom in the name of security. And to go further, if you can sell the idea that some speech is too radical to be tolerated then you can start the process of going after both the left and the right, as well as the politically incorrect and those who support groups like Wikileaks or individuals such as Edward Snowden. Might sharing a link to a leaked email be considered an act of aiding and abetting in the future? Might opposing an action of war against Russia and/or China be seen as sedition?

There are a lot of things out there in cyberspace I do not like (including videos featuring horrid pop music). However, as Voltaire famously said, “I might disagree with your opinion, but I am willing to give my life for your right to express it.”  Freedom of expression is one of those things that is difficult to restore once lost. People tend to be insecure and so the powerful can easily play to fear to justify not allowing it again. It is then crucial that people of all political persuasions put their individual aims aside in regards to this issue and unite to maintain those freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

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The Business of War: The Psychopathic Dimensions.


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We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

How do we think of war?  My father was stationed in the Pacific in WW2. He hated the way Hollywood glorified war in movies and TV. He would not even allow a gun in our home when growing up – and, like many other men who served in that war, refused to discuss his experiences while a young man from 1943 – 1945. When he was growing up very little of the nation’s resources were directed at building up war, in fact much that was left over from WW1 had been scrapped.  Americans would rise up and fight, as the Japanese learned after bombing Pearl Harbor, but they were not militaristic in any sense.  WW2 would change that, but not in the way most history books would suggest i.e. Americans accepting some sort of role as world policeman as their destiny.  Instead, the economy that had been converted to a war-time economy to defeat the Axis Powers, has remained in that war-time state since, and many forces work to keep it that way.

The war fired up American factories and was the reason for the end of “The Great Depression.” After the war, the economy prospered, and innovations fueled a boom in manufacturing and services. However, as the Soviets became a recognized threat there was a reluctance to return to the pre-WW2 state of a minimalist military. Yes, even Eisenhower pointed to the need to maintain an effective counter to possible aggressions. However, he recognized that this created a dynamic that posed a threat to the nation – and that is the point he was making with his warning above. When you create an unholy alliance between ambitious politicians and companies fighting not just to attain lucrative defense contracts, but also facilitate a “need” for new contracts, you give rise to an out-of-control feedback loop that both guarantees expanding national debts, but also facilitate the possibility of wars developing.

Let’s look at how the system has evolved.  You have huge corporations that make fortunes off military contracts; and if those contracts were to end, then what? Of course the answer would be to innovate and improve production of non-weaponized products, but military contracts are like junk food, easy to splurge, justify and far more tasty than something more nutritious. Oh, and let us not forget sub-contractors, the people who make components, the little things, that are necessary to create a tank, missile or warship.  These smaller businesses also have a vested interest in maintaining military spending.

Speaking of the alliance of corporations even the US media oligopoly has interest in maintaining a state of fear against Russia and other nations. You see, corporations are more connected than roots in a terrarium. On the surface the plants can look separate and distinct but if you try to remove a single plant you will find its roots interwoven with the others to where it is impossible to untangle them.

In my, “Freedom from Conscience book series” I begin dealing with these issues in, “Freedom from conscience – Descent into Darkness” and the upcoming sequel “The Price of Power.”  In the former the heroine discovers how things truly work in politics after an encounter with a sex trafficking ring. In the latter she discovers, after being elected to congress and being invited into a secret society of power elite, how the public’s perception of reality is shaped by these people’s use of the corporate media. Yes, it is fiction, but based on how things really are.  In fact, one could never capture just how deep the system perpetuates the status quo, but one can shed more light on it. Sadly, the corporate media won’t do it anymore.

You see: the journalists we used to count on for exposing corruption and taking on the establishment have, in large part, been co-opted by the estate they were supposed to keep an eye on. Now news pertaining to “threats” from other nations, or any coverage of war-related news, comes from the government itself. Why spend a bunch of money on war correspondents when the Pentagon or State Department can provide you with all you need to know, with eye-catching film?  Oh, and it does not stop there. Speaking of eye-catching film have you ever asked how Hollywood movies get to have such good pictures of jets in mid-air or the decks of aircraft carriers? Product placement…that’s right, movies showing how awesome our military is help to serve to justify billions and billions of dollars of expenditures as well as operate as recruitment for young people watching the end-product. Hollywood’s cozy relationship with the military did not end with WW2 propaganda cartoons, not by a long shot.

So why is this article titled, “The Business of War: The Psychopathic Dimensions?” Well, again, let’s look at what is taking place with Russia. If you are old enough you probably remember when the US news media, which was a totally different creature than it is today, ran stories that actually showed Russians (at the time Soviets) as real people.  Do we see that today?  Aside from some travel show you might run into on a cable network, the cute stories of Russians you saw in the 1980s just don’t exist. Why? Why would we want to push tensions to a possible breaking point? Well, money. When German re-unification was being discussed the west had promised Moscow that it had no intention to expand NATO eastward.  Problem was (during the Bill Clinton years and afterwards) NATO did expand right up to Russia’s border. Of course one can understand how some of the former eastern nations, after decades of control by the Soviets, might like some guarantees it would never happen again, but what about defense contractors? What could they get from such expansion? Well, new customers.  That was the case in the 1990s and it also the case today. In fact, the more one can get the public to fear “Russian aggression” the better it might be for some key industries.

In addition, what if the threat of Russia is, like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, more a creation from our own government, pressured by financial interests behind the scenes working on both the White House and the House of Representatives, and magnified by the media? What could go wrong with that? I mean…nuclear war? What if we become convinced by our own darkest suspicions of the Russians and begin to think nuclear war could be a viable option?  Anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Coldicott recently noted that many in the US government think nuclear war is winnable! While most psychopaths are contributing members of society there is an element of invincibility, of recklessness, and a form of ruthlessness in achieving goals that characterizes psychopaths. To push an ethic that sees the preservation of an atmosphere of fear as desirable, even if it could lead to at the very least negative economic consequences and at worse getting to live the dream of a zombie apocalypse, plus radiation, seems to be a manifestation of psychopathy at its very worse.

Perhaps we could learn a bit from former Mormon Church president Spencer W. Kimball who stated, “We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become anti-enemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching…”

In light of events since the beginning of this century one could easily say, even without affixing special title to Mr. Kimball, that his warning was truly prophetic.

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How Do Those In Power View Life Differently Than You?


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“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”   Edward Bernays

Imagine yourself at the grocery store. You see a young woman in front of you purchasing cookies, candy and ice cream.  When the items are scanned she promptly hands the checker a food stamp card. What are your thoughts, and maybe those of the people standing next to you? I will bet most are thinking negatively about her, about her purchasing “junk food” with taxpayer money and this reinforces any stereotypes of people on food stamps.  Naturally you don’t consider that her husband may be in the military and has been deployed for six months, and her oldest child turns five that day… and she is giving him a party with his friends as a rare treat.  No, we as a species tend to judge and to judge negatively.

Okay, the point of this is not to deal with judging per se but rather how we view others, and specifically how the elite view the 99.9% of the American population. That is why I made reference to the woman in line. As much as we might feel “superior” to others based on social class, or the use of a WIC or food stamp card, the elite are just as harsh towards the middle and working classes. Heck, the super-rich even look down on the “modestly” rich.  And by elite I do not just mean those with names like Rockefeller but also those who make our movies in Hollywood or control the media that creates our “news” and TV entertainment.  These people are as removed from regular people who work 9-5, and struggle to pay their mortgage, as a geneticist at a prestigious university research center is to a villager in the most remote Brazilian rain-forest.

In a sense Hunger Games could be seen as a satire on modern consumeristic society, and a reflection on the divide between the regular people and the elite. You have districts that are responsible for producing for the people of Capital City who live in their bubble of extravagance and entertainment. And of course who creates the entertainment? Those in power of course. In my latest thriller coming out in the Fall of 2016, “Freedom from Conscience – The Price of Power.” the heroine of the series (a former vigilante serial killer) gets elected to the US Congress. Soon afterwards she is mysteriously befriended by a member of an elite secret society who fancies himself her mentor. This gentleman does the obligatory “villain’s monologue” and explains to her why his comrades must eventually purge the world of those they see as genetically and culturally inferior to them, and how they will go about the process through brainwashing the public to go along with it.

Okay, this is fiction, right? I mean the people who control the people who control the media who control the message are just like the rest of us, right? Not really.  And while I am not claiming that in real life they have any sort of genocide planned their reality is far removed from yours, and thus their worldview.  They are segregated in affluence. In fact, their lives are not even like the “robber barons” you may have read about in high school history class. At least those captains of industry sometimes came from less-advantaged families. They also built factories and put people to work, and while quite wealthy they often visited their factories and still saw themselves as competing against others in the “social Darwinistic” context.  Today the super-wealthy are isolated. They and their children graduate from the same prestigious institutions, which reinforce a particular social ideal.  And while they travel the world they live in isolation and here a very distinct sub-culture evolves.  In fact some evolutionary psychologists have suggested that the inbreeding of the elite will lead to a genetically distinct group, no longer separated by wealth and influence alone but maybe even a new ethnic class emergence.  Of course that is merely speculation. Reality, however, is that economic power and influence over society are undeniably correlated.

Take for instance language. Radio, and then Television, has in great measure pulled all the various dialects in the USA to a common “mainstream” idea of what American English is perceived as.  To a large degree this was due to the centralization of telecommunications in the early and mid-20th Century. Yet just as with language one can see how the people who control the much-more pervasive media of today have both enormous power over the sources of the message (today one can only use the term “oligopoly” to describe the industry) but also the values that their industry can lay down as the new norm.

Of course the elite cannot turn out entertainment that only tells their stories. That would turn off regular viewers and not generate much profit. They rely on the “flyover” regions for revenue generation.  And while most live in exclusive suburbs their base of operations is in the cities. They seek writers and directors, who generally come from urban environments, and while not top elite they perceive themselves as sharing the same ideals of those with position. So of course they write plots that rely more on oft-used caricatures of what people outside their enclaves must be like. And of course the people who make the final determination as to what goes into movies and TV shows are closer to the elite and are even more separated from authentic reality than the writers and directors.  Interestingly enough the majority of American audiences appear not to mind having simplistic images fed back to them; and one could speculate that many adopt the behavioral “norms” fed to them on TV as authentic as they grow up on these media images.

Furthermore, how about an example of how powerful images in media can be? Are you aware that one of the big reasons for the sharp decrease of birthrates in Brazil has been TV entertainment? The idea was that if people see small families presented as positive, and the norm, in what they see on TV they will absorb those norms into their own minds. And whether you see this as positive or not one cannot argue that entertainment can have a huge impact on people’s internal values, maybe even more than religion; thus the average person in Brazil, although Catholic, generally uses birth control. And it works that way everywhere, yes, even in (especially in?) the USA and western world. The elite will want to use their entertainment selections to promote the way they think people should live. After all, in a more modern application of social Darwinism isn’t there a notion that those with degrees from prestigious learning institutions should use their position to help “enlighten” the masses?  So while plots on prime-time may be quite simplistic there is always a message. As Orwell noted, all art is ultimately propaganda.

So be it issues relating to religion, outsourcing of manufacturing, family dynamics, life goals, even, as Edward Bernays noted what we wear…these and many more issues may only be interpreted on the macro-societal level from the perspective of what the .1% most wealthy perceive as optimal.  And while there has been an explosion of independent media in recent years facilitated by the internet, the monolith of the dominant networks and national newspapers makes it difficult to offer unique perspectives so that genuine discussion can take place at the national level.

One can resist merely conforming to whatever the “popular” group-think is within society but that requires taking an active role in both getting information as well as analyzing the very basis of ones beliefs. The latter can be a scary process for some. I mean, something as simple as table manners originated with some person of royalty deciding how people should eat. And what of other manners, habits and beliefs – might also have been incorporated into how you experience life without any serious reflection on if they were beneficial or not…based on some higher ideal of religion or philosophy, or any other more authentic source than someone within the powers-that-be just deciding what should be the norm for everyone?

Hormones and Voter Suppression? The Bio-Chemistry of Political Activity.


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“As the night advanced I did not care so much about the audience – I turned making tips into a game of sorts.  In fact, as I gathered more and more money I became more and more flirtatious with the customers…  It began to feel like I was using sexuality as a weapon and I was enjoying this form of manipulation to gain an objective.  Excerpt from “Freedom from Conscience – Descent into Darkness.”

The above quote is from my latest psychological thriller. The protagonist, Melanie Lindberg, a state legislator, is forced to go under-cover into an exotic nightclub she suspects is both a cover for sexual trafficking and the source of threats made on her family. A sub-plot running through the book is her learning how to use every skill at her disposal not just to survive, and eliminate her opponents, but also in the process she learns how to better advance her real career objectives through manipulating customers/voters at the emotional level.  And isn’t this how it works in real life? And as hormones obviously come into play in the business of sex they also play a huge role in the more “respectable” game of politics.  What? How are hormones involved in the political arena? Let’s examine this, paying special attention to testosterone and…well, voter suppression.

Testosterone is generally associated with male sexuality but it is not just present in males, it is merely in higher levels than in females. It is generally associated with aggression but such may not be the case. In truth it is associated with having a more competitive nature, that “I want to win and I will win.” mindset that tends to translate into more social and physical dominance. High testosterone levels in men and women, indicated by for instance, the longer ring finger to index finger ratio has been shown to be correlated with highly successful female athletes, as well as success regarding stock trading in males.  Testosterone does not make us who we are; it does help kick us in the seat of the pants to push us along though. And while it is not the only hormone associated with mindset and behavior it is a critical component that cannot be ignored.

In the animal kingdom, specifically pack animals like wolves, there is often a struggle for power with the alpha female and male being established through fighting for dominance. However, it does not benefit the strength of the pack for an alpha to seriously maim or kill fellow members of the pack. Instead a fight will take place but the winner, once in a position to clamp its jaws on or next to the neck of the opponent, but not to take a lethal bite, signals an end to the competition. The wolves can then get on with daily life. And while in Twilight this made for an interesting aspect of the plot, with unusual anthropomorphic implications, does this really have application in the most powerful pack animal species – namely mankind?

Back in 2008 a study was conducted on male supporters of Obama and McCain. On the election night testosterone levels were measured in all participants. When it was clear that Obama was going to win the testosterone levels plunged in the McCain supporters.  A similar study was done on male rugby players and, sure enough, once one team was assured that they were going to win the testosterone levels decreased in the team that was losing.  And have we not seen that many times, be it our kid’s soccer game or a nationally televised sport event, where, when one team pulls ahead, the other appears to loss hope and motivation, and just goes through the moves until the clock runs out?  The idea is that just as in the case of the vanquished wolf a human who losses motivation is likely to give up and avoid life-threatening injuries. So in the past the men who surrendered on the battlefield at least had a chance to survive and pass on their genes, while men who fought to the bitter end, against insurmountable odds, often died and failed to make any further contribution to the gene pool. And while politics in a democratic system does not often lead to death it is our more civilized way of picking leaders. As Freud said, civilization began when someone used words rather than violence to settle a dispute.

So how can this apply to voter suppression? We need only to look at the Democratic primaries of 2016. The mainstream media (often referred to as the media oligopoly or corporate press) employed a bit of hormonal warfare against Bernie by ignoring him at the beginning or marginalizing him as his support continued to grow despite his supporters being demonstration of commitment.  Towards the later quarter of the race the media ran stories as to whether, when he lost, he would endorse Hillary. They also ran stories predicting which states would go for Hillary and at what point Hillary would reach the magic number of delegates to clench the nomination.  We can be fairly certain that this not only caused some otherwise Bernie supporters to stay at home but others might have voted for Hillary, “The sure thing.” And when you saw the faces of the primarily young enthusiasts for Bernie as he won states but did not win the majority of delegates they looked the same as fans realizing that the referee is only going to rule in favor of the other team’s controversial plays and, thus, your team is destined to lose. One wonders if any researchers were out there testing Bernie and Hillary supporters and their testosterone levels through this race.

Okay, so we have an idea of how the thought that your team losing will reduce testosterone and competitiveness.  How is this playing into the general election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?  Needless to say the same media is virtually united against Trump. And whether you love or loath him it is not difficult to see how media influence could be doing a job on Trump’s supporters in regards to their hormonal fluctuations.  Some of the largest media outlets have run not stories based on insider leaks but rather speculation as to when Trump might drop out of the race. The same tactic was used against Bernie if you recall.  This could have effects such as reducing people’s willingness to contribute to Trump’s campaign or do grass-roots organizing to get people to vote for Trump. Then, as hormonal levels plummet, the media can point to gloom, pessimism and lack of enthusiasm within his campaign. And, as people do not want to be associated with the losing team, a large number might decide to find other things to devote their time to.  Is this voter suppression? Yes, but unlike the old days where polling stations might change location at the last minute in a certain candidate’s staunchest areas of support, this is psychological with physical consequences that then affect the original psychological state. You have what you might call an internal feedback loop developed that makes the once more dedicated supporter assume a state similar to the wolf that realizes they cannot possibly win. Better to be passive…it’s in our nature and our endocrine system.

So yes, testosterone and our expectations, based on reality or not, affects our behavior.  Yet are we mere slaves to our internal glands?  Not at all, not if you recognize how this works.  You see if outside forces can diminish our strength and resolve our ability to connect to and control our perceptions can be used to counteract whatever is thrown at us.  Whether on an individual basis, team situation, workplace, dating involved in a political cause a person can, instead of dwelling on negativity, focus on whatever positives that exist, even if things look dire for one reason or another. The beauty in this bit of wisdom is that boosting natural testosterone levels can make men and women more confident, and more confidence can lead to success, which leads to a positive rather than negative feedback loop. Of course exercise helps too but for now perception is the key I want to throw out for now.  So, winner or loser…you really do have more control than you think, as long as you recognize you really are in control.

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Sexual Slavery and Human Trafficking


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“Slavery is founded on the selfishness of man’s nature; opposition to it on his love of justice.” Abraham Lincoln

Recently, President Donald Trump stated, in regards to human trafficking:

“It’s a very, very terrible problem, it’s not talked about enough. People don’t know enough about it and we’re going to talk about it and we’re going to bring it out into the open and hopefully we’re going to do a great deal to help prevent some of the horrific, really horrific crimes that are taking place.”  (Reuters, Feb. 23, 2017)

Human trafficking can take on any sort of involunary bondage or servitude. Quite often there is a sexual component to this issue, especially when it involves trafficking in developed nations.  And as Donald Trump has stated, it is an issue that gets too little coverage in the media.  Oh, and just to make it clear, this is not a partisan issue as I quote former president Barack Obama on this issue at the end of this article.

If we want to help the victims of this practice we need to bring it out into the open.  This will put pressure on politicians to act.

In my most recent book in the ”Freedom from Conscience” series, “Freedom from Conscience – Descent into Darkness” the protagonist, a state legislator who is a former vigilante serial killer, must go undercover in an exotic  dance establishment, that is in reality a front for a sex trafficking operation.  She partners up with a young Russian woman who is seeking answers as to the whereabouts of her vanished sister when someone begins to threaten her family after she begins to expose this issue.  Again, sex trafficking and human slavery merely are not merely an interesting plot to a psychological thriller or action movie, or is it something in which the magnitude far exceeds the attention it receives in the corporate media news outlets. And again, this must change.

Around the early part of the 21st Century there was a fair amount of news coverage of the plight of eastern European and Russian women being tricked or forced into sex slavery. As is usually the case any time war or economic circumstances makes people vulnerable to exploitation there will be those who will capitalize on the misery of others.  The situation in the former Soviet bloc nations was dire; criminal gangs worked with impunity, there was little if any work available and the ability of law enforcement to tackle such things as human trafficking was severely limited.  Sometimes women sought any employment and were willing to be transported to nations in Europe, the Middle East and North America. More were tricked into believing they were being hired as nannies or models only to have their passports confiscated and forced to work in brothels, sex clubs or as private mistresses.  Some estimated that hundreds of thousands of women got caught up in this.

As the economy of the former Soviet nations has improved and the legal infrastructure has become more efficient and accountable the numbers from these regions have decreased, but it still exists.  In fact victims and perpetrators can be found in most advanced nations, although, as stated earlier, war and economic uncertainty create a perfect breeding ground for this sort of activity.

Recently some reports have trickled out of the Middle East of Syrian and Yazidi girls being forced into sex slavery by ISIS captors.  And in other areas affected by war, or where massive migrations are occurring, people can become easy prey for these operations.  As for forced labor this is another aspect of slavery that exists in some areas of the developing world; to assume that slavery ended in the whole world when it ended in the USA is quite naïve.

To his credit President Obama has addressed this issue:

“When a man, desperate for work, finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling, for little or no pay, and beaten if he tries to escape — that is slavery. When a woman is locked in a sweatshop, or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving — that’s slavery.

When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family — girls my daughters’ age — runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists — that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.”

We can help by making sure this is an issue that gets attention in social media, the regular media and that we encourage our elected representatives to address this problem as well.


Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Modern Society


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“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Have you ever heard of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave?  Chances are you haven’t. Perhaps the warnings of a Greek philosopher from antiquity may not be seen as pertinent to our modern technological age. Yet one may be surprised at the idea that his allegory speaks directly to the here-and-now. We should pay attention to Plato’s analysis of how our perceptions are governed by biases such as our upbringing, what media we are exposed to and our peer group.  In psychology we call this schema.

Plato’s lesson goes like this. A group of people, let’s say five women have been raised from birth chained to each other in a cave in such a way that they can only see directly in front of each other.  It is not a torturous existence as they are provided food and water and they can talk with each other in a language they have developed together. So what is their world view? Well, their gaze is fixed on a wall directly in front of them.

Behind our women is a fire in the very back of the cave. And between them and the fire are workers going about their business. So as these hypothetical workers move about it castes shadows onto the wall for our women to observe. They label the various images and interpret their origins and their relationship to them.  This is their world…their reality.

Well, one day one of the women is released, maybe a caretaker forgets to lock her back up after a cleaning, who knows, and leaves keys sitting on a rock.  The woman stands up and turns around to see light coming from the entrance to the cave. Forgetting her lifelong companions she stumbles out of the cave and is met with a sunny day. Her eyes take time to adjust to her new surroundings but eventually she is able to see a totally exotic world. There is a large sun overhead, some clouds, and a green landscape underneath. She sees trees with leaves glistening in the sunlight as a light breeze moves them about. She begins to pick up objects, smell flowers and, while the loose rocks hurt her bare feet as she explores about she enjoys both the sensations of the sun’s rays on her body and all this new world has to offer.

After a few hours she decides she wants her companions to experience her new insights…her new reality. She strolls back to the cave and approaches her friends. She is excited about her discoveries and begins to recount all she has experienced. Her friends roll their eyes and shake their heads. They cannot comprehend what she is trying to relate to them. She picks up the keys and offers to unlock them and see that what she is saying is true.  As she approaches they kick at her and insist she sit down and fasten herself back into her locks.

The four women lash out rather than consider seeing for themselves if the free woman is telling them the truth. After all, if she is correct then it threatens their world view, their schema.  So in a sense their lashing out is an ego-defensive mechanism; deep down they fear she may be right. What if she is right? What then?  It is safe in the cave, their needs met and acceptance in their shared community…prisoners yes, but a very predictable existence. Of course it would be unlikely the one that has seen the real world will submit, sit down and lock herself back into confinement.

So how is this applicable to the world of today? In my book, “Freedom from Conscience – Descent into Darkness” (link here: ) the theme is an awakening to the real world of the protagonist outside her comfortable middle-class background as she must go undercover into the dark world of organized crime, corrupt police and the sex industry to protect her family. A sub-plot involves her trying to wake up two women she comes in touch with to a new way of living, to step out of the lives they are used to. In fact, that is the underlying message of this and the other “Freedom from Conscience” book series; question authority, question assumptions and dare to break free of cultural chains that are as strong as the iron  chains Plato was referring to in his allegory.  In our day “reality” for most people is set by the corporate media (news shows, movies, music videos, commercials, and TV programs), sports, and public education, and reinforced by getting approval from friends, family and co-workers. Some aspects of mainstream thought and culture are quite positive, but that is not the point. The only way to personally evaluate which are positive and which are negative to individuals and society in general is to examine who is asking us to believe or act in certain ways, what will be the results and why should we choose what we choose.

So whether you are, as the woman in the cave, just discovering you have the ability to leave your chains behind, on your way out, discovering the real world or trying to awaken those around you it is vital to remember that at one point you were as this women chained into place and accepting the reality that was forced upon her. Never allow enlightenment to develop into arrogance.  In the United States there are six large corporations that control almost all the media you are exposed to and that power has a tremendous effect on government, production, and even education and religion. Of course the latter institutions exert their own power and each creates a gigantic feedback loop in which the individual is as pulled along as if he or she is caught in a massive whirlpool.  Too many metaphors and analogies? Perhaps.  But the point is that everyone can help one another caught up in modern society to dig a bit deeper, question a little more, analyze and enable each other to dare to step out of the cave.

Plato is also known for his description of the legendary civilization of Atlantis. If you are into science fiction that incorporates this as well as the story of Noah, and presents a civilization already where ours is heading, then check out my newest science fiction thriller, “The Destiny of Our Past”


10 Reasons to Have Children


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I recently ran across the news that Italy is thinking of doubling its subsidy for children to combat what is being called a birthrate “apocalypse.”  And while Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the world the conditions that have led to this are affecting pretty much all the western world, and some in the east.  Of all the reasons that could be examined I think the most important one is that people today have been conditioned to focus on the purported disadvantages to having children as opposed to the advantages.  In reality children are a blessing and perhaps, in addition to nations giving bonuses to advance the birthrate, they could create campaigns to promote the advantages at the personal and societal level.  For instance:

  • The greatest investment ever. Okay, true there are costs associated with having children, and some people choose to forego any births, or curtail their families to only two children, but let’s look at this carefully.  Ultimately pretty much every consumer item you crave to have will be in a second-hand store or junk yard in a decade. How much is that computer you wished your parents would buy you back in 2005? That car you envied the neighbor having back in 2000? On the other hand children are an investment into the future. The fulfillment one will gain from one child can only be magnified by many children and these children can bring you grandchildren.
  • Your family is the only enduring social network you will have. Very, very few of the people you call friends will remain close to you as time goes on.  And the more children you have the larger this biological network will be.  You have to admire many of the immigrants from the Middle East who go into a business as a family and then expand it, filling the administrative positions with brothers and cousins.  Our “modern” society has, for the most part, abandoned this aspect of family… and along with it possibilities as well as security.
  • Greater support. I read an article about Mexican Americans and depression a few years ago. It said that recent immigrants had much lower depression than the general culture, but then their children began to acquire the traits of those around them.  The theory was that the first generation newcomers came from large extended families.  They were able to turn to each other for psychological support in times of stress or depression. Maybe ones parents don’t understand a person that well while one of the brothers or sisters do. Large families have an advantage there. I cover the issue (with a fiction platform) in the second novel, “Freedom from Conscience – Melanie’s Awakening:
  • People who are in strong family units tend to fare better on health measures than those who don’t.  How many times have you heard of parents dying in an accident so the grandparents assume the role of parents again; and their agility and outlook returns to a younger state?  Family gives us meaning and people who have a sense of their importance supplied by family will have an advantage in health and well-being.
  • Married people live longer than single people and people with families tend to live longer as well.  Childbirth can of course reduce risk of certain cancers but even beyond that larger families may hold advantages. For instance, we see an explosion of childhood obesity and one factor that has been cited is smaller families that can afford to indulge one or two kids with lots more treats than one with three or four (or more) children would be able, or willing, to do.
  • Better use of resources. People with families tend to buy more in bulk and use less resources per person for heating, water and even transportation.
  • Cultural preservation. A culture that is not replacing itself is one that is slated for the same fate as the Shakers – decline and extinction.  It is not so simple as saying that the average birthrate has to be around 2.3 children per woman just to have a replacement of the previous generation.  We have to consider that there are many people who are sterile, others who never marry, mortality, and some people absolutely not wanting families.  To attain 2.3 you have to have a significant number of couples having three or more children to offset this.
  • Genetic survival. It is more than chromosomes; much more.  You are the result of countless generations of people who survived long enough to reproduce. Your DNA is a chain that connects you to the ancient past.
  • Seriously, while I often hear parents complain about the responsibilities of raising children not a one of them, at least the many I have encountered, say they wish they had not had them, or had avoided the youngest or whatever. On a cost-benefit scale the joys of parenting far outweigh the costs.
  • Getting to experience life again. What better excuse to re-gain the fun you had when you were a kid playing with toys than to have an excuse to play with them again with your children? And even a person who is an astronomer as a living can experience the simple pleasures of looking at the stars with their kids on a July night.  As adults we often get caught up with the complexities of life that we forget the joys of simply watching ants go about their business on a spring day, or planting seeds in a garden. Yet in the company of children we regain the perspective that we may have had twenty or thirty (or more) years previously. The marvels of creation can often be forgotten in our dog-eat-dog world, but children remind us of what is important.

Darwin once said, “How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children.” He should have known, he and his wife had ten children together.

Of Bathrooms and Combat Boots?


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20160516_151951“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

Quote often attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt

I do not usually cover what some might call “conspiracy” but I do believe in deeply analyzing socio-political issues.  We need to investigate far beyond what the corporate press feeds us and sometimes…sometimes one has to ask if two seemingly unrelated issues might indeed be related under the surface. The case in point here, and bear with me it might seem far-fetched, but could the whole controversy with breaking gender barriers in reference to bathrooms in the USA be connected to aims of the military-industrial complex? I mean…could it be true, at least indirectly?  Let’s just throw it out there and see what happens.

Two things are a bit suspicious here. The first is why the federal government, all of a sudden, is urging public schools nationwide to allow transgender students to be able to use the bathroom they choose despite their sex at birth.  The second is timing of something that again may seem unrelated, that of moving towards the policy of allowing women to serve in combat roles as well as mandating they be included in draft registration.  Note: I am not going to address the issue of transgender youth or adults.  I want to deal with the possible underlying motives of the people who run the nation.

So let’s look at what many people see as an issue of “modesty” or appropriate separation of the sexes.  Okay, I see the concern, that eventually we will start allowing men to use the women’s bathroom…men who are anatomically male but identify as female. I get it. However I would personally like to see a change in our facilities themselves – do as they do in Scandinavia and have individual toilets inside a closet, not the so-called barriers between toilets that provide virtually no privacy.  I also have heard people saying that the Obama suggestions would eventually lead to men being let into the women’s showers.  I do not think that is the goal of most people supporting this change of policy but here is where we can tie in the possible military connection.

Follow me here. We shall start with entertainment. What? Where is the tie-in? One cannot divorce the military from popular entertainment.  This relationship started in WW2 and we all have probably seen the cartoons featuring what we often think of as children’s entertainment characters fighting Japanese and German soldiers.  It did not end there however. For instance, the Pentagon has been accused of actually influencing plots in films (check “Iron Man and Transformers Censored by US Military for Getting too Close to the Truth” in the July 11th, 2015 Mirror).  Now I cannot prove anything but I have noticed that in science fiction since the late 1990s it seems the norm that in the depiction of military combat units they feature women fighting along-side men.  So while few nations have women included in front-line forces the media appears to be slowly getting us used to it, and that is how attitudes are influenced, and when attitudes change that makes for policy changes.

In the May 13th Reuter’s article, “Congress Moves Closer to requiring Draft Registration for Women” it is noted that the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee have approved proposals that would require young women to register for the draft.  And Defense Secretary Ash Carter has announced that all combat positions be open to women.

So again, the relationship?  Well, many people, especially social conservatives, might wonder how living quarters, restrooms, showering…you know, the concerns that center around biology and gender, might complicate women serving with men, especially if registration evolved into compulsory military service for young men and women.  Could the push for restrooms in the USA to move away from biological segregation be connected to the idea that erasing norms that mandate separation could facilitate a new expectation that appears more like those movies where you have male and female soldiers using the same bathrooms and showering together?

I suppose my point is ultimately I do not trust that the federal government would take the issue to the lengths they have without some other agenda.  Personally, I do not see that big of a deal with transgender people using whatever bathroom they want. There are people who are genetically male who have undertaken transformations that make them look quite female and vice versa.  And if people are worried about the sexual aspects I can guarantee that if you use a public bathroom there are people who of your own biological gender who feel attracted to other members of their own biological gender.  Again, I hate using American public bathrooms as there is little privacy afforded by stalls and I prefer privacy at home and away from home. Seriously, does anyone really want to be subjected to the knowledge that the person next to you ate something earlier that really disagreed with them?

As for the idea of showering I again think that facilities can be set up to afford privacy. Many children cringe at the idea of showering after PE around their peers regardless the biological gender. Now those who have read my “Freedom from Conscience” books might feel that an odd position for me to take as my main protagonist, Melanie Lindberg, sees nudity as a form of personal and spiritual expression. However the context is choice.  If someone wants to go to a hot spring in Oregon or Washington and sit in a pool with a group of naked hippies and yuppies then what of it? The ones that have bathrooms are still private, and as they are private there is no need for “men” and “women” signs on the doors.

So ultimately, aside of my suspicion that this whole national issue has other motivations (at least in regards to the government), the most practical solution would be to design bathrooms with complete privacy, especially in public schools.  There are nations in Europe where this is the norm. If they can do it so can we.

The Deeper Lesson of The Walking Dead


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“The show is valuable because it allows you to apply the principles of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill to a sort of game-theory decision tree in a “real world” simulation.”

Mario Loyola, “The Walking Dead’s Political Philosophy,” National Review, Dec. 5, 2015

I was recently in a meeting where the topic of food storage and preparing for natural disaster came up. I noted that anyone who tunes into “The Walking Dead” will at least be left with the thought that maybe it’s a good idea to stock up on essentials in case of a disaster. I found it interesting that only one other person had seen the show and they agreed, although several said they would give it a look.

I too resisted the series for a couple of years thinking it was a typical, run-of-the-mill zombie show with lots of gore and a standard plot-line. However, one day I tuned in on Netflix and was hooked. The program actually employs a strong philosophical thread, as the article from National Review notes, but also tackles a wide array of psychological and sociological themes.

One thing that is hinted at, but made more apparent in the spin-off, “Fear the Walking Dead” is the social decay that would ensue if the traditional infrastructure collapsed. What happens when there is nobody to call for help? What happens if there are no police or military to come in and save the day? What if everyone was left at everyone else’s mercy? And what if, as I assume there will be no zombie epidemics in our future unless someone messes up with a nano-technology experiment, society disintegrated due to a pandemic, war or catastrophic economic collapse? Would it be that much different than the world of the TV series?

In my book, “Freedom from Conscience – Deliverance from Evil”   the heroine, Melanie Lindberg, is kidnapped by a serial killer who anticipates a societal breakdown and has prepared himself in a compound in eastern Oregon. His vision is that people in the cities would run out of food and begin a march to the suburbs in a quest to take what they lack. The suburban soccer moms and hockey dads would not fare well, but there would be enough people with guns to finally decimate the rampaging hordes. Yet in the end survivors would be clustered into small networks without much of an aim or focus beyond survival. That would lead to a power vacuum our super-villain, Vincent Elkington, anticipated filling.

So is that how things would work out? Would psychopathic individuals establish their own little kingdoms and we would return to an era similar to 12th Century Europe? The world of, “The Walking Dead” gets viewers thinking about this in reference to three communities, Woodbury, Terminus and Alexandria. In the first we are presented with a charismatic psychopathic leader who will employ any sort of Machiavellian principles to maintain power and protect his community from both humans and zombies (I know they are called “walkers” but I will stick to the more recognizable term). In contrast we later are presented with Alexandria which is filled with people who appear akin to folks that support Bernie Sanders, and are led by an idealistic woman who used to be a congresswoman. I won’t deal with Terminus because they had devolved into cannibals and we are not given detailed background in explaining their collapse into barbarity. Yet the Woodbury and Alexandria settings allow us to explore extremes in social thinking that can be applied to regular society even without a disaster scenario. In Woodbury might makes right, but people are willing to fight to hold onto what they have.  Again, their leader may not be all that stable but in Hobbesian world sometimes you need to be tough to have the benefits of eventually securing a society ruled with the ideals of John Locke.  As we see in Alexandria the people are isolated from danger and have become weak; easy prey for those who would do them harm. Do such societies survive in real life? Sadly history has shown that they do not unless they have the security of existing as a sub-culture in a powerful state.

Overall I have to say that “The Walking Dead” is far deeper than most entertainment on TV today. If nothing else if one takes away from it the need to be prepared in case of disaster then that is an important lesson since our modern society and infrastructure while, being complex, is actually increasingly vulnerable to weather, disease and whatever mankind can come up with in the quest for power. And lastly, what would your community look like if the lights did indeed go out…go out for good?

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How Psychopaths See Life


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“Princes and governments are far more dangerous than other elements within society.”

Niccolo Machiavelli


Well, election time is upon us and like a plot akin to Game of Thrones fused with House of Cards we are being treated to America’s favorite reality show featuring personality types ranging from malignant narcissism to psychopathy. Yes, our shock-and-awe political gladiator event mixed with a hefty dose of glamour and glitz to bring you…the ultimate quest for power.  This modern blood-sport is one that favors the men and women able to deliver the decisive blow to opponents, yet maintain a cool and collected look even after they decimate their foes on the field; and afterwards we don’t even see a drop of blood splatter running down their pretty cheeks.  So many dimensions of American “democracy” we could explore but why not get into politicians collective minds and ask: How do such psychopaths see the world?

A psychopath is an interesting individual.  They of course have defining traits including:

  • Glib and superficial charm.
  • The ability to lie, or important in American politics, reconstruct the truth with creativity.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Lack of guilt.
  • A grandiose sense of self.
  • Easily bored and a need for higher-than-average stimulation.

It is easy to judge the psychopath as some sort of dangerous individual, or even a monster. Yet this “monster” can elicit admiration from entire societies. That is why politics is the perfect world for them.

Okay, as promised though, how do they see the world?  As children they realize there is something different about them.  And no, they are not necessarily bullies – often they are the bullied. Why? Well, childhood can be very cruel, especially to those who do not react the same as others to emotional stimuli, or who question a bit too much, or are judged as arrogant because they can analyze the complexities of life even at a young age.  This leaves them open to being picked on, to being left out.  This aspect of psychopathy I deal with in my book “Freedom from Conscience – Melanie’s Journey.” She is an outsider, with a history of being bullied, but as she matures she uses her insights and skills to her advantage, with deadly consequences.

And what skills does a psychopath learn to use? At least the intelligent ones learn that even if they do not feel the same emotions, or at least at the same level as regular people around them, they need to master their environment – that means to learn how to show regular human reactions to tragedy as well as cheerful events. They also learn the art of communication, be it charm or more weaponized verbal skills.  As the saying goes the art of diplomacy is to have the skill to tell someone to go to hell, and them look forward to the trip.

Naturally the psychopath sees the world in an arrogant way. They cannot understand why they are able to make connections while “common people” are unable to. This causes them to see people as generally being stupid, and to most psychopaths the ability to manipulate them becomes a game.  If they go into marketing they see their job as selling a product – using any means to appeal to the masses. If they are politicians they will see themselves as the product to sell. And if anything causes fear in a psychopath’s heart it is losing. They absolutely will bend rules, tell the “truth” in creative ways (most people call that lying, but is it technically?) and while they form alliances to win it is akin to the alliances formed in “The Hunger Games” in which in the end the alphas will have to turn against each other. People are seen as sources of power and favor. This is how politics really works, and how politicians must behave to win.  So psychopaths are quite suited for this environment.

Of course psychopaths will believe all people think as they do, just as most regular people think that politicians actually have empathy for them and a desire to serve. Now before I go further I will note that psychopaths can internalize ethics. If they do they can become champions of worthy causes if they believe there is a wrong to be righted. So yes, there are anti-heroes akin to those Clint Eastwood movies where he rides into town and winds up saving it from some evil villains, but like the Eastwood character depicted in those movies he (or she) does not really feel compassion for those being oppressed the way regular people might.  Also important to note, the psychopath does not “feel” for the weak.  In fact, a psychopath would likely believe the way to make society stronger is for weak people not to breed.  In a Machiavellian sense, an aspect of psychopathy, the ends justify the means if in the end you can create a Utopia.

As noted, psychopaths project their own personalities so they see other people as possessing their own imaginations and motivations. Therefore psychopaths are more likely to support harsh treatment of criminals…they realize how easy it is to manipulate a social worker or psychologist and thus would never believe a violent criminal can be rehabilitated. So, ironically, as psychopaths hate to be told what to do or conform in any way, they may, once they gain power, seek to make sure the masses don’t cause problems. So the ultimate lone wolf of the psychological world may, if in charge, seek ways to monitor, manipulate, and punish the masses to keep them from realizing what the powers-that-be are doing to them.  And the people who will likely oppose them? Expect them to be psychopaths as well. Maybe this is why revolutions often eat their young first – the victors suspect their colleagues and fear their toppling them.

So in a way the psychopath lives in a world divided into sheep and wolves. Some will seek to feast on the sheep and fight other wolves for that privilege. Others will fancy themselves as sheepdogs, there to lead and control the sheep. Yet one must remember, the sheepdog and the wolf have the same origin, instincts, and diet, but the former at least sees the benefit of creating a certain level of order; protection so the sheep can go about their business, but at a price, an acceptable price, one even the sheep agree upon. So in a sense in elections you are often not voting between persons governed by empathy and warm and fuzzy feelings but between sheepdogs and wolves…psychopaths with ethics, or those without.

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