Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams, Dead, Suicide? Depression? So What?

"Can we turn the loss of this artist we loved so much into something that pushes back against the ravages of despair" Alan Alda
Sometimes, I just can't understand the rationale that we stand on when a celebrity dies. It's as if they have some sort of super power, some beyond human experience, existence that makes them more of an IDOL, than a real living breathing human.

The adoration and adulation is so displaced. A great attention given to a person who barely knows who he/she is outside of the admiration thrust upon them by their audience. In real life, beyond the big scream, they cry, they fart, they throw up and catch the flu. But on screen they are more than human, they are more than super human, they are GODS.

Somewhere in the human psyche we need to have these GODS, these DEITIES, who seem to give us this false sense of hope and a false sense of reality. We never see them sweat except as part of the act. We don't see what it takes to get one scene together to fit the big screen. But alas, we are manipulated and mezmorized by their "bigger than life" persona.

Yet, by the same token we will walk over a homeless person lying in the gutter. Some of us will actually bring harm to them, as if they are not human and deserving of being treated as a living, breathing human manifestation of the Divine. We are also the same ones who will vote for the killing of thousands of children in other people's homes. How is that possible? How do these two opposing beliefs come from the same species. Even in the animal kingdom you see a compassion that far outweighs what we tend to portray for one another, particularly in the more privileged side of the human family.

Robin Williams, brought us all a taste of a world beyond our own abilities to manifest in the sense that he could be all of us and none of us at the same time. He could be almost any character and make it so real, we really believed it. Yet who was he, and did he hurt every time he heard that another Palestinian home had been bombed and another 50 children killed in an areal assault? Did he pay attention to what was happening in the world outside of his fame? I tend to believe he did, but that could simply be a personal bias.

My point is this... Here we are mourning the likes of a ROBIN WILLIAMS, another human being who had the opportunity to make us laugh so hard, we'd better stop before we damage our hearts, yet, we are divorced from the sadness, the grief, the despair, the depression of others who are not on the Big Screen.

What gives them carte-blanche to our sympathies? What makes their pain bigger than any one else's and what makes them so important, even more important than the thousands of Yazidi fleeing into war torn Syria. What kind of world is this? Imagine just for a moment what that must feel like, when 20 members of your immediate family is killed in an instance and you are the only one who survives. Would you consider the fact that this lone survivor could give into the deepest darkest despair and kill himself or become a suicide bomber? Would his suicide make headline news??

Why are we so divorced from the chemical, electro-magnetic impact that death and destruction has on all of us, in every single corner of this globe. Is one death and its reason more significant than the death of an old man who gave up after being shut away in an old folks' home for 20 years where no one came to visit him? How is it, that Robin's depression is a clarion call for folks to focus on remedies for it, and questions about it and how can we avoid it in others....?? How is that possible when we are constantly bombarded with all types of violence against one another and others we don't even know? How in the same breath, we weep and cry and wish we knew before it was too late, and then say that Israel's disproportionate force against Gaza is justifiable? How do we support the arming of rebels around the globe who have no compassion at all for their victims and their families as they slaughter, maimed and behead them. What type of mind do we as a human family have that we can go so deep into the mirror over a superficial SUPER STAR who told us himself that "NO MOVIES ARE REAL!" yet we are lacking in our ability to comprehend, respond or change the conditions of our world where distress, pain and misery lie.

Seriously, is the fact that Robin Williams was depressed more of a headline than the deep despair that Liberian Mother feels whose child succumbed to Ebola? Or the Ferguson's mother whose son was shot several times and killing all his chances to go to college this coming September? How displaced is our attention, concern and adulations when it comes to a so-called Hollywood Celebrity than for our family and neighbors who live in our midst? How displaced is our concern when we spend ours and dollars on Pop Culture and ignore the pain of those who are on the other side of the globe, who are awakened from their sleep in the middle of the night to the rhythmic sequence of bombs falling on their neighborhood, a neighborhood they could not escape. What about their despair, what about their depression, grief and feelings of loss?

And finally, how can we avoid it? Sometimes, I think the Universe let's it happen to us so we can see what it feels like and maybe, just maybe we will have more empathy for others. I wonder how effective that method is however. It seems we get more self gratification weighing in on our favorite celeb, sports start or politician than we do on the real issues. We are all one human family sharing one home, Earth, and surely, whatever is happening anywhere in the world is happening everywhere. 

We hear so much about honoring the dead, honoring their families, giving the families of these famous deceased folks their privacy, etc., etc. ad infanitum, yet, who honors those that are killed by our tax dollars and warmongering Politicians? Who stops and places a yellow ribbon on their hearts for them. Who refuses to participate in their annihilation? If it meant that the way we could save Robin from his ill fated demise meant that we stop supporting the industry that killed him, would we do it. Would we release ourselves from the joys of his mania and allow him, the artist to live in peace?  Would we rally around programs that brought peace into his life if it meant he would make no more movies for our gawking eyes and selfish idol worship to enjoy? Would we stop if it meant that we would have to find something else to entertain us or find a way to entertain ourselves without destroying the idol of our worship? Would we? Could we? Are we all crying out loud because we cannot live without Robin Williams, our major distraction from what is really happening in the real world????

Yes, another IDOL  has succumbed to the ravishes of an industry that kills it. And to what does that mean? Save we shall simply find another distraction and move ever more from reality and deeper into the matrix of mind control.

I hope that Robin is doing well, wherever he is. I hope he realizes that our worshipping of him was a sickness as much as his desire to be worshipped and that if he comes back he will love himself, more than any mass of emotionally starved and derranged human beings could ever love him. Rest In Power, Robin Williams, and all those who preceeded you and all those who follow and particularly the forgotten ones whose physical bodies are wasting away under the rubble of human ignorance and cruelty. 

Alan Alda: A Niagaraof Wit Falls Silent
Aug. 12, 2014Can we turn the loss of this artist we loved so much into something that pushes back against the ravages of despair?

Within minutes we were telling one another he was gone. His genius, that had burned so hot, was cold, and the whole country felt the chill at once.
For years, we had watched with awe as a Niagara of wit poured from his unconscious. Where did that manic waterfall of funny have its source?
And where did his fearlessness come from? The night that he and Jane Fonda and I hosted the Academy Awards show together, he kept coming up with outrageous jokes in the wings. But before he went out on stage, he seemed to be using me as his taste monitor. He would think of a line and say, “Is that too tasteless?” Invariably, I’d say, “Yes, it’s too tasteless,” and invariably he’d go on stage, say the line and kill with it.
Unfortunately, sometimes the mind that runs so fast it can’t keep up with itself also has its down time. I didn’t know he suffered from depression, although it doesn’t surprise me. But it makes me want to do something.
I hope it makes us all want to do something.
While the whole country, and much of the world, feels this moment of sadness at his death, can we turn the loss of this artist we loved so much into something that pushes back against the ravages of despair?
Can we educate one another to recognize the early signs of depression? Can we make it clear to one another how dangerous it is? We all know now that drunk driving kills. But, when I looked up the numbers, I was astonished. Each year there are more than twice as many suicides attributed to depression as deaths on the road due to alcohol.
Maybe our grief can be transformed into an awakening. The man who enriched our lives could be the focus of saving countless other lives. Robin Williams could be with us a little longer.

Friday, August 8, 2014



author unknown

The killing train transcends each separate war, inequity, and injustice, and ultimately, and this is, of course, the point - so must our opposition. The killing train is fueled by poverty, disease, starvation, indignity, death squads, racism, sexism, class division, bombs, and more bombs.
Many years back, moved by the first Gulf War, I wrote a piece with the above title, Stop the Killing Train. I am revisiting the same subject because, regrettably, the topic remains at the forefront even if the precipitating violence is different.

For the purpose of the exercise, please use your imagination.

Suppose a hypothetical god got tired of what we humans do to one another and decided that from January 1, 1991 onward all corpses unnaturally created anywhere in or by the hand of the "free world" would cease to decompose. Anyone dying for want of food or medicine, anyone hung or garroted to death, shot or beaten to death, raped or bombed to death, anyone dying unjustly and inhumanely for want of clean air or water or other necessities of life, would, as a corpse, persist without decomposing. The permanent corpse would then automatically enter a glass-walled cattle car attached to an ethereal train traveling monotonously across the U.S., state by state, never stopping. The hypothetical God would tirelessly display our achievements for us all to see.

One by one the corpses would divinely load onto the cattle cars. After every thousand corpses piled in a car, a new car would hitch up and begin filling in turn. Mile after mile the killing train would roll along, each corpse visible through the train's transparent walls. We can suppose it fills at the rate of 200 new corpses a minute, or one new car every five minutes, day and night, without pause.

By the end of 1991, on its first birthday, the killing train would easily measure over 2,500 miles long. Traveling at 20 miles an hour it would take about five days to pass any intersection across the U.S. Imagine you are sitting at a railroad crossing. You watch this horror go past, 24 hours a day, for five full days. Every car contains 1,000 corpses, all clearly visible. This hypothetical God knows how to communicate so we can't ignore reality.

By the year 2000, assuming no dramatic change in institutions and behavior, the train would stretch from coast to coast about seven times. It would take about six weeks from the time its engine passed the Statue of Liberty to when its caboose would go by. Would the God still wonder when pitiful, aspiring humanity would get the message?

By 2014 - you can safely just double the ugly statistics. Deaths accelerate, unless, of course, we had gotten the message. So, coast to coast it would stretch, about 14 times. Every corpse an indictment.

Think how a young child sometimes points to a picture in a book or magazine and asks for an explanation, "Tell me about a tree?" A car? A boat? Or a train? A big train? The killing train? Go ahead, try to answer that one. Perhaps that explains why this image isn't, in fact, a common one on our TVs and in our never-ending streams of information.

Bad enough, way worse than bad enough, it could even get worse. Consider that climate change will before long start to wrack up even larger kill lists. But, of course, those dead would pile into the killing train too, since with only modest exceptions they too are preventable.

The killing train, in any event, no matter how each moribund commuter who need not have been on board got his or her ticket, is horrendous.

Imagine the lost opportunity and lost love. Imagine as well the network of negative influences that radiate from the unnecessary deaths displayed by the killing train stretching from coast to coast and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Consider the horrendous impact, not only on those on board, but on every person that any of those corpses ever loved or would have loved, fed or would have fed, taught or would have taught.

Who rides the killing train? 
Certainly citizens of the "Third World," selling their organs for food, selling their babies to save their families, suffering disappearances and starvation. They live in Brazil, the Philippines, El Salvador, but also New York. They enter the killing train, every day. It isn't a peace train. It isn't a justice train. It isn't a love train. It is a killing train. Its current most bloody loading platform: Gaza. But don't forget those who starve and die of preventable diseases in the Third World and in the first world too. All are onboard.

Is the gigantic sprawling disgusting image exaggerated? 10 million kids die yearly for lack of basic medical aid that the U.S. could provide at almost no cost in countries whose economies Exxon and the Bank of America have looted. Preventable death fills the killing train. To the sane, it is mass murder. The grotesque image I offer is actually understated.

Bloated diseased bodies are victims of murder just as surely as bullet-riddled bodies tossed into rivers by death squads, or shrapnel shredded bodies prone in the piles of blasted hospitals and homes. Denying medicine by out of reach pricing or preventable shortages is no less criminal than denying medicine by blowing up pharmacies and demolishing hospitals is no less criminal than supplying torture racks, stealing resources, and paving roads with bomblets. Bombing electric power stations and pulverizing hospitals enlarges the train. Deaths by starvation and disease are no less unnatural than those by bomblet and bullet, and enlarge the train.   

Evolution has given humans the capacity to perceive, think, feel, and imagine. During war time—as now exists in so many places —if we get aroused to action we begin to see the whole train as it persists day in and day out. When this happens, what do we do about it? Do we become depressed? Cynical? Anguished? Cry? Daydream of Armageddon? Daydream of justice? Or do we hand out a leaflet?

Once we begin to see the killing train, how do we face the killing train? Part of me says these crimes are so grotesque, so inhumane, that the perpetrators deserve to die, now. A little tiny killing train for the killers and no more big killing train for everyone else. An eye for a million eyes. What other step makes more sense? Was this the hypothetical God's plan?

But, of course, that's not the way the world works. Yes, people give the orders. People wield the axes, withhold the food, pay the pitiful salaries, blow up the power stations, spew the garbage, lie, steal, cheat, obey - and produce corpses. But institutions create the pressures that mold the people.

When an institutional cancer spreads through the human patient, what kind of surgeon can cut it away? Is the imprint of accumulated repression so deep it can never be excised.

At first, becoming attuned to our country's responsibility for the corpses stacked behind transparent cattle-car walls makes handing out leaflets, or writing essays, or arguing for peace with a co-worker, or urging a relative to think twice about paying taxes, or going to a demonstration, or sitting in, or doing civil disobedience, or even taking over a workplace, seem insignificant. But the fact is, these are the acts that the hypothetical God, tired of our behavior, would be calling for if she were to actually parade the "free world's" corpses down our main streets in killing trains. These are the acts that can accumulate into a firestorm of informed protest that raises the cost of profiteering and domination, of war making and pollution so high that the institutions breeding such behavior start to buckle.   

The fact is, when fighting a behemoth, "You lose, you lose, you lose, and then you win." Every loss, understood properly to learn its lessons, is part of the process that leads to transforming institutions so that there can be no people as vile as Hussein or Bush, as Netanyahu or Obama. No more "Good Germans" or "Good Americans." No more incinerated Jews or decapitated, starved, poisoned, starved, bulleted Palestinians.   

War is invariably unjustly motivated. War is always horrendously harmful. War is an orchestrated atrocity that mandates our militant, unswerving opposition. But so too does exploitation, racism, sexism, the systematic deprivation of any one community at the hands of any other.

But even after the Gaza crimes of the little thug Israel and of its guardian angel the big thug, America, ends, the on-going U.S. war against "free world" people who it has consigned to ride the killing train will, if it continues, remain a enormous crime against humanity. The killing train transcends each separate war, inequity, and injustice, and ultimately, and this is, of course, the point - so must our opposition. The killing train is fueled by poverty, disease, starvation, indignity, death squads, racism, sexism, class division, bombs, and more bombs. The power plant of the death, destruction, and generalized deprivation is our basic institutions.

The institutions must become our target.

Money trail leads home to New Zealand, Sunday Star-Times

Money trail leads home to New Zealand, Sunday Star-Times

by Nicky Hager

Author and Investigative Journalist

April 7, 2013
Leaked documents reveal one of New Zealand’s richest families was for a time at the heart of a major international tax haven company that hit the news in the United States last week.
John Spencer, New Zealand’s richest man in the 1980s and still incredibly wealthy, was – with his family – majority owners of the company called TrustNet, whose extremely secret client records have been leaked en masse to a Washington DC-based journalism organisation. The leaks reveal the identity of tens of thousands of people who use tax havens: some involved in dodgy activities and evading tax, others in lawful activities including companies doing business across political borders and individuals living in multiple countries or legitimately minimising their tax.

Surprisingly, the leaks show New Zealanders are involved extensively in this shadowy world of offshore companies and secret bank accounts.

The company at the centre of the Washington leaks was set up by New Zealanders, has been staffed by many New Zealanders and for 14 years was majority-owned by the Spencers.

The Spencers have courted controversy. John Spencer waged a 19-year battle to stop public access to the Stony Batter gun emplacement on his Waiheke Island farm, including barricading a public road. The Star-Times revealed in 2005 that his son Berridge and daughter Mertsi were secret National Party donors. And now Spencer is the Kiwi connection to secret tax haven records that may be the largest leak of financial information in history.

They expose the hidden activities of wealthy, secretive or criminal people in around 150 countries and territories. In total, about one-and-a-half million documents were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), an independent network of reporters who work together on cross-border investigations. There is currently hot debate around the world about corporations which don’t pay tax and the respectable bankers and lawyers who assist them.

The Tax Justice Network and other organisations are pushing for governments like New Zealand’s to stop tolerating tax havens and work together to close them down. TrustNet has helped set up and manage companies, trusts and bank accounts in tax havens for about 80,000 individual clients.

According to overseas news stories based on the leaks, they include the mega-rich, corrupt regimes, corporations dodging tax, fraudsters, companies shifting wealth out of poor countries, companies with controversial or secretive business, mercenaries and spies, and also many ordinary people who want to move their money and business “offshore”.

The Tax Justice Network estimates that about one-third of the world’s wealth is held offshore and about half of all the world’s trade flows through tax havens. New Zealanders have had occasional glimpses of the offshore world. Star-Times stories have exposed:
* Geoffrey Taylor, and his sons Ian and Michael, setting up companies in New Zealand for North Korean arms trading and organised crime;
* an Auckland Burger King cook was a director for some of these companies;
* and a Nelson woman who supposedly owned a Moldovan TV station, again through a chain of Taylor companies.
Mostly these people and their shell companies have been pawns in a much bigger system.

The TrustNet leaks show New Zealanders in key roles helping to run the system. TrustNet markets itself today as the largest independent offshore services company in Asia. It was set up 25 years ago by Kiwis in what was then the newly established Cook Islands tax haven.

In the early 1980s business lobbyists from New Zealand and Australia persuaded the Cook Islands government that becoming a tax haven would bring riches to the small island group. These lobbyists included New Zealander lawyer Trevor Clarke, “father of the Cook Islands tax haven”, who with others used the new tax haven laws to build a company called European Pacific.

Documents about European Pacific’s tax schemes were leaked and tabled in the New Zealand Parliament by MP Winston Peters, igniting the Winebox scandal (see breakout).

Another key figure was New Zealand lawyer Mike Mitchell, the Cook Islands solicitor-general in the early 1980s and main government adviser as the tax haven was established. He resigned from that role in 1986 to move into the offshore business himself. On April 29, 1987, he established an offshore services company called Pacific Trustee Company. The company was later renamed TrustNet, the company at the centre of last week’s leaks.

TrustNet’s first chief executive was another New Zealand lawyer, Steve Breed, who was joined a few years later by fellow Auckland law school graduate David Sceats. Early staff included people who’d worked on the Cook Islands Winebox schemes. The European Pacific tax expert accused in court of leaking the Winebox documents, New Zealand lawyer George Couttie, had moved on to work for TrustNet in Hong Kong. But soon after this accusation was made, according to internal documents, senior TrustNet staff recorded a terse company resolution that “accepted” his resignation “effective from the date hereof”.
In contrast, European Pacific’s former senior executive Geoff Barry was later hired by TrustNet and rose to become the chief executive officer. Today, 10 years later, he is executive director of TrustNet’s Hong Kong office.

Spencer’s ownership of TrustNet was never publicised. It came to light only during analysis of the leaked records. A note about an obscure offshore entity says “Client is our big boss, John Spencer”.
Spencer, who had inherited his family’s Caxton toilet paper empire, owned, with his family, a majority share of TrustNet from July 1990 until September 2004, through a Bahamas company called International Trustee Holding Company Limited. John and Berridge Spencer also used TrustNet to place some of their own money and investments in a complex web of offshore companies and trusts. These were based in the British Virgin Islands and Cook Islands, with names such as Northern Lights Trust, Star One Trust and Tristar Capital Service Limited. A spokesperson for the Spencer family said neither John nor Berridge Spencer have been New Zealand residents since the 1990s and in those circumstances it was hardly surprising that the family have assets invested outside of New Zealand.

With the Spencers’ backing TrustNet grew quickly, opening offices in Hong Kong in 1991, the British Virgin Islands in 1993 and Singapore in 1994. The early clients included a controversial Indonesian rainforest logging tycoon named Prajogo Pangestu, who had four British Virgin Islands companies.

Another TrustNet client was the former European Pacific manager Trevor Clarke. He had his own set of offshore companies and trusts administered by TrustNet. They were home to millions of dollars of assets, the leaked documents reveal, and TrustNet staff were given special instructions about keeping them secret. One document reads: “We are to contact Trevor by phone only unless otherwise instructed . . . No documents are to be kept here. All docs are to be held in our Hong Kong office.”

Clarke was appointed chair of the Cook Islands’ new Financial Supervisory Commission from 2003 until 2010, which was set up to oversee the offshore industry. Throughout those years he had the secretive offshore trusts and companies. Clarke responded that he was not “a user of any Cook Islands entities” – his companies and trusts were in Samoa and the British Virgin Islands – and said these were set up well before his role as FSC chair. He had disclosed them to a number of authorities. He said there were lots of reasons for people to want to have assets outside the country where they live. The secrecy instructions did not come from him, he said.

The TrustNet files also show a close relationship between the company and the BNZ and ANZ banks, which had dedicated staff for offshore banking. The leaked documents show bank staff routinely helping TrustNet move money in and out of its clients’ offshore bank accounts held at the BNZ Singapore branch and ANZ Cook Islands branch.

In September 2004, the Spencers sold TrustNet to a Singaporean offshore lawyer named David Chong. But many of the New Zealanders, especially lawyers, continued to work in the company and be part of tax haven politics.

Lawyers created the offshore world and lawyers and accountants run it. They lobby in each tax haven for special laws to attract clients and often actually write the laws themselves. The leaked TrustdhNet papers show this clearly in the minutes of the Cook Islands Trusdhtee Company Association. The offshore services company heads are seen sitting around deciding what laws they want, putting the hat around for money to have them drafted and then arranging to predhsent the new laws to the Cook Islands government. The same lawyers then use these laws to help their clients.

They also deal with the problems when things go wrong. One of TrustdhNet’s New Zealand lawyers Penny Purcell was on duty, for instance, when two officers from the Hong Kong Commercial Crime Bureau turned up on August 20, 2007, at TrustNet’s harbour-front offices. They were investigating a fraud case involving a British Virgin Islands company called Sound Financial Management Limited.

The secret TrustNet files include Purcell’s written record of the meeting. Detective Sergeant Steven Lam produced a formal letter from the Hong Kong commissioner of police requesting ‘‘all relevant documents’’ about Sound Financial Management Limited and details of the company’s director and shareholder. Purcell replied that the officers would need to contact TrustNet’s British Virgin Islands office and, according to her own notes, assured them ‘‘we do not keep any files or records here’’.

She said the police ‘‘were surprised’’ the office had no records and asked how this could be ‘‘if the client is based here in Hong Kong’’. ‘‘I then explained,’’ Purcell wrote, ‘‘that we acted as a marketing/secretarial office but that all information including the registers of the Company were kept in its registered office.’’
Detective Sergeant Lam tried one last time, she wrote, asking if they kept any information there in Hong Kong, including correspondence. ‘‘I said no,’’ Purcell wrote. A few days later TrustNet repeated the denial by letter. ‘‘Portcullis TrustNet (Hong Kong) Limited does not hold any corporate or statutory records of the Company, nor is it required to,’’ the letter said. However, the details the police were looking for would have been instantly available on Purdhcell’s computer. The leaked TrustdhNet documents show that she routinely used the company’s Offshore Management Information System (OMIS), which was available in all the TrustNet offices and contained all the client records.

The OMIS database, which was leaked to ICIJ, lists Sound Financial Management’s director and shareholder as Glen Douglas Crankshaw, a Canadian living near Bangkok. TrustNet helped his company open a bank account at the Standard Chartered Bank, Hong Kong branch, located on the ground floor of the same building as TrustNet. According to Purcell’s notes, she told them none of this. Two years later the Hong Kong police issued an arrest warrant for Crankshaw for ‘‘dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent the proceeds of indictable crime’’. They had traced him through a different offshore company, with the similar name ‘‘GS Sound Management Limited’’.

Purcell has since returned to help run TrustNet’s office on Auckland’s North Shore. She remains part of a network of New Zealand offshore lawyers scattered in tax havens around the world. They include former TrustNet lawyer Barry Mitchell who, according to court documents, gave assistance during the setting up of the Trinity investment scheme, New Zealand’s largest tax avoidance case; and Act Party-aligned blogger Cathy Odgers (‘‘Cactus Kate’’) who has worked as an offshore lawyer in the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.

Various offshore lawyers have brought their skills home, taking advantage of New Zealand’s loose company and trust law. The original TrustNet lawyers, Breed and Sceats, came home and set up Nexus Trust, promoting New Zealand’s tax haven potential to foreign clients. Two other former Cook Island lawyers, Nick Shepherd and (former European Pacific executive) Mike Reynolds set up Anchor Trustees which offers services to ‘‘non-resident families and corporates’’.

Long-term TrustNet client Tim Brears on Auckland’s North Shore offers clients advice on the ‘‘advantages of moving ownership and control of assets and investment offshore out of New Zealand’’.

Nicky Hager has worked in a multi-country team for the past 15 months analysing the leaked materials and co-ordinating local journalists in Asia, Africa and part of Europe who collaborated in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists project,

Fear of The Unknown Is Creating Hysteria In Every Part of Our Lives

by Marco Torres
Prevent Disease

Fear of The Unknown Is Creating Hysteria In Every Part of Our Lives And It's Becoming Accepted As The Norm

Being afraid of the unknown is not a new concept. From birth to death we've been trained to fear everything for a very long time. The dangers of modern life have a stranglehold on people’s imaginations. Sociologists call the phenomenon a risk society, describing cultures increasingly preoccupied with threats to safety, both real and perceived, but most definitely imagined. Most institutions today, whether they be academic, medical, religious, government and all others, would not exist in the way, shape or form they do today if it were not for the element of fear. The Earth you see before you today and the Earth of the future will be at a distinct contrast when it comes to how afraid we are of the unknown. Many of you see it coming already.

It's why wars exist. It's why modern medicine exists. It's why politics exists. It's why laws exist. We fear everything, so we must naturally attempt to control or prevent what we fear most. A majority of people will agree that the world is more dangerous than ever before. Even in the face of evidence that negates this misperception, there is no relief. We lock our doors, say our prayers, marvel at our own pessimism and then wonder why we still can’t get to sleep. We are immersed in a culture of fear.

Neurolinguistic programming, emulating psychosis, television, advertising, the illusion of terrorism and several other remarkable concepts affect every facet of our lives and our world at the expense of our health, safety and security.

If there is a disease, we must develop a vaccine or drug. If there is a terrorist, we must develop anti-terrorist measures. If there are criminals, we must create laws. If there are bullies, we must create anti-bullying policies. It is our nature. It is human nature. Well at least when it comes to modern humans.

Try and access any social media platform on the internet without getting bombarded by a fearful audience. It's impossible. People are scared of everything. So they criticize, argue, belittle, antagonize and resort to ad hominem attacks that focus on the character of others because they cannot fathom a truth which is not their own. It's a protective measure to guard against the unknown.

What Does Fear Do To Us?

Fear keeps us focused on the past and constantly worried about the future. It creates desperation and indecision that paralyzes our logic, thinking and actions. We can't live freely because we can't stop living in fear.

People who are fearful are very hesitant to explore new concepts or embrace other possibilities. You can always estimate the level of a person's fear by how they explore new surroundings and inspect objects around them. This ultimately affects our personality and how other behavioral traits affect our physiology including what kind of impacts these traits have on our overall health and life span.

There is an international consortium of scientists who are working aggressively to find ways to control fear in both the public and military. Is this the answer to our fearful ways? Certainly not as the initiatives themselves stem from fear.

Fear is tearing our society apart. In the past, fear has engendered solidarity, but today it throws wedges between all of humanity. This isolation, in turn, renders the public ever more fearful. What’s more, media outlets, politicians, modern medicine and businesses all have learned to capitalize on this distinctly modern sense of dread, and thus profit from finding ways to cultivate it. Until we find a way to resist fear, we’ll live at the mercy of these emotional entrepreneurs--and in doing so, be party to the personal, cultural, and political consequences.

Much of our concept of ourselves and our attitudes as individuals in control of our destinies underpins much of our reality or what we think about our existence.

A Negative Attitude Is The Basis of Cyclical Fears   

When people retain negative attitudes about anything that disagrees with their own version of reality, they are more likely to experience a continued sense of fear than people whose attitudes are less negative. Physiological markers such as heart rate and anticipatory anxiety always increase when measurements are taken in people whose attitudes remain negative.

Some of these attitudes are often based on a powerful association between a fear and a negative feeling that is so strong, that many people can't see or even think about the fear without experiencing that automatic negative reaction. For example, many people around the world devoted to their religion absolutely fear atheists. They refuse to relate to their position. They will not even conceive the right of atheists to their own opinions and feel extremely threatened by any content promoting the principles of atheism. The same can be true if we reverse the two roles. Neither position will ever advance the other if each can only think negatively about the other. This creates self-righteousness, divisions of superiority and of course ignorance.

Negative reactions to the unknown instills a sense of weakness in our character, specifically a lack of strength in our own convictions. When people have the need to strongly chastise others for their opinions and information they present, it shows a genuine deficit of attributes related to confidence about our own belief systems, morals and values.

Those who have confidence in their doctrines do not have to identify all those things they dislike so much in others or attempt to magnify those flaws to please their own conscience. In essence, they feel they must right-fight to support their own belief system since in their minds, a competing system must be incorrect.

Modern Fear Is Viral

What’s unique about 21st-century fear is how people experience fear. Since the 1980s, society at large has bolted frantically from one panic to the next. Fear of crime reduced us to wrecks, but before long we were also howling about deadly diseases, drug abusers, online pedophiles, avian flu, ebola, teens gone wild, mad cows, anthrax, immigrants, environmental collapse, and--let us not forget--terrorists.

“There isn’t a single fear that defines our era,” says sociologist Frank Furedi, author of Culture of Fear: Risk-Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation and Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right. “What we have is a more promiscuous, pluralistic form of fearing. The very important implication to this is that while my parents feared together, you and I have a more isolated, private experience. We fear on our own.”

Our brains are poorly equipped to weigh risks that don’t result in immediate negative consequences. Marketers, politicians, and entertainers grasp with precision how brains misfire, and they apply this knowledge to great gain. Few can doubt how well fearmongering has worked for pharmaceutical companies who use the fear of disease to sell drugs and vaccines by the billions.

As networks battle for ratings and newspapers grasp at disappearing readers, the urge to lead with sensational stories grows. The gap between the reported and the commonplace skews our subconscious stockpile of reference points, while hunger for the next big story inevitably broadens our catalog of things that go bump in the night.

It's Time To Abandon Fear To Change This World

People need not abandon fear altogether. Our ability to judge risk is sophisticated, and instinctual decisions often serve us well. But when something doesn’t quite seem to sync up, gut to head, then it’s time to pause and at least question what’s causing the discrepancy.

The new Earth will see people working to reduce or eliminate fear like never before. If you have a fear, first understand the nature of the object that arouses it. Let us say you are afraid of your future. What you really fear is the uncertainty that surrounds events yet to happen. By living totally in the present and by planning ahead you can reduce the uncertainty and fear. You cannot plan for all uncertainties but being prepared to an extent reduces your fear of uncertainties. Learn the art of enjoying it, too.  

The psychological programming inside you, your subconscious mind, should change before any real change can happen. Your subconscious mind comprises engrams -- mental traces that have been created over life experiences. These consist of both positive and negative associations and act like computer programmes. So long as the programming remains the same, the computer will function only in the manner dictated by that programme.   

Similarly, we have to change the programming of our mind. Wise thinking leads to discrimination of the good and the bad. When you have changed your programming, you start perceiving and acting positively. So it is wise thinking that holds the key to a positive frame of mind.

Once people start thinking this way, it’s impossible to stop: Every television program, every advertisement, every stump speech that hangs its hat on scare tactics will be thrown into acute relief. That is where we are headed. We are all eventually going to give up allowing fears to define us, and focus instead on which ones are worth tackling together. When we do that, we won’t just free politicians from fear-inducing rhetoric or stymie fearmongering marketers; but we'll also give ourselves some much-needed relief.

Reprinted from article by Marco Torres
Prevent Disease

Sunday, August 3, 2014



Posted by 

A Liberian health official says the Ebola outbreak is now above the control of its government.

“Our government has declared this now as a humanitarian crisis that is above the control of the national government,” Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia’s assistant minister of health, told CBS News.

More than 700 people have died in four western African nations during the largest Ebola outbreak ever, with over 320 known cases in Liberia alone. One American died while contracting the virus in Liberia. Two other American medical missionary workers also contracted Ebola.

Model State Emergency Health Powers Act "could turn governors into dictators" Federal health authorities could exercise authoritarian powers to control an Ebola outbreak if the deadly disease hits the United States under the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, legislation passed in the wake of 9/11 which attracted controversy at the time for its draconian scope.

With the Ebola outbreak in West Africa having been declared the worst in history by the World Health Organization, concerns are mounting that the disease could spread via international air travel. Asked whether the virus could arrive in the United States, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said, “It’s going to happen at some point.”

The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, drafted during the 2001 anthrax attacks, has since been adopted in whole or in part by 33 states. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons warned that the legislation “could turn governors into dictators,” while constitutional lawyer Phyllis Schlafly labeled it “an unprecedented assault on the constitutional rights of the American people.”

Truth Raider Warns of Ebola False Flag The federal government already has the authority to round people up against their will Ebola Vaccines: Poor Market Potential and Lack of Subjects for Clinical Trials Holding Up Testing The most promising one is stuck in safety testing for the simple reason there is no money for a vaccine that has no market. Most big pharmaceuticals do not like to sink assets into developing any drug with low potential. That leaves the playing ground largely to the government and small, niche companies.

Western governments are now issuing alerts to doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms of the disease after an infected Liberian man was found to have traveled through a major transport hub in Nigeria. The World Health Organization has called the outbreak the worst on record, while Doctors Without Borders says the situation is “out of control.”

Back in April, the Department of Defense announced that it had deployed biological diagnostic systems to National Guard support teams across the U.S. in readiness for any potential Ebola outbreak.

An NHS doctor has urged the world to wake up to the growing threat of Ebola after risking his life working 24-hour hospital shifts trying to save pregnant women struck down by the disease.

If the worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history reaches the United States, federal law permits “the apprehension and examination of any individual reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease”. These individuals can be “detained for such time and in such manner as may be reasonably necessary”. In other words, the federal government already has the authority to round people up against their will, take them to detention facilities and hold them there for as long as they feel it is “reasonably necessary”. In addition, as you will read about below, the federal government has the authority “to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill”. If you want to look at these laws in the broadest sense, they pretty much give the federal government the power to do almost anything that they want with us in the event of a major pandemic. Of course such a scenario probably would not be called “marital law”, but it would probably feel a lot like it.

You might also like:

War in Our Collective Imagination

By David Swanson
Remarks at Veterans For Peace Convention, Asheville, NC, July 27, 2014.

I started seeing graphics pop up on social media sites this past week that said about Gaza: “It’s not war. It’s murder.”  So I started asking people what exactly they think war is if it’s distinct from murder.  Well, war, some of them told me, takes place between armies.  So I asked for anyone to name a war during the past century (that is, after World War I) where all or even most or even a majority of the dying was done by members of armies.  There may have been such a war.  There are enough scholars here today that somebody probably knows of one.  But if so, it isn’t the norm, and these people I was chatting with through social media couldn’t think of any such war and yet insisted that that’s just what war is.  So, is war then over and nobody told us?

For whatever reasons, I then very soon began seeing a graphic sent around that said about Gaza: “It’s not war. It’s genocide.”  And the typical explanation I got when I questioned this one was that the wagers of war and the wagers of genocide have different attitudes.  Are we sure about that? I've spoken to advocates for recent U.S. wars who wanted all or part of a population wiped out.  Plenty of supporters of the latest attacks on Gaza see them as counter-terrorism.  In wars between advanced militaries and poor peoples most of the death and injury is on one side and most of it — by anyone’s definition — civilian.  This is as true in Afghanistan, where war rolls on largely unchallenged, as in Gaza, about which we are newly outraged.
Well, what’s wrong with outrage? Who cares what people call it? Why not criticize the war advocates rather than nitpicking the war opponents’ choice of words?  When people are outraged they will reach for whatever word their culture tells them is most powerful, be it murder or genocide or whatever.  Why not encourage that and worry a little more about the lunatics who are calling it defense or policing or terrorist removal?  (Eight-year-old terrorists!)

Yes, of course.  I’ve been going after CNN news readers for claiming Palestinians want to die and NBC for yanking its best reporter and ABC for claiming scenes of destruction in Gaza that just don’t exist in Israel are in fact in Israel — and the U.S. government for providing the weapons and the criminal immunity.  I’ve been promoting rallies and events aimed at swaying public opinion against what Israel has been doing, and against the sadistic bloodthirsty culture of those standing on hills cheering for the death and destruction below, quite regardless of what they call it.  But, as you’re probably aware, only the very most open-minded war advocates attend conventions of Veterans For Peace.  So, I’m speaking here backstage, as it were, at the peace movement.  Among those of us who want to stop the killing, are there better and worse ways to talk about it?  And is anything revealed by the ways in which we tend to talk about it when we aren't hyper-focused on our language?

I think so.  I think it’s telling that the worst word anyone can think of isn’t war.  I think it’s even more telling that we condemn things by contrasting them with war, framing war as relatively acceptable.  I think this fact ought to be unsettling because a very good case can be made that war, in fact, is the worst thing we do, and that the distinctions between war and such evils as murder or genocide can require squinting very hard to discern.

We’ve all heard that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  There is a parallel belief that wars don’t kill people, people who misuse wars, who fight bad wars, who fight wars improperly, kill people.  This is a big contrast with many other evil institutions.  We don’t oppose child abuse selectively, holding out the possibility of just and good incidents of child abuse while opposing the bad or dumb or non-strategic or excessive cases of child abuse. We don’t have Geneva Conventions for proper conduct while abusing children.  We don’t have human rights groups writing reports on atrocities and possible law violations committed in the course of abusing children.  We don’t distinguish UN-sanctioned child abuse.  The same goes for numerous behaviors generally understood as always evil: slavery or rape or blood feuds or duelling or dog fighting or sexual harassment or bullying or human experimentation or — I don’t know — producing piles of I’m-Ready-for-Hillary posters.  We don’t imagine there are good, just, and defensible cases of such actions.

And this is the core problem: not support for bombing Gaza or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or anywhere else that actually gets bombed, but support for an imaginary war in the near future between two armies with different colored jerseys and sponsors, competing on an isolated battlefield apart from any villages or towns, and suffering bravely and heroically for their non-murderous non-genocidal cause while complying with the whistles blown by the referees in the human rights organizations whenever any of the proper killing drifts into lawless imprisonment or torture or the use of improper weaponry.  Support for specific possible wars in the United States right now is generally under 10 percent.  More people believe in ghosts, angels, and the integrity of our electoral system than want a new U.S. war in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, or Iraq. The Washington Post found a little over 10 percent want a war in Ukraine but that the people who held that view were the people who placed Ukraine on the world map the furthest from its actual location, including people who placed it in the United States.  These are the idiots who favor specific wars.  Even Congress, speaking of idiots, on Friday told Obama no new war on Iraq.

The problem is the people, ranging across the population from morons right up to geniuses, who favor imaginary wars.  Millions of people will tell you we need to be prepared for more wars in case there’s another Adolf Hitler, failing to understand that the wars and militarism and weapons sales and weapons gifts — the whole U.S. role as the arsenal of democracies and dictatorships alike — increase rather than decrease dangers, that other wealthy countries spend less than 10 percent what the U.S. does on their militaries, and that 10 percent of what the U.S. spends on its military could end global starvation, provide the globe with clean water, and fund sustainable energy and agriculture programs that would go further toward preventing mass violence than any stockpiles of weaponry.  Millions will tell you that the world needs a global policeman, even though polls of the world find the widespread belief that the United States is currently the greatest threat to peace on earth.  In fact if you start asking people who have opposed every war in our lifetimes or in the past decade to work on opposing the entire institution of war, you’ll be surprised by many of the people who say no.

I’m a big fan of a book called Addicted to War.  I think it will probably be a powerful tool for war abolition right up until war is abolished.  But its author told me this week that he can’t work to oppose all wars because he favors some of them.  Specifically, he said, he doesn’t want to ask Palestinians to not defend themselves.  Now, there’s a really vicious cycle.  If we can’t shut down the institution of war because Palestinians need to use it, then it’s harder to go after U.S. military spending, which is of course what funds much of the weaponry being used against Palestinians.  I think we should get a little clarity about what a war abolition movement does and does not do.  It does not tell people what they must do when attacked.  It is not focused on advising, much less instructing, the victims of war, but on preventing their victimization.  It does not advise the individual victim of a mugging to turn the other cheek.  But it also does not accept the disproven notion that violence is a defensive strategy for a population.  Nonviolence has proven far more effective and its victories longer lasting.  If people in Gaza have done anything at all to assist in their own destruction, it is not the supposed offenses of staying in their homes or visiting hospitals or playing on beaches; it is the ridiculously counterproductive firing of rockets that only encourages and provides political cover for war/ genocide/ mass murder.

I’m a huge fan of Chris Hedges and find him one of the most useful and inspiring writers we have.  But he thought attacking Libya was a good idea up until it quite predictably and obviously turned out not to be.  He still thinks Bosnia was a just war.  I could go on through dozens of names of people who contribute mightily to an anti-war movement who oppose abolishing war.  The point is not that anyone who believes in 1 good war out of 100 is to blame for the trillion dollar U.S. military budget and all the destruction it brings.  The point is that they are wrong about that 1 war out of 100, and that even if they were right, the side-effects of maintaining a culture accepting of war preparations would outweigh the benefits of getting 1 war right.  The lives lost by not spending $1 trillion a year in the U.S. and another $1 trillion in the rest of the world on useful projects like environmental protection, sustainable agriculture, medicine and hygiene absolutely dwarf the number of lives that would be saved by halting our routine level of war making.

If you talk about abolishing war entirely, as many of us have begun focusing on through a new project called World Beyond War, you’ll also find people who want to abolish war but believe it’s impossible. War is natural, they say, inevitable, in our genes, decreed by our economy, the unavoidable result of racism or consumerism or capitalism or exceptionalism or carnivorism or nationalism.  And of course many cultural patterns interact with and facilitate war, but the idea that it’s in our genes is absurd, given how many cultures in our species have done and do without it.  I don’t know what — if anything — people usually mean when they call something “natural” but presumably it’s not the provocation of suicide, which is such a common result of participating in war, while the first case of PTSD due to war deprivation has yet to be discovered.  Most of our species’ existence, as hunter-gatherers, did not know war, and only the last century — a split-second in evolutionary terms — has known war that at all resembles war today.  War didn’t used to kill like this.  Soldiers weren’t conditioned to kill.  Most guns picked up at Gettysburg had been loaded more than once.  The big killers were diseases, even in the U.S. Civil War, the war that the U.S. media calls the most deadly because Filipinos and Koreans and Vietnamese and Iraqis don’t count.  Now the big killer is a disease in our thinking, a combination of what Dr. King called self-guided missiles and misguided men.
Another hurdle for abolishing war is that the idea rose to popularity in the West in the 1920s and 1930s and then sank into a category of thought that is vaguely treasonous.  War abolition was tried and failed, the thinking goes, like communism or labor unions and now we know better.  While abolishing war is popular in much of the world, that fact is easily ignored by the 1% who misrepresent the 10% or 15% who live in the places that constitute the so-called International Community.  Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come or weaker than an idea whose time has come and gone.  Or so we think.  But the Renaissance was, as its name suggests, an idea whose time came again, new and improved and victorious.  The 1920s and 1930s are a resource for us.  We have stockpiles of wisdom to draw upon.  We have example of where things were headed and how they went of track.

Andrew Carnegie took war profits and set up an endowment with the mandate to eliminate war and then to hold a board meeting, determine the second worst thing in the world, and begin eliminating that.  This sounds unique or eccentric, but is I believe a basic understanding of ethics that ought to be understood and acted upon by all of us.  When someone asks me why I’m a peace activist I ask them why in the hell anyone isn’t.  So, reminding the Carnegie Endowment for Peace what it’s legally obligated to do, and dozens of other organizations along with it, may be part of the process of drawing inspiration from the past.  And of course insisting that the Nobel Committee not bestow another peace prize on a war-thirsty presidential candidate or any other advocate of war is part of that.
World Beyond War
The case against war that is laid out at includes these topics:
War is immoral.
War endangers us.
War threatens our environment.
War erodes our liberties.
War impoverishes us.
We need $2 trillion/year for other things.

I find the case to be overwhelming and suspect many of you would agree.  In fact Veterans For Peace and numerous chapters and members of Veterans For Peace have been among the first to sign on and participate.  And we’ve begun finding that thousands of people and organizations from around the world agree as people and groups from 68 countries and rising have added their names on the website in support of ending all war.  And many of these people and organizations are not peace groups.  These are environmental and civic groups of all sorts and people never involved in a peace movement before.  Our hope is of course to greatly enlarge the peace movement by making war abolition as mainstream as cancer abolition.  But we think enlargement is not the only alteration that could benefit the peace movement.  We think a focus on each antiwar project as part of a broader campaign to end the whole institution of war will significantly change how specific wars and weapons and tactics are opposed.

How many of you have heard appeals to oppose Pentagon waste? I’m in favor of Pentagon waste and opposed to Pentagon efficiency.  How can we not be, when what the Pentagon does is evil?  How many of you have heard of opposition to unnecessary wars that leave the military ill-prepared?  I’m in favor of leaving the military ill-prepared, but not of distinguishing unnecessary from supposedly necessary wars. Which are the necessary ones?  When sending missiles into Syria is stopped, in large part by public pressure, war as last resort is replaced by all sorts of other options that were always available.  That would be the case anytime any war is stopped.  War is never a last resort any more than rape or child abuse is a last resort.  How many of you have seen opposition to U.S. wars that focuses almost exclusively on the financial cost and the suffering endured by Americans?  Did you know polls find Americans believing that Iraq benefited and the United States suffered from the war that destroyed Iraq?  What if the financial costs and the costs to the aggressor nation were in addition to moral objections to mass-slaughter rather than instead of?  How many of you have seen antiwar organizations trumpet their love for troops and veterans and war holidays, or groups like the AARP that advocate for benefits for the elderly by focusing on elderly veterans, as though veterans are the most deserving?  Is that good activism?

I want to celebrate those who resist and oppose war, not those who engage in it.  I love Veterans For Peace because it’s for peace.  It’s for peace in a certain powerful way, but it’s the being for peace that I value.  And being for peace in the straightforward meaning of being against war.  Most organizations are afraid of being for peace; it always has to be peace and justice or peace and something else.  Or it’s peace in our hearts and peace in our homes and the world will take care of itself.  Well, as Veterans For Peace know, the world doesn’t take care of itself.  The world is driving itself off a cliff.  As Woody Allen said, I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen, I want to live on in my apartment.  Well, I don’t want to find peace in my heart or my garden, I want to find peace in the elimination of war.  At is a list of projects we think may help advance that, including, among others:
  • Creating an easily recognizable and joinable mainstream international movement to end all war.
  • Education about war, peace, and nonviolent action — including all that is to be gained by ending war.
  • Improving access to accurate information about wars. Exposing falsehoods.
  • Improving access to information about successful steps away from war in other parts of the world.
  • Increased understanding of partial steps as movement in the direction of eliminating, not reforming, war.
  • Partial and full disarmament.
  • Conversion or transition to peaceful industries.
  • Closing, converting or donating foreign military bases.
  • Democratizing militaries while they exist and making them truly volunteer.
  • Banning foreign weapons sales and gifts.
  • Outlawing profiteering from war.
  • Banning the use of mercenaries and private contractors.
  • Abolishing the CIA and other secret agencies.
  • Promoting diplomacy and international law, and consistent enforcement of laws against war, including prosecution of violators.
  • Reforming or replacing the U.N. and the ICC.
  • Expansion of peace teams and human shields.
  • Promotion of nonmilitary foreign aid and crisis prevention.
  • Placing restrictions on military recruitment and providing potential soldiers with alternatives.
  • Thanking resisters for their service.
  • Encouraging cultural exchange.
  • Discouraging racism and nationalism.
  • Developing less destructive and exploitative lifestyles.
  • Expanding the use of public demonstrations and nonviolent civil resistance to enact all of these changes.
I would add learning from and working with organizations that have been, like Veterans For Peace, working toward war abolition for years now and inspiring others to do the same.  And I would invite you all to work with WorldBeyondWartoward our common goal.

David Swanson is Director of World Beyond War, host of Talk Nation Radio, author of books including War No More: The Case for Abolition, War Is A Lie, and When the World Outlawed War.