Demand Economic Democracy

*Back to stonework now. Here’s something for you to think about while I’m playing with stones…

Punitive Poverty in a cold cruel world or a real fair playing field in a thriving economic democracy? That is the main issue and that’s why I object to the use of the term or phrase “safety net” to describe social welfare services.  This common phrase used so frequently by so many commentators re-enforces the dreadfully flawed metaphor that frames the debate about the relationship between economics and poverty in the United States.  The words “safety net” are just a nicer way of saying “handout to losers” of the great free market competition.   But public benefits are not handouts.  They are basic economic rights in a sane society.  In reality, a market can’t be free unless all citizens have basic economic rights to participate.  

Can you visualize the ladders?  No, not just one ladder, but lots of ladders, hundreds of ladders intersecting as they go up in a complicated maze.  On the way up the ladders there are prizes and platforms and maybe even some elevators.  Why not some bells, whistles, balloons and confetti too.  There might even be slides so some people fall backwards a little.  Or maybe some shortcuts that only a few people know about? How about a few traps and slippery spots?  It wouldn’t be a fun competition unless there were difficulties and challenges along the way.   Imagine all the little people at the bottom of the ladder.  The great God in the sky starts the countdown.  On your mark, get set, go….  All the little people run for the ladders, grab ahold and start climbing… racing to the top. Up you go.  One step at a time.  Up up up.  The harder you work; the higher you climb.  The smartest and strongest and best climb the furthest up.  They are  the winners of this great competition.  But alas, not everyone can be winners.  Most of us do all right… finish in the middle of the pack somewhere about halfway up the ladders. Some people don’t do so well.  Always struggling with those slippery bottom rungs.   And some people, well, they fall off the ladders completely.  They are so sick or injured or psychologically warped that they let go of those slippery rungs and fall to the very bottom.  They are the losers of this great free market competition.  What should the God of the free market do with them?

Unfortunately, that is the metaphor that controls the debate about all types of “social services” in the United States.  The right wing media responds to the metaphor by disparaging the losers of the free market with insults and calls for tough love to teach them a valuable lesson about life.  No handouts. You have to get back on the greasy ladder and work/climb your way to a good successful life.  They argue that social services are a cheating shortcut for losers that undermine the inherent “fairness of the truly free market.” As such, they consistently call for the cutting of public benefits or social services (austerity).  The left wing media responds to the metaphor by calling for a “a robust safety net.”  Their voices crack with empathy that sometimes sounds like pity.  They feel sorry for the losers of the free market and want to help them.  Instead of tough love, they want to welcome the fallen into the loving arms of the state.  They support more public benefits and social services. But their support seems based on a foundation of charity for losers instead of a foundation of community and fairness. Neither left wing or right wing seems willing to address the fundamental problem with the whole metaphor.

What if the controlling metaphor of economic reality was transformed from a hierarchical ladder that we all climb into circular web that we all try to find our place on?  Under such a metaphor, there is no place for a “safety net” because there is no “bottom” and there is no “loser.”   There is just a complex network of humans who try to work together to make the world more beautiful and live-able.  Sometimes we compete when we work together and sometimes we cooperate.  But the fundamental interdependence of the human species within a living ecosystem is recognized as a fact of life.  Under such a metaphor, the goal of the economic system is not continuous growth, continuous development and continuous consumption.  It is, instead, sustainable creative transformation.  Under such a metaphor, social services and public benefits are not misperceived as charity or handouts but are instead understood to be fundamental economic rights and the bargaining position of the entire working class.   

In 1993 and 1994, I worked as a legal aide lawyer representing many people who received public benefits and social services.  Before that experience, I had no understanding of how social welfare law worked.  I had been a lawyer for a few years before that and worked briefly on Wall Street and briefly for an appeals court.  I had done exceptionally well on the bar exam and graduated near the top of my law school class.  I thought I understood the legal system very well and believed I had a fairly decent understanding of how social welfare law worked.  Nevertheless, my presumed understanding was a delusion.  I believed in the safety-net concept… the welcoming arms of the state.  A social democracy takes care of the less fortunate citizens who don’t fair well on the free market.  But I found a different kind of system instead.  I found a broken social welfare system that served to punish the poor because it was designed to serve the interests of its administrators rather than the interests of the people who supposedly received the benefits.  Indeed, the social welfare system I found was so insane that it convinced me to give up the practice of law altogether.

The poverty economic game works something like this:  A human can’t earn enough money on the “free market” to survive so he/she goes to an advocate to see about getting on a government system to pay for survival rations (food, shelter, healthcare).  The advocate has to figure out which system or systems the person is eligible for.  There are multiple systems for each category and complicated rules that explain the inter-related eligibility requirements for each different system.  When I was an advocate, there was the unemployment insurance system and/or worker’s comp. if someone was recently in the work force.  Then there was SSI disability insurance and SSD disability…both government programs.  If that didn’t work there was AFDC (now called SNAP) if it was a parent with children.  Then there was a state program called home relief if you were a single adult with no children.  Then there were separate programs for food (food stamps, WIC) and separate programs for housing (HUD and section 8) and separate programs for medical (Medicaid and Medicare). As an advocate, it was my job to negotiate and argue with program administrators about whether or not my client belonged in their program or some other program instead.  The programs often overlapped and cancelled each other out.  Clients didn’t get to play the system and accumulate extra.  The possible combination of programs always gave the clients the same amount of economic value; between 700 and 1000 dollars a month.  The questions debated between the advocates and the administrators mostly just determined the source of the funds.  (Fed., State, County).  But they had little effect on the actual amount of economic value the client ultimately received (barely enough to survive).  

Having worked briefly on Wall Street in mergers and acquisitions, I was trained somewhat in spotting economic inefficiencies.  But really, the absurd economic inefficiency at the heart of social welfare system was so glaringly obvious it made me wonder why nobody ever talked about it.  A year or so into my social welfare law immersion, I started doing some research to confirm the reality of the anecdotal evidence I kept experiencing.  The ratio of administrative cost to benefit cost in most government programs was 70-30.  In other words, for every thirty dollars in public benefit paid out to a needy person another seventy dollars was paid to people like me who wore suits, pushed paper and argued about the idiosyncrasies of welfare law and the personal lives of the poor people we were supposed to be helping. The truth is hard to dispute.  The social welfare system is not designed to serve the unfortunate souls who need public benefits to survive and it is not designed to serve the citizens of society as a whole.  It is instead designed to serve the economic interests of the people who work for the social welfare system as administrators, lawyers, psychologists and caseworkers because they are the ones who harvest the most currency from the functioning of the system.  And more importantly, the social welfare system is designed to serve the interests of Wall Street and all those high flying corporate executives who manage the economy according to a broken ideological construct.

When I realized I was a cog in the poverty industrial complex instead of an advocate for basic economic rights, I decided to quit my position.  But in the last few weeks before my big career change, I started asking some of my fellow poverty industry workers the rather obvious question.  “Why don’t they just combine all the programs into one and streamline the process to make it easy to get benefits? If they would just give everyone a guaranteed survival ration of a thousand or so bucks a month, they would save a fortune on administrative costs.”  Most of the other poverty industry workers responded to my query with the pre-programmed media sound bite that is drummed into our consciousness on a daily basis.  “But you can’t just give people money for nothing.  They have to do something to earn it.  Or, at the very least, prove that they deserve it.”  After considering my question more thoroughly, however, my fellow workers would usually reluctantly agree with the economic aspect of my suggestion.  It would definitely be much cheaper for the system to guarantee a unified benefit from a single source than it is to make clients fight for a complex array of benefits from a bunch of different sources but then… Ahhh… wouldn’t we all be out of jobs? Ha ha.ha  But at least we could collect the guaranteed survival ration; just like our former clients.  Ha ha ha Welfare for everyone; yay!! Nobody has to work.

The problem I’m getting at here is a fundamental philosophical problem at the very heart of our economic system that causes severe societal fractures.  You can see it in the cultural programming that demonizes the poor.  You can see it in the wealth gap. You can see it in the mania to consume. You can see it in the bizarre billionaire worship.  The whole crazy messed up edifice of modern day neoliberal capitalism is wobbling and trembling and verging towards collapse.  Indeed, I would say that it has to collapse because it has a messed up foundation.  That messed up foundation is the broken social welfare system and the very complicated “progressive income tax system” that supports it. (The metaphorical ladder with a safety net at the bottom).

What if?  Don’t you love what ifs?  Just as a thought experiment…  What if we scrapped the entire “social welfare system” and “progressive income tax” system and started from scratch.  What if we combined the two into a single system and simplified it so everyone could understand?  What if everyone really agreed to join “the system” and pay taxes?  What if “the system” was a simple mathematical model?  At the beginning of each month, every single person who joins the system receives a monthly investment package of basic economic rights ($1500 + a basic health plan).  At the end of each quarter (3 months), every single person who joins the system agrees to pay an income tax back to the system of 50% of everything they earn by using their economic rights to participate in the now free market.  Welfare would no longer be a stigma or handout because everyone in society would receive it.  It would be your personal investment.  Wealth would not be “redistributed,” but instead economic rights would flow through the system in a circular pattern instead of starting at the top and trickling downwards. Taxes would not be “bracketed” or “progressive.”  Instead, everyone would pay the exact same dynamic rate:  50%.  Just like they all receive the same monthly investment. ($1500 + a basic health plan).  No longer would we all be racing up a greasy ladder hoping not to fall into a frayed and tattered “safety net.”  Instead, we would all be working together in a complicated inter-connected web to create a more beautiful and live-able society.

Of course the powers that be are not likely to replace the authoritarian corporate capitalist system with a democratic dynamic organic system any time soon.  That’s because the ruling class and their managers and proselytizers in the corporate press understand intuitively that their power derives fundamentally from exploitation rather than “freedom”.  And exploitation depends upon having desperate people who can be exploited rather than free people who have bargaining position.  That’s it… really.  The real fear the ruling class struggles with; the bargaining position of the working class; economic rights instead of charity.  Indeed, the entire theory of their capitalist economic system is this notion that citizens make contracts of their own free will to sell their labor for money.   But in reality, the notion that a job seeker has bargaining position when seeking employment in the modern economy is an absolute delusion. Workers have to beg, ask, submit, bow before management in order to be granted the great benefit of a “job.”  If you challenge the fundamental fairness of the “employment contract” you challenge the fundamental fairness of the whole system.  If you created a package of economic rights for all citizens that was incorporated into the tax code, deciding to live simply on the minimum investment would be a real alternative to employment.  Indeed, the idea of living simply off the monthly investment might be encouraged in the interests of environmental protection.  Free people might choose to work with you on a joint enterprise for a fair share of profits.  But desperate people wouldn’t be forced to work for you for the lowest possible wage.  The ripple effects across the whole economy would be staggering.  By giving bargaining position to “job seekers”, you change the nature of every employee’s relationship with their boss.  It would be an economic revolution.  

But it’s not going to happen because the corporate media will continue to fill our brains with the lie. “Public benefit programs are safety nets for the losers of capitalism.”  The left will tell us the safety net needs to be robust and the right will tell us it needs to be cut and everybody in the voting/tax paying class will be under the impression that public benefits are something they give to others out of kindness (the left) or because they are forced to by the tax man (the right).  They will not see how public benefits are a fundamental part of a healthy economic system that serves the overall interests of everyone.

Imagine the non-violent economic revolution.  Stop talking about safety nets and charity.  Start talking about economic rights and the bargaining position of the working class.  Demand Economic Democracy!  

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It’s a Mystery

It’s a Mystery…

So I recently finished writing a brand new novel. Well, actually, maybe it’s more like a novela because it’s not very long. But really, it started out as a short story and it grew and grew and grew…. What exactly is the difference between a novel and a novela anyway? Didn’t Hemingway once write a whole novel in three lines? This one is only about 50,000 words but it sure does pack a powerful punch so I think it qualifies as a full novel.

As my regular readers are aware, for the past couple of years, I have been posting on this site excerpts from an epic travel story derived from my first every backpacking trip to Central and South America in 1992.  My plan was to just keeping posting stories from that trip until I had enough to put together into a whole book.  But then, on the Winter Solstice of this year, I had a crazy idea for a little short story based very loosely upon a hiking trip I took with some friends back in November.  So I dropped my epic South America Adventure story for just a little while so I could write this short little mystery story down.  As it turned out, however, the mystery got complicated.  So I ended up working on it for three months straight.  I still managed to post one or two stories from my South America epic and a few poems and essays but mostly the presentations on this website have been rather spare this Winter because I’ve been working mostly on the mystery.   I finished writing it on the Equinox (March 20, 2021) so that means it took exactly three months to write.  But now that it’s done… It sort of seems like it might be the first volume of a multi-volume epic…. Ha ha ha ha.  I swear, the story is like a literary pandora’s box.  I already opened it up so now I have to see where it leads.

Anyway, for those of you wondering what happened to the South American Epic…. I am planning to get back to it.  But maybe not till next Winter because stonework season has now begun too. 

As for the new mystery book, it will hopefully be available for reading sometime in the relatively near future.  I am very tempted to just self publish it immediately like I did my travel books and just put it up on this site so people can read it.  I don’t want to wait at all.  But I will probably be smart and spend the Spring and Summer trying to find a traditional or real publisher for it because I think it has great market potential and I definitely need help bringing it to market.  

In the mean time, I have a few more poems and essays that I will keep posting this Spring.  And maybe another story from the South American epic too.

Imagine the Revolution


See you somewhere…..   

Simple Math and the Stimulus

There are approximately 330 million people in the United States.  If you divide 1 trillion dollars by 330 million that amounts to approximately $3000.  Once you understand that simple equation it makes it easy to think about Corona Virus Stimulus money and decide whether or not it was distributed in a realistically democratic or sensible manner.

There were three separate stimulus packages in the past year and each one was for almost $2 trillion dollars.  Two under Trump and the last one under Biden.  If you round up for simplicity and add up the packages that’s a total of 6 trillion in stimulus for the year.

So now, if you divide the money democratically so that each an every citizen gets an equal share of the stimulus that amounts to:

$3000 X 6  = $18,000 per person in the United States for the year’s worth of stimulus.


$3000 X 2 =. $6,000 per person for each stimulus.

The question for you as a citizen is, did you get your fair share of the stimulus?  Did you get $18,000 per family member in cash and economic value from the year’s worth of stimulus.  Or did you get cheated out of your fair share?

Yeah, I know.  We’re not supposed to think of it as being cheated.  The government is the good guys here.  They are helping us out.  We should be thankful they give us anything?  After all, we don’t deserve it.   We didn’t do anything to earn it.  How dare we demand anything?  We are lucky that the government is there to save us?

But alas, I say, in a Democracy, the government’s money is supposed to be “the people’s money” that the government is managing on behalf of the people not the government’s money that they are kind enough to hand out to their desperate subjects. Indeed, it is a fundamental demand of real democracy.  Currency derives from an agreement between citizens to organize economic rights; it should not be controlled by an oligarchy and distributed hierarchically.   

Father Joe and his team of do-gooder democratic oligarchs do seem to be a little better with their distribution of stimulus cash than Trumpy and his crazy clown oligarchs.  But the fundamental unfairness of the money distribution process itself is really the same under both administrations (regimes).  

Remember, a 2 trillion dollar stimulus breaks down to $6000 per person. If you subtract $1000 per person for the economic value of the health care service provided (vaccine + public health measures) that still leaves $5000 per person as the fair distribution of the democratic currency stimulus.

Kids do all right under the Biden team distribution.  They are going to get $300 a month for six months or $1800 total by way of the child tax credit system.  And then, they also get the $!400.  So that makes what:  $3200 total cash.  Not quite their fair share of $5000 but at least it’s in the ball park.

People collecting unemployment benefits do well under the Biden distribution.  Indeed, they will get the $1400 that all taxpayers get plus unemployment benefits which can amount to another six or seven thousand dollars.  So they get more than their $5000 fair share.   It should be noted, however, that their unemployment share is a needs based set of handcuffs instead of an empowering investment.  If they go back to work and earn money they lose the whole unemployment benefit.  It should also be noted that this class of people includes only 20 million people and even if they get ten thousand each, that’s only 200 billion dollars (about 10% of the whole 2 trillion dollar distribution). 

The largest class of people is adult citizens taxpayers who will receive $1400 per person (+$1000 in economic value for a vaccine and public health).  That’s a far cry from the $5000 that would be their fair share in a democratic distribution but it is better than nothing.

So the big question is:  where did the rest of the money go?  Most citizens got only $1400 out of  their fair share of $5000. Kids got $3200.  A little extra went to the technically “unemployed” but not much extra. Where did all the rest go?  Answer: to oligarchs and government insiders who practice the dark art of harvesting cash from government systems. 

Finally, and probably most importantly.  Biden’s stimulus like the two Trump stimuli before him, contains no specific provision for the money handed out to be returned back to the government source.  In other words, it is spending not tied to a specific tax.  Theoretically, the revenue will be returned back to the government through the normal channels (general tax collection and debt sales).  But really, it’s more like the government is creating big piles of new money out of thin air and dumping it into the system.   

Imagine the revolution:

What is the difference between handing out charity based on need and empowering humans through investing in basic economic rights?

A Social Contract:

The community or state invests in all humans living within its jurisdiction the fair market value of food, shelter and basic health care every single month.  Everybody gets it.  No stigma.  Basic economic rights not charity or welfare.

In exchange for that monthly investment, the individual human agrees to recognize the property rights as designated by the state and to return to the state a voluntary tax of 50% of everything they earn on the now fair market.

In the US, for example.  If you set the monthly investment package at $1500 per month, the entire democratic money system would cost 6 trillion dollars per year.  Which is more or less the same amount the federal government spent on stimulus packages in the past year.  And really that’s only 20% of the 30 trillion dollar total US annual economy.  And if the participants in the democratic money system pay their 50% earnings tax, all of the money will cycle back through the government source by the end of the year.

For the individual citizen participating in the system that would mean $!8,000 a year would be your guaranteed economic rights for the year.  That would make a $36,000 a year job the exact middle class. In other words, all people earning less than $36,000 would receive more currency than they give back in taxes while all people earning more than $36,000 would essentially pay a 50% tax on everything they earned above $36,000.  Practically speaking, the first $36,000  per year would be exempt but there would be a 50% tax on all money earned above that amount. 

It is hereby suggested that such a simple system of dynamic taxation and community investment should replace the entire structure of the Federal government’s convoluted bureaucracy that gives out charity via spending programs and imposes un-connected progressive taxes. 

Imagine the Revolution

Demand Economic Democracy

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Let’s Make A Deal

Let’s Make A Deal

 He plays the part of holy man
 As he preaches about the soul
 A sacred nation torn apart
 He will make it whole
 Father Joe
 And his team of do-gooder
 Government professionals
 Are there to help
 They are preparing
 A rescue package
 For those of us hurt
 By the pandemic
 Isn’t that nice
 A great big handout
 From our generous
 Good government
 How much can they afford
 That is the question
 They want to give us a lot
 They want to give us everything
 But they can’t
 They are limited 
 By the budget
 If they give us too much
 That would be bad, bad, bad
 For the economy 
 He plays the part of holy man
 As he preaches about the soul
 A sacred nation torn apart
 He will make it whole
 Wait one second
 Father Joe 
 And his acolytes
 Are not giving us anything
 There is no handout
 That’s the problem
 A Democracy is not a Church
 The President is not an ordained King
 Giving away his personal wealth
 As elected officials
 They are organizing economic rights
 For the nation state
 They are investing “The People’s Money”
 On behalf of the people
 They are giving lots of economic rights
 To the “Free Market”
 Which is owned
 By the 01% 
 And a few economic rights 
 To the people
 Father Joe 
 Started with a low ball offer
 And he keeps compromising
 Smaller and smaller
 The Budget must be maintained
 Focus money on the truly needy
 Means testing
 Only help the ones in need
 What a bunch of bullshit
 It’s not a Handout Father Joe
 It’s economic rights
 The people demand their fair share
 He plays the part of holy man
 As he preaches about the soul
 A sacred nation torn apart
 He will make it whole
 How much did they get?
 That is owned
 By the 01%
 Why do you think 
 It keeps going up up up
 Because the Fed
 Keeps injecting liquidity, adding money
 Stimulating markets
 Pouring in cash
 Of course it goes up
 It has to increase
 If you add water to a bottle
 The bottle gets fuller
 The Pandemic gave the Fed
 A reason
 To pour in lots
 But that’s not the people's bottle
 That is Power’s bottle
 And Power’s bottle is already full
 So much money in Power’s Bottle
 They play games with it
 What about Our Bottle
 The People’s Bottle
 Almost empty
 Running on fumes
 Why not invest
 In the foundation of the economy
 Because Father Joe
 And his team of do-gooders
 Would rather feel powerful
 And give the people Charity
 But the people don’t want Charity
 The people want their fair share
 They demand 
 Their economic rights
 He plays the part of holy man
 As he preaches about the soul
 A sacred nation torn apart
 Can he make it whole?




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Fake Democracy

 Trumpy Dumpy 
 Sat on a wall
 Trumpy Dumpy
 Had a great fall
 All of their speeches
 And long-winded words
 Can’t change the fact
 That Trumpy is a turd

 Ladies and gentlemen
 Coming to you LIVE
 From Capitol Hill
 A show trial
 Of the clown
 Please… No more
 Enough already
 Don’t you get it
 Don’t you see
 He’s quiet and off the air now
 A great sigh released across the land
 We don’t want to see him back
 His show is over
 Don’t need no re-runs
 What if
 He chooses to testify
 He has the right
 In a trial against him
 What if
 He asks his followers
 To come and support him
 The clown show
 With big supporting cast
 Big big big ratings….

 Trumpy Dumpy 
 Sat on a Wall
 Trumpy Dumpy 
 Had a great fall
 All of their rituals
 And complicated rules
 Can’t change the fact
 That they all look like fools

 Of course he won’t
 Because he can’t
 Same reason he didn’t show
 At the Capitol performance
 He has no plan
 No vision
 No ideology
 To change anything
 To transform the broken system
 And make it work
 What does he want to do
 Arrest the child eaters
 Install a mob of authoritarian white guy overlords
 Do people believe and want that
 Of course not
 He’s a joke
 He is a symbol without substance
 That’s why he’s not guilty
 Of inciting insurrection
 He is, no doubt, guilty 
 Of other things, lots of things
 Corruption, murder, severe human rights violations
 But all Presidents are guilty of that
 Offenses of Empire are not impeachable
 Only offenses against the Empire are
 Inciting insurrection
 Is one such offense
 But the clown did not incite anything
 A movement did
 A movement adopted the clown as a symbol
 And the clown rode the gig to fame

 Trumpy Dumpy 
 Sat on a Wall
 Trumpy Dumpy
 Had a great fall
 The media pretends
 That Democracy’s real
 But everyone knows
 It’s a very bad deal

 What does the movement want
 What was the show all about
 Fake Democracy
 What do the people want
 The clown as King
 No, of course not
 The people want real Democracy
 A sensible realistic people’s government
 The people want to rule themselves
 They don’t want tiny shares of a global Empire
 Advertised as a Democracy
 They want to rule themselves
 They want real Democracy
 The media keeps insisting 
 That elections were real
 There was no fraud
 Our voting system is the best in the world
 They say it over and over
 They even put the clown on trial
 To prove their point
 Democracy is real
 The Constitution is great
 Aren’t we lucky to live here 
 In God’s chosen country
 If they say it enough
 Maybe some people will believe them
 But the clown is not the movement 
 He is the foul black smoke that comes forth
 When someone throws garbage on an already burning fire
 The impeachment trial pretends
 That the garbage
 Caused the fire
 But that is bullshit
 Because it discredits 
 The true Cause
 Of the uprising
 Fake Democracy 
 Is on trial right now
 Fake Democracy
 Is on display right now
 Not the former 
 Reality show superstar
 The whole damn system
 Is on trial
 And it is looking very very bad

 Trumpy Dumpy
 Sat on a wall
 Trumpy Dumpy
 Had a great fall
 All of their speeches
 And long winded words
 Can’t change the truth
 The Constitution is a TURD.



 Not copyrighted, pass it on


Stop the Game

 They used to call it 
 The Great Game
 Rival Empires
 To conquer  
 The whole world

 Most humans
 On the planet
 Didn’t want to play
 But they had to
 They were on the game board

 Now they call it
 The Free Market
 Rival Corporations
 To conquer
 The whole world

 Most humans 
 On the planet
 Don’t want to play
 But they have to
 They are on the game board

 Game Stop
 Little guy takes out big guy
 Isn’t the free market great
 The House steps in
 And swaps out the deck
 Casino rules

 The bubble pops
 And everybody sees
 The man behind the curtain
 Pay no attention, he shouts
 It’s not a game
 The market is truly free

 Corporate values are real
 Based on fundamentals
 Assets… profits…. Revenue stream
 Investing is not betting
 Investing is competing 
 In the conquest of the world

 Stop the Game
 Stop betting 
 On conquest
 Play a different game
 Share everything
 With everyone

 Game Stop
 Not so hard…
 Just quit
 Different vibe, peaceful
 There there, that’s better
 Kick back, relax.




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The Fire Inside

Coast of Venezuela;

December 1992 

Turning and burning in the depths of a dream, the  anxiety and fear is palpable.  My heart races as sweat pours down my face. My shirt is soaked and my whole body aches but I’m shivering at the same time. I’m driving through heavy traffic on a super highway with many lanes.  Where am I going? What is happening?  How come it is so damn hot?  Then I hear horns honking; lots of horns with different incoherent sounds ricochet around inside my head. I see flames in the rear view window.  Holy shit; the truck is on fire. Panic, heavy breathing and a racing heart. I weave through four lanes of traffic dodging speeding vehicles as loud horns honk and honk. I reach the shoulder, slam the brakes and skid to a stop.  I try to get out but my seat belt is stuck.  I pull and yank and pull on the buckle as sweat streams down my face… the gas tank is going to blow.  Finally, the buckle snaps but now the door won’t open. Is it melted shut?  I lie sideways on the hot seat and kick the door with both feet. It busts open and I climbed out.  The gas tank is going to blow so I start to run up the side of the highway. Another truck swerves across the highway in flames. What the fuck?  Balls of fire fall from the sky.  Keep running. Heart pounds.  Have to get away,  Have to get away.  Can’t breathe.  Black smoke swirls all around.  Sweat gushes. Fire fire fire everywhere. Cough, gag, cough, burn. I don’t get far before… Kaboom!  I’m thrown to the ground.  Not hurt; just dazed. I stand up slowly and turn back to see.  The city behind me is under some kind of attack.  Flames shoot out of the tops of several skyscrapers while a number of buildings are tumbling into ruins.  Smoke and dust rises from the streets.  Ominous looking black helicopters blanket the sky like a flock of giant birds of prey.  Higher up, super sonic jets sizzle across the heavens lobbing fireballs down on the city.  More fireballs hit moving vehicles.  Explosions make the earth quake.  Lots of people are out of their wrecked cars now.  They are running and walking down the highway.  Where are they going?  What are they doing?  I am among them.  A refugee.  Stumbling along: coughing and gagging in the swirling smoke, sweating profusely from all my pores.  I’m trying to get away.  But where am I going?  I don’t know.  I just have to get away.  From what?  The helicopters.  The black helicopters!  They are in formation now.  They are flying towards us.  Everyone scatters chaotically into the swirling smoke.  The helicopters fire.  Live rounds; lots of them.  Machine guns rat a tat tat.  I am running in the smoke.  I have to get away.  Rat a tat tat.  Panic.  Fear.  Run. Pop.  I feel pain in my leg and I fall.  I’m hit.  Pop.  Another pain.  This time in my shoulder.  I’m hit again and again.  I’m shaking, writhing squirming along sandy desert ground.  I’m trying to get out of sight.  Hide from the helicopters.  But I can’t move.  I’m bleeding on the ground.  My body parts won’t work.  I have to move but I can’t.  They are going to kill me.  I have to fucking move!

I awoke on the sand in a pool of sweat with my heart pounding and my head aching.  It took me a moment to realize where I was.  I saw the waves washing up on shore and heard the sound of the tumultuous surf. That’s right, the beach… on the coast of Venezuela.  I was supposed to meet the young lady here. I sat up and looked around. There was no sign of anyone.  There I was, all alone on an empty beach in the middle of the night.  The moon was falling towards the western horizon.  I didn’t have a watch but it had to be late.  She must not have shown up.  I was stood up.  I sighed with relief.  Circumstances saved me from my sin.  She must have passed out drunk from the beer and not woken up on time.  Or maybe she got caught sneaking out? Or maybe she sobered up and changed her mind.  Either way, I didn’t get to do what my body wanted but my brain didn’t.  The universe and random chance saved me from my self. I was innocent after all… Thank God.

I gathered up my scattered belongings from the sand and started the long trudge back up the hill to the cabana.  While still on the beach, moonlight illuminated the scene but when I reached the pathway through jungle, I had to click on my flashlight.    My tee-shirt was soaked through and my head hurt.  Hungover, and suffering the after effects of the dream… I plodded along through the unreal darkness. It almost seemed as if I was still dreaming.  Half asleep.  Or was I?  I’d been having the dream for several months… almost since the journey into Latin America began.  But the dream intensified with corresponding bodily symptoms in Costa Rica when I had that virus.  The virus went away but the dream kept coming back.  Maybe I still had the virus.  Could the virus and the dream be related? How can I possibly cure myself from a dream? How in the world could I wake up and see reality?  Part of it was real, of course.  Or at least based on reality.  As I made my way along that path through the jungle to my cabana I tried and tried to use my mind to grab ahold of reality.  I started thinking about the true incident that was the foundation of the crazy dream.    

A year or so before, on a Friday the 13th in October of 1991, my pick-up truck caught on fire.  I was helping a girlfriend (Ms. A.) move from Upstate NY to Queens in the big city.  We had all of her belongings stacked precariously, ever so high, with her futon mattress near the top on the back of my truck as we made our way down interstate I-95.  We were in very heavy traffic closing in on the Whitestone Bridge that crosses over into Queens when Ms. A. tossed a cigarette butt out the window. A few moments later, the cars all around us started honking their horns and I saw the flames in my rear view mirror. I really did have to weave through several lanes of traffic with a flaming truck to reach a small exit ramp on the far side of the highway where I slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop.  In reality, the seat buckles didn’t stick and the vehicle doors opened with no problem.  But then, when we got outside and saw the rising flames consuming all of her belongings on the back of my truck, I did something very stupid.  The only thing not covered in flames was a dresser at the very front of the pile.  In order to stop my truck from possibly exploding, I climbed up onto the cab and was able to slide down in between the cab and the not burning dresser.  Then, using the dresser as a barrier to protect me and because the fire had already burned through the ropes and bungee chords holding everything down, I was able to push the entire pile of burning junk off the back of the truck.  It’s kind of miracle I didn’t get blown to pieces by an exploding gas tank but my truck was saved except for a bed liner that was melted into an unusual shape. When the police, fire engine and ambulance arrived a few moments later they found a slightly shaken young couple, a still burning pile of junk on the side of the road and a relatively unscathed pickup truck.  They put out the embers and the EMTs gave us the once over.  But the cops didn’t even give me a ticket.  Ms. A. lost all or most of her worldly possessions but she was the one who threw the damn cigarette out the window.

That was the reality I remembered as I made my way through the jungle darkness to my cabana.  There were no bombs, no black helicopters, no machine guns, no fireballs.  Just a slightly crazy experience a year or so earlier. But now I was in Venezuela and there was a revolution going on.  I saw and heard all the military planes flying over head on my first few days in Macuto.  I saw and heard the sound of gunfire amid stampeding crowds in the big city on the local television news.  There was a state of emergency declared.  Things were crazy.  That’s why I was stranded in a beach bungalow in the middle of nowhere.  Perhaps the madness of now was combining with memories of the past and the still present virus to produce nightmares.  But the nightmares started way before the revolution.  I had them back in Costa Rica and Nicaragua too. And what about the young lady?  She was supposed to meet me on the beach?  Could she have been part of the nightmare?  What in the hell does it all mean?

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The Jester’s Jingle

 Figurehead father
 Who art in
 Washington, D.C.
 All hail 
 Thy holy name

 Thy administration comes
 Thy will be done
 In the Red States
 As well as in the Blue

 Give us today
 A nice big stimulus
 And forgive us our debts
 As we forgive those
 Who owe debts to us

 Lead us not
 Into Bankruptcy
 And deliver us from
 The other figurehead…



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The Next Big Show

 Ho ho ho
 What do you know
 Are you gonna make it
 To the next big show?

 The wild and crazy show
 Fizzles out
 The energy of anger 
 The powerless 
 To the bunkers 
 Of their basements
 To await more orders 
 From online leaders
 When is the next operation?
 They watch social media
 And eyeball the newsfeed
 Seeking the secret message
 Hidden within the code
 They are social media
 It is the venue 
 For the story of their lives
 They are heroes, revolutionaries, patriots
 They are not losers
 Have you seen the video?
 It’s on U-tube
 WE kicked ass
 WE were awesome
 WE showed them
 WE are the boss.

 Ha ha ho
 What do you know
 Are you gonna make it
 To the next big show?

 Time for the sucker punch
 Ooh that hurts
 Realization is slow
 Because the haze of glory
 Blurs the vision
 Power watches the video too
 And saves a copy
 To use as evidence
 Uh duh… the announcement comes
 The show was an Insurrection!
 And the powerless who participated
 Will be arrested as criminals
 Power has hyper techno super surveillance
 The computer is watching
 They know who you are and what you do
 If you were there,
 At the show…
 You will be prosecuted
 For pissing on podiums
 Shitting on Congressional seats
 And other Insurrectional activities
 Power will come
 And bust down your door
 And make an example of you
 You will become a celebrity
 With your name in the local paper
 Perhaps go viral on many platforms
 Many people will love you
 Many people hate you
 You will be famous
 For a little while
 But then, well, you’ll go to jail
 And be forgotten
 And have to miss
 The next Big Show.

 He he ho
 What do you know
 Are you gonna make it
 To the next big show?

 Jail is no fun
 The powerless don’t want to go
 But they will
 They disappear
 Change name, move and 
 Jump the grid
 Extricate themselves 
 From the system
That they hate Stop filling out its forms And stop using its services In other words Live the anarchist way But the powerless aren’t anarchists They don’t want to be
They need a system They have to believe in something They believe in a “Democratic Republic”. They believe in a figurehead They are patriots who love their country They want to be included In their community  Not be cast out Into the nothingness Of anarchy That’s why they were angry In the first place Power didn’t include them Power only used them For votes
And taxes And cheap labor And campaign contributions All the powerless really want Is to belong To a country, or a nation, or a something… Ho ho ho, What do you know Are you gonna make it
To the next big show? *not copyrighted, pass it on

The Reality Show

The Reality Show

 The powerless make a claim for power
 But they have no plan
 No way
 No theory
 No idea
 Only a general unfocused anger… 
 and a figurehead
 A hero
 A leader
 A god.

 They are an angry crowd
 Emboldened by the strength of each other
 They wave symbols and shout slogans
 They churn themselves into a force of energy
 And charge… "the people's building"
 They bust down the gates
 Break windows and smash doors
 Security does not hold them back
 They swarm the perimeter
 And crash their way into the building.

 Power adjourns and goes to hide
 In the basement
 The powerless take over
 “The people’s building”
 But they don’t take over power
 The powerless smash some furniture
 And break some plates
 The powerless give speeches
 From the podiums of power
 The powerless pose for selfies
 In the furniture of power
 The powerless occupy
 Historically important space.

 But the powerless 
 Don’t take over power
 They have no plan
 Just an unfocused force of energy 
 And a figurehead man
 What now? 
 Say the powerless
 What do we do?
 What do we want?
 Democracy?  A Democratic Republic? A dictatorship? A Monarchy? 
 But they don’t know what they want
 They just know that they don’t want what is
 So they swarm around in confusion
 Until a few of them are hurt and killed

 They wait a while for their figurehead
 To release a brilliant plan
 But he doesn’t have one….
 Because well, he is just a performer
 A clown who works for power
 Putting on a show
 Leading them on
 Great job he tells his audience
 I really love you guys
 You put on a great show
 But now the show is over 
 And it’s time to go home  
 Great show, Truly great show
 Audience participation
 That’s what reality television is all about
 Great show, truly great show
 But now it’s time to go home.

 So the powerless retreat
 They abandon the “People’s Building”
 And go home to their homes
 They obey the demands from power
 And get off the streets
 Before the curfew
 They have not given up
 On their cause
 They are still angry about the way things are
 But they don’t know what else to do
 The powerful come back up 
 From the basement
 And re-occupy the furniture
 And stand again at the podiums
 And speechify their holy words
 And complete their ritual ceremony 
 And anoint the next figurehead.

 But what of the old figurehead?
 What shall be his reward
 For his years of service
 His fine performance
 He did Increase ratings 
 Audience participation
 Went through the roof
 How many people voted?
 Followed the ritual of power?
 Participated in the performance?
 The name of the game is ratings
 Good and bad
 The old figurehead certainly got ratings
 So maybe we can dramatize 
 His departure
 And run out his role through 
 A few more seasons
 Downfalls are entertaining too.

 Tune in next week
 To the America Reality Show
 As the old figurehead
 Into the abyss 
 Of infamy
 How far will he fall
 Will he ever rise again
 It will all depend
 Upon his ratings…





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