This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

Feel free to reproduce any blogs by Dr Staggenborg without prior permission, as long as they are unedited and posted or printed with attribution and a link to the website.

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Monday, January 31, 2011


The revolt in Egypt provides an interesting test of whether democracy can survive in the world. The leaders of the popular uprising have proven capable of learning from the mistakes of others in a way that the corporate Empire they are challenging cannot. The corporatocracy has grown stupid and lumbering while both terrorists and avowedly peaceful activists have begun to use techniques of asymmetrical warfare. The power of the people will overcome if and only if those of us in the peace community stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters struggling for democracy worldwide. It is our job to convince them that terror is a tool of the corporate masters, not of the Peoples of the world.

The Muslim Brotherhood is wisely avoiding any effort to dominate the democratic movement in Egypt. It recognizes that its reputation for violence would be detrimental to the cause if it were seen as being the leadership of the nascent revolution. Colonial Americans put aside their differences in a similar way to unite in common cause with each other to defeat the corporatist Empire represented at that time by the Rothschild-dominated East India Company. Only by recognizing and acting on common goals can any People advance the cause of democracy in their own nation and in the world. 

If Egyptians can free themselves from domination by the Anglo-American led corporate Empire, they can decide whether they will choose democracy over theocracy. In choosing a secular leader to represent the movement and taking a back stage to secular and other religious leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood may be taking the first steps toward allowing an open discussion of whether the principle of separation of Church and State is as integral to real democracy as Americans have historically held. 

I would suggest that Egyptians consider the role theocracy has played in undermining democracy in both Israel and Iran, two nations that are sworn enemies and whose enmity serves the interests only of the powerful. The Iranian government last year violently put down a student uprising. This is the natural result of an autocratic government. 

If Muslims do not want the wars for Empire to be used as a proxy for the war on Islam, they must tolerate neither violent jihad nor the forcing of the law of the Qua’ran on those who do not hold to all of its tenets. If they truly stand in solidarity with Palestinians, they will recognize the costs to them of living under Israel’s theocratic rule and seek to avoid treating others the same way.

The Islamic world is fragmented enough already by religious divisions. It should be obvious that this division will be used by the powerful to maintain their ability to dominate others, a most distinctly un-Islamic outcome. It is up to religious leaders to teach religious tolerance to Peoples who have been so subject to authoritarian rule for so long that the average citizen does not understand the basic principles of representative democracy. We are engaged in a global jihad (struggle) in which those of divergent beliefs must act together to ensure that the one last, best hope for mankind that is democracy shall not perish from the Earth.

In Egypt, success will hinge on obtaining the support of the dominant powers in the Army. Egyptian soldiers must decide for themselves whether their duty is to the government or to the People. A Soldier For Peace knows which way his duty lies. Governments will rise and fall, but the People must survive and to do so they must force their governments to accept their collective will. To enforce the collective will, the People must operate in accordance with democratic principles. 

For revolution to succeed, a nation’s People must have an Army to stand behind them to protect them from mischief by the CIA and other interested intelligence agencies. Only in this way can they carry out the revolution and establish new governments that will represent the interests of the People. To devolve into factions warring for control is to give the international corporate terrorists who control the US and many other governments an easy way to divide and conquer any new government.

The lessons for citizens of the United States are clear. We must rethink our commitment to the principles of the Enlightenment upon which our nation was founded and by which it became a beacon of hope to the world. We must study our history if we are to understand how a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal has become one torn apart by political and social divisions that are being magnified, distorted and used by the corporatocracy and its Puppets in the US government to subjugate the American People. If every American truly understands the threat to genuine democracy posed by allowing corporate personhood to exist, together we can succeed at finishing the American Revolution.

Those of us who understand the importance of interdependence must make the effort to educate our fellow Americans. Too many have been blinded and enraged by the pain inflicted on them by corporate Puppetmasters playing Monopoly while we are trying to get on with the game of Life. If we remind them that we are engaged in a cause that will determine our collective destiny and that we are willing to work together to establish a government that will act on the consensus of the People rather than the bidding of the corporate sponsors of our politicians, there is reason to hope that we can return to the path of creating a more perfect union not only of Americans but of the world at large.

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For those interested in reading more about how to stage a successful American revolution that will be integral to ending war, here is an essay from the online book Stop the Madness: The Diary of a Soldier For Peace in the War to Take Back America:


Thursday, January 27, 2011


Today's blog is reprinted from Tomgrams with the permission of the author. It is a great way to look at why both conservatives and liberals have difficulty understanding the other's point of view. We must find a way to common ground if we as a nation are going to Take Back America for the People.

The President Trapped in a Myth and a War

No politician who aspires to real influence on the national level can afford to reject that myth or even express real doubts about it, at least in public, as Barack Obama surely knows. Not surprisingly, President Obama has embraced the myth in his most important speeches: The bad guys are always out there. (“Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world.”) The good guys have no choice but to fight against the evildoers. (“Force may sometimes be necessary.”)
Because every myth has variants, though, politicians can still make choices. In Obama’s version of the myth, the federal government can be a force for good. So he has a domestic fight on his hands every day against right-wingers who cast the government as an agent of darkness.

He’s not likely to stand a chance of winning that battle if he tries to take on the myth of national security as well.  Bill Clinton once put it all-too-accurately: "When people are insecure” -- which is exactly when they rely most on their myths -- “they'd rather have somebody [in the White House] who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right."

That’s a truth everyone in the room undoubtedly had in mind back in the fall of 2009 when the top military field commanders came to the White House to talk about Afghanistan. Where else, after all, could our military act out the drama of civilized America staving off the savages? And what better-cast candidates for the role of savages could there be than the Taliban and al-Qaeda?

The generals who run the war also had to confront another vital question: Could they still act out some contemporary version of the myth of good against evil? They’ve given up on the possibility of victory in Afghanistan.  So there’s no real chance to go for the classic version of the myth in which the good guys totally vanquish the bad guys.

But since the Cold War era, the myth has demanded only that the good guys don’t lose -- that they merely “contain” the evildoers who “hate our freedoms” (especially our freedom to make and keep money) and will swoop down to destroy us if we give them the chance.

These days the generals must sense that even the containment version of the myth is in trouble. Their predecessors failed to enact it in Vietnam, and though the judgment of history is still out on the Iraq War, it's looking ever more dim, too. If the U.S. loses in Afghanistan, the American public might abandon the myth that justifies the military establishment and its gargantuan budget.  As a result, the generals prefer to fight on eternally.

President Obama is trapped at this point. He risks losing both a war and a presidency. Yet if he tries to ease up on the war accelerator, he knows he’ll be pilloried by an alliance of military and right-wing forces as a “cut-and-run” weakling.

If he’s ever tempted to forget that domestic political reality, the mass media are always ready to remind him. Just glance at the 145,000 Google hits on “Obama wimp.” Even his liberal friends at the New York Times asked in a prominent headline, “Is Obama a Wimp or a Warrior?” have

Within the confines of the national insecurity myth, of course, those are the only two options. If pressure is ever going to develop to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, progressives will have to offer a new option that actually speaks to Americans.

To Myth or Not to Myth

And there’s the problem.  Myths are like scientific theories. No mountain of facts and logic, however convincing, can change believers’ minds -- until a more convincing myth comes along.

A handful of progressive political thinkers are trying to persuade the American left to understand this truth and start offering new political myths (their technical term is “framing narratives”). George Lakoff is probably the best known. His books are bestsellers. His articles on websites invariably go to the top of “most read” and “most emailed” lists. Yet he can’t seem to make much of a dent in the actual policies and practices he’d like to change.

Progressives still shower the public with facts and arguments that are hard to refute, as (in the case of the Afghan War) the American people know.  After all, more than 60% of them now tell pollsters that the war was a “mistake.” Yet the war goes on and progressives remain the most marginal of players in the American political game because they don’t have a great myth to offer. In fact, they’ve hardly got any good ones.
Political scientist David Ricci claims there’s not much progressives can do about it, precisely because they already have one very successful myth that prevents them -- oh, the irony! -- from taking the power of myths seriously.  The progressive heritage, as he tells it, goes back to the eighteenth century Enlightenment, when the radicals of the day decided that fact and logic were the source of all truth and the only path to peace and freedom.

The Bible and all the other ancient tales bind us to the past, they argued.  As a result, humanity was letting dead people lock us into the injustices that bred endless war and suffering. It was time to let human reason open up a better future.

If progressives believe they are myth-less, though, they’re blind to the one mythic plot they share with the rest of America: good against evil. Progressives act out that myth on the political battlefield every day, passionately fighting to defeat right-wing evildoers.

The problem is (and forgive me for repeating an old anti-left cliché of the 1960s, but it’s true here): the progressives’ political myth tells only what they’re against, not what they’re for.

In fact, deep down, most progressives do have a dim sense of their deepest principles: the Enlightenment ideals of peace, freedom, and equality based on the Romantic ideal of what Lakoff calls empathy, extended to all humanity and the biosphere as well.

But progressives don’t wrap their policy prescriptions in mythic language that says clearly, simply, and patriotically what they’re for. As a result, they can’t compete with the myth of national insecurity.  They’ve got nothing to offer in its place, which is at least one reason why, despite growing opposition to the Afghan War, they can’t build a strong enough constituency to help -- or force -- Obama to end it.

All they can do is demand that he sacrifice his domestic agenda, and -- no small matter for any politician -- his second-term chances, on the altar of principle. As a result, they end up in a political never-never-land, which might feel good but isn’t going to save a single Afghan life.

No individual, much less a committee, can sit down and create a new myth. Myths grow organically from the life of a community.  Progressives would find their myth emerging spontaneously if they just spent a lot more time thinking and talking about their most basic worldview and values, the underlying premises that lead them to hold their political positions with such passion.

A strong progressive myth could make it safer for a president to change course and perhaps save his presidency. Failure to stave off the bad guys destroyed Lyndon Johnson and gravely wounded George W. Bush. I suspect Obama would love to have a great progressive myth keep him from a similar fate. He won’t create it, but he’d probably be delighted to see it appear on the horizon.

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of Monsters To Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin

To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest superb TomCast audio interview in which Chernus discusses “us versus them” and “us with them” myths, click here or, to download it to your iPod, here.  He can be reached at

Copyright 2011 Ira Chernus

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To read another version of the roots of the American vision of democracy, here is a short essay from Stop the Madness: The Diary of a Soldier For Peace in the War to Take Back America: 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I tried to watch the State of the Union address but had to stop when Obama called for "clean" coal and nuclear as a way to get off dependence on foreign oil. Neither source is "clean" energy but a way to pay off the giant energy interests with taxpayer money and special privileges.
This essay is dedicated to Mary Geddry, a brilliant and tireless ally of the Army of Soldiers For Peace International. Mary is the mother of a Marine who served in Iraq and a self-taught engineer and businesswoman who has designed a highly efficient rooftop wind generator. While she is gearing up to put it into production, she is investing in designing software that will make the power so generated able to efficiently switch from the generator when active to a battery that will store energy when the wind is calm.   

Mary wants to place these on the roofs of commercial and municipal buildings and eventually sell the her patented design to an engineering firm that can downsize it for use on homes. Her long term goal is for communities to develop micro-grids linking the systems to local distribution points. She envisions these systems being owned and operated by local Public Utility Districts.

There are a couple of similar systems of which I am aware that are based on solar cells. One is in Northern California, as I learned when traveling through the area campaigning to put a single payer health care plan on the table early in last year’s “reform” debate that recently brought us the monstrosity of a bill that is reviled by conservatives and liberals alike, though for different reasons.

Advocates of small, limited government do not believe it should be involved in our unique American non-system of for-profit medical insurance. Libertarians object to the mandate,  in keeping with their  monomaniacal focus on individual responsibility in a system rigged to make it nearly impossible for the average American to succeed. 

These opponents of the expansion of a system that works for millions of Americans so far despite the crippling costs of Medicare Part D are right to revile the legislation, but for none of the reasons they give. A mandate to buy private insurance makes little sense  if for no other reason than it will leave out millions of working Americans who will still not be able to afford insurance. Costs will price skyrocket as the new coverage requirements go into effect with no serious cost controls in place. 

It defies logic to argue that we can mandate insurers to cover millions of sick they now deny coverage. It will  further deplete state resources by its underfunded mandate to expand Medicaid and force states to pay inflated yet still inadequate Medicare rates to providers.  How will
advocates of limited governmental power react to a government "takeover" of the commercial utility industry?

Uncompromising advocates of a single payer health care system such as myself understand that the bill represents a sellout of the American people and a gift to the medical insurance, pharmaceutical and corporate health care industries that provide so much of the corporate money that pays for the propaganda blitzes every two years that keeps our Senators in their powerful offices. We will not see a day when the government acts in the interests of the People over corporations until we rid the Senate of its corporate Puppets.

Most of us have also come to understand the threat
to representative democracy of corporations having the ability to buy Senators and dictate legislation through their deep-pocketed and generous lobbyists. Too often unrecognized is the corollary that this allows big oil and other war-based industries to manipulate events through the CIA and its traitorous corporate accomplices, who keep fear and the ever present threat of endless war alive and in the subconsciousness if not the consciousness of the ordinary American.

Giving power to the people will result in giving electrical power and any money generated by its production to the people in our local communities. We can have free power generated and distributed locally, with profits used to fund schools and medical clinics in the community. By cutting as many as possible out of the main grid, we protect the grid from massive regional failures that are the inevitable result of centralized power generation.

Our current system makes us vulnerable to attack by cyberterrorists in China and Russia, in addition to more obvious security issues. Taking it out of private hands and providing most power for free will boost the economy. It will make us independent of unreliable foreign sources and mercury-laden coal that is destroying our rivers and mountains, devastating and poisoning our people and generating massive amounts of greenhouse gases that threaten human civilization. Most importantly, it will take power away from the incredibly selfish and shortsighted men who have created endless war and environmental degradation in their pursuit of profit and the power to enslave the planet.

Ultimately, if the people take charge of their government they can force it to provide for the common welfare and ensure domestic (and international) tranquility, as promised in the preamble to the Constitution that lays out the purpose of our national government.

When the people recognize their collective power, they can demand an affordable and sustainable system of universal health care and the conversion of our economy to a localized, sustainable one not dependent on products produced by slave labor in China, greenhouse and mercury producing coal or oil and nuclear resources obtained from unstable and volatile regions where we are fighting both cold and hot wars. Only when we acknowledge and act upon our God-given right to choose freedom over economic slavery will the promise of democracy be fulfilled.

The surest means of seizing and holding on to the reins of government is through a Constitutional amendment abolishing corporate personhood that nullifies the decision of the Five Stooges of the Supreme Court in Citizens United. We can and must do this by supporting the campaigns of the many men and women prepared to put their lives on hold to run for the Senate without reliance on corporate money. Once in office, these patriots will represent the People and not the corporations that are bleeding America and the world dry and destroying wealth and the middle class of America with their endless pursuit of control of the world’s energy supply.

It is possible to pass the amendment abolishing corporate personhood within two election cycles. Perhaps this will avoid the prophesied Armageddon projected by the Mayans and others in 2012.  At the very least, the imminence of this  ancient prediction could cause havoc in the Democratic Party, given their abysmal performance in bringing about the change the United States needs to survive beyond that year.  If they do not stop working for the corporate agenda, perhaps the destruction will be to them as well as the other corporate party.  

The signs have been seen in the decline in Republican Party membership and the losses to Democratic ranks in 2010 by crank Tea Partiers financed by corporate interests. If we can educate partisan supporters of the corporate duopoly, we can restore democracy to America.

If it had been introduced in 2010, the amendment to abolish corporate personhood would have forced the 36 Senators then up for re-election to choose between serving the corporate Puppetmasters of the Senate or serving the People who elected them. I wouldn’t bet on the chances of anyone foolish enough to argue against it. 

We are gearing up to raise awareness of the issue and mobilize the people to fight for what we have earned through the sweat of our brow and endless sacrifice for ourselves and our families. With the support of the majority of American voters, victory in the War to Take Back America for the People is assured. 

A small vanguard of those who consider themselves conservatives are beginning to join forces with those who consider themselves liberals to wipe out the weaker corporate coup plotters. With the aid of we who have trained in the military, we will free the American people to assume control of the government and their collective destiny.

This is the essence of a plan to fight the War to Take Back America for the People. We are putting into place the troops to attack in flanking movements from the Left and the Right. We can join forces in the middle after the bloodless battle is over and turn over the government to civilian command once the traitors in our midst are removed from power.

We will support and defend our Commander in Chief, as long as we can, but he  seems hostage to the corporations that control the traitors in the Senate and thus are holding him as a virtual political prisoner. They essentially succeeded in doing with Bill Clinton. As the Army of the Soldiers For Peace International grows in numbers and strength, we will be prepared to launch this coordinated attack.

In the words of Graham Young:

Soldiers of peace are not fighting a war
Are not looking for enemies behind every door
Are not looking for people to kill or to maim.
Soldiers of peace are just changing the game.

Men who were fighting for all of our lives
Are now fighting for children, for homes and for wives,
Fighting for the memory of all who fell before,
But the soldiers of peace just can't kill any more.

So come all you warriors who live for the fight,
Come listen to somebody, someone who might
Have been there before you and they have the right,
They've been dying to tell you the score.
The old warriors don't want you to hurt any more.

Soldiers of peace can still hear the cries
When the people were screaming and losing their lives,
When bodies were broken and spirits were torn
The soldiers of peace do not want you to mourn.

So come all you warriors who live for the fight,
Come listen to somebody, someone who might
Have been there before you and they have the right,
They've been dying to tell you the score.
The old warriors don't want you to hurt any more.

Soldiers of peace are not fighting a war.
No more! No more! No more! No more!

Rick Staggenborg, MD
Roseburg, Oregon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Asymmetrical warfare is the means by which a group of people fight for the cause of freedom against overwhelming power. It is a loosely organized network of cells whose members by and large do not know each other. For protection, they operate semi-autonomously so that their leaders cannot be tracked. This is necessary for them to avoid being targeted for assassination or politically motivated harassment and prosecution that often leads to torture in other countries increasingly, in the US or territory under its control.

Some people wonder why I would form another group of antiwar activists when so many great groups have been working on ending war for so long. The short answer is that we are not a group but a network. The longer answer is a little more complex.

SFPI was founded as a way not to attract people to what we are doing but to be a node in the network that connects all humans to each other. It is also an effort to connect disaffected individuals with groups of activists working nonviolently for social justice and to connect these groups to each other to form a united international front against fascism and war at the grassroots level.

The advantage of our lack of organizational structure is that it makes us maximally inclusive and as with any revolutionary movement with a similar structure, as flexible in our strategies as human nature is diverse. No one individual speaks for the group and no committees decide what causes we will work on. The decision of how best to promote our mutual goal is one that can only be made by each Soldier For Peace on his or her own. 

The “War on Terror” is the excuse given by political leaders in the US and elsewhere who are actually working for international corporate terrorists. These are the members of the international plutocracy who profit from war and other forms of human misery. These Imperialists know that they cannot win a war against a tactic of resistance. The “war on terror" is merely a convenient excuse for endless war for corporate Empire. 

The coming of a time when the selfish would begin the endless war was so obvious that it was predicted well over 2,000 years ago. Our current situation was written about in detail by Sinclair Lewis in 1936 and George Orwell in 1948 in It Can’t Happen Here and 1984, respectively.

Terrorism is inevitable as long as there is a drive for Empire. The leaders of the international corporate network are working together to establish the New World Order. It was promised by former CIA Director George H.W. Bush when he was installed as the President of the United States and soulless men like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush have been diligently working to make worldwide fascism the accepted norm. 

International corporate terrorists only want to maximize the wealth and power of their plutocracy. They believe that the economic elite of the world are our natural superiors and should be allowed to direct our collective destiny. They themselves are a network that like the mythical Hydra cannot be destroyed by chopping off a head. As in other terrorist networks, there is always another waiting to grow in its place.

The beauty of asymmetrical warfare is that those working for justice around the world can do so in an increasingly interconnected way that cannot be destroyed as long as the dream of justice, freedom and peace is alive in the world. The world today faces the challenges of uncontrolled population growth and endless war as the final stage in controlling the world’s natural resources that by right belong to all the Peoples of the world. This leads to the threats of environmental devastation, mass famine and pandemic.

If we work together to restore democracy in the United States, our new leaders will have to act justly toward other nations in our increasingly interdependent world. A truly united body of nations can assure that human society does not end in the fire and ice of global climate instability and ensure that human society as we know it does not vanish from the Earth.

Please join the SFPI Facebook group and add us to your Skype contacts to join in the conversation on our upcoming internet-based talk show, SFPI Radio.

For those who like this post, you may enjoy reading this essay from Stop the Madness: The Diary of a Soldier For Peace in the War to Take Back America: 


For more information about what Soldiers For Peace is and does, please check out his link: 


Monday, January 24, 2011


The way to end war is to ensure democracy in the United States through the abolition of corporate "rights" that include the right to spend unlimited amounts for or against candidates of their choosing. When our Congress works for us, they will address the many problems that threaten the economic and moral survival of the United States.

The right of access to comprehensive health care in a single payer Medicare for All system will be a key victory that will be a benchmark for the restoration of  representative democracy and thus a critical step in the end of American war for Empire.

The debate over how to reform America’s dysfunctional health care system is providing a graphic illustration of what has gone so wrong in American politics that Congress cannot meaningfully address the many crises facing our country. The failure to address the basic goals of universal access and cost containment are the natural result of a Congress controlled by the very corporate interests that caused the crisis in the first place. Lobbyists for the medical insurance, pharmaceutical and corporate medical care provider industries have dominated the process from the outset. 

The politics of division have torn at the fabric of society in America, bringing us to the brink of economic, environmental, moral and political catastrophe. The endless political posturing in Congress between a paralyzed Democratic Party and a Republican Party that seems interested only in grabbing the helm of the ship of state that it sailed directly toward this dangerous reef is threatening the viability of the American experiment in democracy. The problem is less from the Senators who control the debate than from Party leadership, the corporate-controlled media and the naturally befuddled public who continue to elect the same politicians who represent these corporations.

While pundits on the left and right are gingerly tiptoeing around the edges of the problem, neither side is really addressing the elephant in the room: corporate personhood. This is the counterrevolutionary notion that corporations are entitled to Constitutional rights simply because they are referred to in the law as “persons,” the term used in the Fourteenth amendment that was intended to guarantee the rights of slaves then recently freed at a terrible cost in blood to our nation. Thus, an amendment intended to free slaves ultimately was used in a sense to make slaves of us all.

Corporate personhood is the doctrine established by an activist Supreme Court around the turn of the century that drastically altered the perception by the average American of what the founders of our nation had in mind when they established a democratic Republic. Because of the inevitably imperfect compromises embodied in the Constitution, brother fought brother in a devastating Civil War to end the abomination of slavery in America. Afterward, powerful corporations took advantage of the dominance of one Party to ignore Lincoln’s attempts at reconciliation and use his martyrdom to control the Senate. Jefferson himself had argued for checking the power of corporations in the Bill of Rights. Though wise but imperfect men toiled to perfect our new government at the Constitutional convention, ultimately their work was undermined by the duress of avoiding potentially fatal divisions within the new Republic. 

With this perspective, it is ironic to observe that the rise of factionalism we were warned against by George Washington, the Father of our country, has culminated in the formation of two Parties which no longer represent the people. Instead, they have come to put the interests of powerful corporations before their constituents. These soulless entities created in the pursuit of profit have used the politics of division to keep the American people fighting amongst themselves instead of uniting against the common foe that is corporate personhood. The money provided by corporations finances the insanely expensive Senate races that leave out most of the potential leaders who might otherwise represent people over private profit. It is no wonder that so many of our best and brightest have chosen to avoid political careers that have come to be assumed to be tainted by the stench of corruption.

The only realistic answer to this apparent conundrum is to admit that the two-Party system was a mistake from the start. Instead of assuming that we have no choice but to choose the lesser of two evils, we must understand that there is little risk in casting our votes for candidates from a third Party. Any Party that demands of its candidates that they refuse to accept tainted money from the hands of corporate political action committees (PACs) should be taken seriously. Instead of regarding their candidates with derision and suspicion, they deserve to be respected for the courage of their convictions. If we assume that they are expecting the impossible in asking for our votes, then we are falling into the trap of the self-fulfilling prophecy that has been laid for us by greedy CEOs who care not for the people of America, but for their own personal gain. The future of democracy is in our hands.

Rick Staggenborg, MD
Physicians for a National Health Plan

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Recent studies have confirmed what many of us in the field of treating what are commonly considered mental illness have longed believed: Much of what is considered “mental” illness is in fact symptomatic of a morally sick society that does not assure that basic needs of its members are met. 

Ironically, former McCain economic adviser Phil Gramm called worry over the impending financial crisis at the end of the 2008 election “mental depression.” Although the term itself is nonsensical if he meant that depression is “all in the head,” he was in fact closer to identifying the problem than he could have suspected. The irony is in the fact that Gramm was a champion of the very economic policies that fostered the conditions these studies show are the cause of much of the rise in rates of depression and other stress-related conditions.

Gramm lost his official position as McCain’s economic adviser in the wake of his grossly insensitive comments. The bursting of the housing bubble proved to be a worse blow to the economy and to the middle class than anyone had expected, including the creators of the Ponzi scheme of derivative-driven economics that devastated the American and world economies. 

Missed by most commentators in the fallout of his crudely accurate comments was the fact that he bore significant responsibility for the disaster. As the chief sponsor of the bill to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, he led to the effort to break down the barriers between traditional business banks and financial institutions that enabled them to conspire to gamble with the money of their clients.

It is small wonder that candidate McCain sat glassy-eyed at the emergency economic summit with President Bush in late 2008 at which he insisted on being present. Even after being disgraced in the similar Savings and Loan scandal a few years earlier, he still did not understand the intent of the deregulation. It was being pushed by predatory capitalists from Goldman-Sachs and Citicorp who saw massive profits from an unregulated derivatives market, the scheme that eventually took down the economy.

Americans from across the political spectrum were appalled at the bank bailout, where tax dollars were used to recoup the gambling losses of banks that made bad loans and sold them to unsuspecting investors. Unfortunately, few realize the extent to which the bailout represented the result of allowing a system of crony capitalism and corporate welfare to corrupt the US Senate and office of the President. Bush scrambled to rescue the bankers who were essential tools in the war machine that he was using to carry out the Plan for a New American Century. When the bailout proved inadequate Obama boosted the price American taxpayers paid with a second bailout that replenished the coffers of bankers. After the firestorm of protest, a deeply divided Congress managed to unite to kill real reform.

The rest of the story was too difficult for most to follow, particularly those who were deluded into thinking that one major party or the other was working to correct the essential problem. The proposed fixes by leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties were to either re-regulate the rogue banks or to free them even further from regulations that supposedly hampered their ability to recover and fuel the recovery we are still awaiting. 

In the end, the rules of the game remained essentially unchanged. No one has been asked to pay for the cost to the public of the criminal misuse of account holder funds and the conspiracy to defraud investors in derivatives. These costs include a run on the taxpayer-funded FDIC that guaranteed the value of savings accounts that had been raided to cash in on the derivatives craze.   The bailout money that wasn’t divvied up with their foreign partners did not go into new credit to build business, but back into the false economy of the stock market. Meanwhile, there is evidence that the bubble is building again despite the loss in value of millions of homes for whom there are no buyers.

Of course, the corporate media has dutifully served as stenographers for the political leaders of both parties who scrambled for political advantage in casting blame for their collective failure. In the false equivalence of the corporate media, lies of one side are given equal credence as half-truths from the other. This has enabled them to successfully conceal from much of the general public the truth that both parties are in the pockets of Wall Street. It was Congress that made bankers players in the game of stock market roulette using our tax money and the life savings of those who had no way of seeing what was about to unfold. Only the People can make Congress do its duty. Given the two-party duopoly of electoral power, voters registered their disgust with both by either staying home or voting for corporate-sponsored Tea Party candidates. Instead of backing true reformers outside of the two-party system, one set of corporate tools was replaced by a new group of corporate fools.

Despite the rhetoric from both sides about putting Main Street over Wall Street, the economy continues to reel over the tremendous numbers of home foreclosures, expected to increase by over 50% this year as the anemic protections for homeowners expire. The consequences of the collapse of the economy are clear to average Americans, but the solutions far from clear. The heat of the rhetoric of the right has been turned up to the point that violence has become increasingly common. The slaying of a nine year old child, a respected federal judge and the shooting of Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords and others is only the latest example.

As outlined in their seminal work The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, British epidemiologists Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson make a strong case that the stress of living in an age of increasing economic insecurity in the US is driving rising rates of mental illness such as that of Gifford’s would-be assassin. Their studies show a direct correlation between dramatically increasing income disparity between the richest 1% and the rest of us and skyrocketing rates of mental illness and suicide.

This book should be required reading for any mental health professional interested in creating a more effective mental health care system. Their research shows that the best way to reduce the rate of mental illness is prevention. Those of us working on a political level to address the ills of a psychopathic social and economic system thus seem to be on the right track. We need to help people talk to each other in a non-judgmental way to address our common problems if we want to avoid future tragedies like the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and the other victims of the Tucson rampage.  

The morality of our current economic system aside, reform would also save us all of the economic and emotional costs of mental illness. The economic costs of depression and anxiety are almost incalculable. Those who have attempted to quantify the costs have shown that treatment costs and lost work productivity run to many billions of dollars per year. The costs of imprisoning the mentally ill who do not receive adequate treatment and commit crimes small and large as a result adds billions more to the price we all pay for maintaining a system that is fundamentally unfair to those least able to succeed in a mercilessly impersonal economic system that we have allowed to be created in the name of a globalized free market. 

Perhaps the most pointed evidence for the relationship between social inequality and mental illness is the fact that despite the evidence of the effects of our savagely winner-take-all economic system, many of those most affected continue to see the solution as more of the same policies that created the mess. Deregulation didn’t work, they say because banks weren’t deregulated enough. Tax cuts didn’t work because the government still collects taxes, albeit barely enough to service the ever-expanding debt.  For a few more dollars in their pockets, they angrily defend the rights of the economic elite who have rigged the process to accumulate ever more of the common wealth while their own needs go unmet. 

Government has come to serve the interests of corporations, yet the supporters of limited government are angry that displaced workers might receive health care or extended unemployment benefits. In their ideological fervor, true believers of modern social Darwinism are willing to offer their own children on the altar of the globalized free market to the God of unregulated capitalism. 

The only reason that such thinking is not considered delusional is that if a large enough group of people share a system of beliefs, it is considered sane to believe in it. The system of beliefs that American society has adopted are so wildly inconsistent with each other and our professed values that it Americans are not insane, the nation itself has become insane.
If we are to heal America, we must think of the solution as a form of group psychotherapy on a mass scale. The first principle of psychotherapy is to establish a sense of safety for anyone willing to take part in the discussion. 

If we can learn how to conduct a national dialogue that is premised on the idea that we share the same problems and are willing to help each other find solutions to our common challenges, together we  can find a way to re-establish a nation of, by and for the People. 

It is a basic principle of family systems therapy to look beyond blaming individuals and focus on solutions that work for all of us. America is indeed one large, dysfunctional family whose members are also citizens of the world. If we can find a way to heal our psychological wounds, democracy may yet survive and human civilization with it.

Readers interested in the social psychology of contemporary American politics may like this short essay from Stop the Madness: The Diary of a Soldier For Peace in the War to Take Back America

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Some people question the use of militaristic jargon by peace activists. There are several reasons that we choose to refer to ourselves as soldiers building an Army to fight a war for justice on behalf of the oppressed Peoples of the world. The first is that we must understand our enemy and develop strategies to counter the international corporate terrorists that profit from war. This is a very real war in the sense that people are dying because of the ruthless methods that the corporatocracy uses in its quest for dominance of all the world’s resources. In a time of increasing conflict in America and the world, we are fighting a war in a very real sense, but one that depends on avoiding resorting to violence.

While all veterans involved in the movement hope that the day will come that we won’t study war no more, that day has yet to arrive. Until it does, we must study the ways by which an increasingly militaristic network of governments working for Empire achieve its goals through economic warfare, bribery of corrupt junior partners, murder of leaders who resist and intimidation of the rest through the threat of endless war at the whim of the Puppetmasters of the US government.

The war on the Peoples of the world has come home to the United States, though few Americans seem to understand that the economic depression that has turned American against American will not end without fundamental changes that our government clearly will not make until forced to do so. Too few in America understand that the real enemy is the corporate network that dominates the electoral process through the contributions to campaigns for members of Congress. These politicans have become Meat Puppets who consciously or unwittingly surrender their duty to the People in favor of keeping themselves in power. 

Citizens United brought home this message, generating the anger of nearly 80% of both self-identified liberals and conservatives who all understand that corruption in the United States government is a clear and present danger to democracy itself. We can use this common understanding to create the overwhelming force that will flank and destroy the media forces of media propaganda only be abandoning media-created distinctions that politicians use to maintain the illusion that either Party is working in the interest of the People.

In terms of military strategy, the enemy has exposed itself to a coordinated attack in the belief that we cannot organize to fight it. The corporatocracy has a simple strategy to keep the Peoples of all nations fighting each other where some semblance of democracy exists and buying the loyalty of ruthless strongmen where it does not. If we unite to fight this war together, our numbers are overwhelming. The leadership of the drive for world domination are the Anglo-American fascists in government and industry who see the 21st century as the advent of a New World Order that will be maintained through increasingly oppressive and violent means. It must be they and not each other who we target.

The “alternative” media has helped these psychopathic individuals unwittingly. In continuing to portray the battle for the soul of America in stark terms of sensible Americans versus those with no concern for the welfare of others, these gatekeepers of the Left keep alive the myth fostered by the corporate media that somehow the other side is “un-American.” They do not have to use this term to rally the troops to do battle with the “other side.” 

Almost universally, the best known of the leaders in the “progressive” media give publicity only to Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders, hoping in vain that somehow a minority of our Representatives in Congress can impose its will on the growing number of Americans who rightly fear the power of a government controlled by a majority in both Houses of Congress. The steady drift toward the goals of the corporate agenda is obvious. 

We do not have time in an age of the threats to human civilization by continual environmental crises, economic devastation leaving millions suffering and the threat of endless war to wait for a miracle that will force either Party to see the consequences of its failure to follow their moral duty. We must be the change that we want to see in the world by looking inward to find our higher self that exists independently of our fears, anger and narrow perceptions of self-interest.

It matters little which of the corporate parties is in the majority. Neither party is led by men and women who are willing to challenge the corporate power that keeps them in their privileged positions. When the liberal media focuses on what the Republicans are doing, they serve as yet another echo chamber for the right, because those Americans who support the other side of the corporate Duopoly are offended by the insulting rhetoric of the Left. The “liberal” media continually presents an increasingly corporate-dominated Democratic Party as the only alternative to the even worse Republican Party. This ignores recent history, including the fact that it is the critical middle that elected Barack Obama in the clear hope that this relative unknown with the calm manner would somehow create the change that he constantly told us we ourselves must be.

The critical mass of Americans who see through the myth that either party is fighting for the People react to this hypocrisy by alternately punishing one side or the other in what appears to be an irrational reaction to partisans of either party. We must work together to educate the general public that there is a simple solution to ending the un-Civil War that has turned increasingly violent. Only by reaching out to all Americans can we expect to build the “Army” we need to end corporate control of our government. 

Soldiers For Peace International was founded to help develop an increasingly interconnected network of all Americans who are sick of a government that is no longer one of the People, by the people and for the People. It is international in scope because we cannot win this war against fascism until the Peoples of the world see that they too are being manipulated by the Empire to fight each other rather than those who would enslave them in the quest for world domination. 

We are all in this together and only by reaching out to each other as citizens of our nations and of the world, we can exercise the power of the People to end injustice of every kind. The principle battle is being fought in the heart of Darkness, the jungle of America where the dreams upon that nation was founded have been forgotten and history is being rewritten so that the corporate media can replace it with the nightmare that is fascism.  Americans must remember that irrelevant distinctions were set aside during the Revolution that led to the American experiment in democracy. 

We can forge a consensus on a future that guarantees our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness only by working together on a cause that should unite all Americans: The abolition of corporate personhood. Only by making it illegal for corporations to buy the loyalty of those who hold the fate of the nation in their hands can we hope to ensure justice not only for all Americans, but all Peoples of the world suffering under the yoke of Imperialism that is threatening to destroy America itself.

I urge those who feel that the Democratic or Republican Party is the only bulwark against enslavement by “the other side” learn to talk to each other in terms of mutual respect. There is a solution to the problem of corporate control of the US government, but we can only achieve it together. We cannot expect either party in the corporate duopoly that has led us to the brink of fascism in America to save us. Former partisans are increasingly acknowledging that both are controlled by the very corporations that have already stripped the carcass of the American economy of nearly all of its flesh. 

We can challenge the Parties by running truly independent candidates through a united third-party movement. When we succeed, we will teach the cynical psychopaths a lesson that they will ignore at their peril. Those who have allowed the United States government to fall into the hands of a plutocracy with no concern for the Peoples of America or the world will finally understand the power of a People united in the common cause of freedom and justice for all.

You can read more about to form an anarchical movement to restore democracy to America as a means to achieving peace in the world by reading the online book of essays Stop the Madness: The Diary of a Soldier For Peace in the War to Take Back America. It is linked to the website of Take Back America for the People”
Your comments here or at the linked website of the book itself are appreciated.