Imagine America

America’s democracy is in extreme danger. Over and over I’ve said to myself “I can’t imagine this (outrage du jour) is happening!”  I also couldn’t imagine the Republican Party would deliberately sabotage democracy to take power away from regular people so their elites could run the country. Solid evidence built up over the past ten years confirm that what I could not imagine has indeed become a reality. I hung onto the idea that leaders of the Democrats would rise to the occasion.  And, that the mainstream media would report honestly on the radicalization of the Republican Party.  And, that Democrats would make gains in the Congress. This did not happen.

I CAN IMAGINE ordinary American citizens mounting a massive grass roots movement to stop right wing extremists from destroying America. The current incredible outpouring of citizen action to affirm that everybody matters, that all people have value, confirms this belief.

I CAN IMAGINE millions of Americans making citizen participation in democracy an integral part of their lives, taking power away from oligarchs and religious extremists. We can make America again be government of the people, by the people and for the people!

One of the major components of a winning strategy is a coherent, consistent narrative about what Democrats stand for and our vision of America.

We the people need to talk about:   How do we know right from wrong?  —   True from false?  —   Smart from stupid?

How do we the people, through our democratically elected government, make the wisest possible decisions for now and future generations?

What kind of country and world do we want to create for our children and grandchildren? We are at a trajectory moment in history – actually, a tipping point in civilization – when we must accept our responsibility as citizens and learn the truth about our history, face today’s reality head on, make choices about the future and take action . Our increasingly fragile democracy — and our world — is at stake.

Conservatives and progressives have very different ideas of right and wrong. These worldviews are drastically at odds and affect every facet of democracy. Much of the time citizens hold different understandings of even the basic facts related to the topics we are debating. Citizens must understand how the political system and parties have changed, learn the critical implications of these culture wars, choose sides and fight for our grand children’s future.

The mission of this website is to help develop a powerful narrative for the progressive movement for long term, systemic change.

With audacious faith, Phyllis Stenerson — editor/curator of ProgressiveValues.org

“We must move forward in the days ahead with audacious faith. The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(This was the website’s home page from late 2014 until February 26, 2015.)

David Brooks’ Rant on Emptiness of Secularism is Poppycock

By Daniel C. Maguire, ReligionDispatches.org,  February 4, 2015

Excerpt

New York Times columnist David Brooks is way behind the curve when it comes to post-theistic ethics and religion. In…“Building Better Secularists,” what he actually builds is a caricature of “secularists”…Brooks sees these poor secular creatures (who are inching toward majority status in our culture) as feebly—and thus far futilely–trying to build an inspiring ethic without the “God” prop…Brooks’ reflects a common syllabus of errors regarding ethics and religion without “God…” For starters, he says that the godly can draw from “moral creeds that have evolved over centuries,” but that those poor adrift secularists “have to build their own moral philosophies” starting from scratch. Nonsense!

Even Pope Francis invites atheists to join him on his Judeo-Christian moral mission. That …grand biblical moral vision is just as available to those who deny the “God” and afterlife hypotheses as it is to those who take those myths literally.

In any religion the moral core is one thing; the imaginative dogmatic superstructure is another…the moral core of Judaism and Christianity…is just as available to secularists as it is to the dogmatically orthodox.

Indeed many professing Christians might be dogmatically orthodox moral heretics. They take the dogmatic legends literally and fervidly but are less enthused about the moral demands of the tradition. Thus they would smite you for not taking literally such metaphors as Exodus, Virgin Birth, and Resurrection but will not join Isaiah in saying that the only route to peace is through the absolute elimination of poverty. (Isaiah 32;17)… Religion is a response to the sacred—whether the sacred is understood theistically or not. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism are godless, and yet they have been, and are, culture-shaping powerhouses of moral idealism… Increasingly, Christians, Jews, and others are at one with that sense of reality—as is modern science. There is good sense and abundant spiritual inspiration in that ancient poetry. Noisy debates about gods and goddesses should not distract us from moral wisdom that is so contemporaneously relevant that it might well have been written yesterday.

Full text

New York Times columnist David Brooks is way behind the curve when it comes to post-theistic ethics and religion. In yesterday’s column, “Building Better Secularists,” what he actually builds is a caricature of “secularists” which he then proceeds to scold. Brooks sees these poor secular creatures (who are inching toward majority status in our culture) as feebly—and thus far futilely–trying to build an inspiring ethic without the “God” prop.

Relax, Mr. Brooks, we are doing just fine. I write, incidentally, as a Christian atheist, something I describe more fully in Christianity Without God: Moving Beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative (SUNY Press 2014).

Brooks’ reflects a common syllabus of errors regarding ethics and religion without “God…”

For starters, he says that the godly can draw from “moral creeds that have evolved over centuries,” but that those poor adrift secularists “have to build their own moral philosophies” starting from scratch.

Nonsense!

Even Pope Francis invites atheists to join him on his Judeo-Christian moral mission. That epic moral vision that was birthed in ancient Israel and echoed into Christianity doesn’t require deity or afterlife beliefs, something the pope seems to get. And that grand biblical moral vision is just as available to those who deny the “God” and afterlife hypotheses as it is to those who take those myths literally.

In any religion the moral core is one thing; the imaginative dogmatic superstructure is another. Christianity’s dogmatic superstructure is especially replete with phantasmagoria…things like virgin births, dead people walking, and those resurrected people ascending straight up into the heavens (without ever going into orbit). Fortunately the moral vision of Judaeo-Christianity religion does not depend on such poetic fictions. The “God” and afterlife hypotheses add nothing to the moral core of Judaism and Christianity, and that moral core is just as available to secularists as it is to the dogmatically orthodox.

Indeed many professing Christians might be dogmatically orthodox moral heretics. They take the dogmatic legends literally and fervidly but are less enthused about the moral demands of the tradition. Thus they would smite you for not taking literally such metaphors as Exodus, Virgin Birth, and Resurrection but will not join Isaiah in saying that the only route to peace is through the absolute elimination of poverty. (Isaiah 32;17).

Nor are they, as was Jesus, “good news for the poor” or “peacemakers.” (Luke 4:18: Matt. 5:9)

In a splendid irony, secularists who walk the walk on these ideals might be more “Christian” than the “dogmatically” pure.

For Brooks, to be religious you have to believe in “God,” which is way off the mark. Religion is a response to the sacred—whether the sacred is understood theistically or not. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism are godless, and yet they have been, and are, culture-shaping powerhouses of moral idealism. As Professor Chun-Fang Yu says “Unlike most other religions, Chinese religion does not have a creator god…There is no god transcendent and separate from the world and there is no heaven outside of the universe to which human beings would want to go for refuge.” Increasingly, Christians, Jews, and others are at one with that sense of reality—as is modern science.

Literalism is suffocating. It smothers the moral dynamism of “religions,” which at their fiery core are classics in the art of cherishing, and a spiritual resource—for those who imagine a “God,” and for those who do not. The Exodus may not have happened and Moses may never have existed. He might, like Yahweh, be a composite of many personalities woven together with literary freedom.

“There was no mass Exodus from Egypt,” write historians Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman. Forget the fictional frogs and the sea engulfing the bad guys. What happened from 1250 to 1050 B.C.E. was not history but a psycho-political, epochal breakthrough of social imagination.* Outstripping Homer and Virgil in wit and wisdom, these Hebrew poets imagined a move from the one-percent rule of Egypt to the sharing society of Sinai where “there will be no poor among you” (Deut. 15:4) and where the first experiment in a classless society achieved a success that sowed the seeds of modern democratic theory.

There is good sense and abundant spiritual inspiration in that ancient poetry. Noisy debates about gods and goddesses should not distract us from moral wisdom that is so contemporaneously relevant that it might well have been written yesterday.

Daniel C. Maguire

Daniel C. Maguire is a professor of ethics at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution, and past president of The Society of Christian Ethics. He is the author or editor of 13 books and some 200 articles and president of The Religious Consultation On Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, an international collegium of 80 scholars from all the world religions. His most recent book is Whose Church? A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicism (New Press, 2008)

http://religiondispatches.org/david-brooks-rant-on-emptiness-of-secularism-is-poppycock/

Building Better Secularists

by David Brooks, New York Times,  FEB. 3, 2015

Over the past few years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who are atheist, agnostic or without religious affiliation. A fifth of all adults and a third of the youngest adults fit into this category.

As secularism becomes more prominent and self-confident, its spokesmen have more insistently argued that secularism should not be seen as an absence — as a lack of faith — but rather as a positive moral creed….

Zuckerman argues that secular morality is built around individual reason, individual choice and individual responsibility. Instead of relying on some eye in the sky to tell them what to do, secular people reason their way to proper conduct.

Secular people, he argues, value autonomy over groupthink. They deepen their attachment to this world instead of focusing on a next one. They may not be articulate about why they behave as they do, he argues, but they try their best to follow the Golden Rule, to be considerate and empathetic toward others. “

As he describes them, secularists seem like genial, low-key people who have discarded metaphysical prejudices and are now leading peaceful and rewarding lives. But I can’t avoid the conclusion that the secular writers are so eager to make the case for their creed, they are minimizing the struggle required to live by it. Consider the tasks a person would have to perform to live secularism well:

• Secular individuals have to build their own moral philosophies. Religious people inherit creeds that have evolved over centuries. Autonomous secular people are called upon to settle on their own individual sacred convictions.

•Secular individuals have to build their own communities. Religions come equipped with covenantal rituals that bind people together, sacred practices that are beyond individual choice. Secular people have to choose their own communities and come up with their own practices to make them meaningful.

•Secular individuals have to build their own Sabbaths. Religious people are commanded to drop worldly concerns. Secular people have to create their own set times for when to pull back and reflect on spiritual matters.

 

•Secular people have to fashion their own moral motivation. It’s not enough to want to be a decent person. You have to be powerfully motivated to behave well. Religious people are motivated by their love for God and their fervent desire to please Him. Secularists have to come up with their own powerful drive that will compel sacrifice and service.

The point is not that secular people should become religious. You either believe in God or you don’t. Neither is the point that religious people are better than secular people. That defies social science evidence and common observation. The point is that an age of mass secularization is an age in which millions of people have put unprecedented moral burdens upon themselves. People who don’t know how to take up these burdens don’t turn bad, but they drift. They suffer from a loss of meaning and an unconscious boredom with their own lives.

One other burden: Past secular creeds were built on the 18th-century enlightenment view of man as an autonomous, rational creature who could reason his way to virtue. The past half-century of cognitive science has shown that that creature doesn’t exist. We are not really rational animals; emotions play a central role in decision-making, the vast majority of thought is unconscious, and our minds are riddled with biases. We are not really autonomous; our actions are powerfully shaped by others in ways we are not even aware of.

It seems to me that if secularism is going to be a positive creed, it can’t just speak to the rational aspects of our nature. Secularism has to do for nonbelievers what religion does for believers — arouse the higher emotions, exalt the passions in pursuit of moral action…Religions don’t just ask believers to respect others; rather each soul is worthy of the highest dignity because it radiates divine light.

The only secularism that can really arouse moral motivation and impel action is an enchanted secularism, one that puts emotional relations first and autonomy second. I suspect that over the next years secularism will change its face and become hotter and more consuming, less content with mere benevolence, and more responsive to the spiritual urge in each of us, the drive for purity, self-transcendence and sanctification.

Full text

Over the past few years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who are atheist, agnostic or without religious affiliation. A fifth of all adults and a third of the youngest adults fit into this category.

As secularism becomes more prominent and self-confident, its spokesmen have more insistently argued that secularism should not be seen as an absence — as a lack of faith — but rather as a positive moral creed. Phil Zuckerman, a Pitzer College sociologist, makes this case as fluidly and pleasurably as anybody in his book, “Living the Secular Life.”

Zuckerman argues that secular morality is built around individual reason, individual choice and individual responsibility. Instead of relying on some eye in the sky to tell them what to do, secular people reason their way to proper conduct.

Secular people, he argues, value autonomy over groupthink. They deepen their attachment to this world instead of focusing on a next one. They may not be articulate about why they behave as they do, he argues, but they try their best to follow the Golden Rule, to be considerate and empathetic toward others. “Secular morality hinges upon little else than not harming others and helping those in need,” Zuckerman writes.

As he describes them, secularists seem like genial, low-key people who have discarded metaphysical prejudices and are now leading peaceful and rewarding lives. But I can’t avoid the conclusion that the secular writers are so eager to make the case for their creed, they are minimizing the struggle required to live by it. Consider the tasks a person would have to perform to live secularism well:

• Secular individuals have to build their own moral philosophies. Religious people inherit creeds that have evolved over centuries. Autonomous secular people are called upon to settle on their own individual sacred convictions.

• Secular individuals have to build their own communities. Religions come equipped with covenantal rituals that bind people together, sacred practices that are beyond individual choice. Secular people have to choose their own communities and come up with their own practices to make them meaningful.

• Secular individuals have to build their own Sabbaths. Religious people are commanded to drop worldly concerns. Secular people have to create their own set times for when to pull back and reflect on spiritual matters.

The tone of the comments couldn’t be clearer. There is a loud, pervasive disdain among the secular for the religious. If it doesn’t rise…

• Secular people have to fashion their own moral motivation. It’s not enough to want to be a decent person. You have to be powerfully motivated to behave well. Religious people are motivated by their love for God and their fervent desire to please Him. Secularists have to come up with their own powerful drive that will compel sacrifice and service.

The point is not that secular people should become religious. You either believe in God or you don’t. Neither is the point that religious people are better than secular people. That defies social science evidence and common observation. The point is that an age of mass secularization is an age in which millions of people have put unprecedented moral burdens upon themselves. People who don’t know how to take up these burdens don’t turn bad, but they drift. They suffer from a loss of meaning and an unconscious boredom with their own lives.

One other burden: Past secular creeds were built on the 18th-century enlightenment view of man as an autonomous, rational creature who could reason his way to virtue. The past half-century of cognitive science has shown that that creature doesn’t exist. We are not really rational animals; emotions play a central role in decision-making, the vast majority of thought is unconscious, and our minds are riddled with biases. We are not really autonomous; our actions are powerfully shaped by others in ways we are not even aware of.

It seems to me that if secularism is going to be a positive creed, it can’t just speak to the rational aspects of our nature. Secularism has to do for nonbelievers what religion does for believers — arouse the higher emotions, exalt the passions in pursuit of moral action. Christianity doesn’t rely just on a mild feeling like empathy; it puts agape at the center of life, a fervent and selfless sacrificial love. Judaism doesn’t just value community; it values a covenantal community infused with sacred bonds and chosenness that make the heart strings vibrate. Religions don’t just ask believers to respect others; rather each soul is worthy of the highest dignity because it radiates divine light.

The only secularism that can really arouse moral motivation and impel action is an enchanted secularism, one that puts emotional relations first and autonomy second. I suspect that over the next years secularism will change its face and become hotter and more consuming, less content with mere benevolence, and more responsive to the spiritual urge in each of us, the drive for purity, self-transcendence and sanctification.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/opinion/david-brooks-building-better-secularists.html?_r=0

Articles, excerpts Jan 27 to Feb 5, 2015

A crisis this big changes everything By Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist, January 21, 2015  The world’s collective failure to tackle climate change comes down to one big problem, says Naomi Klein: the clash of climate necessities against corporate power and a triumphant neo-liberal world order. So after decades of government dithering… it’s time for civil society to unite and build a radical justice-based movement for climate action. Naomi Klein’s new book is This Changes Everything,

Obama Condemns ‘Distorted’ Faith at National Prayer Breakfast by Adelle M. Banks, God’s Politics Blog, Sojourners, 02-05-2015 President Obama on Feb. 5 called for an emphasis on what is just about the world’s religions as a way to counter the ways faith has been distorted across the globe. “We see faith driving us to do right,” he said to more than 3,500 people attending the annual National Prayer Breakfast. “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” He urged believers of all faiths to practice humility, support church-state separation and adhere to the Golden Rule as ways to keep religion in its proper context. “As people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends,” Obama said. “Here at home and around the world we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom: freedom of religion, the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.”

Marcus Borg and the New Face of Christianity by Philip Clayton, Ph.D., Claremont School of Theology, huffingtonpost.com, 01/26/2015 …Marcus Borg died a few days ago…[his]  The Heart of Christianity …clearly expresses the kind of Christianity that most of us want our lives to be associated with… Borg’s humility, which so many of us experienced, was the natural expression of a Christian faith built around Jesus’ radical way of compassion first, with everything else a distant second…Borg was an open, out-of-the-closet liberalBorg described a God worth believing inBorg’s unencumbered Christianity didn’t negate other religions and spiritual paths…a Christianity without exclusion or intolerance…

Fundamentalists take issue with the writings of Marcus Borg By Bill Uhrich, readingeagle.com, February 1, 2015 “Conflict about the Bible is the single most divisive issue among Christians in North America today,” wrote Marcus Borg, who died Jan. 21…Through his writings, Borg offered an alternative viewpoint to fundamentalist views of the Bible, particularly in his 2001 book “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally.”…This perspective flies in the face of the fundamentalists’ belief in verbal plenary inspiration, the idea that every single word and all parts of the Bible are God-given and authoritative…Borg’s participation along with 200 other scholars, including John Dominic Crossan, in the Jesus Seminar of the 1980s and 1990s, which revived historical Jesus studies…Using modern tools available to scholars, the seminar came to the conclusion that 18 percent of the sayings and 16 percent of the deeds attributed to Jesus in the gospels are authentic, according to the Westar Institute, which sponsored the seminar. The rest are essentially reflections of the early church and early Christian understanding…this methodology also raised howls of scorn from fundamentalists…”I describe myself as a nonliteralistic and nonexclusivistic Christian,” Borg wrote, “committed to living my life with God within the Christian tradition, even as I affirm the validity of all the enduring religious traditions.”

Tony Perkins: 2015 ‘Most Dangerous Year’ For American Christians by Peter Montgomery, rightwingwatch.org, 1/27/2015 …Religious Right leaders have adopted a strategy of portraying just about any policy they disagree with as a dire threat to their religious freedom. And they love to portray President Barack Obama as a sinister enemy of religious liberty. Today’s frantic email from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is a model of both the Obama-is-evil paradigm and frothing-at-the-mouth alarmism… flat-out lies…To avoid any accusations that we’ve taken Perkins out of context, here’s today’s fundraising letter in full:…“…President Obama seems willing to do anything to further his radical agenda—even if it means violating the Constitution to take away your religious freedom. This President has clearly placed the religious freedom of millions of Christians like you in his sights. Why? You are among the people who are standing in the gap against his radical plans to transform America into a godless, secular country where government reigns supreme. In these evil days it is more important than ever that you stand your ground for religious freedom!… All of us must redouble our efforts to meet the incredible challenges ahead of us. Your gift today is essential if we are to stop the assaults on religious freedom and reclaim those liberties already lost.

Evangelical Political Operative Reveals Plan to Fundamentally Transform America — and It Involves 1,000 Pastors by Billy Hallowell, theblaze.com, Jan. 27, 2015  …The faith leaders assembled for the Issachar Training Event, which was organized by the American Renewal Project, an organization that is working toward bringing 1,000 preachers into the public square next election cycle…[American Renewal Project founder David Lane] launched the American Renewal Project after he began to think about the societal transformation that could happen if he was able to recruit 1,000 pastors to run in 2016 — a prospect that he said “would change America.”…“Somebody’s values are going to reign supreme. Our values or somebody else’s values,” Lane told Brody. “It’s our goal to bring spiritual men and women into the civil government arena.”…[Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal wrote. “There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old Testament, ‘The Men of Issachar’ (1 Chronicles 12:32). We need such men and women of wisdom today who will accept the challenge to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.”… “These engaged evangelicals would be voting for their biblically-based conservative values.”

The Real Origins of the Religious Right By RANDALL BALMER, politico.com, May 27, 2014 They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.  

Mike Huckabee’s Christian Sharia Law by Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, February 1, 2015 …Mike Huckabee is known as a former governor, an author, a onetime Fox News host, and as a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nominationWhen he last ran for president in 2008, he argued that we “should amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.”…What would be the reaction if a Muslim candidate for president…argued that we should amend our Constitution to agree with the Quran? The right wing in this country would explode… many of those same right-wing people who fabricate the claim that Muslims in America want to impose Islamic law have no problem when a Christian politician tells us point blank he wants to impose what is, in essence, Christian Sharia law. The good news: Our First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any religion in our country, be it Christianity or Islam or anything else…in the United States at least, our laws must be based on public policy considerations and the Constitution, not passages of religious text.

Dark Money Is Destroying Our World, Not Just Our Politics By Wenonah Hauter, Common Dreams, January 29, 2015 Unsurprisingly to anyone who follows the policy agenda of this right-wing think tank [Heritage Foundation] that has been funded by some of the most regressive funders in the nation, from the Koch Brothers to Scaife Foundations, they support the economic interests of corporations, and little in the way of real opportunity for the American public…The policies promoted at the conference are bad deals for people and the environment. Let’s work together today to stop their dangerous agenda and begin organizing for the future to get Dark Money out of politics.

Who Needs Lobbyists? See What Big Business Spends To Win American Minds by Erin Quinn and Chris Young, Center for Public Integrity,posted on billmoyers.com, January 28, 2015      When Washington, DC’s biggest trade associations want to wield influence, they often put far more of their money into advertising and public relations, according to a new Center for Public Integrity investigation….It’s been well-publicized how much industry spends on lobbying the government, but little is known about how much money goes toward influencing the public…By industry sector, the biggest clients of PR, marketing and ad services were energy and natural resources associations…The public relations industry is on a growth tear while the number of federally registered lobbyists is actually shrinking. Public relations work, unlike lobbying, is not subject to federal disclosure rules, and PR and advertising campaigns can potentially influence a broader group of people…The strategy, public relations experts say, is not designed to replace lobbying so much as it is to enhance it…PR agencies may further obfuscate their role by creating so-called “front groups” that appear to be grassroots organizations, in an effort to push their clients’ messages. It is often difficult to discern who is behind these manufactured entities, though sometimes information can trickle through…Journalists overwhelmed…The golden age for PR has coincided with the decline of mainstream journalism, especially newspapers, which have suffered from plummeting ad revenue that has necessitated layoffs in newsrooms across the country. Today, not only are PR professionals outnumbering journalists by a ratio of 4.6 to 1, but the salary gap between the two occupations has grown to almost $20,000 per year, according to the Pew Research Center. The widening employment and income disparities have left journalists underpaid, overworked and increasingly unable to undertake independent, in-depth reporting…The gradual shift from a focus on traditional lobbying toward greater use of the “outside game of politics,” or communications like PR, has been going on for at least a decade, close observers say, but is now accelerating with advances in technology, social media and digital strategies…if you have an issue that is visual and has a compelling narrative, we’re better off spending more resources on trying to educate the public” than relying on traditional lobbying…The trade associations that rely most on PR and advertising campaigns are usually those representing industries facing the heaviest regulation and the most public contempt…the campaigns are often tied to specific public policy crises…. when industries really feel threatened that they might actually lose a policy battle…

Gorbachev: US Pulled Russia Into New Cold War That Could Turn ‘Hot’ By Andrea Germanos, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 29, 2015  “The U.S. has already dragged us into a new Cold War, trying to openly implement its idea of triumphalism,” Mikhail Gorbachev is quoted as saying.

Inside the international effort to fund government programs that actually work by Julia Belluz and Steven Hoffman,  VOX.com, January 28, 2015   the notion that we should run high-quality experiments to figure out whether policies work hasn’t taken root in government…Internationally, there’s a movement to change this state of affairs. Both the United States and United Kingdom have made substantial progress in recent years in backing up their public programs with actual research evidence. The Canadian government, meanwhile, has lagged behind. The tale of these three countries can prove instructive in how to get evidence into policy — and the obstacles that governments face in their attempts…A quiet, evidence-based revolution…

America doesn’t just have one deficit, and Bernie Sanders wants to address seven of them by Laura Clawson Daily Kos Labor, Jan 26, 2015 Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to talk about the deficits. Yes, plural. The ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee says the next budget should address a series of deficits in investment in the American economy. Income inequality, lack of jobs and especially good jobs, poor infrastructure, bad trade deals, retirement insecurity, and a failure to invest in education—these are deficits that affect the entire American economy, dragging it down and slowing growth. That’s what Sanders wants to address:At a time when this country has an obscene level of income and wealth inequality, we need a budget that ends the outrageous loopholes that exist and asks the wealthiest people and largest corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes.

As Inequality Soars, the Nervous Super Rich Are Already Planning Their Escapes By Alec Hogg / The Guardian, posted on Alternet.org, January 26, 2015  Hedge fund managers are preparing getaways by buying airstrips and farms in remote areas.

Downsize Democracy For 40 Years, Here’s What You Get By Murray Dobbin / The Tyee, posted on Alternet.org, January 26, 2015 New signs civilization is veering towards collapse.… The Trilateral Commission (TLC) could be said to be the birthplace of neoliberalism, a political theory that suggests progress depends upon “liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade.” Alarmed by the spread of the liberal state and its economic and social interventions, the The Trilateral Commission (TLC)  was founded to reverse the welfare state and re-establish capital to its “rightful” place at the pinnacle of economic and political power. (It still exists but has been supplanted to some extent by the World Economic Forum.) The TLC book concluded, in the words of its American co-author Samuel Huntington, that the industrial countries suffered from “an excess of democracy.” He wrote “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy… on the part of some individuals and groups.” He bemoaned the fact that “Marginal groups, as in the case of blacks, are now becoming full participants in the political system.” The TLC was just one of a growing number of institutions — forums, think-tanks, academic clusters, major media outlets — focussed on the same theme: that expectations of what government could provide had risen to a level that was now threatening the proper functioning of capitalist democracies…Walker told a group of worried corporate CEOs from British Columbia that “if you want to change society you have to change the ideological fabric of society.” In short, you had to launch a culture war against the activist state. It would be a war against democratic “excess.”…Fast forward 40 years and any new book with the title The Crisis of Democracy is likely to be chronicling the result of four decades of systematic assaults on the liberal/social democratic state. Indeed in contrast to Huntington’s “excess of democracy” complaint, the phrase “democratic deficit” has now been used by scores of writers and commentators…But it is the consequences of this decline and erosion of democracy that should be the most important focus of critics and citizens alike. The exceptionally successful four decades campaign to change the “ideological fabric” of society has put western civilization on a track to irreversible collapse according to a major study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The study focused on population, climate, water, agriculture and energy as the interrelated factors that determine the collapse or survival of civilizations going back 5000 years. According to a Guardian report on the study, these factors can coalesce and lead to civilization’s collapse if they create two critical social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity… and… the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or ‘Commoners’) [poor].”…advanced, sophisticated, complex and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”…the signs are so dramatically obvious… if you monitor the political debate in this country the two most important trends in our society and the world are virtually never mentioned except rhetorically. There are no serious policy prescriptions. Mass denial reigns. Or, as Freud stated, we are “knowing without knowing.” Elites won’t save us. Theoretically, of course, neoliberalism says the state should not intervene in the efficient functioning of the market — resulting in prosperity for everyone. But the theory, according to neoliberalism authority David Harvey, was simply hijacked by the elites to fleece the system — bailing out the financial sector with trillions of taxpayers’ dollars and failing to re-regulate, while gutting labour and environmental regulation. Government actions reveal neoliberalism as “more of a practical attempt to restore elite class power than as a theoretical project driven by the works of [Friedrich von] Hayek or Friedman.”…