The United States is no longer a full democracy, according to an annual report recently released by The Economist. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ninth annual Democracy Index details the decline of democracy not just in the U.S., but also around the world.
The rankings cover 165 countries and are determined by a variety of factors. The report (which is downloadable upon registration explains):
“The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Based on their scores on a range of indicators within these categories, each country is then itself classified as one of four types of regime: ‘full democracy’; ‘flawed democracy’; ‘hybrid regime’; and ‘authoritarian regime.’”
The number of countries ranked as “full democracies” fell from 20 to 19 in 2016, and the U.S. came in at 21 — earning the designation of a “flawed democracy.” The report explains that the U.S.’ quality of democracy has declined “ as popular confidence in the functioning of public institutions has declined.” The U.S. now ranks behind Japan, which was the highest ranked flawed democracy.
Following the chaos of the 2016 election, it is unsurprising that many Americans are losing faith in democracy. But as the report notes, Donald Trump is not entirely to blame.
“Popular trust in government, elected representatives and political parties has fallen to extremely low levels in the US… This has been a long-term trend and one that preceded the election of Mr Trump as US president in November 2016.”
In fact, it appears Trump simply capitalized on existing sentiments:
“By tapping a deep strain of political disaffection with the functioning of democracy, Mr Trump became a beneficiary of the low esteem in which US voters hold their government, elected representatives and political parties, but he was not responsible for a problem that has had a long gestation.”
But the U.S. is far from alone in its decline as “[p]opular confidence in political institutions and parties continues to decline in many other developed countries, too.”
“Some 72 countries experienced a decline in their total score compared with 2015, almost twice as many as the countries which recorded an improvement (38),” the analysis explains.
Fifty-seven countries stagnated. Eastern Europe suffered the worst losses, with 19 countries slipping in the democracy index. Countries that were deemed to be “full democracies” included Norway at number one, followed by Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, and several other European countries. Uruguay ranked 20th, outpacing other Latin American countries.
The number of authoritarian governments totaled 51. “Around 2.6bn people, more than one-third of the world’s population, live under authoritarian rule, with a large share being, of course, in China,” the report notes, adding that “‘[h]ybrid’ and ‘authoritarian’ regimes are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa (36), the Middle East and North Africa (18 out of 20 countries), and to a lesser extent in eastern Europe (15) and Asia (13).”
Though according to the index, democracy appears to be working for some nations, others are struggling to uphold the system’s purported ideals. “Since 2006 The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has recorded a decline in the average aggregate global democracy score, from 5.62 to 5.52 in 2016,” the report notes, adding that Western Europe, North America, and Eastern Europe experienced the most declines – even as many Western European nations retained their categorization as full democracies.
These losses parallel global opinions, which increasingly reflect a loss of faith in democracy. As the report asserts, even those countries that often boast of their democratic history are crumbling:
“The crisis of democracy is expressed in the failing traditional political party system; the growing gap between elites and electorates; and the rise of populist parties. The contemporary problems of democracy are clearly not just ‘over there’—in Russia, China, the Middle East or Africa. Democracy is in trouble in the West, in the mature democracies of western Europe and the US, which are no longer obvious beacons for those striving for democracy in the nondemocratic world.”
This collection of solo flute pieces from Navajo-Ute musician R. Carlos Nakai is an evocative delight. The album consists of mostly original material, from the composition “Canyon Reverie,” to the improvisational “In Media Res,” to “Athabascan Song,” an arrangement of a traditional song. The latter in particular stands out, with a faster rhythm and more lilting melody than most of the other pieces. There’s also “Ancient Dreams,” performed on a bone whistle; the instrument almost exceeds the upper range of human hearing, and Nakai occasionally sounds like he’s imitating birdcalls. A classically trained musician, Nakai blends musical traditions to create a whole that reminds one, on occasion, of Japanese shakuhachi music.
This album best captures the timeless serenity of the solo Native American flute. R. Carlos Nakai’s music speaks to the spirit with a simplicity that transcends place and time. Includes original compositions, traditional Athabascan and Omaha melodies.
Dana Larsen has five million cannabis seeds to give away. Register now to get your 100 free seeds.
We have 50,000 packages of 100 seeds each to give away by mail and in person. We will start shipping seeds in mid-February and will end the campaign on April 20.
This year we’re giving away only one variety of seeds, a strain we’ve named “Freedom Dream”. This variety is grown industrially for seed production. The seeds are not feminized, and will be roughly half males and half females. Freedom Dream plants will grow to about five feet tall. Females will produce flowers with a very low THC level, and around 8-12% CBD if grown and harvested under optimal conditions.
Learn how to germinate your seed here.Do not just scatter seeds over the soil, as they will not survive. Seeds must be planted about one inch under loose soil to sprout naturally. For best results, sprout them at home and let them grow at least a few inches tall before transplanting outdoors. The bigger they are before transplanting outdoors, the better.
We encourage you to sprout and grow these seeds indoors at home during March and April, to get them as big and strong as possible before planting them outdoors. The best is to put them in a public place, and send us a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We recommend planting them at City Hall, in front of the local police station, in storefront planters, and other highly visible public places. Make sure to send us a photo as soon as you plant the cannabis!
We will send 100 seeds to anyone who asks for them. It costs us about $2.50 to pack and ship each envelope. We encourage you to donate a couple of dollars to help cover these costs, but donations are not mandatory.
Although the Freedom Dream strain does produce enough CBD for medicinal use, there are other strains out there which will produce a higher level of CBD and are more suitable for patients.
The Overgrow Canada seed giveaway is for Canadians only. We will not sends seeds outside of Canada.
Thank you for being part of the Overgrow Canada campaign!
IBM’s Caleb Barlow is focused on how we solve the cyber security problem by changing the economics for the bad guys. Full bio
Cybercrime netted a whopping $450 billion in profits last year, with 2 billion records lost or stolen worldwide. Security expert Caleb Barlow calls out the insufficiency of our current strategies to protect our data. His solution? We need to respond to cybercrime with the same collective effort as we apply to a health care crisis, sharing timely information on who is infected and how the disease is spreading. If we’re not sharing, he says, then we’re part of the problem.
(INTELLIHUB) — CNN is nothing more than a fake news conglomerate, to say the least, and deserves to have its White House press pass revoked.
In fact, one of CNN’s most notable pieces of all time was shot in a remote studio which boasted a large blue screen in the background along with artificial stage props complete with fake trees and was located far away from where the organization claimed it actually was.
The segment in question featured the so-called then ‘famous Gulf War reporter’ Charles Jaco and was supposed to have been filmed live on location in front of a Saudi Arabian hotel back in 1990.
However, footage leaked by a CNN employee painted a quite different picture of the alleged ‘media hero’ and depicted Jaco and CNN itself in a different light.
During the first part of the leaked video footage, Jaco could be seen aimlessly playing around on a fake set as props are being rearranged by grips.
“The second part of this video is a live CNN satellite feed recorded onto VHS showing the final cut. Charles Jaco is wearing a different jacket, but he had the same act. Even though the acting is terrible as Charles Jaco wore a gas mask, and his fellow correspondent Carl Rochelle wore a helmet—the American public were manipulated and duped en masse. The sirens and missile sound effects are part of the stage set. The camera never pans out or shows the sky as they appear terrified of chemical weapons being dropped from above,” Zero Hedge reports.
Knowing that this is CNN’s actual modus operandi should make even the strongest stomached person sick and it’s not the first time CNN has been caught doing this. To top it all off, Charles Jaco garnered much fame for this fictitious act, which most of the general public bought hook, line, and sinker at the time.
But Former C.I.A. intern and CNN anchor (if that’s what you wish to call him) Anderson Cooper is probably the best known for dishing out fake news in modern times. From a blue screen failure during a Sandy Hook shooting interview with an alleged parent of a deceased child to staged fake news allegedly originating out of Syria, Cooper is well-known for running a total shitshow.
Zero Hedge reports on another CNN clip of “fake news” in which “the reporter requests a mattress to sit on while waiting to talk to the CNN anchor. One can notice this clip is more realistic, almost surreal, as the reporter arranges gunfire as background noise for his live interview with Anderson Cooper.”
Furthermore, it’s also well-known that another one of Cooper’s broadcasts allegedly shot on scene in front of a Newtown Connecticut church during the height of CNN’s Sandy Hook shooting coverage was botched from a blue screen failure as Cooper’s nose can be seen disappearing in the segment.
So CNN, when you go around acting like your shitshow doesn’t stink, asking absurd questions like: “what is Infowars?” Let it be known that you may want to ask: what actually is CNN? Because Infowars is far, far, more credible than your so-called news agency will ever be. And just to be clear here — CNN — you are now lying almost daily, most recently I can recall a piece by Carol Costello which aired this week and falsely claimed that President Donald Trump’s approval rating was 19 points lower than it actually was at the time. Just to reiterate — CNN within itself is the epitome of fake news period. End of story. No ifs, ands, or buts.
H/T: Alex Jones and the Infowars crew for keepin’ it real.
“Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others,” philosopher Alan Watts wrote in the 1950s as he contemplated the interconnected nature of the universe. What we may now see as an elemental truth of existence was then a notion both foreign and frightening to the Western mind. But it was a scientist, not a philosopher, who levered this monumental shift in consciousness: Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964), a Copernicus of biology who ejected the human animal from its hubristic place at the center of Earth’s ecological cosmos and recast it as one of myriad organisms, all worthy of wonder, all imbued with life and reality. Her lyrical writing rendered her not a mere translator of the natural world, but an alchemist transmuting the steel of science into the gold of wonder. The message of her iconic Silent Spring (public library) rippled across public policy and the population imagination — it led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, inspired generations of activists, and led Joni Mitchell to write a lyric as timeless as “I don’t care about spots on my apples / Leave me the birds and the bees / Please!”
A woman scientist without a Ph.D. or an academic affiliation became the most powerful voice of resistance against ruinous public policy mitigated by the self-interest of government and industry, against the hauteur and short-sightedness threatening to destroy this precious pale blue dot which we, along with countless other animals, call home.
Carson had grown up in a picturesque but impoverished village in Pennsylvania. It was there, amid a tumultuous family environment, that she fell in love with nature and grew particularly enchanted with birds. A voracious reader and gifted writer from a young age, she became a published author at the age of ten, when a story of hers appeared in a children’s literary magazine. She entered the Pennsylvania College for Women with the intention of becoming a writer, but a zestful zoology professor — herself a rare specimen as a female scientist in that era — rendered young Carson besotted with biology. A scholarship allowed her to pursue a Master’s degree in zoology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University, but when her already impecunious family fell on hard times during the Great Depression, she was forced to leave the university in search of a full-time paying job before completing her doctorate.
After working as a lab assistant for a while, she began writing for the Baltimore Sun and was eventually hired as a junior aquatic biologist for what would later become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her uncommon gift for writing was soon recognized and Carson was tasked with editing other scientists’ field reports, then promoted to editor in chief for the entire agency. Out of this necessity to reconcile science and writing was born her self-invention as a scientist who refused to give up on writing and a writer who refused to give up on science — the same refusal that marks today’s greatest poets of science.
When her older sister died in 1937, thirty-year-old Carson was left the sole provider for their mother and her two orphaned nieces. That year, she was asked to write a brochure for the Fisheries Bureau. When she turned in something infinitely more poetic than her supervisor had envisioned, he asked her to rewrite the brochure but encouraged her to submit the piece as an essay for The Atlantic Monthly. She did. It was accepted and published as Undersea — a first of its kind, immensely lyrical journey into the science of the ocean floor inviting an understanding of Earth from a nonhuman perspective. Readers and publishers were instantly smitten, and Carson expanded her Atlantic article into her first book, The Sea Around Her — the culmination of a decade of her oceanographic research, which rendered her an overnight literary success.
Against towering cultural odds, these books about the sea established her — once a destitute girl from landlocked Pennsylvania — as the most celebrated science writer of her time.
But the more Carson studied and wrote about nature, the more cautious she became of humanity’s rampant quest to dominate it. Witnessing the devastation of the atomic bomb awakened her to the unintended consequences of science unmoored from morality, of a hysterical enthusiasm for technology that deafened humanity to the inner voice of ethics. In her 1952 acceptance speech for the John Burroughs Medal, she concretized her credo:
It seems reasonable to believe — and I do believe — that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.
One of the consequences of wartime science and technology was the widespread use of DDT, initially intended for protecting soldiers from malaria-bearing mosquitoes. After the end of the war, the toxic chemical was lauded as a miracle substance. People were sprayed down with DDT to ward off disease and airplanes doused agricultural plots in order to decimate pest and maximize crop yield. It was neither uncommon nor disquieting to see a class of schoolchildren eating their lunch while an airplane aiming at a nearby field sprinkled them with DDT. A sort of blind faith enveloped the use of these pesticides, with an indifferent government and an incurious public raising no questions about their unintended consequences.
In January of 1958, Carson received a letter from an old writer friend named Olga Owens Huckins, alerting her that the aerial spraying of DDT had devastated a local wildlife sanctuary. Huckins described the ghastly deaths of birds, claws clutched to their breasts and bills agape in agony. This local tragedy was the final straw in Carson’s decade-long collection of what she called her “poison-spray material” — a dossier of evidence for the harmful, often deadly effects of toxic chemicals on wildlife and human life. That May, she signed a contract with Houghton Mifflin for what would become Silent Spring in 1962 — the firestarter of a book that ignited the conservation movement and awakened the modern environmental consciousness.
But the book also spurred violent pushback from those most culpable in the destruction of nature — a heedless government that had turned a willfully blind eye to its regulatory responsibilities and an avaricious agricultural and chemical industry determined to maximize profits at all costs. Those inconvenienced by the truths Carson exposed immediately attacked her for her indictment against elected officials’ and corporations’ deliberate deafness to fact. They used every means at their disposal — a propaganda campaign designed to discredit her, litigious bullying of her publisher, and the most frequent accusation of all: that of being a woman. Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, who would later become Prophet of the Mormon Church, asked: “Why a spinster with no children was so concerned about genetics?” He didn’t hesitate to offer his own theory: because she was a Communist. (The lazy hand-grenade of “spinster” was often hurled at Carson in an attempt to erode her credibility, as if there were any correlation between a scientist’s home life and her expertise — never mind that, as it happened, Carson did have one of the most richly rewarding relationships a human being could hope for, albeit not the kind that conformed to the era’s narrow accepted modalities.)
Carson withstood the criticism with composure and confidence, shielded by the integrity of her facts. But another battle raged invisible to the public eye — she was dying.
She had been diagnosed with cancer in 1960, which had metastasized due to her doctor’s negligence. In 1963, when Silent Spring stirred President Kennedy’s attention and he summoned a Congressional hearing to investigate and regulate the use of pesticides, Carson didn’t hesitate to testify even as her body was giving out from the debilitating pain of the disease and the wearying radiation treatments. With her testimony as a pillar, JFK and his Science Advisory Committee invalidated her critics’ arguments, heeded Carson’s cautionary call to reason, and created the first federal policies designed to protect the planet.
Carson endured the attacks — those of her cancer and those of her critics — with unwavering heroism. She saw the former with a biologist’s calm acceptance of the cycle of life and had anticipated the latter all along. She was a spirited idealist, but she wasn’t a naïve one — from the outset, she was acutely aware that her book was a clarion call for nothing less than a revolution and that it was her moral duty to be the revolutionary she felt called to be. Just a month after signing the book contract, she articulates this awareness in a letter found in Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952–1964 (public library) — the record of her beautiful and unclassifiable relationship with her dearest friend and beloved.
Carson writes to Freeman:
I know you dread the unpleasantness that will inevitably be associated with [the book’s] publication. That I can understand, darling. But it is something I have taken into account; it will not surprise me! You do know, I think, how deeply I believe in the importance of what I am doing. Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent… It is, in the deepest sense, a privilege as well as a duty to have the opportunity to speak out — to many thousands of people — on something so important.
In that sense, the eventual title of Silent Spring was a dual commentary on how human hubris is robbing Earth of its symphonic aliveness and on the moral inadmissibility of remaining silent about the destructive forces driving this loss. Carson upheld that sense of duty while confronting her own creaturely finitude as she underwent rounds of grueling cancer treatment. In a letter to Freeman from the autumn of 1959, she reports:
Mostly, I feel fairly good but I do realize that after several days of concentrated work on the book I’m suddenly no good at all for several more. Some people assume only physical work is tiring — I guess because they use their minds little! Friday night … my exhaustion invaded every cell of my body, I think, and really kept me from sleeping well all night.
And yet mind rose over matter as Carson mobilized every neuron to keep up with her creative vitality. In another letter from the same month, she writes to Freeman about her “happiness in the progress of The Book”:
The other day someone asked Leonard Bernstein about his inexhaustible energy and he said “I have no more energy than anyone who loves what he is doing.” Well, I’m afraid mine has to be recharged at times, but anyway I do seem just now to be riding the crest of a wave of enthusiasm and creativity, and although I’m going to bed late and often rising in very dim light to get in an hour of thinking and organizing before my household stirs, my weariness seems easily banished.
Stirring her household was Roger — the nine-year-old orphan son of Carson’s niece, whom she had adopted and was single-parenting, doing all the necessary cooking, cleaning, and housework while writing Silent Spring and undergoing endless medical treatments. All of this she did with unwavering devotion to the writing and the larger sense of moral obligation that animated her. In early March of 1961, in the midst of another incapacitating radiation round, she writes to Freeman:
About the book, I sometimes have a feeling (maybe 100% wishful thinking) that perhaps this long period away from active work will give me the perspective that was so hard to attain, the ability to see the woods in the midst of the confusing multitude of trees.
With an eye to Albert Schweitzer’s famous 1954 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which appeared under the title “The Problem of Peace” and made the unnerving assertion that “we should all of us realize that we are guilty of inhumanity” in reflecting on the circumstances that led to the two world wars, she adds:
Sometimes … I want [the book] to be a much shortened and simplified statement, doing for this subject (if this isn’t too presumptuous a comparison) what Schweitzer did in his Nobel Prize address for the allied subject of radiation.
In June of that year, Carson shares with Freeman a possible opening sentence, which didn’t end up being the final one but which nonetheless synthesizes the essence of her groundbreaking book:
This is a book about man’s war against nature, and because man is part of nature it is also inevitably a book about man’s war against himself.
At that point, Carson was considering The War Against Nature and At War with Nature as possible titles, but settled on Silent Spring in September — a title inspired by Keats, Carson’s favorite poet: “The sedge is withered from the lake, / And no birds sing.”
Four months later, in January of 1962, she reports to Freeman the completion of her Herculean feat:
I achieved the goal of sending the 15 chapters to Marie [Rodell, Carson’s literary agent] — like reaching the last station before the summit of Everest.
Rodell had sent a copy of the manuscript to longtime New Yorker editor William Shawn, who gave Carson the greatest and most gratifying surprise of her life. Struggling to override her typical self-effacing humility, she relays the episode to Freeman:
Last night about 9 o’clock the phone rang and a mild voice said, “This is William Shawn.” If I talk to you tonight you will know what he said and I’m sure you can understand what it meant to me. Shamelessly, I’ll repeat some of his words — “a brilliant achievement” — “you have made it literature” “full of beauty and loveliness and depth of feeling.” … I suddenly feel full of what Lois once called “a happy turbulence.”
After Roger was asleep I took Jeffie [Carson’s cat] into the study and played the Beethoven violin concerto — one of my favorites, you know. And suddenly the tensions of four years were broken and I got down and put my arms around Jeffie and let the tears come. With his little warm, rough tongue he told me that he understood. I think I let you see last summer what my deeper feelings are about this when I said I could never again listen happily to a thrush song if I had not done all I could. And last night the thoughts of all the birds and other creatures and the loveliness that is in nature came to me with such a surge of deep happiness, that now I had done what I could — I had been able to complete it — now it had its own life!
Silent Spring was published on September 27, 1962 and adrenalized a new public awareness of the fragile interconnectedness of this living world. Several months later, CBS host Eric Sevareid captured its impact most succinctly in lauding Carson as “a voice of warning and a fire under the government.” In the book, she struck a mighty match:
When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence … it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth.
How tragic to observe that in the half-century since, our so-called leaders have devolved from half-truths to “alternative facts” — that is, to whole untruths that fail the ultimate criterion for truth: a correspondence with reality.
Carson, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, never lived to see the sea change of policy and public awareness that her book precipitated. Today, as a new crop of political and corporate interests threatens her hard-won legacy of environmental consciousness, I think of that piercing Adrienne Rich line channeling the great 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, another scientist who fundamentally revolutionized our understanding of the universe and our place in it: “Let me not seem to have lived in vain.”
Let’s not let Rachel Carson seem to have lived in vain.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone