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THE UNFULFILLED PROMISE
Posted by Time for change in General Discussion
Sat Jul 23rd 2011, 11:58 PM
Thus it is that the manufacturer of a poison that kills 443,000 Americans every year enjoys legal status, while a drug that could be of great benefit to many thousands or millions of Americans remains illegal, and those who use, possess, sell, or pre
The contrast between the legal status of tobacco cigarettes – a known poison with no medicinal value – and the criminalization of marijuana even when used for medicinal purposes in the United States is very instructive as to the corrupting influence of money in U.S. politics.


TOBACCO CIGARETTES

Health effects of tobacco cigarettes


The health destroying effects of tobacco cigarettes are well known and have been extensively studied, with thousands of peer reviewed journals articles testifying as to their harmful effects. According to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 443,000 people die prematurely every year in the U.S. due either to the direct effects of smoking or to exposure to the second-hand smoke of others. The main specific causes of tobacco deaths include lung cancer, ischemic heart disease, and chronic obstructive lung disease, as depicted in this chart:



Legal status and a brief history of arguments over the health effects of tobacco

When due to accumulating evidence of lung cancer deaths attributable to cigarette smoking, the tobacco industry began to be sued by surviving spouses of cigarette smokers, the tobacco industry’s first line of defense was their claim that there was no proof that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer – or any other disease. An article published in Tobacco Control vividly documented this history:

Analysis of public statements issued by the tobacco industry sources over the past five decades shows that the companies maintained the stance that smoking had not been proven to be injurious to health through 1999. The public statements of the tobacco industry are in sharp contrast to the private views expressed by many of their own scientists. The tobacco documents reveal that many scientists within the tobacco industry acknowledged as early as the 1950s that cigarette smoking was unsafe. The sincerity of the industry’s promise to support research to find out if smoking was harmful to health and to disclose information about the health effects of smoking can also be questioned based upon the industry’s own documents which reveal… that research findings implicating smoking as a health problem were often not published or disclosed outside the industry.

But by the late 1990s it gradually became no longer possible for the tobacco industry to maintain that stance – perhaps largely due to the efforts of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner David Kessler to bring cigarettes under FDA purview.

So the tobacco industry switched to a different argument – an argument that was virtually the opposite of their previous claim of no proof that cigarettes are harmful. They began claiming that everyone always knew that cigarettes were harmful. Thus, they had their expert historians:

re-narrate the past, creating an account for judges and juries that makes it appear that “everyone has always known” that cigarettes are harmful, meaning that smokers have only themselves to blame for their illnesses.

In other words, they now claim that during all those decades that they were aggressively arguing that there is no proof that cigarettes cause illness, nevertheless “everyone knew” that they do.

In comparing the way that our government treats the tobacco industry with the way that it treats marijuana users, possessors, sellers, or prescribing physicians, it is instructive to note that the sale and use of tobacco cigarettes in this country are not only legal, but that there has never been much talk of criminalizing them. Furthermore, the tobacco industry’s arguments in defending themselves against lawsuits have never suggested that there was any evidence that their cigarettes are safe, but only that it was not definitively proven that they are unsafe. In summary, tobacco is a poison with no medicinal benefits that is legally sold for internal consumption in the United States. I say this not to argue that cigarettes should be criminalized, but only as a basis for comparison with how marijuana is treated in our country.


MARIJUANA

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug, which means that it is considered dangerous and of no use for any medical purpose. As a result of this and our federal government’s declared “War on Drugs”, marijuana users are often vigorously prosecuted in our country, even when they use marijuana solely for medicinal purposes, and even when its use for medicinal purposes is legal according to state law.

Of 700,000 marijuana arrests in 1997 (when the “War on Drugs was less vigorously prosecuted than it is today), 87% were for mere possession, and 41% of those incarcerated for a marijuana offense were incarcerated for possession only. Arrests for marijuana possession in 2004 were more numerous than arrests for all violent crimes combined. Our extremely high incarceration rate is at least partially explained by the fact that most non-violent first time offenders guilty of drug possession today in the United States get a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years with no parole, or 10 years with no parole if a large quantity of drugs is involved.

Here is one example of how government intrudes on the lives of innocent people:

US Army veteran Steven Tuck was lying in a Canadian hospital bed. He fled to Canada after his plants were raided in California by DEA agents. He smoked marijuana to alleviate chronic pain from a 1987 parachuting accident.

Canadian authorities arrested him on his gurney, drove him to the border, and delivered him to US agents, and he then spent five days in jail – all with a catheter still attached to his penis. He was offered no medical treatment during his stay in the hospital, and his lawyer, Doug Hiatt, said, “This is totally inhumane. He’s been tortured for days for no reason.”


Adverse health effects of marijuana

In assessing the adverse health effects of marijuana as an argument for criminalizing its use, one must keep in mind that virtually all drugs used for medicinal purposes have at least some adverse health effects. With that in mind, consider the following:

Lack of evidence for risk of death
In comparing our government’s treatment of marijuana with that of cigarettes, it is instructive to start with deaths, because of the vivid contrast. Compared with the 443,000 annual deaths attributable to tobacco smoke, federal government sources, including the National Institutes of Health, estimate that the number of annual deaths due to marijuana use is zero. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine:

In healthy young users, {marijuana’s} cardiovascular effects are unlikely to be of clinical significance. Documented evidence of death resulting from recreational use, even in large doses, is lacking.

Other adverse health effects
The best documented adverse health effect of marijuana use is the danger it poses for automobile accidents when used while driving. In view of its known propensity for temporary impairment of mental ability, that should not be surprising. A study of fatal automobile accidents in France showed the presence of marijuana in 8.8% of drivers who were found to be at fault, compared to only 2.8% of those found not to be at fault. It should be noted that alcohol is responsible for far more automobile accidents than marijuana.

Long term marijuana use also poses a risk for mental illness. One study of 2,437 teenagers and young adults that controlled for multiple potential confounding variables concluded that moderate use of marijuana increases the risk of psychotic symptoms in young people but has a stronger effect in those with evidence of predisposition for psychosis. Another study showed that young women who used marijuana daily were five times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than nonusers. A study by Swedish researchers provided evidence that marijuana use can significantly increase the risk of schizophrenia, finding that 0.71 percent Swedish military conscripts who smoked marijuana developed schizophrenia.

Marijuana carries with it some potential for addiction, though significantly less than many other drugs that are legal. Epidemiological data from a national study demonstrated that about 10% of regular marijuana users become addicted to it, compared to 15% of alcohol users, 32% of nicotine users, and 23% of opioid users. Though the addiction potential of marijuana when used for medical purposes has not been extensively studied, it seems highly likely that in a medical setting the potential for addiction would be far less than when used for recreational purposes, as is known to be the case with narcotics when used for pain control.

While it is well known that marijuana results in short-term mental impairment, it is widely believed that those effects are not permanent. A study of 1,318 subjects followed over a twelve year period demonstrated no permanent mental impairment from marijuana use. The authors concluded that “Over long time periods… {cognitive decline} does not appear to be associated with cannabis use”. Similarly, a 1999 study of 1,300 subjects reported “no significant differences in cognitive decline between heavy users, light users, and nonusers of cannabis” over a 15-year period. A meta-analysis of neuropsychological studies of long-term marijuana smokers conducted by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse came to a similar conclusion.

It is known that marijuana smokers inhale many of the same chemical components as do tobacco cigarette smokers. However, that doesn’t seem to translate into a high cancer risk. A study of the long-term effects of marijuana smoking on cancer risk concluded that “the association of these cancers with marijuana, even long-term or heavy use, is not strong and may be below practically detectable limits”.


Medical benefits

Peter J. Cohen, in an article titled “Medical Marijuana: The Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and Political Ideology”, begins his article by noting a long history of the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes:

Accounts dating back as far as 2700 B.C. describe the Chinese using marijuana for maladies ranging from rheumatism to constipation. There are similar reports of Indians, Africans, ancient Greeks and medieval Europeans using the substance to treat fevers, dysentery and malaria. In the United States, physicians documented the therapeutic properties of the drug as early as 1840, and the drug was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia, the official list of recognized medical drugs, from 1850 through 1942. During this period, lack of appetite was one of the indications for marijuana prescription.

Pain relief
Numerous studies have documented that marijuana is effective in relieving pain. A study published in 2007 found that marijuana reduced daily pain by an average of 34%. Pain relief was rapid and no serious adverse events occurred during the study. The authors concluded that “smoked cannabis was well tolerated and effectively relieved chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy.” A similar study concluded:

This study adds to a growing body of evidence that cannabis may be effective at ameliorating neuropathic pain, and may be an alternative for patients who do not respond to, or cannot tolerate, other drugs.

A study that assessed the value of marijuana in alleviating pain associated with HIV concluded that “smoked cannabis was generally well tolerated and effective in treating patients with medically refractory pain due to HIV”.

Combating the effects of chemotherapy
Chemotherapy used to treat such diseases as cancer and hepatitis C often results in debilitating symptoms, including extreme fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite and depression, which are often severe enough to cause the patient to stop treatment. A study that assessed the usefulness of marijuana in combating the symptoms produced by chemotherapy used to treat viral hepatitis C concluded that marijuana significantly ameliorated those symptoms and allowed more patients to complete chemotherapy.

The evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould, who smoked marijuana to alleviate the nausea and other symptoms caused by the chemotherapy he underwent for cancer, stated:

Absolutely nothing in the available arsenal of anti-emetics worked at all. I was miserable and came to dread the frequent treatments with an almost perverse intensity. . . Marijuana worked like a charm. The sheer bliss of not experiencing nausea – and not having to fear it for all the days intervening between treatments – was the greatest boost I received in all my year of treatment, and surely the most important effect upon my eventual cure.

Statements on the medicinal effects of marijuana by reputable scientific organizations
In 1997 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a conference “to review the scientific data concerning the potential therapeutic uses for marijuana and the
need for and feasibility of additional research”. At this conference, a group of experts in anesthesiology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, pharmacology and psychiatry concluded that:

For at least some potential indications, marijuana looks promising enough to recommend that there be new controlled studies done. The indications in which varying levels of interest were expressed are the following: Appetite stimulation and cachexia; nausea and vomiting following anticancer therapy; neurological and movement disorders; analgesia, and; Glaucoma.

Similarly, in 1998, a meeting sponsored by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science concluded that marijuana could be a valuable agent in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, HIV-related gastrointestinal disorders, AIDS wasting, severe pain, and some forms of spasticity. And the American College of Physicians (ACP) issued a position paper in which they cited scientific data and stated that “preclinical, clinical, and anecdotal reports suggest numerous potential medical uses for marijuana”.


Federal government obstructionism

Despite the vast amount of evidence for the beneficial medical effects of marijuana and the fact that as of May 2011 medical marijuana had been legalized in 16 states (with similar legislation pending in 10 additional states), our federal government, in accordance with its “War on Drugs”, continues to pose substantial barriers to the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana continues to be classified as a Schedule I drug, which means that it has no medicinal purpose and is illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court Decision of Gonzales v. Raich in 2005 confirmed the right of the federal government to over-rule state law with regard to the criminalization of marijuana, even when used for medicinal purposes. In that case, Angel Raich sued the federal DEA for destroying marijuana plants which she relied upon for the relief of excruciating pain. California had legalized medical marijuana in 1996, but the DEA claimed the ability to overrule that decision, and the Supreme Court agreed with them.

Because of the federal illegal status of marijuana for any purpose, research into its medicinal effects has long been retarded. NIH has accordingly refused to make it available to researches, despite the fact that many individual NIH scientists have testified to its great promise for medicinal purposes, as noted above. Such decisions are backed up by federal government statements that willfully ignore evidence of the medical effectiveness of marijuana, such as this statement by the Department of Health and Human Services:

A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use.

Similarly, DEA spokesman Steve Robertson stated that “the government maintains that no sound scientific studies exist to support marijuana’s medical value”.

Peter Cohen summed up the role of federal government obstruction of progress into the use of medical marijuana, near the end of his article noted earlier in this post:

Thus, in the face of several well-controlled studies demonstrating marijuana’s safety and efficacy in relieving both pathologic and experimentally induced pain as well as the often-incapacitating symptoms of nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and depression, the recommendations of several scientific groups (some with the support of the federal government) that research should be unrestrained by political considerations, and the finding by an administrative law judge as well as well regarded scientific committees that its designation as a Schedule I controlled substance was unjustified, marijuana remains a Schedule I medication and there have been no realistic attempts to bring about a change in this situation. Legislators rather than “experts qualified by scientific training and experience” have acted to deny marijuana admission to legitimate medical practice.


CONCLUSION

Thus it is that the manufacturer of a poison that kills 443,000 Americans every year enjoys legal status (though with some restrictions), while a drug that could be of great benefit to many thousands or millions of Americans remains illegal, and those who use, possess, sell, or prescribe it risk prosecution as criminals.

It’s not difficult to understand why such an absurd situation exists. It’s very simple. The tobacco industry is composed of powerful corporations that have habitually, by means of their great wealth, exerted great “influence” over our federal government. Marijuana, on the other hand, being a readily available plant, poses little potential for corporate profit. To the contrary, several corporate sectors of our economy stand to suffer a decrease in their profits if marijuana is decriminalized, or even if only medical marijuana becomes legal. Those corporate sectors include the alcohol industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the prison industry, and the manufacturers of various fabrics that would suffer if hemp became readily available. Largely because of the influence of our private prison industry, the United States now has the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world.

The importance of this issue goes way beyond the deaths caused by tobacco products and the unavailability of marijuana for medical use. Similar issues apply to any legal case that pits adversaries against each other who are highly unequal in the wealth and power that they wield.

When we are young we are told that all Americans have the right to equal justice under the law. I believed that – when I was young.

Our Fourteenth Amendment to our Constitution explicitly – though in theory only – guarantees equal justice under the law:

nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

But when one party in a legal case has so much wealth and power that it is able to intimidate witnesses from testifying for the other side, and pay huge sums of money to encourage its own witnesses to prostitute themselves, justice cannot be served. That is not “equal protection of the laws”.

Worse yet, because numerous efforts at campaign finance reform have been overruled by our highest courts, bribery of our elected officials is essentially legal in this country, as long as the bribe is called a “campaign contribution” and as long as there isn’t an express written statement or audio recording as to the terms of the bribe. The terms are merely understood by the involved parties. If a candidate for high office receives money from a powerful corporation, it is well understood what is expected of that candidate.

Until this kind of bribery of our elected officials is criminalized in our country we will continue to see absurd situations in which it is perfectly legal to sell poisons, while medicines that pose a challenge to our corporate power structure are criminalized. It’s difficult for me to see how a country where such a situation exists can be called a democracy.
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The Unfulfilled Promise
The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream: The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals




Time for change


Notwithstanding the lofty sentiments and purpose of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the reality of the United States of America did not then – and never has – lived up to its ideal. Our nation remains today a long way from fulfilling the promise implied by those ideals. Yet, our Declaration was a great start, and it has long shone as a beacon of hope for people all over the world.

Throughout our history, while many have striven to close the gap between our highest ideals and the reality of our nation, others have focused on the accumulation of private wealth and power, at the expense of everyone else. In recent decades the latter have gained much ground, leading to increasing imperialism abroad and deteriorating democracy at home, characterized by routine (and legal) bribery of our public officials, the fusion of government and private corporate interests (corporatocracy), a corrupt election system largely in the hands of private corporations, a corporate controlled communications media, and the widespread acceptance of Executive Branch secrecy, routinely justified with little if any questioning, by the magic words “national security”. All of this is rapidly turning our country from the democracy proclaimed at our founding into a plutocracy (government by the wealthy and for the wealthy). The result is the most obscene wealth gap our country has ever known, the highest imprisonment rate in the world, rampant militarism, routine flaunting of international law, the least efficient health care system in the developed world, a pending environmental catastrophe that threatens to destroy the life sustaining forces of our planet, and myriad other problems that threaten to destroy our nation and tyrannize our people.

My new book, The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream – The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals, explores the roots and consequences of the demise of our democracy, and why most Americans have been unable to understand this process or even become aware of it. A good understanding of why and how we have deviated so greatly from the ideals of our nation is the first and necessary step towards getting back on the right track and revitalizing our society.

The book is currently being sold in electronic PDF format and can be purchased at http://www.unfulfilledpromise.com/Buy-the-... for $3.99. It will also soon be available in Amazon Kindle format. DU members who cannot afford to buy the book but would like to read it can pm me with your e-mail address, and I will send you a free PDF copy.

I’ve previously posted on DU a slightly earlier version of the introduction to the book, which is also posted at my site. Here is the Table of Contents, followed by a brief description of the three parts of the book:


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
Acknowledgements
Prologue – What is Wrong with the United States of America?

Part I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy
Chapter 1 – Legalized Bribery
Chapter 2 – Human Psychological Factors
Chapter 3 – Corporatocracy
Chapter 4 – Corporate Control of Media
Chapter 5 – Corrupt Election System
Chapter 6 – Government Secrecy
Chapter 7 – American Exceptionalism

Part II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions
Chapter 8 – Slavery and its Legacy
Chapter 9 – Early U.S. Imperialism
Chapter 10 – U.S. Imperialism in Cold War
Chapter 11 – Iraq War and Occupation
Chapter 12 – Afghanistan War

Part III – Consequences
Chapter 13 – Election of George W. Bush
Chapter 14 – War and Imperialism
Chapter 15 – Class Warfare
Chapter 16 – Predator Financial Class
Chapter 17 – Shock Therapy
Chapter 18 – Contempt for Int. Law
Chapter 19 – The “War on Drugs”
Chapter 20 – Climate Change
Chapter 21 – “War on Terror”
Chapter 22 – Health Care
Chapter 23 – Unaccountable government
Chapter 24 – Response to 9/11 Attacks
Epilogue


PART I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy

It is somewhat difficult to separate the causes of our problems from their consequences, since they combine to form a long chain of cause leading to consequence, leading to more consequences, etcetera. Nevertheless, it seems worth while to identify the root causes of our problems, those that occur early in the chain and lead to so many of the tragic consequences we see today. The only chance we have of reversing the demise of our democracy is through addressing and attacking its root causes.

At the top of the list is the systematic bribery of public officials by the powerful corporations (Chapter 1) whom our government is charged with regulating in the public interest. Instead of calling it bribery, we call it “campaign contributions”, but what we call it isn’t as important as what it is. It is hard to fathom how democracy can survive when such a practice is legal and condoned.

Working in tandem with our system of legalized bribery is the nature of the people who inhabit our country. That is not to say that Americans are inherently substantially different than any other people. Human beings are imperfect, and that is probably a major reason why in a world where civilization began more than five millennia ago, the oldest written national framework of government in the world today – the Constitution of the United States of America – is only a little more than two and a quarter centuries old. Chapter 2 explores the roles of basic human needs, authoritarianism, psychological defense mechanisms used to prevent us from perceiving reality as it is rather than as we’d like it to be, and corrupted ideologies in causing us to passively accept the accumulation of power in the hands of ambitious and ruthless individuals who care about little else than expanding their own wealth and power.

When bribery of public officials is tolerated as an inevitable aspect of public life, government inevitably grows close to the wealthy interests that shower it with money in return for legislative and other favors. A malevolent symbiosis grows between the state and corporate power, resulting in rule by an oligarchy that is highly detrimental to the lives of ordinary people (Chapter 3). Using their accumulated wealth and power to manipulate our legislative process, the oligarchy grabs for more and more control of the communications media (Chapter 4) that are used to control the information available to and shape the attitudes of our nation’s people, in pursuit of their own narrow interests.

Since the 1980s an orchestrated campaign has been underway to demonize “big government”, thereby paving the way for private corporate control over more and more functions that were previously deemed intrinsic functions of government. Among those functions is the running of public elections (Chapter 5) – the function that symbolizes democracy perhaps more than any other single function. Consequently, the purging of selected registered voters from our computerized voter rolls has become a routine recurring event throughout much of our country, and without a doubt determined the results of the 2000 – and probably 2004 as well – presidential election. Just as bad, more and more of the counting of votes in our public elections have been turned over to private corporations, which count our votes using electronic machines using secret software to produce vote counts that cannot be verified by anyone.

Bribery, the fusion of government and private interest, fake and biased news, and corrupt elections are not things that government and its corporate allies want us to know about. Consequently, they construct walls of secrecy (Chapter 6) to keep us from obtaining information that sheds light on their activities. The perfect phrase for facilitating this is “national security”. When our government tells us that the “national security” requires that certain things be kept secret from us, the understanding is that to question such a pronouncement is unpatriotic, and to actually attempt to obtain the “secret” information may be treasonous.

But indefinitely maintaining secrets from the American people can be very difficult, because at least some people want to know what their government is up to. So in addition to the formal mechanisms of secrecy, informal mechanisms are constructed (Chapter 7) to keep vital information away from us. One of the primary methods for doing this is to make certain sensitive subjects taboo – that is, to create the widespread belief that discussion of these topics is so outside the bounds of acceptable human discourse that anyone who discusses them should be shunned by society, or worse. The most common issue that falls into this category is any discussion that sheds light on the disparity between American ideals and the reality of life in our country today.


PART II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions in U.S. History

Notwithstanding the fact that our founding document says that “all men are created equal” and speaks of the inalienable rights of humankind, the United States has throughout its history partaken of massive exploitation of other peoples.

It is estimated that at the time of our birth, 18% of our population was black slaves. In our expansion westwards during the late 18th and 19th centuries, we decimated the original inhabitants of our continent, and often treated them with great cruelty. In 1846 we manufactured an excuse for war with our neighbor Mexico, in which we continued to expand our country westwards and southwards. In 1893 we began our overseas imperialism with the conquest of Hawaii. Our overseas expansion was greatly accelerated in 1898 with our participation in the Spanish-American War, which led to our conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. With our arrival at world superpower status at the end of World War II, we began the Cold War, which led to and served as a rationalization for covert and/or direct military actions against myriad foreign nations over the next 46 years. With the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country, we declared a perpetual “War on Terror”, which served and continues to serve as an excuse to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, nations that posed no threat to us. We do not know when or if this perpetual war will ever end. We don’t know how many additional imperial conquests it will lead to.

Most Americans don’t think much about all this. Many of these actions are done in secrecy, and the American people don’t find out about them until many years later – or we never find out about them at all. Those that we do know about are spun into the most favorable light, to make them seem benign or even noble.

But these actions come at great costs: in the lives of our soldiers; in the ruined lives of the peoples of the victim countries; in trillions of dollars cost to our people and their future generations; in our international reputation; in anti-American hatred leading to terrorism; and, to our democracy itself. For how can a nation claim to believe in the inalienable rights of humankind specified in its founding document, while making a mockery of that belief in the way it treats other peoples? For that reason alone it is worth while to take a brief look at our long history of imperialist actions.


PART III – Consequences

In the Prologue I give a brief account of what I see as some of the worst and tragic consequences of the root causes that I discuss in Part I – to enable the reader to see where this book is heading. When elections of our public officials are for sale to the highest bidder… when our public officials are so addicted to the “campaign contributions” of their wealthiest constituents that they develop a symbiotic relationship with them… when our communications media are owned and controlled by an oligarchy of wealthy elites… when our citizenry lack the ability to differentiate propaganda from reality… when we allow machines provided by private corporations to count our votes using secret electronic software… then we should expect that the consequences will not be pretty or comfortable for the vast majority of our citizens.

In Part III, I explore those consequences in much greater detail, in the hope that the reader will agree with me that these are very serious problems, and that they must be successfully addressed if our country is ever to fulfill the promise of its ideals, or even make progress in that direction. When enough Americans recognize our problems as problems, stripped of the gloss and spin put on them by our oligarchy, they will rise up and do something about them. Until then there will be no progress, and we are very likely to head in the direction of all the former empires of our planet, ending in chaos, widespread catastrophe, suffering, and ignominy.

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