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New Site Launch, Art Contest

This article is to announce the launch of the promised website intended to list protests and rallies nationwide. I had mentioned building this site not long ago. I just needed time to work on the back end functioning, which will be an ongoing project.

With this, I am asking for submission of original digital artwork to use for the banner on the website. I have a temporary banner in place, though when you see it, you’ll understand why I am seeking submissions from other people. lol! Unfortunately I cannot offer money or prizes for the winner. However, I will post the winner’s name on the main page winner announcement and permanently on the credits page. If the winner has their own web page, I will also link to their page.

This project, if successful, will wind up being the largest project of my life so far. Right now just the beginning stages are still a work in progress. Largest, not most difficult. Crap, I hope not!

The address of the new site is www.RallyAndProtest.com

Hope you join me there!

Will Vaping More Keep Us Safer?

So we are now facing a ban on vaping products. Why? Six people have died as a result of vaping. 450 people have permanent lung damage because of vaping.

At least that’s the claim. Don’t get me wrong. I think more research needs to be done on vaping products and ingredients. The flavors and scents used in vaping liquids have not been evaluated for heating and inhalation. It’s unlikely the standard plain or menthol kind are a problem. Other artificial ingredients seem like more of an issue.

Comparison. Now, let’s take a look at something else. Firearms. Especially assault weapons.

Assault weapons have been used in virtually every mass shooting in the US for years. Six people dead is a low number for larger mass shootings. 450 people with permanent physical injuries? We see more than that from guns in a single month. Permanent emotional injuries? More than 450 in a week, possibly more than that from a single event.

So, while a product that has been on the market for over a decade with little or no negative effects documented other than fanatical anti-tobacco pages, suddenly we have a rash of reports “confirmed” of deaths and lung damage. At the same time, devices designed for the express purpose of murdering large numbers of living creatures in a short period of time go virtually unrestricted. The unconfirmed instances spark outrage while millions of Americans scream mindlessly about retaining the right to own implements of death.

How many “thoughts and prayers” have we heard directed toward victims of mass shootings? How well has that worked?

Limiting access to firearms has shown tremendous success in other countries. While in America, we hear how “More guns will keep us safer.” Just like taking more poison will save you from being poisoned, more cancer will cure your cancer, slamming your head against a brick wall will fix your brain damage.

In 2017, at least 39,773 people died from gunshot wounds, the highest number in 20 years. Some sources claim that number decreased in 2018. Great. Decreased from the highest level in two decades. This number represents 12 deaths per 100,000 people. Keep in mind, these are the numbers we know about. Some people may have gone missing or died at a later date due to complications such as infection or permanent organ damage caused by gunshot wounds. I will also point out that firearms can cause significant permanent lung damage. In Canada, the rate is 2.1 deaths per 100,000 due to firearms, in Germany it is 0.3 deaths, in Japan it is 0.2 deaths.

In spite of anecdotal claims, the highest percentage of deaths by firearms in the US remains in states with the highest rate of gun ownership and loosest gun laws. So, when do we reach the point where we are safer?

The research on firearms has been done. We have personally been lab rats in that research our entire lives. Comparisons to other countries or even specific regions of this country paint a very clear picture.

However, when we compare actions taken by our government regarding vaping versus firearms, there is a massive discrepancy. Most Americans are in strong favor of stricter gun laws including a complete ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. I don’t recall hearing anyone calling for a ban on vaping products.

Or maybe vaping more will keep us safer?

Failure of US Weapons in Saudi Arabia

The US government is reporting that the recent attack on the Saudi oil refinery was due to a missile launched from inside Iran.

Yemen is claiming that the attack was conducted by them utilizing 10 drones.

Here’s the biggest problem with all the claims. No matter which way you view it, this indicates an absolute failure of US weapons sold to Saudi Arabia.

If the attack was conducted by drone, it’s somewhat more understandable, as drones can fly much lower than missiles. The distance would also be far shorter from Yemen to the refinery. However, there was still quite some distance for them to travel and there were ten of them. For an effective defensive weapons system, they should have been detected at some point and defended against.

If the attack was a missile from Iran, then the picture worsens greatly. A missile launched from Iran to the refinery would have had to travel at least 300 miles before reaching the target.

Nowhere have we seen/heard reports that any defense was mounted, let alone successful at bringing down any offensive weaponry. So the attack came as a complete surprise with no prior detection. The US State Dept is now claiming that the missile was detected by US satellite. However, the defensive weapons systems being sold to other countries allegedly link to satellite systems to make them more effective.

Make no mistake about it, the countries to whom the US sells weapons at costs of billions of dollars per year to them are watching this. They do not like what they see. They are now realizing how ineffective US weaponry truly is, leaving them largely defenseless. Offensive weapons are somewhat effective, yet the Patriot missile system and F35 fighter jet are plagued with problems. The Osprey has seen numerous catastrophic failures and requires massive amounts of maintenance, costing far more than it should for repairs.

The only advantage US weapons have in battle conditions is by sheer number. So, if a country is going to rely on number of weapons deployed, wouldn’t they buy less expensive weaponry in an effort to field as many weapons as possible?

Absolute numbers of weapons are a truly poor choice in either offensive or defensive tactics. If one accurate weapon can maneuver past or defeat ten inaccurate weapons, that is far more effective. This can be compared to a boxer throwing wild punches blindly, never landing a blow competing against an opponent who throws one or two targeted punches and knocking the wild boxer unconscious.

If a weapon fails to even detect a threat and respond, you may as well not have any weapons at all. This makes US weapons a bad deal for purchasing countries.

One reason other countries purchase US weapons is because they are subsidized, making them seem like a good deal. The more failures our weapons demonstrate, the worse that deal becomes, even if obtained for “free”. (Just pay shipping and handling!)

I have explained in previous articles that US weapons are sold to other countries at a net loss, even as they are portrayed as profitable. We give tens of billions of dollars a year in “aid” to other countries. Many times, those countries use a portion of that money to purchase weapons from US companies. As an example, we give $3.8 billion per year to Israel. Maybe they buy $2 billion a year in weapons. That’s already a net loss. However, when they receive the money, they receive it from the US government, in other words, the taxpayer. When they purchase the weapons, they purchase from a private US corporation. The country loses money, the corporation profits. Then the corporation is given tax breaks. Then the corporation gets paid for US military contracts. Then the weapons sold are transported by US military transport, with US military security escort. Every step of this process is a subsidy to corporate contractors which we pay for. Not to mention the fact that oil purchases from Saudi Arabia also serves as a war subsidy all by itself.

For weapons that fail.

Yes, we have the largest military budget in the world. Yes, we have forces in more locations than any other country. Yes, we once had the most advanced military technology but that is no longer true. Other countries have developed more effective, more accurate military technologies at lower cost as a direct result of the threat posed to them by the US. Now they are selling their weapons at lower cost to even more countries in competition with the US, while maintaining a faster delivery time. Meanwhile they are not incurring massive debt in the process.

Even less advanced weaponry has proven effective against US weaponry. IED’s and homemade RPG’s have been highly effective against US weapons in the Middle East, drones have been taken down by hand held weapons. While we remain engaged in conflicts we are repeatedly told would last only weeks, still going on 18 years later.

And we have not confronted an adversary with the capabilities and experience that Iran has.

These recent events, combined with the knowledge gained from observation of US conflicts are going to be influencing the future purchase of US weapons by other countries. Even the subsidies may prove to be ineffective in placing any trust in the capabilities of our technology. They are fully aware that our technology is so insufficient that we must also commit human ground forces. Yet our forces are growing weary and thin while our citizens are objecting to our involvement in conflicts that have nothing to do with us. We are objecting to the cost on all levels, especially monetarily and emotionally.

The time for diplomacy is now. Stop the arms sales. Stop the warmonger rhetoric. Stop the subsidies. Sit down and start talking. Openly, publicly. Find solutions that do not include destruction and killing.

Saudi Refining..Recovered? I Call BS!

The announcement came today from Saudi Arabia that they had already recovered their oil refining capacity from the attack a few days ago and would be at full capacity in 2–3 weeks.

Now, there are a number of possibilities here. First, as mentioned in my first article on the subject, they had been running at reduced capacity for some time. So maybe that refinery or another not running at capacity simply increased output.

However, to be back at full capacity in 2–3 weeks would be beyond possibility. That attack reduced refining by 50% with fires so extensive that the smoke was seen in space. So, what? Did they just have enough equipment sitting around unused, enough to basically build half of a refinery? That doesn’t sound likely. Ordering new equipment, shipping from other countries, transporting massive pieces of equipment and installing it doesn’t happen in that time frame.

Then there is another possibility. That the whole thing was a ruse meant to portray Iran badly.

Or there is the possibility that they are lying and have not recovered capacity. They may do that to make it seem to their adversaries that the attack was ineffective, so as to discourage future attacks.

I am guessing the truth is a combination of the latter and having unused refinery capacity which they restarted. This would also discourage trading partners from seeking out other sources for oil products, which they had to already be doing.

No matter what the truth is, Saudi Arabia seems to be taking a passive role in the warmongering rhetoric coming from Israel and Washington, who were not attacked. Perhaps they think the US will take unilateral action against Iran without Saudis being directly involved. The rhetoric from DC is claiming that “intelligence shows” the attack was by missiles launched from Iran. By inserting the word “intelligence”, what they are truly trying to do is say the information is classified, so you don’t get to see it. None of it. No images, nothing.

Once again our government is trying to push this country into a war based on “information” which we do not get to verify or examine. There is nothing to gain for the people of this country. An actual conflict, as I noted previously, will diminish oil availability globally. The only people who gain would be US oil producers. Your cost on absolutely everything would increase substantially. Iran would actually attack Saudi oil refineries and fields. The environment would suffer horribly. The next “defense” budget would be even higher than it is now. Yet that would not stop other countries from seeking oil from other sources. Like Russia, who would be unaffected by this conflict.

Right now is the time that you need to call or write elected officials and tell them “Hands Off Iran”. That you do not support any form of attack against Iran or any other country. Don’t wait. Do it today.

Tapping Strategic Reserves Is A Ploy

In response to the attack on the Saudi oil refinery, Trump has said he will tap the National Strategic Reserve. This is a ploy. If not for it being a ploy, I would be forced to say, “My, how SOCIALIST of him.”

The strategic reserve is in place to safeguard against a national oil and gas shortage, as happened in the early 70’s. We are not there, nor are we at risk of being there.

Not long ago, Trump was crowing about how the US is now a “net” oil exporter. Meaning we export more oil than we import. We still import oil. Lots of it from Saudi Arabia. So, what’s the problem? Stop exporting, right?

Wrong. There are several issues at play here.

First, ceasing the export of US oil would mean impacting the petrodollar system directly. Which will already see a significant impact because Saudi oil is sold anywhere in the world in dollars, a significant portion of the petrodollar system and the original petrodollar itself. For that to be reduced by half takes a huge bite out of the petrodollar system because a lot fewer dollars are being traded internationally. If we stopped exporting oil, that would result in a drop of roughly 75% of the value of the petrodollar itself. Assume import/export to be equal, so 50/50. Half of the imports gone means a reduction of 25% of the petrodollar. Reduce export by 100% and you cut another 50% of the petrodollar value.

Second, this is a giveaway to the oil companies. There is no federal oil refinery, no federal wells in operation. What comprises the strategic reserve is purchased from oil companies at roughly market price. In other words, it was replenished while the cost of oil was low. Now, if we exhaust some or all the reserves, they will have to be replenished later. At higher cost to us, higher profit to oil companies.

All of this is aside from this action being extremely dangerous. Who is to say that Yemen will not destroy another Saudi refinery? Even if they do not, what happens if we deplete the reserves while we do not need it, then run into the situation that we do need it?

The short answer is, we’d be screwed. The major purpose of the strategic reserve is so that the military and government can keep functioning in an emergency. Not the whole country. Deplete the reserves and then have an emergency, that would mean the government and military would be stopped in their tracks.

In fact, the world is watching. Including Iran. If we attack Iran, they could very well attack the other Saudi oil refinery/ies, reserves and naval ports. That would crush the petrodollar, freeze the country and partially cripple the military.

I see a ration card in your future.

Understand, we do not produce enough oil to be energy independent at current capacity. I don’t know the actual numbers but will give an example. Say we use 120 gals of oil per day. We export 50 barrels per day and use 50. That means 70 barrels of what we use is imported. If we stopped importing, we would still be 20 barrels short.

“We can just buy more oil from other countries.”

Wrong, bucko. The Saudi reduction in oil means less oil sold to all countries that buy from them, not just the US. So there will be fierce competition to buy oil from other sources. We would be one in a crowd, all fighting for the same scraps.

The fact is, a small, war torn country in the Middle East may well have just figured out a way to destroy the United States as we know it. Without ever having to threaten us directly. I don’t know about you but after all the weapons we’ve sold Saudi Arabia, I’d call that karma.

I’d say it’s about time the US stepped up to the bargaining table and stopped being the bully/bully’s friend. No threats are going to help with this. Only a diplomatic solution will do anything worthwhile.

Saudi Oil Refinery On Fire.. Who Benefits?

The tale being told to us is that Iran was somehow behind the drone attack on what is reportedly the world’s largest oil refinery. The result of that attack being a reduction of Saudi oil production by a full 50%.

First, read that last sentence again. Saudi oil production has been reduced by a full 50%.

Now, there is the fact that the Saudis had voluntarily reduced oil production for quite some time to boost oil prices. Because the US has maintained oil production, the Saudi reduction had limited success and oil prices have remained low.

Now consider the fact that this is occurring at the exact same time that several other major oil producing nations are being actively and aggressively sanctioned by the US, driving down the oil available on the world market. Iran, Venezuela and Russia are all being sanctioned at the same time.

Not only is there no evidence that Iran was involved in this, they would stand nothing to gain from it and it would involve considerable risk. Israel and the US are already standing with their itchy fingers on the triggers, anxious to find an excuse to attack Iran. With a false accusation against Iran, this would drag Saudi Arabia into that mixture. Iran stated that they could and would block the Strait of Hormuz to tanker traffic to and from Saudi Arabia. That action is legal while involving no violence or destruction of infrastructure.

The destruction of the Saudi refinery does not lead to increased oil sales for Iran. It does increase oil sales for the US.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attack and had announced plans for effective attacks weeks prior. All in response to years of the worst humanitarian crisis in modern times imposed on their country by Saudi Arabia.

There can be little question that one expected result of this will be increased use of the petrodollar. However- If the US and OPEC nations are unable to meet the demand for oil on the international market, that could very well backfire. Winter months in the Northern hemisphere are not far off, especially for Northern Europe, where winter begins as early as late Sept or early October. So this could very well result in Europe increasing oil purchasing from Russia, thanks to unpredictable supply and increased pricing regarding the US oil supply. Winter months are the most turbulent for the north Atlantic, the route tankers must traverse between the US and Europe. China may well break with the US and increase oil purchases from Venezuela and Iran.

Should other countries make such trade agreements, there is the very good chance that any oil trade agreements will be gone for years, decades, possibly forever.

One of the biggest tasks for the US administration now will be to convince other nations that Iran is somehow responsible for the attack. This is not likely to happen, as other nations are less likely than the US to run up further debt than they currently have for the purpose of waging what will absolutely be a protracted war with Iran. Other nations have a longer history than the US and have not forgotten the invasion of Iraq or destruction of Syria via US terrorist proxies. Europe is still dealing with the fallout of refugees coming from Middle Eastern countries, placing extreme strain on their economies and safety. Nor have they been convinced that Iran violated the terms of the JCPOA, which has been the ongoing rationale for the increased tensions with Iran. Nor are they blind to the Trump administration attempting to find an excuse to attack Iran.

As of today, oil prices have increased by 20%. In real terms, that is an increase of 40¢ on every $2 gallon of gas. As winter approaches, that cost will increase. The effects on the US and other economies will be immediate, severe and long term. We will soon see increases in the prices of all consumer goods, utility bills and electronic services.

We ALL need to stop this in it’s tracks by calling and writing our elected officials to tell them NO WAR WITH IRAN.

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I am an independent writer with no corporate sponsors or backing. The only income I make from my writing comes from views. At least I have reached the point where it makes more than it costs me! lol! (Not by much.)My writing is done in between full time (and overtime) nursing, shared custody of my brilliant daughter and mundane existence.

I have opened my new website which is intended to be a central listing of protests and political rallies across the US. It’s still a work in progress but is functional. You can find it at http://RallyAndProtest.com

Please consider becoming a patron on Patreon. I try and average at least 20 articles a month, so a $1 a month donation would come down to 5¢ per article to support independent, non-corporate writing. My Patreon page is here.

If you care to share articles with those who do not have Medium or Patreon accounts, I also post most of my articles on my own website, which has no advertising and I pay for with income from writing. My website is at https://issuesunite.com/ and all articles can be shared freely. You can always quote me, no attribution required. My goal is spreading information and awareness. The whole point is building a better, more peaceful, more equitable world for us and future generations.

Policies- Tulsi Gabbard

I am writing this because too many people seem actively averse to actually looking up the candidates pages and reading the policies for themselves. Maybe if those policies are written in a different form, those policies will be better portrayed.

One of the first things to remind people about with Tulsi Gabbard is that she is the one candidate who actively stood up against election fraud in the 2016 primary. She stepped down as vice chair of the DNC to do so. The candidate she supported in that case has been completely silent as she has suffered media silence and dishonest tactics by the DNC to exclude her from debates.

So here is your chance to get acquainted with her policies and stances.

Universal healthcare-

Tulsi is in favor of universal healthcare. She has stated that she has the goal of eliminating corporate involvement in primary care medicine, while reserving a role for insurance companies for additional levels of care beyond basic universal care. This is similar to policies in most countries that have universal healthcare.

She proposes a policy whereby the government can negotiate lower drug prices with drug companies.

Foreign policy-

She has foreign policy experience of six years on the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Tulsi is in favor of using diplomacy rather than force against other countries who are adversaries, present or potential.

She states a policy of being against wars for regime change and diverting the trillions spent on warfare back to supporting our own citizens for education, healthcare, infrastructure and environment.

She has cosponsored bills to declare it to be a high crime should the president initiate wars without Congressional approval and prohibit the president from engaging in ongoing wars in other countries without prior approval by Congress in the form of a formal declaration.

Another bill is intended to stop the US from arming terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS or affiliated groups or individuals.

Nuclear weapons-

Tulsi states policies which reduce the risk of nuclear confrontation by the use of diplomacy and continued observance of the INF treaty which Trump has withdrawn from.

She cosponsored a bill for the US to have a formal no first strike policy. This would be the first time in US history that the US would have such a policy.

Ending the drug war-

Tulsi is in favor of legalizing marijuana, at least for medical purposes, ending the federal criminalization of marijuana. She has already submitted a bill to that effect, along with a separate bill directing the VA to conduct a clinical trial for cannabis use for chronic pain and PTSD, among other uses.

Criminal Justice Reform-

Tulsi proposes policies meant to offer alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenses, such as marijuana use or minor possession.

She proposes ending the cash bail and for-profit prison systems.

She has cosponsored a bill intended to promote evidence-based rehabilitation for prisoners.

She cosponsored another bill to collect and study the effects of state legalized marijuana programs.

She cosponsored another bill, “Trafficking Survivors Relief Act- To provide for the vacating of certain convictions and expungement of certain arrests of victims of human trafficking.”

Gun laws/control-

Tulsi supports background checks for all gun purchases, closing the gun show loophole, reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, banning of bump stocks and banning domestic violence perpetrators from owning firearms, for which she introduced legislation.

She voted against the Concealed Firearm Reciprocity Act.

Adult education-

Tulsi supports free adult education and cosponsored a bill to that effect, “ College for All Act of 2017. This bill amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) to establish a grant program to eliminate tuition and required fees: (1) for all students at community colleges and two-year tribal colleges and universities, and (2) for working- and middle-class students at four-year public institutions of higher education (IHEs).”

She also cosponsored this bill, “Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2015, allowing the discharge of private educational loan indebtedness without the need to show an undue hardship”.

Elections-

Tulsi supports expanded voter registration, paper trails, limits on removing voters from rolls, making election day a federal holiday, prevention of gerrymandering and admission of Puerto Rico and District of Columbia as states.

Social Security-

Tulsi proposes taking back part of the money spent on the military and tax breaks for the rich to protect Social Security.

Wages and profits-

Tulsi supports reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, separation of banks from securities businesses and removal of PAC’s from the election process.

She supports increasing the minimum wage.

Environment/Green Energy-

Tulsi is in favor of investing in renewable energy, which creates long term, living wage jobs while reducing the cost of energy, in addition to reducing the cost of cleaning up the damage caused by pipeline leaks, spills, etc.

She is in favor of ending subsidies to oil/gas/coal companies, which should not be subsidized to begin with.

She wants to end subsidies to agribusiness conglomerates.

She wants to hold major corporations financially accountable for the environmental damage they cause.

She supports a ban on fracking and offshore drilling.

She supports holding nuclear energy providers responsible for the safe transport and storage of nuclear waste.

This is a short list of her stances and policies. For years I have encouraged voters to be informed on the policies of all candidates, not pick one and not even bother learning the policies of other candidates. To learn more about Tulsi’s stances and policies, look up her YouTube channel and visit https://www.tulsi2020.com/record

No, you can NOT call yourself a Progressive if you do not know the policies of all Progressive candidates. You can NOT call yourself a Progressive by supporting a name without knowing your other options.

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I am an independent writer with no corporate sponsors or backing. The only income I make from my writing comes from views. At least I have reached the point where it makes more than it costs me! lol! (Not by much.)My writing is done in between full time (and overtime) nursing, shared custody of my brilliant daughter and mundane existence.

I have opened my new website which is intended to be a central listing of protests and political rallies across the US. It’s still a work in progress but is functional. You can find it at http://RallyAndProtest.com

Please consider becoming a patron on Patreon. I try and average at least 20 articles a month, so a $1 a month donation would come down to 5¢ per article to support independent, non-corporate writing. My Patreon page is here.

If you care to share articles with those who do not have Medium or Patreon accounts, I also post most of my articles on my own website, which has no advertising and I pay for with income from writing. My website is at https://issuesunite.com/ and all articles can be shared freely. You can always quote me, no attribution required. My goal is spreading information and awareness. The whole point is building a better, more peaceful, more equitable world for us and future generations.

Russia Offers To Sell Hypersonic Missile Technology To the US

Vladimir Putin recently made the offer to sell their hypersonic missile technology to the US. Not only the technology but missiles built with that technology.

The US refused.

So, one has to question why Russia would make such an offer, seeing that they are portrayed continuously as being so aggressive militarily? Another question is why the US would refuse such an offer?

I’ll address the second question first. The US refuses the offer for very obvious reasons. First, so that our government can continue to portray Russia as an aggressor. Second, US corporate military contractors would stand to lose money from doing research and experimentation to recreate the wheel. The technology exists and is being offered for sale to our government in completed form. They would rather drive up debt on taxpayers than buy it from an “adversary”.

So, why would Russia offer this technology for sale to us? Putin himself said it, to stop the arms race. If we are both equal in technology, there would be no arms race. It is a diplomatic move which is unparalleled and unprecedented.

Russia has made it clear for decades that the only reason they bother with nuclear weapons is to maintain a balance of power, so the US does not go unchecked in our dominance. Russia publicly states that they have a “no first strike” policy in place. That their nuclear weapons are solely for defense.

The US is the only country on the planet that has ever used a nuclear weapon against an adversary. Our most recent Nuclear Posture Review stated that the US government policy on the use of nuclear weapons includes use as a response to conventional warfare. So, while Russia’s nuclear weapons are defensive, ours are decidedly offensive. The most recent mission statement of the Pentagon states that the purpose of the US military is to “maintain our way of life”. Meaning our military is in place to maintain dominance in trade, not as a defense against military intrusion or aggression.

I have pointed out the advantage of hypersonic weapons before. Namely, that they do not have to be used with nuclear warheads. They make formidable weapons with no warhead at all. A hypersonic missile is delivered with so much velocity that it could penetrate all the way through an aircraft carrier with no warhead at all attached. Attach a conventional warhead and it would obliterate the carrier in the example.

Another advantage to hypersonic weapons is that they cannot be accurately detected by radar. Even if a radar system spanning massive distances were implemented, it could only project a stable flight path. Several problems with that. Russia states their hyspersonic weapons are highly maneuverable and can change flight paths easily, so a stable flight path is unlikely. In addition to the fact that any countermeasures would have to reach an even greater velocity than the fastest weapons ever developed, be able to track and maneuver at least as well as the hypersonic weapon and be able to do so in a time frame which prevented the missile from reaching the target. All of which sounds distinctly unlikely.

One major thing to note is that Russia’s offer has not been and is not likely to ever be reported on by corporate media. Their advertisers wouldn’t like it and it doesn’t fit the “fear Russia” narrative.

Taking all of this into account, what we already know becomes even more clear. Nothing about our government response has to do with peace or security. If our peace and security had any consideration at all, this offer would be accepted and it would lead to more diplomatic efforts. This refusal is based entirely on keeping Americans terrified and hateful while maintaining corporate profits, no matter the cost.

The Root Source of Drug Abuse

The US government and media has spoken about drug abuse for decades. Constantly seeking one influence or another to blame. Migrants, minorities, drug companies, etc.

The biggest problem with nearly any discussion on drug abuse is that the root cause of drug abuse is too often ignored, downplayed or completely omitted.

While we are seeing a massive increase in opiate addiction and overdose, this is not the first instance of this in US history. Prior to the creation of government agencies to regulate drug use, opiates were common and sold over the counter. Morphine, codeine and other opiates were in everyday medications like cough suppressants. At one time, Coca-Cola contained cocaine, derived from leaves from the coca tree, hence the name of the most popular soda in world history. 7-Up once contained Lithium, which is now used as a psychiatric medication used to treat manic disorders and allegedly acts as a mood stabilizer. Today, the US comprises 5% of the world population yet accounts for 80% of global opiate consumption.

At the same time we are seeing an increase in opiate use/addiction/overdose, the US also has seen an increase in antidepressant use since 1999. Benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax or Ativan saw prescriptions roughly double between 2003 and 2015, that most recent data compiled which I saw in a cursory search.

In addition to opiate use, the rising trend seen in illegal drug trade is bath salts. Bath salts act as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, causing elevated mood in the user.

Whether we are talking about legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, bath salts, opiates or antidepressants, the same trend becomes evident. Each of these substances has specific similar effects, meaning decreased anxiety/elevated mood. To be clear, increased dopamine production or slowing the reuptake of dopamine, results in a similar response. Dopamine is the “feel good” hormone produced by the brain.

So, the question is, why are we seeing a desire for chemicals to improve our mood? Some like to claim it is a matter of privilege. Yet they cannot then explain why drug use and addiction are either constant across income levels or worse among the least privileged in society. Or why countries with higher income levels do not have higher rates of use and addiction. In general, why has addiction become more common in the past few decades in the US, while income levels have remained stagnant? Why do drug and alcohol use increase during times of severe economic downturn?

There have been studies on antidepressant use among younger Americans which show clearly that their depression is very real, for very real reasons which pills cannot cure. The same reasons apply to all forms of drug use and abuse.

Here is a short list of reasons we are seeing chemical use rise in the US-

This country has been at war for 18 continuous years. Many younger Americans see family members and friends enroll in the military due to lack of other opportunities. Those family members and friends change, become different people. Then they may not come back or come back injured, damaged physically and/or emotionally. Young people who do not enroll have a very real fear of a draft being enacted at some point. That fear has a very rational basis.

From young to old, we see people struggling to make ends meet. Many working multiple jobs. Younger people are staying at home much longer than previous generations and it is all due to financial reasons.

The price of education has skyrocketed far beyond the rate of inflation, leaving millions with student loan debt for decades, along with the associated interest. Defaults on student loans are the highest they have been in the history of this country. Meanwhile, many who are graduating are unable to find employment in their chosen careers, even when their degrees are in business management, accounting or vocational occupations. Which leaves them earning low salaries with high levels of debt.

Vehicle loans are seeing high numbers of defaults, with the average car payment today being over $500 a month. Or a person has the choice of spending many hours every day on the worst public transportation system of any first world country. Imagine doing that when you have children. Or maybe you don’t have to imagine it. You may be reading this while riding the bus, for all I know.

There is the constant fear of mass shootings, either in schools, churches, theaters, malls, night clubs. Meanwhile our CONgress remains in the pocket of the NRA, refusing to take meaningful action. If the same number of people died every year from an illness or certain class of vehicle as from assault weapons, we would have large sums of money thrown at it and the banning of that class of vehicle entirely.

Anyone being pulled over by police has no idea if evidence will be planted on them or in their vehicle. Road side drug tests are proven to be unreliable and are inadmissible in court, yet you can be held in jail for days before a more valid forensic test proves your innocence and even that will not help if a dirty officer plants evidence. Of course, you also have the chance of being shot while reaching for your wallet.

Racism is rampant. People of color fear being victims of hate crimes just walking or driving. Or being shot by police for the crime of not being white.

Women fear being physically and/or sexually assaulted. Men fear being accused of things they’re actually not guilty of.

People are afraid to speak to each other. Period.

Like I said, this is a short list of reasons we are seeing such an epidemic of mind-altering chemical use and abuse. Yet the discussion regarding those chemicals, the root causes for the prevalence of their use is rarely discussed. The media and government steadfastly refuse to discuss the issues leading to the problem because doing so would result in lower profits for major advertisers and donors, such as drug companies, for-profit prisons and weapons manufacturers selling to police departments. They all want to continue the failed war on drugs which has raged on for nearly 50 years and only escalated with the results being what we see today.

If we want to see a change, we have to change the approach. Up to now, it has been doing the same thing every single year and expecting different results. So it is up to us to insist on the discussion to change topics. That real problems be addressed, that new solutions be enacted. Too many lives have been destroyed by the current approach. If we don’t absolutely demand that things change, millions more lives will be destroyed.

We have no idea how many innocent people have had their lives and the lives of their families torn apart by planted evidence. Even if guilty of possession of drugs, does that alone warrant paying for it for the rest of your life?

The war on drugs to date has cost us uncounted trillions of dollars. Mock hearings, millions of people in prison, families on public assistance where they were not before, children and innocent adults caught in the crossfire, decimated careers, psychological therapy for any number of related issues and militarized police all cost us every day of our lives in ways we can never account for financially or emotionally.

The ultimate truth about our drug problem is that it leads to many other problems which are far more costly on every level. It is caused by other problems which are too often ignored or viewed separately. We will never solve the drug problem unless we address the problems which lead to it. We will never stop the problems it leads to unless we solve the drug problem.

In other words, drugs are not the problem, they are a symptom of the real problem. The real problem is capitalism. Does that mean we would have no drug problem if we lived in a Socialist society? No. It means we would address the drug problem in far different ways, ways which preserved society instead of ripping it apart. The only reason we are not doing so right now is because of the profit motive of those truly in charge of our society. If we discuss ways to reduce the cost of any problem, capitalists instantly think, “But we’ll make less money!”

If we talk about treating addiction as an illness using a nationalized treatment program, they scream, “But who will pay for it?!” We would. We would pay far less than we do now in every way. We would have more money, more freedom, less violence, less crime, less depression, less anxiety, less anger, less paranoia, fewer suicides, fewer guns, fewer families ripped apart, fewer absent parents, less racism, lower medical costs of treating poisoned chemicals made in garages in other countries…

In the end, we need to wage war against the war on drugs.

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I am an independent writer with no corporate sponsors or backing. The only income I make from my writing comes from views. At least I have reached the point where it makes more than it costs me! lol! (Not by much.) My writing is done in between full time (and overtime) nursing, shared custody of my brilliant daughter and mundane existence.

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Dishonest Polling Eliminates Gabbard From Debate, Still In The Race

I wish I could say I find it surprising that more people do not understand that Gabbard makes a valid point when she states that the polling used to eliminate her from the next debate. Her statement is completely truthful and valid.

The DNC dictates a specified list of polls which allow a candidate to qualify for debates. These polls are conducted by means which favor neoliberal/neoconservative voters. First, they are advertised in ways that attract a very specific audience, such as on specific corporate “news” outlets. Outgoing polls are conducted using means which gain responses from very few younger or less affluent voters.

One such tactic is conducting polling via land line. Other than businesses, who has a land line any more? The answer is old, wealthy, white people. I am 57 and have not had a land line for at least 16 years, other than my internet connection. I have a VOIP line but it is not used. Part of a package deal.

Of course, there is the wording in a poll. Anyone who has ever taken any kind of poll knows the wording used determines the response. “Would you prefer taking poison or being drawn and quartered?”

Polls are frequently “weighted”, meaning some methods of response have greater value than other methods. Which can lead to a desired response counting as 10 votes in favor, while less desired responses count as 1 vote.

Placement in a poll play a role as well. Names near the top tend to get more favorable responses, those near the bottom get the fewest favorable responses. This is negated if the poll places all candidates in alphabetical order.

Some polls use specific names more often than other names, leading to an obvious, easily identified bias. However, most people are subject to being influenced and will automatically lean toward the names mentioned most often and in the bias which the poll presents.

In 2016, I examined polling which showed certain candidates having a low popularity, while their attendance at rallies indicated a very high popularity. What I found was that many of the polls completely eliminated that candidate’s name. I took a cursory look at some of the polling stating a low favorability for Tulsi Gabbard and found that some of those polls did not include her name at all or far less often than other names.

You can absolutely expect that polls conducted by capitalist entities will show low response rates for candidates who oppose capitalist policies. Entities which favor war will have low positive responses for candidates who favor diplomacy. Entities that run continuous negative stories on a candidate will have very negative responses regarding that candidate.

Just because Tulsi Gabbard is not in the debate does not mean she has dropped out of the race. I personally hope she does not. If anything, the bias against her has solidified my support for her further. I wish she would reconsider running third party if she does not get the nomination. Then she would absolutely get my vote. She will in the primary, any way.

The Dangers of Shadow Banking

You have probably heard the term by now, “shadow banking”. However, many people don’t understand the risks it poses because they do not understand exactly what it is.

Shadow banking by all estimates is greater in size than the global banking system. By some estimates, it is greater in size than the global economy.

Comparison. You see lots of stories about how the Chinese shadow banking system poses a threat to the global economy. However, according to Bloomberg, the US shadow banking system is nearly twice the size of the Chinese shadow banking system, with China accounting for 16% of estimated shadow banking programs, while the US accounts for and estimated 31% (almost 1/3 of all shadow banking globally). In 2016, China began enacting policies to rein in their shadow banking problem. This is aside from the fact that most Chinese banks are nationalized. Nationalized banks cannot be shadow banks or pose the level of risk that privatized shadow banking systems do. In the US, any attempt at regulating shadow banking has met with legal, economic and political resistance.

What is it? Shadow banking is comprised of financial institutions and systems which are not held accountable to regulatory agencies the way officially recognized banks are. In the US, financial products and institutions are typically regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Securities and Exchange Commission, with other regulatory agencies which oversee various smaller segments of the financial market. These agencies ideally place limits on how much financial institutions can loan out in relation to their deposits, practices that reduce fraud or economic/financial risk to the public.

Who is it? Shadow banking (I’m tired of typing that out. Let’s abbreviate it SB, okay?) is comprised of financial institutions which have a wide range of influence. You either right now or have in the past done business with SB entities without knowing it. They include such entities as hedge funds, short term lending agencies like payday lenders and vehicle title loan companies, home equity lenders, insurance companies and many investment firms. It also includes entities such as GoFundMe. However, the largest and most dangerous of all involve financial derivatives and credit default swaps.

Why are they popular? SB entities generally offer the chance of higher returns on investment compared to regulated institutions. However, a major reason they can offer higher returns is that the financial products they offer tend to be high risk. Their loans and products have a much higher default rate than standard financial products. Think of high interest loans to high risk borrowers.

The dangers. The dangers involved with SB is the fact that they do fall outside the regulations that regular banks are subject to. Regulations which require banks to maintain a certain level of collateral deposits as a percentage of how much they can loan out. If the economy or a specific entity show signs of a higher default percentage, leading to decreased returns or even loss on investment, investors in these entities can withdraw their entire investment without notice. If large investors or large numbers of investors withdraw their investments, it causes a run on that institution or even an entire SB industry category. That can have drastic effects alone but it can also have a domino effect, especially if a large SB company offers multiple products.

Not limited to non-banking entities. One huge problem with the SB system is that regulated entities often invest large sums in the SB entities or loan money to them. The SB system had a major role in the 2008 crash thanks to high risk loans and mortgages by SB companies which were packaged as lower risk loans in “bundles” which were purchased by standard banking institutions. However, banks are well known to establish their own SB companies as well. The obvious risk with this is that if these entities fail, they bring down large banks.

Regulation does not stop it. Some may believe that legislation like Dodd-Frank placed limits or regulations on the SB system. Not at all. Dodd-Frank only addressed standard banks and did not address the SB system at all. Many candidates receive campaign donations from SB companies. Some economists claim that if the SB system were eliminated that the economy would suffer greatly. However, all agree that it is an extreme danger which should be regulated.

Shadow Banking steals from the legitimate financial system. Were SB brought under control and regulation, it probably would result in less investment by some. However, it would result in greater stability in the financial system. SB investments divert funds from legitimate, regulated, more transparent financial systems. The fact is that returns on legitimate investment systems suffer as a direct result of funding diverted to the SB system, causing lower returns. SB is popular simply because of lesser regulation and oversight.

SB and regulated markets are tied together. As noted above, regulated systems and SB systems are tied together. However, even when not directly tied together, they are intrinsically tied because of shared investors. Some may believe that if the stock market and regulated systems retract that SB systems will expand. As seen in 2008, the opposite is true. When financial markets retract, they have a domino effect causing all markets to retract concurrently. Many businesses have a combination of funding from regulated and unregulated sources. Thus, when large businesses or a large number of businesses fail, it has an effect on all the above. When investors see a risk of losing because of a retraction, they pull funding from all investments in similar streams. In addition, Quicken Loans is a SB entity, now the largest mortgage lender in the country. Other mortgage lenders are also SB entities, though smaller.

Cyclic effect. As employers see reduced profits, they reduce staffing. When this happens in large numbers as we have only begun to see, it means the consumer market retracts. More consumers default on loans of all kinds. In the case of SB lenders, they are much faster to pursue vehicle repossessions, foreclosures, etc. This is an attempt to claim the property, charge the initial borrower and resell the property to a second borrower at a secondary profit. Yes, this is illegal for regulated lenders but not for unregulated lenders. In the interim and when this fails, SB profits decline. When profits decline, investments decline. When investments decline, the interest rates on any loan offers increase. This causes more rejections and more defaults. All of this reduces finances available for consumers to spend, causing a further decline in consumer spending, bringing us back to reduced profits for employers and the cycle continues. This cycle happens very quickly.

So, while shadow banking is typically described in terms which seem abstract or which affect only large investors, as you can see it absolutely affects you personally in very real terms. The fall of the stock market can mean the fall of shadow banking. The decline in each one and both can affect your credit, your employment, your housing, your retirement savings and on and on.

Wonder what Libertarians will think about this?