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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Defense of Vladimir Putin...Sort of

When evidence was revealed that the Russian government hacked the "Democratic" party in 2016, various pundits and politicians were in near-hysteria, calling it an "act of war." These are hysterical times, so the declaration of an act of war is not as taken as seriously as, say, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Still, such a declaration is an implied call to action, a plea for some kind of response. Since nuclear war is not an option, and conventional war would lead to nuclear war, a return to the metaphoric "Cold War" seems to be what the punditocracy has in mind. Many careers were made on the previous cold war, and vast profits were made. A new one would be good for the economy. What is good for Raytheon is good for the U.S.

We might want to look at the Russian hacking in a larger context. We should first ask why they are hacking our elections, and why they are presumably hacking other parts of our system. The first and most obvious answer is that they can hack us, and apparently have an easy time doing it. Hacking is the use of computer technology to enter computer systems, either to gather information, to interfere or damage their operation, or both.

A government runs several risks in hacking, so just being able to do it is not enough reason. In the case of Russia, it has been a U.S. adversary since the revolution of 1917. In the early 20th Century it was mainly an ideological rivalry, but after World War II it became more complicated, a dividing the world up between friend and foe for reasons beyond ideology, and more to do with world hegemony. And profits for the weapons industry. The Cold War became a catch-all excuse for a massive arms buildup, a broad expansion of the military, and invasions, wars, assassinations, overthrows, subversions, extortions and other whatnot that developed a life of its own. This included interference in foreign elections.

As the Cold War grew in size and investment of resources it became a drain on other priorities, such as repair of our physical infrastructure, social welfare and protection of the environment. The same drain of resources was going on in the Soviet Union, and on December 26, 1991 the supposedly “communist” system collapsed.

With the collapse the Cold War ended. A vacuum resulted. Our massive “Defense” industry no longer had a handy excuse for continuous growth. No diabolical opponent, no need for such a huge and growing military-industrial complex. We were instantly "the world’s only superpower."

What does the world’s only superpower do when there is no major opponent? Change to a distributive, just, peaceful and environmentally benign presence on the planet? Hardly. The system must go on as it has. The weapons industry - and the rest of the economy - would collapse if it could not increase its profits. Find new threats. Create new threats. Be a threat. Wage new wars. Make them endless. And, revive Russia as our diabolical adversary. For good measure, infiltrate the country’s fledgling “democracy,” promoting candidates for office who would be acquiescent to American manipulation and control.

It was all working according to plan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and its control over its Warsaw Pact neighbors, NATO seized the opportunity to expand its own sphere of influence all the way to the Russian border. It should have come as no surprise that Russia’s powerful leader Vladimir Putin would find ways of fighting back.

Find them he did. Putin, not hindered by constraints or scruples that might inhibit other world leaders, embarked on the dual undertaking of securing his domestic power while weakening the encroaching threat from NATO. Looking back on it, it was easy. Russia has no democratic history, no institutional infrastructure of democracy. It was ripe for the picking.

The legendary horn of plenty. Source: John Hamilton
As for NATO, Russia's neighbors could be easily threatened and co-opted. Then the NATO countries themselves could be weakened. How to do this? Easy. In the emergent world of cyber-existence, great vulnerability emerges along with it. Supposedly capitalist countries embraced the promise of computer technology as the savior of mankind, or at least of mass industrial mankind. The imperative of infinite growth could remain indefinitely (forever) with the presumed cornucopia of the digital universe.

It seems like genius, the ease with which Vladimir Putin has undermined our supposed democracy. We should have seen it coming, just like we should have seen the September 11, 2001 attacks coming. Massive strength has inherent vulnerabilities, and with massive strength the first vulnerability is hubris. Excessive pride. USA! USA!

So now we are stuck with criminal sociopath Donald Trump as President of the United States. It is a cosmic joke, but a joke that we deserve. As is plainly obvious to anyone looking at the U.S. from the outside, our political system is profoundly corrupt, controlled by corporations and wealthy individuals. Politicians, in order to remain in office, must pay obeisance to these moneyed interests. A phony system such as this, like that in Russia, is ripe for the picking. Vladimir Putin, the master of the harvest, picked the low-hanging fruit in both countries. He is very likely a criminal sociopath on a level that confounds comprehension, but he is a far smarter than the one we have. And, he controls him. Americans, plagued with avarice, stupidity, bigotry and celebrity obsession, are effectively bystanders in this dance of world hegemony.

There is actually cause for optimism. We have no choice as a species but to change this dynamic. Climate change alone dictates the inevitability of change. Vladimir Putin is not stronger than climate change. He’s just a guy. A dangerous guy, to be sure. Still, just a guy. He will be gone soon enough. Trump, a scam artist and cosmic fool, will be gone even sooner. The rest of us will no longer have the option of avarice, stupidity, bigotry and celebrity obsession. Or pro football. Escapist religion. Escapist entertainment. Escapist technology. We will either rise to a new level of existence or pass out of existence. We will have to make that choice soon.
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Here's what climate change is doing to polar bears. It will be doing similar things to humans very soon, though not necessarily in the same way. Here's another polar bear video.

Here's another link about interference in elections. This is the Washington Post's latest summary of the Russian government's election hacking in Europe.

Here's a song. Here's Another.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Pretending

When I was in sixth grade my class put on a theatrical performance. I don’t remember much about it, except that it was a rendition of a television program. My role in the project was to make a pretend television camera, and operate it during the presentation. I wrapped a cardboard box in aluminum foil, and for lenses I put three empty toilet paper tubes on the front and one on the back. During the performance I traded duties with two other students, and we stayed in character throughout, keeping up the pretense that we were actually presenting a real TV show.

The memory of this class project came to mind in recent days as I was musing about how our mass media really are (Media is plural. The singular form is medium.) fake, or at best a misrepresentation of reality. The pretend TV show from my youth was more truthful than what we see on supposedly real TV.

This has been a growing intuition with me for decades, starting when I realized "American" news media were "selling" the Vietnam war, treating body counts like football scores. My disquiet with mass media reached a crescendo of sorts when the attacks of September 11, 2001 took place, and the subsequent undeclared wars were waged. It was a surreal time, when a military deserter who ascended to the presidency looked the other way when being warned of the impending attacks, then invaded two countries that bore little or no responsibility for the attacks. He couldn't have waged his two bogus wars without help from the media establishment. The Middle East is largely in turmoil and ruins as a result. The mayhem our "leadership" has caused is passed off at  best as "collateral damage" in the all-encompassing, amorphous "War on Terror." There is, according to conventional wisdom, an undifferentiated mass of people in the world known as "terrorists." They want to terrorize people by killing them.

Now we have a completely fraudulent president whose entire adult history is that of a con artist, swindler and sexual predator. The news media report on his lies, braggadocio and collusion with the government of Russia, but only as information, as superficial facts for daily consumption of news. The essence of news reporting is the pre-eminence of the "anchor" and reporter. In analysis and opinion shows like Meet the Press and Washington Week. It is the supposed expertise and insiderness of the anchor and his or her guests. It is all superficial, ego-driven and forgettable, a waste of time.

It isn’t just the "mainstream" media that are trapped in an inertia of hubris and official truth. Supposed "leftist" media follow the same rules – conventional wisdom, individual ego-driven rigidity about how the world works and how it should work, and institutional failure to look deeper than the surface of phenomena.

There are exceptions. NPR has a show called "Science Friday," which delves deeply into such concerns as climate change, species extinction, pollution and human health. The analysis is great, but it offers no conclusions - such as the need to drastically change our economic system. We are supposed to just merrily go about our normal day-to-day activities and wring our hands about the melting Polar ice caps, sea level rise, rampant forest fires, increasingly severe weather occurrences and the deadening of our oceans. The need for ever-increasing output of goods and services is a human imperative that outweighs all other considerations, especially the need for the continuation of life on this planet.

So now we have the presumed disintegration of the “Republican” party – a gang of criminal sociopaths if ever there was one. "Democrats" are licking their electoral chops, giddily hoping to replace the criminal "Republicans" in next fall’s "elections."

Maybe they will, even most likely they will. Then what? Pretty much nothing. The "Democrats" will enact some laws, maybe impeach our criminal president, and, they hope, pave the way for the next presidential “election.” Mostly they will game for the next "election."

But little will change, and, presuming our infinite-growth economic system will continue on its growth trajectory, the public will get tired of the “Democrats” and their lack of any real beliefs or solutions, and, voila, the criminal “Republicans” will be back, likely with even greater power than before.

We can look at our mass information media as an infrastructure of the status quo, and as such it is constrained within a very narrow spectrum of perception, belief, ideas and ideology. The "press" is fond of congratulating itself for being "objective," but it is an objectivity that is confined to what Noam Chomsky calls the bounds of thinkable thought.

So we won't be seeing, hearing or reading about changing our economic system away from one of infinite growth of output any time soon. The stock market is setting records on an almost daily basis. What could possible go wrong?

Of course, one of the implicit tenets of "American" mass media is that what they emit is supreme, that the mere fact that something is presented as official reality makes it the truth that is greater than the non-human Universe.

Arguing against this hubris is futile. Time will provide its own supreme argument. The Universe, and most particularly the ecosystem of Planet Earth, works in its own way on its own schedule, and in its own relationship between cause and effect. Our economic system can't grow forever. It is already too big, as the recent (and ongoing) wildfires, hurricanes, floods, droughts,  extinctions, sea level warming and rise, reef decline and fish depletion should indicate. Our news media report on these things, but dare not draw any conclusions about what to do. And, of course, our corporate and political elite largely pretend that these things either are not happening or have no human cause - or at least one that would cause a change in the way we occupy this planet.

In this larger context we might want to relax a bit. Our infinite-growth economic system won't be around much longer. Our demented sociopath president won't be around much longer either. It takes a certain level of youth and vigor to be an adversary to the entire planet.

Trump has neither. He is old, obese, irascible and desperate. He also is very likely suffering from dementia, as well as other severe mental disorders. He is a criminal sociopath, which, while the condition carries a certain insulation from scruple or remorse, requires an increasing level of energy as the lies of one’s life compound at an increasing rate.

Trump is exponentially dishonest, and as such he depends on an exponential level of deceit energy to keep the lies going. I expect him to implode within the next year. The only question remaining is whether the planet will implode along with him.
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Here's a rundown on the real-world consequences of fake news.

Here's a song. The Platters. The Pretenders. Infected Mushroom. Foo Fighters. Freddie Mercury. Eric Clapton. Creedence Clearwater Revival. Glee. Nightcore. The Temptations. Alternate version.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Time is Running Out

The royal coupleWhen I lived in the Siddha Yoga ashram in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the 1970s the most enjoyable part of the day was the evening program, which involved chanting bhajans and mantras, accompanied by Indian musical instruments. After the chanting there was a short meditation, and then a reading and commentary by the ashram’s director Russell Kruckman, known as Shankar, later renamed Shankarananda.

Ann Arbor Siddha Yoga group, 1977Sometimes Shankar answered questions from the group of attendees. One night someone asked him if it was true that there were yogis in India who covered themselves with the entrails of dead babies in order to gain psychic powers, known as siddhis. Shankar answered that yes, it is true, that acts of perversion are a way of gaining powers, but that there is a heavy price to pay for such behavior. If I remember right, the price is great pain and misery. Apparently, for some people it is worth the price. More likely is that they believe that the law of karma does not apply to them, that there are no negative consequences for what they do.

I never forgot this teaching, and was almost mesmerized by Shankar’s casual and eloquent wisdom. He of course has had his own fall from grace in recent years, availing himself to the carnal delights gleaned from some of his followers in Australia.

Such is the human predicament. We are fallible and weak. I freely criticize the abuses of power and sexual shenanigans that went on while I was seeking enlightenment on the guru path, but I was never in a position to abuse power or engage in shenanigans. I might have been worse. I like to think I wouldn’t, but I don’t know. I have found it easier to avoid the seeking of power and seduction, and, coincidentally, both have avoided me. A harmony of disinterest.

The chakras in the human subtle bodyAccording to yoga theory, the practices of meditation (dhyana), postures (asana), chanting (japa), study (svadyaya), contemplation (dharana), selfless service (karma yoga), devotion (bhakti), and right behavior (yamas and niyamas) lead the supplicant to enlightenment, known as Samadhi. It is equivalent to Nirvana in Buddhism, or the Beatific Vision in Christianity. Along the way to enlightenment, various energy centers (chakras) are energized, and they have their corresponding functions in human experience, advancing from lower material concerns, procreation, power and love to higher spiritual levels of consciousness, culminating in God-realization, Samadhi.

What I have learned from observation and experience is that the path to enlightenment is neither linear nor unidirectional. Indeed, when the lower chakras relating to money, sex and power are awakened, the danger of misusing these awakened energies is greatly increased. We believed the guru I was following, Swami Müktananda, was a fully enlightened being, but it turned out he was molesting young girls in his various ashrams (residential meditation centers).

These lessons of the perils of meditative practice are not confined to spiritual life. Falling to the temptations of sex, power and money is rampant in mundane life, and the misuse and abuse of these energies is most prevalent in the institutions of business, government, education, entertainment and religion. It is in these realms where the temptations of greed, power and sexual mischief are most manifest.

I don’t live my life with a distinction, or dichotomy, between spiritual and mundane. To me it is all within a grand continuum. Causes have effects, no matter how much we impose arbitrary classifications on them. No one gets away with anything. It may take longer for some, but reaping comes to us all for what we sow.

One of the great mass murderers in human history is the still acclaimed Henry Kissinger, former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He has been quoted from time-to-time as bragging that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Apparently the exercise of the power to bomb, immolate, mine, poison, torture and assassinate were means of sexual arousal to him. He plied his trade from 1969 to 1977. One could surmise that since his ability to mass murder has been, hmm, retired, that he has had to turn to other forms of arousal, or settle on a life without sex.

We live in surreal times, with the President of the United States bragging about how he is free to grab women in the genital area with impunity because he is a "celebrity." He has also bragged that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York City and not lose any voters. Through further perversion of our electoral system he has technically been “elected” president, though the advantage gained through voter suppression and assistance from the Russian government is being made more clear on a daily basis. If the Mueller investigation is allowed to continue unimpeded, our predatory president will likely be removed from office.

That is, if he doesn’t have a health breakdown before he is removed. As I have stressed for many months, Trump very likely is suffering from dementia, and his obesity, poor health habits, and uncontrolled irascibility make his longevity in office a poor prospect. I don’t expect him to be in office by the end of the year.

More important is the lesson we are getting from a number of fronts. Trump of course is the poster boy for misuse of power, but the sexual crimes of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, “right wing” know-it-all Bill O’Reilly, and now deceased fake news purveyor Roger Ailes have become catalysts for a nationwide soul-searching about how we behave toward one another.

Unless we go deeper, though, the lessons will be lost and nothing will be learned. If we misunderstand how humans develop, how they can go wrong, and what the goals and progress of human life are directed towards, then the opposite trend of societal decline will continue, and indeed will likely prevail.

As I have written before, a useful model of human development is the hierarchy of needs construct of psychologist Abraham Maslow, proposed in the 1950s. It parallels the chakra system of energy centers in Vedanta philosophy of  India. If we don't begin to recognize the sources of human energies, their developmental roles, and the hazards they pose, we will not only continue to fall, but will accelerate the fall. We of course are accelerating the fall anyway with our infinite economic growth and destruction of the ecosphere. Time is running out.
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Here's a song. Here's another. And another. Van MorrisonThis Grateful Dead song fits. The Allman Brothers Band. Again, Stevie Wonder doing the Drumpf National Anthem. INXS. Keb MoAnother Grateful Dead song. The Traveling Wilburys. Brewer and Shipley. Another Brewer and Shipley. The Steve Miller Band. Another from the Steve Miller Band. The Chambers Brothers. Starland Vocal Band. The Amazing Rhythm Aces. Joe Cocker covering the Beatles. Iris Dement. More Iris Dement. Still more Iris Dement. My favorite Grateful Dead song, always a source of inspiration. This Grateful Dead song has unending pertinence. Another Grateful Dead song. And, for the future, this.

The history of Blues and Rock 'n Roll is replete with songs about romancing presumably underage girls, such as this from Sonny Boy Williamson. Here's the Junior Wells version. Muddy Waters. More from Muddy Waters. I always thought of this song from Steve Miller as pretty innocent, but nowadays it doesn't seem so. This Rolling Stones song was never seen as innocent. The same goes for this. Chuck Berry, who spent time in prison for statutory rape, pretty much told the story with this song. Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs. I used to think this Frank Zappa song was pretty funny, but the humor has withered. This is much better. I also used to think this Fugs song was funny, but times have changed. This is probably The Beatles' weirdest and most obnoxious song. There isn't a good copy on YouTube, so this one will have to do. Even the Grateful Dead had a version of Little School Girl, sung by the legendary "Pigpen," Ron McKernan. This Jimi Hendrix song doesn't have the same pizzaz it once did.

This song played at the end of segment six of the PBS series on the Vietnam war, incredibly powerful. The segment covered how the war had gotten more insane, more deadly, more gratuitous, and more purposeless. It was the perfect song to end with, so sad and poignant. The series was grueling to watch. I was in the Army from 1968 to 1971, but was sent to Germany instead of Vietnam. The war was looming in the background the entire time I "served" in the Army, and I could have been sent there any time. I was lucky, but the pain of that time came roaring back when Whiter Shade of Pale played during the credit roll.

R.I.P. Fats Domino. His great song Blueberry Hill was one of the formative influences of my pre-teen years. Here's the Vladimir Putin version. I wonder if Fats ever saw it. We are indeed living in surreal times.
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Here's an update from Bill Moyers.

Something I wrote made it into the pages of Madison's Cap Times.

Here's what I actually wrote:

I suppose Paul Fanlund’s diatribe against the supposed "far left" was meant to appeal to someone, though it’s a bit of a mystery. Maybe to the establishment of the “Democratic” party - they of the stand-for-nothing, triangulating approach to campaigning for office. Maybe to the mythical "center," who, it is imagined, don’t stand for anything either. Who knows? Who cares?

This kind of writing is tiresome. The idea of a “far left” first assumes that there is a "left " – a clearly recognizable cohort of humans who favor a direction on a visible spectrum, whose meaning is embodied in that direction. Lost in the minds of believers in this directionality is that it is just a mental construct, a metaphor, and has meaning only to those who believe it is real. There is no "left" in reality, and therefore there can be no "far left."

An easy counter-example of this silliness is me. I'm not part of a direction. I voted for Bernie Sanders in last year’s primary election. What he advocates are things necessary for the survival and advancement of our civilization. I voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election, with umbrage, but with dread of the alternative. Now we have the alternative, and he will likely hasten the country’s decline and maybe collapse. It could be a great cleansing of our social contract.

Rather than fulminating against "one far-left goofball after another," Paul Fanlund might raise the question of what "mainstream Democrats" believe in. The Republicans have a belief system, phony as it is, called Conservatism. It isn’t much – low taxes, low government spending, and "freedom." What it is in reality is a mix of crony capitalism and inflammatory scapegoating. Still, it is a professed belief system. What do the Democrats believe?

I have volunteered for many Democratic candidates, including in the failed recalls. It was all about getting out the vote, and nothing about believing in something – anything, other than that the various candidates are men and women of the people. They deserved to lose, and lost, repeatedly. Maybe Paul Fanlund has an idea of what Democrats stand for. Please let us know.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Onward Christian Soldiers

The first time I heard about "white" supremacy was in a movie - Gone With the Wind, in which plantation owners returning home after their defeat in the Civil War organized to preserve what remained of their former dominant stature.

At least as far as the movie was concerned, the vigilantes united to defend themselves and their families from the "white trash" and former slaves, who often congregated together for merriment and robbery. The white trash were lower class European Americans who were prone to drunkenness and crime.

How true the depiction was is dubious. What Margaret Mitchell, the author of the book, was attempting to portray was the beginning of the Ku Klux Klan. It indeed is the case that the Klan started immediately after the war ended. It grew during Reconstruction, appealing to “white” people from a wide social and economic spectrum of both southern and northern states, including the white trash of lower status that was shown in Gone With the Wind.

The KKK, as it has come to be known, reached its peak in the 1920s, when lynching of African Americans was happening in many states - from the deep South to such unlikely places as Omaha, Duluth and Marion, Indiana.

The Klan had a resurgence during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and '60s, beating and murdering marchers and organizers, bombing churches, and terrorizing African American communities. Their activities were eventually thwarted by vigorous enforcement of Federal civil rights laws, and from lawsuits by their victims, and by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

We are in a new era. White supremacy is now categorized under the broad brush of "alt-right," short for alternative right. "Right" supposedly means, as I have written before, not "left" and not "center," a cohort of “conservatives.” Conservatives can be any or all of the wealthy, religious zealots of one sect or another, corporate executives, and tribal Caucasians - otherwise known as racists.

Originally "left" and "right" referred to the seating arrangement at the French Assembly of 1789, with radicals on the left side and nobles on the right. The labels morphed into a shorthand for the perceived extremes of an imaginary spectrum of political affiliation and/or belief. In a purely mathematical sense there could be a left to right spectrum of people, and another one for beliefs, or ideology. These spectrums might be identical, but they might not be, the alignments being completely arbitrary and imaginary.

A core belief among conservatives is that government is too big and taxes are too high – for everyone. Everyone, that is, except those at the lower ends of the real spectrums of income and wealth. Conservatives, who tend to be better off financially, have no problem with higher taxes for those at the low end of the economic scale. They also have no problem with enacting laws to limit the ability of these poorer people to vote. They also have no problem availing themselves of government largesse in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, regulatory ease and lucrative government contracts.

The alt-right appears to be a bit different from, er, mainstream right. Its most fundamental organizing principle is bigotry – the belief that true humanity exists only in the perceived "race" of "white" people. It matters not one bit that there is no such thing as race and that there is no such thing as white skin - or black skin. It further does not matter to them that skin color is peripheral and meaningless in terms of character, intelligence, talent, skill, attractiveness or longevity.

Members of the alt-right tend to be younger and better-educated than the lower-class collections of convicts, ex-convicts, criminals, mentally ill people and assorted n‘er-do-wells of the past, though there are still plenty of them around. The driver of the car that rammed into the crowd in Charlottesville appears to be more of the mentally ill variety. He of course will soon be a convict. It is highly unlikely that he will ever become an ex-convict.

Most discussions of the alt-right revolve around strategies to overcome it. Remove Confederate statues preemptively. Have greater police presence at their rallies. Have more counterdemonstrators. Fight them, like the “Antifa” does, with fists, sticks and clubs. Maybe even guns. Expose them through in-depth investigative journalism. Make fun of them in our entertainment mass media.

I have a different approach. The alt-right exists within a context. Change the context. Part of the context is that our economic system intrinsically divides people up between winners and losers. In this system there has to be losers. The temptation to make someone else a loser for reasons other than talent and ability is too great for many – if not most of us.

Accumulation of money and material goods is the way success is defined in this system, so the winners have more of both, the losers have less, and at the extreme, little or nothing. Modern mass industrial systems are both capitalist and materialist, even if technically they are known by other names, such as socialist or communist.

They all have their endowed classes and their less-endowed classes. The differences among them are a matter of degree, measured by differences in income and wealth distribution. The greater the differences are in a society should be seen as the degree of civilization, but as yet are not – here, at least. In western Europe differences are not as severe, but they still have their winners and losers.

It is futile at this stage to attempt to reform a materialist system. It is too late. Climate change will render all else insignificant. Its intensifying effects are happening at the same time that our infinite-growth economic system is running out of growth prospects. Even if we went to a 100% solar-based energy regime, it would still be in the context of continuing the imperative of infinite growth of the system, which is impossible.

We don’t have the wisdom as a people to even begin to see "racial" discord in a broader context, or even look at the broader context independent of race. An infinite growth system that divides people into winners and losers will fail even if everyone were treated equal. The severe effects of climate change will affect rich and poor alike.

Our fixation on race can be seen as a hologram for our demise. Rather than facing our very real problems of existence on this planet, we find substitute concerns. We are not our skin color, yet we call ourselves "black" and "white." We refer to persons as "a" black, or "a" white, as if that is who they are, and all who they are.

With such a fixation it is no wonder that climate change denial is so prevalent. When you are consumed with the idea skin color as the most important concern in your life, of what matter could it be that the polar ice caps are melting, that forest fires are rampant, that floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, avalanches and a myriad of other real, emphatic disasters are happening? Onward Christian soldiers. Onward to extinction.
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Here's a song. Here's another. Alternate version. Talking Heads. More Talking Heads. Neil Young. Jerry Garcia. R.E.M. More R.E.M. The Grateful Dead. Louis Armstrong. Alternate Louis Armstrong. The intro to Gone With the Wind. Southern gentry getting geared-up for warThe scene in Gone With the Wind where Scarlett O'Hara is attacked by "white trash" vagrants. Gone With the Wind scene where plantation owners return home after a vigilante escapade. Theme music from Gone With the Wind. 

In 1976 I got a ride from a Ku Klux Klansman while hitchhiking through Oklahoma. I wrote about it in a previous blog post.

R.I.P. Dick Gregory. I knew him long ago.
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One way to think and perceive more freely is to recognize that "experts" that appear on radio, television and the Internet are more about themselves than anything else. An example is the NPR show OnPoint, which on August 11 had an insufferable cast of pundits expounding about Trump. I responded on Facebook:

I find it amusing that the show host and really every guest, when discussing Trump, are more interested in preserving their pundity than facing the simple and obvious truth that our president is suffering from serious mental illness. His life of fraud and narcissism has embedded him into a crude form of sociopathy, and his condition is very likely compounded by advancing dementia.

We don't hear this on OnPoint, because, mainly, it is a show, and in show business the show must go on. It can only go on by perpetuating a certain level of discourse, within the bounds of thinkable thought. For various reasons, not the least of which are funding and survival, the president's mental health condition is, for the time being, not within those bounds.

We'll see, as time goes on. OnPoint at least has had discussions of Alzheimer's Disease, and accepts that it is a malady that advances over time. If Trump indeed is afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease, it will get worse, and as it gets worse his behavior - already compromised by other mental disorders - will also get worse. As we are seeing in regard to North Korea, a multiplicity of mental illness bodes ill for the entire planet.

I expect OnPoint to continue to avoid discussing this dangerous predicament, talking for hours upon hours about what Trump really thinks about this or that, what his "policies" are, his relationship with Mitch McConnell, the likelihood of repealing Obamacare, will General Kelly enforce discipline on the White House, is the climate change report going to be suppressed, and endless blah, blah, blah about everything related to Trump except that he is mentally deranged.

I have found that silence in the morning is much preferable. My total listening today was about three minutes.

Friday, June 30, 2017

It's Time to Start Talking Impeachment

Trump's recent tweets should be enough evidence that he is unfit for office, but of greater interest is the looming evidence of his presidential campaign's ties to Russian hackers and his funding from various Russian sources. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is indicating he wants the FBI investigation to end. Trump has been calling the investigation a hoax for months. They have something to hide. They will not be able to keep it hidden.

Still, it is instructive that Trump shows no bottom when it comes to crudity, disrespect and disgracing the presidency. If he has no lower limit in dishonoring the presidency in abusive tweets, he likely has no lower limit about anything. That anything, of course, would include declaring martial law, having his enemies put in jail, or even ordering phony military actions. He should be removed from office. I believe it is only a matter of time before his is removed. The sooner the better.

Right now it is at the fun stage, Trump making such a fool of himself he has become a national  - and international - laughingstock. The fun could end soon, though, so it is best to keep the pressure up. I hope I have been doing my part responding to his tweets. It has been enjoyable, but also is a form of self-degradation getting into the Trump cesspool.

I was mulling this over today, that it is not healthy for a person to self-slime by engaging with Donald J. Trump. It's good to have doubt. Psychopaths/sociopaths like Trump have no doubts, no qualms, no scruples. I finally decided that it is good to be a citizen, and to engage in civic action. I'm not much for joining groups, though I am technically a member of a few environmental organizations - I donate small amounts to them, making me a "member." Writing will have to do.

The tweets back to Trump are easy to do from websites that embed them. I even answered a nasty tweet from Trump's White House social media director Dan Scavino. As it turns out, his qualification for the job is that he was Trump's caddy when he was a teenager.

These are bizarre times, but there have been worse times. World War II was worse. The Great Depression was worse. World War I was worse. The Civil War was worse. The Revolutionary War was worse. In this context Trump is pretty small potatoes. We can and should easily rid ourselves of him . Let's start talking impeachment.
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Here's an Impeachment song. Here's another. I'm sure some better ones will be out soon.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fortunate Sons

If a picture is worth a thousand words, three pictures should be worth at least three thousand words. Maybe more. Whomever the president may be, his or her portrait is shown at veterans hospitals throughout the country, along with a portrait of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The portrait reveals how the president wishes to be seen by the many thousands of veterans who pass by every day. Worthy of note is that the two most recent presidents did not serve in the military, and the president who preceded them is a deserter. He chose to include a picture of his vice-president in the display. His vice-president also did not serve in the military.

I only took these pictures in passing, didn't have the presence of mind to take one when Clinton was president. As I vaguely remember, his portrait showed him smiling. Clinton did not serve in the military, starting a new trend. All of these men sent people to their deaths, and all of them caused much death and destruction around the planet (except Trump, of course - he hasn't had enough time).
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Here's a song. Here's another. And anotherFor Trump.

I suppose these various service-avoiding presidents and vice-president just weren't born to follow.
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Update, June 26: The New York Times has published a list of Trump's lies since taking office.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

After Trump

Maybe I'm just seeing what I want to see, but the look in Donald Trump's eyes lately is what I call "the Alzheimer's look." It's a mix of confusion and fear, of not quite having a grasp of what is going on, groping for words, speaking in the most rudimentary, makeshift manner, far below what one expects of the President of the United
States.

Examples are myriad of Trump's poor level of communication. His comments about the death of former prisoner of North Korea Otto Warmbier are typical: "A lot of bad things happened." He also said "It’s a total disgrace, what happened to Otto. It should never, ever be allowed to happen. He should have brought home that same day. The result would have been a lot different."

Trump didn't specify what day that same day might have been, but we can presume it was the day Mr. Warmbier was arrested. He also didn't elaborate on how the imprisonment of an American in North Korea would never, ever be allowed to happen. This is pretty emblematic of Trump's rhetorical style, but the mainstream media give him a pass, saying he's a man of emotion, not eloquence. Or variations on the theme. He's not like other presidents, blah, blah, blah.

The look in Trump's eyes reminds me of Ronald Reagan when he appeared at the funeral of Richard Nixon in 1994. He looked confused, and sometimes afraid. I couldn't find a good picture of that look, but the one on the right will do. He looks confused enough. He may have had the disease while in office.

Which is interesting, if you compare Reagan's speech while in office. Though he spoke mainly from scripts, Ronald Reagan, when he spoke spontaneously, expressed himself more intelligently and clearly than does Trump.

It might not be Alzheimer's disease, but a growing chorus of medical professionals is voicing concern over Trump's mental state.

For most in the news media, and in the ideologentsia (a word I just made up), it doesn't enter the conversation. News breakers and their pundit symbiotists depend for their paychecks on endless talk about what Trump supposedly believes and on what his "policies" are, when he has neither beliefs nor policies. Ideologues on "the left" look for excuses to call him a "right-winger." It is left (not "the left") to comedians, such as Stephen Colbert, to look at Trump the man, a deeply flawed individual with psychological problems.

We might wonder what Trump's declining mental state means for the country. In an era where there are multiple nuclear threats worldwide, it certainly portends danger and catastrophe. There are some who harp on how Trump controls "the football" that holds the "nuclear codes" that can be used to order a missile strike. He could start World War III.

I'm not so pessimistic. At least not about Trump. As far as he is concerned, I have great optimism that he will be out of office by the end of the year, and likely much sooner. Even if he is of sound mind - though evidence indicates otherwise - he is an incompetent. A bumbler, a doofus and a fraud. Though we have had some terrible presidents (Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes come to mind), none has shown such thorough inability to perform the task at hand. Eventually his own party - at least the party to which he feigns loyalty - will see him as a liability and even a threat. They will find a way to get rid of him.

More likely, though, is that his progressing mental disease will force him to resign. If he indeed has Alzheimer's disease, it will get worse every day. That, compounded with his other mental challenges, will make Trump an embarrassment even to himself.

The departure of Donald Trump will be of little comfort. Climate change will still be getting more serious. Our unsustainable infinite-growth economic system will still be unsustainable - and closer to its inevitable collapse. The steady decline in our social structure - to say nothing of our physical infrastructure - will continue apace. Our advanced, mass commercial system is not built to solve these problems - and in our case to admit they exist.

Yet exist they do. We will face them when it is too late. Some say it is too late now. Maybe a new approach will work. Something more humble. It doesn't seem likely, but one can always hope. It will take a messiah. Or maybe Quinn the Eskimo.
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Here's a song. Alternate version. Alternate alternate version. Reggae version. The Hollies. String Cheese Incident. Phish. Kris Kristofferson. A short and weak version, but The Beatles. It seems that everyone is waiting for Quinn the Eskimo. Let's hope he (or she) gets here before this happens.

Here's the story of the song. The inspiration for it is likely the performance of Anthony Quinn in The Savage Innocents, a movie about the cultural clash between a family of Alaskan Eskimos and the dominant Canadian authorities. Quinn plays the lead character of Inuk the Eskimo.