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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.

Monday, April 25, 2016

If Only...

Like millions around the world, I was stunned and saddened by the unexpected death of the popular musician Prince on Thursday. He was a force, both of personality and music, and appealed to likely the widest range of people that any performer has.

I first became aware of his talent when I heard the song "Purple Rain" in a bar full of U.S. Marines in Kailua, Hawaii, in 1984. It was a pretty unlikely place, but there I was in the Marine hangout, feeling completely alien until "Purple Rain" played over the sound system. The Marines sang along with it, turning it into a rousing drinking song. It was bizarre, but the song was so good that all sense of isolation departed. The Marines were from the nearby Kaneohe Marine Base, and they seemed to recreate en masse rather than dispersive.

Several years later I went to see the concert movie "Sign o' the Times," with Prince and Sheila E. doing some of the best rock 'n roll I have ever seen. He had it all - voice, guitar virtuoso, rhythm, personality, dance moves, and a sense of humor. I expected more of the same from him over the years, but have had a pretty passive approach, letting it come to me rather than pursuing it. My music tastes are more rootsy, by-and-large, and Prince's music tended in a more pop direction.

Then came the Superbowl Halftime Show in 2007. I generally don't watch the Super Bowl, having a growing revulsion for pro-football. The Chicago Bears were playing in the game, so I had some mild interest, still only watched about 10 minutes. But the halftime show with Prince, that was a must.

And he delivered. In a rain storm. These performances have grown into crass spectacles, but Prince went beyond spectacle, bringing it in, but transcending. The stage was wet with rain, and the downpour made playing an electric guitar a risky endeavor. Prince brought the rain in, and it became the backdrop of a blazing version of Purple Rain to finish with. I was in awe, witnessing on TV the most intense, sincere, and humble, really, performance I had ever seen. He poured his heart into that 12 minutes. It seems trite to say we will never see the like again, but I can't imagine anyone topping what Prince did that day.

Now he's dead. Reports are coming out about how he had overdosed on the pain-killer Percocet. He apparently was suffering from pain in one of his hips. He also had stayed awake for 154 hours before his death, which is curious, given that painkillers are sleep-inducing.

We will find out more in the coming days. Some are arguing that the media hysteria over Prince's death has gone too far, losing all sense of priority and proportion. There are many people drowning in the Mediterranean, desperate to escape war and poverty. Bombs are killing innocent people all over the Mideast. Terrorism is a looming threat. The Zika virus threatens us all. Climate change might render the human species extinct.

It will pass. The mass information media do what they do. Hyperbole, from which we get the word hype, is their stock-in-trade. In the case of Prince, there had to be hype, almost as if this were his final, over-the-top performance. We need our mythological heroes, and in an age where a crude rabble-rouser like Donald Trump is the most popular candidate for the presidency, attention to the legacy of Prince provides a healthy counterbalance.

Something we might want to consider, though, is the influence that pharmaceutical pain killers have on our society, and the role that pharmaceuticals in general play in our lives. PBS's Frontline aired a segment in February which showed death rates from opioid addiction are over 27,000 per year, 40% more than are killed in car accidents.

We are all at risk. I have had a few near-death experiences just from taking "normal" pharmaceuticals. As doctors are wont to say, they ALL have side-effects, and if you take too much of one, too little, or in combination with something that interacts negatively, you could suffer severe illness or death, and in a short time.

Luckily, I no longer have to take Warfarin, a blood-thinner that interacts badly with just about everything. I also no longer take Simvastatin, a cholesterol drug that I didn't need in the first place, and which caused a severe reaction that took a couple of years to recover from. It was horrendous. I was in intense pain from head to toe - joint and muscle.

I gradually healed from the Simvastatin episode by doing dietary changes recommended by a naturopathic physician, along with taking various supplements, doing yoga exercises, and use of a homeopathic cream called The Rub. Along with many other natural health products, it is available at Madison's Community Pharmacy. Other natural healing substances can be found at Willy St. Coop, so between the two of them I am able to minimize the use of pharmaceuticals. Meditation is also helpful.

A couple of months ago I had some dental surgery done that required, supposedly, that I take a series of antibiotics and a pain medicine, hydrocodone - one of the opioids that is killing so many people. The overuse of antibiotics in our food and in medical practice is reaching a crisis, as was depicted in a Frontline episode almost two years ago.

The oral surgeon who operated prescribed both of these medicines without pause or warning. It is standard practice, and until directed from above - licensing authorities, the Food and Drug Admininstration, the Centers for Disease Control, etc. - it will remain standard practice.

I took neither medicine. Trusting what I learned from naturopaths and other holistic care practitioners, and from my own experience, I reduced the pain by consuming moderate amounts of turmeric, a spice from a plant root that reduces inflammation. Instead of taking antibiotics I prepared my own concoction of raw onion and garlic, topped with olive oil in a piece of pita bread. I was out of pain in one day, and had no infection.

Back in the 1990s a primary care practitioner told me I had a condition known as acid reflux disease, or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). It's another way of saying chronic heartburn, but a fancy disease name makes it more official-sounding. And more inviting to pharmaceutical intervention. I was prescribed Lansoprazole, a protein pump inhibitor. This was followed over the years by other "prazoles" of various names. They all worked. At least if "worked" means they eliminated excess stomach acid. They eliminated ALL stomach acid.

Then I found out that these drugs are not particularly good for one's health if taken for extended periods. The body needs stomach acid. I changed my diet and stopped taking prazoles. A company named Urban Moonshine offers a selection of digestive bitters that help prevent heartburn. Another company, Enzymatic Therapy, offers deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) in tablets, which also helps with digestion. Other brands also offer this remedy. This just happens to be the brand that I have.

Better than these supplements, though, is organic apple cider vinegar. A small amount can stop acid reflux, and taking it before going to bed prevents it. Sometimes, if I eat something with extreme digestive challenges, I take all three remedies.

From the perspective of official medicine and its chief sponsor - the pharmaceutical industry - this approach is anathema. There isn't big money to be made from natural treatment of illness. The established, credible, approved, official world is the world to be believed in and obeyed.

Prince, for all his freedom of expression and pioneering artistry, apparently believed in the official approach to pain management. He might have had other things going on, like addiction and recklessness, but I can't help thinking that if he had tried a few natural treatments for his pain he would still be with us. A lot of us are angry about Prince's death. A good place to direct it is the amoral pharmaceutical industry. From there we can look at the panoply of other official myths that pass for truth these days. Like this.

Here is a series of Prince songs.

We are all flirting with the Apocalypse.

Here's an old song.

This song is by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, something we all wish Prince had done.

April 27 update: Here's an example of what Prince meant to other musicians.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

After the Fall

As we have long suspected in Wisconsin, the real purpose of the voter ID law enacted by the "Republicans" in the state legislature is to suppress the vote. A former "Republican" legislative aide said so publicly last week, describing a planning meeting where one state senator said that all he cared about was winning elections regardless of the negative effects. A former state senator, who is now serving in the House of Representatives in Washington, let it slip that the intention of the law is to elect "Republicans." The Congressman, Glenn Grothman, also said "I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well."

The same is true nationwide. Legislatures dominated by "Republicans" have introduced voter ID laws in 41 states since 2011, and 18 of them have been successfully enacted. A Frontline investigation in 2014 revealed how the laws are not about voter fraud, but to restrict voting.

Given the putrid candidates the "Republicans" are offering for president this year, the voter ID laws likely won't be enough to ensure victory. Still, they are confident that they can prevent Obama's Supreme Court nominee from being confirmed long enough for their presumed "Republican" president can nominate someone more to their liking, i.e., a "Conservative" sociopath.

What, I wonder, makes them so confident? What do they know that the rest of us don't know? Given that they have no qualms about suppressing the vote, and stole the 2000 and 2004 elections, it is an easy conclusion that they have something up their individual and collective sleeve(s).

It's not the end of the world. Donald Trump is right: the system is rigged. In a likely contest of Hillary Clinton versus whomever non-Trump candidate the "Republicans" come up with it will truly be a choice between the lesser of two evils. She will be a terrible president, as will be Cruz, Trump or Kasich. None of them will do anything that needs to be done, and all of them would do things that are harmful to people and the planet.

The "Republicans," of course, will be worse. The political parties are essentially criminal organizations, but they exist along a continuum. It is not the continuum of "left" to "right," but of perfidy and evil. What they have in common is the burning need to win elections. The "Democrats" rely on fooling the less-well-off and more-civilized, while the "Republicans" are more about crony capitalism, xenophobia and scapegoating. The lines of division between and among them are not drawn in stone, so there is plenty of crony capitalism and xenophobia on the "Democratic" side and plenty of fooling the less-well-off and more-civilized among the "Republicans."

Given the the two major parties are criminal and/or do-next-to-nothing parties, and that drastic climate change is encroaching, as well as the impending collapse of our infinite-growth economic system, one can easily conclude that they are speeding up the process of their own demise. The challenge for the rest of us is to find ways to prevent them from taking us with them.

How about another party? Today I attended the state convention of the Wisconsin Green Party. There were few attendees, and not much of significance went on. It's a party that has struggled for attention and impact over the years, reaching its pinnacle of sorts when Ralph Nader was its candidate for president in 1996 and 2000. Some still blame him for the "defeat" of Al Gore in Florida in 2000, when the real culprit was the "Republican" party, which suppressed the vote through various forms of chicanery, blocking people from voting, purging voter registrations, sending people to the wrong polling places, and various other methods of election fraud.

They had their chance. More than a chance. An abundance of chances. They squandered their opportunities, all in the name of petty narcissism and outright sociopathy. Their time is up. Let's get rid of them. The Green Party is small and ineffective now, but when people have had enough of the greater or lesser of two evils, they (we) might start looking elsewhere. The Green Party in Germany actually has people holding public office, with 63 representatives in the Bundestag, the national legislature.

Polar bears taking a break. They depend on our good will for their survivalIt isn't much, but it's a start. With increasing drought, forest fires, floods, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes,  rising sea levels, crop failures, species decline, the spread of disease, and worldwide economic collapse, something new will take the place of the old. Necessity is the mother of invention, and just as throughout history when circumstances converge, change takes place. The Green Party of the United States can be a catalyst and focal point for that change. On November 8 we "choose" a new president. On November 9 we can start planning for real change.

Here's a song. Here's another. And another. This too. And this.

R.I.P. Merle Haggard. This is my favorite of his songs. This is my second-favorite. Here's an alternate version. This was one of my mother's favorite songs. Alternate version. They even did this Merle song with the Beach Boys. Who'da thunk?

Update April 22 : Here's something we won't be seeing a movie about any time soon. It wouldn't conform with the manufacture of consent, which dictates the bounds of thinkable thought.

Meanwhile, back at the Great Barrier Reef.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Nowhere Men

British actress Helen Mirren is in a new movie, Eye in the Sky. She plays a colonel in some branch of the United Kingdom's military who is faced with an ethical and moral dilemma about ordering a drone strike. It is billed as a "thriller." In other words, it is a commercial production intended to make money by thrilling people. It is thrilling when big name actors are faced with ethical dilemmas.

Not so much for the thousands of people who have been killed and injured by drone strikes.

Mirren talked about the movie on the Charlie Rose Show last week, and said that since making the movie she has been told that many present and former authorizers of drone strikes agonize over ethical questions in exactly the same way as portrayed in the movie.

This of course doesn't match the historical record, which shows that U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan in one five-month period killed the wrong people 90% of the time. I suppose the people in these countries should be happy that so much agonizing over the ethics of these strikes took place. It could have been 100%.

But the movie is a thriller. Teeming hordes are supposed to flock to theaters to watch actors struggle with ethical and legal questions that in real life matter little, if at all. The movie serves its purpose. The good guys win again, as they (we) always do. Like Zero Dark Thirty and American Sniper before it, Eye in the Sky serves the propaganda needs of the Deep State, in this case a depiction of its British adjunct.

So it goes. The Deep State trudges on, making all its nowhere plans for nobody. The "leftist" approach to the Deep State is to whine and cringe in fear, giving it more power than it would have otherwise. I take a different approach. Let's look at what the future holds for the almighty Deep State.

The Deep State, or alternatively the National Security State, is just a collection of men. That there are many thousands of men in the Deep State doesn't make it any less or more than a plural of men. They have power, for sure, but it is the power of the bully. They can spy, kidnap, torture, start wars, bomb, assassinate, destroy, conceal and deceive with seeming impunity. They can prop themselves up with heroic movies and TV shows. But they all have feet of clay, all are fallible human beings with egos and weaknesses. They are all mortal, and time is not their friend. We are in an era where the industrial mandate of civilization has reached the point of self-destruction. The technical behemoth does not have the wherewithal to solve the problems it has created. The Deep State can by its very nature only make things worse.

So, rock on Deep State. See where it gets you. I can tell you in advance. Nowhere, man.

Here's a song.

Here's an update on the long folly of the Deep State.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The World According to Us

President Obama said last Wednesday that defeating ISIS is his number one priority. Apparently this ragtag band of terrorists is a greater threat than climate change, poisoning of the environment, overpopulation, or the unsustainability of our infinite-growth economic system.

It also is a greater threat than endless war, arms proliferation, growing economic inequality, and the expansion of the Deep State. It is a higher priority than repairing our crumbling infrastructure, which is killing far more Americans than terrorism. It is a far higher priority than sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or instructing the ignorant.

Indeed, ever since the attacks in Brussels minions of our political-media establishment have been in a lather to show how much they are opposed to the "Islamic State," which is not a state at all, but largely a figment of its own imagination.

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks," to borrow from Shakespeare. Why, one might ask, are politicians and pundits vying to proclaim their outrage and demand retribution against "ISIS." It was started by a guy who was tortured by "Americans" in Camp Bucca, "Iraq" during our eight years-long occupation. His followers are a mixed bunch of former Ba'ath Party members, "Iraqi" soldiers from Saddam Hussain's army, various disaffected Sunni Muslims from the Mideastern countries, and volunteer adventurers from around the world.

Why was he tortured? No particular reason. Agents of torture were rounding people up at random to provide torturees. When you are torturing people you first need people to torture, just like when you are starting a war you first need someone to start a war with. Torturees, like seemingly defenseless countries, are the low-hanging fruit.

And therein lies the rub. The invasions of "Afghanistan" and "Iraq" were waged for purposes of domestic politics. The Bush criminal regime looked the other way when warned of the impending September 11, 2001 attacks, and needed a diversion or two to refocus public attention. The "Iraq" invasion was planned even before Bush was "elected,"so it was a bonus war after the "Afghanistan" incursion.

We have yet to face the reality of the Bush gang, and because of that our "leaders" can continue on their merry way as if everything that their criminality caused is new, without causation. "ISIS" is an Islamic terrorist group, fanatics that hate us for our freedom, in George W. Bush-speak. There is no history when history is inconvenient.

Thus is the world according to us. "Us" being official "America," the acceptable established order that defines what is and who is around the planet. By defining the narrative of "us," the established order also lets the public know what to think and believe in order to be one of "us." "ISIS" will eventually be defeated and victory will be proclaimed. Then what? "We" will have learned nothing, and some pretext for another war will present itself. We have a "Defense" industry to maintain. Like the economy it feeds off like a parasite, the Defense industry needs to grow in order to survive. There not only has to be a constant threat of war, but constant war. You can't have war without weapons and equipment, so voila, there's money to be made.

The "Republicans" running for president are climbing over each other "Lord of the Flies" style, promising to carpet bomb the Mideast, torture even more brutally, and make the region glow from the use of nuclear weapons.

The leading "Democratic" candidate, Hillary Clinton, isnít much better. She claims her vote in favor of the invasion of "Iraq" was based on "the best available intelligence." The best, at least, that she cared to "believe." She spoke to "AIPAC," the pro-"Israel" lobby, last week, promising unquestioning expansion of military aid. Military aid to slaughter "Palestinians." If elected she will likely start at least one and maybe several more wars. When all you have to do is define the world according to "us," anything is possible.

Where will this end, we might ask. There are few good options. One is in nuclear war, which, ceteris paribus (all other things held equal), is inevitable for an empire that acts with greed and impunity. All other things canít be held equal, though. In a supremely ironic twist of fate, the synergy of climate change and the failure of our infinite-growth economic system may be the savior of humanity.

At some point our survival as a nation and as a species will become more critical than permanent war. The official narrative of "us" versus "them" will no longer matter. The established order will be no more.

And for "ISIS?" It will take a bit of humility, but the "nation" of "Iraq" has always been a fiction. If the world-at-large allows it to be divided up into three distinct states according to its ethno-religious populations, some cohesion can be established. Since "ISIS" is a Sunni Muslim entity, it can be driven into the newly established Sunni state, where it can compete for dominance with the people who live there. By the time that happens there will likely be little of "ISIS" left, so maybe the new country will find a way to real civilization.

Solving the problem posed by terrorism will be more difficult. We can safely say it wonít be solved by endless war, carpet bombing, making the world glow, or by torture. So what do we do?

To start, recognize that no matter how much you establish a national security state, mass societies will always be vulnerable to terrorism. It ís too easy for an individual or group of individuals to create mayhem with relatively little effort. People gather in crowds, and crowds are easy targets for disgruntled, fanatic or disturbed people to wreak havoc.

Understanding this vulnerability, we can so things to minimize it. When it comes to fanaticism, we can debunk it competently and responsibly. Here in "America" our most serious fanatics are fundamentalist "Christians" and "right wing" zealots. As things stand presently, these elements of society are given wide berth, allowed to spew their paranoid ideas and hatred with impunity. Remove their impunity and their numbers will dwindle. Patience, as the FBI showed in the recent standoff at the wildlife refuge in Oregon, brings the best results.

For the mentally disturbed, or "ill," more effective medical treatment, including confinement, is called for. In the "conservative" wave that followed the election of Ronald Reagan one of the most irresponsible practices was put in place. It is called "deinstitutionalization," and consisted of closing mental health facilities nationwide, dumping the patients, or inmates, out on the streets. The newly disturbed have little help or monitoring, and are left to their own devices. In a climate of gun fanaticism, the two populations often intersect.

That leaves us with the disgruntled. Like fanatics and mentally disturbed people, they will always be with us. And, like fanatics and mentally disturbed people, their numbers and actions can be minimized by creating a truly decent and civilized society. We can work toward a more equal distribution of income and wealth. We can create greater protection for the environment. We can establish better conditions for the workplace, restoring union protections and enforcing safety standards. We can expand public sector employment, and make it merit-based wherever possible.

We also can enact and enforce laws that minimize bias in employment, housing, voting, and in the justice system. People who feel cheated, abused, left out and dismissed will tend to be disgruntled. Some of them become violent. Reducing the factors that cause people to feel disgruntled will greatly reduce the desperate actions that they sometimes take.

Or, we can continue making it all about "us," even though most of us are only spectators, gullible believers in the official truth. The choice is clear, or should be. As a people we need to grow up. We are headed towards denouement. If we don't grow up, we will likely cease to exist as a species.

Here's an example of the established order's according to us-ness.

Here's an update about the CIA's torture methods. 

Here's some Shakespeare.

The Works of Mercy can be seen here.

Tom Engelhardt refers to the Deep State as the Shadow Government. He wrote a book about it.

Here's some great music.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Signs of Encouragement

Last week I went to a lecture at Madison's Frank Lloyd Wrigt-designed convention center, Monona Terrace, in its Wright Design Series. The lecture was given by Enrique Norten, a renowned New York and Mexico City-based architect. I still have a semi-dormant interest in architecture from the time decades ago when I was studying architectural drawing and construction at a Community College.

The audience seemed to be mostly architects, and a few of them tried to ask petty questions afterward. One of them asked why Norten's buildings tended to be rectilinear. This attempt at insider sophistication as a backhanded put-down failed, as Norton explained that his intention in design is always to fit a building into its surroundings and be focused on convenience and use by the public. He also incorporates solar energy into his designs wherever possible, hoping to reduce or eliminate the harmful effects of the buildings on the climate.

In his lecture Norton talked about his desire to use the design of buildings to spread democracy by maximizing the participation in urban life by the most people. To this end he makes his designs accessible and inviting, and includes the surrounding landscape in creating public spaces that draw people in. This is most often seen in his designs of libraries, museums, government edifices, and university buildings

Someone asked him if he considered himself a Latin American architect, since so many of his buildings are in in countries south of the border with Mexico. He answered that he didn't identify as anything other than someone who tries to serve the public wherever that may be. He continued, saying that he didn't believe in nations and borders, and that people should be able to travel and live wherever they like.

I was pleasantly surprised by this, far beyond what I expected. I only went to the lecture because the Wright Design Series has been going on for years, and it was high time I went to one of its offerings. Monona Terrace is an enjoyable place to go for its various events, classes, rooftop restaurant, and to just walk around. I had no idea that I would be hearing someone at the top of the architecture profession talking about the relationship of democracy and climate change to the design of buildings and cities.  I also had no idea such a visionary and innovator would be an advocate of open borders, or really no borders.

It was three weeks earlier in Madison that local "Hispanics" held a "Day Without Latinos" rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Over 20,000 people of Mexican, Salvadoran, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, Panamanian and other "south of the border" descent took the day off from work and protested at the Capitol. The intent of the rally was to show how integral Latino workers are to the Wisconsin economy.

The state legislature, led by criminal sociopath governor Scott Walker, has a bill in the works to make "sanctuary cities" ineligible for state funding in Wisconsin. Sanctuary cities, Madison among them, have enacted ordinances to prevent local law enforcement officials from cooperating with the Federal government's deportation activities. The only sanctuary cities in Wisconsin are Madison and Milwaukee, along with Milwaukee County as a whole.

The sign translates roughly to “Dream to be free in spirit. Struggle to be free in life.”
The law has been postponed. In other words, delayed while "Republicans" assess the political risks of enacting such a law. They have been passing one repressive law after another in recent years, and their arrogance and crony capitalism may be reaching their limits.

So maybe the tide is turning. At the national level the absurdity of the "Republican" presidential campaign is beyond surreal, and the public is getting a painful Civics lesson. The clumsy attempt to stifle Obama's Supreme Court nomination is providing another Civics lesson. Fox News is having an identity crisis.

We can only hope. This winter is the warmest in recorded history planet-wide. The supremacy of authoritarian, reptilian brain, lower-level beings will fail eventually. What better time than now?


R.I.P. George Martin. Words cannot express what the Beatles have meant in my life. Here's a song. This is the first song George Martin produced for the Beatles. This album is the last he produced with the Beatles.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Butterfly Effect

Everything relates to everything else. This is Tobler's First Law in Geography, but applies to all phenomena. We do not live in a dichotomous, binary world. This should be obvious, but modern mass industrial society operates as if everything is discrete, disconnected, and acting independently.

In Chaos Theory, there is a concept known as the butterfly effect, in which a small change in a system can result in large changes in a later state of the system. The metaphoric example of this concept is the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in one location, which can affect the weather in distant locations weeks later.

Putting these two concepts together, it is easy to see how a self-serving, corrupt political system can result in something like the heroin epidemic that is sweeping the country. PBS's Frontline aired an episode Tuesday titled Chasing Heroin, in which the nature and extent of the epidemic was depicted.

It might be helpful to explain the connection by using the term blowback,  where unforeseen negative consequences follow from actions taken. We have been hearing about direct blowback from our diddling around the planet for a couple of decades, mostly in the international sphere. How about domestically? One domestic effect is the trillions of dollars wasted that could have been spent on repairing our decaying infrastructure of roads, bridges, dams, sewer lines, shipping ports and power grids. We could have expanded our health care system. We could have built low-cost housing for millions of people.

How is the heroin epidemic and example of blowback, though? One easy answer is the 40-fold increase in opium production in "Afghanistan" since the U.S. invasion, occupation and whatever it is called now.  Heroin is made from opium. But how is it that the use of heroin has spread so rampantly among "white" people? Could it be that there has been a decline in inhibitions and standards of behavior?

When we have a political class that is as crass, callous and criminal as the one we have now, might that crassness, callousness and criminality filter down to the suburbs? If "leadership" is so poor that Donald Trump (Drumpf) is the preferred candidate of a major political party, maybe shooting heroin is not such an unthinkable option.

In last Thursday's news, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing a new plan to "streamline" enforcement of pollution laws, giving businesses the ability to set their own standards. This is consistent with "Republican" efforts nationwide. It is seen most obviously in their pathological denial of climate change.

A further example of "Republican" efforts to control every aspect of "American" life, "GOP" senators are vowing to prevent the president from nominating a Supreme Court justice to replace the recently deceased Antonin Scalia. He was a terrible justice, and the "Republicans" want Obama to delay nominating a replacement until the next president assumes office, whom they are certain will be one of them.

I wonder about such certainty. There is much evidence that the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen through use of pre-hacked electronic voting machines. One journalist who has been following actual vote fraud for a long time, Harvey Wasserman, predicts the "Republicans" will steal this year’s election. Too much is at stake for the criminal elite to leave the election up to the people.

The FBI is attempting to force the Apple Corporation to give it access to its customers' telephones. When you're saving the world from terrorism, apparently, there is no such thing as enough information. Some might remember the attempt at Total Information Awareness during the Bush criminal regime. The current effort looks like old wine in new bottles. Since the FBI's main weapon against terrorism is entrapment, one can only wonder what the real purpose is for total information.

These phenomena can be looked at as butterflies. In the current incarnation of our socio-economic system we have what is known as the Deep State, a symbiotic relationship between the political world, the corporate world and the national security apparatus. The various manifestations of bought politicians, corporate malfeasance, endless war, the various permutations of the national security state, supporting mass media, and the glut of entertainment culture all combine in a symbiotic dance of pretend existence.

Using the metaphor of butterflies, the activities of all these "players" in the game of false existence inevitably have effects later that extend far beyond what could be imagined when activities to maintain and extend the structure are engaged in.

A perfect example is the invasion and occupation of "Iraq." From the perspective of the Bush criminal regime, what could possibly go wrong? Well, how about EVERYTHING? Massive death and destruction, many thousands of service members returning severely damaged, often killing themselves, war spreading throughout the region, and, last but certainly not least, the rise as a world threat of the heretofore nonexistent "ISIS." And, also thanks to the Bush criminal regime, there are now terrorist threats more serious than "ISIS."

What does the threat of "ISIS" mean to our Deep State alliance of politicians, corporations, the national security state and supporting mass media? Opportunity. Limitless opportunity. In the “Republican” "debates," various media personalities ask the candidates what they would do about “ISIS,” and they invariably grandstand, offering no actual solutions but plenty of bluster and braggadocio, promising to obliterate large swaths of the Mideast and its people to squash an upstart group that wouldn’t even have existed if we had had any prudence at all about invading other countries. Instead of prudence, they want to invade more.

In other words, more butterflies of evil. All they can come up with is evil. Paraphrasing former Alabama governor George Wallace, it’s evil now, evil tomorrow, and evil forever.

We can stop them. First, we have to be clear on what they are up to. Then we have to consistently speak of them, organize against them, take action against them, and overcome them from the perspective that they are an unrelenting evil force. There is no reasoning with them, no room for compromise. How do you compromise with climate change denial?

I shouldn’t leave the "Democrats" out. They are part of the dance, different only by degree, not by kind. They don’t even pretend to have any principles they stand for. Most of us will be voting for a "Democrat" this fall, only to have the votes stolen, but the Deep State would survive even if the election weren’t stolen. It just wouldn’t thrive as much.

So what does one do? All I can say is do your best, and every action is its own butterfly. The Deep State is not a Divine creation, but instead is of the human ego. All that is of the psychopathic human ego is doomed to failure. The butterfly effects of all this evil guarantee that failure.

And, just to make sure the obvious is abundantly clear, practice non-violence. The Deep State has all the violence and capacity for violence that humans are capable of. As has been seen in the past with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, non-violence works, and in the long-run is much more powerful than violence. 

Next, we will need to plan for what replaces the Deep State. No small task, but it is the task at hand. If anyone is under the delusion that "leftists" are egoless altruists who are only interested in the brotherhood of mankind, I suggest attending a meeting of "leftists." Or even observing a casual conversation between as few as two "leftists." It will be like something from "Life of Brian."

Still, what needs to be done can be done. It just isn’t going to be easy.

This Donovan song fits. This too.

Here's a video on the life cycle of a butterfly.

Here are some poems about butterflies. 

R.I.P. Harper Lee.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Just Another Word for Nothin' Left to Lose

Syrian children left to sleep outside, Stockholm, Sweden Migration Board, January 31, 2016
Human civilization should be doing better than this. After all the advances over the millennia, the scientific discoveries, the inventions, manned space flights, social improvements like democracy, human rights, civil rights, sexuality rights, the end of empires - it would be a safe assumption that as a species we would have human interaction figured out.

We of course haven't. Instead, we, as a species, do horrible things to each other. In my lifetime the atomic bomb was invented, then used to destroy two cities. There were wartime tactical reasons (or were they strategic?), but the main reason we dropped atomic bombs on people is that we had the bombs to drop, and a handy excuse. Since then we have invented ever-more sophisticated nuclear weapons, totaling 7,100, which can be launched from air, land and sea, enough to destroy all life on this planet many times over.

Also during my lifetime there have been U.S. overthrows of democratically elected governments worldwide, including in Iraq, Iran, Guatemala, Haiti, Syria, Panama, Iraq, Chile, Brazil, Congo, Ukraine, Greece, Cambodia, and of course Vietnam.  There have been numerous others, as well as support for various brutal  dictatorships and monarchies, such as in Saudi Arabia.

We can only wonder what the world would be like if these various overthrows and proppings-up had not occurred. We very likely wouldn't have children washing up on beaches, or boatloads of people drowning at sea, after fleeing the war-torn countries they came from.

There also would almost certainly not be the occurrence of terrorism worldwide, because the antecedent causes - overthrows, invasions and establishment of military bases would not have enraged people in the countries affected. Osama bin Laden, for example, turned his terrorist eye to the U.S. when bases were created in Saudi Arabia in 1991 after our first invasion of Iraq.

I don't mention this history to indulge in some kind of self-flagellation for being an "American." This just happens to be the country that is at the top of the heap, so to speak, of global dominance, suppression, destruction, and all the things that go with such status. If it weren't us it would be someone else, as many centuries of past experience have shown.

It's different now, in that, though we should know better and don't, we no longer have an option to behave as we have. We are entering a new economic era, and a new relationship with the natural world. You wouldn't know it by paying attention to our mainstream corporate and quasi-corporate news media, but our infinite-growth economic system is at its growth limit. PBS relented a bit last week, airing a segment on NewsHour about the end of growth, but from an innovation perspective. I take more of a Herman Daly perspective - that the real limit to growth is physical. We're running out of planet. A healthy economy is supposed to be growing in output by an annual rate of 4%, but using the Rule of 72, we can see that would mean a doubling of output every 18 years. The planet can't contain an output twice what we have now, no matter how long it takes.

Some have observed that the civil war in Syria was caused at least partly by drought. The Mideast is already a pretty dry region, so any drought there is disastrous. Some researchers are already predicting battles over water in the Mideast will be the equivalent of what oil was the previous century.

Scientists suspect that the spread of the Zika virus has been accelerated by climate change.

Economic refugees will be coming from everywhere - and going everywhere. We, world champs since 1945, the year I was born, may be world chumps in the foreseeable future. Our prosperity is based on the unbridled generosity of mother nature. U.S. population as of last December is 322,267,564. We are the most affluent society on the planet, and are ill-prepared for hardship. We aren't so well-prepared for good times either, with alcoholism, drug addiction and gun violence tearing at the national fabric.

It's not too late to do something about our current and pending malaise. We can stop being so dumb. As an entire people, we probably won't, or at least won't until it is too late. It may already be too late. So, just like facing our own individual demise(s), it may be to our advantage to face species demise. Though it is part of human ego-centeredness to view ourselves as supreme, and the rest of Creation as subservient, we actually have it 180° backwards. The planetary ecosystem and resource support structure are what enable us to exist. Without it we never would have existed in the first place. The "Christian" view that prides itself on the notion that man is the "steward" of the environment is arrogant at best, quickly forgotten in practice.

This doesn't mean give up. Just don't expect "victory," or even a meager survival. We can be more effective in dealing with this predicament when we realize we have nothing to lose. To coin a phrase, freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose. It's good enough for me.

Here's a song that sounds Country. Here it is at full tilt. This version is one to be grateful for. This is the original recording, though not by the author. Even Johnny Cash had a version. LeAnn Rimes too. The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis. How about Dolly Parton? Jennifer Love Hewitt. Waylon Jennings.

This Woody Guthrie song is performed by his son Arlo. Here's a surprising alternate version. This Tom Petty song fits, barely.

Noam Chomsky says the "Republican" party is a serious danger to human survival.

R.I.P. Bob Elliott. Bob and Ray were a family favorite when I was growing up. Here's a sample.

R.I.P. Paul Kantner. This song fits.

R.I.P. Glenn Frey. My favorite Eagles song. I remember what I was doing when the song came out in 1972, getting ready to start graduate school. Around the same time their friend and sometime collaborator Jackson Browne had this song playing on the radio. This Jackson Browne song fits today's theme.

Update, February 15: In another of the endless ironies of my life, I went to my cousin's lesbian wedding in 2002 at the same resort ranch where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Saturday. I wrote about it in this blog post.

I have a suggestion for President Obama. It would be a master chess move for him to nominate an African American to replace Scalia. He also would have a momentum-builder that would make his presidency go out in a blaze of glory. My hope is that he nominates Anita Hill. It would be a closing of a circle.

Update, February 18: Here's a perspective on the legacy of Antonin Scalia.

February 21: Here's another update about Scalia.