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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, May 19, 2016

Surreality on Steroids

Frontline on PBS aired a new segment Tuesday night, The Secret History of ISIS. It isn't so secret. It has been pretty common knowledge that the "Islamic State" had its beginnings in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of "Iraq." An upstart terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, organized displaced members of Saddam Hussein's army and Ba'ath Party.

After a number of horrific terrorist attacks in "Iraq," the Bush criminal regime devised a new plan, the "Surge," in 2007. Millions of dollars in payoffs were made to Sunni tribal leaders to keep them from attacking "American" troops, and in the process fending off the "Al Qaeda in Iraq" insurgency that morphed into "ISIS." Al Zarqawi was assassinated, and a new leader emerged, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He had been a "U.S." prisoner at Camp Bucca in "Iraq" in 2004. It was there that he gathered a following that led to ISIS being formed.

Bush after “choking on a pretzel”Frontline went into enough detail to show that ISIS is the result of the invasion and occupation of "Iraq," but left it to viewers to draw their own conclusions about culpability. I can fill it in. George W. Bush was in-effect appointed to the presidency of the "U.S." in 2000 by the Supreme Court. He and his partners in crime had planned to invade "Iraq" before the "election." His father had previously invaded "Iraq," on cooked-up "evidence" in 1990. Like father, like son

We could have had another Bush presidency this year, but thanks to blowhard Donald Trump we have been saved from that possibility. Trump is good for something. He out-faked and out-blustered all of his opponents. It will likely be him against Hillary Clinton this fall. What a choice.

This was all inevitable. It shows the fundamental weakness of a mass society. One way or another, whether by dictatorship or "democracy," power is concentrated in the hands of the few over the many. In true Orwellian fashion even dictatorships refer to themselves as democratic, and in a republic like we have in the "U.S.," whatever democratic institutions that do exist are diminished by corruption.

A good example is the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. He was part of the legal team that engineered disenfranchisement of Florida voters, and then stifled the recount. His reward was appointment by George W. Bush to the nation's highest judicial office.

This criminal sequence is a perfect example of the vulnerability of mass systems. The psychopathic and sociopathic few pursue control the many, and they use the energy and resources of the many to commit mayhem, enrich themselves and their cronies, and ultimately threaten not just the lives of the many, but all life.

Is there a way out? "Leftists" would say organize, organize, organize. Good luck with that. The closest thing we have to organizing against the machine is Bernie Sanders. He's fighting a courageous battle, but it is doomed to failure. He almost certainly will not be the "Democratic" nominee, and if he is, the vote will be rigged in much easier fashion than what happened in 2000.

I suspect we are going to have President Donald Trump. The kept news media are already softening to him, changing their coverage to something more accepting and friendly. As actor Johnny Depp has put it, he will be our last president.

There is a beauty to this. A corrupt, technologically "advanced" mass society, with the largest and most sophisticated military power in human history falls victim to the buffoonery of a completely phony grandstander. There is mounting evidence that he is mentally impaired. That will be surreality on steroids. A mentally impaired chief executive of the largest economic and military power ever at a time when human civilization is at stake. If this were a novel, no one would buy it.

It is still a long time until the "election." Almost six months. A lot will happen between now and then. I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises. Trump might come down with a mysterious illness. Hillary Clinton might get indicted. We will end up with a new president one way or another. Whomever it is, we face enormous challenges. The likelihood is that we will choose badly, and  might not be choosing anyway. No matter who is "elected," our troubles are only beginning.

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Here's a song. Here's another. And another, my favorite. This Beatles song fits.

This song is worth a listen. Here's another oldie.

We're all just trying to make it real. Maybe we just live in our own lands of make-believe.

In 2007 I did a photo essay of the Bush II presidency. It was the most difficult blog post I ever did, and I was physically ill afterwards. I have never hated Bush, but have not risen above revulsion.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Non-Duality

PBS replayed its "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" film last week, a monumental history of the parks, covering the political squabbles, "discoveries," advocates, detractors, and panoramic scenes.

The six episode series was a production from filmmaker Ken Burns, who has also made documentaries about the Civil War, baseball, Jackie Robinson, World War II, The Roosevelts, Prohibition, the Dust Bowl, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and many others.

Burns's movies are broad, comprehensive stories of important facets of "American" life and history, and are told in a steady mix of visual and narrative exposition that bring the stories to life.

I have one complaint, though. Burns employs a method of what I call the disembodied interview, in which various writers, historians, witnesses and other commenters expound on some topic or other, speaking to some unknown listener who is off-camera and anonymous. One annoying historian makes it even worse by turning his head from side-to-side so he can look at the anonymous interviewer out of the corners of his eyes. Someone else is being addressed instead of me, the audience on TV, and this someone else is faced sideways every few seconds.

Other than the disembodied interviews, though, the films are well-worth the time spent to watch them. In the case of the National Parks series, I was reminded of my own National Park experiences, and inspired to visit more of them.

My memories are different, though, from what several of the disembodied interviewees related. They consistently referred to being "humbled" by the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Denali, overwhelmed by something greater than themselves.

I wonder what exalted lives they lead that it takes visiting the Grand Canyon for them to be "humbled." Everything outside one's body is physically greater than oneself. By that definition my bathroom is "greater" than me, but I don't feel humbled every time I enter it.

What I experienced in the National Parks was   expansiveness. Most of my park visits were in one sojourn, in 1997. I quit my job, moved out of my apartment and headed West. After a few days doing sweat lodge ceremonies on the Rosebud Lakota reservation in South Dakota, I went to the BadlandsYellowstone, the Tetons, Craters of the Moon, some U.S. Forest Service sites in Oregon, the Redwoods in California, a state park in Big Sur, then the Grand Canyon. I also hiked the Boynton Canyon Trail outside Sedona, Arizona, and camped in not-too-distant Oak Creek Canyon.

By the time I reached the Grand Canyon I was satiated with beauty, so I was less overwhelmed than I was by Yellowstone and the other parks. It was still a great experience, and the most relaxed camping of the entire sojourn. What I remember from then, and from every place I visited along the way, was a sense of unity. Not "oneness," but non-duality, what is known in Vedanta as Advaita. It can be seen as a semantic parsing of words to non-duality as, hmm, different from oneness, but in my understanding of Advaita, there is no plural to be one from.

Or, from the lore of my guru-following days, Sarvam Shiva Mayam - everything is Shiva, the Supreme consciousness. In Buddhism, we are all of Buddha nature, and only need to awaken in order to realize Nirvana, a state of non-duality, among other aspects.

I could have visited even more national parks on this trip than I did, but what I saw was enough. It took a month, and  by the time I came back I was both tired of travel and rejuvenated. My allergies were gone - for the time being at least. I lost about ten pounds.  I eventually returned to the job I quit, something I wouldn't have predicted, but it was my best choice. A change of perspective can work wonders.

What, one might wonder, does an experience of non-duality have to do with ordinary mundane life? It has a lot to do with everything we do, individually and as a society. The modern Western view of reality is of things, a discrete and complex network of individual parts. Or, as physicist Fritjof Capra puts it, we have a mechanistic view of the Universe.

This mechanistic view gets in the way of understanding reality as it is, and it results in bad responses to challenges. People are things in the mechanistic view, and they are fair game for any level of abuse, exploitation, neglect, and of course killing.

A good example is our ruling elite's response to "ISIS." This organization came about as a result of our invasion and occupation of "Iraq," Over time, as the outrages of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other loci of abuse accumulated, the ranks of the disaffected grew. The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was tortured as a prisoner at Camp Bucca, another of our infamous detention sites. Now ISIS is essentially a large criminal gang, and the "official" solution is to kill them all.

Presidential candidates are climbing over each other to denounce and threaten to destroy ISIS. Donald Trump says the U.S. should send 20,000 to 30,000 troops to the Mideast, and bring back waterboarding. He also says we should kill their families. Erstwhile candidate Ted Cruz wants to "carpet bomb" ISIS with nuclear weapons.

These are the kinds of things sociopaths fantasize about when they see other people as mere things. Indeed, psychopath or sociopath is a personality disorder that is uniquely suited to the mechanistic, reductionist mind of the modern industrial human being. Everyone is the "other." Especially if there is self-promotion propaganda value in thinking of them that way.

Donald Trump is only the most blatant example of seeing everyone else as the "other." Obama does it too. With one major difference. He kills people whom he sees as different with his criminal drone strikes. Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill describe Obama's assassination program in their new book The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. They cite evidence from leaked government documents to show how widespread and irresponsible Obama's drone attacks have been. They talked about it on Tuesday's Democracy Now.

Maybe Obama should visit a National Park. It would be nice if it were that simple. I was primed for moments of non-duality by many years of meditation, yoga, tai chi, and life experience that guided me to a different way of being. This is not exaltation, or being "better" than anyone - which would set me up for "humbling" experiences. It's more of an opening, or, as the Buddha put it, awakening. I have attained little in life. When I'm gone few will notice. But I'm glad I never became president. It matters that you kill people. And when you kill wantonly it matters greatly. No amount of exaltation, or "legacy" can make up for one "accidental" drone strike or attack on a hospital.

The false perception of duality isn't confined to politics, sad to say. We wouldn't have craven politicians if we didn't have an ample supply of craven people. Duality goes hand-in-hand with the mass industrial culture, so it is a constant struggle to keep one's head above the metaphoric water. If we don't rise above pathological duality soon we will be struggling to keep our heads above water literally. Some already are.
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Here's some music of non-duality.

Here's some more. This too.

Here's some traveling music.  More traveling music. Even more. And, of course, this. And this. John Denver. Hank Snow. This is what I felt like when my travels were over. One more.

This is a decent rendition of the Guru Gita. It was not usually done solo, but in ashram groups, sometimes numbering over 1,000 people. Though I no longer follow the path of guru veneration, when I hear this chant it is as if I never left. Thankfully, as if is not the same as still being there. I described the experience in this post in 2006.

You can watch the PBS National Parks series on YouTube starting with this video. 

The Natural Resource Defense Council has some suggestions to prepare for climate change.

R.I.P. Daniel Berrigan. While I was "serving" in the Army his opposition to the war in "Vietnam" gave me great encouragement.

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 dispersively.

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.
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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.

May 4 update: There is another problem caused by our obsession with pharmaceuticals. When they leave our bodies they don't just disappear into the atmosphere. They get ingested by every form of life that is "downstream."

Prince apparently was scheduled to meet with a doctor who specialized in treating addiction the day after he died. Here's more info.

Prince also gave tens of thousands of dollars to an organization that works with orphans in Afghanistan, of which there are many, thanks to our "leaders."

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.
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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.
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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.
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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?

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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.