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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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's About Time

Tougher than toughDick Cheney is acting up again, making the rounds of pundit shows. It is hard to say who is the most evil human being on the planet, but Cheney is certainly a top contender. He is an advocate for torture and murder, without reservation or discernment of victim, other than "suspicion." It could be anyone, foreign or domestic. Salon has a great analysis. I had this response:
Excellent analysis. Except for one thing. The completion of the Cheney plan could not have taken place without the attacks of September 11, 2001. They were way too handy. At the very least the Bush criminal regime engaged in VERY active negligence in advance of the attacks. In the Senate 911 hearings the questioning was easily deflected with bureaucratic doubletalk. Too easily. Bush was allowed to testify in private, not under oath, and with Cheney available to coach his testimony.

The criminal negligence in advance of the attacks is both clear and prosecutable, even now. Their negligence led to the deaths of 2997 victims in the 911 attacks, 5281 military deaths in the "war on terror," countless Iraqi and Afghan deaths, thousands of deaths of NATO troops, and deaths of many hundreds of innocent people in drone attacks.

A slight pause in reading 'My Pet Goat'
There is no statute of limitations on murder, and in international law there is no statute of limitations on war crimes. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell (yes, Powell), Wolfowitz, Perle, and others will be prosecutable for the rest of their misspent lives.

In Economics there is a term known as "as-if," used to explain behavior that can't be directly traced to a motivation, but inferred. Using the "as-if" principle, the Bush regime behaved as if they were consciously enabling the 911 attacks. They couldn't have done a better job of enabling if they were indeed actively planning the attacks, and therefore it can be safely inferred that they in truth were paving the way for the attacks. The way they behaved afterward is consistent with what guilty parties would do to deflect attention away from their criminality, and especially from holding them responsible.

And, in the news of the day, the president is ending our ruling elite's isolation of "Cuba," announcing that he is establishing diplomatic relations, plans to open an embassy, and exchanged prisoners. I responded to a National Public Radio story about the announcement in this comment:
I'm sure the term "game changer" is being bandied about, but what may be more appropriate is momentum shifter. This is a brilliant move on several levels. One is that Obama has pulled the rug out from under the "Republicans," the mythical "right wing," Fox News (where a collective primal scream can be heard), the parasitic and manipulative Miami Cubans, and whatever national security "interests" (and their money backers) might have in continuing this evil campaign against Cuba.

One of the benefits of the change in policy just might be the return of Guantanamo Bay to its rightful owners, the people of Cuba. If Obama can't close the illegal prison any other way, he can just revert Guantanamo to its rightful owners.

We can look back with some amusement, and some anger and indignation at all that has happened in our relationship with Cuba since 1959. Ridiculous attempts were made to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro, including an exploding cigar, poisoning, and terrorist attacks. An attempt was made to blame the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Castro. A frustrated and paranoid Castro invited the USSR in with its nuclear missiles, and as a result we almost engaged in a disastrous thermonuclear war.

Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is now earning the award. His momentum shift came just in time. Hopefully it will be enough to reverse the harm that has been done to not just Cuba over the decades, but to our own country. Here's hoping he follows up on this momentum shifter with many others. He has two years left in which to do it. He's off to a great start.
 Momentum is shifting everywhere. It's about time. The silliness we have been experiencing since about the time JFK was assassinated couldn't go on forever. I don't mean to be a Kennedy apologist. It's just that in phenomenological terms the great decline began the day he was killed. Symbolically and mythically, attempts were made to blame his assassination on Fidel Castro. Now we can start a new myth.

Here's a song to celebrate with.

Buena Vista Social Club.

Here's some celebration music from another part of the Caribbean.

Here's a song for old times' sake.

We should never forget John O'Neill, who worked tirelessly to prevent the 911 attacks, but was thwarted by the Bush criminal regime. He died in the World Trade Center.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Brief History of Torture

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on CIA torture today. As expected, the report has become a political football. "Republicans," of course lined up in favor of torture. They don't say they are in favor of torture, but as CIA defenders have been saying for years, the "enhanced interrogation techniques" were necessary, were not torture, were legal, were authorized by the president (Bush), and they worked, leading to the killing of Osama bin Laden and numerous others.

In other words, torture was done for the best of reasons, the torturees were only moderately uncomfortable (though sometimes they died), and it was justified by its great success.

It's all lies. The torture was done for pathological reasons by psychopaths. The purpose of torture is to torture. All credible evidence indicates that intelligence gained from torture is practically worthless. Torturees will say anything, confess to anything, and make up stories that they think the torturers want to hear, just to get the torture to stop. Various sanctimonious grandstanders over the decades have condemned other countries for torturing prisoners, but when it comes to our own torture they euphemize, distort, lie and attempt to change the subject. The CIA even has its own torture propaganda movie, "Zero Dark Thirty," which won an Oscar and four Golden Globe awards. It was a fabrication.

A quick look back at how the torture regime began would help. After the all-too-easy attacks of  September 11, 2001, the Bush criminal regime needed to quickly divert public attention from its active negligence in advance of the attacks. An intense public relations campaign began, then an invasion of "Afghanistan," then the "Shock and Awe" invasion of "Iraq." Attention diverted.

In concert with the two invasions was the building of the "detention facility" in Guantanamo Bay, "Cuba," and the kidnapping and torture of people around the planet, who were "rendered" to cooperating countries, most notably the now condemned Assad regime in "Syria." You can't make this stuff up. CIA employees and "contractors" conducted their own torture in "Afghanistan," "Iraq," and Guantanamo, as well as who knows where else - "friendly" countries like "Saudi Arabia," "Jordan," "Yemen," "Bahrain" "Qatar" ("Cutter"), and "Kuwait."

This really is nothing new. I remember during the "Vietnam" war that national publications like Time and Newsweek gushed over how Vietcong prisoners were taken up in helicopters and successively tossed out until one of them started talking. This also was justified by bragging that it worked. Prisoners were also held in "tiger cages." When we were aiding various dictatorships in Central America, mainly in "El Salvador in the late 1970s throughout the Reagan years, death squads were funded, and in a quote that I still remember from that time, prisoners were "decapitated after hideous torture." On our dime. So much for the brutality of "ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State."

Then of course is the "School of the Americas" established in 1946 at Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the Infantry. It is now known as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation." Among other things, it is a torture school for dictators and their armies. The only problem for the SOA these days is we don't have so many client dictators anymore. They have mostly been overthrown. We still have clients in "Honduras" and "Guatemala," friends in "El Salvador," and you can bet there are plans for other countries, such as "Cuba," "Venezuela," "Brazil," "Bolivia, "Argentina," "Chile," "Nicaragua," and even "Mexico," if we aren't there already.

How can this be? It's easy. If politics and intelligence work are attractive occupations for psychopaths,  the melding of interests between these fields can result in a quick abandonment of moral and ethical standards. If a politician is desperate to gain intelligence information - true or false - that will give him cover for what he has really been up to, torture is one of the easiest ways of generating that information. The machine trudges on with impunity and hubris.

The only remaining question is what this means for us, the "American" people. That also is easy. It was pretty obvious that Bush was lying about Saddam Hussain having weapons of mass destruction, but his phony invasion had 90% support among the public. There won't be much outcry over torture either. We're no better than anyone else who has existed throughout history. Indeed, the historical record is replete with countries that have condoned heinous behavior, and zealously participated in it. All it takes is the generation of a perceived threat, a few demagogues, an excuse, and authorization. Lying about it and euphemizing it are even easier.

Just to broaden the perspective a bit, we have an unsustainable infinite-growth economic system in an overall context of resource depletion and increasingly catastrophic climate change. Our ruling elite responds to fake threats with military incursions, invasions, occupations and "surgical" strikes. What will it do when the economy collapses for good and the Polar ice caps melt?

Jose Padilla being escorted to a dental appointmentDe nada. A system that collapses is through. One way or another our system is going to collapse. They can torture until the proverbial cows come home, but that will not change the overall result one whit. We still have time to establish civilization in this country, one that is equitable for all citizens and free of oppression, including torture. Our current establishment will torture "Americans" as well as "foreigners." They already have: José Padilla and Chelsea Manning. In any plan for changing the way we inhabit this planet there must be no place for torture or torturers.

Naomi Klein had this great insight about torture in 2005.

Here's some history of the School of the Americas. Here's more.

Glenn Greenwald offers some insights about torture.

Here's an update about how the torture program worked to provide false justification for war and other crimes.

Here's another great insight about torture.

The "U.S." has been at the torture game for a long time. Read here.  Sadism is a large part of our national character, according to this Salon article.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Wrong Every Time

One of the best ways to understand what is going on in the world is through juxtaposition. By looking at different phenomena that are taking place the commonality of what is going on can become clear. Today is a perfect example.

The biggest news, of course, is that a grand jury in New York found that the police officer who choked a man to death did not commit a crime. This, in spite of a widely seen video of the man, Eric Garner, pleading "I can't breathe." The head of the police union defended the decision, offering the wisdom "If you can speak you can breathe."

Democracy Now reported that a study of Drone attacks found that for every "target" killed there are 28 unidentified people who are also killed.

Completing the triangle, a story in Salon reports that the "U.S." effort to expand NATO to the "Russian" border and destroy its economy is now fully exposed. I suspected as much from the very beginning of this silliness. For a more detailed analysis, read here.

What do these stories have in common? Representative democracy. Otherwise known as republican form of government. In representative democracy the people do not rule except indirectly by electing a small number of people to represent them, who in turn appoint various other people to perform the tasks of governing. They also appoint members of the judiciary, though in some cases the judiciary is elected.

Over the span of many years the institutions of representative democracy become established and insular, entities unto themselves, authoritarian, secretive, with their own self-perpetuating practices, procedures, and, perhaps most important, impunity. The larger the society, the more established are the institutions. When something relatively small like the "911" attacks happen, even more rigid institutions are created, and the existing ones become more intrusive. When you add in the factor of unlimited funding of elections, those with the most money secure control of who gets elected. The Koch brothers are but one example. Wall Street is another.

Police have for many decades been killing with impunity. It has reached the point where they now feel free to arrest and indict people who record their deadly actions.

With indiscriminate drone attacks impunity is slightly different, but the attitude is the same. "We, the overseers of Planet Earth, do what we want." (metaphorical quote) Or, in official euphemistic jargon, "We do not target civilians."

In the most dangerous form of hubris, the attempted expansion of NATO to include "Ukraine" and destabilization of "Russia" is likely to restart the "Cold War." Lest we forget, the first Cold War almost resulted in World War III and a thermonuclear holocaust. More than once.

Restarting the Cold War serves more than institutional interests. There are also huge economic interests at stake. Marxist economists Paul Sweezy and Paul Baran observed decades ago that the "Defense" budget has to increase annually in order for the weapons manufacturers to stay in business.

Our national security overstructure can be seen similarly to how police departments behave. They are about themselves, and advancement of their personal and bureaucratic interests. All else can be understood within this context. In the wider context of global climate change and the unsustainability of our infinite-growth economic system, our established institutions are guaranteed to do the wrong thing every time. Their interests being themselves, all else is subservient.

For an update of the Eric Garner protests click here.

Here's an appropriate song.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Death Rattle

It was inevitable that hatred of President Obama would extend to his family. A "Republican" Congressional staffer from Tennessee has written an "open letter" to his daughters, criticizing their, hmm, style, or at least style of dress. She is now a former Congressional staffer. For what it's worth, I had my own take on the episode, not the usual accusation of "racism," except that the belief in "race" is racism:

This is another example of how fuming mad "white" people are about having a "black" president, especially in the South. We're all partly to blame, really, for still referring to people as "white" or "black," when skin color has nothing to do with who we are. We've been touting Obama for six years as the first "black" president, when his skin color isn't black, and HE wouldn't BE "black" even if his skin color were black. The only people who have black skin have been burned. Or tattooed. I was stabbed with a pencil when I was in high school, and have a little black spot. I have more black skin than Obama does.

It's pure stupidity, and pure stupidity is indivisible. The same people who think that they and other people are "black" and "white" approved the Bush invasion of "Iraq" by 90%. That would have to include about 80% of "liberals," if we are to believe that they constitute half the population. Of course that is assuming that ALL non-liberals approved the invasion.

Also, as a whole, "Americans" are contributing and have contributed the lion's share of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, insuring a bleak future for ourselves, and especially our descendents. So much for looking forward seven generations. We can't even look forward one generation, or even ahead to next week. Too many thrills to be had right now. Or pizzas. Chicken. Burgers. Beer. Whiskey. Drugs.

Beyond all that, I wonder what this woman had in mind. It seems likely that she wrote her angry letter after some after-hours drinking and raging about our "black" president. All for something that doesn't exist: "black" beingness. It's as if perceived "black" people just sit around BEING "black." Yuk. Maybe she can get a job at one of Tennessee's many Civil War shrines.
I should probably change the name of this blog to "Death Rattle of America." It's too easy and too obvious. You may have noticed yourself as you amble about that this country is becoming dysfunctional. This morning I almost got hit by two vehicles in two separate incidents that happened within seconds of each other, but independent. One guy took a turn too fast and too far out of the right side of the road. The other was a Ryder truck that came barreling behind me, swerving at the last possible second. The first would have caused serious injury (or more). The second would have been certain death.

C'es la vie. We're here until we aren't, and aren't is becoming increasingly likely. Impaired and distracted driving are rampant. One of my favorite responses is when a pickup truck or SUV is driving slightly behind me in the left lane when I am in the right lane, and just hangs there, with his bright lights glaring in my side mirror. I turn the mirror out and up, so it shines back where it should shine - right in his face. I don't brake so much for tailgaters anymore, having a better car than I used to. It's a no-win situation out on the highways, but I can at least get where I'm going with reasonable safety.

So here we are, in the early days of accelerated decline and fall. Given that the Polar ice caps are melting, I suspect the decline and fall will be a short one. The descent is too steep.

Here's a great song, great audience. Maybe there's still hope. This calls for an encore. Second encore. Third encore. Fourth encore. Here's Neil Young's great version.

R.I.P. Jack BruceHere's a song from Fresh Cream, one of the best albums ever. Here's another. This too. Here's the full album.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Not Knowing How to Ask a Question

There are a lot of areas of critical concern to discuss, like climate change, our unsustainable economy, pathological inequality, endless war, corporate excess, rampant corruption, media manipulation and depletion and defilement of our resource base. Somehow in this milieu of crises we seem to get bogged down in trivialities and proxy arguments.

Such as religion. A perfect example is a week ago, where TV comedian/pundit Bill Marr, er, Maher engaged in an argument with movie actor Ben Affleck. The distraction topic at hand, surprise, surprise, was religion. Marr, er, Maher calls himself an "atheist." He had a partner "atheist," someone named Sam Harris, supposedly a great thinker atheist. Both "atheists" attacked Islam as a inherently violent religion, to which Affleck argued is bigotry.  I didn't watch the show, not having cable or interest. I can't stomach Bill Marr, er, Maher.

The argument has transferred to the Web. In today's Salon Muslim scholar and author Reza Aslan was interviewed about the controversy, calling Marr, er, Maher's stance "frank bigotry." Which it is, but to me saying this doesn't get to the heart of the matter. A comedian/pundit, which they all seem to be on cable TV, at least so I hear in snippets and read about, can come up with any number of faux arguments about anything, getting nowhere for nobody, except to get people riled up.

Frustrated by the meaninglessness of media grandstand arguments, I replied to the Aslan interview thusly:

This discussion is progress. It can be taken farther. The supposed "atheist" movement - a for without, and theism for belief in a deity or deities - is actually not a anything, but anti-religion. In the case of Bill Marr, er, Maher, his du jour religion to be anti is Islam. His protestations of being a "liberal" aside, the overall gestalt of his trashing of the Muslim faith is bullying a minority in this country that is culturally perceived as "inferior."

One way around this silliness is to get "atheists" back to talking about how there is no "God." That is not the same as trashing religion. The truly courageous among "atheists" take on the much harder task of proving there is no "God," or at least making a plausible argument that we have no way of knowing for sure.

There is an easy way around arguments for or against religion and/or the existence of "god." Find out for yourself. You can practice a faith and see if it brings you to "God." Of course in the Western view one lifetime is all we get, so it's somewhat of a gamble that most only take once. A casual view of fervent pursuers of religion that I have known hints that they tend not to get very far.

A better way to experiment on the existence of "God" is the experiential approach, found mainly in Eastern traditions like Buddhism, Taoism and the yogic practices that parallel what is known as Hinduism. From this perspective, the level of being we call "God" lies within each and every one of us, and can be reached through meditation, contemplation, selfless service, healthy living, physical disciplines like yoga and Tai Chi Ch'uan, chanting divine names, and so on.

Attaining higher levels of consciousness isn't confined to Eastern approaches. In tribes of the Amazon rainforest ingestion of the Ayahuasca plant brew is done ritualistically, and is reputed to take those who participate to transcendent realms. In indigenous "American" tribes the peyote cactus is ingested in a similar manner, though reputedly with less intense results.

What the experiential approach points to is the futility of what Immanuel Kant called the Ontological Argument. He resolved the argument by concluding that you can't determine the existence of something outside your mind from inside your mind.

From the meditative approach, the Atman, Nirvana, Satori or the Beatific Vision is beyond the mind. It is also beyond the trash talking of Bill Marr, er, Maher, comedian, "liberal," television performer. The "God" that he and his fellow-trash talkers are "a" is a setup God that is of their own mental construct. If you create something in your mind you also can easily destroy it with your own arguments against it. Only if "God" really exists can you honestly argue that "he" doesn't exist. It is a beautiful contradiction. Don't expect Bill Marr, er, Maher to touch this conundrum with a proverbial ten foot pole. He is more interested in strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage, extending it for as long as possible before being heard no more.
This perspective can be used as a hologram for just about any "issue" we face. The fundamental problem is not knowing how to ask a question. Is there a "God?" It depends on what you mean by God. I know from experience that there is a higher level of being, but I also know it is something that glimpses of do not mean attainment of. Even the language we use at this level is inadequate - He, She, It, That. The guru path I used to follow had the slogans "I am That" and "God dwells within you as you." That's (in both senses) a lot better than "My God's better than yours," or "There is no God."

Anyway, subject covered. Maybe some day we can quit quibbling about what we don't know and do something about what we do know. We do know that the Polar ice caps are melting.

Here's a bit of followup from Common Dreams.

Iris Dement is best known for this very pertinent song.

Here's a great Beatles song. Here's another. And this. One more.

John Lennon. More John Lennon. Even more John Lennon. This too.

This Donovan song has roots in Zen Buddhism. An elaboration.

Here's some Sufi chanting. Here's some more.

For some ancient Vedic chants, click here.

Tibetan monks chanting.

Indigenous "North American" chant.

Shamanic drumming.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Hawaiian chant.

Hebrew chanting, much to choose from.

Gregorian chant, plenty of choices.

Islamic chant, numerous.

Here's a Grateful Dead song.  And another, my favorite. Here's one from the "Old Testament."

Jimi Hendrix, my favorite.

The Doors.

Stevie Wonder. Here's one for all the know-it-alls in this world, my favorite.

The Carter Family.

Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson.

The Byrds.

The Moody Blues.

Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Finishing up with Steely Dan.

Here's a song for Edward Snowden, whose girlfriend joined him in "Russia." This calls for an encore.

Salon has an update about the atheists versus religionists argument.

Here's another.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Let's Do Something Stupid

Mr. BillLet's invade "Iraq" again.

Let's invade "Syria."

Let's invade "Iran."

Let's invade "Russia."

Let's invade "North Korea."

Let's invade "China."

Let's invade "Vietnam."

Let's attack more countries with drones.

Let's give "Israel" more money than they ever dreamed of. While we're at it, let's give them a few tankerloads of weapons.

Let's build another prison in some other country.

Let's torture the people we imprison there.

Let's keep them there forever.

Let's overthrow a democracy.

Let's plausibly deny something.

Let's categorically deny something else.

Let's speak to reporters on background, revealing selected classified information.

Let's make all information classified.

Let's shoot some descendents of slaves.

Let's shoot people who look vaguely like descendents of slaves.

Let's reserve all the jobs for "white" people.

Let's reserve all the decent housing for "white" people.

Let's shoot immigrants.

Let's shoot children, especially immigrant children.

Let's shoot women, especially when they speak or get abortions.

Let's have another TV network of liars who try to get people enraged about what they lie about.

Let's have more radio networks who do the same thing.

Let's tell some lies ourselves, especially about important matters that concern us.

Let's elect a bunch of psychopaths to public office - national, state, and local. Let's give them a lot of money.

Let's make sure banks and corporations have complete freedom to do whatever they want.

Let's make the tax system more regressive, so that poor people bear a greater burden than they do now.

Let's find ways to make the already rich even richer.

Let's name a football team "The Darkies." Let's put it in the nation's Capital.

Let's put all the reservation land up for sale.

Let's sell the national parks.

Let's clearcut all the forests.

Let's have a big oil spill.

Let's cut off all the mountaintops.

Let's build the Keystone XL pipeline. Let's make sure it leaks.

Let's have a huge oil train derailment.

Let's do fracking in every state. The more earthquakes the better. 

Let's forget about climate change. Start by taking all those scientists' jobs away.

Let's legalize the importation of ivory and rhinoceros horns. 

Let's kill all the sharks for their fins.

Let's kill all the whales, for no particular reason.

Let's raise the weight limit on our crumbling infrastructure.

Let's repeal the Bill of Rights. Except, of course, the Second Amendment.

Let's abolish all workers' rights.

Let's spy on everyone everywhere. Let's blackmail people with the information we get.

Let's make everyone on  the planet become "Christians." Let's burn those who refuse at the stake.

Let's have more sex and violence on TV.

Let's have more violent video games.

Let's put more people in jail.

Let's make more things criminal so we can put more people in jail.

Let's abolish public schools. If kids want to learn they can pay for it.

Let's sell off all our highways and city streets to private job creators. People can pay to ride.

Let's privatize city water, sewer and garbage collection.

Let's privatize all health care.

Let's privatize police and fire departments.

Let's act like jerks out on the highways.

Let's be cruel to animals, especially the ones we plan to eat.

Let's destroy some wildlife habitat.

Let's spill some chemicals.

Let's steal from future generations.

Let's turn the entire planet into manufactured products.

Let's make sure those manufactured products are shoddy and harmful.

Let's laugh all the way to the bank.

Let's bring back Bush and Cheney to run things again.


All this stupidity is enough to make one scream and cry.

I've linked to this song before. It keeps coming back.

We've heard this song before. It's like déjà vu.

Let's do something stupid, set to music.

I saw Jimmy Buffett do this song many years ago. It was an underwhelming experience.

For  a full movie on stupidity, click here.

Some might remember The Fugs. Another Fugs song. And another Fugs song.

This is the stupidity that got me started on this rant. You have to wait a few seconds for the comment to appear. It was preceded by this.

I started a hashtag: #LetsDoSomethingStupid . It was already taken. This might work: #Let'sDoSomethingStupid .

On the positive side, there are many people dedicating their lives to making things better. One of them is Robert Pierce, an organic farmer in Madison. He is featured in the groundbreaking (pun not exactly intended) documentary Food Patriots.

The picture is from the South Madison Farmers Market, an affiliate of a national organization, Growing Power, based in Milwaukee.

We aren't doomed to stupidity. As painful as it might be for some, we can learn a lot from people who descended from slaves. It might save our dying civilization.

Here's an update on the value and need for organic agriculture.

This update on the Senate Torture Report is worth reading.

NPR has an update about justice, or lack of same, at the Guantanamo prison camp.

Here's an update about our client state "Israel."

In another startling update, it turns out that Jesus, the inspiration for countless attempts to force people to believe this or that, may never have existed. In some places one could still get burned at the stake for saying this. This calls for another look at Life of Brian. ______________________________________________________

This song is due for a revisit. This too.

I have my own update in regard to ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State. Here's my update about "Russia," "Ukraine," "NATO" and the "U.S."

Some might remember Bobby Darin. I'm pretty sure this was his biggest hit.

Here's Tom Paxton. 

Friday, August 15, 2014


It seems almost pointless to write anything about what is going on between "Israel" and the "Palestinians." It is a tragedy of human failure, that in this technologically "advanced" era the species homo sapiens can do no better than bombing masses of children, old people and other non-combatants. What could I write that would make anything better? Would the killing stop?

Hardly. "Israel" has eased up on the missile and other attacks, mainly due to worldwide revulsion. Its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regret for the casualties, but placed the entire responsibility on Hamas, the governing body of "Gaza." "Hamas" of course blames "Israel."

Thanks goes to both of them for nothing from the rest of life on this planet. It's all O.K. as long as you have someone else to blame. I suppose this is what is known as a zero sum game. Zero sum, that is, if you count two hundred or so "Palestinians" equal to one "Israeli." When "Israel" launches one of its periodic assaults on "Gaza" they call it "mowing the lawn."

For what it is worth, I did write something a couple of weeks ago about the situation in "Gaza," a comment to a review of a TV series on NPR:

I don't have cable or dish, but am glad this series is airing. It may be in the collective unconsciousness by now, or the volksgeist/zeitgeist of the times, but I have come to the view of the situation in the "Holy Land," as an allegory for human interaction.
The key element in conflict is identity. The more extreme the identity, the more violent the expressions of that identity. If Jews weren't so self-identified before World War II, they certainly became so afterward, especially the ones who migrated to "Zion."
The "Palestinians" were not such a cohesive identity before the creation of "Israel," but they became so afterward. There is nothing like displacement and mistreatment to create a bond among people treated so.
The greatest absurdity of all, though, is the endless reward to "Israel" from the "U.S." government in money and weaponry for whatever mass atrocities they commit. No "side" in this conflict is "better" than the other, but the phoniness of "U.S." carte blanche only serves to make it worse. Our power structure couldn't care less about either "side," but domestic political concerns dictate that "we" keep the money and arms flowing. Death and destruction indefinitely into the future, all for political careers. The blame lies largely here. We are a nation run by cowards.
Identity is one of the strangest aspects of human consciousness. It enables people to kill each other, to force people to believe in something - or else, to create self-myths, rituals, culture and myths about "others" who are not part of one's identity. It may succeed in annihilation of the human species, should we continue in our pathological ways.

All this is happening, of course in context with global climate change. The news gets worse every day, it seems. So far, the industrial world has done next-to-nothing about it when measured against what needs to be done. The predicament is so enormous that the easy was to deal with it is to deny it exists, especially if one's short-term interests - like wealth, power, privilege and comfort - can have influence similar to drug addiction.

Then there is identity. Here in the "U.S." we have a combination of fundamentalist Christian identity working in tandem with "right wing" paranoia. I only use the term "right wing" because so many believe there is such a thing, an "ideology" along an imaginary horizontal spectrum, with a philosophy of "free enterprise," limited government, low taxes and a strong work ethic. This is the periphery, or facade. What "right wing" actually is is a mix of bigotry, intolerance, parasitism, xenophobia, scapegoating, vitriol and empire. There are variations, but the essence is a mental/emotional state of reptilian brain paranoia.

I have been writing about this for years, approaching the subject of our collapsing civilization from a perspective of moving from lower consciousness to higher consciousness. This avoids the duality of "left" versus "right," and thus is despised by those who consider themselves "leftists." Those who consider themselves "rightists" of course have no use for this view either. Both "sides" are addicted to duking it out in the forum of ideas, or lack of same.

Both sides are identified with their stances. It is the same as being identified with "Israeli-ness" or "Palestinian-ness." Or "American-ness." "Ukraine-ness." "Russian-ness." Adherent protestations notwithstanding, there is nothing inherent in any identity. There is no more substance to any identity than to being a fan of a sports team.

Or rock 'n roll band. I went to a few Grateful Dead shows, six to be exact. There was a certain snobbiness or a kind of hippie-elitism to think of oneself as a "Deadhead" - a dedicated aficionado of the band. As much as I liked the band and its music, I just couldn't get into the identity of being a Deadhead. The absurdity of such an identity was to me surreal. Most surreal were some of the people I would identify with were I to find Deadhead-ness meaningful.

Time of course is running out, but there is still a possibility of changing course. If we start to recognize the emptiness of paranoia, regardless of stance. Likely the best organization working to increase awareness of climate change is 350.org, yet it falls neatly into the trap of duality, and as a result is not having much effect.

In Buddhist practice it is said in various ways that through meditation, study, good works and helping others people can aid in the liberation of all sentient beings. Central to Buddhist awareness is the concept of Emptiness, that all independent existence is illusory. In other words, identity with some group as separate, unique, superior and deserving of special treatment is without substance - empty. Killing people to assert that an identity without substance is beyond criminal. It is stupid. Stupidity tends to result in a balancing, commonly known as reaping what you sow. The sooner we recognize this relationship between cause and effect, the sooner we can save our civilization. We "Americans" can start by ceasing to fund and protect the criminal occupation of "Palestine" by "Israel." The sooner the better.

I should add that our current power structure does not allow for defunding of "Israel." We can replace the power structure voluntarily, or we can wait for the system to collapse, and our lives along with it. We have a choice.

Here's an old song. Here's another. This too. Here's a song by Steve Earle.

For those interested in Buddhist practice there are many opportunities. The World Buddhist Directory is a comprehensive listing of temples, sanghas and study groups around the planet.

For another journey into the surreal, this story about militarization of police should suffice.

R.I.P. Robin Williams.  If there is one thing we can learn from his passing it is that we are all in the same boat. Every day is a gift and an opportunity, and we are challenged to make sense of our lives no matter who we are. We cannot afford to think of ourselves as separate beings.