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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 07, 2014

Pardon Leonard Peltier Now

I was saddened to hear yesterday of the death of author Peter Matthiessen. I met him once, here in Madison, after a talk he gave. I wrote about it in a comment to a story about him on National Public Radio:
I went to a talk he gave at a campus church in the 1990s. Afterwards there was a reception at the Memorial Union. In the walk to the Union I got to talk with him a bit. He was very gracious, down to earth, engaging. 

The subject of his talk was the imprisonment of Native activist Leonard Peltier. It was my introduction to Madison's posturing "left." Instead of asking questions or contributing to the conversation, one person after another stood up to brag about how "I was there when...!" or "I'm the editor of the Progressive, and...!" or some such. It was pretty incredible - a one-upping fest.

Matthiessen handled it deftly and with mirth, but he eventually tired of the onslaught. He finally had said all he had to say, and ended the contest. He was focused on his purpose for being there - to talk about the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier and the context in which it took place. Having accomplished that, he called it a night and left.

R.I.P. We cherish these examples of how to live our lives. If we're lucky we can pass it on to others.
PBS's NewsHour had a nice remembrance today.

Maybe as a tribute to Matthiessen the president could give Leonard Peltier a pardon. Actions speak louder than apologies. Here's a hashtag: #PardonLeonardPeltierNow.

For an explanation of why Leonard Peltier should be pardoned, click here.

You can sign a petition to pardon Leonard Peltier here

Robert Redford is also campaigning for a pardon for Leonard Peltier.

The title of Peter Matthiessen's book about Leonard Peltier is In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

In Open Salon you can read Heidi Herron's story about Leonard Peltier. 

Here's a song by Leonard Peltier's friend and colleague John Trudell.

This is from Brewer and Shipley. Here's the original Jim Pepper version.

Here's some Native music.

Here's Johnny Cash singing the Ballad of Ira Hayes.

Here's an album with Native flute player R. Carlos Nakai. Playing with him is Nawang Khechog, a Tibetan flute and didgeridoo player. I worked with him at the Omega Institute in 1993. When he came to Madison a few years later he arranged an introduction to the Dalai Lama's friend and teacher Geshe Sopa at nearby Deer Park Monastery. I still have the piece of PVC pipe he gave me in a didgeridoo class he taught at Omega. Unfortunately, it's too late in the game for me to try to play again. Circular breathing would probably result in no breathing.

Here's an interview with Geshe Sopa.

NPR did an interview yesterday with a woman who was sexually assaulted at Amherst College and has gone public with her story. I posted this comment, and a few others in response to some dumb other comments. It led to another comment in the Harvard Crimson.

R.I.P. also to Mickey Rooney. He wasn't exactly my all-time favorite actor, but he had his moments, especially The Black Stallion. He was a trooper, acting until his death. His last movie, Night at the Museum 3, will be out this year.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Let's Get Unstuck

The biggest stories in yesterday's (and today's) news were the "U.S." Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited spending in political campaigns and a second shooting at Fort Hood Army base in Texas. In the discrete world of Western thought these two events would seem to be unrelated, but in the world where we actually live, everything relates to everything else. I will explain.

In 2000 Al Gore won the majority of votes nationwide in the presidential election. In Florida a massive level of fraud kept thousands of people from voting through various means long practiced in southern states. On election day the reported lead went back and forth in Florida between Gore and George W. Bush, the "Republican" candidate. Television networks projected Gore as the winner based on exit polls, but Bush strategist Karl Rove knew better. He called the networks, telling them to hold off on declaring Gore the winner. It is highly suspected that the reason he was so confident is that he knew how the votes were being counted, particularly the votes cast by computer.

The vote was so close that a recount was requested. This brought in the phase of resistance to the recount by "Republicans," eventually being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the "Republicans." With the recount stopped, Bush was declared the winner, and the rest, as we have seen so unhappily, is history.

Not long after Bush took office his active negligence paved the way for the attacks of September 11, 2011. These attacks were followed by the invasion of "Afghanistan," and then "Iraq." From my perspective these invasions were meant to deflect criticism - and investigation - of the Bush regime's culpability for the "911" attacks. We have not had a credible investigation of the attacks to this date, and likely won't for a long, long time. A future historian will have to do it when is far too late to do any good.

As anyone who has served in the military knows, waging war involves costs that will be paid for a long time and in tragic ways. When the wars waged are largely for public relations purposes and reward to cronies, the costs borne by the public can be especially painful.

With the ascendancy of George W. Bush we not only had the "911" attacks and two invasions of other countries, but the replacement of two Supreme Court Justices. One of them, John Roberts, received a direct appointment to be Chief Justice. He was a legal adviser to the administration of Florida governor Jeb Bush in its recount strategy. He must have given good advice, because the recount was stopped and George Bush became president.

As a reward for his efforts in stopping the recall John Roberts was given the Chief Justice appointment. In true spirit of reciprocity, he has rewarded back, making it easier for "Republicans" to amass huge "war chests" for future elections, rendering our democracy a moot facade. First there was the Citizens United decision, decided by one vote. Then yesterday's decision, completing the government for sale trajectory.

With government for sale made much easier it will also be easier for bought politicians to start wars. Bush depended on mass hysteria over the September 11 attacks to get his invasions. With both houses of Congress completely bought, future presidents will have an easier time to engage in international mischief. They also will have an easier time engaging in domestic mischief.

So we have another attack at Fort Hood, the largest military base on Planet Earth. Just in terms of probability, it is more likely for trouble to take place where the numbers are higher. Still, two deadly attacks at the same base raise some questions about Fort Hood. The more important question, though, is whether the rash of suicides and shootings at military bases would be occurring if there we hadn't invaded and occupied "Afghanistan" and "Iraq," to say nothing of numerous other military activities around the planet.

If we reverse engineer yesterday's headline news, would there have been a Supreme Court decision to enable government for sale if the Florida recount were allowed to proceed? Would there have been the "911" attacks and the catastrophic invasions of "Afghanistan" and "Iraq?"  Would there have been the meltdown of the economy in 2008?

I think it is safe to say that none of these things would have happened. Of course, this presumes that the momentum of human presence on this planet would move in the direction of peace, prosperity, and clean government. As we have seen over the history of human existence, the will for doing horrible and sadistic things to other humans holds great sway. It could have been worse.

Regardless of how we got to the point where we have government for sale and soldiers killing fellow soldiers, we can correct the errors that got us to our present circumstances. We can send George W. Bush and his regime to The Hague for war crimes. We can remove John Roberts from the Supreme Court, along with his fellow Bush appointee Samuel Alito.

If we were to fully examine the "elections" of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, we would likely find election chicanery that would render their Supreme Court appointments moot, enabling the removal of Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy. All these men were appointed by presidents who were not legitimate. Ronald Reagan, movie actor, had his "October Surprise" and involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair. George H.W. Bush had his Willie Horton gimmick, and his own involvement in Iran-Contra. George W. Bush had his fake "compassionate conservatism," desertion from the Texas National Guard, and the Florida recount decision - made by Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, Reagan appointee Sandra Day O'Connor, and Nixon appointee William Rehnquist. Nixon of course was "elected" on the basis of his fake claim to have a "secret plan" to end the Vietnam war. Then there was Watergate.

That's a lot of reverse engineering. Who knows where we would be today if the four presidents mentioned had never been "elected." It's hard to say, but we would still be on a course of exponential economic growth and corporate irresponsibility. So in the long run there are certain inevitabilities that will happen no matter who is president. Our unsustainable economic system would still be doing whatever possible to keep growing. We would still be doing next to nothing about climate change. "Istrael" would still be receiving massive amounts of aid, killing "Palestinians," and settling in "Palestinian" areas. We would still be giving huge amounts of military aid to "Egypt."

In spite of the overall trajectory of our mass industrial system, I can't help but conclude that in the immediate we would be better off had there been no "elections" of Nixon, Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2. We wouldn't have had these terrible Supreme Court decisions, the September 11 attacks, two wars, and the repercussions of those wars. We might even have an elevated level of dialogue about the problems we face. Instead, we're stuck with what we have. Let's get unstuck.

I created a hashtag for this: #ImpeachTheRobertsCourt . This might be a better one: #ImpeachTheRobertsFive

 Here's a song of inspiration from David Bowie. Here's another. Here's a song from Woodstock. Can't leave the Stones out. Or the Beatles. Also slow Beatles.

Here's a link from years ago in case you could use a reminder.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich offers this analysis of the Supreme Court decision.

The kids they dance and shake their bones. He invited people sixty and over onstage when he was in Madison a few years ago. I ruined the video I made of it. It was great fun, same song. Encore. Here's some more kids who dance and shake their bones. Here's a song about dancing from my youth.

In the realm of the absurd, NPR is running a story on the art of George W. Bush. It's worth keeping in mind that such a story would never have appeared if the votes in Florida were accurately counted in 2000. He could be painting his childish portraits in the obscurity he so richly deserves.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's a Bit Late In the Day

Yesterday was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. In seeming tribute, a barge in the Houston Ship Channel collided with a ship Saturday, spilling 900,000 gallons of oil. Also on Saturday, a mud slide in Washington caused at least 14 deaths, with 176 people missing. The mudslide smothered the town of Oso, and it is highly suspected that clearcutting of the forest above the town was a contributing factor.

We also have had recent contaminations of water supplies in North Carolina and West Virginia in advance of the anniversary. A spill from a crude oil pipeline on March 17 spewed 20,000 gallons into a nature reserve in Ohio. On March 20 a broken oil pipeline spilled 34,000 gallons in North Dakota. On a smaller scale, 500 gallons of oil spilled into Lake Michigan yesterday from a BP refinery in Indiana.

All these disasters are happening in tandem with the coldest and stormiest winter in recent times, a result of weather patterns being upset by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All credible scientific study indicates that unless humankind reduces its dependence on fossil fuels these kinds of events will increase in severity and frequency, eventually threatening the survival of most species.

It doesn't matter. At least not to our major institutions of government, business, education and even religion. Their focus is on the priorities of infinite growth of our mass industrial economy. Everything else is subsumed under this imperative. An article in Salon this past Sunday describes this institutional failure

I used to be a believer in "activism" - the individual and collective effort to promote change in policies, practices and perceptions. I tried being involved in various groups advocating this or that - peace, care of the ecosystem, human rights of various kinds, recalling the governor. None of my efforts amounted to much, and mostly soured me on the idea of collective action. A veterans peace group I joined turned into a farce, with jealousy, animosity, power plays and even violence rendering its peace efforts hypocritical and surreal.

It's a bit late in the day anyway to be turning back the clock on global climate change and environmental degradation. The momentum of the system is fixed on its present course, and it would cause major disruptions if the industrial world all of a sudden became prudent with resources, pollution and output of goods and services. It will change against its will when a critical mass of CO2 in the atmosphere is reached.

I'd like to be more optimistic, but it has been too many years of too much observation and experience for that. I'm resigned to a more apocalyptic future. Of course, I'm older, so it's easy for me to accept finality. But I ache for future generations. They won't have even the meager wealth and luxuries that I have experienced.

Looking on the bright side, civilizations have died out before and humankind has still survived, even flourished. It will be different this time. Since the mass industrial system is worldwide,. its collapse will be worldwide. Still, this planet has been around a long time, and it is likely to be around a long time more. Something will replace this mass silliness, and it won't be what we are doing now. Let's hope it is better. Meanwhile, let's meditate.

Here's a song. And a medley of songs.

Here's another song that I heard today for the first time.

Maybe it's closing time for the human species. We'll find out soon enough.

It turns out that the BP Lake Michigan oil spill was twice as big as originally reported.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Look Behind the Curtain

On tonight's NewsHour on PBS there was a segment about how rising sea level is causing problems in Miami. The political process was mentioned as the main reason these problems are getting worse, and that they will likely end up in disaster.

It doesn't have to be this way. We can act in our own self-interest as a species instead of self-destructing with narrow self-interest. The place to start is to improve our communication. The idea I had when I started this blog was to raise the level of dialogue. First, though, we need to stop pretending. For too long we have had a national pretense that "Conservatism" is an "ideology" worthy of serious discussion, and indeed implementation. Because of this pretense "Conservatism" has been the dominant theme of government since 1981, when Ronald Reagan, movie actor, became president.

A comment I posted on Salon last week sums up my view of "Conservatism," and what to do about it:

This is another example of the movement known as "Conservatism" being a fake movement. There is no question that bureaucracies, such as the NSA, can be intrusive and self-serving. I find it necessary to contend with the VA bureaucracy from time-to-time. Still, the idea that in ALL cases, privatizing government activities is an absolute benefit for society with no cost is not just silly, but completely dishonest. It isn't "ideology," but fakery with suspicious motivation.

For example, I live in Wisconsin. Our current governor, Scott Walker, ran for office promising to create 250,000 jobs. This was a total pretense. Politicians don't "create jobs," unless of course the transfer of public sector employment to private counts as job creation. Indeed, part of Walker's plan is to privatize as many schools as possible, awarding the contracts to cronies who have donated to his campaign coffers. Given the history of such crony capitalism, there is also very likely money changing hands in more surreptitious and illegal ways.

The main activity of Wisconsin's "Republican" controlled legislature this week has been to find ways to make its new voter ID law secure against constitutional challenges. This is what our "elected" officials believe is the work of the people, heh, heh.

This fakery had its heyday from 1981 to 2009, bookended by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. It was fake from beginning to end, and is now in decline, though various ALEC-devised schemes have resulted in gerrymandered election victories and a slew of phony laws.

The problem for all these fake "Conservatives" is that their schemes are destroying our democracy, making every problem they address worse, and causing great suffering. As a time variable, making the rich richer and the poor poorer while gutting the middle class will tend to make "Republicans" less popular. Though they have figured out ways to hack election results in their favor, eventually their fakery will catch up with them. A society that becomes completely fake will implode.

Continuing this view of "Conservatism," I offered this comment to a segment of OnPoint:

The discussion is focused on periphery. What is really taking place is the predominance of a movement of ill will towards others, euphemistically called "Conservatism." This movement has grown over the decades by masking its essential ill will in a fake ideology of small government, low taxes, extreme law enforcement, laxity in regulating business, low environmental standards, and thinly veiled racial supremacy.

"Democrats" aren't very good at opposing this ill will movement because they are addicted to "playing" politics, which means maneuvering within existing circumstances to maximize their position in the "game."

This won't last forever. The "game" will change with global climate change and the encroachment of the unsustainability of our economic system. Ill will can only get you so far. When suffering starts to seriously effect those who have ill will towards others, they might start looking for actual solutions to problems rather than demagoguery. We'll see. This is a critical test for our society. Do we, as a people, have the wherewithal to rise above ill will.

Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman wrote a criticism of "Conservative" congressman Paul Ryan for inappropriate remarks in his New York Times op-ed column. I responded with  this:

This makes for good copy, with an easy target who never fails to display his ignorance, mean-spiritedness and bigotry. This could go on forever, theoretically at least. As long as it is an acceptable "debate" between the acceptable "right" and quasi-acceptable "left."

The reason we don't have forever to "debate" "left" versus "right" is that the problems that are "debated" have to be solved. They can't be solved because the "debate" is fake. "Right wing" isn't an ideology. It's a smoke screen. Set up a fake argument with ridiculous premises, claim some semi-divine guru like Ayn Rand, and the game is on.

Opponents give the arguments credibility by "debating," in person and in print. The President of the United States appears in an interview with fake journalist from fake TV news network before the "Super Bowl."

Meanwhile, corporations and Wall Street bankers are laughing all the way to the bank, or, in the bankers' case, in place. They buy effectively ALL the Congress, so the "debate" can go on and on as long as they are free to make effectively ALL the money. Some crumbs are left to keep enough of the people silenced, and enough is all that matters.

How long will this go on? Not forever. It will go on until it implodes, which could come very soon. Falsehood as a way of life has its limits. The perfect example is climate change. We don't have much longer to lie about it. It can't be pretended away.

That about covers the subject. It's pretty amazing that the "Conservative" movement has ascended (or descended) to such power. The appeal is to people's lower nature: fear, anger, jealousy, greed, avarice, deceit. In the difficult days to come we could go even lower. Let's hope we go in the other direction. We can start by calling this movement for what it is: fake.

Here's an old song. I used to know how to play it. It's kind of easy, so maybe I'll do some work on it. This is my favorite Kinks song. Followed closely by this.

Here's what happens when you look behind the curtain.

Fakery doesn't change my world. Here's a song for holding onto your dreams. This song is a result of the scene in the previous song.

Here's something new. You have to wait for it to fully load in order to see my comment.

R.I.P. Lawrence Walsh. He investigated fakers. They had too much power, got away clean.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Exaggerated Crisis

The emergency du jour these days is the "Russian" incursion into "Crimea," formerly known as "The Crimea." The region, or district, is legally part of "Ukraine," formerly known as "The Ukraine." The "right-wing" noise-o-sphere is blaming the crisis on Obama, seizing the opportunity to compare his "manhood" with that of "Russian" president Vladimir Putin.

Of course it is always serious when one "country" invades, occupies, or makes a military presence in another "country." They differ in severity and intention, and by historical standards this show of force is pretty mild. "Ukraine" lies between "Russia" and Eastern "Europe," and is strategic for both "Russia" and the "European" countries for trade and military alliances, and perceived security interests.

Still, from the great distance of Madison, Wisconsin, I am free to look at the "Ukraine/Crimea/Russia/U.S." crisis as less than a crisis, but more about the egos of men. The NPR program OnPoint had a segment this past Monday on the situation, to which I had this response:

Pretty good discussion for the most part, given the establishmentarian perspective. If you take a less institutional approach, though, the "crisis" seems more about face-saving and who makes who blink.

The principal nations involved - "Russia," "Ukraine," "Crimea," and of course, the world's only superpower, the "U.S." - are all presumed to be living beings, when they are collections of living beings, presided over by "leaders" of one sort or another, in this case all known as "presidents."

So "Crimea" is both a place and a collection of people. The same for "Ukraine," "Russia" and the "U.S." "Russia" has entered "Crimea" with a military presence, asserting its dominance. The "U.S." is threatening economic sanctions against "Russia" - the place and its people.

These divisions of lands and peoples into political entities are pretty arbitrary if you take the perspective of the ecosphere. It knows no national boundaries. The various machinations of governments matter to the ecosphere only to the degree of the environmental damage or benefit they cause.

The facedown with "Russia" is something of a Déjà vu experience. For decades we had the "Cold War," an ongoing struggle that spread worldwide, as countries were coaxed or forced to be on one "side" or the other. "Russia" was the center of the "Soviet Union," and the "U.S." was the center of the "free world."

Wars were waged, such as in "Vietnam" and "Korea" over this arbitrary division of "communism" versus "freedom." Governments were overthrown, such as in "Indonesia" and "Chile." We came close to thermonuclear war at least once that we know of. If there had been a thermonuclear war, none of us would be here today.

So how will this "crisis" turn out? One way or another. Power gravitates to the already powerful, mitigated by a variety of forces.There are "Russians" living in "Ukraine" and in "Crimea." A lot of them. "Russia" is in physical proximity to both places. We aren't. Obama and his hapless emissary John Kerry would do well to keep this in mind.
There isn't much I can add to this. One thing is that the "U.S." Secretary of State John Kerry sounded kind of lame when he said "You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests." He conveniently disremembered the invasion and occupation of "Iraq."

The perceived weakness of Obama and his hapless secretary of state may be a symptom of declining world empires, so eloquently described by Tom Englehardt. As this situation develops we would do well to look with skepticism at the grand pronouncements by grand pronouncers in Washington and elsewhere. Global climate change is far more serious than this minor "crisis."

Here's a song. Here's another. There's even an entire album of déjà vu.

The Daily Beast has this update comparing Obama with Dwight Eisenhower.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ready For Elizabeth

The strangest things come in the mail. Saturday I received a letter from the "Ready for Hillary" political action committee (PAC), which is raising money to "urge" Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016. The group presents itself as a "grass roots" organization, concerned citizens who want the first woman president. (For the record, such as it exists, I favor a woman for president: Elizabeth Warren.)

The timing couldn't be more perfect. I've been writing some things here and there about how both political parties are completely bought, and have been especially critical of "Democrats," because they portray themselves as the party of the people, when the same corporate and Wall Street "interests" that pay off the "Republicans" also pay them off. The payoffs are known as "campaign contributions."

I had a fun go-around on the website to a local Madison TV station, when they broke the story about emails that were released from the "John Doe" investigation of Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker. When Walker was Milwaukee County Executive his staff was using county government time and equipment to do campaign work. He claimed to know nothing about what his staff was doing, and investigators didn't charge him with a crime, believing they couldn't get a conviction. For Walker, that's good enough. He is now calling the release of the emails "old news."

I posted two comments to the story, and then a few back-and-forths with "Democratic" snarkers, who didn't like that I wasn't following the party line. Here's the first of the two comments:

Whatever delicious information is found in this treasure trove of embarrassing and/or incriminating information can and likely will be squandered by the "Democrats." They still haven't figured out that you have to have something to offer voters in order to win elections.

This means that you have to stand for something that means something, like progressive taxation, enforcement of environmental standards, support for public education, health care for ALL, and a business climate that is competitive and regulated so that no one has an unfair advantage and the public is safe from harmful products.

I believe Walker is a criminal sociopath, but as we have already seen, that is not enough to convince the public to replace him with a "Democrat." This is not likely to change, because the "Democrats" are stuck in the mindset that the way to win elections is to play both ends against the middle. It is known as "triangulating."

They treat minorities and the unions as hostages - voters who have no choice but to vote for them - and try to coax "Independents" with "moderation" and platitudes. In essence, they end up disrespecting ALL voters, and, of course, LOSE. Unless Walker is indicted, he will be governor for another four years. It isn't our only hope. He might run for president.
Here's the second comment, a reply to a late-comer to the conversation by a day, with the kind of response normally expected from "right-wingers."

Letter from Frank FasiJerry Gibbs ~ Nice try. This reads like "Democratic" party talking points. This story is from yesterday, so someone coming in a day later was guided in. Then there is the "right wing" talking points. What would be "right wing" about ANYTHING that I wrote? I have voted for ONE "Republican" in my life, Frank Fasi for mayor of Honolulu in 1984, when I lived there. He was actually a "Democrat," but party bosses went for a party boss-type, so he switched parties and won (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Fasi). Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune later wrote a column in praise of Fasi for his independence, not in this, but for refusing to provide security for ousted Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos when he moved to Honolulu (Syndicated here: http://articles.philly.com/1986-03-05/news/26082640_1_frank-fasi-police-officers-mayor-fasi).

But I digress. The "right wing" accusation is a pretty stock response, because party partisans live in a binary world - with us or against us, black or white, zero or one, "left" or "right," "Democrat" or "Republican." This is the way of the reptilian brain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triune_brain).

Another accusation is that I try to act like I am above it all. If I were above it all I'd be living in a monastery. I vote. Sometimes I donate money. Sometimes I volunteer, including in two recall campaigns (state Senate and governor), and for the "Democrats" in 2010 in its get out the vote campaign. That disqualifies me as both a "right-winger" and a "Republican." I wrote about impending defeat for "Democrats" based on how they ran their PREVIOUS TWO CAMPAIGNS. They played to LOSE, and LOST. They have themselves to blame, but will continue running the same lame campaigns they ran before, gaming their constituencies as givens, while attempting to coax "Independents" with nothingness. If you think this is a "right wing" talking point, state in words what Tom Barrett did in two attempts at governor that showed that he stood for something more than "I will heal the state's divide." (challenge)

Yuk. This is easy. "Democratic" partisans can't stand it when people don't accept their supremacy. Like a lot of people, I look at both political parties as something similar to organized crime, especially at the national level. I tend to vote for "Democrats," because they are less criminal and less sociopathic. In Wisconsin now, the "Republicans" are a purely criminal organization, led by a dangerous sociopath. Based on some of the comments above, I don't put much stock in the "Democrats," and of course their recent campaigns. Maybe the Green Party will have a candidate. Here's something I wrote in 2012, predicting Barrett's defeat: http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/mailbag/john-hamilton-barrett-must-shift-gears-trust-voters-intelligence/article_e47cc57e-b9a8-5f7d-ab12-a5b4527c85fc.html
So it goes. I cranked out another screed on OnPoint today, responding to a segment about the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). pushing another Sisyphean rock up the mountain:

What a surprise. The IRS is underfunded and under-statuted. The responsible body, or really irresponsible body, is the U.S. Congress. The Congress, curiously, is almost entirely bought by corporate and Wall Street "interests."

Then there is the added factor of fake ideology, promoted by such fakers as Grover Norquist, which promotes the idea that taxation is the root of all evil. The campaign to "starve the beast" is succeeding beyond its hopes and dreams.

I believe it is safe to say that IRS disenablers like Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, various bought members of Congress, and the members of the Supreme Court who enable bribery - all are traitors in the truest sense. It is one of the great ironies of these goofy times we live in that the very same people are calling Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers traitors, when it is they who are harming the country. The harm they are doing is not rhetorical, but actual.

I should mention that I filed early this year, and received my refund quickly. The two previous years I filed my taxes erroneously, due to the complications of retiring, IRAs and deductions. The IRS caught the errors both times, and I was surprised to receive refund checks. They may be stressed, but there is still competence there.

This situation is yet another example of how our system has been hijacked by opportunists with agendas other than the good of the country and its people. Not surprisingly, their agendas are for themselves - money, power, privilege and prestige. As long as narcissism rules in this country, we are pretty much doomed.

And, of course, this is all in a broader context of an unsustainable infinite-growth economic system in a condition of global climate change. Hey, we just finished with two weeks of Olympics extravaganza. Not to worry. March Madness is just around the corner. Then, opening day to the baseball season. Video games rule. There's plenty of hyper-entertainment to keep us distracted. Ancient Rome would be awed.

Here's a song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9tlJdHA5Os
Not giving up, I also replied to the next segment, about the jobless economy:

Typical of this kind of discussion is that trends are extrapolated independent of their context. These guests, esteemed academics at MIT, should be aware of the Latin term ceteris paribus - all other things held equal. This is the caveat economists use when they isolate variables in order to study modeled changes in an approach known as comparative statics.

In a dynamic system, few variables can be held equal. In a dynamic of an unsustainable, disecological mass system in a context of global climate change, the decline in workers per unit of output is only part of the mix. It is a serious part, but if unsustainability and climate degradation move our mass system in a dystopian direction, it will be a mere contributing factor.
Not finished yet, I had this for Salon, more about Walker:

It's great that this drags out. By the time neither Walker nor Christie are either running for office or IN office, the field of "contenders" will be mighty thin. It's thin anyway, with no agenda that has any credibility, and a track record of great harm to the country.

Since I live in Wisconsin it is easier to talk about Walker. He's an intellectual lightweight and a sociopath who never should have been elected to ANY office, much less governor of the country's formerly most progressive state, home to Robert LaFollette. He became Milwaukee County Executive running as a "reformer," after his predecessor and other "Democrats" were caught in egregious corruption (That was "Democrats." Sad to say, "Democrats" are to blame for Walker's ascendancy).

Walker's next predecessor, former governor Jim Doyle, wasn't corrupt, but he didn't stand for anything. He was governor for eight years, and didn't realize that just "being governor" wasn't enough. He was so unpopular after eight years that he ended his candidacy for reelection. Enter Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, who also didn't stand for anything, and was easy pickings for Walker and his Koch money. He led a landslide that swept enough "Republicans" into office that they had majorities in both houses of the legislature. They quickly rammed through Act 10, stripping unions of their collective bargaining rights as well as denuding them of other important rights.

Then the people got active, especially union members, and with over a million petition signatures, a recall election was scheduled in 2012. After not supporting either the uprising at the Capitol or the recall, Barrett ran in the primary and then against Walker for a second time. He again stood for nothing, and lost.

Walker is under scrutiny in a second John Doe investigation, and again it is the main hope of unseating him. The only declared "Democratic" candidate, rich person Mary Burke, stands for nothing, just like Doyle and Barrett. The state "Democratic" party endorsed her shortly after she announced her candidacy.

It is worth mentioning that a certain mayor of a major city close to Wisconsin is rumored to be pulling the strings in Wisconsin politics, specifically ordering Barrett to run in the recall to save union money for Obama's reelection. Maybe Joan Walsh can find out if this is true. The "Democrats" are gaming the election, triangulating, standing for nothing as a way of wooing "Independents." If Walker isn't indicted, they may go down to another well-deserved defeat. Meanwhile, the people of Wisconsin suffer.
That's enough for one day. I hope it does some good.

Here's a song for old time's sake. The best part is Brother Ali. I was in the crowd, visible in a couple of versions. For a fun variation on the theme, click here.

Here's some early Bob Dylan, a song for all of us.

And of course, this.

Join with 350.org. Here's a recruiting song, an old favorite.

Substitute Elizabeth for the name on this song.

The New York Times has a story about "Ready for Hillary."

The New Yorker, not to be confused with the New York Times, also had a story about "Ready for Hillary," last year.

Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor for Bill Clinton until he resigned over NAFTA, writes about our jobless economy.

I hope this isn't true.

R.I.P.  Harold Ramis.  Salon has this story about his movie Groundhog Day.

If you would like to gain an understanding of corruption in high places, watch this PBS Frontline segment. Catholicism, the religion of my youth, is fully exposed. The behavior of the Vatican Curia can be seen as archetypal of authoritarian systems. Where absolute power exists, absolute corruption exists. As Frontline shows, absolute corruption can be forgiven, since priests can give "absolution."

The plot thickens in Wisconsin, as can be seen in this news item. I had this observation to offer:

Steven Biskupic. Now that's a name we've seen before. He was the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Wisconsin who prosecuted Doyle bureaucrat Georgia Thompson on trumped up charges in 2006 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_M._Biskupic). Some might remember that this was part of the Bush criminal regime's nationwide campaign to prosecute "Democrats." The former governor of Alabama is still in prison, also from trumped up charges (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/did-ex-alabama-governor-get-a-raw-deal/).

Maybe as this case develops we will get to the root of all this chicanery. Biskupic could be the key that unlocks the door. All it will take is for one person to sing from the inside of this "vast right-wing conspiracy." These are men without honor, so they will turn on each other in less than a blink of the eye.
Here's Glenn Greenwald's site for some edification.

Utne Reader is always a great source of information and insight.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We Are On Our Own

The three issues that are causing the most concern, argument and consternation these days are in the news again, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Two of them - NSA spying and Obama's program of drone attacks - are relatively easy to resolve. Just stop doing it.

The third issue - global climate change - isn't so easy to deal with. Since it isn't easy, our government and corporate leadership choose to do nothing. It is the most critical of the three issues, with the most drastic consequences, including an increasing likelihood of mass extinction of living species, maybe even the human species. New Yorker columnist Elizabeth Kolbert has written a book titled The Sixth Extinction. She was interviewed on today's edition of Fresh Air on NPR. In her book she describes  the great extinctions of the past, and predicts that the next one, caused by global climate change, will be the worst. She also was interviewed on Democracy Now yesterday.

Why, we might wonder, does our ruling elite spy on the whole world, kill innocent people with drones, but do nothing about global climate change? On today's discussion of drones on NPR's OnPoint, I offered this analysis in a comment:

First, the notion that Barack Obama is a Constitutional scholar because he was a "professor" of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago is largely false. He was a lecturer, an adjunct instructor, not a professor. This is a growing phenomenon in the U.S., where colleges and universities hire teachers as part-time temporary help as a way of avoiding paying benefits. It's the higher education equivalent of temp work.

In regard to targeting of American citizens overseas with drones, it follows a pattern. As with unlimited domestic spying, two purposes are served. One is that by incrementally introducing a practice, it gets established in the bureaucracy, tacitly or openly approved by Congress, and through the court system is declared legitimate.

The other purpose is international, and is also incremental. If actions that are essentially terrorist by commonly accepted definition are introduced into the mix of worldwide activities, and no foreign entity - the World Court, foreign governments, international alliances - are willing or able to challenge them, then the activity becomes established and grows.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are perfect examples of incremental actions that establish precedents for further actions. Though established in precedent, they are not likely to be practiced routinely because of the serious negative consequences - tremendous cost, great loss of life, and international condemnation. They also were wars for nothing. Nothing was intended, other than the psychopathic intentions of the perpetrators, and nothing was gained.

As with every other topic on OnPoint, this phenomenon was discussed in isolation from all other phenomena in the Universe. This is the Western approach known as reductionism. With a systems approach, the phenomenon can be discussed realistically. NSA spying, international adventurism, semi-indiscriminate drone attacks, and even "free trade" agreements can all be seen in context with the encroaching crises of our unsustainable infinite-growth economic system in a condition of increasingly severe global climate change.

In this context, it looks worse. Why, one might ask, would a country do NOTHING about its unsustainable economic system and global warming, but go diddling around the planet with spy technology and drone attacks, all the while mumbling about invading someone or other? Iran,Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Venezuela. Who else? This is a discussion I would like to hear on OnPoint.
Yesterday OnPoint had a discussion on NSA leaker Edward Snowden. I had this to offer:

Snowden did a great thing in exposing the national security state. One thing that is ignored is that it was inevitable that someone would do this.

National securityists - government and corporate total information awareness-ites - can be accurately seen as prurient information addicts. They're humans, not automatons, and as such are ALL highly flawed. NO ONE can be trusted with the power to spy on whomever they have the capability of spying on worldwide. As J.Edgar Hoover so abundantly proved, information is power, and power corrupts. It isn't just absolute power that corrupts absolutely, ANY power corrupts absolutely.

As for Snowden himself, thanks. Beyond that, who cares about whether or not he is a narcissist, "troubled," a "traitor," high school dropout, "loner," or whatever, attention-seeker, weirdo, or "nerd?" The enraged will say anything to cloud the issue, distracting from its essence. The proverbial cat is out of the bag, the genie is out of the bottle, and the can of worms is open. We now have a formerly secret government intrusion trying to get the cat back in the bag, the genie back in the bottle, and the worms back in the can.

And, of course, this is all in the context of a declining infinite-growth economic system under conditions of increasingly severe global climate change. Does the NSA have an answer for global warming? Yes. It is to spy on the people who are trying to do something about it.
Of course, our president, Barack Obama, is talking a good game, on climate change at least.  In his State of the Union speech Obama declared that climate change is a fact.  Unfortunately, he tends to believe that talk is action. Bill McKibben of 350.org says the oil companies control the dialogue on the Keystone XL pipeline approval process. They likely control the dialogue on everything else about climate change.

It won't last. As was noted in today's Daily Beast, from the Olympics to Atlanta, this winter is all about climate change. Next winter will be worse. Between the two will be summer, likely to be worse than last summer. So Obama, likely to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, will be in a deeper hole. He will try to talk his way out of it, but talk has never been cheaper in all of human history.

A Hamilton, from Australia, has written a book about how nations will opt for risky technological fixes for climate change, and will fail miserably, making things worse. He was interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered today.

In other words, when our leadership decides to move beyond the talking stage to action on climate change, they will just make things worse. Maybe we're better off with Obama's all talk, no action. It could buy us a little time.

So what does this all mean? Nothing good. I revert to a Buddhist approach, that there was a time before the human species, and there will be a time after. Every day it is looking ever more likely that the time after is rapidly approaching.

There is another approach. Make the needed changes without the established power elites of government and corporations, from below, in spite of them. Take away their power by not giving them any. It's a mighty task, but it's all we have. We are on our own.

 Here's some inspirational music. Here's more. George Harrison might be some comfort with his great album All Things Must Pass.

Greenpeace is one of the organizations trying to do something about climate change.

Here's a pretty good interview with Bill McKibben.

Al Gore wrote a review of The Sixth Extinction in The New York Times.

R.I.P. Shirley Temple. In the early days of TV a lot of old movies were shown late in the evening and on Saturdays and Sundays. My favorite of her movies was Wee Willie Winkie, with Victor McLaglen. She is best known for The Good Ship Lolipop from the movie Bright Eyes. It seems a bit creepy now, her singing while being passed around by a bunch of men. For the curious, most videos show the movie in color, but it was filmed in black and white. Colorization of black and white movies began in the 1980s, if I remember right. Here she is with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in the first interracial dance sequence in movie history. Here's the story.

R.I.P. Sid Caesar.  So long ago, our family would gather around the television set to watch his show.