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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, October 25, 2017

Time is Running Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I have written before, a useful model of human development is the hierarchy of needs construct of psychologist Abraham Maslow, proposed in the 1950s. It parallels the chakra system of energy centers in Vedanta philosophy of  India. If we don't begin to recognize the sources of human energies, their developmental roles, and the hazards they pose, we will not only continue to fall, but will accelerate the fall. We of course are accelerating the fall anyway with our infinite economic growth and destruction of the ecosphere. Time is running out.

Here's a song. Here's another. And another. Van MorrisonThis Grateful Dead song fits. The Allman Brothers Band. Again, Stevie Wonder doing the Drumpf National Anthem. INXS. Keb MoAnother Grateful Dead song. The Traveling Wilburys. Brewer and Shipley. Another Brewer and Shipley. The Steve Miller Band. Another from the Steve Miller Band. The Chambers Brothers. Starland Vocal Band. The Amazing Rhythm Aces. Joe Cocker covering the Beatles. Iris Dement. More Iris Dement. Still more Iris Dement. My favorite Grateful Dead song, always a source of inspiration. This Grateful Dead song has unending pertinence. Another Grateful Dead song. And, for the future, this.

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

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

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

Here's an update from Bill Moyers.

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

Here's what I actually wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Onward Christian Soldiers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With such a fixation it is no wonder that climate change denial is so prevalent. When you are consumed with the idea skin color as the most important concern in your life, of what matter could it be that the polar ice caps are melting, that forest fires are rampant, that floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, avalanches and a myriad of other real, emphatic disasters are happening? Onward Christian soldiers. Onward to extinction.

Here's a song. Here's another. Alternate version. Talking Heads. More Talking Heads. Neil Young. Jerry Garcia. R.E.M. More R.E.M. The Grateful Dead. Louis Armstrong. Alternate Louis Armstrong. The intro to Gone With the Wind. Southern gentry getting geared-up for warThe scene in Gone With the Wind where Scarlett O'Hara is attacked by "white trash" vagrants. Gone With the Wind scene where plantation owners return home after a vigilante escapade. Theme music from Gone With the Wind. 

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

R.I.P. Dick Gregory. I knew him long ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

It's Time to Start Talking Impeachment

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

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

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

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

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

These are bizarre times, but there have been worse times. World War II was worse. The Great Depression was worse. World War I was worse. The Civil War was worse. The Revolutionary War was worse. In this context Trump is pretty small potatoes. We can and should easily rid ourselves of him . Let's start talking impeachment.

Here's an Impeachment song. Here's another. I'm sure some better ones will be out soon.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fortunate Sons

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

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

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

Here's a song. Here's another. And anotherFor Trump.

I suppose these various service-avoiding presidents and vice-president just weren't born to follow.

Update, June 26: The New York Times has published a list of Trump's lies since taking office.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

After Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet exist they do. We will face them when it is too late. Some say it is too late now. Maybe a new approach will work. Something more humble. It doesn't seem likely, but one can always hope. It will take a messiah. Or maybe Quinn the Eskimo.

Here's a song. Alternate version. Alternate alternate version. Reggae version. The Hollies. String Cheese Incident. Phish. Kris Kristofferson. A short and weak version, but The Beatles. It seems that everyone is waiting for Quinn the Eskimo. Let's hope he (or she) gets here before this happens.

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ride the Man Down

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s I read a spree of Western novels, starting with the many works of Louis L'Amour, then Max Brand, Luke Short, and finally the legendary Zane Grey. They were all great writers. I got started on the spree by a suggestion from a friend when I lived at the Siddha Yoga ashram in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Louis L'Amour fever quickly spread among ashramites, at least among males. It was one of the more benign fads that would breeze through the facility.

I loved reading these books, and found them full of wisdom and life lessons. Many quotes stuck in my mind, and this one one from The Broken Gun by L'Amour was repeated in many of his stories: "In my dealings with criminals in the past one thing had become obvious, that all were incurable optimists, as well as egotists. They were confident their plans would succeed, and had nothing but contempt for the law and for the law abiding citizen." (p. 95)

A quote from Zane Grey's Shadow on the Trail has come back most prominently in recent months. He used the term "Ride the man down" to describe the dogged determination of Texas Ranger posses to capture a wanted criminal. They would literally run a man down on horseback, chasing him relentlessly until his horse was exhausted and could go no farther.

The entire planet is in a predicament where a lifelong criminal is the chief executive of its richest and most powerful country. All the intelligence agencies have evidence that he was elected with the help of the Russian government. The FBI is hot on the trail, and the special counsel investigating the Russian hacking of the 2016 election, Robert Mueller, is reportedly focusing his attention on possible obstruction of justice by our president, Donald J. Trump.

The Russian hacking is also being investigated by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate intelligence committees. There are other investigations in addition to these.

The FBI investigation may be enough to bring Trump to justice. He is already attempting to undermine the probe, calling it a witch hunt, and has begun a smear campaign against Mueller. His propaganda supporters at Fox News and elsewhere are helping him.

They may succeed in discrediting Mueller and the Russian hacking investigation, but it isn't likely. Momentum is building against Trump. He is a national embarrassment, making us look like fools to the rest of the world. If we have any self-respect as a people we will help remove Trump from office in whatever way we can. He is the archetypal criminal that Louis L'Amour wrote about - an incurable optimists as well as an egotist. He is confident his plans will succeed, and has nothing but contempt for the law and for the law abiding citizen.

One way is to show support for the FBI investigation by writing to our representatives in Congress. Another is to write to local and national news publications. Social media is another avenue of discourse. Calling radio shows. Yard signs. Bumper stickers. Rallies.

Even watching TV shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Late Night with Seth Meyers helps. They both have been skewering Trump weeknightly with sizzling, insightful comedic rants. Watching them improves their ratings, and paves the way for more incisive criticism across the media spectrum. It's fun too.

We can all be like Texas Rangers, riding the man down. It may seem cruel, but Trump is a dangerous evil, and driving him from office should become our national sport. Each of us, in our own LEGAL way, can ride him down. Saddles up!

Here's a song. Here's another. Leadbelly. I always liked this song. Here's a racing song. Alternate version. Waylon and Willie. Ian and Sylvia. I used to have the album. The Flying Burrito Brothers. Alternate versionHere's a history of the Texas Rangers. Gene Autry. Alternate versionRoy Rogers with the Sons of the Pioneers. More Sons of the Pioneers. Johnny Cash. Asleep at the Wheel. Here's a song for Trump. Substitute 71 for 21. Marty Robbins. More Marty Robbins. Tex Owens.  Alternate version. Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

For some more on Donald Trump's criminal life, click here.

Here's an update on "Republican" election criminality other than Trump.

Here's a look at Trump's financial interests.

A worthy read.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Answer the Door

It should be clear by now that the "Republican" party in the U.S. is nothing more - or less - than a criminal gang, bought by wealthy donors and obsessed with power, money and fame. If it were not clear before last week's vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it surely is now. The ongoing attempts at repeal have nothing to do with "ideology" or concern for the "American" people. They have been about spite, cruelty and dispossession of the less-wealthy in favor of the rich.

Among the crimes "Republicans" have been perpetrating in recent years are the various voter suppression activities they have engaged in, including closed polling places, purging voter registrations, blocking people from voting (Florida, 2000, likely turned the "election," elsewhere, repeatedly), and, of course, voter ID laws. In today's The Nation there is a story about how Wisconsin's voter ID law suppressed 200,000 votes in 2016, giving Trump a 22,748 margin of victory in the state.

The litany of "Republican" crimes is endless. Or so it seems. It will take a mammoth effort to unseat them, to say nothing of bringing them to justice. Chauncey DeVega wrote in Salon last weekend that the Republican party is sociopathic, something I have contended for years. He does a great job of explaining how the characteristics of sociopaths match the "Republicans" perfectly. In yesterday's column he said they are political terrorists.

Which raises a question. If the "Republicans" are such blatant criminals, what about the "Democrats?" What have they been doing for the past several decades? Are they pillars of virtue and decency who have been bravely fighting the "Republican" criminals?

The answer is of course no. At best they have been practicing Republican-lite, hoping to appear as "moderate" versions of the "Republicans" to the ever-elusive "center." The center, that is, of the mythical "spectrum" of "left" to "right" that is axiomatic in the conventional wisdom of political know-it-alls, which includes just about everyone who talks about politics.

Former Madison mayor Dave Cieslewicz wrote a column in a local paper in February, titled Lost in Wisconsin, where he raised the question of what the "Democrats" can do to return to prominence. He interviewed some local political "players" to get their views. What they tended to say was that the "Democrats" need to listen to voters.

Duh. This is a meme generated by pundits since the defeat of Hillary Clinton. When former U.S. senator Russ Feingold tried to win his seat back last year, he held voter listening sessions in every county in the state. He lost. He basically ran as himself - Russ Feingold, good guy, son of a Wisconsin shop-keeper, man of the people. He didn't say much about what he was going to do in office, except for a couple of gimmicks to ease student debt and create jobs, calling them the Badger this-or-that. He let his paid consultants control his campaign, repeating the tried-and-failed technique of triangulating - playing reliable constituencies for chumps while wooing the elusive "Center" with nothingness.

I offered my own thoughts on what the "Democrats" could to to displace the "Republican" criminals:

One thing "Democrats" might find useful is to stop saying progressive, progressive, progressive all the time without ever saying what progressive means. In other words, stop talking to yourselves and start communicating with voters. I volunteered in 2010, 2011, 2012 and, sadly, last year. Each time it was ALL about getting out the vote ("GOTV"). No attempt was made to actually communicate with people.

One of the reasons there was no attempt to communicate with voters is that there was nothing to communicate. None of the recent "Democratic" candidates for governor stood for anything except themselves. Even Russ Feingold last year fell for the consultant-driven approach of running for himself, just a nice guy who listens. And a new-found negative campaigning. He deserved to lose, and did. Now he is through. He would have been a decent senator, but his various "Badger" gimmicks and inept self-promotion doomed him to defeat. It wasn't his seat - it was OUR seat - and he lost it.

Next time maybe "Democrats" can run as if they believe in something. Instead of saying progressive, progressive, progressive to each other, they could actually push for progressive taxation. The first step would be to EXPLAIN what progressive taxation IS. It is not the same meaning as progressive, progressive, progressive. Progressive taxation means the rate of tax PROGRESSES as income (or wealth in the case of property tax) increases. Simply put, it means TAX THE RICH. When explaining it you only need to say progressive once.

The same goes for other issues. If you are going to advocate for abortion rights you need to say that abortion is not killing, and that supposed "Christians" are wrong in their posturing "beliefs" that the "Bible" forbids abortion (and a myriad of other things). Pregnancy is part of the process of creating life, not the nurturing of a life that already exists. It is a voluntary activity throughout the process, and only when completed is there a human life in existence. To say this means to stand for something. Otherwise, as "Democrats" have done in the past, it's all about hustling a constituency, getting them out to vote (GOTV).

None of this will happen, sadly, and the more likely prospect is that "Democrats" are licking their chops, counting on the meltdown of Donald Trump to have spread effects all the way to "downballots" in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, "Republicans" will continue to fake standing for something, fooling the voters, then laughing all the way to the bank. Some people never learn.

I added some things I forgot to mention a couple of days later:

I forgot to mention that "Democrats" need to consistently explain that we have a mixed economic system, which combines private enterprise working in concert with government operations. Government is necessary in a mass industrial system to provide goods and services that the private sector cannot or will not provide. Roads, bridges, public transportation, emergency services, regulation of industry, defense, the three branches of government, and more recently retirement and disability insurance, and some guarantees of health care. These government functions are paid for through taxation, which is not a burden but an obligation for citizens in a functioning civilization. As economist Jeffrey Sachs put it, no taxes, no civilization.

We haven't heard any "Democrats" say any of these things in recent decades - except Bernie Sanders - and even he didn't say enough. Again, the main reason that they haven't said these things is that they, like the "Republicans," don't have any real beliefs, and thus have no clue of what to stand for - other than what polling data, focus groups and paid consultants tell them to believe.

The advantage "Republicans" have is that they are genuine sociopaths, and know that they can disguise their true agenda of crony capitalism in emotion-triggering propaganda and scapegoating. Their ongoing scheme of skewing power and wealth to the already powerful and wealthy will continue as long as the opposition tries to play it "safe" by playing reliable constituencies for chumps while wooing the mythical "center" with nothingness.

The only way out of this is for the citizenry to rise up and "drain the swamp," so to speak, of these nothing "Democrats," replacing them with people who believe in and stand for something. Or start a new party, but that doesn't seem to be much of an option.

And so it goes. Trump fired FBI director James Comey today. The Russian hacking investigation is getting too close to home. Nixon déjà vu. To me it is a sign of Trump's desperation. It will only make things worse for him. Opportunity knocketh. We need to answer the door.

When I was volunteering with the "Democrats" to unseat Scott Walker in 2012 I tried to get the "Democratic" candidate to stand for something by writing a letter to the local daily newspaper. I tried again in 2014 with a new candidate. I failed both times.

Here's a song for Trump, but it can apply to our entire corporate-political elite.

Here's a song for us.

I sent Trump this tweet today.