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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.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

It's All Bullshit

When the first Bush president was building public support for his invasion of Iraq in 1990 a friend asked me what I thought about the war talk. I said "It’s all bullshit." He was unconvinced, and countered with "Don’t you think Saddam Hussein should be killed?" I replied by saying "Well, I suppose there are a lot of people on this planet who deserve to be killed, but that doesn’t mean that we need to go around invading their countries."

I explained further that the fomenter of this invasion, President of the United States George H. W. Bush, was a criminal who was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal and the phony invasion of Grenada during the Reagan presidency, and the invasion of Panama in his own presidency. He was likely involved in the "October Surprise" collusion with Iranian hostage takers in 1980 that gave us the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

I also reminded him of the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" that expanded our involvement in Vietnam. Of Richard Nixon’s claim to have a "secret plan" to end the Vietnam war. Of Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia. I further explained that you could tell by the way that Bush was talking about Saddam Hussein that he was lying. His whiny tone of voice, his fake self-righteousness and his unwillingness to speak truthfully about the circumstances that led to Iraq’s attack on its neighbor Kuwait.

Partners in crime. Or is it strange bedfellows? To read about Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein, go to this URL: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/index.htmIraq had been our "ally" in the region, a bulwark against Iran, its neighbor to the east and our enemy of choice after the overthrow of the brutal Shah. Saddam Hussein, Iraq's president, was installed in office in 1963 with the help of the CIA, and had received arms from us over the years, including chemical weapons.

The conquering heroIt turned out that the first invasion of Iraq was a precursor to the next one. Saddam Hussein was accused by the second Bush president of harboring Al Qaeda terrorists – a lie – and of possessing weapons of mass destruction – another lie – which he intended to use to attack the United States – also a lie.

The twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed, and the Pentagon was severely damaged by 19 Arab men, mostly citizens of Saudi Arabia, but the George W. Bush regime (not to be confused with the George H.W. Bush regime) chose to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. We still have troops in Afghanistan, with no prospect of leaving any time in the foreseeable future. We made a mess of Iraq, and it is still a mess, with frequent terrorist bombings, and much of the country in ruins. Most of the Mideast is in turmoil, and the entire region is a powder keg ready to explode.

Enter Donald Trump, criminal sociopath, purveyor of fraud, treasonous colluder with a foreign adversary, proud sexual predator, a man completely devoid of moral scruples or ethical standards. He withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear "deal" (everything is known as a deal in the Trump era), pretty obviously to get revenge on his predecessor Barack Obama, who humiliated him at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011.

Obama with Benjamin Netanyahu
The other part of withdrawing from the arrangement is to please Israel, particularly its corrupt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made Iran his enemy of choice, and who despises Obama. He has been pushing for war with Iran for years.

The Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in one of his triumphal uniformsIran used to be a U.S. ally. Or, more accurately, the ruling regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was a U.S. ally. He was installed in power through a coup d'état in 1953, engineered by American and British spy agencies. He ruled with an iron fist, torturing and killing his opponents for almost three decades (with U.S. help). Then came his downfall, and in 1979 he was overthrown in a revolution, which resulted in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Such is the mess of the Mideast, largely a creation of Western powers, chiefly the U.S., Britain and France. This mess is with no small participation from Israel, which didn't exist as a nation before 1948, when it was created as a "Jewish" state when occupying British forces withdrew. It has been on a war footing since its inception, and its treatment of the area's displaced inhabitants has been atrocious.

Now that Donald Trump has taken the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear agreement, Israel's Netanyahu is emboldened, and, as Time Magazine observed, attacked Iranian forces in Syria one hour after the deal was rescinded.

So here we are again, in another episode of it's all bullshit. I was born at the end of World War II, which should have been lesson enough that war is to be avoided. Instead, those who decide these things have been fomenting war after war ever since. Some of them have been "hot" wars, one (and maybe a new one) was a "cold" war, some have been by proxy - providing backing to others to do the fighting, and some have been by intimidation, subversion, overthrow, embargo and various forms of extortion. They have all been bullshit.

There is and will be a heavy price for all these bullshit wars. In pundit and national security state talk it is known as "blowback." An example would be the 911 attacks, blowback from the first invasion of Iraq. Another would be ISIS, blowback from the second invasion of Iraq. Blowback from the invasion of Afghanistan is the cost, estimated to be over a trillion dollars, almost 2500 "coalition" deaths, and no end in sight. Much more blowback awaits us.

Another heavy price for all these bullshit wars is that when our unsustainable economic system starts to unsustain, the bloated military budget will one of the first to fall. It has comfortably risen ever since the end of World War II, when we were world champs. The Pentagon was built, and we were off to the races. The "Defense" budget is so huge, almost $700 billion annually, that our economy depends on it. Marxist economists Paul Sweezy and Paul Baran observed decades ago that the "Defense" budget has to increase annually in order for the weapons manufacturers to stay in business.

Meanwhile, of course, the planet is getting hotter, and Trump has taken the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, pretending there is no such thing as climate change. The only question at this point is how much longer the powers-that-be can pretend. Given that it has been all bullshit my entire life, it can safely be said that they will continue to be all bullshit until the bitter end. And bitter it will be. Much more bitter than bullshit.
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Here's a song. Here's another. Another. R.E.M. Bob Dylan. Johnny CashJimi Hendrix. John PrineThe Lovin' SpoonfulThe Grateful Dead. Arthur Brown.

Here's a reminder of the Bush II era, if you can stand to look. Putting it together was a grueling process.
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Update, June 21: Here's a variation on the theme of collapse from Chris Hedges.

Friday, April 06, 2018

#BlueWave

I read with bemusement that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is resorting to fear mongering, scapegoating and paranoia to rally gullible voters for the fall election. Warning of a "#BlueWave," our ethically challenged governor tweeted before the polls closed that "The Far Left is driven by anger & hatred," and that "we must counter it with optimism & organization." Translation: Democratic voters are energized to show up on election day, and Republicans must overcome them with voter suppression and massive amounts of money.

It wasn’t clear to voters in Walker’s previous campaigns that he is essentially a scam artist, much like his counterpart in the Oval Office. It is becoming clear now, similar to the slow awakening about Trump. His supposed "bold reforms" against unions, against public education, against voting and against poor people were all attempts to disenfranchise those who voted against him. His efforts to weaken corporate responsibility and protection of the environment were rewards to those who voted for him – at least some of them. The rest were fooled by Walker’s phony portrayal of his opponents as the enemy.

So the question for the November election is will it work again. It worked for Walker three times, and it worked for Trump, another scam artist. The voters appear to be tired of it, but that is no guarantee of victory for Democrats. They have to show a belief in principles of governance and of how a civilization functions properly. In recent decades they have chosen to play it "safe," not standing for anything, but relying on getting out the vote among reliable constituencies.

If Democrats listen to their highly paid consultants they will squander this opportunity, same as they did in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The saving grace this time around is that at the grass roots level new candidates are running for office – in areas previously assumed to be "Red." In other words, written in stone as Republican parts of the state. Who makes this all-knowing assumption? Political consultants. This is what they get paid to assume.

It’s a vicious circle. In counties "Up North" citizens have voted for Republicans in the past. Therefore, they will always vote for Republicans. Ante-up, Democratic candidates. This is the knowledge we, the all-knowing consultants are paid to all-know. Thankfully, new candidates can’t afford these all-knowing consultants, and are running for office - in places Up North and throughout the state. They may save the Democratic Party, and in so doing, save us from Scott Walker.
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Here's a song about Walker and Trump.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Illegitimate

By now it should be clear that the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency is illegitimate. It is certain that his election campaign colluded with operatives of the Russian government, and it is extremely unlikely that he was not involved in this collusion. He behaves like a guilty man, trying to undercut the special counsel’s investigation of his campaign, and engages in various attempts to close it. These attempts have included felonious obstruction of justice, protestations of "fake news" and "witch hunt," claims that there is no evidence, and spreading of rumors about the investigators.

The Mueller investigation is closing in on Trump, and his attempts to end it are unlikely to keep him from facing indictment and/or impeachment. The country is turning against him, or more accurately, his base of support is slowly turning against him, joining the rest of the country in its revulsion of Trump.

Fine and grand. Trump will be gone before his four-year tem is up. Good riddance. But it’s not enough. What about the harm he has done? If his election is illegitimate, his actions as president are also illegitimate. His judicial appointments, especially his Supreme Court choice, are the appointments of an illegitimate president, and should be invalidated. His executive orders are invalid, and ought to be rescinded. The bills he signed are invalid, and also should be rescinded.

Of course, none of these things will happen. We have an almost thoroughly corrupt political system. The meme that justifies doing nothing about presidential criminality is that it would “tear the country apart.” It began when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for his crimes against democracy in the Watergate scandal. The imagined tearing the country apart is much worse, apparently, than actual enforcement of law and protection of democracy.

Another factor is that politicians, most of whom are corrupt in some way or another, don’t relish the idea of holding their colleagues responsible for their actions, setting a dangerous precedent. The long arm of the law that reaches for presidents might also reach for them.

So in this sense, Trump’s presidency has been a "success." He has done all the harm he could in the time he has been in office. He intends to do more. I believe a good part of his motivation is revenge against all who do not support him. The danger in this is that as his popularity declines and the closer the Mueller investigation gets to him, the greater will be his motivation for revenge. This danger is reason enough to remove him from office before he does any more harm. He has already threatened fire and fury on North Korea "like the world has never seen." As indictment and/or impeachment get closer he may make good on his threat just for spite against Planet Earth.

Our corrupt Congress – both "parties" – is institutionally and psychologically incapable of dealing with this threat. Congress has become so inert that it is hard for them to do anything, so the idea of removing a mentally deranged and criminally dangerous president has a remote likelihood. U.S. intelligence agencies failed to coordinate, according to legend, missing the warnings in advance of the September 11, 2001 attacks. They likely now know the threat Trump poses, but Congress is the entity that has the responsibility of removing a criminal president from office.

Still, I am confident. Trump, who claims he is "like, really smart," is actually pretty stupid. He’s in over his head. He also is a narcissist, which among other things means any of his subordinates, when the going gets tough, will turn on him the minute their own freedom and fortune are in jeopardy. Though I have aspirationally created the hashtag #GoneByEaster, Trump likely won’t be in office much beyond that. Momentum is moving rapidly against him. So long, Donald. Don’t let the cell door hit you in the arse when it closes on you.

Now that it is clear that Donald Trump is the worst president in U.S. history, and the most clearly illegitimate president with his treasonous collusion with a foreign adversary, we might want to look back at some previous illegitimate presidents. In 1960 John F. Kennedy benefited from mobsters, who helped him win the primary election in West Virginia. He may actually have lost the general election in real votes. In 1968 Richard Nixon lied about having a secret plan to end the Vietnam war, and engaged in efforts to undermine the peace talks.  In 1980 Ronald Reagan secretly negotiated with the Iranian hostage takers, delaying the release of the hostages until after the election, a scheme known as the "October Surprise." In his second term in office he sold them weapons, using the proceeds to fund the “Contras” in Nicaragua. The plot became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal. George H.W. Bush has been implicated in both of these crimes. His son George W. Bush, of course, benefited in 2000 from massive vote fraud and suppression, and from having the vote recount stopped by the Supreme Court, most of whom were appointed by the previous illegitimate presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush the elder. He also benefited from chicanery in counting votes – in both 2000 and 2004.

So every Supreme Court decision since at least the Reagan presidency is illegitimate, since the presidents who appointed most of its members were illegitimate. This includes former Chief Justice William Rehnquist (a former voter suppressor), Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas (sexual harasser, perjurer), current Chief Justice John Roberts (Also a voter suppressor. He was legal counsel for the Bush II effort to stop the Florida recount in 2000.), Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, and now Trump's nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Partners in crime. Or is it strange bedfellows? To read about Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein, go to this URL: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/index.htmIf Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I had been held criminally responsible for their law-breaking there would not have been a Bush II. If none of these criminals had been "elected" there would be no Al Qaeda, no 911 attacks, no invasions of Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq (both 1991 and 2003), no Guantanamo, no torture,  no ISIS, no economic meltdown in 2007-2008, and no lowering of standards that enabled the candidacy and fake presidency of Donald J. Trump. It could be convincingly argued that the lowering of standards began with Reagan (or Nixon), but they took a nosedive with the Bush II presidency. He paved the way for Trump.

Worthy of mention is that our corrupt U.S. Senate blocked the Supreme Court nomination of the legitimately elected Barack Obama. They had little hesitation confirming some of the worst justices in our history, but wouldn’t allow hearings to consider Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee.

Unfortunately for many millions on this planet, we can’t undo history. We’re stuck with the consequences of these terrible, illegitimate presidents. Maybe we can learn something from this. I’m not sure there is a lesson that can be learned. We don’t just have corrupt institutions and leaders. We have a corrupt society. These criminal presidents were acceptable to enough people in this country to keep them in office. Their wars, invasions, kidnapping, torture, false imprisonment, subversion of democracy and various other crimes wouldn’t be possible without public support. We aren’t prisoners of our institutions (except actual prisoners). As a people, until we rise to a higher level, we will continue to descend to further depths of degradation. Nothing stays static. It’s either up or down. We have a choice, but not much time to choose.
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Here's a song. Here's another. And another. Jimi HendrixThe Byrds. More from the Byrds. Elton John. David Bowie. HairManfred Mann. Neil YoungDonovan. More Donovan. Even more Donovan. Season of the Witch. The Beatles. More Beatles. Even more Beatles. Still more Beatles. The Beatles again. Tied for my favorite Beatles song. One last Beatles song. The DoorsThe Waterboys. John Prine. More John Prine. Another from John Prine. The Rolling Stones. The Moody Blues. Pink FloydThe Grateful Dead. More Grateful Dead. The Who. Another Who song. One more from the Who. Neil Young. Richard Nixon. Phil Ochs. Brewer and Shipley. Gil Scott-Heron. More Gil Scott-Heron. Even more Gil Scott-Heron. Another Gil Scott-Heron. One more Gil Scott-Heron. Don't Put it Down. Air. Bob Dylan. Another Dylan song. More Dylan. Peter Tosh. Another from Peter Tosh. My favorite Peter Tosh song. One more from Peter Tosh. Van Morrison. Talking Heads. More Talking Heads. Steely Dan. The Who. Jackson Browne. Another Jackson Browne. Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young. Original version by Bruce Springsteen. Bob Marley. Marvin Gaye. The Temptations. The O'Jays. The Youngbloods. The Grateful DeadThe Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Randy Newman.

This is Drumpf's new theme song, but it doesn't replace this one. Here's a theme song for any street where there is a Trump Tower. Alternate version. This is another name for streets that have a Trump Tower.

Here's a song for removing Drumpf from office in lieu of our omni-corrupt Congress doing nothing. Here's another. And, of course, this.

Here's a view of what Trump might do if he feels cornered.

The long arm of the law is reaching for Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, another aspect of the Mueller investigation.

Here's some news on the Stormy Daniels front.

Bill Clinton also was an illegitimate president, with his history of sex crimes. He wasn't a particularly good president either, but he appointed two of the most stalwart defenders of freedom and democracy in recent decades to the Supreme Court - Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

We can trust the "Democrats" to choose politics over principle - if not every time, nearly every time. Here's a perfect example. When they win a majority in both houses of Congress this November, can we trust them to impeach Trump? Not likely. They will actually have more political advantage with him still in office. Trump, demented, mentally deranged, dangerous, sociopathic, will only depart for health reasons or because the "Republicans" see him as a liability they can no longer abide.

Roger Bannister at the finish line when he was the first person to run a mile under four minutes, May 6, 1954R.I.P. Roger Bannister. He was my inspiration in my youth. I ran the mile in high school track, but was no Roger Bannister.

R.I.P. Barry Crimmins. I used to read his work in Smirking Chimp during the Bush II years. He was wickedly funny, very insightful.

Friday, March 02, 2018

#GoneByEaster

Perhaps I was a tad optimistic about #GoneByValentinesDay. I'm still optimistic. I tend to be a cup half-full person. Drumpf is so over-the-top ridiculous that it is an easy prediction that he will depart from office long before his term is up, so spreading a little optimism may help hasten his exit.

One thing we can be thankful for is that the Winter Olympics  interrupted Drumpf's war mongering with North Korea. The propaganda value of the Olympics in defusing Drump's war momentum is immense. Olympic athletes from all over the world converged on South Korea, and they very likely were not pleased that the U.S. president has been threatening to blow the place up, causing "fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen." Drumpf was referring to North Korea, but he would not be able to confine his imagined fire and fury to that small country.

The amazing thing to me in all this is how compliant our mainstream news media are. Except maybe CNN, or at least Jake Tapper. I suppose MSNBC couldn't be called compliant. But for the most part I find the news media engaging in stenography. Drumpf probably has them intimidated, and they are playing it safe, biding their time until the Mueller investigation makes charges against him. Most of what I watch or listen to are from PBS's NewsHour and NPR. They speculate on what Drumpf is thinking, on what he supposedly believes, what "policies" he favors, and blah, blah, blah, pretending that he is the country's legitimate leader.

He isn't. He's a criminal sociopath who is threatening nuclear war, a lifelong scam artist, a fraud and a cheat. He almost certainly colluded with agents of the Russian government to rig the 2016 election, and his cacophony of bullying denials should be proof enough to the public that he is guilty.

The tide has turned. Drumpf is through. The White House is like a sinking ship, with a pathetic captain insisting he owns the sea. Mueller is coming for him.  He will be #GoneByEaster. #YesCollusion.
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Here's a song. Alternate version. Bob Dylan. Neil Young.

Here's Jeff Daniels on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

#GoneByValentinesDay

In yesterday's Salon writer Lucian Truscott posted an article titled "Defeat is inevitable. Everybody knows it, even Trump." He recalled his experience covering the Watergate scandal, and how he knew the end game had begun when the Washington establishment organized to rid itself of Nixon. He says that time has now come for Trump, finishing his screed with "Now Washington’s immune system is about to expel yet another infection from the body politic. The end game is here. Even Trump knows it."

This seems obvious. There has never been such a buffoon and purveyor of fraud on a worldwide scale in human history. Trump, the culmination of many decades of perversion of the "American experiment," is too crude and malevolent for even our declining culture. If this country has any decency left, to coin a phrase, it will get rid of Trump, and soon. Families have to raise children. The fabric of society, weak as it is, has to set some kind of standard. Trump has shown himself to be barely human.

The only question at this point is when, and who Trump takes down with him. The problem for "Republicans" is that when people start setting standards they might keep going. Given that the "Republican" party is a criminal organization, the elevation of standards might rise above them.
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Here's a song.

Will Farrell hosted Saturday Night Live last week, and reminded us of a president who did more harm than Trump has so far.

For a visual reminder of the Bush presidency, click here.

R.I.P. Dolores O'RiordanHere's my favorite Cranberries song.

R.I.P Hugh Masekela. I saw him perform on a double bill with Miriam Makeba in 1993. Here's a sample of his music.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Defense of Vladimir Putin...Sort of

When evidence was revealed that the Russian government hacked the "Democratic" party in 2016, various pundits and politicians were in near-hysteria, calling it an "act of war." These are hysterical times, so the declaration of an act of war is not as taken as seriously as, say, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Still, such a declaration is an implied call to action, a plea for some kind of response. Since nuclear war is not an option, and conventional war would lead to nuclear war, a return to the metaphoric "Cold War" seems to be what the punditocracy has in mind. Many careers were made on the previous cold war, and vast profits were made. A new one would be good for the economy. What is good for Raytheon is good for the U.S.

We might want to look at the Russian hacking in a larger context. We should first ask why they are hacking our elections, and why they are presumably hacking other parts of our system. The first and most obvious answer is that they can hack us, and apparently have an easy time doing it. Hacking is the use of computer technology to enter computer systems, either to gather information, to interfere or damage their operation, or both.

A government runs several risks in hacking, so just being able to do it is not enough reason. In the case of Russia, it has been a U.S. adversary since the revolution of 1917. In the early 20th Century it was mainly an ideological rivalry, but after World War II it became more complicated, a dividing the world up between friend and foe for reasons beyond ideology, and more to do with world hegemony. And profits for the weapons industry. The Cold War became a catch-all excuse for a massive arms buildup, a broad expansion of the military, and invasions, wars, assassinations, overthrows, subversions, extortions and other whatnot that developed a life of its own. This included interference in foreign elections.

As the Cold War grew in size and investment of resources it became a drain on other priorities, such as repair of our physical infrastructure, social welfare and protection of the environment. The same drain of resources was going on in the Soviet Union, and on December 26, 1991 the supposedly “communist” system collapsed.

With the collapse the Cold War ended. A vacuum resulted. Our massive “Defense” industry no longer had a handy excuse for continuous growth. No diabolical opponent, no need for such a huge and growing military-industrial complex. We were instantly "the world’s only superpower."

What does the world’s only superpower do when there is no major opponent? Change to a distributive, just, peaceful and environmentally benign presence on the planet? Hardly. The system must go on as it has. The weapons industry - and the rest of the economy - would collapse if it could not increase its profits. Find new threats. Create new threats. Be a threat. Wage new wars. Make them endless. And, revive Russia as our diabolical adversary. For good measure, infiltrate the country’s fledgling “democracy,” promoting candidates for office who would be acquiescent to American manipulation and control.

It was all working according to plan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and its control over its Warsaw Pact neighbors, NATO seized the opportunity to expand its own sphere of influence all the way to the Russian border. It should have come as no surprise that Russia’s powerful leader Vladimir Putin would find ways of fighting back.

Find them he did. Putin, not hindered by constraints or scruples that might inhibit other world leaders, embarked on the dual undertaking of securing his domestic power while weakening the encroaching threat from NATO. Looking back on it, it was easy. Russia has no democratic history, no institutional infrastructure of democracy. It was ripe for the picking.

The legendary horn of plenty. Source: John Hamilton
As for NATO, Russia's neighbors could be easily threatened and co-opted. Then the NATO countries themselves could be weakened. How to do this? Easy. In the emergent world of cyber-existence, great vulnerability emerges along with it. Supposedly capitalist countries embraced the promise of computer technology as the savior of mankind, or at least of mass industrial mankind. The imperative of infinite growth could remain indefinitely (forever) with the presumed cornucopia of the digital universe.

It seems like genius, the ease with which Vladimir Putin has undermined our supposed democracy. We should have seen it coming, just like we should have seen the September 11, 2001 attacks coming. Massive strength has inherent vulnerabilities, and with massive strength the first vulnerability is hubris. Excessive pride. USA! USA!

So now we are stuck with criminal sociopath Donald Trump as President of the United States. It is a cosmic joke, but a joke that we deserve. As is plainly obvious to anyone looking at the U.S. from the outside, our political system is profoundly corrupt, controlled by corporations and wealthy individuals. Politicians, in order to remain in office, must pay obeisance to these moneyed interests. A phony system such as this, like that in Russia, is ripe for the picking. Vladimir Putin, the master of the harvest, picked the low-hanging fruit in both countries. He is very likely a criminal sociopath on a level that confounds comprehension, but he is a far smarter than the one we have. And, he controls him. Americans, plagued with avarice, stupidity, bigotry and celebrity obsession, are effectively bystanders in this dance of world hegemony.

There is actually cause for optimism. We have no choice as a species but to change this dynamic. Climate change alone dictates the inevitability of change. Vladimir Putin is not stronger than climate change. He’s just a guy. A dangerous guy, to be sure. Still, just a guy. He will be gone soon enough. Trump, a scam artist and cosmic fool, will be gone even sooner. The rest of us will no longer have the option of avarice, stupidity, bigotry and celebrity obsession. Or pro football. Escapist religion. Escapist entertainment. Escapist technology. We will either rise to a new level of existence or pass out of existence. We will have to make that choice soon.
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Here's what climate change is doing to polar bears. It will be doing similar things to humans very soon, though not necessarily in the same way. Here's another polar bear video.

Here's another link about interference in elections. This is the Washington Post's latest summary of the Russian government's election hacking in Europe.

Here's a song. Here's Another.

This interview of Vladimir Putin by (now disgraced) faux gravitas TV guy Charlie Rose gives a good sense of how much smarter he is than Trump (and Rose). The full interview used to be on Charlie Rose's Facebook page, but it's hard to find. Here's part of it. Here's another part.

Who'da guessed? Vladimir Putin has a Facebook page. He bills himself as "The leader of the world."  Sounds familiar. Why not? Anyone can call himself leader of the world these days. Here's a song.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Pretending

When I was in sixth grade my class put on a theatrical performance. I don’t remember much about it, except that it was a rendition of a television program. My role in the project was to make a pretend television camera, and operate it during the presentation. I wrapped a cardboard box in aluminum foil, and for lenses I put three empty toilet paper tubes on the front and one on the back. During the performance I traded duties with two other students, and we stayed in character throughout, keeping up the pretense that we were actually presenting a real TV show.

The memory of this class project came to mind in recent days as I was musing about how our mass media really are (Media is plural. The singular form is medium.) fake, or at best a misrepresentation of reality. The pretend TV show from my youth was more truthful than what we see on supposedly real TV.

This has been a growing intuition with me for decades, starting when I realized "American" news media were "selling" the Vietnam war, treating body counts like football scores. My disquiet with mass media reached a crescendo of sorts when the attacks of September 11, 2001 took place, and the subsequent undeclared wars were waged. It was a surreal time, when a military deserter who ascended to the presidency looked the other way when being warned of the impending attacks, then invaded two countries that bore little or no responsibility for the attacks. He couldn't have waged his two bogus wars without help from the media establishment. The Middle East is largely in turmoil and ruins as a result. The mayhem our "leadership" has caused is passed off at  best as "collateral damage" in the all-encompassing, amorphous "War on Terror." There is, according to conventional wisdom, an undifferentiated mass of people in the world known as "terrorists." They want to terrorize people by killing them.

Now we have a completely fraudulent president whose entire adult history is that of a con artist, swindler and sexual predator. The news media report on his lies, braggadocio and collusion with the government of Russia, but only as information, as superficial facts for daily consumption of news. The essence of news reporting is the pre-eminence of the "anchor" and reporter. In analysis and opinion shows like Meet the Press and Washington Week. It is the supposed expertise and insiderness of the anchor and his or her guests. It is all superficial, ego-driven and forgettable, a waste of time.

It isn’t just the "mainstream" media that are trapped in an inertia of hubris and official truth. Supposed "leftist" media follow the same rules – conventional wisdom, individual ego-driven rigidity about how the world works and how it should work, and institutional failure to look deeper than the surface of phenomena.

There are exceptions. NPR has a show called "Science Friday," which delves deeply into such concerns as climate change, species extinction, pollution and human health. The analysis is great, but it offers no conclusions - such as the need to drastically change our economic system. We are supposed to just merrily go about our normal day-to-day activities and wring our hands about the melting Polar ice caps, sea level rise, rampant forest fires, increasingly severe weather occurrences and the deadening of our oceans. The need for ever-increasing output of goods and services is a human imperative that outweighs all other considerations, especially the need for the continuation of life on this planet.

So now we have the presumed disintegration of the “Republican” party – a gang of criminal sociopaths if ever there was one. "Democrats" are licking their electoral chops, giddily hoping to replace the criminal "Republicans" in next fall’s "elections."

Maybe they will, even most likely they will. Then what? Pretty much nothing. The "Democrats" will enact some laws, maybe impeach our criminal president, and, they hope, pave the way for the next presidential “election.” Mostly they will game for the next "election."

But little will change, and, presuming our infinite-growth economic system will continue on its growth trajectory, the public will get tired of the “Democrats” and their lack of any real beliefs or solutions, and, voila, the criminal “Republicans” will be back, likely with even greater power than before.

We can look at our mass information media as an infrastructure of the status quo, and as such it is constrained within a very narrow spectrum of perception, belief, ideas and ideology. The "press" is fond of congratulating itself for being "objective," but it is an objectivity that is confined to what Noam Chomsky calls the bounds of thinkable thought.

So we won't be seeing, hearing or reading about changing our economic system away from one of infinite growth of output any time soon. The stock market is setting records on an almost daily basis. What could possible go wrong?

Of course, one of the implicit tenets of "American" mass media is that what they emit is supreme, that the mere fact that something is presented as official reality makes it the truth that is greater than the non-human Universe.

Arguing against this hubris is futile. Time will provide its own supreme argument. The Universe, and most particularly the ecosystem of Planet Earth, works in its own way on its own schedule, and in its own relationship between cause and effect. Our economic system can't grow forever. It is already too big, as the recent (and ongoing) wildfires, hurricanes, floods, droughts,  extinctions, sea level warming and rise, reef decline and fish depletion should indicate. Our news media report on these things, but dare not draw any conclusions about what to do. And, of course, our corporate and political elite largely pretend that these things either are not happening or have no human cause - or at least one that would cause a change in the way we occupy this planet.

In this larger context we might want to relax a bit. Our infinite-growth economic system won't be around much longer. Our demented sociopath president won't be around much longer either. It takes a certain level of youth and vigor to be an adversary to the entire planet.

Trump has neither. He is old, obese, irascible and desperate. He also is very likely suffering from dementia, as well as other severe mental disorders. He is a criminal sociopath, which, while the condition carries a certain insulation from scruple or remorse, requires an increasing level of energy as the lies of one’s life compound at an increasing rate.

Trump is exponentially dishonest, and as such he depends on an exponential level of deceit energy to keep the lies going. I expect him to implode within the next year. The only question remaining is whether the planet will implode along with him.
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Here's a rundown on the real-world consequences of fake news.

Here's a song. The Platters. The Pretenders. Infected Mushroom. Foo Fighters. Freddie Mercury. Eric Clapton. Creedence Clearwater Revival. Glee. Nightcore. The Temptations. Alternate version.