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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Things that never see the light of day

I write a lot of things that never see the light of day, so to speak. Below are some e-mails I sent to Al Franken, the News Hour (Public Broadcasting Service [PBS]), the New York Times, and the Ed Schultz Show. These are all supposedly "liberal" media outlets, and therefore supposedly above reproach. But au contraire. I find them sorely lacking.

I have communicated with all of them before, and never had a reply from any of them, and as far as I know, nothing I wrote has appeared in the New York Times. These criticisms go a bit deeper than the usual, and if they were read at all, would not be the kind of thing these various media outlets would want to print or respond to.

It would mean they actually read what was written, and thought about the concerns raised. In the broadcast media cases, a bit of soul-searching would be required. It may or may not have happened, but if you listen to, watch, or read these media outlets yourself, you might have similar concerns. If so, feel free to write to them. It might have an effect.

To: http://www.airamerica.com/alfrankenshow/feedback
From: Me
Date: August 2, 2006
Subject: Means of acquiring knowledge

Al FrankenHi Al

After listening to your show today I was compelled to look through some old class notes about the different means of acquiring knowledge. They are (1) Tenacity – I know what I know – never troubled by facts that run counter; (2) Authority – more subject to input and change; (3) Intuition – a priori – based on theory rather than experience; and (4) The Scientific Method. The Scientific Method includes historical, descriptive, experimental, and ex-post-facto research. It is a process of systematically asking questions, which should give us better data from which to make decisions.

This would be valuable information when contending with someone like Mark Luther. But I suspect that subjecting him to utter defeat would take away a segment of your show that you see as a valuable touchstone, and he is a handy fop, or foil you can repeatedly use to prove a point. While I think the guy is dishonest, and his presence on the show is gratuitous low comedy, I would not stop listening because of him.

With you, it's getting a little different. There are still good conversations, and I still learn things from listening, (but) I now switch to our other “progressive” station for the third hour, when “Democracy Now” is on. I'm not in love with that show either, but it has some in-depth interviews and coverage that isn't available elsewhere.

Like the Mark Luther segments, you employ the straw man method again when you read your “hate” mail. You pick the worst of those who disagree with you in order to make yourself look good. It's great fun, but there is a dishonest undertone to it. Which is, there are many who believe that Israel is an aggressor nation, engages in state terrorism, wantonly kills civilians in the Palestinian areas and in Lebanon, and is a nuclear threat. The generalizations that people in Israel make about the Palestinians and Arabs in general are similar to what people in the “South” (and a good part of the “North”) say about African Americans. Or what Texans say about both African Americans and Mexicans.

If someone were to write to you as I am, without name-calling or invective, the communication would not see the light of day, because it would be pertinent to the issue at hand, but would be useless as a foil for your proof by extreme example.

Which brings us back to the means of gaining knowledge. You have stated repeatedly that you refuse to believe that Israel is intentionally targeting civilians. You base this knowledge on one fact: you are Jewish. If you were Lebanese, you would likely have a different view. But because you are Jewish, your sense of identity tells you that Israel cannot possibly be doing something that amounts to crimes against humanity.

How about that Israel doesn't care one bit whether it kills civilians or not? Then of course there was the U.N. Observers who were in contact with Israel all day, telling them where they were, and not to bomb them. They were bombed repeatedly.

It would seem that the prudent thing to do when your have “inadvertently” killed civilians is that you would take care in the future to not do it again. If you don't, then the “inadvertency” is by pronouncement. The killing of civilians is inadvertent because we say it is. It matters not that eyewitnesses said there were no “Hezbollah” forces in the area. They must either by lying or “Hezbollah” themselves, because you know what you know, and that is that Israel never targets civilians.

But you are tenacious. I suppose the eyewitness reports of Robert Fisk and others don't matter to you because they are “anti-semites,” or “extreme leftists,” or some such. I had almost forgotten about Robert Fisk until I resumed listening to “Democracy Now.”

I remember seeing a “Saturday Night Live” retrospective where you called an NBC executive a “lame-o.” How, I wonder, would a “lame-o” be defined. My best understanding is that it would be someone who habitually does the wrong thing, says the wrong thing, who is not very competent, and who harms others in the process. In TV, who cares? It's TV. It is a haven for low standards. But in the realm of life and death issues of war and domination, being a “lame-o” does matter. Promoting a propagandistic pattern of beliefs about various peoples on the planet can do much harm. And doing harm will eventually come back around.

You do a good job of deconstructing Bush and Republican absurdities, but have a bit of blindness about the Mideast. That bit is anything concerning Israel. I can tell you that no matter how much you insist that the state of Israel always acts with the best of intentions that what is sown will be reaped. If you never get beyond “Ugh! Israel good! Everyone else terrorists!” you will be locked in the same ethnocentrism and arrogance that has been the undoing of fools throughout human presence on this planet. Israel has only been a state since 1948. Its viability is based on belligerence and the largess of the United States Treasury. There are limits to both, especially as other concerns like Global Warming become more critical.

For you, the viability of your radio network depends on your credibility. This puts you in a dilemma. You want badly to cling to your belief that Israel can do no wrong, is ugh! the good guy at all times, and its opponents are always terrorists. On the other hand, you have a fledgling radio network that depends on you, its flagship show host, to carry the burden of the entire facility's reputation. If you start appearing as biased and/or dishonest, then the network as a whole suffers. Al Franken, who calls others lying liars, has a little black hole of dishonesty himself.

The likelihood of this being read on the air is mighty slim, and I don't expect a change in your cheerleading for Israel, but you are sensitive to the bottom line. When you see ratings decline, and the resulting advertising dollars, you might want to give a second look at your tenacious knowledge of Israel. Your tenacity is not the same as knowledge gained by other means.

To: http://www.airamerica.com/alfrankenshow/feedback
From: Me
Date: July 31, 2006
Subject: Limitations

Hi Al

I'm able to listen to your show at work, which makes the day go better. I enjoy your ability to use your own experience and intuition to probe issues in new ways.

Except, of course, when it comes to Israel. I don't mind it so much, though, because you are very up front and unabashed about your bias. But it still is bias. When you start with the presumption of the supremacy of Israel's position in all matters, you limit your analysis severely. If you ever look at any work on game theory, you will see that one's presumptions can be mathematically described in terms of parameters or limits to solutions.

Where you also fall short is in interviewing guests. Whether it is Richard Perle or Tom Ricks, you let your need to be agreeable inhibit your ability to scrutinize. I wrote before about your Perle interview.

Today, with Ricks, a question begging to be asked was how Mr. Ricks came to believe that the Bush gang wasn't lying when they told us Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

When has the Bush Administration ever told the truth about anything? Do they just B.S. themselves all day, every day? Not likely. I think what was really going on was a rhetorical posture akin to reverse psychology, where the author can feign neutrality, letting the reader make his or her own conclusions. Suskind does the same thing, and I think did on your show.

But you know better. You wrote a book, "Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." Your collegiality with another author doesn't mean anything to me. Your need to be agreeable with guests has the effect of insulting your audience.

In other words, you are starting to get annoying, trying to serve too many masters. I listen to your show to learn something, to improve my perspective, and to enjoy the humor. If you start accumulating little dishonesties, they add up to a big dishonesty. Like the Mark Luther segments, the sincerity of your act in general is becoming questionable. Maybe you really would make a good senator after all.

Date: July 31, 2006
From: Me
Subject: Neurolinguistic programming
To: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/letters.html

Gwen IfillI used to get angry at what I perceived to be propaganda on News Hour. Times are changing, and now I look at it as kind of a bellweather of establishment mythology.
Today was a pretty good example. When Gwen Ifill was conducting a 2 person panel on the situation in Lebanon, the two guests were talking on a level I found to be so obscure that it was hard to get a grasp on what they were trying to advocate.
Gwen Ifill solved that riddle when she said that the parties (read: "U.S" and "Israel") want to reach a "final solution."

I hardly need to say more, but I will. Just as there is such things as "racism" and "ethnocentrism," there is also such a thing as "culturalism." It's almost the same. In the case of the Mideast, what matters in the think tanks and portals of power is Western culture. "Israel" is an outpost of Western culture in the Mideast, and thusly is the culture that matters to "countries" of the "West."

Because realities that favor the supremacy of "Israel" in the region are the realities that "matter," "Hezbollah" is officially seen as a "terrorist" organization with no legitimacy, while the attacks on civilians by "Israel" are either necessary or "mistakes." And certainly "legitimate."

Anthony Robbins has made millions selling his version of "neurolinguistic programming" techniques, where you can change your life by changing how you frame your realities. I can't help wondering if he made the rounds in Washington, D.C., laughing all the way to the bank. Or is it financial services vendor? Maybe family future enchancement and benevolent association.

What you might want to ask yourselves is who you think you are fooling. For the already programmed, no fooling is necessary. For those of us who have a sense of disquiet when we listen to such discussions, we learn to read between the lines. That leaves only the attempted foolers, fooled by their own %#$&*@&^. It reminds me of the time I tried sales, and was told the easiest people to sell to were other salesmen.

Keep on rockin' in the free world.

Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 16:58:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: Me
Subject: Fishing for the truth, or telling a whopper?
To: letters@nytimes.com

Kevin BarrettIn spite of the seriousness of the issue, I can’t help being amused by all the hullabaloo about Kevin Barret. Three politicians in Wisconsin are trying to have him fired. Now a law professor in Florida, bastion of democracy, is chiming in.

We would do much better to fire the politicians. Hoping to rein in the bounds of thinkable thought, the politicians in question - Governor James Doyle, Congressman Mark Green, and state Senator Steve Nass of course also hope to gain a bit of a boost in popularity from the incitement they are generating.

For the law professor, who knows?

For me, the issue is simple. Mr. Barrett is teaching a course on Islam. Among his assigned readings will be an alternate view of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The alternate view, that the Bush regime had advance knowledge and/or complicity in the attacks, is a plausible one for several reasons.

By simple logical deduction, circumstantial evidence indicates a strong possibility of Bush Administration culpability. The negligence in advance of the attacks was criminal, active negligence. The attacks were used, along with lies, to justify the invasion of Iraq. These two instances establish that our Federal government is controlled by a criminal organization. This is prima facie evidence of criminality, of a predisposition to commit heinous crimes.

The negligence before and after Hurricane Katrina demonstrate more than incompetence, but an actual contempt for competence. Active incompetence is criminal. The illegal detentions and torture in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere indicate a contempt for the rule of law and common decency. And the domestic spying on Americans indicate further a contempt for law and common decency, and a general disrespect for people as well.

Given all these evidences of criminality and contempt for humanity, it is no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the Bush White House and its enablers are capable of planning attacks such as those of "9/11." Whether or not they actually did help plan the attacks, we are not likely to find out any time soon, if at all. Too much entrenched power has something to lose.

It could be argued that knowing the truth about the September 11 attacks would be too much for the American people to take, and that we wouldn't know what to do with the knowledge. There is much truth to this, as almost any casual conversation on almost any subject with almost anyone would reveal.

But it's worth a chance. It may be just the thing to inspire the change in consciousness the people of this country need. In order to move to the next level of human existence, beyond paranoia and addictive behavior to interdependence, respect, and moderation, we must first be able to face the truth, whatever it is. It could set us free.

John Hamilton
Madison, Wisconsin

Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2006 12:46:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: Me
Subject: Easy to incite
To: ed@edschultzshow.com


Ed SchultzI was busy, and kept the radio on past the Al Franken show, so I caught the first few minutes of your show. I used to enjoy it, but stopped months ago. You're too much of a blowhard, and the emotional pitch is way too high. It's bad for the heart to listen, and can't be good for the hard blower.

Of course the blogosphere is going to have a field day with your support of Joe Lieberman. He's a crappy senator, DLC compatible, and a sore loserman. More to the point though, is the question of why a radio host in Fargo, ND would get worked up into a fever pitch about the fortunes of one Joe Lieberman.

I suspect that getting into a fever pitch is a way of being, a life purpose. The trigger could be a fly on the wall. A wiffle ball landing in your yard. A neighbor who is smaller than you.

If it ever occurs to you that it might be in your interest to tone it down a bit, you might want to start by not calling yourself "Big Eddie" anymore. Names like that are normally given by someone else. Calling yourself "Number 1" is also a tad narcissistic. If you are really number one, you don't need to brag about it.

Now that I've wasted about 20 minutes of my valuable time, on to other things. I suspect nothing will change, but I won't be listening to find out. By the way, the debate was no slam dunk. If it were, the primary should also be one. A man sees what he wants to see, and disregards the rest (apologies to Paul Simon). You might want to spend some time in Connecticut, and see how much influence you have there. Be sure to yell a lot.

John Hamilton
Madison, Wisconsin


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