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While We Still Have Time

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

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

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

Monday, April 17, 2006

Army stories

My proudest diplomaIt was in my senior year in college that I turned against the Vietnam war. Without knowing it, I was moving in that direction anyway, but one of my professors suggested to our class that we subscribe to a daily newspaper in order to keep up with the news and issues of the day. The paper I subscribed to was the then Minneapolis Star, now combined with its former competitor the Tribune.

What gradually dawned on me was that the paper was reporting the war like a sporting event: The front-page headlines every day read "38 to 6," "24 to 3," "45 to 7," or some such. The numbers referred to body counts, and the higher score was always the "enemy." I accepted the false scores as true, but came to the realization that I was being "pitched," that the way the war was presented was intended to sell the war.

A servile media is nothing new. It was new to me, though, and I have had a skeptical eye towards "news" of any kind ever since. I only subscribed to the newspaper for a few months, and then I graduated. The reigning Vice President of the United States, Hubert H. Humphrey, spoke at my graduation. The ceremony was picketed, not because I was graduating, but because of the war. The most anyone among the graduates did in the form of protest at the small Catholic college I went to was to turn their noses up when they went past him. I wasn’t one of them.

Graduation meant the end of my draft deferment, so the next step in life for me was military service. I wasn’t against the war enough to resist the draft, and my father was from the World War II generation; he attached a stigma to being drafted. There was a short family history of being Army officers, so I started going through the process of signing up for Officers Candidate School (OCS). My older brother had already enlisted for OCS, and was told by the recruiters that he would get a branch transfer out of the Infantry upon graduation. They told me the same thing, and I almost took the plunge, but my brother warned me that they had been lying in order to meet their recruiting quotas. So I backed off.

Eventually I got my draft notice, and my father was giving me grief about not enlisting, so I checked out my options. Everything in the book of specialties that looked interesting was closed: computer programmer, combat journalist (That was my Ernie Pyle fantasy, not a very smart one.), mechanic, small arms repair, even cook. One day, as I was thumbing through the book, I read the job title "Projector repair." It seemed so ridiculous to me that you could enlist to be a projector repairman that I said to myself, "That’s me!" I signed up, beat being drafted by days, and off to Basic Training I went, to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

My father, James W. Hamilton, M.D., while serving in the U.S. Army in the Philippines in World War II
I may have been headed for a school for pikers, but Basic Training is the same for everyone. Very hard. I went into the Army with the attitude that I would cross every bridge when I came to it, and, having been a Boy Scout and a hunter, as well as a bench-warming football player and mile runner in track, I figured I could handle what came my way. I also had seen a number of World War II goof-off movies with people like Dean Martin, Ernie Kovacs and James Garner, and had visions of such a time for myself. My dad had told me many stories about goofing off in World War II in the various places he was stationed, mainly Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, and the Philippines. Looking back on it, it was his attitude that influenced me the most, and enabled me to approach the experience with a sense of lightness.

I actually kind of liked basic training. I enjoyed marching in step, especially turning movements – my favorite was "To the rear...march!" - singing the cadence songs like "Around her hair she wore a yellow ribbon; she wore it in the springtime, and in the month of May. And if you asked her why the heck she wore it, she wore it for her trainee, so far, far away!" Etcetera. We also did call and answer to such ditties as "Your mother was home when you left! (You’re right!) Your girlfriend was home when you left! (You’re right!) Jodie was home when you left! (You’re right!)" Jodie was a fictitious character who was stealing your girlfriend or wife while you were gone. It didn’t mean anything to me, because I had neither girlfriend nor wife. It did mean something to many of my fellow trainees, and it turned out that a goodly number of them were indeed being cheated on. The cadence calls were the Army’s way of preparing them for the possibility. We did call-and-answer to such cheerful lines as "If I die in Vietnam, box me up and ship me home! Yo left, yo left; yo left, right, left!" (A variation on this was "If I die in Vietnam, Jodie's got my girl and gone!") Another favorite was "Viet-na-a-a-am, Viet-na-a-a-am! Late at night while you’re sleepin’ Charlie Cong comes a creepin’ all arou-ou-ou-ou-ou-oun-nd!" This was done to the tune of the Rhythm and Blues hit "Poison Ivy," by the Coasters. Click here to have a listen. The name "Charlie" was used because the National Liberation Front (NLF), which was the guerrilla movement in "South Vietnam" that fought against the "Americans," was known as the Vietcong, or "VC." In the NATO phonetic alphabet used by the military, VC translates to "Victor Charlie."

Some of the trainees in my basic training class. I'm in the exact middle picture.Most of the things in basic training made sense to me, and I took them as personal tests, not so much of "manhood," but just for me, to see what I could do. We had to crawl through the "Infiltration course," a sand field that had blank mines in it, with live machine gun fire overhead. Every fifth round was a tracer, so we knew it was real. They told us it would be about chest high, and I had a very simple approach: Get through this, don’t stand up. Some guys, typically the loudmouths of the unit, froze in fear, and couldn’t climb out of the trench we were in when ordered to get out and crawl. I figured "Better to find out now, than when you’re in a combat situation." Time and again, throughout the 8 weeks of basic, the hot shots, drugstore cowboys, blowhards, and braggarts were the ones who caved when the pressure was on. (In the picture at right, one guy went crazy, then AWOL. One guy was a blowhard. I'm in the exact middle. The guy above me to the right, who looks like a tough guy, was. He played football at Tulane, was a big star, the team captain in 1965, a good guy. I hope they all escaped danger, but I know some of them didn't. I never saw or heard from any of them again.).

Ah, if I could only do this now.As well as marching, I also enjoyed "facing movements" – left face, right face, and about face; bayonet training, and the rifle range. I enjoyed doing the Manual of arms . I even liked "PT" – Physical Training – pushups, deep knee bends, etc., and especially liked hand-walking the horizontal ladder.

This is me on leave, probably Christmas, 1968It wasn’t all work, either, and there were some uproariously funny incidents, too long to describe here. Before I knew it, the eight weeks was over, I got my first and only service ribbon – the National Defense Service Medal, a Sharpshooter medal for rifle and grenade, a promotion to Private E-2, and I was off to projector repair school, at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

Projector Repair school was enjoyable, interesting, and challenging. It wasn’t just about movie projectors, but also covered slide, overhead, and opaque projectors, as well as amplifiers, microphones, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and speaker technology. It was a full-fledged electronics school, and I was very impressed with the quality of Army schooling.

My class consisted of about 12 new enlistees and two Marines - each for different reasons living examples of why the Marine Corps should be abolished. There were many other training programs at Ft. Monmouth, including radar repair, microwave repair, camera repair, and even TV repair. In other areas of the base there were schools I knew nothing about, and didn't particularly care.

The base was also more fun than Ft. Leonard Wood. There was more of a concentration of anti-war GIs at Ft. Monmouth than I had seen in basic training, and they were much more open about it. A group of us grew Hitler mustaches as a way of looking ridiculous in our uniforms, and I was the last one to shave mine off. I had to report to a lieutenant for missing KP (kitchen police), and it was a comical scene, he being almost as big a goof-off as I was. I had a number of priceless moments during my 12 weeks at Ft. Monmouth, and they were a good preparation for what was to come.

After graduation from projector repair school I was sent to Germany, along with three of my classmates. The unit I was sent to did not have authorization for a projector repairman, so they asked me "Can you type?" Thus began a new Army career. I didn’t repair a single projector in my entire time in the Army.

21st Support Command Patch, the overall command for the 1st Support Brigade, which was the next level up for the 66th Maintenance BattalionThe unit I was assigned to, the 66th Maintenance Battalion, was located in Kaiserslautern, Germany, a "GI town." There was a soldier for every three Germans, I was told. Kaiserslautern is in southwest Germany, about 30 miles from the French border. It was bombed pretty heavily in World War II, and there were still ruins in various parts of the town. One of my best friends, the "Happy Hawaiian," told me that his father had bombed Kaiserslautern.

"K-town," as it was called, was a pit. Because there were so many GIs, the economy of the town was built around entertainment for the soldiers: drinking, prostitution, drinking, and prostitution. Prostitution is legal in Germany, and the practitioners could be seen at several roadside areas in town (It is worth mentioning that prostitution is also legal in the "USA," particularly in the fields of business, government, and journalism). Antiwar GIs found each other out with relative ease, and we managed to find alternative forms of entertainment, consistent with the cultural ferment of the times.

A 'confused and disoriented' GIThe area around Kaiserslautern had beautiful mountains and forests, and we would explore them on weekends and holidays. We also went on Service Club tours - of the Rhine River, Baden-Baden, Würzburg, Karlsruhe, and other festive and picturesque areas. One of my favorite memories is of a group of us getting "confused and disoriented" in a maze of hedges at the Frankfurt Zoo. Another time about ten of us climbed one of the mountains around Kaiserslautern, got "confused and disoriented," then pried a huge boulder loose, and jumped up and down in glee as we watched it bounce down the mountain. Luckily, there was no one in the woods below. And then there was the legendary "Club 65" in Frankfurt, a rock club frequented by GIs who didn't necessarily imbibe alcohol. Whoever went there would remember forever the huge Jimi Hendrix poster behind the stage.

The unit I was in was also a pit: low-level, sleazy interactions, harassment, corruption (The officers pilfered the KP fund.), rancid food (The mess sergeant sold the steaks we were supposed to have.), and a lot of makework: inspections, "motor-staples" - a tedious round of vehicle inspections, and the catch-all, "police-call" – picking up bits of trash on the ground. We paid $5.00 per month for civilian KPs - dishwashers - and they were all semi-retired "Strasse queens" - streetwalkers. They looked like Don Martin drawings from Mad Magazine.

A dog walked into our "mess hall" one day, and someone threw him a piece of the green beef we had been served. He picked it up, took a few chews, then spit it out and walked out the door, insulted. One of my friends piled his plate one day with the disgusting food we were eating, and we asked him what he was doing. He had an ulcer, and as he piled the food in his mouth, he said, "I'm gettin' out of this army, and I don't care what it takes." He ended up serving his entire enlistment, but at least got transferred out of K-town (to Mannheim).

I hated the place, and had a monthly crisis where I contemplated desertion. Some guys did desert. Usually it was done while home on leave. It was easy to go to Canada in those days, and they welcomed deserters. The European option was Sweden, a more difficult choice because of the language barrier and the distance from home. If you went to Sweden, you were really deserting – family, home, everything familiar.

U.S. Army Europe patchAs destiny would have it, after nine months in Kaiserslautern I found myself in Heidelberg, working in the conference room of the Commander in Chief, US Army Europe (CINCUSAREUR). Every year, according to legend, the Command Building was given a budget of $67,000 for an improvement project. That year, 1969, the Army generals felt upstaged by the quality of the conference room the Air Force had in Wiesbaden, and decided to remodel their conference room, and equip it with a state-of-the-art projection booth with all the latest sound and projection technology available. They really went all-out, and bought things well-beyond what they would ever use.

Concert at “Hitler's roost,” in Heiligenberg, above Heidelberg. Built with forced labor for the Nazis in 1935, it was known as the “Thingstätte.”To staff the projection booth, the Personnel personnel were ordered to find the most suitable Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) for running the equipment, and scour USAREUR for anyone with that MOS. As it turned out, the closest MOS was 41foxtrot (41F20), my MOS. I was "levied" to Heidelberg, the city of "The Student Prince", a beautiful, cultured city that had a castle, many historic buildings and other structures, and most important of all, was not Kaiserslautern. (Heidelberg also had "Club Storyville," a cavernous jazz-rock-folk club that had two underground levels. Fortuitously, I rented a place off-post that was a block away.)

I only had the job for three months. It required a Top Secret security clearance, so I was given an interim clearance while my background was being searched. After three months they decided they had too many projector repairmen, and someone had to go. Since my security clearance hadn’t been finalized, I was the prime candidate, and was sent over to "SMC," the Staff Message Center. I was given a job stamping messages with the appropriate security designation, like "Confidential," "Secret," "Top Secret," and my favorite, "Unclassified EFTO," which meant encrypted for transmittal only. Most of the messages had this designation, so I got to stamp "Unclassified EFTO" to my heart’s delight.

I didn’t last long in this job either, because I had a tendency to read the messages, and got behind on my stamping. This place really cranked out the messages. When they transcribed them to be sent to the appropriate office or unit, the messages were printed in numerous copies, so a few printing machines were heavily involved in the process. The poor guy who ran the machines worked himself to exhaustion. One of the curious things about the printing was that everything that went to the CinC, General Polk, had to be on pink paper to accommodate his failing eyesight. It added a Washingtonian touch to his character.

The Orderly Room of the infamous 503dMy next stop was the 503d Transportation Company, still in Heidelberg, but at Patton Barracks instead of the Headquarters at Campbell Barracks. There I stayed until I was in a car wreck in November of 1970, and was put in charge of a drivers school. I wrote a bit about my time in the 503d in a previous posting, "Similarities."

While supervising the drivers school I was appointed to a new position as coordinator of the "Human Relations Office," a weak attempt at addressing morale problems and drug abuse. One of the few things I actually did in this job was to meet with the Commanding General of the Seventh Army, Major General William R. Kraft, Jr. He was really impressive - a tall, very intelligent, decent and friendly man, whom I expected to some day become Supreme Allied Commander of NATO or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He probably was too good for both jobs, since it seems his last position was Chief of Staff at USAREUR Headquarters. General Kraft actually listened to what I had to say, and was not the least bit arrogant. He also was tolerant of my lack of proper protocol, a lifelong habit.

This was a bit of a lengthy introduction, but what I really want to write about is Army generals. Before I was sent to Heidelberg I thought all generals were evil masterminds of war, unfeeling tyrants who wantonly sent men to their deaths. It was an easy, though ignorant view to have, since the dominant figure in the Army at that time was General William Westmoreland, the Chief of Staff, and former commanding general of the U.S. operations in Vietnam. He was an unsmiling, Boris Karloff-looking personage, and what little energy we gave him was contempt.

The generals, as it turned out, were anything but the stereotype I had of them. The Commander in Chief, James H. Polk, was a four-star general, and a soft-spoken, grandfatherly character. The other generals - the Chief of Staff, and deputy chiefs of staff for personnel, operations, intelligence, logistics, the Engineer, the Surgeon, and the commanding generals for the different combat divisions – Infantry, Armor (tanks), and Artillery (cannons) – came in all shapes and sizes. Some were red-faced alcoholics, some were serious and dignified, some were arrogant and self-absorbed, and some were warm and friendly. One of my favorites was a general named Clapsaddle. It was a name right out of "Catch-22." He was a two or three star general, and looked like a Rockefeller, tall and lean, and had a kind of New England look about him, and he was kind and friendly. I think he was DCSPER, which meant Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, but he could just as easily have been DCSLOG, DCSOPS, or DCSINTEL.

What makes all of these experiences pertinent to our present circumstance is the growing chorus of retired generals who are speaking out against the Bush crime family's conduct of the Iraq war, and by implication of its plans for fomenting attacks on other countries, starting with Iran. Suffice it to say that generals are human beings, and they are starting to show it in their recognition of the futility of the Iraq war, and their disgust with the sociopaths who cooked it up. They also realize that the gang of criminals running this country are likely to get us into a nuclear weapons grade world war if they aren't stopped.

To help explain the dissent of the generals, much acclaim is given to the book "Dereliction of Duty," by H.R. McMaster. The book describes the folly of the Vietnam war, with politicians, chiefly President Lyndon B. Johnson, cooking up pretexts for the war, and then directing the waging of it in an inept manner. McMaster faults the upper echelons of the military, the generals and admirals, for submitting in such feeble manner to the incompetent and criminal schemes of foolhardy politicians.

This would include the generals that I worked for. It was said during the Vietnam war that career officers welcomed it because they could go there and "get their tickets punched" - get a war experience on their records, get some medals (earned or not), and move up the ladder of "success."

Another book that is getting a lot of mention is the novel "Once an Eagle," by Anton Myrer, written in 1968. In it Myrer described the career paths of two Army officers. One is the classic warrior, rising through the ranks by commanding troops, while the other is a scheming bureaucrat in the Pentagon.

These factors add a lot of complexity to an already complex situation, but as always, things can be sifted down to their basic elements. The government of the United States of America has been seized by a criminal gang. The gang is on a path for taking power over the entire planet. This plan is absolutely guaranteed to fail, for a number of reasons, presented in earlier postings in numerous ways.

The upper echelons of the military have begun to realize that they are being played for chumps, expected to passively go along with the imperial schemes of the Bush crime family, and to send the soldiers they command to their deaths for an endless criminal operation. This is a complete inversion of the duty, honor, and country that they were taught at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, College Station, Lexington, Charleston, and at colleges and universities throughout the nation. I know from experience that generals, as a class, are not fiends. Individually, that may be another story, as Boykin and Miller suggest. When they are successful, they can go either in the direction of Eisenhower, or in those of LeMay or MacArthur.

It's an interesting sideshow, the revolt of the generals. Supposedly, "SECDEF" Rumsfeld thinks it will die out, but it won't. The long arm of the law is closing in on the Bush crime family. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is likely to announce further indictments of members of the Bush crime family any day now. The connections between the criminal activities of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the Bush gang are likely to become public knowledge any day now. The Iraq war is not likely to become an instant success. And the criminal plan for bombing Iran is likely to become exposed, very likely because of whistle-blowing by the intelligence agencies and/or the military. At some point international law will get involved in the mix.

Trumping all of these factors, though, is the asymptotic trajectory of our civilization towards its own ruin. I say asymptotic because it is a point we are approaching, but won't reach. I'm an optimist. Being an optimist, I contend that we will indeed make the changes necessary to save our civilization. As long as the Bush crime family is allowed to pursue its evil quest for world domination, we are doomed. Therefore, exit left the Bush crime family. Their hour of strutting and fretting upon the stage is just about up. They will soon be heard no more.

Some additional Army stories can be read here, here, and here.

Here's an example of how serving in the Army changed during the "Vietnam" war.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Stopping the Bush crime family

Send him to the showers!A note about comments: Someone placed a virus on a comment yesterday, so I deleted it and disabled the comments feature on the blog. Hardly anyone commented anyway, so it won't be missed. I have not had to deal with viruses before, and today I did some intensive study on the subject. Apple sure looks like a good idea.

I hadn't planned on writing anything today, but since I'm here, there are things to realize (apologies to the Chambers Brothers). The buzz on the Web today seems to be about how to stop the Bush crime family from bombing Iran. The BCF plan is likely to be to drop "Bunker buster" nuclear weapons, or as Bush would say, "nucular."

At the risk of being tiresome and redundant, I feel the need to reiterate that as an entire species, if Homo Sapiens is not capable of preventing the publicly known, heinously criminal, premeditated mass murder by a small criminal gang, then Homo Sapiens does not deserve to be at the top of the food chain, and will not be for very long. Especially when the premeditated mass murder involves radioactive contamination of not just the targeted country, but its neighbors, and the rest of the planet as well. I spent the day today surrounded by idiots, so just based on what some economists call "casual empiricism," the future of the species does not look promising. The idiot factor in the United States of America runs very high, well over 50%. Probably somewhere around 80%. Don't let Bush's declining poll numbers fool you. They can change overnight, and probably will if he succeeds in bombing Iran. He had a 90% approval level when the "Shock and awe" bombing was slaughtering people in Iraq.

But all is not lost. I don't think I've said it on this blog before, but it is a matter of faith with me that this planet, and the life that exists on it, were not created in order to be destroyed by men, degenerate, deluded, or otherwise. So I trust in Divine intervention.

That is not to say that we should do nothing. Faith is good to have, but it is not an excuse for laziness or presumption. If nothing else, we can minimize the harm done as the Bush crime family pushes towards nuclear war.

So first of all, we should recognize that the Bush crime family, though it has many members who play significant roles in making it function, at its core has only five people who are vital for its "success." They are Bush himself - the front man, Dick Cheney - the alpha male, Donald Rumsfeld - the field coordinator, Condoleeza Rice - the international liaison and bureaucratic solidifier, and Karl Rove - the strategist and propagandist.

If we want to stop World War III, these are the people who must be stopped. It isn't as hard as it seems. But it does take a lot of work. One thing to bear in mind is that a lot of the reason the BCF wants to attack Iran is that they need to stay one step ahead of the law, lest they find themselves under indictment and headed for jail. Support in whatever form we can muster should be given to the investigation into the Valerie Plame leak by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Support for the various investigations of Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay are also necessary. More investigations of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the Iraq war should be conducted. And let's not forget the mysterious plantings of Anthrax around the nation's capitol, as well as other places. Further investigations, like the negligence related to Hurricane Katrina, also should be supported. A Congressman or ten can be recalled for their criminality.

But for the average citizen an item in yesterday's news offers the best inspiration for what to do. Dick Cheney decided to show up for the opening game of the Washington Nationals baseball team, and threw the ceremonial first pitch. He was vigorously booed by most of the people in attendance. Eyewitness accounts were called in on today's Stephanie Miller Show, and it sounded like great fun. This is "People's Democracy," not held hostage by election fraud, media propaganda, or party elites. This is the treatment to give to the Quintumvirate wherever they go. Boo them. Sue them. Eschew them. Ask them pointed questions about their criminal behavior and plans. Tell them to get out of town and never come back. Tell your elected representatives to challenge them. Call on the generals and admirals to publicly condemn them, and to refuse to cooperate. Call on the diplomats to publicly condemn them. Call on foreign leaders, followers, and everyone else to publicly condemn them. Call on all pilots to disobey the illegal commands for mass murder. Call on all support personnel to refuse to go along with crimes against humanity. Demand impeachment, war crimes trials, and imprisonment for everyone involved in crimes against humanity. Make up your own actions. We're all humans. We have intelligence, even if it lies dormant in most of us.

Look at Cheney's face in the picture. He doesn't look so Darth Vader-like, does he? He looks like an angry, weak, humiliated old man. He may be bent on revenge, but he's no stronger than we let him be. It's the "Wizard of Oz" syndrome, and it's the same for all the Bush crime family, and all their supporters and enablers. They are all weak people, talented only in their ability to create the illusion of power. Think about it. George W. Bush, a man who can't even speak properly, who never accomplished anything in his entire life, and he has the whole world at bay over his intention to bomb a country with "nucular" weapons. What a farce! The gods are truly laughing themselves silly over this one. If you have ever wondered what the laughing Buddha statues are all about, could there be a better example?

A new age of enlightenment should be starting any day now.

Here's a song whose time has come.

Monday, April 10, 2006

But, but, St. Peter! I was on TV!

Solidarity foreverBack in the late 90s when things were slow in my regular job I took a second job with one of the major telephone companies, as a "Customer care representative." When your phone isn’t working properly, these are the people you talk to after waiting for an hour or more. It was a union job, so I thought it would be a good situation.

It wasn’t. The animosity between union and management was worse than I had ever seen before, and it was entirely because of the lame management. The managers would walk around livid at the sight of a worker, barely restraining themselves. I have a practical attitude towards unions, having been a member of three of them. They tend to be corrupt, but as a worker, you’re better off having one than not having one. They take away the "employment at will" vulnerability, and the pay tends to be better. The union in this case was the Communications Workers of America, and from what I could see, it was the most forthright, honest union of the three I had joined. That's probably why the management was so hostile. They couldn't buy the union leadership off.

But that was just my way of sneaking a bit of union lore into the mix. What made the phone company job a short one was the poor manner in which the service was set up. The reason customers have to wait so long to talk to a real person is – guess – not enough employees. The customers are already frustrated by not having their phones working properly. After the long wait, they can become fuming mad. I don’t do fuming mad very well.

The job had its humorous aspects. One night there was a wind storm in Michigan, and an older guy called, said his phone was out, his favorite tree fell on his roof, his dog got killed in the storm, and his house was flooded. He was a character, and after telling me his troubles, he said "I’m thinkin’ about callin’ Kevorkian!" I was at least able to get a service truck out to him. Different people react to their troubles differently, and it’s always enjoyable and heartening to talk with someone with a sense of humor.

That was my favorite call. My second favorite one, for opposite reasons, was a woman who called from one of the larger cities in Ohio, and said she had to have service immediately, because "I’m on TV!" I told her "That’s great! We have people from all walks of life who have telephones, and many of them are also on TV! But we won’t be able to get a repairman out until tomorrow." She replied, "But I’m on TV!" I told her that didn’t make any difference, and that priority is only given to emergency workers, like police, firefighters, etc. She didn’t like my answer, and I think I forwarded her to a supervisor. It turned out that she was a frequent caller, always said the same thing, and she indeed did work in television, either as a news anchor or on one of those "Live at 5" shows. She also never got special treatment, and was considered a nuisance.

I was thinking of this call over the weekend, after hearing so many "conventional wisdom" shows on public television and radio. Shows like "News Hour," "Washington Week," on PBS, and "Weekend Edition" on NPR have their own cadres of pundits, highly stylized know-it-alls who seem more "sophisticated" and "honest" than their commercial network counterparts. But only by degree, not by kind. They all refer to Bush as "President Bush," a telling ascription. They all know he stole two elections, that he is a criminal against humanity, and that he poses a serious threat to life on this planet. Why then, do they act as if he not only has legitimacy, but that there are real "policies" to discuss, a real "legacy" to be concerned about, and a real "presidency" for us out here in the hinterlands to bother ourselves about. Pardon me, all you important know-it-alls inside the "Beltway" in Washington, DC! We’re in big trouble! The "president" is on the verge of starting World War III!

Why, one might ask, are the all-knowing knowers in Washington, DC (and of course New York) bending over for the Bush crime family? It’s very simple. They’re on TV! And Radio! In newspapers! They may have to wait to get their phone lines fixed, but they dearly value their "place" in the hierarchy of American society. Tell the truth and you might lose your footing on the mountain, and fall down into obscurity. You might even end up like Gary Webb. Like it or not, the fortunes of our all-knowing punditocracy are tied to the fortunes of the Bush crime family. It’s kind of like the Stockholm Syndrome, except worse. The tradeoff is more craven: celebrity, a few perks, and attention - for your soul.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

One very grand farce

The '20th hijacker?'Just in case you haven't seen the picture to the right, it's Zacarias Moussaoui, the self-congratulating "20th hijacker." At least he's one of the 20th hijackers. The second image is an artist's sketch of Zacarias Moussaoui, and it's been a curiosity to me that the sketches don't look much like the mug shot. Maybe there are twenty 20th hijackers, or twenty Zacarias Moussaouis.Or is this the '20th hijacker?'

I don't mean to make light of the suffering caused by the September 11, 2001 attacks, but it's hard not to make light of the Moussaoui trial. Prosecutorial misconduct, a flimsy case against Moussaoui, his erratic behavior, culminating in his bragging on the witness stand about crimes he didn't commit, the bungling and negligence of the FBI, and now the bizzare phase about whether or not to execute Moussaoui - all make for one of the grand farces of American history.

Except that it has to compete with any number of other grand farces of American history that have happened since George W. Bush became President of the United States of America, Planet Earth, unnamed solar system, Milky Way galaxie, etc., etc.

The negligence (or worse) that led to the September 11, 2001 attacks is one grand farce.

The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been one grand farce, as is now becoming clear.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq has been one grand farce.

Abu Ghraib is one grand farce.

Guantanamo Bay is one grand farce.

The destruction of Fallujah is one grand farce, all by itself.

The negligence (or worse) that led to the Hurricane Katrina disaster is one ongoing grand farce.

The "Patriot" Act, with its resulting hysterical arrests, imprisonments, prosecutions, and intrusions has been one grand farce.

The so far futile attempts by the Bush crime family to hustle up some mojo for bombing Iran make for one grand farce, but the BCF is not giving up. They have an "ideology."

The Bush White House attempt to smear the reputation of CIA operative Valerie Plame has been one grand farce.

The arrest of Bush's domestic policy adviser for shoplifting hasn't exactly been a grand farce, but it certainly adds to the farcical nature of the Bush crime family.

The arrest of the deputy press officer of Homeland Security for child enticement doesn't qualify as one grand farce, but it certainly adds to the farcical nature of the Bush crime family.

The arrest of former White House budget official David H. Safavian for lying to investigators and obstructing a federal inquiry is not a grand farce, but certainly adds to the farcical nature of the Bush crime family.

The existence of an entire television network,Fox, as a propaganda vehicle for a criminal organization is one grand farce. I don't subscribe to cable, so I am spared of seeing the gargoyles, the rakshasas who menace the bandwidths all day every day.

Just today we learned that it was Bush himself who authorized the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame, an act of treason.

The President of the United States is a traitor, just like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Just like Benedict Arnold. Just like Judas.

It is one grand farce to have an ongoing traitor as President of the United States.

But worse than all these farces is the Bush crime family's denial of and refusal to do anything about Climate Change, also known as Global Warming. The people of Planet Earth will be paying for a long time for this active negligence.

The surreal beauty of it all is mind-boggling. Here's the dynamic: Our ruling elite chose to illegally invade Iraq, based on lies, extortion, bribery, and media hysteria. The war turned out to be a debacle, just like anyone with any sense predicted. Our national debt has balooned, now in the vicinity of $9 trillion. Our military is stretched thin, and is weary from being used as cannon fodder for the Bush crime family's adventure in Iraq. We have a near-completely criminal majority in both houses of our Congress. We have a corrupt Supreme Court. We have a corrupt corporate elite that pours money into the campaign funds of the elected representatives whom they control. We have a corrupt, corportate controlled mass media system, especially in major newspapers, magazines, and broadcast networks.

All of these factors exist in context of the start of the warm season in the Northern Hemisphere of Planet Earth, with floods, tornados, forest fires, drought, and hurricanes all happening with greater frequency.

And the polar ice caps are melting.

It kind of puts the hoped-for execution of the mentally ill "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui in a bit of perspective, doesn't it? Maybe all we can hope for is a new picture of poor Zac. The orange jump suit shot is getting pretty tiresome.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ramblin' fever

A typical worker from 'Mexico.' If he were paid a decent wage, would 'Americans' do the work instead?One of the benefits of my guru-following days was that I could pull up stakes and move to a new city, or even a new country, and have a place to stay. Most major cities on the planet had ashrams - residential meditation centers, where a supplicant could move in, pay low rent, have prepared meals with the existing community of followers, and engage in the various spiritual practices. This enabled me to live in such places as Ann Arbor, the Borscht Belt region of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, Houston, Honolulu, and Ganeshpuri in the Maharashtra state of India. I even contemplated moving to Australia or New Zealand, and renewed my passport for just such purpose.

I learned painfully in later years how hard it is to pull up stakes and move when you get older, have accumulated a number of goods, and don’t have a plan of where to stay when you reach your destination. The added challenge of finding a job in a new town also becomes more difficult. Luck served me very well in these situations, and I look back in wonder at how I managed to survive some of my risky adventures.

These memories have come back strongly in the past few weeks as all the arbledy-garbledy about "illegal" immigration has been drowning the airwaves. Build a fence, don’t build a fence, let them in, send them back, let some in, send some back, give amnesty, arrest them, etc., etc., etc. It’s pretty comical, because politicians are trying to squirm around the issue until it dies down, and then pass some do-nothing legislation.

The difficulty that people from every side or angle of "the spectrum" have with immigration is that they aren’t capable of looking beneath the periphery of the issue. By and large, people who immigrate here don’t do it because they would just like to become "Americans," or that they would like to see another part of the world. Many are fleeing brutal political repression, where their lives are in danger. Many are fleeing wars. But most are fleeing desperate poverty and joblessness, and sneak into the country at great personal risk. If there were even minimally acceptable employment at home, they would stay there.

The largest source of "illegal" immigration is from "Mexico," in some estimates growing by a half-million people a year, with a total number of undocumented immigrants of about 20 million. No one knows for sure because they aren’t counted in the Census, and there is no other reliable way of measuring how many there are.

Of one thing we can be sure, though. "Americans," known as "Norteamericanos" south of the border, are not moving to Mexico in large numbers, desperate for work there. The desperation moves people in the other direction. If we really want to reduce or eliminate "illegal" border crossings, wouldn’t it be in our interest to try to make life more livable in Mexico?

Ah, the can of worms that opens up. Our track record, with Mexico and virtually every other nation on Earth, has not been to make life more livable for the average person. I can’t remember any coups de ètat that the U.S. ruling elite has sponsored in Mexico, but given our involvement in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama, it’s a fair guess that a tad bit of meddling has gone on in relation to how "Mexico" is governed, and also how business is conducted there. Then of course, there is CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

How is it, I wonder, that "Mexico," contiguous with the southwest border of the "United States," has such vast poverty, while ours is confined to pockets, mostly defined by race? In particular, how is it that the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas – all formerly part of "Mexico," are economically vibrant, while "Mexico" is so poor? Is it because "we" are "superior," and "they" are "inferior?" Is "Mexico" just a vast wasteland? Were the "Spanish" conquerors and their "Mexican" ruling-class descendents a sub-civilized culture, not quite ready for Industrial Revolution prime time?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, except "inferiority" is in the mind of the beholder. But a viable answer to the immigration question seems pretty obvious. We, as a people, now that we know the nature and level of competence of our ruling elites, in the context of Global Warming and the pending dénouement of our unsustainable, infinite-growth economic system, can choose to not only make our own system a distributive, equitable, viable system, but can reverse the damage that has been done in our names worldwide. As we learn to make our own system distributive and equitable, we can also learn how to apply distributive and equitable practices worldwide. Instead of subverting democracy and freedom all over the planet, we can help them to flourish by example, and by trade, micro-lending, and sustainable development projects on a planetary scale. And whether anyone likes to admit it or not, there are way too many people on the planet, and something intelligent, civilized, and effective has to be done about it.

Some would say that we are already doing the things necessary to help other countries, but au contraire. We do showcase. We also do the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the CIA, and preemptive war. We do outsourcing of sweatshops, of suppression of labor and environmental standards. One of the by-products of our "School of the Americas" has been assassination of union leaders and organizers. Our country is run by criminals, both in the government and outside it by its corporate sponsors. If we want to solve the immigration problem we have to decriminalize our political and economic system. And we can’t do it by making all their crimes legal, which is what our "rulers" would like. In the process of decriminalizing our system, we can also save ourselves. Or, we can roll the dice, put all our bets on the Bush crime family and its corporate sponsors, the Republican Congress, and the "Minutemen." Either approach is holistic. One is holistically criminal – the BCF method, while the other is holistically intelligent, ethical, and moral, to say nothing of being the only method that will work. We have a clear choice.
Just as a humorous aside, the Bush crime family is scrambling for a "solution" that is both criminal and has the veneer of decency. They are beholden on the one hand to industrial corporations and agricultural conglomerates to keep the supply of cheap labor flowing, and on the other hand to bigots and people who have been undercut by cheap labor to seal the borders. They are in a no-win situation, but in the end will cave to moneyed interests. Somehow they will have to figure out a way to get their "Christian" fundamentalist base to see immigration as a good thing. No doubt the PR minions of the BCF are cooking up a campaign right now. As always with the Bush crime family, stay tuned.