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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, February 05, 2007

Alternative media

Molly IvinsIt was busy in the news last week. Longtime columnist and social critic Molly Ivins died on January 31. Paul Krugman wrote a great tribute to her in the New York Times, which you can read here. Her last column appears here. A supposedy important event occurred when presidential hopeful Joe Biden made some condescending remarks about rival candidate Barack Obama.

There were other events in the news, notably the growing pressure in the Congress against the planned "surge" in Iraq, and the increased propaganda against Iran. And let's not forget the "Scooter" Libby trial, which is edging closer to the criminality of Dick Cheney. What stood out for me, though, was not the news itself, but the delivery of the news. We depend for our information about the world at large on what is known as the "media," short for mass-information media.

Some of the best information available appears in what is known as the "alternative media" - the Internet, independent publications, radio networks like Pacifica, and syndicated radio, especially Air America and Jones Radio. A good example of the power of alternative media to present images and information ignored by the corporate media are in these two revelations about the "American" practice of torture: Click here and here. Another must read is this.

I rely mainly on a few sources of information: Salon, Smirking Chimp, CounterPunch, and Common Dreams. I get my news from National Public Radio, the BBC, some TV network news, and the News Hour. I listen to a few shows on Madison's "progressive talk" station, WXXM: Stephanie Miller, Al Franken, and the few minutes I can stand of Ed Schultz. Stephanie Miller is my favorite because she is the most entertaining, the liveliest, and her humor is the most biting and unmerciful in its skewering of the mythical "right-wing," especially Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Fox News, Bush, Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter.

That is not to say that any of these shows is above criticism. Below are copies of some of my recent emails to Stephanie Miller, Al Franken, and NPR's Morning Edition. I don't bother with Ed Schultz. He's a blowhard, and a waste of time. He makes a few good points on his show, and has some good guests, but way too full of himself to be affected by dissent.
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Stephanie Miller:

To: http://www.stephaniemiller.com/contact/
Date: January 31, 2007

Hi Stephanie

I listened in this morning, but was busy doing other things, so only caught highlights. I was a bit surprised when Sean Hannity called, and you accorded him a certain amount of respect, as if advocacy broadcasting is one big chummy exclusive club.

In case you have forgotten, our invasion of Iraq has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the deaths and maiming of many thousand Americans, and the hatred and enmity of much of Planet Earth towards our country. Sean Hannity has served as a hired propagandist and interference runner for the criminal element that foisted this debacle on the world. As such, he is a criminal sociopath, deserving of no respect. He should be in jail, and in years past would be a prime candidate for execution as a traitor. That is, assuming we actually have a functioning system of justice.

But somehow you can say on the air that you like him, and trade mutual admiration quips with him. In contrast, when some of your admiring fans call in, such as the woman named Joy (Her name was actually Flo) today, they get ridiculed. I understand the cutting tongue of the comedian is hard to shut off sometimes, but it seemed to be a bit less sharp when it came to Sean Hannity.

On another note, you might want to expand the role of Chris LaVoie a bit. He argues better than you or Jim. While I don't necessarily agree with some of his stances, he holds his ground, and doesn't get rattled, and doesn't resort to absurdity to defend what he believes. When you have a "right wing" caller or guest, you might want to turn him loose.

As always, I listen because you have the best show on the radio, and often find your humor inspiring. I wouldn't get complacent though. You can easily lose your edge, and going easy on the likes of Sean Hannity is a surefire way to follow down that path.

To: http://www.stephaniemiller.com/content/view/100/104/
Date: February 1, 2007

Hi Stephanie

You can do better than the bipartisanship excuse. Lying, fakery, bombast, bullying, war mongering, making the poor poorer, the rich richer, indefinite detention, torture - these are not the characteristics of a legitimate belief system. They are the characteristics of criminals.

There is not a partisan side of decency versus the criminal side, fighting it out on the forum of ideas. That would make the "sides" of the "argument" equal. You can only believe this if you see the world in terms of what is known as the two-factor paradigm. One "side" versus the "other." It is what keeps the world stuck in stupidity and war.

So, presuming you aren't that dumb, there must be another reason for the Sean Hannity segment. It's not hard to figure out. It's the world of celebrity. It's all the same. The famous scratching each others' backs, mutually reinforcing their shared sense of stardom. The medium is the message. It's all grist for the mill. Once you're in the club, your hands are in each others' pants.

Or, in the immortal words of that great sage Billy Joel, it's all rock 'n roll to thee.
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Al Franken:

This first one was on a day when Al Franken was having surgery, and was replaced by Lawrence O'Donnell.

To: http://www.airamerica.com/alfrankenshow/feedback
Date: February 1, 2007

A few points to consider:

1. Molly Ivins died yesterday. So far no mention.

2. Who cares about Joe Biden? You are behaving as if the "horse race" is more important than what the horse race is for. It is the survival of the human species that is important. Pursuant to that survival is removing the criminal Bush regime from office, and bringing them to justice (jail). The candidacy of anyone for president is important only to the degree that it serves the well-being of the planet, and the people who reside within.

3. A successful radio network is able to do the simplest things, like connecting callers to the live broadcast. As anyone in any kind of show business knows, you prepare, rehearse, plan ahead. If this doesn't occur to you, then you will end up finding another line of work.

4. The President of the United States is a sociopathic criminal. Has it occurred to you that this might be a national priority?

Other than that, you're doing a great job.

To: http://www.airamerica.com/alfrankenshow/feedback
Date: February 2, 2007

Hi Al

Good show of heart. If you keep your humanity, you'll always be a positive force.

Anyway, a thought occurred that you might want to pursue. Barack Obama is a "white" guy. His mother was "white." Why can't he be "white?" If one's mother being a "Jew" makes someone a "Jew," then "white" motherhood makes a person "white."

Or, in the Limbaughian sense, he's "Hamerican." I could go on, but the idea of "race" is pretty silly, and trying to fit someone into a box leads to the kind of absurdity that we see with Joe Biden. He might as well have said "You have to admit, those people have a lot of rhythm. Willie Mays sure can hit a baseball!" (I've been around a while.)

So if it's remarkable to find a clean white guy, then Joe Biden must not be very clean. Or articulate. Good looking. Maybe he's half something else. It'll all come out in the campaign.
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National Public Radio:

To: http://www.npr.org/contact/
Date: January 31, 2007

NPR sure has a lot of "senior" correspondents and analysts. It would be interesting to know how much they are being paid.

Just minutes ago I heard the latest, um, edition of the "senior analyst," Ted Koppel lament that "American interests" are being ignored in the debate about "Iraq." What he failed to say was just what those "interests" are, who defines them, and how these "interests" justify what we have done to this unfortunate country.

Minutes later, a seemingly "junior" correspondent stated that "Iranian" "agents" have been arrested in "Iraq." If he knew that they were "agents," then he might have enlightened us as to what "agency" they wre "agents" of. Indeed, what does it take to be an "agent?" My dictionary says it is "one who acts." I guess Jack Nicholson is also an agent.

I suppose also that NPR's senior and junior analysts and correspondents are also agents. Very "interest" - ing.
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Here's one more for good measure, to PBS's "Washington Week":

To: http://www.pbs.org/weta/washingtonweek/feedback.html
Date: February 4, 2007
Subject: Annals of the center of the universe

I have an easy answer to the "what was he thinking" question: Who cares about Joe Biden? Which calls for the obvious answer: Hangers-on in Washington, D.C.

"Leftists" are calling Joe Biden a "racist," which is a bit of a stretch. He revealed a level of prejudice at the unconscious level, but mostly he revealed that he's just another dumb guy who wants to be president.

It's all grist for the mill in Washington, D.C., wherein people think they are in the center of the universe. As we are now finding out, Washington, D.C. is indeed the center of the universe - almost. It is the stupid center of the universe.

Your show should be renamed "Stupid Center of the Universe Week."
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I'd rather not be listening to any of this stuff, but the need is great for clarity and insight. I may be making a great blunder, neglecting the meditative practices that I so much love and need, but the "United States of America" is blundering its way to oblivion, risking the destruction of life on this planet for a few pieces of silver and triumphalism. To the degree that the "alternative" media cooperate in this march to oblivion, they make the path all that easier. If I can stand it, I'll keep offering what I can. If it does some good, then it is worth the effort.

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