Baselines for meaningful dialogue
Every so often I feel the need to reiterate that the main purpose of writing this blog is to raise the level of dialogue on this planet. A lofty goal. Quixotic, some may say. Still, I prefer optimism to pessimism or passivity.
The first step in raising the level of dialogue is to tell the truth. For instance, the Bush regime is, by all evidence, a criminal organization. It sponsors mass murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture, criminal negligence, illegal war and occupation, vote fraud, corruption of the justice system, treasonous exposure of an intelligence officer, spying on ordinary citizens, environmental destruction, theft, corporate cronyism, government by deceit and secrecy, and suppression of dissent.
Recognizing and referring to the Bush regime as a criminal organization is a baseline, a minimum level of genuineness for any meaningful dialogue about solving the nation's and the planet's problems. Bush is a sociopath. A liar, a war mongerer (Not monger. Mongererer. Monger is a verb. Someone who mongers is a mongerer.), a kidnapper, a torturer, a vote fraudster, a corrupter of the justice system, a traitor, a voyeur, a corporate cronyist, a ruler by deceit and secrecy, a suppressor of dissent. (For a photo montage of the Bush criminal regime, click here. You may have to load it twice.)
And he lied the country into invading, destroying, and occupying "Iraq," an ongoing felony of historical proportions. (For a photo montage of the Bush criminal regime, click here. You may have to load it twice.)
The members of Bush's gang are equally criminal.
Pursuant to raising the level of dialogue is to promote rational, civilized response to this minimal level of truth. For instance, Juan Cole wrote an article in Salon about the collapse of Bush's foreign policy, to which I responded thusly:
It's time for good riddance
The most curious aspect of this insightful commentary is that it is in Salon, rather than the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, or even the TV networks. Time and again Salon scoops the "major media," yet they seem unable to learn, unable to rise to the challenge. Juan Cole does appear on PBS's News Hour occasionally, but he doesn't get seen or heard otherwise (I could be wrong about this. Having worked in the TV cable industry, I will not pay for cable. I heard about Novak et. al. on the Stephanie Miller Show).
It doesn't take a genius to figure this stuff out. All it takes are eyes and/or ears. On Fox, they're busy trying to discredit Valerie Plame, with Robert Novak, among others, claiming she wasn't "covert," wasn't an "agent."
Meanwhile, California is on fire, the southeastern "U.S." is in a drought, oil prices are going up, the economy is teetering on collapse, and we have a gang of criminal sociopaths "running" the country.
And, of course, there's the Mideast. By the time Bush's tenure is over, we might want to consider handing him over to an international tribunal for criminal prosecution for his many crimes. If we do this, we might regain some of our lost prestige and influence on the world stage. We should also hand over the Bush gang's media enablers as co-conspirators.
Though Abu Ghraib would be a fitting place for them, a more appropriate incarceration would be someplace isolated, preferably in northern Sweden or Norway. Some place where they would be forgotten. No media, no interviews, no memoirs, no reinvention of history. Just good riddance.
In other words, the only real question in regard to the Bush criminal regime is where the best location is for its imprisonment. If the Bush regime is a gang of international criminals, its minions should all be in jail. All other arguments - "standing up to him," overcoming his vetos, challenging his "Iraq" policy, demanding full disclosure of "secret" documents - are pretty meaningless if Bush and his gang are treated with legitimacy. If they are legitimate, then the crimes they commit are also legitimate. They get a free pass, and the attempts by the "Democrats" to affect "policy" are for naught.
Another example of a baseline of truth is the behavior of "right wing" hate mongerer Ann Coulter. She is granted legitimacy by the pretense that she has a position, a point of view, that merits attention. I wrote a comment to a recent Leonard Pitts column that I think raises a question about Ann Coulter that no one seems to be asking:
I don't consider myself a "member" of any religion, but Buddhism is nearest to what I find resonant. It is more about practice than belief. In my experience, there are two main practices: compassion and being in the present moment. Meditation could be considered a third, but it can also be seen as another word for being in the present moment.
I also have a Buddhist view of Ann Coulter. It is the view of impermanence. A few years ago the name Ann Coulter was unknown outside a small circle of supposed knowers. She will be unknown again. It is the nature of not just fame, but of all phenomena. Fame is just a more obvious temporary condition.
Since we are all living in the present moment, though, it might be worth considering just what "Christianity" Ann Coulter practices. If she is a follower of "Jesus," who was actually called Yaheshua, then one would expect that she might emulate him in some way. She would inculcate the qualities of kindness, humility, forgiveness, generosity, healing, peacefulness, and love.
Alas, if she has taken on these qualities, she keeps them well hidden. If "Christianity" means following the teachings of Yaheshua, then Ann Coulter is actually an anti-Christian. As such, she is anti-Christ. It would exalt her to say that she is the antichrist. She has too much company to be given that distinction.
I also wrote this letter to the Madison Capital Times, hoping to raise awareness about how the growth imperative of our economic system is a forbidden topic, and that it is the underlying reason that we will be an extinct species if we continue to pretend that we can grow forever. A better version of the letter was submitted to the Wisconsin State Journal, but it didn't make it into print. You can read it here:
The supposed uproar over the mayor's appointment of the director of a city department is a bit of a tempest in a teapot.
For one thing, if members of the Madison Economic Development Commission resign because things don't go their way over a job appointment, it is in the realm of palace intrigue, or political infighting, unless some overriding issue or scandal is involved. If the mayor is legally authorized to choose who will serve as director of Madison's combined economic and community development office, then it is his choice. Whoever is the "best" candidate is a value judgement, a matter of opinion. A more accurate term would be most "suitable" candidate, and the mayor chose the candidate who is most suitable to him.
As far as it being "up to the mayor and his appointee, Bill Clingan, to repair the damage by proving that job creation on their agenda has a high priority on their agenda," the "proof" is in the pudding, so to speak. "Job creation" is an amorphous term. "What job creation?", one might ask. Environmental restoration and protection? "High" tech? "Low" tech? Urban renewal? Factories? Public works? How about a modern-day Works Progress Administration (WPA)? Land could be set aside for community supported agriculture. Jobs could be created to clean up Madison's lakes. How about a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps )-type camp for ex-convicts?
What really is worthy of question is just what the "economic vision" of Madison is to be. The "business community" in Madison consists of several elements: the various governmental bodies - Federal, state, county, and city, the University of Wisconsin, small manufacturers, landlords, realtors and property developers, retailers, and other service providers. These various elements don't necessarily have the same or harmonious interests, or interests that are beneficial to the general public. And the interests of the non-human life in the area, or of the planet in general tend to take a back seat.
What few are willing to recognize is that human systems are impositions on the land, and that they can deviate from the ecology of the planet only so far. Human induced climate change is recognized as a problem to be solved, but not if it risks the growth of the human imposition. Economic growth always comes first, last, and only. If you ask any economist at any of the institutions of higher education in this town, they will all tell you that, yes, we can grow forever, because it is religious dogma. The Freedom from Religion Foundation should look into this.
So the "issue" of the "best" choice for the economic development director is much ado about not much. No matter who the director is, he or she will be working under the same assumption that policy makers at every level pay homage: that growth is imperative, and can go on forever. We can infinitely convert the Earth into finished products with no slowing down - indeed at an increasing rate. At a minimum "healthy" level of growth of two percent annually, economic output would double in thirty-six years. Good luck, Homo Sapiens, to say nothing of all other life as we think we know it.
Back in July I submitted the following letter to the Capital Times, which they printed in an edited version.
Tuesday's column by John Nichols, "Bush badly botches Mideast conflict," is something he could have written in his sleep. It is good writing, and is factually correct, but it goes nowhere. It's just more chatter, and to the degree that it is read, it gets filed away with the rest of the chatter.
One key phrase is a hologram for the whole article, and is the key factor in why the piece is almost irrelevant: "Bush's failed Mideast policies."
Policies. The Bush regime has policies.
The Bush regime does not have policies! (Think Jim Morrison shouting "You can not petition the Lord with prayer!") It is a criminal organization. Not a legitimate political organization that advocates solutions to problems. They only have schemes. Everything they do is with criminal intent, from the rigging of the 2000 election, the active negligence in advance of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the lying to get the country riled up for the invasion of Iraq, the rigging of the 2004 election, the active negligence in advance of and after Hurricane Katrina, kidnapping and torture worldwide, spying and developing databases on citizens within our borders, treason in the exposure of an intelligence officer, to the firings of honorable U.S. Attorneys, who were replaced not by mere political hacks, but criminal operatives with the purpose of prosecuting opponents.
This is an important distinction. If you just talk about this regime's failed "policies," the argument goes nowhere. If you call it what it is, a criminal gang, you change the dialogue, and the likelihood of actually doing something about this regime is greatly enhanced.
The reasons for not referring to the criminal Bush regime as criminal are twofold: It is beyond the bounds of thinkable thought, and of "polite" conversation. It's a self-fulfilling fallacy, because it is only because the "intelligentsia" will not call this regime a criminal gang that it is beyond the bounds of thinkable thought.
The second reason is derivative of the first: Career survival and advancement. If it is conventional wisdom that Bush is incompetent but well-intentioned, then he can be criticized in endless op-eds, editorials, books, and radio and TV commentaries. It all goes nowhere. Bush continues with his criminal schemes, and the news media can do fluff coverage of the presidential "horse race."
Meanwhile, the country continues to sink, having no direction, and little sense of how close we are to collapse as a functioning social system. Chatter, anyone?
What all of these writings have in common is that they establish a baseline for raised levels of dialogue. You can't talk about proper response to the Bush regime unless you first recognize its criminality. You can't challenge its "policies" in a meaningful way unless you first recognize that its "policies" are not policies at all. They are schemes. You can't challenge hate mongerer Ann Coulter's rhetoric if you first do not recognize that her profession of "Christianity" is fake, not the least bit "Christian." You cannot begin to address the problem of climate change, global warming, environmental destruction, or whatever you want to call our ecological breakdown unless you first recognize the built-in assumption of infinite growth of output of industrial economic systems.
If you have read this far, and find yourself in agreement or disagreement with what I have written about these baselines, I suggest testing this hypothesis. Go out and try to establish these baselines in discussing the important issues of the day. It is almost impossible, but you will find out one very important fact: people are frozen in their conceptions, their entire ego structures embedded in the false and weak assumptions that their perspectives are built upon.
This includes "leftists." I've written exhaustively about the folly of believing the imaginary "spectrum" of "left" to "right" is smoke and mirrors at best. The identity of "leftist" is both to an ideology of polarization and to a mutually identified cohort group. To paraphrase Lily Tomlin, the "left" identity is a collective hunch. It is a hunch that the "left" actually exists. It must, otherwise there could be no "right." And, as any "leftist" worth his Phil Ochs recordings will tell you, the "right" not only exists, but is out to get us.
That, of course, is a baseline that few would want to touch.
So here we are, in the year 2007, yammering back and forth about the state of the world, but speaking in altered perspectives about pretend realities, assuming things that don't exist, assuming legitimacy where it doesn't exist, and expecting that our talk is going to solve problems. Meanwhile, California is on fire, the southeastern "United States" is in a serious long-term drought, our economy is on the verge of collapse, and the Bush criminal organization is planning another war.
Perhaps, while we still have time, we can go back to the fundamentals, taking a look at our basic assumptions.
Here are a few tunes to accompany the search for truth: Johnny Cash, Johnny Lennon, Johnny Fogerty, and Johnny Prine.