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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, June 21, 2007

Free ranging chicken sense

The weirdest job I ever had was working in a lab that made vaccine for Marek's disease, a contagious form of cancer that infects chickens. Because commercial chicken "production" is done on a mass scale, chickens are kept in cages in close proximity. The cages are several tiers high, making chickens urinate and defecate on their fellow product, in business terms ("product" is the "in" term for goods a business sells. It is grammatically singular, but plural in meaning.)

I didn't see anything of chicken production in the lab. Just eggs. Several hundred would arrive from a farmer every Thursday, and would be incubated for a week. The eggs were fertilized, and part of my job was to check for dead embryos by putting a small flashlight against the eggs. I could see inside the egg, and tell whether the embryo was alive or dead.

Fridays were "egg cracking" days. The eggs brought in eight days earlier were brought to the room where they were cracked, the embryos separated from the albumen, and each embryo put in a large bottle where it was mixed with a diluent, and stored in a warm room where cell culture takes place. The cells in the embryo multiply, and were infected with cells of Marek's disease. Cell culture was then done on the infected mix, and the resulting liquid was the vaccine. It was then put in small vials and frozen in liquid nitrogen. In this frozen state the vaccine was sold around the world.

The production process was weird enough, but the management of the operation bordered on insanity. The lab was run by a husband and wife team, and both of them were hysterical personalities. One has to wonder how they found each other. When I interviewed for the job the husband told me he hired mostly women who had never been to college. He could then "mold them into practical microbiologists!" He had a crazed look on his face when he said this, not unlike the Dr. Frankenstein seen in movies. Needing the job, I overlooked his obvious insanity.

In a nutshell, the job became increasingly dysfunctional, the quality of the product declined, the husband and wife became increasingly hysterical, the wife had a brain aneurism and died, and the lab shut down. By complaining to corporate management I inspired some of the women to do the same, and rather than replace the mad scientist, they closed the place. The mad scientist was "kicked upstairs." He was reassigned to the poultry division headquarters. Such is corporate life.

What made me think about this job was Bush's veto of a bill for funding of human embryonic stem cell research. Stem cells are primal cells that are capable of multiplying, and it is hoped that they offer cures for many diseases.

The procedures for growing stem cells is similar to what I participated in at the chicken vaccine lab. The difference, of course, is that human embryos are involved: cells that result from the union of human sperm and egg.

The "leftist" argument is that the cells are mere "blastocysts," a sterile term that for them reduces the issue to one of science. For "right to lifers," the cells are human lives, and to make cell cultures of them is heinous.

Actors Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve have been used as examples of people who could have been helped by embryonic stem cell research. Fox has Parkinson's disease, and Reeve died in 2004 from effects of a broken neck he incurred when he was thrown from a horse. As popular movie actors Fox and Reeve have been powerful examples, providing much emotional appeal.

I gave money to two Senate candidates last fall - Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill. My vast support, under $100, no doubt turned the elections in their favor. I donated to Webb before the "Macaca" incident, based on what I knew of him from his past service as Secretary of the Navy, and that he has been a longtime adversary of the criminal Oliver North. Claire McCaskill has been a proponent of stem-cell research, and her victory was credited to Rush Limbaugh's mimicking of Michael J. Fox.

You would think that I would be in favor of embryonic stem cell research, having donated to McCaskill's campaign, but I'm not. I agree alsmost completely with the "right to lifers." There's something creepy about doing cell culture on any animal form, I can attest, and doing it with a growing human life is very creepy. It is on a similar level to Nazi medical experiments during World War II. A reading of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World would provide insight into the kind of future we can expect if we follow this direction.

It is near-comedic that "leftists" argue that embryonic stem cell research is needed because of its potential in curing disease. What they are saying is that the end justifies the means. The end justifying the means is the same reasoning they accuse "right wingers" of employing to justify any number of criminal acts.

Whether we pursue embryonic stem cell research or not, we are all going to die. Death is part of life. There is a certain myth in "American" popular culture that the purpose of human life is to live as long as possible. Please. I'm 62 now. It gets harder every day. No amount of research, cures, therapies, or treatments are going to make the aging process last forever. Auto accidents alone ought to give us pause. Tornados, hurricanes, storms, floods, and earthquakes should give further pause. And, of course, wars.

Reckless sociopaths like Hitler, Stalin, and Bush should give more than pause. They sould give us a strong sense of vulnerability. Any "country," or the entire planet could be seized by such a mass murderer.

It is a strange irony that I would have the same view of stem cell research as the criminal Bush. There is a difference. Bush is a phony and a criminal sociopath. His opposition to embryonic stem cell research is not real, but political - meant to placate his support "base." A further irony is that I sent money to Claire McCaskill. I have no problem with this. Her opponent was a grandstander, and worse, a "Republican." Many evil schemes go with electing a "Republican."

Just in terms of politics alone, "Democrats" and "leftists" would do well to reconsider their support of embryonic stem cell research. They could take Bush's base right out from under him, and usher in his removal from office, were they not so swayed by "leftist" dogma.

I wrote about abortion previously, in Avidya Democrats could further secure the "conservative" base by at least engaging in dialogue with "right to lifers." In some places this is already being done.

What is called for, I believe, is a sense of priority. All "issues" are not the same. The top priority should be to get out of "Iraq." It will reverse the momentum of the Bush crime family's empire dream, and especially will prevent his attack on "Iran." Then he should be removed from office, and incarcerated for the rest of his life.

Once we have established a sense of right and wrong, we can move on to other issues, like climate change, the sustainability of our infinite growth economic system, health care, and distributive justice.

If we start solving these problems, the myth of living forever will be seen for what it is: a diversion, an illusion, and a waste of resources. The real goal of embryonic stem cell research is money. Money for the researchers, the Universities, and the corporations (who will be the ultimate beneficiaries, and already are), and of course, the politicians.

Somewhere along the way, maybe we can treat chickens better.

Here's a little update: Click

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Keeping the lights on

There are two must reads on the Web today. The first is another in a long line of outstanding exposés by New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, titled "The General's Report." In it, Hersh details the experience of Major General Antonio Taguba when he was assigned to investigate the torture of Iraqi prisoners at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. In an interview with Hersh on Democracy Now, he related that Taguba said this about the resistance at the Pentagon to his investigation: “I had been in the Army then for thirty-two years, and it was the first time I thought I was in the Mafia.” I have been saying that the Bush regime is a criminal gang since before the "Iraq" war. It's nice to have a bit of company.

The other must read is Glenn Greenwald's column in Salon today, in which he introduced a new slogan for the Washington press corps. He discovered the new motto in the Washington Post, where columnist Richard Cohen criticized the trial and conviction of Irv Lewis Libby by saying "As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off."

Greenwald's column is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. You may have to become a paying subscriber to read his work, but it will be well worth it. I wrote a comment to the article here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Rope a dope

Ed SchultzBelow is a series of emails I exchanged with “progressive” talk radio host Ed Schultz last week. Schultz bills himself as “America's #1 progressive talker.” He also calls himself “Big Eddie,” hoping to reinforce his image of formidability and manliness. Other slogans are “Straight talk from the Heartland!” and something to the effect of “A real man's man, a hunter and fisherman who votes Democratic.”

As the Friday show began he recounted how he was on a TV show with “conservatives,” wherein he demolished the “right-wingers” in argument. Then he declared “Damn, I'm good!” several times. Shortly afterwards he delivered one of his diatribes, this time against someone who said that windmills are threatening bird populations because the birds fly into them in great numbers. Schultz was really trashing the guy, calling him things like stupid, ridiculous, etc. He finished by proclaiming that wind energy is good, period! End of story. Whoever it was Schultz was trashing had no opportunity to respond, since he was not on the show. I thought this was pretty cheap, and thus began the following series of emails:

From: John Hamilton
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2007 11:43 AM
To: ed@edschultzshow.com
Subject: Tilting at windmills


I've been listening to your show lately, mainly because I work evenings, and have been getting up too late to hear much of Stephanie Miller. You've actually been pretty good for the most part, and I have been able to stand it for two whole hours.

Today I had to turn it off sooner than expected. When you went into a rant about wind power, you sounded like a complete _________. (Fill in the blank. I find namecalling counterproductive.) You give yourself away at times like this, getting more heated than usual or appropriate. You are out of your depth in dealing with complex issues. You might want to make the acquaintance of a good scientist of one kind or another. I'm sure they have a few at Moorehead, or even NDSU.

Birds flying into windmills is a real concern, an unresolved problem that is actually being researched by real scientists. Maybe you could learn a little about the problem, and then fulminate some more, shaking the rafters, huffing and puffing, blowing houses down.

Put another way, your show has value, but severe limits. In the present forum of ideas, a good blowhard can play a meaningful role. I just wouldn't get too carried away with it. People will get tired of you. Now, back to the bluegrass show.

John Hamilton
Madison , Wisconsin

From: "Ed Schultz"
To: "John Hamilton"
Subject: RE: Tilting at windmills
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 11:48:49 -0500


From: John Hamilton
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2007 12:01 PM
To: "Ed Schultz"
Subject: RE: Tilting at windmills

Dish it out, take it. Pot, kettle. Goose, gander. Nicer than you.

From: "Ed Schultz"
To: John Hamilton
Subject: RE: Tilting at windmills
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 12:07:37 -0500



Date: Sat, 16 Jun 2007 09:01:04 -0700 (PDT)
From: John Hamilton
Subject: RE: Tilting at windmills
To: "Ed Schultz"

Touchy, touchy. You dish out. It doesn't matter to whom. I've heard you bully people on the air for a couple of years now. There was Greg Palast, for example, in absentia. The windmill dissenter yesterday, again in absentia. A woman who called in once, who really got a tongue lashing for having a dissenting view. It started with something like "What kind of democrat are you? - Yelling. It descended from there. Many more times.

I find it amusing that you are so easily reduced to name calling. It kind of takes a bit of the luster out of the persona of "progressive." One could even say it gives the lie. I will still listen on occasion, but for the information, not the persona. It's free, and it's a free country. Keep on rockin' in the free world.

This was one of the easier disputes I have had in my life. Surprisingly easy. Schultz's own bad temper got the better of him, which happens often on the air. He excuses himself by bragging that he is a "redhead," as if this were some exceptional type of person who deserves special absolution.

It's a pretty lame excuse. Ed Schultz is a bully, not unlike his counterparts on "conservative" talk. Like Newt Gingrich's strategic choice of "conservatism," Schultz's "liberalism" was brought on by an ulterior motive. By his own admission, his attraction to a "liberal" woman caused him to change his "views." She is now his wife. I know the temptation.

The problem with views inspired by career goals or animal attraction is that they are subject to the shifting winds of political vogue on the one hand, or fresh lust on the other. As I have written before in this blog, the important thing for the grandstander is not the beliefs, but the self-projection. Such a person is not to be trusted.

I sent an email to Ed Schultz previously, last July. He didn't respond. It can be seen here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Position vacancies

The ciminal in chiefIn my previous post I wrote about Paul Krugman's critique of the news media. The New York Times op-ed, "Lies, Sighs and Politics," is likely to become the definitive commentary on the state of the "American" information industry.

Though much has been written about the media's complicity with the Bush criminal operation, we have little understanding of how the industry declined to such a state of mediocrity and corruption. Two words, I believe, cover the entire subject: ownership and hype. The ownership has become concentrated in the hands of corporations, and the nature of the "news" has become focused on amplification, incitement, propaganda, rumor, sensation, and the superficial. It is highly contrived bread and circus.

This decline was inevitable. In a mass system, the tendency of all elements in the system is towards concentration of resources in the hands of the few, whether by government or business. The end result is the homogenization of the culture and of the various occupations in the system.

The best metaphor I have for this homogenization of roles in society is from my Army experience. When I enlisted for training in the manly art of projector repair, I had no idea how the occupation was managed. I assumed I would be working in some kind of projector repair depot, where broken projectors came in from near and far. I would be awash in projectors, fixing them merrily, like Gepetto in Pinocchio.

The way it actually works is that Army units are staffed by allocations, or "slots" for different Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). When I was sent to Germany, it took several days to find a unit that had an authorization for my MOS - 41F, and when I got there, the authorization turned out to be for "wartime." Even though there was a "war" going on - Vietnam - there was no "war" in Germany at the time. We were playing our parts on the "NATO Team," fighting the "Cold War" against the "Soviet Union."

I never fixed one projector. Instead, I became a clerk-typist (71B), working in a variety of positions from personnel clerk and company clerk to managing a drivers school and a human relations office, where I showed movies on occasion. I did a little moonlighting as a projectionist (carbon arc, for the tech-geeky) at the Patton Theater at Patton Barracks in Heidelberg. I even showed the movie "Patton." It was fun, showing "Patton" at Patton at Patton.

So if you are wondering how a news anchor, columnist, editor, or "pundit" can be so corrupt and superficial, think of them as filling a "slot." Just like a fledgeling projector repairman looking for a unit where he can ply his manly trade, the "journalist" is nowadays a mere specialist fitting into a table of organization and equipment. The people themselves are interchangeable parts, with their ego-projections creating mere illusions of individuality. Rush Limbaugh is Richard Cohen in a different medium. They are both liars and propagandists, different only in arena and personality. Bill O'Reilly and - hmm, how about Katie Couric? - are different only by degree. Both represent corporate conformity and hype, celebrity and window dressing.

There are many ways this predicament can be resolved, and the massification of our information can be overcome. The best place to start is by deepening our understanding of how we got to where we are, and of the esential nature of the system we now have. If we can call things what they are, then we can deal with them as they are. For instance, the Bush crime family. The Bush regime is a criminal operation, first, last, and everywhere in between. Politics is the arena, but criminality is the essential nature. Call this regime what it is, and the course of action is obvious: put them in jail, and for the rest of their misspent lives, at hard labor. There are slots for all of them.

For a little background on election fraud, read here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Attraction and repulsion

Paul KrugmanMy involvement in politics has been incidental and accidental, for the most part. For example, in 1996 I was working as a temp, and one day I got a call from the agency I was working for, offering me a position telemarketing for the “Republicans.” The agency person told me I would just be soliciting donations from previous contributors, and that I didn’t have to take the job if I felt uncomfortable about it.

Poverty can dim your sense of right and wrong. After a brief hesitation I told her “I’ll take it.” I reasoned that it was just taking money from one “Republican” and giving it to another "Republican." Dole was going to lose anyway, so making a bit of cash from his campaign wasn't such a bad thing.

The following day I reported for training to the state “Republican” headquarters, a small suite of offices a few blocks from the state Capitol. A file cabinet in the main office had a bumper sticker on it that said “Life’s a Hillary.” This was supposed to be a funny take on the cliché “life’s a bitch.” I found it curious that Hillary Clinton, not Bill, was the focus of "Republican" hatred. Times haven't changed much. Nowadays they hate her more.

My fellow hirees included a middle aged “African-American” woman, a young “African-American” man, a female University of Wisconsin student, and someone else whom I can’t remember. While we filled out application paperwork I turned to the “African-American” woman and said, “I never thought it would come to this.” She replied, “I know,” in that long, drawled-out manner of slave-culture dialect that spoke volumes. It was the entire history of slavery in two words.

The “African-American” male was dressed in what I would call cheap fancy – pointed shoes, big-collared striped shirt, lots of jewelry. The UW student was wearing student-casual, a stretch pants outfit with sandals. She seemed half asleep, and probably was.

The manager of the office appeared after a few minutes, and started by asking if any of us knew about the election. The “African-American” guy spoke up immediately, proudly stating “I know all about the “Democrats” and the “Republicans!” In fact, I just read in the paper that Dole is already demanding a recount!” I felt badly for him, but still felt I had to respond, and told him that what he read was in The Onion, and was just a joke. He loudly answered, “No! I read it in the paper!” It was not worth pursuing any further.

The office manager continued with his introduction, telling us the campaign wasn’t going very well, and that “Republican” voters were angry that Dole had avoided Wisconsin. I still remember one of his stranger remarks: “Jack Kemp’s helmet is in the Packers Hall of Fame, but he still won’t come here!” Jack Kemp, for those who don’t remember, was Bob Dole’s running mate. Before becoming a politician he played quarterback for the Buffalo Bills professional football team. I found it weird that the manager thought a football helmet was a good reason for a political candidate to visit Wisconsin, but I was in uncharted waters.

The training mostly consisted of learning the fundraising script, and developing responses to objections and refusals. We spent a good deal of time listening to experienced tele-republicans, seeing how they did the job. The following day would be our first real day on the job.

I showed up the next afternoon at the appointed time, and was the only one from my group who returned. I was disappointed, especially that the “African American” woman hadn’t returned. I felt that I needed a kindred spirit, and now I was alone in this morass of negative consciousness. I also had a twinge of guilt that I was the only one who, after having a night to think it over, was still willing to raise money for the “Republicans.”

The work started slowly, with me taking time between calls to ask questions and try to improve my money-hustling. It was bizarre. One of the people I called was a woman in Milwaukee who told me her son was Rush Limbaugh’s producer, and she was furious that Dole wouldn’t come to Wisconsin. I told the office manager about this, and he said “Yeah, I know who that is! Her son is Joe Btfsplk (or some such entity). He’s a great guy!” And some more “Republican” blah, blah, blah.

I was amazed at how many people I called were elderly, retired, and not very well off. And furious at Dole for “not coming to Wisconsin.” It’s a strange world, the realm of political campaigning. Not one person mentioned any issue facing the country. It was all about Dole “coming to Wisconsin.”

My shift was for eight hours, but after four hours I started getting physically ill. I trudged on for a while, but got so dizzy I thought I was going to pass out. I finally got up, and stumbled towards the door, telling the manager “I’m sorry! I just can’t do this!” It took until the next morning before I felt better. I at least had the satisfaction that I didn't raise one red cent for the “Republican” campaign for president.

Such was my sojourn into the world of “Republicanism.” I felt as though I had been saved by some inner force of revulsion that would not allow me to sink to this level. The kind of dizziness I felt was like nothing else I have experienced, coming from some primordial domain. I took it as a warning.

What reminded me of this experience was not the current campaign as such, but a post I read in “The Daily Howler.” It was a commentary on New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman’s latest offering about the prostitute role the news media have played in enabling the “election” of George W. Bush, and of propagandizing his criminal “war.” Krugman contends that the news media, far from being “liberal biased,” are actually willing tools of the “Republican Party.” Whores. Prostitutes. Mercenaries. Bargainers with the devil, ala Dr. Faustus. Krugman sees the major media as unrepentant, too enamored of their money and celebrity, corrupted by their own hubris, unable to do anything but act as shills for their patrons, the evil “Republicans.”

So what’s the lesson here? As I have learned many times in my life (see “Similarities”), I’m no “better” than anyone else, just lucky. I could have killed when I was in the Army, but avoided being put in that circumstance. From early in life I responded to situations in ways that were unique to my experience.

More than anything else, though, the thing that has guided me is the connection I have with spiritual reality. I didn’t embark on a path of meditative practice on a whim. It was an intuitive response that had years and probably lifetimes of preparation. Throwing gravel at Douglas MacArthur was preparation for three irreverent years serving in the Army. Running away from home when I was three prepared me for quitting every bad job I had, to say nothing of freeing myself from a couple of religious cults - Roman Catholicism and Siddha Yoga. I’m not sure what experience caused me to stumble out of the “Republican” headquarters, but the world would be a much better place today if a few “journalists” stumbled away from their computers and television cameras over the past decade or so.

Yoga philosophy says we should be beyond attraction and repulsion, but you first have to have the capacity for repulsion. Then you can move beyond it. The problem for “journalists” in “America” today is that they have not yet developed the capacity for revulsion. Again in yogic terms, this is known as “tamasic.” It is a state of dullness, of darkness, of ignorance, and of delusion and pursuit of destructive activities.

And of course, the perfect example of this dullness, darkness, ignorance, delusion and pursuit of destructive activities is none other than George W. Bush, “President of the United States.” The “journalistic” profession is just fine with this state of affairs, having “successfully” enabled it. The real lesson here, I believe, is that we are very, very early in the game of civilization. The reaping of what has been sown in the modern era will last for probably centuries, long after the prostitute-journalists are gone. Let’s hope the next generation advances to a sense of revulsion.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A brief study in contrast

Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., talks with Dr. Mark Anderson while touring a cardiology research lab before speaking about his health care plan, Tuesday, May 29, 2007, at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Obama on Tuesday unveiled a health care plan that he contends would extend coverage to all Americans and save consumers $2,500 a year. That cost would be divvied up between businesses, consumers and the government, with much of the amount raised by repealing tax cuts to the wealthy. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)





Bush preening at Walter Reed Army Hospital





A must read: Click, Click, and Click