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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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The game is afoot

Scott McClellanIt had to happen at some point. The fiasco that started with the stolen election of 2000 has turned into a hornet's nest.

Today it was revealed that Bush's former press secretary Scott McClellan is accusing Bush, Cheney, Rove, Libby, and others of intentionally lying and misleading him and the public about the "outing" of CIA operative Valerie Plame. For the unaware, revealing the name of an intelligence agent is an act of treason. To have the president and the vice president to engage in such criminality is the kind of perfidy that rises to the level of capital crime. For the unaware, this is punishable by the death penalty. I favor life without parole at hard labor.

King AbdullahAlso, our chief "ally" in the Mideast, "Saudi Arabia," is showing its true colors, sentencing a rape victim to 200 lashes with a whip, presumably a cat o' nine tails. "Saudi Arabia" is also where Osama bin Laden and thirteen of the suspected September 11, 2001 hijackers called home.

Our national institutions - the Congress, the Judiciary, the mass media, the corporate elite - all have served to keep the Bush regime in power, and will likely do so until his term runs out, should he not declare martial law before then.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, proclaimed mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacksThese are the same national institutions that would have us believe that this guy is the "mastermind" who conceived, planned, and carried out the worst attacks on the "U.S." in its entire history - completely outsmarting the strongest, most technologically advanced security apparatus known to mankind.

Meanwhile, we have a "horse race" to determine who will be the next president. There's advertising money to be made, careers to be made, fame and fortune to be made, and distractions to be conjured up. So let's all go along with it, eh?

Except there's too much going on. Global warming is looming, the economy is in decline, gas prices are going up, the "wars" in "Iraq" and "Afghanistan" are quagmires, and now we have proof that the country is run by traitors. Actually, the proof has been there all along. We just have evidence from the inside now.

Our great national institutions may not want to put the minions of the Bush gang where they belong, but I think it's safe to say they would like to. Bush has become the national albatross around our collective necks. As long as George W. Bush is president, the whole world knows that its "only superpower" is run by criminals of the worst kind.

So, as the hornet's nest becomes more disturbed, maybe even more truth will come out. Maybe we will finally be embarrassed into bringing the Bush gang to justice. The game is afoot.

Here's a little light reading.

Always look on the bright side of life.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Greatness, not so greatness

Graduation day, May 13, 1989, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois. With me is my great friend Toon.We all should be so lucky to know at least one truly great person in our lives. I have known about five, maybe a few more. None is better than a friend I knew when I was studying for my master's degree in Educational Psychology in the 1980s.

She was a visiting student from "Thailand," and was one of those rare people that I call an even person - no agenda, positive or negative, nothing to prove, no impression to make. That doesn't even begin to describe her, though. She had that something extra - a light, a sparkle, a dimension from another level.

We met the first day of my Research in Education class. It was a great class - great teacher, some great students, like the late Mike Zurbrugg, and I found the subject matter surprisingly interesting.

I think we may have had another class together, but I got to know her best when we studied together for our comprehensive exams. The exams covered the various aspects of learning theory, and were part of the requirements for our M.S.Ed. degrees. We got together with another student, a woman about my age, for study sessions and note copying. My friend Toon (her nickname) was the best student, and knew the most about the subject matter. I had the best notes, and was good at organizing the material into categories.

The third student eventually dropped out, too busy with other things to take the exams until a later date. I remember a phone conversation we had one night before she quit our group, where she talked about the greatness of my friend Toon. She mentioned her deep spirituality, her Buddhist faith, and that Toon was also very psychic. She said that Toon was something of a "wise woman," someone who was a very special human being. I agreed, and was gratified that someone else had a similar intuition to mine.

Reduced to a group of two, we met in the projection booth at the auditorium classroom of the school of business, where I worked. One day while we were studying Toon wanted to make some photocopies of my notes, and I told her she could go to the business school office where I got copies made, and they would make them for her. I didn't think that she would be treated differently than I was. This was dumb. Toon was from "Asia," and the typical "American" response to anyone perceived as different tends to be rudeness and disrespect.

Toon came back a few minutes later shaking her fist at me, but smiling. In some "Asian" cultures anger is expressed passively, with smiling. I didn't realize how angry she was until she explained what happened. I got up to go down the hall and give the office workers some grief for their behavior, but Toon stopped me. I soon realized it was more important to be with her in her anger and hurt. She was never more beautiful than at that moment.

On graduation day we posed for pictures, and joked around about our experiences. When it came time to go in for the ceremony, Toon lagged behind. I said to her, "Come on! It's time to go in!" She waved me off, saying "No, no, no. I want my king to give me my diploma. He gave me my high school and college diplomas, and I want him to give me this one too." She was at the graduation to have her picture taken in her cap and gown. I was dumbstruck. I didn't even think to tell her that we would only be getting a piece of paper that said our diplomas will arrive in the mail. The way she said it was so pure, so humble, and so rooted in her native land and traditions that I was in awe.

I got a job at the university library, and Toon stopped by a few times, once to invite me to a Buddhist ceremony that was being held upstairs, one time to give me a framed copy of the picture above, and then she was off with her husband to Thailand, where he worked for the government. He completed his Ph.D. in Political Science that summer.

The reason I tell this story is that I am reminded of my great friend every time the country of which I am a citizen goes meddling around the world. Especially during the time of the Bush criminal organization, where the invasion of "Iraq" was partially "justified" by the phony excuse that "we" were going to bring "them" "democracy." The invasion of "Afghanistan" had the ruse that "we" were going to find Osama bin Laden, but "we" also were going to bring "them" "democracy."

Democracy shemocracy. The invasion of "Iraq" was about taking over the world, one country at a time. But, as Robert Burns once observed, the best laid schemes o’ mice an' men gang aft a-gley. With the the Bush criminal organization, the schemes are a-gley from the get-go. The sheer arrogance of pretending to know what is best for people around the world should give some pause to these idiots, but they are idiots. Even defeat will not stop them.

Now the Bush criminal organization is pretending to know what is good for "Pakistan." Of all people to send to "Pakistan," the Bush criminal regime has sent John Negroponte, the planner for terrorist attacks on "Nicaragua" during the criminal administration of Ronald Reagan.

It's all about appearance. What the Bush criminal regime is really about is crime. What Negroponte says in public is not what he says in private. The president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is a partner to some degree in the Bush gang's schemes for the Mideast and South Asia, but he has other concerns.

Musharraf has to serve a number of masters, and the Bush criminal organization is not the main one. He is dependent on the "Pakistani" military for his personal and political survival. He has to get along with his large and powerful neighbors "India" and "China." He has to maintain a relative peace with his diverse population, most notably the "Pashtun" people of the "North-West Frontier" province. Like criminal alliances throughout history, the alliance between Musharraf and the Bush gang is fragile, and always subject to double-crossing and betrayal.

There is little question that most people in "Pakistan" want to have a democratic system. Pervez Musharraf gained power through a military coup. He has instituted a "state of emergency," cracking down on dissent, closing television stations, installing his own Supreme Court, and ordering the arrest and beating of thousands. For an update on "Pakistan," click here.

The only President of the United States in my lifetime who has shown any real concern about democracy is Jimmy Carter, and his record is mixed. Mixed is enough to get you a Nobel Peace Prize. Henry Kissinger has a Nobel Peace Prize. The record of U.S. presidents overthrowing governments and/or supporting dictatorships goes back to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy My Service Employees International Union card. A grievance was filed in my behalf that resulted in the “contractor” being removed from Hickam Air Force Base in 1985. They were crooks.on behalf of "European" and "American" sugar cane growers, which paved the way for democracy. In a curious twist of fate, the State of Hawaii is now one of the most "democratic," and is the most unionized state in the union. This is a story for another day.

Back to "Pakistan." British reporter Adrian Levy has written a book, Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons, revealing the secret help given to Pakistan by U.S. operatives. Read about it here. If nothing else, this book reveals that what we are hearing and reading from the mainstream media (msm) is crap. Lies. Distortions. Propaganda. Cover. Plausible deniability. Smokescreen. Smoke and mirrors. Wool over our eyes.

And, as it turns out, the revelations in Levy's book also reveal the phoniness about the official "U.S." drumbeat for war against "Iran." What a surprise. Though the Bush regime is still a very dangerous criminal enterprise, I can't help having a chuckle over the juggling act it now finds itself performing. Only the extremely naive, the criminal, and the ideologically possessed believe a word said by this regime.

Putting it all together are the words of John Bolton, former "U.S." ambassador to the United Nations: "The only question for the United States is what's in our national interest." Read: the interests of the money and power elite of the "U.S." This elite doesn't have any interest other than its own wealth, power, and privilege. It most certainly doesn't care a whit about my interests. It most certainly doesn't care a whit about the interests of the masses of people worldwide. This elite also most certainly doesn't care a whit about the ecosystem that supports all life on this planet.

It makes me wonder about something that my great friend did almost two decades ago. How many students from how many countries are refusing to have their graduation diplomas given to them by an "American?"

Here's a bit of political science. It kind of makes you want to sail away, doesn't it? If you wait long enough, they'll wash us away.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

As above, so below

George Ryan at his press conference before heading for prison, November 6, 2007It's been an interesting week in the realm of crime in high places. The Bush criminal regime's Attorney General nominee, Michael Mukasey, has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate, despite his refusal to recognize that waterboarding is torture.

Former Illinois governor George Ryan reported to prison with a clear conscience. Here's some pictures.

"Republican" presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani's former police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, was indicted, and entered a not guilty plea.

And internationally, Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, declared a state of emergency, closed all independent TV stations, stopped phone service in the capital, and arrested the country's supreme court. Since then many have been arrested, with protesters beaten and clubbed.

In other news, a Wisconsin judge ruled that a boy who was tortured and witnessed the murder of his mother will not have to testify against the accused.

And in Missouri, the stepfather of a murdered nine-year-old girl has been arrested as a suspect in the killing.

And for added perspective, our economy is collapsing.

Illinois Central train station, Kankakee, Illinois, 1972 Photo credit: John HamiltonI wasn't expecting to hear about George Ryan this week, but it was a perfect week for such news, because his story is an allegory for all the others. I wrote about Ryan in 2003, not long after he commuted all the death sentences of condemned prisoners in Illinois. From the age of ten I grew up in Kankakee, Illinois, where Ryan and his brother Tom were the proprietors of several pharmacies in town.

They were somewhat innovative, with modern looking stores. One of them was near where I lived, in the Meadowview Shopping Center, and we used to hang out there on the way home from high school. The store had a soda fountain and grill, and they played the latest rock 'n roll hits.

The Ryans were pioneers of sorts, hiring an "African-American" man as their delivery driver. In truly "racist" Kankakee, this was a bold move. Part of his delivery area was in the adjoining town, Bradley, which was even more baldly "racist," with not one "African-American" living in the entire village. I can only imagine what it must have been like for "J.D." to make deliveries there.

State of Illinois highway maps with George Ryan's name on them. If I live long enough, I can bring them to “Antiques Road Show”Tom became the mayor, and George was elected to the county board, and then the state legislature in the early 70s, both as "Republicans." Tom was considered the more powerful of the two, winning the mayoralty time after time, with a political machine that was a mini version of the huge Richard J. Daley juggernaut in Chicago. Corrupt to the core, Tom Ryan finally lost in the late 80s, and George rose to prominence, first as state House Speaker, and then as Secretary of State. This is an office with power rivaling that of the governor, and has had a history of corruption.

Ryan was no exception. He built a powerful network of campaign workers in the Secretary of State bureaucracy, where the resources of the office were employed to ensure his reelection. The principle method used was to give drivers licenses to people who were unqualified to drive in exchange for campaign donations.

I experienced the long reach of Ryan's organization when I was living in Kankakee in the early 90s. The "Democratic" party in the county was undergoing a resurgence, and had regained the state representative seat from the district, with reelection of the incumbent, Phil Novak, appearing likely.

I got a "push poll" call one night from one of Ryan's campaign workers, where the caller posed as an independent pollster. The first question was "If you knew that Phil Novak was controlled by the Chicago Democratic machine, would you still vote for him?" I answered gingerly, "That depends on what you mean by the Chicago Democratic machine, because the Chicago Democratic machine isn't what it used to be, just like the Kankakee Republican machine isn't what it used to be." There was an "ulp," and then on to the next question, "Are you pro-choice or pro-life?" I said "That's easy - both." Another "ulp." The "interview" ended shortly afterward.

On election day I was met at the polling place by Ryan campaign workers, an entirely illegal act. I said good morning, and walked past them without hesitation, and went inside to vote for Phil Novak, who won handily. The thing I remember most about the incident was the cockiness, the smugness of the campaign workers. They were friendly, but had an air of smart-alecky above-the-lawness. I wonder what they are doing now.

Legendary consciousness adventurer Ram Dass and me at the Omega Institute, July 1993Not long after that I left Kankakee, landing a job at the Omega Institute, a holistic studes center in Rhinebeck, New York. It was like being rescued from the bottomless pit. The institute provided the staff with free classes in such things as Tai Chi, meditation, African drumming, shamanism, a variety of natural healing therapies, drawing, poetry writing, Hatha Yoga, and even heretic Catholic theologian Matthew Fox.

A free drum jam with Arthur Hull at the Omega Institute, 1993. Photo credit: John Hamilton
When the workshop season at Omega ended I wanted to settle in a place that would make it easiest to study the kinds of things I was exposed to at Omega. The most compatible place seemed to be Madison, and here I have been since 1993.

But I digress. What, one might ask, does the criminality of George Ryan have to do with the criminality of others in high places? And what does their criminality have to do with that of people who torture and kill children and kill their parents in front of them?

What all these criminals have in common is their complete disregard for the lives of the people who are affected by their crimes. Like the most prominent criminal of our time, George W. Bush, they are afflicted with a form of sociopathy. George Ryan actually did some good in the world, showing clemency to convicted murderers. He also met with Cuban president Fidel Castro, and arranged for humanitarian aid to Cuba. But he still refuses to accept responsibility for the deaths caused by his corruption of the Secretary of State office.

When there is criminality at the top of the social structure, it drags the whole society down. As the great mystic Gurdjieff said in another context, as above, so below. Disrespect for law and the common good at the highest levels sets the standard for the rest of society, and at the bottom level, this disrespect naturally takes on a grisly character. It's no grislier than what George W. Bush has wrought around the world, with his "shock and awe," occupation, kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture, threats, and criminal negligence.

In my last time around in graduate school I worked in a student job as the projectionist in the auditorium classroom at the School of Business. One of the classes that met there was for a management course, and something the professor repeatedly said is worth repeating here: "The pace of an organization is set by the person at the top."

The person at the top of the "United States of America" is George W. Bush, criminal sociopath. All who support him - voters, media, corporations, "evangelists" - are supporters of heinous crime. They are the enablers who make his crimes possible, and are thus criminals themselves. Thanks, jerks. You have strutted and fretted your hour upon the stage, and will soon be heard no more. On to the next incarnation.

For the rest of us, we have the task of cleanup. Clean up the environment, clean up the economic system, clean up the government at all levels, clean up our relationships with the rest of the planet, clean up ourselves. We can do it. If you are wondering how, you might want to try a bit of holistic study.

Here's something I wrote on a related topic.

Here's a bit of traveling music. My grandfather was a conductor on that train.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Intellectual cover, side conversations, and the bounds of thinkable thought

Scott Simon, congenial host of NPR's “Weekend Edition Saturday”Since I don't identify with the "left" "wing" of the imaginary ideological "spectrum," it is begrudging when I agree with those who do have such an identity. Noam Chomsky, for instance, is probably the best known and most widely respected intellectual who identifies with the mythical "left."

Most insightful and incisive of Mr. Chomsky's analyses are his deconstructions of "Western," especially "American" mass communications media. In his book "Manufacturing Consent," and in articles previous and since, he compares the success of propaganda in "free" countries to that of "repressive" regimes, mainly the former "Soviet Union." Whereas the "Soviet" invasion of "Afghanistan" could not have been called an invasion in the "Soviet" media for fear of being sent to a "Gulag," in the "U.S." the various invasions, like in "Vietnam," could not be called invasions because it would be beyond the bounds of thinkable thought. A news broadcaster would not even think of calling "our" various military interventions what they are because it would be outside the parameters of acceptable thought and dialogue.

An example of this self-limiting dialogue occurred this morning on National Public Radio (NPR), when career host Scott Simon interviewed a couple of "Neocons" - supposed ideologues of "Neoconservatism," the intellectual foundation for the Bush criminal regime's "spreading of democracy" through pre-emptive war.

It was surreal, almost a caricature of fake intellectuals talking gibberish, ala Professor Irwin Corey. They at least admitted that the "Iraq" fiasco is a fiasco, but the interview took on the character of a side conversation, with the premise being that "American" intervention is well-intentioned, noble, and ultimately a good thing for humankind. Never mind what actually happens. It's the fundamental benevolence of the "Neocons" that matters.

"American" intervention in "Darfur" was given as a shining example of the benevolence of intervention. Never mind that "we" had to be shamed into "our" weak intervantion, and never mind that the real interest and energy is focused on attacking "Iran." It's the ideology that matters.

At least that is what is intended. Reset the parameters for thinkable thought. Reiterate the cover story that good intentions are the underpinning for all "American" foreign "policy" initiatives. Spread the story on every media outlet possible. As he has shown time and again, NPR's Scott Simon is more than happy to oblige. Below is what I wrote to "Morning Edition" this morning:

To: http://www.npr.org/contact/
From: Me
Date: November 03, 2007
Subject: Cover

I listened to this morning's "interview" with the two "neocons," and it left me wondering. What I wondered about was the process that was used to construct such a conversation. "Neoconservatism," now a supposedly discredited "ideology," is no ideology at all. It's full purpose has been to give intellectual cover to a moneyed elite that is motivated by greed, rapaciousness, and a genuine contempt for the mass of ordinary people worldwide. This is the historical character of the tyrant class.

Just as the "Neocon" think tanks are funded to give an academic face to what amounts to sociopathy, NPR has served the same purpose by constructing an "interview" whereby "ideologues" could make a pathetic case for their failed advocacy, which was phony from its inception.

It was almost comical that "Darfur" was given as one last gasping justification for intervention in other countries. The "American" ruling elite had to be shamed into involvement in "Darfur," and the involvement has been tepid at best. It will likely be a sustained involvement, though, because, surprise of surprises, oil is under the ground.

What was most revealing and significant about this "interview" is that the two men interviewed so eagerly accept their role as faux-intellectuals, whores really, for their sponsors, the funders of their "foundations" and their "research." Hmm. NPR is a "foundation" too. Such a meeting of the minds, a harmony of interests. The world's oldest profession thrives in Washington, D.C. The only real question is do you have the same pimp?

Here's some surreal music: Visions of Johanna, Ballad of a thin man, Desolation Row, Just like Tom Thumb's blues, and It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding).

And most surreal of all - Talkin' World War III Blues, a song that is due for a revival, eh, Bob?