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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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Killer on the road

There has been much in the news about the Valentine's day shootings at Northern Illinois University, the latest being that Cole Hall, where the shootings took place, will be demolished. It's a good start. A lot of buildings on the DeKalb campus should be demolished. The campus is a huge eyesore, though it fits perfectly in DeKalb, a profoundly mediocre town located 65 miles west of Chicago. Its main source of renown is that it is where barbed wire was invented. The local high school is nicknamed "The Barbs." It is also where "supermodel" Cindy Crawford was born and grew up, and from whence she has said she couldn't get away from fast enough.

DeKalb is also the home of the DeKalb Genetics Corporation, now a part of the notorious Monsanto chemical and genetic engineering behemoth.

In 1986 I began graduate studies at NIU, and the main feature I noticed as I entered the town was the Romanesque Revival building pictured at the right. The building would have been a beautiful landmark, at the intersection of Fourth Street and Lincoln Highway, except for one thing. It had a big banner hanging on the porch that said "BINGO!" When I saw that, I had a sinking feeling, which continued to sink as I progressed to the NIU campus, a study in ugliness that has to be seen to be believed.

Much speculation is being made about the motivations and state of mind of the killer, Steven P. Kazmierczak, with talk about how he had a history of depression, that he stopped taking his medications, that he was an abuser of his girlfriend, and that he had bouts of wounding himself with a knife as a teenager.

There also have been endless stories about the students who were killed and wounded, about the mourning at the NIU campus, about the lack of safety at schools nationwide, about gun dealers, and about the potential killers among us. Pictures of Kazmierczak with the creepy tattoos he had branded on his arms have also been shown on various news sites.

It's all well and good, but I can't help wondering why there hasn't been such media scrutiny of an easily detected sociopathic killer lurking among us for decades. The long history of the criminality and sadism of one George W. Bush has been known at least since he deserted the Texas Air National Guard. His torture of animals has been known since at least the time he was governor of Texas, and his glee in signing death warrants for condemned prisoners is also well-known.

Bush's criminal activities with his former businesses are also well-known. It is most clearly known by this country's ruling elite and corporate news media, who have no problem whatsoever with his criminality, and have given him cover over the past seven years.

Playing war hero againSince Bush has taken office, and I do mean taken, we have had the attacks of September 11, 2001, the invasions and occupations of "Afghanistan" and "Iraq," Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition, Halliburton, Blackwater, Anthrax attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the decline of our economy. We have had denial of the change in our climate, and the resulting inaction in dealing with it. As drought, hurricanes, forest fires, tornadoes, storms, and environmentally caused diseases like asthma and cholera are increasing in frequency and severity, the Bush criminal regime has done nothing. With the help, I might add, of both "Democrats" and "Republicans" in the "U.S" Congress.

You'll pay for that remarkThe criminality and senseless slaughter that has been foisted on the planet by George W. Bush and his cronies are far worse than anything done by Steven P. Kazmierczak. Bush has almost eleven months left in office, so he still has plenty of time for more mayhem. His plans for bombing and/or invading "Iran" so far have been thwarted, but he's not giving up. He may yet get his wish.

Killings far worse than the ones in DeKalb happen every day in "Iraq," thanks to the Bush criminal regime. More people die in Afghanistan on a daily basis than what happened at NIU, and the "Israelis" routinely bomb civilians in the "Palestinian" areas, with the enthusiastic support of the Bush criminal regime.

As least Steven P. Kazmierczak had the decency to destroy himself after his killing spree. The planet should be so lucky that George W. Bush would have the same decency.

This is the only song I could think of to go with this post.

Here's a good movie to see. It's this year's Academy Award winner for best documentary.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The fragmented society

When I heard about the killings at Northern Illinois University I was driving to work. A snowstorm was just starting, and there were already cars sliding off the road onto the medians and shoulders. On the way home that night there was a car upside-down in the median, with two police cars attending to the situation, and an ambulance coming from the opposite direction.

It was a strange juxtaposition of events. The precariousness of life was more apparent for me that day, because Northern Illinois University is one of my alma maters. I earned a master's degree in Educational Psychology there in 1989. I felt a grieving for the victims that was similar to losing a friend.

In addition to grief, I also felt a revulsion for the entire context of the incident. Northern Illinois University is a pretty good school academically, with one of the top schools of education in the country. The school of music is renowned, attracting top students from all over the world. The art department also has a national reputation, and the school of business is top-notch. It even has a highly regarded dance department.

In spite of the quality of the university, I hated the place. DeKalb is a little rathole of a town, and the NIU campus has to be one of the ugliest, if not the ugliest campus in the country. The layout of the buildings on campus can best be described as Soviet. No coordination whatsoever, with buildings facing every which way, a conglomeration of architectural styles that begins with the old campus on the east end, descending to greater degrees of ugliness as the campus grew to the west. A crescendo of sorts is reached at the extreme west end of the campus, with several high-rise dormitories that from a distance look like nuclear plant cooling towers. Feng Shui, the Chinese art of design and space, would have been a helpful consideration, but is conspicuously absent.

The hodgepodge of buildings is likely due to the politics of higher education in Illinois. University officials, as part of their perceived duty to make the school grow, lobby legislators to allocate funds for new buildings. Architects and designers are hired, not necessarily on a merit basis, and the buildings are built, crammed into whatever space deemed usable.

Adding to the depressive character of the campus, the school's colors are red and black, a combination usually associated with demonic forces.

Me impersonating an Economics professor, May 1973. One of my teachers hired me, sort of, to “be” him at the graduation ceremony. The guy was about five foot two, and the gown came up to my knees. It was pretty obvious I was not a professor, and the school officials on the stage were steaming mad. It was great fun.One of my other alma maters, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, has a beautiful campus, sprawling over 1133 acres, with a woods and small lake providing a balance to the man-made structures. The reason for the difference, I believe, is because of the vision of its longtime president, Delyte W. Morris. Morris was legendary for bringing state elected officials to the campus, and pulling various ruses to convince them to appropriate more money to SIU. The most notorious method was to require students to take night classes at old World War II barracks that were built for pilot training. He then would bring legislators in, telling them that the lack of classroom space was so dire that students had to take night classes in the barracks. Morris was fired in 1969 as a result of his connection to the Paul Powell scandal, but his legacy lives on, and he is credited for making the university what it is today.

Not long after Morris left, a building rivaling the ugliness of NIU was built, stuffed into an area that was formerly a parking lot, and part of the campus woods was removed.

Though I don't have the fondest memories of Carbondale either, I don't look back at the university with revulsion, as I do with Northern Illinois. I can't help wondering what influence the ugliness of the campus had on Steven Kazmierczak, the former student who shot twenty one people, killing five of them before killing himself. Cole Hall, where the shootings took place, is in the ugliest area of the main campus.

Kazmierczak was no longer residing in DeKalb, living in Champaign with his sister and supposedly taking classes at the University of Illinois. He didn't see fit to do his killing a the U of I, but instead traveled to DeKalb, a 144 mile journey.

Whatever was going on in the mind of Steven Kazmierczak, a couple of things seem obvious. One is that it shouldn't be so easy to buy a gun whenever you get a notion to kill someone. The supposed innate "right" to bear arms is a contextual right, amended to the Constitution at a time when an armed citizenry was deemed necessary for the common defense. The fanatics who demand unlimited access to weaponry of all kinds are mentally and emotionally disturbed individuals with neurotic needs in the realms of "manhood" and safety. I wrote about gun-nuttery last April after the Virginia Tech shootings, and the same ideas apply to this shooting.

In the same post I also wrote about the phenomenon of mental illness and alienation in a mass society. Repeatedly in the last few days I have read about how no one had a clue that Steven Kazmierczak would do such a thing. Well, the clues were there, but no one could "connect the dots." In a tribal society, an individual who behaves strangely would be noticed, and, depending on the tribe, would be dealt with in one way or another, varying from healing to punishment and/or removal. In a truly integrative society, alienation would be unlikely, and treated holistically when it occurs - as a community concern, where the well-being of everyone is vital.

Of course, in an integrative, holistic society a campus as ugly as the one in DeKalb would never have been built.

It's hard to think of an appropriate song, but this one comes pretty close.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The next president of the "United States"

Barack Obama at a rally in Santa Barbara, California last SeptemberPredicting the future is always tricky business, but I think it is safe to say that Barack Obama will be the next president of "The United States." He has the mojo, the energy, the thunder of the moment. Even the owners and managers of Deibold have to realize that to steal this election would likely cause riots and maybe even a revolution, resulting in the end of Diebold.

On issues I supported Dennis Kucinich, but he had no hope of becoming president. People vote based on perception, and Kucinich doesn't exactly project leadership. It matters little. Obama can lead the nation, but he will be a follower as well as a leader. Global warming is now clearly recognized as a serious problem, and as recent weather, forest fires, and drought have shown, we either reverse the warming trend or we join the long list of extinct species.

The Obama administration will be replacing the regime of George W. Bush, the most brazenly criminal presidency in the nation's history. To have any meaningful credibility, Obama will have to remake the Justice Department, and will have to bring to justice the perpetrators of the crimes of the past seven years - Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Wolfowitz, Bremer, Perle, Libby, Tenet, Chertoff, and many others.

A good place to start is to have a real investigation of the causes of the attacks of September 11, 2001. This could be followed by a real investigation of the reasons for the invasion and occupation of "Iraq."

Our infinite growth economic system is now breaking down. The criminality of our corporate and investment classes of course is accelerating the process, but the breakdown would be happening anyway as a long-term trend. One way or another, Barack Obama will have to form policies to deal with this breakdown.

He will likely find that trying to form a national health care policy by cooperating with the insurance companies will be a painful lesson. The only way to have a real, equitable national health care system is to establish what is known as a single payer system. My father, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, favored socialized medicine. When I asked him about it, he replied, "I don't care who pays me, as long as they pay me!"

He knew all too well the criminality of the medical profession - money grubbing, unqualified doctors pronouncing themselves "surgeons," splitting fees for referrals, doing unnecessary operations based on fake referrals, etc., etc., etc. - all so they could live the high life, pillars of the community, rolling in relative wealth.

Nowadays, of course, it is much worse. Patients are lucky if they get necessary surgery. The money has moved to the insurance companies, the HMOs. Doctors are still making plenty of money, but they are mainly in the various surgical specialties - neurosurgery, cardiac, cancer, cosmetic. The old-fashioned general practitioner has been transformed into today's "care provider," hostage to an HMO.

Barack Obama will have to reform the Department of Labor, making it actually do its job of acting in the interests of "American" workers. This includes reviving the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), so that the "American" workplace is not a life-threatening place to be earning a living.

The distribution of income in the "United States" will have to be made vastly more even than what it is now. One way to do this, that no economist that I know of has ever proposed, is establishing an income and wealth ceiling - a maximum income. Gandhi once said that to have more than you need is to be a thief. We have a thief class running this country - corporate, political, personal. We can relieve them of their sinful ways by making it illegal to have, say, more than five times the average income in the country. Barack Obama is the man to get such a law established.

The only meaningful penalties for polluters of our air, land, and water are long-term prison sentences. Barack Obama is the man to make such penalties be a matter of law.

There are many more things our man of the hour, Barack Obama can do to save this country. In the coming days and months, many ideas will be expressed. For now, these few will do. The first order of business is to get elected.

The smartest thing Barack Obama can do to get elected is to select a female to be his running mate. I don't think Hillary Clinton would be suitable, but I have someone else in mind who would be a perfect choice. Barbara Mikulski, senator from the state of "Maryland." She has a spotless and honorable record as a true democrat, advocating for the well-being of all people for decades. Her age, 71, could be seen as a drawback, but she's a month older than the likely "Republican" candidate, John McCain, and would take votes away from him among older voters.

McCain posing in front of the nation's capitol buildingSpeaking of McCain, I believe he has little, if any, chance of being elected, Diebold be damned. A former tortured prisoner of war would be a great risk to put in such a position of power. The post-traumatic stress of his years of torture would manifest in the first national crisis he faces, a near-certainty. He also is a survivor of the fire aboard the USS Forrestal in 1967, another source of traumatic stress.

If you ever have wondered why his left cheek is swollen, it is because of his treatment for Melanoma - a very serious form of cancer. It is extremely unlikely that he has been "cured" of this disease, and if he were "elected," his tenure would not likely be for very long. He's 71 years old, and the post-traumatic stress and cancer histories, added to the pressures of the job of president, would tend to make his time in office a short one.

Then, of course, there are his "policies." War, war, and more war. "Conservatism," a free-floating term. In essence, what "Conservatism" really means is a free ride for the rich, bigotry, destruction of the ecosystem, empire, and movement towards police state. All of this is under the guise of "free enterprise," "freedom," and "family values." It's all B.S., but it's been a "successful" "movement" since 1980. Its days of "success" are over.

The curtain has now been pulled back, thanks to the Bush criminal regime, but "Conservatives" still have a few tricks up their collective sleeves. McCain is the perfect last trick. An ill-tempered, ethically tarnished, intellectually weak politician, he is an appropriate choice to lead the comprehensively criminal "Republicans." He has no charisma, no thunder, no ideas, and little ability to lead. With the legacy of "Conservatism" in tatters, he would find his short tenure in the presidency a form of torture, with results most would not care to contemplate.

It's all pretty moot. McCain is not the man of destiny. I predict - with the caveat that he who thinks he knows, knows not - that Barack Obama will defeat McCain by the largest margin in "U.S" history - 70% to 26%, with the other 4% going to Ralph Nader and other minor candidates.

One piece of advice I would offer to Barack Obama is this: Stop rounding off your words, and stop stretching your vowels ala Dr. Martin Luther King. Your only roots in "American" slavery are from your "white" ancestors, who likely owned a few. JFK and FDR felt no need to "commonize" their public speaking, and you shouldn't either. Best of luck. I don't envy you the task ahead.

Here's something for a little inspiration.