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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.

My Photo
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, April 24, 2008

Limits to thought

Paul Krugman is probably the best known "leftist" economist in the "U.S." today. He provides insightful analyses in terms that the average person can understand, and has been most effective in exposing the fakery of the "policies" of the Bush criminal regime. His approach can best be described as "progressive." In Economics that term has a slightly different meaning from what it has in politics. It mostly applies to taxation, where people with higher incomes bear a greater burden, but can be broadened to describe an overall approach of increased responsibility required of those who receive the greatest rewards for living in the society. The other aspect of a "progressive" economic system would be an emphasis on distributive justice, where the state uses various means to make economic and social benefits more universal and equal.

Like anyone else, though, Krugman has his limits, as he revealed in his latest New York Times op-ed. It is a tenet of orthodox Economics that output can and must grow as a "secular trend." According to this unquestioned (except by a few) axiomatic truth, it is the prospect of growth that produces innovation, entrepeneurship, and increased "capital formation," leading to increased employment, income, and profits. Without growth, supposedly, none of these things can happen.

I don't read Krugman's column on a regular basis, but found a link to his screed in Salon. Both Krugman and Salon columnist Andrew Leonard decry the lack of alternative energy development.

Exposing the fallacy of infinite growth is one of my favorite pastimes, and I responded to both articles. Here's the one I posted to Salon:

If we pray really hard

I don't read this column very often. This offering doesn't inspire me to read it any more often. Too shallow.

Predicting the future, as anyone who has done so and failed will attest, is tricky business. Predicting the future of humanity is supremely tricky, as the author of this column will find out.

It is easy to predict that technology will save our way of doing things, and our species, but this belief is more conventional wisdom than sound analysis or reasoning. As such, it is in the realm of religion. The religion of materialism.

Even a mild sense of intuition would give pause to advocates of endless expansion. Not this author: "Synthetic biology and nanotechnology, alone, will offer humanity almost unlimited power to rebuild nature and the physical world. "

Almost unlimited power. Almost unlimited power. You cannot have almost unlimited power!!! (Think Jim Morrison in The Soft Parade. See it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNplOezgI9M)

What few economists or anyone else are willing to realize is that we have a worldwide infinite growth economic system operating on a finite planet. By its very nature this system must grow in order to survive. This characteristic is known as the growth imperative. Without a promise of increase in output, and thus profits and income, the economy dries up, and goes into decline.

All of world human history has been a growth trajectory, with various indigenous tribes being isolated exceptions. Once they are "integrated" into the mainstream culture, they join the grand trudge to infinite growth.

Or oblivion. No amount of the king's economists, pundits, or other assorted know-it-alls is going to be able to put this Humpty Dumpty together again, I predict. We have to chage our way of being on this planet if we wish to survive as a species. This is a tall order, but the option - increasing everything - output, population, pollution, species extinction, global warming - is no option at all. That is, unless you pray at the church of materialism.

-- HappyJack [Read HappyJack's other letters]

My reply to Krugman's article didn't make it past the censors, but I can post it here:

Limits to growth and related stuff

This is a curious offering from Paul Krugman. A better title would be "Limits to thought." While Mr. Krugman offers great insight into the workings of our economic system, and the Bush criminal regime's destruction of it, it is all within the conventional wisdom of modern economic thought.

What virtually no (employed) Western economist is capable and/or willing to admit is that the body of thought has its own limits. The chief limit is in recognizing that we have an infinite growth system on a finite planet. Much as we try, the planet is not an infinite supply of resources. Neither can it have an infinite growth of human population. Or garbage. Or fumes. Or melting. In this sense, the belief in infinite growth is a religion. A religion of materialism. Like the biblical loaves and fishes myth, the myth of infinite growth is adhered to by fundamentalists of materialism, of which Paul Krugman is a high priest, maybe even a monsignor.

The prospect of a future without growth of output is not a particularly attractive one, but the longer we delay facing it, the harder it will be to create a viable alternative. So the real question for humanity, or at least one of the three or so top questions, is do we, as a species, have the capacity to even contemplate a future without infinite increases in output?

The legendary horn of plenty. Source: John HamiltonBased on all currently available evidence, the answer is no. It is too unthinkable. We will continue on, desperately grabbing at anything that promises a continued horn of plenty, a cornucopia of resources, products, markets, and wealth.

That is, until the ecosystem says otherwise, which could happen tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next. Or...

Here's a song that can change minds.

Here's another.

Los Lobos, one of the great bands of all time.

A great song by the Waterboys. Feel free to ignore the video.

And, of course, Bob Dylan.

Neil Young.

Remember the Guess Who?

Talking Heads.


For this one I could only find words.

A bit of John Prine to soothe the soul.

Richie Havens.

And finally, the Beatles.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Maybe this time

Now that the Pope is gone the Bush criminal regime can resume its planning for attacking "Iran." A little time out for faking spirituality, and then back to plotting the deaths of thousands, maybe millions.

The Pope's visit reminded me of an idea I had in the runup to the invasion of "Iraq" in 2003. I thought that if Pope John Paul went to Baghdad, the Bush regime would be shamed into stopping the invasion. So I sent the following email:

Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2003 17:42:21 -0800 (PST)
From: Me
Subject: Stopping the insane war on Iraq
To: accreditamenti@pressva.va

His Holiness John Paul II
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City State

Your Holiness:

I write to you today out of a sense of great urgency. As you know the United States of America is on the verge of launching what may be one of the most cataclysmic wars in history, using weapons of mass destruction upon the Iraqi people, fifty percent of whom are less than 15 years of age.

Conservative estimates are that such a war will result in the death of 500,000 Iraqis. It seems clear that, at this time, you are the only person on Earth who can stop this war. Indeed, your physical presence in Baghdad will prevent the impending slaughter of hundreds of thousands of human beings, and force the international community of nations to identify and implement a truly peaceful resolution to this unprecedented, preemptive aggression.

I implore you to travel to Baghdad and to remain there until a peaceful solution to this crisis has been implemented. The lives of the people of the people of Iraq rest in your hands - as does the fate of the world.

It is worth mentioning that the Bush crime family would have no qualms over bombing even you, but they at least have the sense that the consequences of doing so would topple their house of cards. These are extremely evil people. George Bush is a military deserter, an alcohol and drug addict, a corporate criminal, and an election thief. He very likely had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks, if not planning assistance. The Anthrax attacks of 2001 were also very likely committed with his knowledge and assistance.

With hope,

John Hamilton
Madison, WI

Obviously, my idea went nowhere. Literally. It came back "undeliverable." As it turned out, Dr. Helen Caldicott came up with the same idea, and promoted it much more effectively, with exactly the same results. Pope John Paul probably found out about the campaign, but didn't go to Baghdad. He was near death at the time.

Maybe this pope can be convinced to go to Tehran or Isfahan. My suggestion is that he stay there until the Bush criminal regime is out of office. I think Pope Benedict is more likely than Pope Paul to go along with such a plan. He has a legacy to build, and a past to cleanse. He may have an alibi for being a member of Hitler Youth as a youth, but it is still a mark on his reputation. It doesn't help that he speaks English with the clichéd accent of countless World War II satires and action movies.

Pope Benedict also has made public statements critical of the Islamic faith, enraging Muslims worldwide. What better way to show his brotherhood than stopping the Bush criminal regime in its tracks, standing up to its murderous scheme?

This effort is doable. The first phase is talking about it, building interest and momentum. While the momentum builds, correspondence with the "Vatican" can also be initiated.

One thing I would suggest is to get the right email address.

Here's a song of yore, still worth a listen.

Here's another.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Who'll be the next in line?

Manadel Al Jamadi, murdered at Abu GhraibI received an email today from Robert Greenwald of Brave new films, asking me to sign a petition calling for the resignation of Condoleeza Rice. The reason for this campaign is because of her involvement in the Bush criminal regime's torture program.

This campaign of course begs the following question: Why start with Condoleeza Rice? What about Bush and Cheney? Isn't Rice a relatively minor player in the torture "policy?"

I "signed" the petition anyway, and included the following note of elaboration:

Condi must go

What nobody is asking is why the Bush criminal regime has been instituting an infrastructure of torture. I believe there are three reasons. One is that this regime is a criminal organization, and that torture is but a further example of its criminality. The second reason is to create a distraction - to deflect attention from its negligence or worse in allowing the attacks of September 11, 2001. The third reason is that the ultimate target for the practice of torture is the American people. If the country can be warmed to the idea, softened up for interrogation, so to speak, then the transition from foreign to domestic is eased greatly. Since the Congress won't impeach them, the Bush gang operates with impunity. The one thing we can do is keep both the Bush crime family (BCF) and the Congress under unrelenting pressure.

Torture is its own rewardThat's pretty much my entire view of the Bush regime's torture practice. As Salon points out, the news media are not exactly jumping on this story, though alternative outlets like Democracy Now are keeping the issue alive. The American Civil Liberties Union offers a bit of insight here.

I think it is safe to say that most "Americans" would rather not have an institutional practice of torture as national policy. Unfortunately, most people are sheep, not willing to move beyond a narrow range of concerns about work, family, entertainment, shopping, and church. Ending torture as a national disgrace will not come about as a result of an uprising of "the people."

It will have to come from the established order, the power structure, the elite. The problem is that it is the power structure that allows the torture. It can't be as simple as the Bush criminal regime being a "cowboy" operation, a discontinuity from the corporate/wealth/government infrastructure of power and ethical standards.

The Bush regime has support. The Congress effectively approves of torture, doing nothing to stop it. The corporate news media treat it as a curiosity. On TV it supplies a few soundbites, and not much more.

The "U.S." Supreme Court supports torture also, as evidenced by its refusal to hear the case of Khaled el-Masri, a "German" citizen who was kidnapped by the "CIA" in Macedonia in 2003, taken to Afghanistan, where he was tortured for five months and held there for five months in a secret prison. He was set free because his kidnapping was a case of mistaken identity. Of course, it could be argued that being a "member" of the "CIA" is a case of mistaken identity, but that's another story.

José Padilla being escorted to a dental appointmentSo it may be that a torture infrastructure has been on the way for a long time. I am certain that the main target of the program is the "American" people, not foreigners. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are the first efforts to establish the program, get the kinks worked out, develop a skill set, and gain some acceptance among the public. As the torture of José Padilla has revealed, the Bush regime has no qualms about torturing "Americans."

The Padilla case also established the "legality" of torture, indefinite detention, and being held incommunicado, all violations of the "U.S." Constitution. The "U.S." Supreme Court denied Padilla's attempt to gain a Habeas Corpus hearing on technical grounds, effectively rendering the Constitution meaningless.

Maybe we should just prepare for the inevitable. In case you would like to see what the future has in store, Salon has compiled a comprehensive collection of pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in "Iraq." Mother Jones has compiled an assortment of information on the Bush criminal regime's sadistic practices, Torture hits home. The question we will soon be asking is who'll be the next in line?

A song to sing when pondering the great question.

Here's a video of Khaled el-Masri.

Here's a commentary about the José Padilla case.

Here's an example of how domestic spying is coming to a neighborhood near you.

Here's a little light reading about what actually happens under a torture regime.

Update: Here's some more light reading about Bush's attitude towards arbitrary arrest of "American" citizens. Here's an elaboration.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


General David Petraeus testifying with Ambassador Ryan CrockerI watched "Nightline" last night, and most of the show was an interview with General David Petraeus and Ambassador to "Iraq" Ryan Crocker. It was pretty uninteresting, just a lot of platitudes about operational strategic considerations, incremental steps, fragile and reversible progress, and that further troop reductions can be made as conditions permit.

Joe LiebermanMy ability to listen to such claptrap is severely limited, so I tuned out. I focused instead on the impressions both men made. They seemed to me to be two of the most unremarkable people I have ever seen in public life. Petraeus, in particular, had the hapless bearing I have seen many times over the past eight years. He was a uniformed version of Joe Lieberman. His comically absurd chest of medals made his haplessness look even sillier. With the huge "mortarboard" of ribbons on his chest one would think he was the hero of heroes, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, William the Conqueror, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and Ulysses S. Grant all rolled into one.

General David PetraeusInstead, he's the latest in an ignominious series of mediocre commanders in the Bush criminal regime's ill-fated adventure in "Iraq." It struck me that the best way to illustrate the quality of the man would be to do a visual comparison with some of the great generals from our nation's past. Since World War II was the greatest international victory in "U.S" history, a comparison with generals from that era might be useful.

General Dwight D. EisenhowerDwight D. Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II, the leader of the D-Day assault on "German" forces, and President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. He was a decent man, and waged the war as honorably as could be done on such a massive scale. As president, he was a moderate "Republican," a far cry from the gaggle of criminals who now call themselves the "GOP" (Grand Old Party). Among the things he will be remembered for is sending the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 to enforce desegregation of Central High School.

General Omar N. BradleyGeneral Omar Nelson Bradley was one of the great heroes of World War II, serving in "North Africa" and "Europe." He was the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the last surviving General of the Army (five stars). He was known as the "soldier's soldier" because of his care and compassion for the troops under his command.

General George S. PattonGeorge S. Patton was one of the great commanders in World War II, leading troops to victory in "North Africa," "Sicily," "France" and "Germany." He was a fierce and aggressive leader, legendary for his intemperate outbursts and bravado.

Douglas MacArthur in the PacificDouglas MacArthur played a decisive role in the "U.S" victory in the Pacific Theater in World War II, especially in the "Philippines." After the war he was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in "Japan," and is credited with reviving the "Japanese" economy. He also was commander of "U.N." forces in the "Korean" war.

General George C. MarshallThe most outstanding of all the generals in World War II did not command troops in battle. Instead, General George C. Marshall planned the war from "Washington, D.C.," as Army Chief of Staff. From 1939 to 1945 he reorganized the Army, expanding it from 200,000 men to a force of over 8 million. He created the central strategy for all Allied operations in "Europe," selected Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander in "Europe," and designed the D-Day invasion of "Normandy." Winston Churchill called him "the true organizer of victory." He also coordinated the operations in the "Pacific." He became the first General of the Army, a five star rank, in 1944.

Despite these accomplishments, Marshall is best remembered for being the leading planner of post-war reconstruction aid to war-damaged coutries in "Europe." As Secretary of State in the Truman Administration, he oversaw the contribution of more than thirteen billion dollars of economic, agricultural, and technical assistance, enabling the region to regain its economic footing. Truman named the program the Marshall Plan, and for his efforts Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953, the only career soldier ever to receive the prize.

Patton was relieved of command for slapping a soldier, and MacArthur was relieved of command in Korea for publicly criticizing President Harry S Truman, but they both stand in stark contrast to our current crop of generals. In recent times we have had the religious fanatic William Boykin, torture advocate Geoffrey Miller, incompetent Ricardo Sanchez, and erstwhile Secretary of State Colin Powell, who presented phony evidence to the "U.N." to justify the invasion of "Iraq." He also was involved in the Army's attempt to cover up the My Lai massacre during the "Vietnam" war.

The differences between the generals who excelled in World War II and today's sad offerings are not meaningless. And it is not meaningless to compare the the physical appearance of these generals. The eyes are the windows to the soul, it is said, and the demeanor and facial structure reveal much of the character of the individual. I don't think Joe Lieberman looked hapless when he was a "freedom rider" in the 1960s. It took a slow corruption of character to reach the point where he is today, apologist for torture and cheerleader for attacking "Iran."

I don't believe David Petraeus was born looking hapless either. When he graduated from West Point he likely resembled other cadets - disciplined, intelligent, athletic, and ready to defend the country. Like his fellow supporter of the Bush criminal regime, the decline had to have taken place over a long period of time. A career in the military can exert strong pressures on a person's character, with promotions and medals often awarded for reasons other than merit. Like in any bureaucracy, advancement depends on how well one fits into the organization, how well one "plays the game." It's like The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The upside of melding into the Borg is that you move up, get promoted, make more money, gain more honor, and have more privilege. The downside is you lose your soul. For most, that is an acceptable trade. To the degree that a nation becomes one big Borg, it becomes a force of evil. The people start looking hapless.

MG Antonio Taguba, forced to retire after truthfully investigating and reporting the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in “Iraq”In the context of the moral and ethical mediocrity of the invasion and occupation of "Iraq," it is fitting that David Petraeus is the public face of the fiasco. A hapless war, a hapless occupation, foisted on the planet by a hapless criminal gang. The good generals, like Antonio Taguba, have mostly quit or been fired. Officers are leaving the military in droves. "The world's only superpower," we have never been so vulnerable.

And our deserter president has another military campaign to foist upon the planet, the impending attack on "Iran." We don't know when the attack is planned for, but the latest speculation is some time before the November "election." With commanders like David Petraeus leading the charge, it will be another fiasco.

Joe Lieberman, the new American hero, devoid of heroism, decency, or honorThe Bush criminal regime will have to find a fresh commander to lead the attack on "Iran." In the spirit of the times, with the succession of generals we have had in "Iraq," a new one is needed. I have the perfect candidate, one who will inspire courage, determination, and most important of all, "Joe-mentum." With such a great man leading the charge, the attack will be one of destiny, consistent with the other great successes of the Bush era. I even have a fight song for the mighty onslaught. Click here to sing along. There is only one real question when such a great hero leads the charge: If he fails, will he be a sore loserman?

Here's some of the Petraeus claptrap.

Here's a claptrap analysis.

For a bit of info on what the BCF (Bush crime family) really has planned for "Iraq," read here.

Here's a song that fits.

Here's another.

Country Joe and the Fish never get old.

Here's a Dylan classic.

And of course, John Lennon.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The crescendo approaches

Defeated Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler and newly elected Justice Michael Gableman Wisconsin had an election Tuesday, mainly for a seat on the state Supreme Court. It was the dirtiest race for public office in state history, with the incumbent, Louis Butler losing to self-proclaimed "conservative" Michael Gableman. The winner was supported by "Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce," a lobbying organization, which mounted an advertsing campaign against Butler that generated hysteria about Butler's supposed "softness on crime" and his "African-American" background. You can read about it here.

This race was significantly dirtier than the previous Supreme Court race, in which the winner was disciplined for passing judgement on cases in which she had a financial interest. She also is a professed "conservative." In Wisconsin that means a free ride for corporations to commit crimes in furtherance of their profits. The "law and order" part is just fuel for those who wish to see more "African-Americans" in jail.

In other news, a major airline has been flying defective planes with the cooperation of the Federal Aviation Administration.

A Federal judge is allowing an investigation against Countrywide Financial Corporation, which has been accused of bankruptcy fraud in 293 cases.

Last month National Public Radio aired a segment about how part of the housing credit crisis was caused by the rampancy of real estate appraisal fraud.

Bush's LawLast week the public radio program "This American Life" described some of the methods the Bush criminal regime uses in the realm of border security and immigration, revealing the pettiness and extremes this gang goes to on a routine basis.

A story in Salon described how the Federal government trumped up a case against an ordinary citizen, using witness blackmail and fake evidence to get a conviction in a "terrorism" prosecution.

Democracy Now interviewd Eric Lichtblau, the author of a book titled Bush's Law, where he describes how the Bush criminal regime has its own method of creating and interpreting law to enable its lawlessness.

So Wrong for So LongDemocracy Now also interviewed Greg Mitchell, author of So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits, and the President Failed on Iraq. In a nutshell, they failed because they were and are corrupt - criminals.

Topping it all off, the Pentagon this week declassified the infamous torture memo, the Bush criminal regime's justification for its "harsh interrogations."

Any of these stories could be picked out as a hologram, a part that reveals the whole, but for me it was the real estate appraisal story that told it all. As the story showed, the fraud is widespread and systemic. The entire real estate industry is corrupt.

Which raises this question: Are we a corrupt people? Are we, the "American" public, hopelessly flawed, prone to criminality, willing to break any law when it is to our advantage? Do we rationalize kidnapping, torture, false imprisonment, whimsical invasions, corruption of our justice system, spying on fellow citizens, crony capitalism, and any other form of government criminality, all in obeisance to the "authority" of our "rulers?"

I wouldn't go quite that far, but I think it is safe to say that we are effectively a criminal civilization. In other words, though we aren't a majority criminal society, our institutions of government, business, religion, and information media are controlled by a criminal system of ethics and practice. It is not universal, but it is effectively criminal.

The majority of people of Wisconsin are not criminals for electing a dishonest judge to the Supreme Court, but they are close. Vulnerability to propaganda is no excuse for weak citizenship. Stupidity may be, and the combination of a failing school system with a mindless cultural milieu is certainly making for a dim-witted populace.

All to the delight of our corporate and power elites. A dumb citizenry makes their criminality much easier.

The main long-term problem for a comprehensively corrupt system is that eventually it fails. Airlines that fly dangerous planes generally have passengers from the wealthier classes of society - lower middle, middle, upper middle, and upper class. When their planes crash, members of all these demographic groups die.

The same goes for the pharmaceutical companies. When their medicines kill, they kill across the endowed sectors of society.

Tainted food that results from a lack of FDA inspections kills the rich as well as the poor.

The financial and real estate industries, through their bribes, er, campaign contributions, to mainly "Republicans" may be committing fraud against the "American" people as a whole, but these perpetrators are "Americans" themselves. They are consumers of the same products as everyone else, though perhaps at a more luxurious or "high-end" level. Government officials ride commercial airlines. When the planes crash, they end up as dead as everyone else. There is no escape.

Thanks to the corruption of our culture, manifest in our institutional practices, we are a nation turned on itself. It is a problem worldwide, to be sure - priests are molesting children elsewhere - but nothing approaches the scale of mutual assured destruction (MAD) that exists in the "United States of America."

Into this maelstrom has stepped Barack Obama, candidate for president. He doesn't advocate anything drastic, just a sense of morality and truth.

Barack Obama in PhotoshopHe has ignited a wildfire, yuk, yuk. At a time when we are being faced with our national criminality on a daily basis, he presents us with a demeanor of calm, decency, and warmth, mixed with strength and determination. He is being called the "black" candidate, when he is not "black" at all. He is being called "Un-American," as if there is such as beingness as "American" that can be codified and enforced.

Win or lose, the candidacy of Barack Obama is making this a fun year. Our national cognitive dissonance is being stirred up, heated up, fanned, basted, marinated, and sautéed. The higher sensibilities of people, as well as their lower sensibilities, are being awakened and fueled, challenged and aroused. We are having a mirror held to our faces, and the reflection is not so pretty. For many of us it is a motivator for good.

A scene we'd like to seeAs per usual, I am optimistic. By election day this cognitive dissonance should reach a crescendo. I suspect that willingness to change will prevail. Barack Obama will be our next president. The Bush gang will be sent to Nuremberg. Always look on the bright side of life.

For some background on Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce click here.

Need some cheering up? Watch and listen to this.

This is a must listen.

Here's a bit of a surprise.