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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, October 30, 2008

Our only real choice

Early voting, Madison, Wisconsin, October 29, 2008 Photo credit - John HamiltonOne of the nice things about Barack Obama's campaign is that he provides supporters the opportunity to create their own blogs on his website. Believing my input could help, I started a blog on the site. Here's today's offering:

When Obama is president

I was a plumber for about six years. I miss it. It was an occupation where I would have the satisfaction of a job well-done on a daily basis. After age 40 it starts getting hard on the body, and 40 was a couple of decades ago. I started too late in life, and moved on to other things when the aches and pains became too frequent and intense.

I only mention this because having been a plumber gives me the moral authority to represent truth, justice, and the "American" way. I voted early last week, for Obama (Here's how the scene looked yesterday). I had been toying with the idea of voting for Nader, but I have had an Obama sticker on my front door for about six months, and felt obliged to be consistent.

Mostly, though, I voted for Obama because I like him, and figure that he's worth the chance. On the level of discourse alone, he will raise the country's level of interaction by his example. He will appoint competent, professional people to head government agencies. He will appoint Supreme Court justices based on jurisprudence and integrity.

The range of policy options for the President of the "United States" are pretty narrow, so Obama will not likely to be the great agent of change we would like him to be. If he is able to produce even minor redistributions of wealth and income, I will be surprised. The corporate power structure in this country will not change significantly until it collapses, which may well happen during Obama's tenure.

Most problematic for the Obama presidency will be his adherence to established mythologies and practices. He calls "Iran" our enemy, and promises to increase our involvement in "Afghanistan" and, by extension, "Pakistan" The reasons given are spurious: countering the supposed nuclear "threat" from "Iran," and "defeating" "The Taliban" and "Al Qaida." All of these escalations will almost certainly lead to disaster.

Our "Foreign Policy Establishment" can accurately be looked at as an exclusive club of immature teenagers with stacks of violent video games. They don't represent you or me, the country, or anyone else. Henry Kissinger is the archetype - an entity unto himself, a world criminal who is responsible for vastly more deaths than Saddam Hussein or any other dictator in the modern era.

General Dwight D. EisenhowerWhat is really going on is a perpetuation of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about decades ago. If there are not sufficient worldwide "threats," then it becomes difficult to justify our bloated Pentagon budget, as well as massive spending for our various "security" agencies.

Events will overtake. What has not been mentioned about our economic crisis is that the profligate lending that led to the credit breakdown gave the economy its fake growth for most ot the Bush era. There are no growth prospects, real or fake, that will make the economy prosper. Joseph Schumpeter listed early in the 20th Century the factors that are necessary for GNP growth: new markets, new sources of raw materials and labor, new products, new organization of industry, new methods of production, new methods of transportation, and new methods of communication.

We don't have new anything on the horizon that will generate increases in output in our infinite growth system. Solar energy, at best, will allow a stagnant level of energy use. We have fished the seas to near-extinction, cut the forests to levels of of denuding that make reforestation very difficult, and are threatening our own future existence with our emissions of carbon dioxide. These factors are only a part of our self-threats.

Therefore, the system will change, whether we like it or not, and with or without Barack Obama. The best thing that has happened during this election is that people have become engaged. In a few days, Barack Obama will be our new president-elect. It is up to us to make sure that the change we expect and hope for actually takes place.

Here are a few addtional reasons why it is important that Barack Obama is elected President of the United States: It will be less likely that Bush will be able to get away with his many crimes if Obama wins. We will likely have a professional and ethical Department of Justice. It will be less likely that Bush will successfully pardon the numerous criminals from his administration. We will be more likely to find out what really happened in the months previous to and after the attacks of September 11, 2001. We will be more likely to find out the real source of the Anthrax attacks in the aftermath of the "911" attacks.

We will likely find out who actually won the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004. We will be more likely to find out what really went on in the planning for the invasion of "Iraq." We will be more likely to bring to justice the former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and anyone else involved in the corruption of the Department of Justice. We will be more likely to find out about the criminality involved in awarding contracts to Halliburton and other war profiteers.

We will be more likely to find out the relationship between our economic meltdown and the bribing of members of Congress for favorable legislation. We will be more likely to have measures to reinvigorate the economy that will not destroy the environment and increase poverty (Still, as I said above, our economy is not going to revive in the long run in any way that will resemble the profligacy and consequence-free abundance of the past.).

Obama is not the Messiah, which he has taken pains to remind us. Still, if this country has any hope at all of saving itself, and of restoring its place in the world as a beacon of opportunity and hope, he is our only real choice next Tuesday. Barring massive vote fraud, I expect him to win in a landslide.

Here's the text of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex.

Here's some info on the prison-industrial complex.

For an update on how low a man will stoop to become president, read here.

Here's a little something from the Capital Times. They didn't use my title/headline: "Desperados waitin' for a train." There's a song by this name, written by Guy Clark, performed here by Jerry Jeff Walker (For the lyrics, click here).

I have found that I have to explain metaphors, especially to relatives. For relatives and others reading this, the desperdados are the "Republicans." The train they are waiting for is the election. The metaphor is that the "Republicans" are waiting for the election so that they can "rob" it, stealing the election. The theft is in changing the election results so that the "Republican," John McCain, is awarded the victory, when actually he will have lost.

I should "hang out a shingle" (another metaphor, for starting a business and posting a sign), offering to explain Bob Dylan songs. For this I would charge money, $200 an hour minimum. Free tip: metaphors can mean whatever you want them to mean. The context tends to make the metaphor more specific, but not always. Sometimes you can just revel in the mystery and ambiguity. Even after the free tip, most would still be confused, wanting a detailed explanation. We are living in unexalted times.

For an example of how Bob Dylan uses metaphor, click here. For another, click here. This too. I will explain them for $10,000 per song. I guarantee disappointment.

Here's something to listen to for a little election day comfort.

Here's another.

For some fun while waiting for the vote tallies, click here.

For a little encouragement, Leonard Cohen.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Debunking a few myths

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speaks to thousands of supports at Monona Terrace in Madison last fall. JOSEPH W. JACKSON III - State JournalIt's kind of old news, but the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison's "conservative" newspaper, endorsed Barack Obama in its Sunday, October 12 edition (This version loads easier). There were some snide comments posted on the paper's website, and I had a bit of fun replying to a couple of them. Here's the first one:

There will be many sour grapes to pick this fall, which can be stomped into a bitter wine for supposed "right-wingers" to drink. I see one guy, a supposed raptor, is already picking sour grapes. Drink deep, and drink often, feathered one.

Check yo mama's citizenship! If Obama were not a citizen, he would not be running for president. You can trust me on that one. He was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. Hawaii became a state of the Union August 21, 1959.

McCain was born in Panama. Though a citizen, he is actually unqualified to be president on place of birth alone. Of course, he's unqualified for other reasons, not the least of which is the boatload of PTSD he's carrying around. He also is a certifiable corrupt politician, having been a member of the notorious "Keating Five" savings and loan criminal conspiracy. I could go on. Let's just leave it at etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Most people who use the term "Socialism" don't know what it means. It is the investment of the means of production in the people as a whole. Barack Obama hardly qualifies as a "Socialist," but if ideology is the world you live in, then he has to have some kind of label. It's likely more acceptable than what the feathered one would prefer to use.

I'm not particularly an Obama fan, but will probably vote for him. I toyed with voting for Nader, but don't like him much, though he's the most truthful, and advocates the policies most likely to advance civilization. Whoever is president will have a very difficult time in office, as our entire economic system teeters on the verge of collapse.

Here comes McCainWe may end up "Socialist" whether any of us like it or not. It would be a bitter irony for supposed "ideologues" of the "right." Capitalism, through its excess of greed and rapaciousness, ushers in its own demise. A bitter wine, indeed.

By the way, I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I didn't kill anyone, and certainly didn't bomb any civilians even once, to say nothing of 22 times (23 if you count the one failure). I much prefer my military record to that of John Sidney McCain. Wink

There was a reply to my comment, and I answered:

Someone is curious about my voting habits. Though I vote by secret ballot, I don't mind mentioning a few votes. I voted for Clinton in '92, Nader in '96, Nader in 2000, and Kerry in 2004. I was going to waste my vote on Nader again in 2004, but went to the Bruce Springsteen/Kerry rally in Madison the Friday before the election, and gave in.

In 2004 I was naive enough to think that voting for Kerry would help defeat Bush. I didn't realize how far advanced the vote theft infrastructure the "Republicans" set up was. I don't think they will be able to pull it off this time, though I could just as easily be wrong again.

As far as being a "Vietnam" veteran is concerned, I don't look at it as a qualification or disqualification. It wasn't the people who went there who started the war. One does reap what one sows, though, and bombing women, children, the elderly, the infirmed, and other civilians does not a hero make. As far as McCain's supposed heroism is concerned, we won't be hearing any more about it in a few weeks.

The reptilian brain, home of “right-wingers”I should mention a little about the mythical "right wing" that has so many people either scared, alarmed, repulsed, or aroused, one way or another. I don't look at it as an "ideology" so much as a mental and emotional condition. Psychologists liken it to the "reptilian brain," because it is characterized by a sub-rational perceptual-emotional connectivity and fight-or-flight hyper-reactivity. Additional factors are low self-esteem and inferiority complex, and resentment of others, especially those perceived as smarter, privileged, and successful.

The metaphor of the linear "spectrum" of "left" and "right" is outmoded, adhered to by people who have an ego interest in its continuation. Hate media of various kinds are the most obvious. But you can't have a "right" without a "left," and Madison is replete with followers of the sinestra side of the pretend "spectrum." It is equally unthinkable to them that the "spectrum" doesn't actually exist. They also have to have someone to oppose, fear, and loathe.

I don't expect a lot from Obama's presidency, but his tenure is likely to be at least the beginning of the end of the silly and harmful model of reality known as the "left" to "right" horizontal "spectrum." It will be good riddance. I hope it is accompanied by "treatment" options. Like in any addiction remission, it will take great skill, compassion, and patience.

The fun continues. Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for Reagan and Bush 1 (or 41, depending on your preference), is among the shameful "conservatives" trying to revive their reputations (good luck). She was interviewed on the October 3 edition of NPR program "On Point." It wasn't exactly memorable, but I felt compelled to have some fun responding to what she said:

Peggy Noonan, voice for "patriotism." Not a partisan, just a "conservative." This was edifying

Factually, she wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan, who should have been jailed for supporting the "Contras," a terrorist group that murdered civilians in Nicaragua. He financed this terrorism by selling weapons to our supposed enemies in, hmm, Iran. He also invaded Grenada for no good reason, a criminal act.

She also wrote speeches for George H.W. Bush, who invaded Panama and, hmm, Iraq, of all places. The Iraq incursion was the more curious, since Iraq was our ally up to that point, and Saddam Hussain was led to believe that he had U.S. tacit approval, if not backing (for his invasion of Kuwait). In other words, he was double-crossed.

Tonight, Peggy Noonan sounded like a fake Beat poet, with the practiced intonation of a Village Vanguard wanna-be, pretending to be disheartened by the current political landscape.

If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over withStill, she couldn't help proclaiming that Sarah Palin "killed" in last night's debate. How did she "kill?" Not by offering anything substantive, but by offering projection of personality, ala, hmm, Ronald Reagan, criminal.

The "Reagan Revolution" is over, rendered to the dustbin of history, never to be revived. "Conservatism" is also headed for the same dustbin. It was always a scam, not a serious philosophy. It is fitting that Peggy Noonan would mention her supposed dismay at Bush's 2005 inauguration speech as being "utopian, aggressive, and nutty."

Pardon me, but are "Republican" partisans so deluded that they actually believe that anything Bush says is real, truthful, and meant to be taken at face value? Does Peggy Noonan actually believe that Bush and his gang ever had any intention of spreading "democracy" and "freedom?"

I don't think so. Bush is an omnicriminal, obviously so to any sane, intelligent observer. I don't believe Peggy Noonan's dismay is any more real than Bush's supposed utopian dreams. More likely is a desire to reclaim whatever reputation she thinks she had before the farce that has been playing out for the past eight years.

It's a bit late for that. The punditocracy that enabled the destruction of our system of social order over the past 28 years is disgraced for good, and deservedly so. The dustbin of history is filling up.

It isn't just fun writing these comments. The dialogue on our national media is locked in a narrow sphere of conventional wisdom, a mutual masturbation society of careerists reinforcing one another's sense of self-importance and "player"-ness. It's good practice for me to hone the analysis. The way it feels is that I'm zeroing in on the Western intellectual tradition - the entire perspective and approach that has emanated from "Europe" since the ancient "Greeks" and "Romans." Maybe even farther back, to the "Fertile Crescent."

I don't always do my usual thing of putting country names in quotes, so as not to confuse the unfamiliar. Too much debunking of conventional wisdom in one dose can cause overload. It's enough to instill cognitive dissonance in bite-size pieces.

This picture is for old times sake. It was taken in Cambridge, Massachusetts in late August, 1974. For the unaware, Archibald Cox was the special prosecutor fired by Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Read about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_CoxFor some further info on the double-crossing of Saddam Hussein, click here.

There are other views of McCain's tenure at the "Hanoi Hilton." Click here to read. This video is a good synopsis, an interview on a "right wing" radio show.

This is the website of today's Hanoi Hilton. Here's the site for the Paris Hilton.

Here's a video of McCain when he was a POW.

Here's a bit of Allen Ginsberg.

A study on "left-wing brain/right-wing brain" is summarized here.

For an update on "Republican" vote fraud, click here. Here's some more info. And still more.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ontological error

Treasury Secretary Henry PaulsonMany are the ways to describe the meltdown on Wall Street, and its ripple effect throughout the world economy. I prefer the criminal model.

It has been a gradual process, beginning with the movement towards deregulation of major industries, which started in the 1970s. The deregulation movement grew in popularity and practice during every administration, "Democrat" and "Republican," to this day, regardless of the predicted, and now manifest consequences.

Parallel to the progression of deregulation has been the criminalization of the Federal government, in all three branches - executive, legislative, and judicial. It reached its culmination in the "Republican revolution" of 1994, and the "U.S." Supreme Court appointment of George W. Bush as president in 2001.

The combination of Bush's ascension to the presidency with a "Republican" majority in both houses of Congress completed a dynamic that ensured a steady flow of corporate dollars to Congress members and "Republican" presidential campaigns. The "revolving door" of employment of regulators to private industry and back insured a symbiotic relationship between regulators and corporations.

Under Bush the flow of money also came to mean that government contracts were awarded on the basis of campaign donations and crony relationships, known as pay-for-play.

The proximate cause of the meltdown of our economic system is the collapse of the credit system, which came about largely, but not exclusively, due to the relaxation of loan standards in the real estate market. But focusing on the proximate cause allows us to evade the larger cause, just like blaming Gavrillo Princip for World War I disguises its greater causes.

GreedAn example illustrates the greater cause. I can remember as far back as the early 1980s when early versions of infomercials were trumpeting the easy money to be made in buying and selling real estate. Testimonials were given by gleeful graduates of the various programs, saying things like "it's so easy to buy real estate with no money down;" "When I made my first million..." and "I couldn't believe getting rich would be so easy!"

The schemes were ubiquitous, and some, like real estate get-rich-quick guru Carleton Sheets, are still going strong, the collapsing economy be damned. The promoters of these "education programs" made millions selling their tapes, videos, and books to the naive and greedy.

Business card for Excel Telecommunications independent representativeLess conspicuous, but equally symptomatic, are the myriads of "pyramid" schemes, also known as multi-level marketing. Amway is the most notorious example. The way the pyramids work is to have a product, or collection of products as the basis, or front of the business, and progression of levels of "distributors," or sales "managers," who recruit people to be in their sales groups, or teams. The recruited distributors then recruit people themselves, who in turn recruit more people, creating a pyramid of sales "representatives." Actually, the "representatives," who are also called "managers," are really just customers. The money is made by getting commissions on the "membership" fees and products purchased by sub-representatives down the line of the pyramid.

Amway is known not only for its sales scheme, but for the "right-wing" politics that has permeated the organization. As an outgrowth of the "right-wing" politics, Amway executives have also been involved in dominionist religio-political advocacy, promoting the organization of society to conform with fundamentalist "Christian" teachings. Erik Prince, CEO of crony-capitalist security contractor Blackwater, has strong ties to Amway.

What the real estate schemes have in common with the pyramid schemes is the promise of easy money, of "unlimited income," free of the tedium of hard work for low pay, and of working for a boss. What they don't tell people is that only a relatively few people actually make any money in the schemes, with most people investing large sums of money with little to show for it.

Pyramids and real estate get-rich-quick schemes can be looked at as smaller-scale version of what goes on at the level of large investors in such things as hedge funds, junk bonds, derivatives, mortgage bundles, options, credit default swaps, and forward contracts. On the larger scale, vast amounts of money can be made quickly and with little effort.

Whether on a small or a large scale, the various fast money schemes have this in common: the participants do not actually add any value or provide any needed service to humanity. They live off the efforts and value added by others. Another way of describing their activities is parasitic, feeding on others while offering nothing meaningful in return.

Parasitism has crept so thoroughly into our national psyche that it now permeates our corporate and political infrastructure. Though it exists at every level, it is most advanced, ubiquitous, and pernicious at the national level, focusing in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. Corporations pay "lobbyists" - advocates for legislation and regulatory relief - to give campaign contributions, free vacations, jobs, houses, and other favors to congresspersons, government regulators, judges and Supreme Court justices in exchange for favorable treatment of one kind or another. Lobbyists have even been known to write laws. Virtually the entire "Republican" party, and a goodly part of the "Democratic" party are composed of people who serve as both parasites, and servants of parasites. They receive the money and other gifts, and they give in the form of laws, tax breaks, and at the executive level (the Bush criminal regime), government contracts and regulatory inattention.

Receiving money for doing nothing, or for doing harm, has become our national ethic. It is not universal, and there are still workers, businesses, government employees, and elected officials who have high standards of performance and public service. But the trend for decades has been to feed off the energies of others, to get rich without offering any benefit to the common good, to live based on appearance of wealth and privilege.

At the root of this decline in our national ethical system is what is known as ontological error. It is also known as category mistake. In this sense of the term, wealth, power and privilege are confused with attainment. This kind of confusion is nothing new in the history of humankind, but the rampancy and frenzy in which it is practiced has not been seen before.

Maybe there is a positive aspect to this phenomenon. In the past, a parasitic element in society depended on a critical mass of people doing honest, productive work. Someone has to provide the food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, entertainment, and other goods and services that benefit society. Most people still do this, but now there is a critical mass of parasites - money grubbers, power grubbers, religious poseurs, and hate-mongering demagogues in the mass communications media.

Every phenomenon in physical reality has a beginning, a period of growth, a zenith or peak of existence, and then a decline. Now that our economy faces collapse, runaway parasitism can no longer be sustained.

It's all over but the shouting, so to speak, and there's plenty of shouting going on. A lot of it is filtered through the political landscape, as we are witnessing in the McCain campaign. Here's an example from his visit to Waukesha, Wisconsin today. For some background, click here.

The "Republicans" fully intend to steal the election, it's safe to say. I'm not as alarmed about this as some people are. Again, in terms of Physics, the more criminal our system becomes, the greater the potential builds for a sudden crash. It is in the crash that opportunity lies. The more desperately the parasite class clings to misbegotten gain, the greater the likelihood of genuine, fundamental change. Maybe even, dare I say, revolutionary. The revolution that started this country was in 1776. A mere blip in the life of the planet, it was a long time ago in human terms. If our economic system goes into collapse, we may live to see a second revolution. In human terms, it could be a second coming, a planetary cleansing that ushers in a new era of civilization. Let's hope so, and hope it is peaceful.

I was going to use the links below in the essay, but it took a different direction. Maybe in the future.

Money creation


Fractional reserve banking

Definition of money

Investors expect volatility

Bank failures will rise

Here's a song to fit the times.

Here's another.

This song is a theme of sorts.

This song could be a theme.

Here's something new. It's loud, so you might want to turn the sound down a bit.

This is even newer, dedicated to all "Republicans" and greedheads, who have destroyed the country. Nice job, traitors.