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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, July 13, 2010

Self-dealing nation

The Madison VA hospital on the left, with the University of Wisconsin hospital at the right  Photo credit: SouthsidejohnnyEvery so often I find myself in a phase where I have to contend with a cluster of challenges simultaneously. It can be job, abode, vehicle, health, dental, and even bicycle. When this happens I find the best way to get through the challenges is to first stop everything and relax. Then I get to work, taking the most important task first, dealing with it, then moving on to the next challenges in descending order of importance.

For example, I had been contending with a number of situations of bad service from the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) hospital in Madison, to the point where it was getting pretty frustrating, and sometimes a bit surreal. One guy, doing a blood draw for lab tests, stuck the needle completely through the vein in my arm, and wondered why he wasn't getting any blood. He was too busy attempting standup comedy to bother with doing his job correctly. I should say that these occurrences involved a minority of my visits to the VA, but enough to where a certain pattern was emerging.

One can complain about single incidents of rudeness, negligence, laziness and incompetence, but it is far more effective when a number of occurrences can be brought to the attention of the appropriate authority. The pattern I found was of self-focus. Rather than focusing on the task at hand, or on the veteran in front of them (me), the offending parties were busy serving themselves in one way or another. They all likely now hate me, but their focus (or foci) has been redirected.

Generalizing to the country as a whole, I can safely say that the problem of self-dealing is the one single ailment that is most responsible for destroying the country, and in the process, human civilization.

This is apparent in the behavior of corporations, of the banksters (a type of gangster) on Wall Street, of the Congress, the Federal bureaucracy, the command structure of the military, and, last but not least, the president.

Our government is now hoarding data on the BP oil spill. For what reason? Could it be self-dealing?

A perfect example of self-dealing is the continuing prosecution of the occupation and aggression by "U.S." forces in "Afghanistan." As Eric Margolis noted in the Toronto Sun, "Too many political careers in the U.S., Canada and Europe hang on this misbegotten war."

Margolis also makes the astute observation that "This brutal David versus Goliath conflict brings no honour upon the western powers waging it, including Canada. They are widely seen abroad as waging yet another pitiless colonial war against a small, backward people for resource domination and strategic geography."

This would seem obvious, but it is unlikely the "U.S." presence in "Afghanistan" will end any time soon. It is not about what is best for "Afghanistan," the "U.S.," the "NATO" countries, or "War on terror." It is about the egos and careers of the "leaders" involved, principally Barack Obama, President of the United States.

Obama needs to at least "hold his ground" until after the 2012 "election." The "war" may be a political liability, but it will be an even greater one if he pulls "U.S." troops out of the "country," and chaos ensues. This is something to keep in mind as the casualties mount. "Americans" are dying because of Barack Obama's need to be reelected. And, of course, many more "Afghanis" (not "Afghan." An "Afghan" is a sweater, a blanket, a rug, or a hound).

All this, while, as a Stanford University study tells us, heat waves like the one experienced recently on the East Coast are likely to become commonplace. Among other things.

I don't have any special knowledge, or any psychic powers, but I wrote about the folly of invading "Afghanstan" in the fall of 2001, in a letter to the University of Wisconsin student newspaper, the Badger Herald:

Vietnam, Horowitz need closer examination by students

David Horowitz's “Open Letter to Antiwar Demonstrators”The Badger Herald is not usually part of my daily reading, but I read it when it comes my way. This past Friday I happened to be in an area where the paper is available, and couldn’t help seeing the full-page add "An Open Letter to Anti-War Demonstrators" from David Horowitz.

I also can’t help responding.

Most students at the UW don’t know much about the Vietnam War, the opposition to it or David Horowitz. To know more about all three would give students a helpful context for forming their own perceptions of the current situation.

The Vietnam War was fundamentally a colonial war the United States inherited from France, who pulled out after the infamous Dien Bien Phu defeat of 1954. Under the guise of the “Cold War” campaign of defeating “communism” anywhere in the world, our government poured billions of dollars, many thousands of troops, the CIA and a vast propaganda machine into the Vietnam effort, with the aim of propping up a seemingly endless sequence of puppet dictators whom we called “democratic.”

After mounting casualties in excess of 55,000 American soldiers, millions of Vietnamese killed, the waste of vast resources and mounting opposition at home, the war effort was abandoned in 1975. It has been called a defeat, but there was never anything about it to win or lose in the first place. The opposition to the war was many faceted, Mr. Horowitz’s contention of “Marxism” notwithstanding. It included clergy, civil-rights activists, intellectuals, artists, the baby-care author Dr. Spock, mothers of killed soldiers and Americans of all walks of life. It grew larger and larger, and the federal government, directed by then-President Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon, held on until way past the time any sensible withdrawal should have taken place.

Mr. Horowitz states that “Unlike the Vietnam War, this one has no ambiguity.” He goes on to say that “Our enemies have pronounced a fatwah, or “death sentence,” against every man, woman and child in this country. Now is the time to stand up and defend it.”

Merriam-Webster defines ambiguous as uncertain, or capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon can be understood in a number of ways. Since no one has actually produced a fatwah document, and the known perpetrators come from a number of Middle Eastern countries, an Islamic holy war is certainly a strong possibility. Another might be a single attempt to rid the Middle East of American meddling. Revenge for perceived U.S. terrorism might also be a reason. Whatever the reason, there is much ambiguity in how to respond to the attacks.

The knee-jerk right-wing response is scorched-Earth military action. Another approach would be to look at the acts as criminal in nature, and try to ferret out the organizers and funders of the crimes.

A long-run approach for the U.S. government, and the corporations that sponsor it, could be to act with a sense of honor, reciprocity and respect toward all peoples of the world.

This is almost too radical to contemplate, but is the only way I see to avoid the unimaginable death and destruction that will inevitably follow, given the momentum of what our government and corporations have done in the past.

Which brings us to the futile and frustrated life of David Horowitz. I remember David Horowitz when he wrote for Ramparts magazine in the 1960s. He was a good writer, and his writing was very much like it is now: a sense of mission, and a romantic approach to his own place in that mission.

Since that time, Mr. Horowitz has been something of a right-wing ideologue. He is not part of the Republican establishment, most likely because he is seen as a turncoat, or some sort of interloper, likely to change spots when the terrain changes. Whatever the case, he looks to the college campus as his land of opportunity.

The thing I find most amusing about Mr. Horowitz’s “Open letter” is his admission that his former opposition to the Vietnam War “crossed the line between dissent and actual treason.” If he is so remorseful about his past crimes, I wonder why he hasn’t followed up on his pronouncement of self-guilt with a passing of sentence and execution. After all, the penalty for treason was certainly death in those days, and still is for some offenses.

The best thing a college student can do is develop the skills to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. We are entering very difficult times. We have an infinite-growth economic system on a finite planet. We are poisoning our environment. The weather is changing. We have a corrupt idiot for president, who was installed in office after benefiting from massive vote fraud.

Much of the world hates the United States because of what our government, in service to its ruling elites, has done around the world. The generation preparing to be our nation’s next body politic is facing the most difficult challenges of any in our history. I wish you all the best, and hope we all come out of this era with a humane and mutually beneficial civilization.

John Hamilton
Madison
U.S. Army, 1968-71

Tuesday, October 2, 2001
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Here we are, almost nine years later, with no end in sight. A trillion dollars spent on two criminally concocted and prosecuted wars, for reasons having to do with the egos of politicians, the profits of corporations, and the "mortarboards" of medals for generals and admirals.

And the BP goes on, to paraphrase the late great Salvatore Bono.
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Here's an update on one of the effects of the folly of war.

Here's an update on our president's fake attempts at financial reform.

For a little ambiguity, read this.
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Here's Sonny and Cher.

This song from a band named Easterhouse, which seems to have been one guy, is a good one for getting psyched for taking on challenges.

One of the best concerts I ever went to was by Jerry Reed. He was a country Jimi Hendrix on the guitar.

Some of us remember Martha and the Vandellas.

The Lovin' Spoonful had a "hit" with this song.

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