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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.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Heretical thoughts

Some of my greatest enjoyment in writing is when I respond to some item in the news, or some online appeal. Today I received an appeal from the long distance phone company Credo to petition Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to apologize to his former aide Anita Hill. Hill testified against Thomas in his confirmation hearing, accusing him of crude sexual harassment and intimidation. (You can see a video of her testimony here) Thomas played victim, accusing the "Democrats" of a "high-tech lynching."

It worked. He succeeded in "playing the race card," and avoided the humiliation of being rejected for the nation's highest court. Anita Hill fell into obscurity, her reputation tarnished. As even the most casual observers know, Thomas's wife Virginia left a message on Hill's voicemail at Brandeis University, where she teaches, on October 16, asking Hill to apologize for hurting her husband.

Hill not only did not apologize, but turned the message over to campus police. She said she has nothing to apologize for, because her testimony was truthful.

The plot thickened later last week when a former girlfriend of Thomas, Lilian McEwen, said publicly that Thomas was obsessed with pornography.

I didn't expect to make any comment about the situation, the fortunes of a "right wing" Supreme Court justice not ranking high on my list of priorities. But when the invitation came to send the petition, I couldn't refuse. Along with signing the petition, you get to add a paragraph of your own, which I did:

If ever there were a bogus Supreme Court justice, it is you. Because you perjured yourself in your testimony before the Senate, you are morally and ethically unfit to sit on the nation's highest court. Well beyond Anita Hill, you should resign, and apologize to the American people. You should also apologize for the many dishonest and nasty decisions you have made. It would be your only genuine public service in a lifetime of disservice.

Teenage war criminal Omar KhadrThat was fun. Once I get in gear for such antics, it's hard to resist another. Fortuitously, another weird item appeared in the news. Today it was revealed that after all these years of kidnapping, torture, incommunicado, secrecy and delay, our Keystone Kops military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have finally produced a conviction. It was a guilty plea by Omar Khadr, who was accused of throwing a grenade at a "U.S." soldier in "Afghanistan" when he was fifteen years old.

It is not clear that Khadr is actually guilty of anything, or what he pleaded guilty to, but the idea of throwing a grenade in a war or pseudo-war situation constituting a war crime is a bit of a stretch. Especially when you consider that the war may have been contrived for other reasons by the Bush criminal regime, just like they concocted evidence to justify invading "Iraq."

I responded to the National Public Radio story about the guilty plea thusly:

One would think that there would be embarrassment over this conviction, but there isn't. This indicates how far we have fallen in our feeble attempts at empire. For our military "tribunal," they needed a conviction so badly that they would be proud of this one, a fifteen year old, tortured, charged with a "war crime," and held incommunicado for years in our impunicious semi-secret prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - on the land of another sovereign country.

What this reveals is the way individuals subsume their ethics, morality, sense of decency, judgement and individuality to their place in the machinery of mass civilization (or lack of same). Personal scruples or independence of thought and action are constricted in favor of conformity, career, and cheap thrills.

I wonder if the various prosecutorial players in this drama think they have scored a major victory over "terrorism." I suspect they do. That's how far the subsuming of self can go. Of course, it may just be a pretend way of saving face. For all the millions (or more) that have been spent on Guantanamo they had better get at least one conviction. Way to go, boys!! We have taught a lesson to the fifteen year olds of the world!! Now, for the sixteen year olds.
Mon Oct 25 2010 21:27:46 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time)
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My comment to a CNN article about the firing of NPR “Senior News Analyst” Juan WilliamsI've been on kind of a roll the past couple of days. Again, as anyone paying any attention at all knows, NPR fired "news analyst" Juan Williams last week over remarks he made on "right wing" Fox News know-it-all Bill O'Reilly's show. Williams said he gets nervous and worried in airports when he sees people dressed in "Muslim garb." This was too good to pass up, and I wrote a comment to a CNN story about the firing:

It was really sporting of Juan Williams to acknowledge that there are good Muslims. He should have added that some of his best friends are Muslims. One thing left out of this deep analysis is the question of what constitutes "Muslim garb." Maybe it's a suit, bow tie, and closely cropped hair. Or the casual clothes of the "911" attackers. Or the uniform of any of our various college and professional sports teams. Or dressed like Bill O'Reilly, or Juan Williams.

There's not much to this story. Juan Williams is a hack journalist, but smart enough to finagle a salary out of Fox worth several millions. Pretty nice work. He made Roger Ailes of Fox look pretty dumb.

I don't think Juan Williams is so much a bigot as someone who fashions what he says to fit the venue. He fits right in at Fox, but it likely will not give them much, if any, of a ratings boost.

As for NPR, the firing was bungled. It's more a sign of the times than anything "liberal." Managers tend to be cowards, no matter what business. Williams should have been yanked long ago, but no one had the intestinal fortitude to confront him. We're all in the same boat.

In what was likely my most pertinent and valuable comment I responded to an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning with these remarks:

It is an ongoing weakness of this segment that it is confined to the varying fortunes of the two leading political parties, as if there were some intrinsic meaning in the who's up - who's downness of the "Democrats" or the "Republicans."

At some point you might want to ask if these parties are bad for the country, and bad for the planet. They exist for themselves, and the American people are mere props in their theater of the absurd. For example, the planet is heating up to a degree that our survival as a species is in jeopardy. Neither of these parties have done anything to address this very serious problem.

Our economic system will collapse if it doesn't grow as what is known as a secular trend, and it therefore must grow forever. Planet Earth will not support infinite growth of output. The political parties are impotent in dealing with this reality.

Continuous growth of population will cause increasing levels of starvation, disease, poverty and depletion of resources. Our only solutions to this are war, building prisons, and making a lot of noise about "illegal" immigrants. These nonsolutions are what the political parties have to offer.

In other words, the political parties, entities unto themselves, are a detriment to the planet and the people who live on it. Those who promote this entitiy unto themselvesness do so for spurious reasons, having to do with their own entity unto themselvesness - ego, career, mutuality of conventional wisdom, pretend consciousness, and the like.

NPR's midday program Talk of the Nation had a forum last week on the role of teachers in education reform. I managed to provide a bit of heresy to the mix:
John Hamilton (HappyJack) wrote:

I was a plumber for years, and one of my favorite things was fixing toilets. The mechanics of how they work borders on genius. I had a simple approach, which was to ask three questions: what does it do when it is working properly, what is it doing now, and what can I do to return it to its normal level of functioning?

One thing we might want to ask is if we ever had a high functioning school system, what is different now, and what could be done to return to that high functioning level.

I also was a teacher for a number of years, mostly as a substitute, but also in a community college. What I found were the biggest problems were influences outside the classroom. Chief among them was the home situation - number of parents, family income, and quality of parenting. Another factor is the synergy created by the cultural milieu of the students. That is, for example, if you have a school, or school district where the students are predominantly from single-parent households with low income and poor parenting, then the individual student will be reinforced for failure by his or her peers.

It can truly be said that our political, business (corporate & banking), and cultural infrastructure has no intention of changing this dynamic.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010 4:17:46 PM
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Hardly anyone reads these comments, but they get read, and I can repost them here. If I can think differently, other people can too. All it takes is seeing an example. That's what started me in an independent direction. My father was the same way, and I grew up witnessing his various musings of a heretical nature. He also was a heretic in his profession, surgery, refusing to participate in fee splitting, much to his financial detriment.

I sharpened my heretical sword in Catholic schools, which were abundant with opportunities. I became a class clown, ala George Carlin, all the way through high school. When I continued my studies at a Catholic college I became more critical, but less comedic.

My greatest writing influences are Bob Dylan and former Chicago Tribune and Daily News columnist Mike Royko. Both were inspiring in their irreverence, sharpness of mind, and searing satire.

There are many others, and not necessarily writers. I still get inspired almost every day. When I see a baby I am inspired to do what I can to make sure there is an ecosystem for it to have a decent life on this planet. I said hello to a homeless guy the other day, who was sitting in front of the post office, trying to hide his bags of possessions. He looked pretty new to the predicament, an intelligent-looking, self respecting "Hispanic" man. I'd like to see a different system in this country, where people don't find themselves in this situation through no fault of their own, and on such a mass scale.

Heresy is my greatest contribution, so I hope to keep doing it as long as there are conventional truths to be debunked.
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Update: One of the great heretics of modern times, Julian Assange, was interviewed on Democracy Now. Here's a description of how his heresy is being received by the Pentagon and "U.S." news media. Foreign media, such as the Guardian, don't have the conformity and propaganda needs that media here do.
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Here's a good background song for thinking heretical thoughts. This too. And this. And, of course, this, one of my theme songs.

Here's a clip of one of the great heretics of all time.

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