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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 16, 2011

A Perfect Time for Overthrow

Unions built AmericaIt helps if you're going to cover a big rally to get there early. Today was a perfect example. Union members across the state of Wisconsin rallied for the second day against governor Scott Walker's proposal to abolish bargaining rights of state workers and drastically reduce pay and benefits. This includes teachers, police, firefighters, corrections officers, game wardens, snow plow drivers, doctors, nurses, university professors, and a myriad of other state workers who staff the various divisions of state government. (You can read more about the proposal here)

Waupun teachers disembaringI didn't get there until 4:30, when most people had left. It wasn't over by any means, though, as busloads of teachers and other union members were arriving from all over the state. The governor, a none-too-bright guy, has awakened a sleeping giant. Tomorrow's rally promises to be even bigger.

Wall Street caused economic collapseIn the wave of "Republican" election gains last fall everyone from Barack Obama to governors and local officials nationwide are proposing drastic cuts in spending for government services and payments to less fortunate citizens for such things as home heat and help with food and rent. Nowhere in any of these plans is it mentioned to place any burden whatsoever on those who benefit the most from living in this country: the rich. The multibillionaires, multimillionaires, Wall Street profligates who destroyed our banking system with their greed, corporate executives who pollute the land and air, agricultural conglomerates who sell us tainted food, pharmaceutical executives who push harmful drugs down our throats, weapons manufacturers who promote wars in order to generate more demand for their implements of death, and much more. I shouldn't leave out the media conglomerates who shape and manipulate public perception to acquiesce to corporate propaganda.

Professional not replaceableThere are rumblings of change, though. Just as in the recent upheaval in "Egypt," people right here in "America" are waking up to the reality of what is going on all around them. It is still winter, yet Wisconsinites from all over the state sacrificed their time, money, and energy to come to the state Capitol to stand up for their rights.

Walker can't talk about educationThere are other rumblings. To my great delight, renowned economist Robert Reich is advocating for progressive income tax, much like existed before the demented era of "Conservatism" that began with the demented presidency of Ronald Reagan, starting in 1981. Reich also provided some insight into the budget debate.

Union building trades food setupOn tonight's News Hour, independent Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) talked about how unfair the budgeting process is to the most vulnerable among us. Among the things he said were the following:

"...our middle class is collapsing. Our median family income has gone down. Poverty is going way, way up. And the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is going wider.

So, I think, before you look at budgets or how you deal with the deficit, you have got to take that into consideration. For example, the top 1 percent today earn more income than do the bottom 50 percent. They earn about 22 percent of every dollar earned in America. And that gap is growing wider.

Meanwhile, what this budget includes are massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. So, you have a situation. The rich are getting richer. Their tax rates have gone down for many, many years. Their effective tax rate right now -- people like Warren Buffett talk about this -- at 16 percent, is lower than at any time in recent history, and yet we're giving them huge tax breaks, while poverty in America is increasing.

We have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world for our children, and we're cutting programs for those people. So, the first thing we have to deal with is revenue. And, as a nation, we have got to say, sorry, the rich are getting richer. They're doing really well. Our friends on Wall Street, we shouldn't have to worry about. They get huge amounts of compensation.

We cannot continue to give huge tax breaks to the wealthy, cut back on programs for the vulnerable. So, that's the first issue I think we have to deal with."

Hey King WalkerHe goes on about how Obama is clueless (my term, not his), most significantly about the causes of the budget deficit:

"The deficit primarily has been caused by two wars unfunded, huge tax breaks to people who don't need it, an insurance-company-written Medicare Part D prescription drug program, and the bailout of Wall Street.

The cause of it is not hungry children in this country or people who are sleeping out on the street. So, we have got to deal with the deficit, but you do it in a fair and progressive way. For example, this year alone, we're losing a hundred billion dollars in revenue because corporations, the wealthy, are stashing their money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands.

This year, ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of the world, is not paying a nickel in federal income taxes, despite having made $19 billion last year. In 2005, one-quarter of corporation -- large corporations in America making a trillion in revenue didn't pay a nickel in taxes. You have got a military budget which in many ways is still fighting the old Cold War.

So, I believe that we have to move toward significant deficit reduction, but you don't do it on the backs of the middle class and working families who are already suffering as a result of this Wall Street-caused recession.

You want to know the way to raise money? Put a transaction fee on Wall Street, so maybe we can curb some of the speculation and raise some money."

Walker is replaceableThe same can be said for budget problems at the state and local level. The rich are not bearing any burden whatsoever. It is time to overthrow them, just like the "Egyptians" overthrew Mubarak. The days are getting longer, and the weather is getting warmer. It is a perfect time for overthrow.

Here's a video of yesterday's Madison rally.

Here's another.

This video is a must see.

Here's a story about what it's like to be a teacher in Wisconsin.

Solidarity foreverThere is power in a union.

For a little revolutionary energy, click here. Also here. One Tracy Chapman song isn't enough. Here's another.

Just change the name to Madison for this one.

Don't forget to have fun. Here's a nice Grateful Dead version.

This song might get some revolutionary energy going.

Can't leave the Beatles out. This version was for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Or Leonard Cohen.

Gil Scott-Heron did Hip-hop before it was called Hip-hop.

You likely never heard this song, but it still resonates.

This is my own personal dedication to Scott Walker, my favorite Stevie Wonder song. This is my second favorite.

Here's Walker announcing his proposal.

If Walker's bill passes, Wisconsin could lose $46 million in Federal funds.

For some history of union-busting, click here.

This story in Mother Jones describes the relationship between Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and the notorious Koch brothers.

For more information about the Koch brothers, click here. The New Yorker article by Jane Mayer can be seen by clicking here.

The New York Times has a story about the involvement of the Koch brothers in Wisconsin.

Map of Koch brothers involvement in WisconsinA diagram that depicts the connections between the Koch brothers and Wisconsin politics can be seen here.

A reporter posing as David Koch called Scott Walker on Tuesday, February 22, and got him to reveal his plans and intentions. Read about it here. Click here for the video.

Here's a bit of background on public employee pay versus private.

Here's some background on how Wall Street "investors" caused the mess we are in. For an interview that gives a shorter synopsis, click here.

This analysis by John Dean explains much about our current predicament. It is from a book he wrote on the subject of authoritarianism and conservatism.


Anonymous Grayson Harper said...

Thanks for your excellent commentary. I'm sure you've probably heard of the movement started by the Brits--UK Uncut--the activists who are blocking the entrances of companies that pay no taxes. I heard a piece on NPR yesterday that an American version is starting up. The events in Wisconsin are exciting to me. We need a two-pronged approach--a new union movement, and U.S. Uncut. And the time is ripe for it. People are being inspired by the events in Egypt and all across the Middle East. The Repugs (as I call them) are determined to impoverish everyone but themselves, And it looks like it's going to be with the assistance of our president. I look for them to go after Social Security next. Perhaps people will lose their chronic passivity by then. I sure hope so.

Thanks, again.

--Grayson Harper
(Tholos of Athena)

2/18/2011 11:43 AM  
Blogger John Hamilton said...

Thanks for the nice comment. This site doesn't get many reads, but I repost it to places like Open Salon, Smirking Chimp, Madison Newspapers, and even Obama's campaign blog. You might enjoy some of the comments at these sites.

This really is the beginning of something. Ordinary citizens are involved, and are bringing their kids to the rally. There were 60,000 people there today.

"Republicans," a criminal element if ever there was one, don't have any sense of restraint when power comes their way. It will be their undoing this time. They overplay their hand time and again, and never learn from experience. As long as the money keeps flowing in, they think they can do anything.

One thing to keep in mind about "Republicans" is that they are hirelings. They have been hired by big money interests, so the focus shouldn't be on the monkey, but the organ grinder. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

That's why I can easily say overthrow the rich. They are the ones who call the shots, and they are the ones who belong in jail. Along with their monkeys, of course.

2/19/2011 6:48 PM  
Blogger K said...

These are great pictures and great words. It was lovely seeing you at the Capitol the other day. Keep standing strong.

2/25/2011 8:29 AM  
Blogger John Hamilton said...

Many thanks. When I get the time I'll post more pictures. It was great seeing you too.

2/25/2011 7:01 PM  
Blogger victoria said...

John, this is my first visit to your blog, but I am bookmarking it. I am painfully ignorant of tax law and am always afraid of making an argument because I don't know what source to trust. Bernie Sanders says in the article you quoted that Exxon-Mobile is not paying a nickle in federal income taxes. That is outrageous. I would like to join USuncut and expose this gross injustice. But then I saw an article at tax.com that states: "Oil companies are big. They are powerful. They hire armies of lobbyists. They make truckloads of campaign contributions, They hire hundreds of lawyers to fight lawsuits and circumvent regulations. And they pollute like there is no tomorrow. But one thing they do not do is shirk their responsibility to pay taxes, as this table shows." (then shows table stating ExxonMobile paid 47% Effective Tax Rate in 2009) Is this just using numbers to confuse the uneducated (me)? I want to understand, then talk to my friends.

3/01/2011 7:54 AM  
Blogger John Hamilton said...

Thanks for the comment. You are beginning a long quest. Thankfully, your interest is sincere, looks to be determined. What you are embarking on is a quest to become an economic researcher. The best sources of data are the Economic Report of the President, and U.S. Census figures. Because of the Web, you can Google Exxon taxes paid, and likely get a variety of sources.

I haven't done any tax research, but it is highly unlikely that Exxon paid anything remotely close to 47% of its profits in taxes. With corporations you can always assume they are lying, and work your way from there.

Corporate taxes don't interest me as much as personal taxes. This would be the best way to educate yourself about who pays the tax burden. In the 1950s wealthy individuals like Nelson Rockefeller paid oven 90% of their income in taxes, making the distribution of income the most equitable in the nation's history, as well as greatly balancing the tax burden.

If, as the Supreme Court has so dishonestly stated, corporations are legal persons, then they should be taxed as legal persons, at a progressive rate that rises to the former 90%+.

The struggle we are going through now is the most critical in our history, moreso even than the Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II. The public dialogue has been dominated by demagogues, crackpots and criminals since the "election" of Ronald Reagan. What is going on now is a change in the momentum of that dialogue. Our economy is on the verge of collapse, stuck in the mode of infinite growth on a finite resource base. Our planetary climate is becoming increasingly wild and unpredictable. Our entire ecosystem is stressed to its limits. Population worldwide is as unsustainable levels. And, to top it off, our political infrastructure is largely an entity unto itself, with marginal differences between parties, both more like mafia families than organizations dedication to the common good.

Good luck with your studies on these concerns. It will be a lifelong challenge. One thing I recommend is finding a balance by doing some meditation, tai chi, qi gong, walking, bike riding, and other activities to keep from getting burned out or freaked out. The path is long.

3/02/2011 9:02 AM  
Blogger victoria said...

Thank you, John, for your thoughtful answer and suggestions for informational sources.

To your point, I remember my mom saying that Reagan's election opened the door and that we would be overrun by crazies crawling out from under the woodwork. She was so right.

I am deeply worried and not very optimistic about the health of our democracy. Before Citizen's United I had hoped that there would be a chance for election reform that would limit donations to strictly citizen contributions, but now I don't believe there is a hope in hell that that is possible. We have become an Oligarchy, and the rich and powerful will not give up their stranglehold without, I fear, action on the part of citizens that reflects what we saw in Tahrir Square.

I have never been so disheartened and filled at the same time with a searing, helpless rage.

Over the past 30 years, with the Fairness Doctrine gone, we have allowed moneyed interests and the religious right to dominate radio and television. What I do not understand was and is the lack of immediate, decisive response from the Left. Outright lies go unchallenged and rapidly become accepted truths.

Yesterday at the fabric store I asked the lady behind me in line to go ahead since she was running late for an appointment. As we chatted we learned that we were on opposite sides of the struggle that is going on in Wisconsin and Ohio. She wryly noted that I probably regretted my offer, but I told her of course not, and that I believed that it was important for people not be afraid to let their differences of opinion prevent them from common civility and discussion. She agreed, but felt strongly that Scott Walker had been fairly elected and had been open about his intentions during the campaign.

It didn't occur to me at that moment, but, I guess I don't believe that he was elected fairly. Fairly, in the sense that people actually understood the enormity of the impact that his election would bring to the citizens of the state. Without a fully informed electorate, there can be no truly fair elections.

When most of what you see and hear from the corporate media (when does it become state media? have we reached that point? I think maybe we have)is propaganda from the lackeys of the filthy rich and the powerful rightwing military/industrial complex, no wonder you vote against your own interests.

When liberals and public broadcasting are demonized day in and day out, maybe it isn't surprising that people come to look at us as monsters. I feel like I am living among brainwashed zombies determined to destroy the world as we know it.

Sorry to go on and on. You are right, I need to decompress. I swim a mile several days a week at the Y, looks like I need to get my mask and snorkel and head that way.

Did you read that the Eastern Cougar has been driven to extinction?

Take care,


3/03/2011 6:49 AM  
Blogger John Hamilton said...

I wouldn't get discouraged. The planet will be around for a long time. It's sad when an animal goes extinct, and more than a bit enraging, but it poses a challenge. We can do a better job of communication.

As for Walker being fairly elected, it depends on what you call fair. In the sense that he said where he stood and what he would do, yes. But elections are won by gimmicks and massive TV advertising. He turned the commuter rail into an emotional issue, pitting the rest of the state against Madison and Milwaukee. He benefited from millions of dollars spent on TV ads of the dirtiest kind, all legal, paid for by "interested groups."

One thing I can suggest is to not identify with being a "liberal." It's a buzzword, and has been so loaded down with negative propaganda meanings that it has lost its true meaning and value. I don't identify with any outside label, finding them limiting and inaccurate. I take a pretty Buddhist approach, of no self, just being. If you at least practice at being a witness it can give you a calmer attitude and a sense of freedom to respond from your deepest intuition.

You may have discovered a talent. I'm not very good at talking with people I disagree with, but know it is a vital aspect of the changes we need to face together. I would take this a step farther if I were you. Always have an attitude of victory, because you always win by engaging. I need to work at it myself.

3/03/2011 9:43 PM  

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