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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, March 12, 2012

A Vulgar Twilight Zone

In what has to be one of the greatest absurdities of modern times, yesterday Newt Gingrich offered his condolences to the families of the people massacred in "Afghanistan" by a "U.S." soldier. It could be argued that he was merely getting on the bandwagon of condolence offerers, but the idea that anyone in "Afghanistan" would be comforted by the words of Newt Gingrich is in the realm of Twilight Zone done vulgar.

In ordinary times it would be unthinkable for someone of Gingrich's ilk to be be speaking in public at all, much less presuming to speak for the "American" people. This should serve as a warning. Newt Gingrich was elected to Congress and rose to be Speaker of the House. He of course overreached, and resigned in disgrace, but if someone so lacking in character could be elected to anything bespeaks a fundamental weakness in the system we call "democracy."

Might this vulnerability have something to do with the quagmire in which we find ourselves in "Afghanistan?" We should not forget how we got there. The invasion and occupation were launched by George W. Bush, a man who assumed the office of President of the United States by criminal means. His active negligence in advance of the September 11, 2001 attacks enabled the attackers to succeed far beyond what they reasonably could have expected. Somehow they had full confidence. It was in order to deflect attention from his crimes that Bush pushed for the invasion of "Afghanistan." He quickly abandoned the alleged purpose of the invasion - capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. He had bigger plans - "Iraq."

Now we have been there over ten years. Osama bin Laden has been killed, but that had nothing to do with the campaign, or "mission," in "Afghanistan," and indeed has not affected our presence there at all. The only reasons we could be remaining there are careers, egos, and inertia. Also domestic politics. It's an election year. The people of "Afghanistan" are mere pawns in the game. Except they are pawns who fight back. They refuse the status we have conferred upon them. In their small and persistent ways they are kicking us out. We should take the hint, and not let the door hit us in the rear end on the way out.
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Here's some background on the story from Democracy Now.

I posted this yesterday to NPR's story on the massacre:
U.S. Apologizes for Deadly Shootings in Afghanistan
John Hamilton (HappyJack) wrote:

There is a beauty to this incident, in that (it) is an allegory to our ("U.S.") response to all that happens that is counter to official truth. We will soon hear the tiresome cliche of "Isolated incident," if it hasn't been trotted out already. We will also hear that the "mission" will continue, as if we are "missionaries" who are "converting" the "Afghans" to "Christianity," er, "Democracy."

Where the allegory comes in to play is how "we" respond to such phenomena as climate change, the decline in our economy, and our maldistribution of economic reward. For the status quo - the established body of citizens determined to maintain present practices and relationships - deceptions, euphemisms, sidesteps, bureaucrateses, cliches and buzzwords are necessary.

We will not deal meaningfully with climate change until we are symbolically past the stage we are now in "Afghanistan." Similarly, we will not deal with maldistribution of resources until the system becomes unworkable, which it soon will. We have an infinite growth economic system on a finite planet. We will not face this reality until the system collapses. Writing about this syndrome of denial and pretend won't change this dynamic. What it will do is make a difference, a start.
Sun Mar 11 2012 15:32:46 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time)

In a related story I had this to offer:

U.S. Command Fights Terrorists On African Soil

John Hamilton (HappyJack) wrote:
This is a perfect example of the self-imposed limitations in NPR's reporting and analysis. A publicly funded radio network is inherently vulnerable to political pressure, and the most effective pressure is fear of pressure.

"The recent spectacular rescue of an American aid worker from Somali pirates" should raise a few real questions, but it didn't. Our military has coined the term "asymmetric warfare," and now is in full embrace of this approach to world dominance.

A question that might have been asked is whether there is an easier way to relate to the less developed world. When I was a graduate student in Economics decades ago I wrote a paper about economic dualism, a term in the profession referring to the divide between the "endowed sector" in poor countries and the "unendowed sector." The "U.S." policy was to prop up the endowed sector to the detriment of the unendowed sector. 

That syndrome, or pattern of relationships with poor countries is now in disarray, as evidenced by the breakdown of dictatorships we have supported for so long. What NPR might question is whether "asymmetric warfare" will fill the vacuum created by the "Arab spring," which happened mostly in the winter. It was winter here, but looked like spring.
Fri Mar 09 2012 09:22:35 GMT-0600 (Central Standard Time)

I followed up with this:

John Hamilton (HappyJack) wrote:

I ran out of space. What an intrepid reporter or analyst might wonder is whether the "U.S.," with its vast resources and powerful military, has the wherewithal to engage with poor countries more efficiently than sending the Navy Seals out to rescue hostages.

In the case of "Somalia," wouldn't it have been better if the "country" had developed in an equitable and sustainable way, instead of being skewed to a narrow sector of an elite, leading to an inevitable collapse, and then the present chaos and piracy?

Maybe, but we'll never know. We aren't smart enough. We can do brute force pretty well, but it no longer works. PR aside, our invasion and occupation of "Iraq" has been a disaster. Our invasion and occupation of "Afghanistan" is turning into a farce, with stupidity being piled on fantasy. Both of these adventures have been good for military careers, but have not improved our international standing, and have been disasters for our economy.

In the current era this isn't likely to change any time soon. Domestic politics dictate "staying the course." If "Republicans" had their way, we would do even dumber things, and more often. Given that ilk such as Rush Limbaugh control the dialogue, such as it is, bottom feeding rules.
Fri Mar 09 2012 11:29:23 GMT-0600 (Central Standard Time)

Update, March 14: Thomas Goutierre, Director of "Afghanistan" Studies at the University of Nebraska, was the guest on a program on Wisconsin public radio yesterday. He is an apologist for the "U.S." mission is "Afghanistan." I had this response:

It took a while for me to get a good focus on my unease with this guest. What I find unsettling is his certainty, his dogmatic approach to concerns about "Afghanistan." He has it all figured out, much like our military and political "leadership." For all the humanitarian facade of our involvement in "Afghanistan," he revealed the bottom line of why we are there. We have "interests" in being there. We, the "United States of America," can go anywhere and do whatever we want because we have "interests." I served in "NATO" for 2 1/2 years because not only did we have "interests" in "Europe," there was the "Cold War," which, according to the guest, justified anything in the name of opposing the "Soviet Union." 

Therein lies the rub. Large nation states control the world narrative. What matters to them is what matters. Three of our buildings were conveniently attacked, largely due to the criminal negligence of our previous president. Because of this, a whole new array of interests were generated, broad enough to siphon the life out of our economy. Maybe the solution to this syndrome of "interests" is to be a little less "interested." Boredom has been underappreciated.
You can hear the show at any of these links:
Here's a song I almost forgot about.

Andrew Bacevich
Update, March 25, 2012: This interview with retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich adds to the conversation.

For the official "U.S." arbledy garbledy about "Afghanistan," click here. It reminds me of Catholicism, with ritual dress, more medals than a man can earn (in Catholicism's case, it was how much red was mixed with black, the type of hat worn, the fanciness of the garb, and accompanying ritual), highly codified language, a pretend reality presented as absolute truth, certainty, delusion. 

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