.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Party Pooper

While I was riding my bicycle in downtown Madison last Saturday I heard a voice coming from a PA system at the Capitol, and pedaled over to see what was going on. I figured it was some kind of race or kids' event, but it was a "Tea Party" rally. I had my camera with me, so I wandered through the crowd taking pictures to post here. It was the most hateful crowd I have been around, worse than last year's "Tea Party" rally where Sarah Palin was the headliner. I arrived in the middle of a speech by Vicki McKenna, a local "right wing" hate radio talk show host. The vitriol was pretty unbelievable.

I didn't expect any difficulty from the crowd. I stashed my "Recall Walker" button inside my backpack, and figured I was pretty incognito, except my bicycle helmet was a dead giveaway. Biking is not exactly the preferred activity among "right wingers."

At one point I happened across a stack of bumper stickers that said "I Am AFP!" AFP is "Americans for Prosperity," the political advocacy group funded by the Koch Brothers. I picked up one of the bumper stickers and continued on my way.

Filtering through the crowd, I brushed past a guy who was about 6 feet 5 or 6 inches tall, and who weighed about 240-250 pounds. A muscle-man, big enough to be a pro football defensive end. He's the guy in the white shirt above. He quickly turned around, and yelled "Hey, where you goin' with that?" I stopped, and replied "I thought they were free." He then accused me of taking it from his back pocket, and grabbed it from my hands. I told him I didn't take it from him, but got it from the pile nearby. He insisted I stole it from him, and I said "Keep it! I'll get another one." At that point he changed completely, apologized, and insisted I take the one I originally had. Then he offered to shake my hand. It was surreal. My hands are big enough (barely) to palm a basketball, but this guy's hand was huge. It was like shaking hands with King Kong. I continued on my way, but took a picture of him on the way out.

I took some more pictures, then talked with some people for a few minutes and left. One guy, a "liberal," was as difficult to converse with as were "right wingers." In polarized times, there isn't much real conversation, but assertion of talking points. It has become a battle of egos, and I don't stick around for long.

One thing that was curious was that there were a lot of big muscly guys there, not the kinds you would randomly see at a public event like Taste of Madison or Art Fair on the Square. A number of them were positioned at the outer edges of the crowd, and some were engaged in casual conversation with State Police. Another curious element was the high visibility of the Koch brothers front organization, AFP. There was a significant intersect between big muscly guys and "I am AFP" guys. Given that these big muscly guys were in disproportionate numbers, it seems a good likelihood that they were brought in from outside the state by the Koch brothers, paid to be there.

Nothing much happened, though there seems to have been some kind of small disturbance during the Vicki McKenna speech. It must have been before I arrived, because I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. I asked someone on the way out why there were so few counter-demonstrators, and was told no one knew about it. More likely there was no polarizing presence like Sarah Palin to draw in the crowds like last year. The crowd wasn't very large, the "official" (Walker Dept. of Administration) estimate at about 2000. That was a bit generous. It looked to me to be about 1000 people.

The "Tea Party" isn't much of a movement. It was artificially created in the wake of the 2008 bank bailout at the urging of a TV pundit from CNBC, Rick Santelli. It had some roots before that, and appears to be largely funded by, hmm, the Koch brothers. The combination of hate media and Koch money can stoke the fires of animosity and scapegoating for a while, but without a sound basis in reality it will lose its appeal. Saturday's crowd was smaller than what you would see at a typical high school football game.

This is encouraging. Maybe the country is starting to wake up. It's about time. I'm not so optimistic, at least for the near-term. The more likely case is that Tea Party fellow-travelers are too cheap and/or lazy to bother to make the trip to Madison to stand up for what they believe in. I base this view on my own experience in day-to-day existence. I don't view "right-wing" hate mentality as a political stance so much as a mental condition, a dominance by what some psychologists call the reptilian brain. There are other descriptions, such as the authoritarian personality complex, and the antisocial personality disorder. There is even a sub-group designation of "right-wing authoritarianism."

The reptilian brain, home of “right-wingers”John Dean, former counsel in the Nixon White House, believes that Wisconsin's union-busting governor Scott Walker is an authoritarian worse than Nixon. Having an authoritarian governor is bad enough, but the real damage he can do is when this personality disorder is combined with crony capitalism. There is considerable evidence that this is what is behind Walker's strategy, and he may find himself under indictment at any time.

We'll see. There are no guarantees. We have a corrupt system. My main contention is that climate change will direct our future, and will determine whether we even exist as a species. We have an infinite growth economic system on a finite planet, and the trend for our technology is to displace people with machines and computers. We have an escapist and trivial pop culture that our mass communications media are feverishly hyping. At some point all these dynamics will converge. Then real change will take place. We should plan for it. _______________________________________________

The guy with the "I voted for the American" sign didn't want his picture taken. This is the other side of the sign. As soon as I lined up my shot he lowered his sign. I crouched down to shoot from below, and he lowered it more. So much for "right wing" standing up for one's beliefs.

 I haven't listened to this song in a long time. It fits here.

This also fits.

Here's a tune to inspire independent thought.

Here's something to keep in mind. This too.

I always come back to this song.


Update, April 25: Every time I think I have come up with a new idea, analysis, insight, perspective, or understanding I eventually find out that someone else has done it before me. The latest reminder was yesterday, when I did a Google search for Tea Party and Reptilian Brain. The results included  this, this, this and this

The last one, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality, is an in-depth study of why "Republicans" think the way they do. The author, Chris Mooney, wrote an overview of his findings in a recent article in Salon. So much for my groundbreaking discovery. It is likely numerous others have come up with the same observation. These poor reptilian brain-dominated people have no idea of what fair game they are for demagogues in politics and religion. You wouldn't be able to tell them.

There is no single, definitive "Tea Party." Here's a link to one of them. You can draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Some Recent Heresies

There are smarter ways of writing a blog than what I do. If  I wrote something every day, I might gather a larger readership, and if I had advertising or did money appeals I might be able to make a living at it.

I've given this a lot of thought, and it just isn't in the cards. I don't have the time or inclination to post every day, and I don't have endless insights about matters of the day. I do post comments on other websites pretty often, and sometimes repost them here. Below are some of my recent offerings.

The Kathleen Dunn Show (Wisconsin Public Radio interview with Benjamin Busch, "Iraq" war veteran, April 11, 2012):
The guest showed great insight and sensitivity, but he would be of far greater service if he would expand his curiosity to the history of "American" involvement in the "Mideast." I put all country and region names in quotes because they are arbitrary, and serve as devices to divide and oppose. There is nothing eternal about any country or region, and when the Polar ice caps melt, for example, all borders will be meaningless. 
It's all fine and grand to be disciplined and honorable when going off to war, except in a "representative" system, the war may have more to do with the purposes and schemes of a narrow elite than the legitimate defense needs of the populace. In retrospect it can be easily deduced that if the president was consistently lying about the reasons for going into war, that there may have been a different agenda. 
I served in the "U.S." Army during the "Vietnam" war. I was lucky in being sent to "Germany" instead of "Vietnam," but could have been "levied" to "Vietnam" at any time. I was in a state of dread - not fear - the whole time, because I knew the war was bogus and that we were doing terrible things there. Some local veterans compiled a book about their war experiences a few years ago, titled "Long Shadows." In it they described the horrors they saw and participated in, and how they came to oppose war. These were veterans from as far back as the "Spanish" Civil War to "Desert Storm," and every war in between. One was an "Israeli" veteran of the "Yom Kippur" war. 
I agree that it is important to know what service members go through in war, but what they go through should not be taken as justification for what was done. Our "CIA," along with the "British," installed Saddam Hussain as president of the "British" created nation of "Iraq." It's not even its own "country." Having set the "country" up, we then felt free to determine its form of government and who should rule, then perfectly free to invade and occupy at our whim. No amount of honor and discipline can justify that.

US To Step Aside On Afghan Night Raids (National Public Radio)

I remember Tom Bowman from his story about the supposed "Dark Horse Platoon" a few months back. His story would have no zest if he hadn't spiced it up with the dubious moniker "Dark Horse Platoon," which a Marine unit was supposedly called in hushed tones. By whom, he didnt't say. By him, most likely. Military units call each other by such names at E-3-2, or the 66th, the 503d (all designations I am familiar with), or in the Marine unit's case, even in the story another commander referred to as something like 3-5-5. Had Mr. Bowman ever himself served, he would have known this. Or, maybe he did, but needed the spice too much. 
In today's offering, Mr. Bowman kept referring to the homes Afghan (or Afghani) people live in as "compounds." I wonder if the Afghan (or Afghani) people refer to their homes as "compounds." Not likely. In their own language they probably refer to their homes as "my home," or maybe "my house." 
Why, I wonder, would Tom Bowman call Afghan (or Afghani) homes, not homes, but "compounds." Could it be that he is trying to propagandize, even in a subtle way? It doesn't sound so decent or lawful that troops are conducting raids on people's homes if they live in "compounds." Or, maybe he has been embedded too long. Mon Apr 09 2012 17:42:44 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time)
One comment wasn't enough for this.
The essence of the story is propaganda. Supposedly, the long-term strategic partnership between the, ahem, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the people of "Afghanistan" is now possible because the night raids on the people's homes are being outsourced (or insourced) to the government of the "country." 
This gives us an out. It will be among other outs that will be trotted out in the coming months, and likely featured at the NATO Summit next month in Chicago. We need some enabling euphemisms for our ignominious departure. I'm old enough to remember when this was tried before. It was called "Vietnamization." 
What Tom Bowman failed to show even a hint of doubt about was the "mission." It's a free-floating mission, so he can hardly be blamed. Maybe he should focus on the real mission rather than the apparent one. The real mission is about domestic politics. The "American" people have to believe in the illusion, if not of "victory," than "success" of one sort or another. If they doubt this, they might doubt the next war. Or Wall Street. Or that our economy can grow forever. Or the Polar ice caps will never melt. 
Maybe it's his job not to show any doubt.
Mon Apr 09 2012 22:17:25 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time)
Two wasn't enough.
This story is the gift that keeps on giving. Like this: AUDIE CORNISH: Hey there, Tom. TOM BOWMAN: Hey, Audie. Folksy, casual, clubby chat between two insiders. Then, BOWMAN: Well, Audie, just as the name implies, these were raids in the dark of night by the U.S. military. They drop in by helicopter or sweep in on all-terrain vehicles, ATVs, and capture or kill suspected Taliban insurgents. There have been thousands of these in the last few years and the American military will tell you it's one of the most effective ways, for years now, of taking Taliban commanders and bomb-makers off the battlefield. 
If the raids are only to "capture or kill suspected Taliban insurgents," why would the "Afghan" people be so angry about them? Could it be that there might be a weak ratio of raid to Taliban capture or kill? If there have been thousands of these raids in the last few years, then with a high ratio of success there would be thousands of takings of Taliban commanders and bomb-makers off the battlefield. If that is the case, then there must be an endless source of Taliban, kind of like loaves and fishes. Or maybe they are raiding and killing a lot of civilians. 
A good reporter would be able to sort all this out.
Wed Apr 11 2012 00:53:58 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time)
Three wasn't enough either: 
Then there is the Freudian slip, referring to "the battlefield." As if there is a field in "Afghanistan" where traditional armies meet to fight classic battles ala Clausewitz or Sun Tzu, protecting their flanks, generals strategizing (Well, that's half right. We have generals). For sure there are battles, and sometimes they occur across fields. But from what has appeared in news reports over the years, it appears most of the fighting is in villages and towns. When this is the case, it should be no surprise that there are many civilian casualties. 
I think what is clear is that this story is a construction of official truth. It puts forward the best case for the "interested" parties - all from our side. Internally at NPR this can be forgiven as job security - it's what it takes to get "access." One can only wonder how extensive job security reporting is at NPR. Wed Apr 11 2012 01:17:39 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time)
This was fun:

Marlins Suspend Guillen After Castro Comments (NPR)
I tried to find a good video for Bob Dylan's "Motorpsycho Nightmare," but none exists on either YouTube or Vimeo. There's a story about it on Wikipedia (wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorpsycho_Nitemare). It's one of Dylan's "talking blues" songs, where he finds himself stuck in a traveling salesman-farmer's daughter situation. To make himself instantly unwelcome he blurts out "I like Fidel Castro, I like him and his beard!" It works, and he gets chased out. 
I think Ozzie Guillen did a smart thing. He spoke heresy when heresy is badly needed, and what better place for it than Miami? The guest used the hackneyed comparison to Hitler, as if Castro started a world war and exterminated twelve million people. 
Castro has been far from perfect, but we have George W. Bush, world criminal, walking around free. We hold people prisoner indefinitely and torture them on Cuban soil with impunity. We invade countries and threaten to invade them ("All options are on the table"). We have supported brutal dictators, including the Cuban Fulgencio Batista. We are the world's major source of fossil fuel emissions, which are melting the Polar ice caps. 
So it's all relative. It's O.K. to say that you like George W. Bush. I like Fidel Castro. Tue Apr 10 2012 15:59:46 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time)
...and his beard. Tue Apr 10 2012 16:10:30 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time)
At Advocates’ Offices, Confronting an Anti-Liberal Scheme (New York Times)
This is entirely predictable. The "conservative" movement is completely fake at this point. "Republicans" in Wisconsin announced that they will be running fake "Democrats" in the recall primaries this spring. My reaction was that they have been running fake "Republicans" for decades, so this comes as no surprise. 
This trend of fakery had a beginning, an ascendancy, a peak, which appears to be now, and it will have a decline. As a movement it has no place to go except criminality, so that is where it is going. 
The curious aspect of this phenomenon is that it is happening at a time when fakery and criminality do the most harm. We are in a period of economic and social decline, and the Polar ice caps are melting. 
I suspect that the level of fakery will intensify as we enter the election season, but after this there will be some sort of crisis that will call for truth. That crisis will likely be the weather, and it may already have started. If you look at the situation with a bit of distance, it seems pretty intuitive that this won't go on forever. Jail sentences for a few of these fakers will change the game, if nothing else does. We could start with Rupert Murdoch. April 4, 2012 at 2:41 p.m.
Athletic Quarterbacks Challenge Pocket Passers (NPR)
Oh, that the depth of expertise and analysis could be applied to solving the problems related to climate change. Just kidding. This is much ado about nothing. Men clobbering each other for money. In some cases maiming each other for life, and in some of those cases, for bonus money. 
I hope I'm not exaggerating the "science" of professional football here, but it goes barely deeper than this: Man hike ball to other man who has his hands positioned against his anal sphincter. Other man throws ball or hands it to still another man. Men run around clobbering each other with varying degrees of violence. Some of them grab man carrying ball, failing or succeeding to stop him from running any farther. 
Men all over the country watch these men clobbering each other, and enhance their viewing pleasure with alcohol, cigars, shouting, and the company of similar men either in taverns or special rooms in their houses, sometimes known as man caves. Here in Wisconsin they are known as "Packer rooms." 
Or, put another way, there was a time before professional football, and there will be a time after. It is a cultural phenomenon that is specific to the nature of the society in which it exists. In a time of climate change, it likely won't survive. Wed Mar 21 2012 15:37:27 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time)
Student Is Outraged By Rush Limbaugh Calling Her A 'Slut' And 'Prostitute' (NPR)
In the '90s when "leftists" were clamoring about "Gingrich the Newt," I told people not to be too concerned. He is overplaying his hand, and is headed for a fall. No one believed me. No one. Then he fell.

Similarly, I wouldn't be too concerned about Rush Limbaugh. He is saying the "Democrats" are desperate, but it is he who is desperate. His style of hate-mongering is old, he is getting old and tiresome, and his message is fake. Fakery and hate are hard messages to sustain indefinitely, and they have likely run their course.  
What Limbaugh does is call into question the entire "Conservative" message. All they have are superficial and simplistic cover issues of low taxes, low government spending, military adventurism, religious fanaticism and skewing the economy for the rich and corporations. We are entering an era of increasingly severe consequences to climate change. "Republicans" have no answer for this other than denial. This is not a response that will last. 
What I suggest is for people to egg Rush on. Not egg him, but egg him on. Get him to say even more outlandish things. Then even more. He has painted himself into a corner in his own version of Dante's Inferno. He has no option but to get worse. Eventually he will...... Fri Mar 02 2012 17:36:41 GMT-0600 (Central Standard Time)
I followed up with this:
I see someone is predicting defeat for Obama over this, huge rallies, etc. 
In your dreams. Predicting the future is always tricky business, but this year it is tricky in the extreme. I don't think Rush Limbaugh is going to be with us much longer, but I don't know that this will be the case. History is not on the side of becoming more bombastic and outrageous as one gets older. Especially if truth is not on one's side. 
The same can be said for "Catholicism." It started out supposedly inheriting the "lineage" of "Jesus" (hint: Romanization of his likely real name Yeshua. Think Brutus, Marcus Aurelius, Pontius Pilate, Biggus Dickus), continuing on through the intricacies of Roman politics, through the Spanish Inquisition to the present, with its scandals of child molestation, stonewalling and coverup. 
In a time of economic hardship and uncertainty it is a bit of a stretch to think that teeming hordes of people are going to fill the streets over contraception. The id*@t factor is huge, though, so who knows? I can just see the signs. Id*@ts for Limbaugh! Dumb m*&%$r f@#&ers for abstinence only! The weather is getting warmer. It should be an entertaining spring. Fri Mar 02 2012 18:36:24 GMT-0600 (Central Standard Time)
March 2 at 6:49pm
And this:
Events this week hint at a shift in energy. The ascendancy of the "right wing" has ended, and its decline will likely be very rapid. In essence, the "right wing," or "Tea Party" movement is one of mass psychosis, with its gurus being such hyper-fakers as Andrew Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh. Poor (in the ethical and moral sense) Rush has jumped the shark. He won't be around much longer. Indeed, he has stayed long past his 15 minutes of fame. We have serious things to do on this planet, great problems to solve. The time for pretend is over. Sat Mar 03 2012 12:33:05 GMT-0600 (Central Standard Time)
One last shot:
I think the spelling is Maher. I pronounce it Mah-her. I don't like the guy, but he speaks truth fairly often. He also is an egocentric trash-talker, and I don't watch anything on TV that has him displayed. Except for snippets, which I soon tire from. 

There's another guy named Weiner out there. Michael "Savage," nee Weiner. A curious name change, reeking of compensation. Worse than Limbaugh. His 15 minutes is almost up as well.
The reptilian brain is alive and well on this comments section. Us versus them, shirts versus skins, Sharks versus Jets, "Christians" versus "Muslims," conservatives versus liberals (or "libs"), "Right" versus "left." Rush Limbaugh a sc#mbag? How about John Edwards? Some defense. 

Meanwhile, Wall Street bankers are laughing all the way to the bank, which isn't far, since they are the bank. This little scenario will be playing out for as long as Limbaugh is on the air, which might not be for very long. He now has to outdo himself. The problem he faces is that it is extremely bad luck to treat people so disrespectfully. You darken your soul when you do this, and invite negative energy. All the money in the world cannot save such a person. Sat Mar 03 2012 22:56:31 GMT-0600 (Central Standard Time)
Here's one from Salon:

The Backpage dilemma

There’s something missing in this, but it’s lurking below the surface. Criminality may be the norm in “American” society. A local radio station ran an experiment a decade or so ago, where they left a bicycle unattended to see how long it took for someone to steal it. I think it was sixty-seven seconds. 
Sex trafficking is certainly more serious than bicycle theft, but it’s a difference of degree more than kind. There would be no sex trafficking if there were no customers. Apparently millions of “Americans” are perfectly content to pay for sex with children, knowing full-well that their providers of pleasure are in some sort of involuntary servitude (slavery). 
A casual observation of our political class would place them in an unfavorable comparison to our prison population. Our corporate ruling structure is criminal to its core, polluting the planet, flooding the market with harmful and addictive goods, and treating its workers badly, then discarding them. 
Our nation’s largest municipal police force is beating protesters brutally and arresting them for phony reasons. Our government is engaged in an occupation of another country, where the people are being brutalized and killed on a daily basis. 
The planet’s polar ice caps are melting, due to our profligate use of fossil fuels. As a species, we are responding to this impending disaster by increasing our use of fossil fuels. 
In this overall context the only surprise here is that there is not more sex trafficking of juveniles. The likely reason is that people are too busy committing other crimes. After a certain point the opportunity cost of sex with minors becomes greater than the cost of other crimes. 
Which proves the author’s point. Stopping the ads in Village Voice raises the opportunity cost, making sex with children more difficult to find, and more risky. What I find curious is the Village Voice ad person, a woman, has no hesitation enabling the sex-trafficking of children. That simple fact tells more than anything else in this story.
And finally, this, to the same article:
It’s fun to read comments to my comments. I find that in general the communication given is rarely the communication received, and the inventiveness people show in receiving a different communication than what was given is vast indeed. Maybe some of that inventiveness can be put to use solving a few problems, like climate change, sex trafficking of minors, endless war, our infinite growth economic system. 

Just for a little more fun I’ll go a step deeper, making it a little clearer, knowing full-well that people will still get it wrong. Taking any kind of criminality out of an overall context of criminality and social pathology is a reductionist, dichotomous, discrete, and necessarily partial approach to the subject. It is the bias of the Western intellectual tradition, and has shown itself for decades to be a discredited method. We have an unsustainable social system. The part reveals the whole, as in a hologram. 

I noticed among the comments one from a cliched “right-winger.” This is a self-identity people get into to euphemize their own psychopathology. Because “leftists” need to have “rightists” for purposes of their own identities, there is general agreement that these diseased people can be assigned to the category “right wing.” 

This won’t last forever. We are approaching a huge moment of truth. We, homo sapiens, have a choice: give up the pretend or cease to exist. The seriously diseased, externally identified and self-identified as “right-wingers,” will implode and explode along the way, and will be the first to go.
There's more, but this is plenty. There's no money to be made posting these comments, but someone, or more than someone might be inspired to a deeper or higher level of thought and action.