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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.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thanks for Nothing

Earlier this month a revered counselor at Madison Area Technical College was killed with his wife while on vacation. He was riding his motorcycle through Texas when a truck driver coming from the opposite direction reached for a Snickers bar, crossed the median, and hit the couple head-on, killing them instantly. The deceased counselor, Al Studesville, was also a local civil rights leader, and his son Eric is an assistant coach with the Denver Broncos.

Distracted driving kills thousands each year, 3,331 in 2011, and the death toll has been growing every year. In 2011, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents. Total traffic deaths in 2011 was 32,367 human beings.

A study by the Institute of Medicine estimated that between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die annually due to preventable medical errors. The American Association for Justice calls preventable medical errors the sixth largest killer in "America."

Of the nine leading causes of death in the "U.S.," terrorism is not mentioned. A researcher named Robert Johnston compiled a summary of "U.S." terrorism deaths and injuries since the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. There have been 5,031 deaths and 21,687 injuries. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 there have been 193 deaths and 544 injuries. Of the 193 deaths the only ones that can be construed as "Islamic terrorism" are the 13 killed in the Fort Hood shooting spree, and the 3 killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. The rest are an abortion clinic bombing, the massacre of Amish children in 2006, the Virginia Tech shooting, the Tucson shooting, Aurora, Colorada, and assorted other crackpot attacks. Mr. Johnston is very generous in what he refers to as "terrorism."

The death toll from the September 11, 2001 attacks was 2,996. In the invasion and occupation of "Iraq," 4,486 U.S. soldiers were killed, with wounded estimated at 32,000. The "Iraqi" death toll is of course much higher, as high as 151,000 civilians (by the World Health Organization). The British journal The Lancet established the most credible method of counting casualties in 2004. Researchers at MIT estimated civilian deaths in excess of 400,000.

In "Afghanistan," 2,277 "American" service members have been killed since "we" invaded the "country" in 2001. "U.S." wounded have been estimated at 17,674.The number of civilian deaths has been credibly numbered at 16,725 to 19,013.

Whatever the actual numbers are, I think we can safely say that the "War on Terror" has been a farce, with massive death and destruction inflicted for little positive result, if any. The "American" people have spent $7.6 trillion in defense and "homeland security" since "911," with "homeland security" amounting to $635.9 billion.

All this is for the nebulous task of "fighting terrorism." If terrorism is a method, or even an "ism" like capitalism, then it is silly to "fight" it with guns, bombs, kidnapping, torture, indefinite detention and drone attacks. The best way to fight an idea is with a better idea. If you are fighting an idea with guns and bombs, then there is another agenda going on.

In other words, it's a scam. A lot of bluster and demagoguery is used to promote the "War on Terror," which should be proof enough that it is a scam. When so many are shouting so loud, we would do well to look a little deeper into the source of their bluster.

If the number of deaths from "terrorism" is so low compared to other causes of death, why has our political class (and corporate news media) focused so heavily on it? The answer is easy. The political class operates on a different set of priorities. It is a sector of the population that is dedicated to winning "elections," assuming power, and staying in office. Politicians get elected and reelected based on how much money they can raise, and how much they can get voters riled up about something or other.

The best way to raise money is from lobbyists from corporations, who can flourish with favorable legislation and government contracts. Nowadays we also have "superpacs," which can raise money themselves for candidates. Then there are the 501 (C) (4) organizations, which can advocate hypocritically for candidates under the guise of being "social welfare" non-profits.

Given this overall situation, we can now more knowledgeably ask why our national security obsessed government and corporate media are so determined to discredit, extradite, and make an example of whistle blower Edward Snowden. On NPR's On Point a few days ago I commented on a segment about the Snowden leak "controversy:"

Talkers are talking as if there are absolute truths involved, when actually the truth is highly relative. The political uberclass and the corporate media would have us believe Edward Snowden is the worst kind of traitor, worse than the Rosenbergs, worse than James Angleton, worse than Robert Hanssen, worse than Benedict Arnold.
To Edward Snowden, he is just himself, a guy who leaked classified information as a matter of conscience. Given these vastly different perceptions, we might want to look at the motivation behind them. If we take Snowden's perception as it is to him, then the government's perception - including the legislative branch as well as the executive - might not be what it seems.
The government and corporate media's view is of the established order, which has little to do with the safety or well-being of the American people. Their interests are for themselves. In every case. Most revealing was the dead deadpan delivery of Secretary of State John Kerry in his entreaty to "Russia" (as if the entire country of Russia was listening) to return Snowden to "U.S." custody. Lifeless, without any sense of conviction in what he was saying, Kerry personified the entire government position.
The ruse, or scheme to try Snowden is that he, like Bradley Manning, is aiding the "enemy." The enemy is "the terrorists," and this nebulous force is the gift that keeps on giving. If you want to do anything the public might not like, just say it is to get the terrorists, and indeed many terrorists have been thwarted by these activities.
If the established order had ever been serious about stopping terrorists it would have done so before about 9 a.m. EST on September 11, 2001. It should have been easy, and any competent and intentional intelligence analysis and crime prevention activities would have stopped the attacks. For some strange reason the powers that be chose to look the other way.
After this, of course, the established order invaded two countries, causing untold death and destruction, started a kidnapping and torture program, built an illegal prison on a foreign country's land, and, in concert with all these actions, started spying on the American people. Who should we believe, Edward Snowden or the "U.S." established order? I think the answer is easy. Here's an appropriate song: www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-7uwshsfFI
The onslaught from the corporate media has been loud and relentless. Most comical was Meet the Press on June 23, in which host David Gregory asked fellow journalist Glenn Greenwald why he shouldn't be charged with a crime. It was Greenwald who broke the story about the NSA in the Guardian. Frank Rich, editor of New York magazine, had the best response to Gregory's Potemkin journalism, suggesting he be moved to the Today Show.

David Gregory is only the most flagrant example of fake journalism in our established media, the part revealing the whole. They have little credibility anymore. More important is how ordinary "Americans" perceive the situation. At least one writer believes public perceptions are at a crossroads. Subhankar Banerjee writes in Common Dreams that it isn't Snowden who is on the run, but us.

For me, the response of the Obama Administration is enough indication of how serious the NSA leaks are. They really, really, really want to have Edward Snowden in custody. Just this weekend we found out the NSA has been spying on the European Union. More is likely to come out, and the established order would like to control the situation.

Good luck with that. As with every other critical issue, the powers that be grope for the solution that gives them the most power and control. They can't deal with climate change because there is a danger of loss of control when facing unknown challenges. The unsustainability of our infinite growth economic system is something they can't face because that means changing the power dynamics in this country, a threat to the status quo.

We may go into another recession this year. Another banking crisis is looming, and there is little real innovation going on. The climate is misbehaving with increasing frequency. All the spying in the world is not going to change this. I'm not as alarmed as some about the domestic spying. I assumed they were doing all this anyway. No technology in the history of the human species has been employed at anything less than full capability. Atomic bombs, of course, created a need for Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) as a deterrent, but spy technology is too tempting.

The spy scandal is interesting in that it reveals the intrinsic nature of the mass system, but spying is not the tail that wags the dog, so to speak. Spying on "American" citizens is not going to solve the problem of CO2 emissions into the Earth's atmosphere. At some point the human species is going to have to decide if it wants to survive into the future. As it stands, with silliness like the NSA collecting everyone's "metadata" instead of resources being focused on climate change, we are choosing extinction. Way to go, NSA. Way to go, Obama. Way to go, Congress. Way to go, Supreme Court. Thanks for nothing. _______________________________________________

Here's a song for Edward Snowden. Click here for chords and lyrics. It's actually in the key of D. A variation on the theme. This one is in C.

Here's another. This too. And, of course, this, for spies who come in from the cold. When they come for you, remember this. Above all, don't worry. Some of us aren't born to follow.

If there is one thing Edward Snowden knows how to do, it is to stir it up.

If you are employed by the NSA or are a fellow traveler, this song is for you.

In case you trust that the NSA wouldn't spy on YOU, read this.

Here's a new development. This calls for another song. And a version from Edward Snowden's new home.

This song by Brewer and Shipley is for whistle blowers everywhere. They walk a lonely road.

One last song of inspiration.

What the heck. One more Brewer and Shipley. Here's the original version.

For an update on what we have learned from the Edward Snowden case, click here. Democracy Now is showing a video of Snowden speaking for himself.

I almost forgot this song. It has aged a bit, but still great music, and you can make it mean whatever you want. The same goes for this.

Just who is this truegangsteroflove person?