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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 28, 2013

Tip of the Iceberg

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama Just when our President thought he could breathe a sigh of relief, the NSA world spying scandal is blowing up in his face. He's having to deny spying on Germany's head of state, on other world leaders, and on newly revealed countries around the world. Spain is the latest.

In today's Democracy Now, journalist Glenn Greenwald said the NSA spying shows that our ruling elite has an institutional obsession with surveillance. It turns out that our government has been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel since 2002, before she was in office.

Another thing Greenwald mentioned is that much spying is now on foreign businesses on behalf of American corporations

Outrage over NSA spying is worldwide, and now is growing domestically. Thousands showed up in Washington Saturday for a "Stop Watching Us" rally. As more revelations are made, outrage will likely grow.

Where will it end, one might ask. Our "leaders" are determined to spy on us. It is one of the psychological perks of power - to be the spyor rather than the spyee. Of course it is all pretend. We are all spyees.

NPR aired a story entitled "4 Things To Know About Spying On Allies" today. They interviewed some "experts." Nowhere in the discussion was it mentioned that there is any right or wrong involved. Someone had to bring it up, so I did:

No one mentioned the amorality of spying on everyone. Amorality has consequences. If there is no right and wrong, then anything goes. And anything does go. If the idea of invading some country occurs to our "leaders," fire up the bombers. If you need a place to hold prisoners without regard to rights, duration or treatment, voila, Guantanamo. If you want to kill an American citizen in a foreign country, a drone strike will suffice. Senate asking questions? Give them your least dishonest answer, as if there is such a thing.

Among the many problems with amorality is that it doesn't stop at the nation's borders. The NSA spying on Americans is only part of the glut of amoral activities emanating from our various governmental bodies. The "drug war" and zealous deportations are national embarrassments largely due to the absence of morality in their implementation. Our prison industrial complex would be a lot more humane if there existed a sense of morality.

No need to mention the shutdown and deficit ceiling debacle. We all saw the amorality. What is worth mentioning, though, is that these fiascoes somehow have perversely enabled "Democrats" to propose cuts to Social Security, all under the guise of being "bipartisan." If morality existed in their considerations, this wouldn't even appear as an option.

The only real question is what next? Likely we will find out about some amoral activity that has been going on for years, decades even.

The worst effect, though, is the message amorality at the top gives to the general public. When government, Wall Street, and corporations behave without morals and with impunity, citizens are in effect told "anything goes." We are seeing the results.
Regarding the proposed Social Security and Medicare cuts, an economist should know better than to use the term "entitlements." It is a "right-wing" propaganda word for what economists call money awards like Social Security, unemployment, food stamps (now "Snap") and farm subsidies: TRANSFER PAYMENTS. They are lateral transfers from one sector of society to another, for which there is no exchange of goods and services. When an economist calls them "entitlements," he or she is using political language, and for obvious political purposes.

There is an easy way to avoid a reduction in transfer payments: TAX THE RICH.

We'll see if the "Democrats" succeed in cutting Social Security and Medicare. The President's top economic adviser is advising that they should. Some are following his advice. If they have no morals about this, they have no morals about anything else. Spying is only the tip of the iceberg.

Click here for the Stop Watching Us website.

Here's something curious.

This too.

Common Cause made an online comic book.

R.I.P. Lou ReedHere's a song.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mass Murder

Huffington Post reported today that an anonymous  Bush Administration official said the reason for the invasion of "Iraq" was that they were looking for a fight. "The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy," the former official supposedly said.

I submitted a comment, but it didn't pass the censors. I can post it here, though, passing my self-censorship:

The anonymous official should be easy to identify. All it will take is a grand jury. Starting a war because you were "looking for somebody's ass to kick" is mass murder. MASS MURDER. Worse by far than Newtown, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, John Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein put together.

Families of fallen service members should file charges. The American people, who have been harmed, should file charges. Iraqis, individual and collective, should file charges. The UN should file charges. The International Criminal Court should file charges.

Now that we know for sure that the Bush regime faked its intelligence about Iraq, we might want to ask what else they faked. Like their version of the 911 attacks, and their activities before and after.

This news follows by a couple of weeks the story in the Guardian, in which renowned New Yorker columnist Seymour Hersh said the Obama Administration's version of the killing of Osama bin Laden is completely false. Not much was said about it here because we were too distracted with the theatrics of the "Shutdown."

NSA HeadquartersToday we learned that the NSA has been conducting massive spying on French citizens, 70.3 million calls in a thirty day period. Obama called the French president to apologize.

There is a pattern to all this. Not a "conspiracy," as some would have it, but a pattern. Decision makers in high places act in secret, and they act on behalf of themselves and those they wish to please. This is the nature of the mass system. Democracy and accountability mean something in this reality, but not much. The NSA spies all over the world on everyone it can because it can. It has the technology and the budget. The Bush regime could invade "Iraq" because it could get away with it, and there was money to be made. No matter that a million "Iraqis" have died as a result. They don't matter when you're having fun.

The human species will learn eventually. Meanwhile, I've been mulling over some Woody Allen wisdom lately. This little vignette makes for a great followup. It all evens out in the end.

It's been a busy day. The New York Times saw fit to print a comment I wrote.

I managed to pass the Huffington Post censors on a comment about "entitlements."

Wondering about the latest national emergency, "glitches" in the Affordable Health Care website? Click here. My response is still the most recent: 
Every time a new government function is initiated there are inefficiencies of various sorts. It's the best laid plans of mice and men syndrome. D-day had its glitches. The Marshall plan did not have a perfect "roll out." Social Security to this day has glitches and inefficiencies. Try calling your phone company or computer software provider.
This is filler news. Now that the shutdown (or is it Shutdown?) is over, busy tongues have to busy themselves about something else. Politicians and news media need to inflate this non-story into a super story because there has to be a super story to replace the very handy super story that Just ended.
I have an easy prediction. The "glitches" that have made the "rollout" frustrating for many "Americans" will be resolved within the next few weeks. The super story will fade long before that, likely by about Wednesday. Where, or where will the next super story come from? De nada. Anything will suffice. All you have to do is inflate it as if your life depended on it.
This too.
It's the end of the world!!! Impeach Obama!!! Abolish all health care!!! Something isn't perfect!!!
Leave it to Tom Ashbrook to hype the story up for the usual reason - to hype his show up. Generate interest, yea outrage and rancor, about a non-issue looking for a megaphone.
I'm reminded of an old Bob Dylan verse:
While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in
Presidents have attempted to have a national health care program for over a hundred years. Now we have one. There are difficulties in getting it started. There will be other difficulties. It will get better. The sun will rise tomorrow. Tom Ashbrook will hype something else.
For a list of the Guardian's stories on Edward Snowden, click here.

Every time I link to this song, YouTube pulls it. There used to be a great live version. We'll see how long it lasts this time. It may just be a case of post hoc, ergo propter hoc. We do what we can.