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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, November 27, 2013

60 Minute Woman

CBS and its renowned magazine program 60 Minutes are having a difficult week. After an internal investigation revealed that a story by reporter Lara Logan was false, they have announced that she and her producer have been put on administrative leave. The false story was about last year's raid in Benghazi, Libya, in which the "American" ambassador was killed.

If true, the story would have been damning to the Obama Administration, because it contradicted the official version of the attack, contending that the State Department knew the attack was coming, yet did nothing to protect the embassy staff.

When Lara Logan issued her apology at the end of the November 17 60 Minutes broadcast, I had the following response:
I'm a bit surprised that 60 Minutes waited until the end of the show to apologize. I'm also a bit surprised to see Lara Logan still in good standing on the show.

I think the corporate heads at CBS don't realize how important credibility is. It is one thing for Fox to put out fake reports - people expect lies, and only the fringe element believes them. 60 Minutes is supposed to be the investigative reporting standard for network television. Now we are left to wonder about all of the stories they tell.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out why Dan Rather was fired, but Lara Logan wasn't. Politics. Dan Rather's story was actually a good one, but it was about a President in favor being a deserter, while Lara Logan's story was in effect about a President in disfavor. At least ideological disfavor with certain power foci.

The other reason, of course, is that Lara Logan has some standing or stature for having been molested while reporting in Cairo. If CBS fires her it will generate a certain amount of sympathy. C'est la vie. I will watch the show less, as will others. Bill Moyers is on at the same time here. I'm freer to watch it now.
It appears that this story is growing like the Watergate scandal, except it involves a corporate news operation. Like Watergate, the coverup is worse than the crime. And, to be sure, airing a false story with the intention of influencing American foreign policy is a crime.

I don't watch 60 Minutes every week, but watch it enough to have seen the numerous puff stories Lara Logan has done from Afghanistan and other places. Her reports were "embedded," with her dressed unlike other women reporters - form-fitting, revealing - and flirting with commanders. One shot of her getting on a helicopter in her tight pants was comedic in its provocation. It is telling that in the original Benghazi broadcast she had to show some chest, but not in her "apology."

As the story develops someone might ask how Lara Logan got hired by 60 Minutes in the first place. Given her shoddy reporting, is there a previous record of journalistic excellence, enough to bring her to the attention of CBS executives?.

The dynamic of this scandal is interesting to watch for a number of reasons. Can a corporate news operation follow high ethical standards? Has 60 Minutes become watered down by TV titillation needs? Has "right wing" hysteria spread beyond Fox News? What really happened at Benghazi? How does CBS make personnel decisions? Who will 60 Minutes replace Lara Logan with? Another bimbo? Stay tuned - to something else.

Here's a synopsis of Lara Logan's career.

This calls for a song.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Strange Changes

Watch your backThe big news story today is President Obama's deal with "Iran," in which economic sanctions are tentatively eased in exchange for cooperation in reducing their nuclear program. It marks a break with "Israel," and most particularly with its bellicose and dangerous prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In response to a story on National Public Radio - President Obama Bets Big On Middle East Diplomacy - I offered this response, then posted it a few other places:
This changes the dynamic in the Mideast. I remember a few years ago Netanyahu was quoted as saying "Doesn't this guy get it?" in response to Obama favoring negotiations with one or another of Israel's enemies du jour. What Obama apparently didn't get was that American presidents are supposed to do the bidding of Netanyahu, and thus Israel.
Then Netanyahu proceeded to interfere with the U.S. elections, funneling money and propaganda to the Romney campaign. It is likely that neither Obama nor Kerry forgot this in their negotiations with Iran.

The politician in favor or disfavor in Israel depends on a number of factors, but it seems the main one is how effective that politician is in making the U.S. president bend to his will, to "get it."

Now we will see what happens to the Israeli prime minister when the U.S. president doesn't "get it" with full intention. So far all "BiBi" has is bluster, saying "historic mistake," "appeasement," etc. It's too late, too little, too hackneyed. Historic defeat is more accurate, and the defeat is all his. There are likely more to come.
This was inevitable. Our "leaders" may be avoiding REAL economic reform, and are hiding from action on climate change, but the day has finally come to put an end to "Israeli" domination of "U.S." foreign policy. It is a waste of resources, time, energy, and there is no longer any advantage in "getting it."

I wonder how many people in our foreign policy "establishment" realize this. It has been largely due to inertia that we have been giving them as much as $4.1 billion annually in "air," mostly military, adding up to over $118 billion since 1949.

Of course there are other aspects, like what it takes to become a member of the "foreign policy establishment" - something for another intrepid soul to write about. When I see them on TV shows like NewsHour, harumphing and blustering through "debates" and interviews, they just look like characters out of Central Casting.

When I heard about the deal on Sunday I found another reason for optimism, which I posted to this NPR story:
There aren't many pleasant surprises these days, but this one is much needed and is a true momentum-shifter. It signals two things. One is that we are no longer starting wars with people willy-nilly, just because we can.

The other, and equally significant, is that we are no longer allowing "Israel" and its dangerous, manipulative prime minister to control "American" foreign policy. He will have to try to generate hatred elsewhere.

Another thing this symbolizes is the beginning of Obama's lame duck era. He has nothing to lose anymore, and everything to gain by doing the right thing. I think we can look forward to more of this kind of thing. Maybe he'll lift the embargo on Cuba, close Guantanamo entirely, returning it to the country that it is part of.

Domestically, Obama could call for progressive taxation, a maximum income, a return to New Deal-type programs like the CCC and WPA, and taking REAL action to reverse the trend towards drastic global climate change. One can dream.
This may turn out to be Obama's legacy: a shift in Mideast policy. He has three years left in his term, and the "Republicans" are determined to destroy his presidency. He hasn't done such a bad job of destroying it himself. I of course would like to see him be successful as President. Maybe once he gets a taste of REAL statesmanship he'll do some other things, like close Guantanamo, quit killing innocent people with drones, get out of NATO, and stop spying on "Americans" willy-nilly, to say nothing of gratuitous foreigners. He also could get progressive taxation passed, a maximum income, move towards a steady-state economy, and finally start doing something about climate change. A man can dream.

This is slightly old news, but here's an example of how "Israel" views the "American" taxpayer.

Here's a brief history of Netanyahu's dire warnings about "Iran."

Sony blocks most original Bob Dylan songs on YouTube. This Bryan Ferry version of Bob Dylan's Dream will do.

Here's another dream song.

This is a song we should all face.

Here's a hopeful song. Joan Baez does a nice job in this version.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Moot Question

Lyndon Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One, November 22, 1963 Friday will be the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our nation's 35th President. There will be remembrances and memorials, and of course numerous rehashings of theories about how he died and who killed him. Count on ALL mainstream media to support the official version, that a "lone gunman," Lee Harvey Oswald, committed the crime.

Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey OswaldMaybe, maybe not. Credible evidence exists that the Mafia and/or the CIA were involved in Kennedy's death, in addition to or instead of Oswald. We'll likely never know, and at this point would have doubts no matter what we are told. The one thing we do know is that our President was murdered, and the country has not been the same since.

Of course, it wasn't going to be the same anyway. The march of history is unstoppable, and most of the changes since Kennedy was alive would be happening anyway. Still, we can muse. PBS's Frontline is airing a couple of old documentaries about Oswald, and I responded to one of them thusly:

Like the Warren Report, piles and piles of information can be put out about every aspect imaginable related to the Kennedy assassination. None of it will resolve anything, because by this time nothing is trusted.
It doesn't matter greatly what the truth is at this point. If there was a plot to assassinate Kennedy, it was successful. Whatever result was intended has come about. Or not. We don't know.
The country certainly has taken a downward direction since November 22, 1963. There likely wouldn't have been a President Johnson or a President Nixon. The Vietnam war likely wouldn't have been escalated, and we may have gotten out completely. Without a Nixon presidency there wouldn't have been a Watergate.
We probably wouldn't have had a President Reagan, and others that followed, no Iran-Contra, no 911, no invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, no 2008 meltdown. No Patriot Act, no Bush regime, no ALEC, Karl Rove, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Keystone XL Pipeline.
One can dream. Kennedy's health may have prevented a second term. The predicament we are now in with climate change and a declining empire and economy would have happened with or without Kennedy. It could be worse.
I think one thing is safe to say: that presidents ever since have looked over their shoulders when considering policy options, especially the current one. Indeed, there has been no president since Kennedy that broke a cultural taboo until Obama. Kennedy had to overcome the prejudice against Catholics. Obama has had the much harder task of overcoming racial bigotry. It has to have affected his choices.
On Frontline's Facebook page they posed the question "Do you believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, or that he was he part of a conspiracy?" I answered that too:

Belief is in the realm of religion. I don't know if Oswald even acted, much less acted alone. A better question is if Santo Trafficante acted alone. Or E. Howard Hunt. "Reverse engineering" is a term that emerged during the Bush II regime. If we reverse engineer from where we are now to November 22, 1963 we can conclude that the direction the country has taken is pretty clear evidence that something more than a "lone gunman" took place.

Of course, that borders on belief. I believe that the truth is known, that it is different from what we have been told, and that we are unlikely to find out any time soon. I also believe that the answer is somewhat irrelevant.

What difference would it make to the "American" people if the truth were known? Would the country move in the direction that Kennedy was apparently going? Not likely. The country is hooked on various forms of escape, and fair game for manipulation. Combine that with massive ignorance and laziness, and the factual knowledge of how Kennedy died would be just another piece of pop trivia. It would come and go like the wind.
The upshot, for me at least, is that who killed Kennedy is a moot question at this point. We have the present and the future to deal with. We have an infinite growth, fossil fuel based economic system on a finite planet, in a condition of increasingly severe climate change. We have enough difficulty getting the public and elected officials willing to face this reality. No need to overload them with ghosts from the past. In the immortal words of that great sage Jack Nicholson, they can't handle the truth.

The Zapruder film of the assassination can be seen here.

Scientist James Lovelock believes humans are too stupid to handle the truth. 

Here's Jack Nicholson shouting his classic line.

Here's another great shout, from Jim Morrison.

Johnny Cash wondered about truth many years ago.

Here's another Jim Morrison observation.

This song might have been inspired by the Warren Report.

A year before the assassination the Kingston Trio had an album called The New Frontier, kind of a Kennedy homage. I couldn't find a video of it, but here's the song's author and former trio member John Stewart. You can get a short listen here. The song that made them famous was Tom Dooley, in 1959. Original member Dave Guard joined the Siddha Yoga cult later in life, long after I had left. He stayed with it until he died in 1991. Here's an interview with him in about 1989 or so, where he talks about Siddha Yoga.

A couple of weeks after the assassination the Chad Mitchell Trio performed this medley at a concert where I was in college. A couple of years later the Byrds recorded this update of a traditional folk song. Their lead singer and guitarist Roger McGuinn used to be the backup musician for the Chad Mitchell Trio. He used the name Jim instead of Roger.

Most people are familiar with this song by Dion. Here's his biggest hit, in a style known these days as doo-wop. We never called it doo-wop. We didn't call anything rockabilly either. Genre dividing-up didn't come about until years later, when wise men needed new categories to talk about and sound like wise men. It also came in handy as a way to make the Grammys more interesting by adding music styles.

I almost forgot this song

Here are some more songs remembering Kennedy. Some more can be accessed here.

When this song started playing on the radio in February, 1964, the energy shifted, and the country came out of its stupor. I can still remember the first time I heard it. Without being told, I knew intuitively that this was that new group from England that was taking Europe by storm. The sound was so cheerful and refreshing that it made me and millions of others optimistic and ready for some fun.