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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.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dig a Little Deeper

I had this to offer in a comment to an article in Salon about a pending anti-abortion law in Indiana:
Conversations on this topic, and any number of other "right" versus "left" topics will continue to go nowhere without anything deeper than a this is the latest outrage reporting. There is a psychology to supposed right-wingness, and it trumps any pretense to "ideology."

Partly authoritarian, partly parasitic, partly paranoid, "right wing" is a pathological state of mind. The parasitic part is one that gets too little attention. What are the rich if not parasites? Snark on the Web is also parasitic, intended to gain emotional payoff through insults and outrageous claims.

"Left wing" isn't exactly a transcendent state of being either, but is more likely to be a result of compassion and a sense of mutuality. When the ego gets too large, anyone can become a negative force. The difference, for analytical purposes, is that "right wing" can be seen as a multifaceted psychopathology.

The mania over abortion is a good example. My own attitude is that abortion is a big deal in a person's life, but that is that person's life. People attempting to do all kinds of things, including terrorism, to stop abortions are authoritarians, many adherents to a "faith" that I know much about, "Catholicism." Anti-abortion campaigns are the last, desperate attempt at imposing authority for this child-molesting religion that is in decline.

One question that could be asked in a study of anti-abortion campaigners is what would they be doing if it weren't for this cause. It gives their lives a sense of meaning, community, a way for singles to find instant success, and feelings of power. Maslow would find it a good case study in the fulfillment of deficiency needs.

We err when we ignore the psychology behind human behavior, pretending that "ideology" predominates. If someone is a "religious nut" a "gun nut," or an "anti-abortion nut," they are first and foremost, nuts. We should look at that first. What is it about our mass industrial system that produces "right wing" nuts? Are the fragmentation and anomie that a mass system produces the causes of fanaticism and authoritarianism? Or is it just roll of the dice - some of us are of the type?
Maybe this will go nowhere. I'm confident that over the long haul that the human species, in the interest of its own survival, will look at the underlying nature of its intransigence.

I couldn't find the Doc Watson version of this song, but this is pretty good. This one's good too, just starts out bad. I remember Eric Bibb's father Leon Bibb, great folksinger, incredible voice. Here's some Doc Watson to give you an idea of what he would sound like doing the song.

Here's an example of the parasitism of the rich.

And, in matters Wisconsin, there's this.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Olympic Overkill

Sochi.ruThe New York Times reported today that fears of terrorism are "rattling" Olympic athletes and their families. "Russia" has treated people so badly in its rebellious ethnic regions that some terrible bombings have been taking place in areas close to the Olympics. More have been threatened. "Russia," of course, is responding the only way its leaders know to do - massive police crackdown.

The Times usually shuts down its comment section pretty quickly, so I was surprised that my submission got printed. Only a few people read the comments, but I can reprint it here:

It was inevitable that it would reach this point. The Olympics have become big business, with hype and a glut of sporting events that gets bigger over time. There's competition, and there's the selling of the competition.

Because there is terrorism in the world, and it is a growing phenomenon as pressures in societies around the world cause social breakdown, the Olympics will become increasingly vulnerable. So we have an increasingly money-obsessed and hyped Olympics in a condition of increasing worldwide terrorism.

To begin pondering a solution we might want to consider de-hyping and de-money-obsessing the Olympics, scaling the "movement" to a sober-minded international competition.

The other half of solving the problem is reducing the underlying factors that cause terrorism. Religious fanaticism doesn't happen in a vacuum. It is a proxy phenomenon for social and economic disparity. In our weak-minded Western way of thinking we look at religious fanatics as religious fanatics, when there is always an underlying psychology and causation. Heal the psychology and causation and you heal the fanaticism. So far all we know how to do is kill them.
I don't have anything more to offer about this. I watch the Olympics, and enjoy most of the sports, but the TV "anchors" and other assorted know-it-alls are just insufferable. Nonstop talk, hype, and the obligatory feature stories about various athletes - emotional appeals to keep the rubes tuned in during lulls in the action.

Actually, since all the broadcasts are time-delayed, the features are more likely due to low expected audiences for some sports. There also might be logistical problems in broadcasting a glut of sports over a wide geographical area. Add in the security problems and we might be watching endless stories about the athletes' brave histories of overcoming obstacles.

On other subjects, it would be hard to ignore the foibles of New Jersey's supersized governor. His days in office are likely numbered in the few. Many are making their views known on Governor Christie's troubles, and I, ever the optimist, wrote this, commenting on a Salon article:

Who would have guessed that Christie would be such a gold mine of corruption? This may signal a seismic shift, a change in direction of the ethers, where what appears to be actually is. Christie has appeared to be a bullying, blustering sleaze politician, and, voila, he is.

We have been living in the surreal for too long. If the phenomenon of what appears to be actually is spreads throughout the system, the blustering, bullying "right wing" is through.

This was inevitable. Just in terms of fads, the trend of "Conservatism" appeared from out of nowhere, it seemed, in 1964. There was no Barry Goldwater before then, but a movement began at the Cow Palace in San Francisco that year, a fitting place.

The movement grew, and produced a preposterous movie actor who acted well enough to become President of the United States. For eight years, most of which he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, not that anyone noticed the difference.

Surreal. A man of mixed "race" becomes president, and followers of the "Conservative" fad claim he is not legal, and make up all kinds of things about him, attempting to destroy his presidency. It doesn't help that he is pretty good at destroying it himself.

Now we are in a condition of the end game of capitalism, unsustainability, and global climate change. Just in time, a buffoon like Christie appears on the scene, and his oversized visage is deflated on the national and international stage. Just in time.
That's enough for a while. I have some other stuff I can add in the next few days, but might not bother. There is such a thing as too much.

Here's a song.

This performance resulted in prison sentences for two members of "Russia's" Pussy Riot. For an interview with the author of a new book about Pussy Riot, click here. In an extended interview, the author, Masha Gessen talks about the politics of the Sochi Olympic games.

Here's an update on the "Russian" security crackdown in advance of the Olympics.

The subject of limits to economic growth is finally being discussed on mainstream media. NewsHour on PBS aired this segment January 15. Correspondent Paul Solman does some of the best reporting on the economy to be found anywhere. You can find his work here.

This is a worthy read.

For the best show on radio, click here.

R.I.P. Pete Seeger.


Here are a couple of updates about the Olympics:  Democracy Now with several stories, and Salon, about the most corrupt Olympics ever.

Friday, January 03, 2014

There's Sucker Born Every Minute

The weatherman on TV last night predicted the worst cold spell since 1996. I well remember the 1996 winter. I was working as a TV cable installer, and was out in the subzero cold every day. One Sunday I was out when the temperature was -35 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, all the work I did that day was indoors. The cable company told us not to keep the engines running on our trucks to keep them warm. No one obeyed.

That was pretty typical of the cable company. The pay was low, we got harassed, and if you talked about organizing a union you would get fired. I haven't subscribed to cable since then. I do fine with a converter box. I mostly watch public television, but a couple of extra channels offer reruns of old programs like Barney Miller and WKRP in Cincinnati. These shows are far better than the current network offerings, though Parks and Recreation is supposed to be pretty good. I keep forgetting to watch.

Last night I couldn't find anything worth watching, and scouted around for a bowl game. I'm not much of a football fan, but can handle a bowl game for a while. There were none to watch. I found this hard to believe, and did a Web search for bowl games. It turns out that almost all of them are on ESPN, and of the few bowl games on network TV, none showed yesterday.

De nada. To me, every football game is the same - man hike ball, man throw ball or hand off to other man, man grab man with ball, throw him to the ground, man clobber other man, crowd cheers wildly. It's just bread and circus. TV is a diversion, so when there's nothing worthwhile to watch it's a good reminder to to something useful.

When I looked the bowl games up on the ESPN site I was surprised to find out that there are so many of them. When I was young there were four: the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and the Rose Bowl. They were all shown on network TV on January 1 every year. Then the NCAA and the TV networks realized there was money to be made in having more bowls. Many more. There are now thirty-five college football bowl games between December 21 and January 6. There are 125 colleges competing in Division 1 football. With 70 teams playing in bowls, this means 56 percent of colleges in Division 1 send a football team to a bowl game. It's almost like the Special Olympics, where everyone wins a prize.

More like a racket. When more than half the teams eligible play in a "championship," the championships don't mean much. The four original bowl games don't even have their original names anymore. The Orange Bowl is now the Discover Orange Bowl. The Sugar Bowl is now the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Cotton Bowl is now the AT&T Cotton Bowl. The Rose Bowl is in a bit of a grey area, retaining its original name, but hawked as the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO. Some bowls, like the Capital One Bowl, the Go Daddy Bowl, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl, don't even bother with a cover name, just called by their corporate sponsors.

P.T. Barnum is credited with inventing the term  there's a sucker born every minute, but it apparently was someone else. Whatever the case, what it means is that it is easy to trick people out of their money. It's actually pretty easy to trick people about just about anything - politics, consumer products, religion, science, entertainment. Spying on us to "keep us safe." Weapons of mass destruction in "Iraq." Combine this with the proliferation of psychopaths in the population, and we have a recipe for disaster. You can hardly blame people for getting excited about the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (which was lost by one of my alma maters, Northern Illinois).

What to do about it? I don't know, but this year I plan on meditating more. It's not exactly a resolution, but an intention. It's a lot better than watching TV, and better for humanity, according to the wise.

Here's a little more bowl trivia. New Orleans had two bowl games, the R+L Carriers Bowl and the Allstate Sugar Bowl. They were played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Shreveport, Louisiana also had a bowl game, the AdvoCare V100 Bowl.

San Diego had two bowl games, the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and the National University Holiday Bowl, both held at Qualcomm Stadium. Dallas had one bowl game, the Heart of Dallas Bowl, held at the Cotton Bowl. The AT&T Cotton Bowl was held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl was held in nearby Fort Worth.

There also was a Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman, held in Annapolis, but no service academies played in it. Texas had three other bowl games - the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, and the Texas Bowl in Houston. The Bluebonnet Bowl no longer exists.

There were two bowls held at the Florida Citrus Bowl, neither of them named the Florida Citrus Bowl: The Capital One Bowl and the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Capital One Bowl used to be called the Tangerine Bowl, then the Florida Citrus Bowl. Florida also hosted the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl in St. Petersburg, the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, and the Outback Bowl in Tampa, which used to be known as the Hall of Fame Bowl. The Discover Orange Bowl is no longer held at the Orange Bowl, which has been torn down, but at Miami Sun Life Stadium, which used to be Joe Robbie Stadium.

R.I.P. Phil Everly.