.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.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ready For Elizabeth

The strangest things come in the mail. Saturday I received a letter from the "Ready for Hillary" political action committee (PAC), which is raising money to "urge" Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016. The group presents itself as a "grass roots" organization, concerned citizens who want the first woman president. (For the record, such as it exists, I favor a woman for president: Elizabeth Warren.)

The timing couldn't be more perfect. I've been writing some things here and there about how both political parties are completely bought, and have been especially critical of "Democrats," because they portray themselves as the party of the people, when the same corporate and Wall Street "interests" that pay off the "Republicans" also pay them off. The payoffs are known as "campaign contributions."

I had a fun go-around on the website to a local Madison TV station, when they broke the story about emails that were released from the "John Doe" investigation of Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker. When Walker was Milwaukee County Executive his staff was using county government time and equipment to do campaign work. He claimed to know nothing about what his staff was doing, and investigators didn't charge him with a crime, believing they couldn't get a conviction. For Walker, that's good enough. He is now calling the release of the emails "old news."

I posted two comments to the story, and then a few back-and-forths with "Democratic" snarkers, who didn't like that I wasn't following the party line. Here's the first of the two comments:

Whatever delicious information is found in this treasure trove of embarrassing and/or incriminating information can and likely will be squandered by the "Democrats." They still haven't figured out that you have to have something to offer voters in order to win elections.

This means that you have to stand for something that means something, like progressive taxation, enforcement of environmental standards, support for public education, health care for ALL, and a business climate that is competitive and regulated so that no one has an unfair advantage and the public is safe from harmful products.

I believe Walker is a criminal sociopath, but as we have already seen, that is not enough to convince the public to replace him with a "Democrat." This is not likely to change, because the "Democrats" are stuck in the mindset that the way to win elections is to play both ends against the middle. It is known as "triangulating."

They treat minorities and the unions as hostages - voters who have no choice but to vote for them - and try to coax "Independents" with "moderation" and platitudes. In essence, they end up disrespecting ALL voters, and, of course, LOSE. Unless Walker is indicted, he will be governor for another four years. It isn't our only hope. He might run for president.
Here's the second comment, a reply to a late-comer to the conversation by a day, with the kind of response normally expected from "right-wingers."

Letter from Frank FasiJerry Gibbs ~ Nice try. This reads like "Democratic" party talking points. This story is from yesterday, so someone coming in a day later was guided in. Then there is the "right wing" talking points. What would be "right wing" about ANYTHING that I wrote? I have voted for ONE "Republican" in my life, Frank Fasi for mayor of Honolulu in 1984, when I lived there. He was actually a "Democrat," but party bosses went for a party boss-type, so he switched parties and won (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Fasi). Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune later wrote a column in praise of Fasi for his independence, not in this, but for refusing to provide security for ousted Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos when he moved to Honolulu (Syndicated here: http://articles.philly.com/1986-03-05/news/26082640_1_frank-fasi-police-officers-mayor-fasi).

But I digress. The "right wing" accusation is a pretty stock response, because party partisans live in a binary world - with us or against us, black or white, zero or one, "left" or "right," "Democrat" or "Republican." This is the way of the reptilian brain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triune_brain).

Another accusation is that I try to act like I am above it all. If I were above it all I'd be living in a monastery. I vote. Sometimes I donate money. Sometimes I volunteer, including in two recall campaigns (state Senate and governor), and for the "Democrats" in 2010 in its get out the vote campaign. That disqualifies me as both a "right-winger" and a "Republican." I wrote about impending defeat for "Democrats" based on how they ran their PREVIOUS TWO CAMPAIGNS. They played to LOSE, and LOST. They have themselves to blame, but will continue running the same lame campaigns they ran before, gaming their constituencies as givens, while attempting to coax "Independents" with nothingness. If you think this is a "right wing" talking point, state in words what Tom Barrett did in two attempts at governor that showed that he stood for something more than "I will heal the state's divide." (challenge)

Yuk. This is easy. "Democratic" partisans can't stand it when people don't accept their supremacy. Like a lot of people, I look at both political parties as something similar to organized crime, especially at the national level. I tend to vote for "Democrats," because they are less criminal and less sociopathic. In Wisconsin now, the "Republicans" are a purely criminal organization, led by a dangerous sociopath. Based on some of the comments above, I don't put much stock in the "Democrats," and of course their recent campaigns. Maybe the Green Party will have a candidate. Here's something I wrote in 2012, predicting Barrett's defeat: http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/mailbag/john-hamilton-barrett-must-shift-gears-trust-voters-intelligence/article_e47cc57e-b9a8-5f7d-ab12-a5b4527c85fc.html
So it goes. I cranked out another screed on OnPoint today, responding to a segment about the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). pushing another Sisyphean rock up the mountain:

What a surprise. The IRS is underfunded and under-statuted. The responsible body, or really irresponsible body, is the U.S. Congress. The Congress, curiously, is almost entirely bought by corporate and Wall Street "interests."

Then there is the added factor of fake ideology, promoted by such fakers as Grover Norquist, which promotes the idea that taxation is the root of all evil. The campaign to "starve the beast" is succeeding beyond its hopes and dreams.

I believe it is safe to say that IRS disenablers like Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, various bought members of Congress, and the members of the Supreme Court who enable bribery - all are traitors in the truest sense. It is one of the great ironies of these goofy times we live in that the very same people are calling Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers traitors, when it is they who are harming the country. The harm they are doing is not rhetorical, but actual.

I should mention that I filed early this year, and received my refund quickly. The two previous years I filed my taxes erroneously, due to the complications of retiring, IRAs and deductions. The IRS caught the errors both times, and I was surprised to receive refund checks. They may be stressed, but there is still competence there.

This situation is yet another example of how our system has been hijacked by opportunists with agendas other than the good of the country and its people. Not surprisingly, their agendas are for themselves - money, power, privilege and prestige. As long as narcissism rules in this country, we are pretty much doomed.

And, of course, this is all in a broader context of an unsustainable infinite-growth economic system in a condition of global climate change. Hey, we just finished with two weeks of Olympics extravaganza. Not to worry. March Madness is just around the corner. Then, opening day to the baseball season. Video games rule. There's plenty of hyper-entertainment to keep us distracted. Ancient Rome would be awed.

Here's a song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9tlJdHA5Os
Not giving up, I also replied to the next segment, about the jobless economy:

Typical of this kind of discussion is that trends are extrapolated independent of their context. These guests, esteemed academics at MIT, should be aware of the Latin term ceteris paribus - all other things held equal. This is the caveat economists use when they isolate variables in order to study modeled changes in an approach known as comparative statics.

In a dynamic system, few variables can be held equal. In a dynamic of an unsustainable, disecological mass system in a context of global climate change, the decline in workers per unit of output is only part of the mix. It is a serious part, but if unsustainability and climate degradation move our mass system in a dystopian direction, it will be a mere contributing factor.
Not finished yet, I had this for Salon, more about Walker:

It's great that this drags out. By the time neither Walker nor Christie are either running for office or IN office, the field of "contenders" will be mighty thin. It's thin anyway, with no agenda that has any credibility, and a track record of great harm to the country.

Since I live in Wisconsin it is easier to talk about Walker. He's an intellectual lightweight and a sociopath who never should have been elected to ANY office, much less governor of the country's formerly most progressive state, home to Robert LaFollette. He became Milwaukee County Executive running as a "reformer," after his predecessor and other "Democrats" were caught in egregious corruption (That was "Democrats." Sad to say, "Democrats" are to blame for Walker's ascendancy).

Walker's next predecessor, former governor Jim Doyle, wasn't corrupt, but he didn't stand for anything. He was governor for eight years, and didn't realize that just "being governor" wasn't enough. He was so unpopular after eight years that he ended his candidacy for reelection. Enter Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, who also didn't stand for anything, and was easy pickings for Walker and his Koch money. He led a landslide that swept enough "Republicans" into office that they had majorities in both houses of the legislature. They quickly rammed through Act 10, stripping unions of their collective bargaining rights as well as denuding them of other important rights.

Then the people got active, especially union members, and with over a million petition signatures, a recall election was scheduled in 2012. After not supporting either the uprising at the Capitol or the recall, Barrett ran in the primary and then against Walker for a second time. He again stood for nothing, and lost.

Walker is under scrutiny in a second John Doe investigation, and again it is the main hope of unseating him. The only declared "Democratic" candidate, rich person Mary Burke, stands for nothing, just like Doyle and Barrett. The state "Democratic" party endorsed her shortly after she announced her candidacy.

It is worth mentioning that a certain mayor of a major city close to Wisconsin is rumored to be pulling the strings in Wisconsin politics, specifically ordering Barrett to run in the recall to save union money for Obama's reelection. Maybe Joan Walsh can find out if this is true. The "Democrats" are gaming the election, triangulating, standing for nothing as a way of wooing "Independents." If Walker isn't indicted, they may go down to another well-deserved defeat. Meanwhile, the people of Wisconsin suffer.
That's enough for one day. I hope it does some good.

Here's a song for old time's sake. The best part is Brother Ali. I was in the crowd, visible in a couple of versions. For a fun variation on the theme, click here.

Here's some early Bob Dylan, a song for all of us.

And of course, this.

Join with 350.org. Here's a recruiting song, an old favorite.

Substitute Elizabeth for the name on this song.

The New York Times has a story about "Ready for Hillary."

The New Yorker, not to be confused with the New York Times, also had a story about "Ready for Hillary," last year.

Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor for Bill Clinton until he resigned over NAFTA, writes about our jobless economy.

I hope this isn't true.

R.I.P.  Harold Ramis.  Salon has this story about his movie Groundhog Day.

If you would like to gain an understanding of corruption in high places, watch this PBS Frontline segment. Catholicism, the religion of my youth, is fully exposed. The behavior of the Vatican Curia can be seen as archetypal of authoritarian systems. Where absolute power exists, absolute corruption exists. As Frontline shows, absolute corruption can be forgiven, since priests can give "absolution."

The plot thickens in Wisconsin, as can be seen in this news item. I had this observation to offer:

Steven Biskupic. Now that's a name we've seen before. He was the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Wisconsin who prosecuted Doyle bureaucrat Georgia Thompson on trumped up charges in 2006 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_M._Biskupic). Some might remember that this was part of the Bush criminal regime's nationwide campaign to prosecute "Democrats." The former governor of Alabama is still in prison, also from trumped up charges (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/did-ex-alabama-governor-get-a-raw-deal/).

Maybe as this case develops we will get to the root of all this chicanery. Biskupic could be the key that unlocks the door. All it will take is for one person to sing from the inside of this "vast right-wing conspiracy." These are men without honor, so they will turn on each other in less than a blink of the eye.
Here's Glenn Greenwald's site for some edification.

Utne Reader is always a great source of information and insight.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We Are On Our Own

The three issues that are causing the most concern, argument and consternation these days are in the news again, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Two of them - NSA spying and Obama's program of drone attacks - are relatively easy to resolve. Just stop doing it.

The third issue - global climate change - isn't so easy to deal with. Since it isn't easy, our government and corporate leadership choose to do nothing. It is the most critical of the three issues, with the most drastic consequences, including an increasing likelihood of mass extinction of living species, maybe even the human species. New Yorker columnist Elizabeth Kolbert has written a book titled The Sixth Extinction. She was interviewed on today's edition of Fresh Air on NPR. In her book she describes  the great extinctions of the past, and predicts that the next one, caused by global climate change, will be the worst. She also was interviewed on Democracy Now yesterday.

Why, we might wonder, does our ruling elite spy on the whole world, kill innocent people with drones, but do nothing about global climate change? On today's discussion of drones on NPR's OnPoint, I offered this analysis in a comment:

First, the notion that Barack Obama is a Constitutional scholar because he was a "professor" of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago is largely false. He was a lecturer, an adjunct instructor, not a professor. This is a growing phenomenon in the U.S., where colleges and universities hire teachers as part-time temporary help as a way of avoiding paying benefits. It's the higher education equivalent of temp work.

In regard to targeting of American citizens overseas with drones, it follows a pattern. As with unlimited domestic spying, two purposes are served. One is that by incrementally introducing a practice, it gets established in the bureaucracy, tacitly or openly approved by Congress, and through the court system is declared legitimate.

The other purpose is international, and is also incremental. If actions that are essentially terrorist by commonly accepted definition are introduced into the mix of worldwide activities, and no foreign entity - the World Court, foreign governments, international alliances - are willing or able to challenge them, then the activity becomes established and grows.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are perfect examples of incremental actions that establish precedents for further actions. Though established in precedent, they are not likely to be practiced routinely because of the serious negative consequences - tremendous cost, great loss of life, and international condemnation. They also were wars for nothing. Nothing was intended, other than the psychopathic intentions of the perpetrators, and nothing was gained.

As with every other topic on OnPoint, this phenomenon was discussed in isolation from all other phenomena in the Universe. This is the Western approach known as reductionism. With a systems approach, the phenomenon can be discussed realistically. NSA spying, international adventurism, semi-indiscriminate drone attacks, and even "free trade" agreements can all be seen in context with the encroaching crises of our unsustainable infinite-growth economic system in a condition of increasingly severe global climate change.

In this context, it looks worse. Why, one might ask, would a country do NOTHING about its unsustainable economic system and global warming, but go diddling around the planet with spy technology and drone attacks, all the while mumbling about invading someone or other? Iran,Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Venezuela. Who else? This is a discussion I would like to hear on OnPoint.
Yesterday OnPoint had a discussion on NSA leaker Edward Snowden. I had this to offer:

Snowden did a great thing in exposing the national security state. One thing that is ignored is that it was inevitable that someone would do this.

National securityists - government and corporate total information awareness-ites - can be accurately seen as prurient information addicts. They're humans, not automatons, and as such are ALL highly flawed. NO ONE can be trusted with the power to spy on whomever they have the capability of spying on worldwide. As J.Edgar Hoover so abundantly proved, information is power, and power corrupts. It isn't just absolute power that corrupts absolutely, ANY power corrupts absolutely.

As for Snowden himself, thanks. Beyond that, who cares about whether or not he is a narcissist, "troubled," a "traitor," high school dropout, "loner," or whatever, attention-seeker, weirdo, or "nerd?" The enraged will say anything to cloud the issue, distracting from its essence. The proverbial cat is out of the bag, the genie is out of the bottle, and the can of worms is open. We now have a formerly secret government intrusion trying to get the cat back in the bag, the genie back in the bottle, and the worms back in the can.

And, of course, this is all in the context of a declining infinite-growth economic system under conditions of increasingly severe global climate change. Does the NSA have an answer for global warming? Yes. It is to spy on the people who are trying to do something about it.
Of course, our president, Barack Obama, is talking a good game, on climate change at least.  In his State of the Union speech Obama declared that climate change is a fact.  Unfortunately, he tends to believe that talk is action. Bill McKibben of 350.org says the oil companies control the dialogue on the Keystone XL pipeline approval process. They likely control the dialogue on everything else about climate change.

It won't last. As was noted in today's Daily Beast, from the Olympics to Atlanta, this winter is all about climate change. Next winter will be worse. Between the two will be summer, likely to be worse than last summer. So Obama, likely to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, will be in a deeper hole. He will try to talk his way out of it, but talk has never been cheaper in all of human history.

A Hamilton, from Australia, has written a book about how nations will opt for risky technological fixes for climate change, and will fail miserably, making things worse. He was interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered today.

In other words, when our leadership decides to move beyond the talking stage to action on climate change, they will just make things worse. Maybe we're better off with Obama's all talk, no action. It could buy us a little time.

So what does this all mean? Nothing good. I revert to a Buddhist approach, that there was a time before the human species, and there will be a time after. Every day it is looking ever more likely that the time after is rapidly approaching.

There is another approach. Make the needed changes without the established power elites of government and corporations, from below, in spite of them. Take away their power by not giving them any. It's a mighty task, but it's all we have. We are on our own.

 Here's some inspirational music. Here's more. George Harrison might be some comfort with his great album All Things Must Pass.

Greenpeace is one of the organizations trying to do something about climate change.

Here's a pretty good interview with Bill McKibben.

Al Gore wrote a review of The Sixth Extinction in The New York Times.

R.I.P. Shirley Temple. In the early days of TV a lot of old movies were shown late in the evening and on Saturdays and Sundays. My favorite of her movies was Wee Willie Winkie, with Victor McLaglen. She is best known for The Good Ship Lolipop from the movie Bright Eyes. It seems a bit creepy now, her singing while being passed around by a bunch of men. For the curious, most videos show the movie in color, but it was filmed in black and white. Colorization of black and white movies began in the 1980s, if I remember right. Here she is with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in the first interracial dance sequence in movie history. Here's the story.

R.I.P. Sid Caesar.  So long ago, our family would gather around the television set to watch his show.