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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.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Gestalt

Common Dreams Week in Review
Every Saturday I get a "Your week in review" email from Common Dreams, a "leftist" news website. It has links to their top stories of the past seven days, though they call it my week in review. Even if I don't read all the stories I appreciate getting the email, because the summary itself gives a pretty good overview of what is happening in the world.

Of particular interest this week is a commentary by Chris Hedges, formerly of the New York Times, titled The Post-Constitutional Era. In it he argues that the steady erosion of our civil liberties has reduced the "U.S." to a fascist state. In particular he cites the refusal of the "U.S." Supreme Court to hear arguments in a suit of which he is the principal litigant, Hedges V. Obama, in regard to excesses of Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The provision permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process.

Hedges goes on to say that the control by large corporations over the three branches of government - legislative, judicial and executive - have made our democracy a thing of the past. Regarding President Obama, he doesn't waste words:

President Obama once promised the American people that his administration would be the most transparent in history, but after years of fights with civil libertarians trying to obtain legal memos used to justify the president's overseas assassination program, an unprecedented pattern of prosecuting government whistleblowers, the targeting of journalists, and all the secrecy and obfuscation related to the NSA's mass surviellance programs made public by Edward Snowden, that claim is now met with near universal laughter, if not scorn, by critics.
Hurricane Sandy from space
At the top of the list of the Week in Review is "Screwed?" US Climate Report says Era of "Normal" Over, referring to the government's National Climate Assessment. The article's author, Lauren McCauley, summed up the report's findings thusly:

As a consequence of the nearly two degree Fahrenheit rise which occurred throughout the country over the past century, the report says, Americans are experiencing water scarcity in dry regions, increasing torrential rains in wet ones, increasingly severe heat waves, worsening wildfires, and the death of forests as a result of heat-loving invasive insect species.

And all of this is likely to worsen as average temperatures continue to increase. The authors, who were solicited by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, estimate that global warming could exceed 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the United States by the end of this century.
Occupy activist Cecily McMillan
These articles, along with the others in the list, form a pattern, or gestalt. The game is up. The civilization we thought we had is over. Except for the shouting, that is. And there will be plenty of that. How is it that effectively an entire society is unable to get itself out of this fix? As the Outrage and Protests Follow Guilty Verdict for OWS Activist story indicates, protest is futile. The powers that be will tolerate mild dissent, but when it gets serious, all bets are off.

It would seem that the power structure would be doing everything in its power to deal with climate change, but it is doing next-to-nothing, which is effectively nothing. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that the power structure is context-specific, and the context is that which keeps the power structure in place, which doesn't include protecting the environment.

The other factor, though, and more difficult to contend with, is that we are in a mass system, and in a mass system people function in organizations. No single individual matters independent of an organization or collection of organizations. Barack Obama may individually be the president, but he was elected and operates through a large infrastructure of committees, bureaus, administrations, agencies and departments. In other words, bureaucracies. He is attacked by posturing opponents in Congress and on television, as if he were a single operator. It's all for fun and games, diversion from what is really going on.

At best, it's just a desperate attempt to buy time. As climate change gets more serious the system will disintegrate. The overstructure will do whatever it can to remain in control, but it will eventually fail. It's not a pretty picture. The failure of the mass socioeconomic system may be a positive and necessary step in the progress of the human species, but it will be met with great pain and suffering. We should be able to do better. Maybe when the system starts breaking down we will collectively see the light. That's our best hope at this point. It's not much, but it is what we should prepare for.

Wherever a man goes, men will pursue him and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate oddfellow society - Thoreau, The Village
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Political cartoonist and writer Ted Rall offers a similar analysis.

For the Democracy Now report about Occupy activist Cecily McMillan click here.

Here's an update on our liberation of "Afghanistan."

Sometimes a musical gestalt can do what mere words can't:
Here's a great song. Brewer and Shipley. More Brewer and Shipley. The Reverend Gary Davis. The Grateful Dead. Richie Havens. George Harrison. The Beatles. More The Beatles. Even more The Beatles. Another Beatles. John Lennon. More John Lennon. John Denver. More John Denver. John Prine. More John Prine. John Denver doing the same song. Dwight Yoakam. Canned Heat. More Canned Heat. Bryan Ferry. Wilbert Harrison. Guess Who. Who. Hedgehoppers Anonymous. The Temptations. The Waterboys. Air from Hair. Walking in Space. Prince. Creedence Clearwater Revival. More Creedence. Even more Creedence. Dee Clark. Gene Kelly. B.J. Thomas. The Grateful Dead. More The Grateful Dead. Bob Dylan. Bryan Ferry. Joan Baez. Edie Brickell and New Bohemians. Leon Russell. Bob Dylan. James Taylor. Bob Dylan. Dave Van RonkAdele. Arthur Brown. The Grateful Dead. Alicia Keys and ft Maxwell. Johnny Cash. Ed Sheeran. Simon and Garfunkel. A Bolivian version. The Byrds. More Byrds. Jackson Browne. More Jackson Browne. John Gorka. Talking Heads. More Talking Heads. The Pretenders. Cream. Blind Faith. Jimi. More Jimi. Another Jimi. Still another Jimi. Rainy Day, Dream Away. One more Jimi, my favorite. The Doors. More The Doors. Bob Seger. Merle Haggard. Los Lobos. The Neville Brothers. Alternate version. The Rolling Stones. More Rolling Stones. Even more Rolling Stones. Still more Rolling Stones. The Grateful Dead. More the Grateful Dead. The Kinks. Donovan. Another Donovan. More Donovan. Even more Donovan. Buffy Sainte-Marie. More Buffy Sainte-Marie. One more from Donovan. The Allman Brothers. More Allman Brothers. Little Village. Bob Marley. Peter Tosh. More Peter Tosh.  Jimmy Cliff. The Jerry Garcia Band. Johnny Nash. The Grateful Dead. More Grateful Dead. Stevie Wonder. More Stevie Wonder, my favorite. One more from Stevie Wonder. Gil Scott-Heron. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. Iris Dement. More Iris Dement. Merle Haggard. This Merle song fits. As Joseph Campbell put it, it's all metaphor. Stretching the metaphor. Here's a nice song from Willie Nelson and Leon Russell. More Willie Nelson. Even More Willie Nelson, another ominous metaphor. Patsy Cline. Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson. George Harrison. Johnny Cash. Same song, done gratefullyThis Johnny Cash song is getting new meaning. Eddie Rabbitt. Elvis. Roger Miller. Ry Cooder. More Ry Cooder. Randy Newman. More Randy Newman. Still more Randy Newman. Stan Rogers. Garnet Rogers. And one more from the Waterboys. Procol Harum. It must be the season of the witch. After the Rain by McKinley Morganfield. The Reverend Gary Davis. The Grateful Dead. More the Grateful Dead. Quicksilver Messenger Service. The Traveling Wilburys. The Doors. More The Doors. Peggy Lee. Blood, Sweat and Tears. Finally, the Waterboys, a perfect song to end with.

This may be the greatest movie ever made. Even a renowned theologian loves it. George Harrison plays a small role.
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Here's an update from the May 12 NewsHour  on income inequality. And this about how the melting ice cap in Antarctica is past the point of no return.

Here's the latest Edward Snowden update.

Glenn Greenwald was interviewed on Democracy Now about NSA spying. Like he said recently, he's saving the best for last.

This Frontline 2-part program is a must-see for anyone on this planet who values their privacy and freedom from government intrusion. Part 2 airs May 20.

Here's an interview with Glenn Greenwald on NPR's Fresh Air by Terry Gross from May 14. He was also interviewed by Margaret Warner on PBS's NewsHour on May 15. Both are excellent. Underpaid women are turning out to be our best journalists.

Here's something curious.

This week we found out that the Antarctic ice melt is unstoppable. We had our chance to stop it, but that was likely decades ago. Our government is now likely spying on the scientists who wrote the report. It is all they seem capable of doing. Maybe they'll send a drone.
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Update, May 17:
I had to answer this New York Times story about the Koch brothers. You have to wait a minute-or-so for my comment to load, depending on your computer.

On a similar theme, Huffington Post leads with this story.

Some former generals are saying that climate change is posing a national security risk. Being military men, I wonder what they recommend doing about it.

Salon adds this analysis, not an optimistic assessment. In the coming days we will be seeing more of this. Our power and money elite will become more desperate to do NOTHING, except maybe establish some kind of censorship. Our system has become fascist, after all, as explained above. Lying is a disease with those in power. They can't be trusted to speak the truth about anything, except, as all good liars know, to run interference for the next lie.
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Updates, May 19:
Cecily McMillan has been sentenced to 90 days in prison.

In sort of news, a bill is being mulled over to put the NSA under surveillance, er, legal limits.
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Here's an update about Cecily McMillan.

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