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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, December 27, 2014

The Sony Hacking in Larger Context

It now seems all the media hysteria about "North Korea" hacking Sony's Internal files is much ado about not much. According to Common Dreams, experts on Internet security are saying that it was likely an inside job, with easily transparent attempts to make it look like the chicanery emanated from "North Korea." The New York Times was the source of the Common Dreams report.

Skepticism is mounting. CNN is joining the mounting chorus of doubters.  Who will be next? It doesn't particularly matter. What is becoming clear is that our national "security" apparatus cannot be trusted. They lie us into war, repeatedly. They torture people, pretending that they don't, for nefarious purposes, then claim it "works." They spy uncontrollably on "American" citizens. They spy on Congress. They gather scarce resources to themselves, using fear as a bludgeon to get what they want. They act with impunity, absolving themselves of all responsibility for what they do.

The question at this point is why the FBI (and president) would claim to have clear evidence that "North Korea" is behind the hack attack, when it very likely isn't. Is war being planned, looking for an excuse? Not likely. "China" is next door to "North Korea," and any incursion in its neighborhood is a non-starter. Unless, that is, our national security apparatus is desirous of thermonuclear war.

It wouldn't be the first time. During the "Cuban" Missile Crisis, President Kennedy single-handedly prevented the chorus of war mongerers (not mongers) from attacking "Cuba" with nuclear weapons. When a bureaucratic infrastructure gets itself into a syndrome of self-perpetuating myths and delusions, it can get desperate if reality doesn't share in its falsehoods. The hack on Sony, in this context, is too great an opportunity to pass up. Now "North Korea" is upping the ante, accusing the "U.S." of causing its Internet outages, and calling President Obama a monkey.

It's hard to tell what is really going on, but it likely has something to do with the national security budget. In these stingy economic times, the fires of fear need to be fueled for that extra edge in muscling ahead of competing interests in government spending.

Other questions about the Sony hack are being raised. The absurdity of a nation threatening retaliation against another nation for a corporate security breach is new and ominous in international relations, as David Atkins explores in this insightful analysis in Alternet. In this modern world of increasing corporate dominance of public and private life, skewing of economic reward to the relative few, and the gradual disappearance of middle class employment, the melding of corporate interests with national security interests is a natural progression.

For me, the media frenzy about the hacking was the first thing that aroused suspicion. A movie about assassinating a reigning foreign leader, no matter how bad we think he is, is an exercise in bad taste at best, and sets a dangerous precedent for "artistic" expression. Heads of other states are apparently fair game for comedic ho, ho, hee, hee, hoo, hoo, hah, hah, let's all have a big laugh about killing this guy who we have heard bad things about and whom we don't like. It's our "civil right" to joke about assassinating foreign leaders. We're "Americans." We make the rules for everyone.

Where does it stop? Various fulminaters are calling our president a "traitor" for changing policy about "Cuba." They have been slandering him for years about everything he has done and for things they imagine he has done or will do. Could a movie be next? A comedy?

Polar bears taking a break. They depend on our good will for their survivalAnd, of course, putting it all in context, we are in a condition of increasingly troublesome effects of global climate change. Our infinite-growth mass industrial economic system is very near its limit to growth. The planet is near its man-made carrying capacity, if not past it already. All the king's horses and all the king's national security apparatus won't be able to put this Humpty Dumpty together again. Something new is coming, whether we like it or not. We should be preparing for the inevitable change in the way we inhabit this Earth. Time waits for no one.

President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation regarding the presence of "Russian" missiles in "Cuba" on October 22, 1962. I was a senior in high school, and watched it on TV. It was the first time I heard the word clandestine being used. I remember having complete trust in Kennedy, having no inkling of how alone he was in opposing a nuclear attack on "Cuba." He was killed a year later, supposedly by a "lone gunman." If you believe that, I have some land in Arizona you might be interested in.

Here's a story of the "Cuban" Missile Crisis.

Eckhart Tolle has some words of wisdom about our obsession with "security."

Here's a bit of info on the weaponization of Hollywood. The power of entertainment media to control mass perception is too tempting to pass up. Abraham Lincoln believed that you can't fool all the people all the time. He was a bit short-sighted. All that is necessary is to fool enough of the people all the time. Time-and-again our image-makers show how easy it is. It is known as perception management.

Here's a song from seemingly innocent times. Here's another tune from those days.

Here's the trailer from the original hacking movie. It would be the greatest irony if it had been made by Sony, but United Artists was the production company.

For a full movie about surviving a thermonuclear war, click here.

The best movie of all time about the aftermath of thermonuclear war is On the Beach, from 1959. Here's a clip, perhaps Fred Astaire's greatest role.

This bears repeating.  This too.

Here's a song for our president, the national security establishment, and our entire ruling elite. Here's another.

R.I.P. Joe Cocker. Here's his best known song, a Beatles cover. This is my favorite, a Traffic cover. He also did a great cover of this Randy Newman song. Another Beatles song. This song was Joe Cocker's favorite. It applies to a number of people I know.

Here's a timely update for the new year.

Here's another.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's About Time

Tougher than toughDick Cheney is acting up again, making the rounds of pundit shows. It is hard to say who is the most evil human being on the planet, but Cheney is certainly a top contender. He is an advocate for torture and murder, without reservation or discernment of victim, other than "suspicion." It could be anyone, foreign or domestic. Salon has a great analysis. I had this response:
Excellent analysis. Except for one thing. The completion of the Cheney plan could not have taken place without the attacks of September 11, 2001. They were way too handy. At the very least the Bush criminal regime engaged in VERY active negligence in advance of the attacks. In the Senate 911 hearings the questioning was easily deflected with bureaucratic doubletalk. Too easily. Bush was allowed to testify in private, not under oath, and with Cheney available to coach his testimony.

The criminal negligence in advance of the attacks is both clear and prosecutable, even now. Their negligence led to the deaths of 2997 victims in the 911 attacks, 5281 military deaths in the "war on terror," countless Iraqi and Afghan deaths, thousands of deaths of NATO troops, and deaths of many hundreds of innocent people in drone attacks.

A slight pause in reading 'My Pet Goat'
There is no statute of limitations on murder, and in international law there is no statute of limitations on war crimes. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell (yes, Powell), Wolfowitz, Perle, and others will be prosecutable for the rest of their misspent lives.

In Economics there is a term known as "as-if," used to explain behavior that can't be directly traced to a motivation, but inferred. Using the "as-if" principle, the Bush regime behaved as if they were consciously enabling the 911 attacks. They couldn't have done a better job of enabling if they were indeed actively planning the attacks, and therefore it can be safely inferred that they in truth were paving the way for the attacks. The way they behaved afterward is consistent with what guilty parties would do to deflect attention away from their criminality, and especially from holding them responsible.

And, in the news of the day, the president is ending our ruling elite's isolation of "Cuba," announcing that he is establishing diplomatic relations, plans to open an embassy, and exchanged prisoners. I responded to a National Public Radio story about the announcement in this comment:
I'm sure the term "game changer" is being bandied about, but what may be more appropriate is momentum shifter. This is a brilliant move on several levels. One is that Obama has pulled the rug out from under the "Republicans," the mythical "right wing," Fox News (where a collective primal scream can be heard), the parasitic and manipulative Miami Cubans, and whatever national security "interests" (and their money backers) might have in continuing this evil campaign against Cuba.

One of the benefits of the change in policy just might be the return of Guantanamo Bay to its rightful owners, the people of Cuba. If Obama can't close the illegal prison any other way, he can just revert Guantanamo to its rightful owners.

We can look back with some amusement, and some anger and indignation at all that has happened in our relationship with Cuba since 1959. Ridiculous attempts were made to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro, including an exploding cigar, poisoning, and terrorist attacks. An attempt was made to blame the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Castro. A frustrated and paranoid Castro invited the USSR in with its nuclear missiles, and as a result we almost engaged in a disastrous thermonuclear war.

Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is now earning the award. His momentum shift came just in time. Hopefully it will be enough to reverse the harm that has been done to not just Cuba over the decades, but to our own country. Here's hoping he follows up on this momentum shifter with many others. He has two years left in which to do it. He's off to a great start.
 Momentum is shifting everywhere. It's about time. The silliness we have been experiencing since about the time JFK was assassinated couldn't go on forever. I don't mean to be a Kennedy apologist. It's just that in phenomenological terms the great decline began the day he was killed. Symbolically and mythically, attempts were made to blame his assassination on Fidel Castro. Now we can start a new myth.

Here's a song to celebrate with.

Buena Vista Social Club.

Here's some celebration music from another part of the Caribbean.

Here's a song for old times' sake.

We should never forget John O'Neill, who worked tirelessly to prevent the 911 attacks, but was thwarted by the Bush criminal regime. He died in the World Trade Center.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Brief History of Torture

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on CIA torture today. As expected, the report has become a political football. "Republicans," of course lined up in favor of torture. They don't say they are in favor of torture, but as CIA defenders have been saying for years, the "enhanced interrogation techniques" were necessary, were not torture, were legal, were authorized by the president (Bush), and they worked, leading to the killing of Osama bin Laden and numerous others.

In other words, torture was done for the best of reasons, the torturees were only moderately uncomfortable (though sometimes they died), and it was justified by its great success.

It's all lies. The torture was done for pathological reasons by psychopaths. The purpose of torture is to torture. All credible evidence indicates that intelligence gained from torture is practically worthless. Torturees will say anything, confess to anything, and make up stories that they think the torturers want to hear, just to get the torture to stop. Various sanctimonious grandstanders over the decades have condemned other countries for torturing prisoners, but when it comes to our own torture they euphemize, distort, lie and attempt to change the subject. The CIA even has its own torture propaganda movie, "Zero Dark Thirty," which won an Oscar and four Golden Globe awards. It was a fabrication.

A quick look back at how the torture regime began would help. After the all-too-easy attacks of  September 11, 2001, the Bush criminal regime needed to quickly divert public attention from its active negligence in advance of the attacks. An intense public relations campaign began, then an invasion of "Afghanistan," then the "Shock and Awe" invasion of "Iraq." Attention diverted.

In concert with the two invasions was the building of the "detention facility" in Guantanamo Bay, "Cuba," and the kidnapping and torture of people around the planet, who were "rendered" to cooperating countries, most notably the now condemned Assad regime in "Syria." You can't make this stuff up. CIA employees and "contractors" conducted their own torture in "Afghanistan," "Iraq," and Guantanamo, as well as who knows where else - "friendly" countries like "Saudi Arabia," "Jordan," "Yemen," "Bahrain" "Qatar" ("Cutter"), and "Kuwait."

This really is nothing new. I remember during the "Vietnam" war that national publications like Time and Newsweek gushed over how Vietcong prisoners were taken up in helicopters and successively tossed out until one of them started talking. This also was justified by bragging that it worked. Prisoners were also held in "tiger cages." When we were aiding various dictatorships in Central America, mainly in "El Salvador in the late 1970s throughout the Reagan years, death squads were funded, and in a quote that I still remember from that time, prisoners were "decapitated after hideous torture." On our dime. So much for the brutality of "ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State."

Then of course is the "School of the Americas" established in 1946 at Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the Infantry. It is now known as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation." Among other things, it is a torture school for dictators and their armies. The only problem for the SOA these days is we don't have so many client dictators anymore. They have mostly been overthrown. We still have clients in "Honduras" and "Guatemala," friends in "El Salvador," and you can bet there are plans for other countries, such as "Cuba," "Venezuela," "Brazil," "Bolivia, "Argentina," "Chile," "Nicaragua," and even "Mexico," if we aren't there already.

How can this be? It's easy. If politics and intelligence work are attractive occupations for psychopaths,  the melding of interests between these fields can result in a quick abandonment of moral and ethical standards. If a politician is desperate to gain intelligence information - true or false - that will give him cover for what he has really been up to, torture is one of the easiest ways of generating that information. The machine trudges on with impunity and hubris.

The only remaining question is what this means for us, the "American" people. That also is easy. It was pretty obvious that Bush was lying about Saddam Hussain having weapons of mass destruction, but his phony invasion had 90% support among the public. There won't be much outcry over torture either. We're no better than anyone else who has existed throughout history. Indeed, the historical record is replete with countries that have condoned heinous behavior, and zealously participated in it. All it takes is the generation of a perceived threat, a few demagogues, an excuse, and authorization. Lying about it and euphemizing it are even easier.

Just to broaden the perspective a bit, we have an unsustainable infinite-growth economic system in an overall context of resource depletion and increasingly catastrophic climate change. Our ruling elite responds to fake threats with military incursions, invasions, occupations and "surgical" strikes. What will it do when the economy collapses for good and the Polar ice caps melt?

Jose Padilla being escorted to a dental appointmentDe nada. A system that collapses is through. One way or another our system is going to collapse. They can torture until the proverbial cows come home, but that will not change the overall result one whit. We still have time to establish civilization in this country, one that is equitable for all citizens and free of oppression, including torture. Our current establishment will torture "Americans" as well as "foreigners." They already have: José Padilla and Chelsea Manning. In any plan for changing the way we inhabit this planet there must be no place for torture or torturers.

Naomi Klein had this great insight about torture in 2005.

Here's some history of the School of the Americas. Here's more.

Glenn Greenwald offers some insights about torture.

Here's an update about how the torture program worked to provide false justification for war and other crimes.

Here's another great insight about torture.

The "U.S." has been at the torture game for a long time. Read here.  Sadism is a large part of our national character, according to this Salon article.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Wrong Every Time

One of the best ways to understand what is going on in the world is through juxtaposition. By looking at different phenomena that are taking place the commonality of what is going on can become clear. Today is a perfect example.

The biggest news, of course, is that a grand jury in New York found that the police officer who choked a man to death did not commit a crime. This, in spite of a widely seen video of the man, Eric Garner, pleading "I can't breathe." The head of the police union defended the decision, offering the wisdom "If you can speak you can breathe."

Democracy Now reported that a study of Drone attacks found that for every "target" killed there are 28 unidentified people who are also killed.

Completing the triangle, a story in Salon reports that the "U.S." effort to expand NATO to the "Russian" border and destroy its economy is now fully exposed. I suspected as much from the very beginning of this silliness. For a more detailed analysis, read here.

What do these stories have in common? Representative democracy. Otherwise known as republican form of government. In representative democracy the people do not rule except indirectly by electing a small number of people to represent them, who in turn appoint various other people to perform the tasks of governing. They also appoint members of the judiciary, though in some cases the judiciary is elected.

Over the span of many years the institutions of representative democracy become established and insular, entities unto themselves, authoritarian, secretive, with their own self-perpetuating practices, procedures, and, perhaps most important, impunity. The larger the society, the more established are the institutions. When something relatively small like the "911" attacks happen, even more rigid institutions are created, and the existing ones become more intrusive. When you add in the factor of unlimited funding of elections, those with the most money secure control of who gets elected. The Koch brothers are but one example. Wall Street is another.

Police have for many decades been killing with impunity. It has reached the point where they now feel free to arrest and indict people who record their deadly actions.

With indiscriminate drone attacks impunity is slightly different, but the attitude is the same. "We, the overseers of Planet Earth, do what we want." (metaphorical quote) Or, in official euphemistic jargon, "We do not target civilians."

In the most dangerous form of hubris, the attempted expansion of NATO to include "Ukraine" and destabilization of "Russia" is likely to restart the "Cold War." Lest we forget, the first Cold War almost resulted in World War III and a thermonuclear holocaust. More than once.

Restarting the Cold War serves more than institutional interests. There are also huge economic interests at stake. Marxist economists Paul Sweezy and Paul Baran observed decades ago that the "Defense" budget has to increase annually in order for the weapons manufacturers to stay in business.

Our national security overstructure can be seen similarly to how police departments behave. They are about themselves, and advancement of their personal and bureaucratic interests. All else can be understood within this context. In the wider context of global climate change and the unsustainability of our infinite-growth economic system, our established institutions are guaranteed to do the wrong thing every time. Their interests being themselves, all else is subservient.

For an update of the Eric Garner protests click here.

Here's an appropriate song.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Death Rattle

It was inevitable that hatred of President Obama would extend to his family. A "Republican" Congressional staffer from Tennessee has written an "open letter" to his daughters, criticizing their, hmm, style, or at least style of dress. She is now a former Congressional staffer. For what it's worth, I had my own take on the episode, not the usual accusation of "racism," except that the belief in "race" is racism:

This is another example of how fuming mad "white" people are about having a "black" president, especially in the South. We're all partly to blame, really, for still referring to people as "white" or "black," when skin color has nothing to do with who we are. We've been touting Obama for six years as the first "black" president, when his skin color isn't black, and HE wouldn't BE "black" even if his skin color were black. The only people who have black skin have been burned. Or tattooed. I was stabbed with a pencil when I was in high school, and have a little black spot. I have more black skin than Obama does.

It's pure stupidity, and pure stupidity is indivisible. The same people who think that they and other people are "black" and "white" approved the Bush invasion of "Iraq" by 90%. That would have to include about 80% of "liberals," if we are to believe that they constitute half the population. Of course that is assuming that ALL non-liberals approved the invasion.

Also, as a whole, "Americans" are contributing and have contributed the lion's share of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, insuring a bleak future for ourselves, and especially our descendents. So much for looking forward seven generations. We can't even look forward one generation, or even ahead to next week. Too many thrills to be had right now. Or pizzas. Chicken. Burgers. Beer. Whiskey. Drugs.

Beyond all that, I wonder what this woman had in mind. It seems likely that she wrote her angry letter after some after-hours drinking and raging about our "black" president. All for something that doesn't exist: "black" beingness. It's as if perceived "black" people just sit around BEING "black." Yuk. Maybe she can get a job at one of Tennessee's many Civil War shrines.
I should probably change the name of this blog to "Death Rattle of America." It's too easy and too obvious. You may have noticed yourself as you amble about that this country is becoming dysfunctional. This morning I almost got hit by two vehicles in two separate incidents that happened within seconds of each other, but independent. One guy took a turn too fast and too far out of the right side of the road. The other was a Ryder truck that came barreling behind me, swerving at the last possible second. The first would have caused serious injury (or more). The second would have been certain death.

C'es la vie. We're here until we aren't, and aren't is becoming increasingly likely. Impaired and distracted driving are rampant. One of my favorite responses is when a pickup truck or SUV is driving slightly behind me in the left lane when I am in the right lane, and just hangs there, with his bright lights glaring in my side mirror. I turn the mirror out and up, so it shines back where it should shine - right in his face. I don't brake so much for tailgaters anymore, having a better car than I used to. It's a no-win situation out on the highways, but I can at least get where I'm going with reasonable safety.

So here we are, in the early days of accelerated decline and fall. Given that the Polar ice caps are melting, I suspect the decline and fall will be a short one. The descent is too steep.

Here's a great song, great audience. Maybe there's still hope. This calls for an encore. Second encore. Third encore. Fourth encore. Here's Neil Young's great version.

R.I.P. Jack BruceHere's a song from Fresh Cream, one of the best albums ever. Here's another. This too. Here's the full album.