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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.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The Agenda Behind the Grandstanding

Wisconsin's governor Scott Walker is in the news again, putting his foot in his mouth. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convention Thursday he compared union protesters to ISIL, saying "I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threats from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil." He followed with "We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."

Walker got resounding cheers for this boast, but soon realized comparing union protesters to terrorists would not play well outside the convention. He quickly backtracked, saying he wasn't comparing protesters to terrorists when he was comparing protesters to terrorists, and that the media are responsible for the confusion.

Such are the perils of grandstanding. At a conference of grandstanders one has to out-grandstand the competition. This wasn't a meeting for reasoned dialogue. The audience was made up of the most extreme elements of the "Republican" base, the supposed "Tea Party" activists, religious zealots, and "Libertarians." The intersect among these populations is high, so many are identified in several extreme groups.

One question raised by Walker's remarks was in the Washington Post, in an article Friday, observing that Walker reveals a weakness all the likely presidential candidates have - a lack of foreign policy experience. The idea that "taking on" protesters qualifies one for dealing with worldwide terrorism shows a complete misunderstanding of both protest and terrorism, and on its face Walker's contention disqualifies him for the presidency.

Deputies for Democracy
What wasn't said in the reactions to Walker's speech was that he was lying. He didn't "take on" ANY protesters. The 100,000 who came to the Capitol on Saturday, March 12, 2011 were not "taken on" at all by anyone. Walker was nowhere in sight. During the entire occupation of the Capitol during the months of February and March of that year Walker was nowhere to be seen. He used police escorts and underground tunnels to avoid being visible or confronted on weekdays, but on weekends he was elsewhere. A better idea of what was going on at the Capitol during those months can be seen in three posts of pictures I made to this blog: This, this and this.

What also wasn't said was that the protests that Walker compared to ISIS were because he was pushing a new law through the state legislature that would severely limit the bargaining ability of public sector unions, reduce benefits, and curtail many state programs. The law eventually passed, and resulted in recall elections of several senators, and Walker himself. He won his recall election, opposed by not-so-union-friendly mayor of Milwaukee Tom Barrett. I predicted Barrett's defeat three weeks before the election in this letter to a local newspaper (and in Madison's other paper). It of course was unheeded.

Now the state legislature is ramming through a right-to-work law. For the uninformed, the term right-to-work is a euphemism, disguising its real meaning - right to receive the benefits of being a union member without being a dues-paying union member, or paying dues under a union contract while not being a union member. Right-to-work laws are meant to remove the power of unions to collect dues, without which they cannot operate, and thus can't exist. With no unions in existence, there will be no block of union voters for "Democrats."

A recent article by Nicholas Kristof on the New York Times discusses the perils of a decline in unions. He argues that unions have done a lot to sustain middle-class life, and that the decline of unions may account for as much as one third of the inequality among American men. In other words, unions are good for the country. Efforts to eliminate them are for political gain.

Another part of Walker's agenda is to gut public education. In his latest budget proposal he unveiled his plan to reduce funding to the University of Wisconsin system, along with turning it into a large trade school. Read about it here.

I got into an exchange with someone a couple of weeks ago about whether Walker's assault on the University of Wisconsin is "ideological" or that he is a sociopath. My response sums up my attitude towards Walker, as well as "Republicans" in general:

I wouldn't call it ideological. That would be giving Walker credit for having an ideology. Like many, if not most politicians, Walker is a sociopath, and politics is a means of personal aggrandizement, power and wealth. 

He has a pattern of behavior: engaging in slippery methods to get elected, using government workers on government time for campaign work, weakening unions as a way of weakening opposition, making it harder for poor people and students to vote, since they would tend to vote against him, privatizing schools as a way of further weakening opposition among teachers, who would tend to vote against him, transferring other state functions to private "interests," which would eliminate more opposition, and now, attempting to gut the University of Wisconsin and turn it into a trade school.

This would serve to eliminate an entire block of opposition voters: intellectuals. It also would eliminate expert academic criticism of his various schemes. For some the entire Universe is necessarily seen from the perspective of ideology, because they are themselves ideologues.

The world is a battle of ideologies from this perspective, so everything has to be put in an ideological box when much simpler, but not simplistic, explanations yield greater truth and are more likely to lead to solutions.

In Walker's case, attempting to communicate his, mm, fascism, or right-wingness isn't likely to get very far outside the city limits of Madison. Like it or not, it will take communicating beyond the city limits of Madison to get rid of him. He should be in jail, but not for his "ideology." He should be in jail for crimes against democracy.

Unions built AmericaSo the real problem facing this country is communication. Fascism is the effect of what "Republicans" are foisting on the country, but the motivation is criminal - total political control. Greed for power, and, of course, its fuel, money. The method is to divide and conquer, as Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone. It worked in Wisconsin. Will it work nationwide? Let's hope not.

Meanwhile, the climate has its own agenda
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Let's not forget the crony capitalism aspect of the "Republican" agenda. 

Here's what our "Republican" dominated Supreme Court is up to these days.

Eric Margolis writes about how fascism is coming alive again in this post.

An explanation of fascist theory and practice can be seen here. Lawrence W. Britt explains fascism further at the Information Clearing House.

This calls for a song. And another. And another. This song never fails. Here's some Bruce Springsteen. Billy Bragg is always worth a listen.

Here's an example of one of the things Walker had in mind to "take on" the union protesters.

Here's some video footage of the rally Walker claims to have "taken on." Here are some pictures of the rally, set to music. Here's some more footage. Some drummers showed up to support the rally. Here's some footage of an earlier protest. Here's another. Here's one from inside the Capitol. People called in pizza donations to the protests from all over the world. Madison firefighters joined the protests. This video helps to understand the concerns of union workers. Here's a musical performance in the Capitol Rotunda. Here's some music outside.

This video is from the pre-recall rally in 2012.  Here's another version. The Brother Ali riff is still awe-inspiring. Here's a news story about the rally.

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy.

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