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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, October 18, 2015

Stranger Than Fiction

The greatest challenge for any writer is making sense of the universe in which we live. Some do it in fiction, some in science, some in religion and spirituality, some in storytelling, and some with humor. I tend to combine genres, writing a mixture of styles. Except fiction. I wrote my best and only fiction in high school, goofing off to finish assignments. The nun who taught senior English thought I had talent, and encouraged my forays into the realm of imagination. I didn't pursue it any farther, though, and haven't written any fiction since. It doesn't interest me. I can read great fiction written by others.

The apparent world is fiction enough, or as Mark Twain put it, "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't." Such as in our national scene. Or farce. We found out this week that 90% of Obama's drone strikes hit the wrong target. Target, as in human being, as in innocent civilian. What is Obama's response to this revelation? He announced on Thursday that 9,800 American troops will stay in "Afghanistan" through next year, and likely longer.

This comes on the heels of the attack by U.S. forces October 3 on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz. The hospital was attacked again Thursday by a U.S. armored vehicle, likely destroying evidence of the previous attack.

So much for Obama. I gave up on him long ago. He's just another politician, and politicians tend to be sociopaths, especially at the highest levels. I voted for him once, but voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2012. He'll be gone soon enough, and then we'll have someone else. Hillary Clinton seems to be the anointed successor by the punditocracy. A military "hard-liner," she will likely be worse than Obama. We can expect more wars. More corporate and Wall Street impunity.

Of course, we could elect Bernie Sanders, "Socialist." He says he prefers the term "Progressive." He advocates breaking up the big Wall Street banks, regulating powerful corporations and taxing the rich. I wish him luck. The established order will do whatever possible to prevent him from being president. If middle-of-the road "Democratic" candidate Al Gore, who actually won the presidency, could have his victory reversed, Sanders stands little chance.

So a real advocate of democracy - both political and economic - will not be president, no matter how great a majority of the voting public wants him. We'll have a standard "Democrat" or a standard "Republican." The "Republicans" are so awful it will likely be Hillary Clinton.

It is this awfulness of the "Republicans" that is most in the news these days. They have turned Congress into a food fight, and now can't even agree among themselves whom they should choose for Speaker of the House. In order to destroy the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton they have been waging an endless investigation of the 2012 attack on the "U.S." embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Their admitted get-Hillary Benghazi committee interrogated her former assistant for six hours Friday, for nothing.

As if this weren't surreal enough, we have the "Republican" goof fest of candidates for president. Some are calling it a clown car. In the latest of a long series of "right wing" outrages, "Republican" presidential candidate Ben Carson is claiming that the victims in the October 1 mass shooting should have had guns to fight back with. This is consistent with his view that the Holocaust could have been prevented if people were armed to oppose Hitler. He has made himself a more ridiculous candidate than Donald Trump.

The whole presidential campaign has become a joke. It's hard to tell where the joke will end. We have candidates appearing on comedy shows, comedy shows parodying candidates, and Fox News, a running national joke pretending to be serious.

The rave today is about how comedy writer and performer Larry David did a hilarious impression of "Democratic" candidate Bernie Sanders in the opening skit on last night's Saturday Night Live. It was funny, but it confuses entertainment with the real campaign. That wouldn't be such a bad thing if the importance of electing an appropriate, competent, honest and wise human being to be our national leader remained as our top priority. It isn't, though. Entertainment has become supreme, with substance taking a back seat.

When entertainment trumps substance the door becomes wide open for a polished entertainer like Donald Trump. Sure enough, he will be appearing on Saturday Night Live soon, giving two for the price of one - a parody of a candidate and the candidate all rolled into one. The only question remaining is whether Trump doing Trump will be funnier than Larry David doing Bernie Sanders. Whether he is funnier or not, it's all entertainment, and America needs its entertainment more than anything.

We've had joke candidates before. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush. They were president of the United States for eight years apiece. Each in his own way just about wrecked the country. Some joke. Cosmic humor.

Pundits, commentators, comedians and political professionals pretend they are debunking something real when grandstanders like Carson and Trump make outlandish statements. They fail to realize that by so doing they are engaging in an enabling process, a co-dependency.

Supposed "right wing" arguments aren't real. They aren't intended to be serious arguments or proposals. What they do is muddy the waters, create confusion, bring attention, and make opponents argue against them, when what they say isn't worth the time or attention.

The more outraged people get, the better. Just by creating a "side" of an argument they started they create a certain credibility of the ridiculous. It's good enough to win elections.

Arbeit Macht FreiI know this from living in Wisconsin, where the current governor, Scott Walker, is a criminal sociopath, but has won three elections in four years. His ridiculous proposals have become law, over and over. The "Democrats" have no idea of how to oppose him, and just run triangulating, stand for nothing candidates, who lose, repeatedly. Walker tried running for president, but got supplanted by someone even more outlandish - Trump.

Donald Trump has stirred the pot even more, saying that the September 11, 2001 attacks wouldn't have happened if he had been president. He has caused a lot of outrage, but I have this simple response: The actual president at the time of the "911" attacks did indeed enable them with his active negligence. So like it or not, Trump has walked into a vacuum. Anyone can claim to be at least as good as Bush, because Bush, though he has been granted impunity, is responsible for the worst terrorist attack in American history.

Also like it or not, when you suppress accountability for a crime it will manifest at a later time, and in surprising and uncomfortable ways. Bush was not held accountable for the 911 attacks through bluster, faking masculinity and determination, and the phony invasions and occupations of two countries - the repercussions of which we are still dealing with to this day. The Mideast is in chaos, with more chaos on the way. Our military is still in Afghanistan, and is doing more harm than good, as it has from the beginning.

Another diversion after the 911 attacks was the "Patriot" act. Needless, oppressive, expensive, it was a way of substituting extreme law enforcement for questioning why these attacks happened in the first place.

So now we have clown candidate Donald Trump plumbing the depths of the American psyche. He of course is a snake oil salesman, but he has tapped into something real. The responsibility of the Bush criminal regime for most of the troubles we face today is lurking under the surface of our conversations about how to face the future. As shameless and unscrupulous as Trump is, he's something of a genius in his recognition of what lurks in people's unconscious.

It's all unreal. It could be maddening, but in pondering all this truth stranger than fiction I remembered something from my study of Vedanta decades ago. It is a Sanskrit verse from the Vivekachudamani of Shankaracharya, written in the eighth century: "Brahma satyam jagan mithya Jivo Brahmaiva na parah," in English "God alone is real.The world is illusory. The individual is none other than God." Or, in short, jagan mithya, the world is false. Don't be attached to its reality, because the true reality is beyond the material universe.

This is hard to understand. Very hard to understand. If you are being tortured in Guantanamo, having your wedding bombed by a drone in Yemen, or  the hospital you are being treated at bombed in Afghanistan, the world can seem very real and painful. If you are without a home on the streets of any city in the U.S., the world can seem very real. If your home has burned down in a forest fire the world can seem very real. If your home has washed away in a flood the world can seem very real.

The challenge in this is to not get fooled by apparent reality, and not let it control you. Madness and criminality can best be overcome with wisdom, compassion, non-attachment and selfless action. It's a tall order, but it can be done. I have been amazed time after time at the power of nonbelieving. These are great times to nonbelieve.

Here's some Van Morrison. More Van Morrison. My favorite Van Morrison song. George Harrison. Bob Dylan. More Dylan. Johnny Cash. Merle Haggard. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. DonovanMore Donovan. The Allman Brothers. YouTube keeps pulling this Jimi Hendrix song, so here's a great cover by the Allman Brothers Band. Joe Cocker. The Allman Brothers. Jefferson Airplane. John Fahey. Michael Hedges. Leo Kottke. Steve Miller. Quicksilver Messenger Service. Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha.

Update, October 21:

If we weren't spending all our time contending with fakery, maybe we could be discussing things we should be discussing. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was the guest on a Wisconsin Public Radio show today, talking about solving the nation's problems of income and wealth inequality. I had this response:

Good conversation, but partial. Professor Reich spoke from the proscribed perspective of the economy existing as an endogenous entity, within itself, as if all other things are held constant (ceteris paribus in economist parlance). It actually exists within an overall context of planetary resources and ecosystem.

Human activity is depleting those resources, and waste from economic activity is wreaking havoc, melting the Polar ice caps, destroying vital reefs, befouling the air and water, and causing species important in supporting life to go extinct. And, of course, wreaking havoc with the weather, causing droughts, floods, forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches, heat waves, Polar vortices, el niños, melting glaciers and rising sea levels.

The driving force in this breakdown in our planetary support system is the essential requirement for all industrial economies that they grow over time, lest they fall into recession, then depression and collapse. If the world economy grows at a rate of merely 2% per year it would double in size every 36 years (Rule of 72). If it were to grow at a more robust level of 4% it would double in size every 18 years. Double what we produce now in ANY future is unthinkable, but we're only 18 to 36 years away from that possibility. Or mandate.

In actual physical reality the world economy of course can't double, no matter how long it takes. The planet is saying stop, but human leaders - and citizens - are saying more, more, more. We won't be saying it much longer. We can either choose to change how we are on this planet, or we can go extinct, just like so many other species. This is a conversation about the economy that we won't be hearing on this show.
Here's an update about Donald Trump's statements regarding Bush's negligence prior to "911."

A movie is out related to George W. Bush's military desertion, starring Robert Redford as ousted CBS news anchor Dan Rather. Rather was fired for believing a false piece of evidence was real. Bush was still a deserter, though, as any objective examination of the record would show. I know what desertion is. I used to process the paperwork on desertions when I was in the Army. Bush is a deserter. Read more about it here.

What if we had never invaded "Iraq?"

Here's some more great music: Earl Scruggs and Friends, Grace Slick and the Great Society, Donovan, Donovan's biggest hit, Cat Stevens, Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, another Neil Young, one more Neil Young, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills, Donovan, The Moody Blues, Country Joe and the Fish, Pat Metheny, Donovan, and, to sum it all up, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The plot thickens on Bush responsibility for the September 11 attacks. Peter Beinart explains in The Atlantic what should have been explained on September 12, 2001. Maybe we could reinvestigate - i.e., investigate. The first "investigation" was a whitewash. Some are saying there has been an FBI coverup. It wouldn't be the first.

Update, October 24: The chorus of voices chronicling the Bush regime's culpability for the "911" attacks is growing. Here's today's offering.

The “Republican thugs” engaging in the “Brooks Brothers Riot”, November 19, 2000, intimidating the ballot recounters in FloridaUpdate, November 3: Here's an analysis of the theft of the 2000 presidential election, focusing on then Florida governor John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, currently a candidate for the U.S. presidency. 

Update, November 18: More information has appeared showing the active criminal negligence of the Bush regime prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Read about it here.