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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, February 28, 2016

The Butterfly Effect

Everything relates to everything else. This is Tobler's First Law in Geography, but applies to all phenomena. We do not live in a dichotomous, binary world. This should be obvious, but modern mass industrial society operates as if everything is discrete, disconnected, and acting independently.

In Chaos Theory, there is a concept known as the butterfly effect, in which a small change in a system can result in large changes in a later state of the system. The metaphoric example of this concept is the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in one location, which can affect the weather in distant locations weeks later.

Putting these two concepts together, it is easy to see how a self-serving, corrupt political system can result in something like the heroin epidemic that is sweeping the country. PBS's Frontline aired an episode Tuesday titled Chasing Heroin, in which the nature and extent of the epidemic was depicted.

It might be helpful to explain the connection by using the term blowback,  where unforeseen negative consequences follow from actions taken. We have been hearing about direct blowback from our diddling around the planet for a couple of decades, mostly in the international sphere. How about domestically? One domestic effect is the trillions of dollars wasted that could have been spent on repairing our decaying infrastructure of roads, bridges, dams, sewer lines, shipping ports and power grids. We could have expanded our health care system. We could have built low-cost housing for millions of people.

How is the heroin epidemic and example of blowback, though? One easy answer is the 40-fold increase in opium production in "Afghanistan" since the U.S. invasion, occupation and whatever it is called now.  Heroin is made from opium. But how is it that the use of heroin has spread so rampantly among "white" people? Could it be that there has been a decline in inhibitions and standards of behavior?

When we have a political class that is as crass, callous and criminal as the one we have now, might that crassness, callousness and criminality filter down to the suburbs? If "leadership" is so poor that Donald Trump (Drumpf) is the preferred candidate of a major political party, maybe shooting heroin is not such an unthinkable option.

In last Thursday's news, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing a new plan to "streamline" enforcement of pollution laws, giving businesses the ability to set their own standards. This is consistent with "Republican" efforts nationwide. It is seen most obviously in their pathological denial of climate change.

A further example of "Republican" efforts to control every aspect of "American" life, "GOP" senators are vowing to prevent the president from nominating a Supreme Court justice to replace the recently deceased Antonin Scalia. He was a terrible justice, and the "Republicans" want Obama to delay nominating a replacement until the next president assumes office, whom they are certain will be one of them.

I wonder about such certainty. There is much evidence that the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen through use of pre-hacked electronic voting machines. One journalist who has been following actual vote fraud for a long time, Harvey Wasserman, predicts the "Republicans" will steal this year’s election. Too much is at stake for the criminal elite to leave the election up to the people.

The FBI is attempting to force the Apple Corporation to give it access to its customers' telephones. When you're saving the world from terrorism, apparently, there is no such thing as enough information. Some might remember the attempt at Total Information Awareness during the Bush criminal regime. The current effort looks like old wine in new bottles. Since the FBI's main weapon against terrorism is entrapment, one can only wonder what the real purpose is for total information.

These phenomena can be looked at as butterflies. In the current incarnation of our socio-economic system we have what is known as the Deep State, a symbiotic relationship between the political world, the corporate world and the national security apparatus. The various manifestations of bought politicians, corporate malfeasance, endless war, the various permutations of the national security state, supporting mass media, and the glut of entertainment culture all combine in a symbiotic dance of pretend existence.

Using the metaphor of butterflies, the activities of all these "players" in the game of false existence inevitably have effects later that extend far beyond what could be imagined when activities to maintain and extend the structure are engaged in.

A perfect example is the invasion and occupation of "Iraq." From the perspective of the Bush criminal regime, what could possibly go wrong? Well, how about EVERYTHING? Massive death and destruction, many thousands of service members returning severely damaged, often killing themselves, war spreading throughout the region, and, last but certainly not least, the rise as a world threat of the heretofore nonexistent "ISIS." And, also thanks to the Bush criminal regime, there are now terrorist threats more serious than "ISIS."

What does the threat of "ISIS" mean to our Deep State alliance of politicians, corporations, the national security state and supporting mass media? Opportunity. Limitless opportunity. In the “Republican” "debates," various media personalities ask the candidates what they would do about “ISIS,” and they invariably grandstand, offering no actual solutions but plenty of bluster and braggadocio, promising to obliterate large swaths of the Mideast and its people to squash an upstart group that wouldn’t even have existed if we had had any prudence at all about invading other countries. Instead of prudence, they want to invade more.

In other words, more butterflies of evil. All they can come up with is evil. Paraphrasing former Alabama governor George Wallace, it’s evil now, evil tomorrow, and evil forever.

We can stop them. First, we have to be clear on what they are up to. Then we have to consistently speak of them, organize against them, take action against them, and overcome them from the perspective that they are an unrelenting evil force. There is no reasoning with them, no room for compromise. How do you compromise with climate change denial?

I shouldn’t leave the "Democrats" out. They are part of the dance, different only by degree, not by kind. They don’t even pretend to have any principles they stand for. Most of us will be voting for a "Democrat" this fall, only to have the votes stolen, but the Deep State would survive even if the election weren’t stolen. It just wouldn’t thrive as much.

So what does one do? All I can say is do your best, and every action is its own butterfly. The Deep State is not a Divine creation, but instead is of the human ego. All that is of the psychopathic human ego is doomed to failure. The butterfly effects of all this evil guarantee that failure.

And, just to make sure the obvious is abundantly clear, practice non-violence. The Deep State has all the violence and capacity for violence that humans are capable of. As has been seen in the past with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, non-violence works, and in the long-run is much more powerful than violence. 

Next, we will need to plan for what replaces the Deep State. No small task, but it is the task at hand. If anyone is under the delusion that "leftists" are egoless altruists who are only interested in the brotherhood of mankind, I suggest attending a meeting of "leftists." Or even observing a casual conversation between as few as two "leftists." It will be like something from "Life of Brian."

Still, what needs to be done can be done. It just isn’t going to be easy.

This Donovan song fits. This too.

Here's a video on the life cycle of a butterfly.

Here are some poems about butterflies. 

R.I.P. Harper Lee.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Just Another Word for Nothin' Left to Lose

Syrian children left to sleep outside, Stockholm, Sweden Migration Board, January 31, 2016
Human civilization should be doing better than this. After all the advances over the millennia, the scientific discoveries, the inventions, manned space flights, social improvements like democracy, human rights, civil rights, sexuality rights, the end of empires - it would be a safe assumption that as a species we would have human interaction figured out.

We of course haven't. Instead, we, as a species, do horrible things to each other. In my lifetime the atomic bomb was invented, then used to destroy two cities. There were wartime tactical reasons (or were they strategic?), but the main reason we dropped atomic bombs on people is that we had the bombs to drop, and a handy excuse. Since then we have invented ever-more sophisticated nuclear weapons, totaling 7,100, which can be launched from air, land and sea, enough to destroy all life on this planet many times over.

Also during my lifetime there have been U.S. overthrows of democratically elected governments worldwide, including in Iraq, Iran, Guatemala, Haiti, Syria, Panama, Iraq, Chile, Brazil, Congo, Ukraine, Greece, Cambodia, and of course Vietnam.  There have been numerous others, as well as support for various brutal  dictatorships and monarchies, such as in Saudi Arabia.

We can only wonder what the world would be like if these various overthrows and proppings-up had not occurred. We very likely wouldn't have children washing up on beaches, or boatloads of people drowning at sea, after fleeing the war-torn countries they came from.

There also would almost certainly not be the occurrence of terrorism worldwide, because the antecedent causes - overthrows, invasions and establishment of military bases would not have enraged people in the countries affected. Osama bin Laden, for example, turned his terrorist eye to the U.S. when bases were created in Saudi Arabia in 1991 after our first invasion of Iraq.

I don't mention this history to indulge in some kind of self-flagellation for being an "American." This just happens to be the country that is at the top of the heap, so to speak, of global dominance, suppression, destruction, and all the things that go with such status. If it weren't us it would be someone else, as many centuries of past experience have shown.

It's different now, in that, though we should know better and don't, we no longer have an option to behave as we have. We are entering a new economic era, and a new relationship with the natural world. You wouldn't know it by paying attention to our mainstream corporate and quasi-corporate news media, but our infinite-growth economic system is at its growth limit. PBS relented a bit last week, airing a segment on NewsHour about the end of growth, but from an innovation perspective. I take more of a Herman Daly perspective - that the real limit to growth is physical. We're running out of planet. A healthy economy is supposed to be growing in output by an annual rate of 4%, but using the Rule of 72, we can see that would mean a doubling of output every 18 years. The planet can't contain an output twice what we have now, no matter how long it takes.

Some have observed that the civil war in Syria was caused at least partly by drought. The Mideast is already a pretty dry region, so any drought there is disastrous. Some researchers are already predicting battles over water in the Mideast will be the equivalent of what oil was the previous century.

Scientists suspect that the spread of the Zika virus has been accelerated by climate change.

Economic refugees will be coming from everywhere - and going everywhere. We, world champs since 1945, the year I was born, may be world chumps in the foreseeable future. Our prosperity is based on the unbridled generosity of mother nature. U.S. population as of last December is 322,267,564. We are the most affluent society on the planet, and are ill-prepared for hardship. We aren't so well-prepared for good times either, with alcoholism, drug addiction and gun violence tearing at the national fabric.

It's not too late to do something about our current and pending malaise. We can stop being so dumb. As an entire people, we probably won't, or at least won't until it is too late. It may already be too late. So, just like facing our own individual demise(s), it may be to our advantage to face species demise. Though it is part of human ego-centeredness to view ourselves as supreme, and the rest of Creation as subservient, we actually have it 180° backwards. The planetary ecosystem and resource support structure are what enable us to exist. Without it we never would have existed in the first place. The "Christian" view that prides itself on the notion that man is the "steward" of the environment is arrogant at best, quickly forgotten in practice.

This doesn't mean give up. Just don't expect "victory," or even a meager survival. We can be more effective in dealing with this predicament when we realize we have nothing to lose. To coin a phrase, freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose. It's good enough for me.

Here's a song that sounds Country. Here it is at full tilt. This version is one to be grateful for. This is the original recording, though not by the author. Even Johnny Cash had a version. LeAnn Rimes too. The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis. How about Dolly Parton? Jennifer Love Hewitt. Waylon Jennings.

This Woody Guthrie song is performed by his son Arlo. Here's a surprising alternate version. This Tom Petty song fits, barely.

Noam Chomsky says the "Republican" party is a serious danger to human survival.

R.I.P. Bob Elliott. Bob and Ray were a family favorite when I was growing up. Here's a sample.

R.I.P. Paul Kantner. This song fits.

R.I.P. Glenn Frey. My favorite Eagles song. I remember what I was doing when the song came out in 1972, getting ready to start graduate school. Around the same time their friend and sometime collaborator Jackson Browne had this song playing on the radio. This Jackson Browne song fits today's theme.

Update, February 15: In another of the endless ironies of my life, I went to my cousin's lesbian wedding in 2002 at the same resort ranch where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Saturday. I wrote about it in this blog post.

I have a suggestion for President Obama. It would be a master chess move for him to nominate an African American to replace Scalia. He also would have a momentum-builder that would make his presidency go out in a blaze of glory. My hope is that he nominates Anita Hill. It would be a closing of a circle.

Update, February 18: Here's a perspective on the legacy of Antonin Scalia.

February 21: Here's another update about Scalia.