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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 27, 2016

The World According to Us

President Obama said last Wednesday that defeating ISIS is his number one priority. Apparently this ragtag band of terrorists is a greater threat than climate change, poisoning of the environment, overpopulation, or the unsustainability of our infinite-growth economic system.

It also is a greater threat than endless war, arms proliferation, growing economic inequality, and the expansion of the Deep State. It is a higher priority than repairing our crumbling infrastructure, which is killing far more Americans than terrorism. It is a far higher priority than sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or instructing the ignorant.

Indeed, ever since the attacks in Brussels minions of our political-media establishment have been in a lather to show how much they are opposed to the "Islamic State," which is not a state at all, but largely a figment of its own imagination.

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks," to borrow from Shakespeare. Why, one might ask, are politicians and pundits vying to proclaim their outrage and demand retribution against "ISIS." It was started by a guy who was tortured by "Americans" in Camp Bucca, "Iraq" during our eight years-long occupation. His followers are a mixed bunch of former Ba'ath Party members, "Iraqi" soldiers from Saddam Hussain's army, various disaffected Sunni Muslims from the Mideastern countries, and volunteer adventurers from around the world.

Why was he tortured? No particular reason. Agents of torture were rounding people up at random to provide torturees. When you are torturing people you first need people to torture, just like when you are starting a war you first need someone to start a war with. Torturees, like seemingly defenseless countries, are the low-hanging fruit.

And therein lies the rub. The invasions of "Afghanistan" and "Iraq" were waged for purposes of domestic politics. The Bush criminal regime looked the other way when warned of the impending September 11, 2001 attacks, and needed a diversion or two to refocus public attention. The "Iraq" invasion was planned even before Bush was "elected,"so it was a bonus war after the "Afghanistan" incursion.

We have yet to face the reality of the Bush gang, and because of that our "leaders" can continue on their merry way as if everything that their criminality caused is new, without causation. "ISIS" is an Islamic terrorist group, fanatics that hate us for our freedom, in George W. Bush-speak. There is no history when history is inconvenient.

Thus is the world according to us. "Us" being official "America," the acceptable established order that defines what is and who is around the planet. By defining the narrative of "us," the established order also lets the public know what to think and believe in order to be one of "us." "ISIS" will eventually be defeated and victory will be proclaimed. Then what? "We" will have learned nothing, and some pretext for another war will present itself. We have a "Defense" industry to maintain. Like the economy it feeds off like a parasite, the Defense industry needs to grow in order to survive. There not only has to be a constant threat of war, but constant war. You can't have war without weapons and equipment, so voila, there's money to be made.

The "Republicans" running for president are climbing over each other "Lord of the Flies" style, promising to carpet bomb the Mideast, torture even more brutally, and make the region glow from the use of nuclear weapons.

The leading "Democratic" candidate, Hillary Clinton, isnít much better. She claims her vote in favor of the invasion of "Iraq" was based on "the best available intelligence." The best, at least, that she cared to "believe." She spoke to "AIPAC," the pro-"Israel" lobby, last week, promising unquestioning expansion of military aid. Military aid to slaughter "Palestinians." If elected she will likely start at least one and maybe several more wars. When all you have to do is define the world according to "us," anything is possible.

Where will this end, we might ask. There are few good options. One is in nuclear war, which, ceteris paribus (all other things held equal), is inevitable for an empire that acts with greed and impunity. All other things canít be held equal, though. In a supremely ironic twist of fate, the synergy of climate change and the failure of our infinite-growth economic system may be the savior of humanity.

At some point our survival as a nation and as a species will become more critical than permanent war. The official narrative of "us" versus "them" will no longer matter. The established order will be no more.

And for "ISIS?" It will take a bit of humility, but the "nation" of "Iraq" has always been a fiction. If the world-at-large allows it to be divided up into three distinct states according to its ethno-religious populations, some cohesion can be established. Since "ISIS" is a Sunni Muslim entity, it can be driven into the newly established Sunni state, where it can compete for dominance with the people who live there. By the time that happens there will likely be little of "ISIS" left, so maybe the new country will find a way to real civilization.

Solving the problem posed by terrorism will be more difficult. We can safely say it wonít be solved by endless war, carpet bombing, making the world glow, or by torture. So what do we do?

To start, recognize that no matter how much you establish a national security state, mass societies will always be vulnerable to terrorism. It ís too easy for an individual or group of individuals to create mayhem with relatively little effort. People gather in crowds, and crowds are easy targets for disgruntled, fanatic or disturbed people to wreak havoc.

Understanding this vulnerability, we can so things to minimize it. When it comes to fanaticism, we can debunk it competently and responsibly. Here in "America" our most serious fanatics are fundamentalist "Christians" and "right wing" zealots. As things stand presently, these elements of society are given wide berth, allowed to spew their paranoid ideas and hatred with impunity. Remove their impunity and their numbers will dwindle. Patience, as the FBI showed in the recent standoff at the wildlife refuge in Oregon, brings the best results.

For the mentally disturbed, or "ill," more effective medical treatment, including confinement, is called for. In the "conservative" wave that followed the election of Ronald Reagan one of the most irresponsible practices was put in place. It is called "deinstitutionalization," and consisted of closing mental health facilities nationwide, dumping the patients, or inmates, out on the streets. The newly disturbed have little help or monitoring, and are left to their own devices. In a climate of gun fanaticism, the two populations often intersect.

That leaves us with the disgruntled. Like fanatics and mentally disturbed people, they will always be with us. And, like fanatics and mentally disturbed people, their numbers and actions can be minimized by creating a truly decent and civilized society. We can work toward a more equal distribution of income and wealth. We can create greater protection for the environment. We can establish better conditions for the workplace, restoring union protections and enforcing safety standards. We can expand public sector employment, and make it merit-based wherever possible.

We also can enact and enforce laws that minimize bias in employment, housing, voting, and in the justice system. People who feel cheated, abused, left out and dismissed will tend to be disgruntled. Some of them become violent. Reducing the factors that cause people to feel disgruntled will greatly reduce the desperate actions that they sometimes take.

Or, we can continue making it all about "us," even though most of us are only spectators, gullible believers in the official truth. The choice is clear, or should be. As a people we need to grow up. We are headed towards denouement. If we don't grow up, we will likely cease to exist as a species.
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Here's an example of the established order's according to us-ness.

Here's an update about the CIA's torture methods. 

Here's some Shakespeare.

The Works of Mercy can be seen here.

Tom Engelhardt refers to the Deep State as the Shadow Government. He wrote a book about it.

Here's some great music.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Signs of Encouragement

Last week I went to a lecture at Madison's Frank Lloyd Wrigt-designed convention center, Monona Terrace, in its Wright Design Series. The lecture was given by Enrique Norten, a renowned New York and Mexico City-based architect. I still have a semi-dormant interest in architecture from the time decades ago when I was studying architectural drawing and construction at a Community College.

The audience seemed to be mostly architects, and a few of them tried to ask petty questions afterward. One of them asked why Norten's buildings tended to be rectilinear. This attempt at insider sophistication as a backhanded put-down failed, as Norton explained that his intention in design is always to fit a building into its surroundings and be focused on convenience and use by the public. He also incorporates solar energy into his designs wherever possible, hoping to reduce or eliminate the harmful effects of the buildings on the climate.

In his lecture Norton talked about his desire to use the design of buildings to spread democracy by maximizing the participation in urban life by the most people. To this end he makes his designs accessible and inviting, and includes the surrounding landscape in creating public spaces that draw people in. This is most often seen in his designs of libraries, museums, government edifices, and university buildings

Someone asked him if he considered himself a Latin American architect, since so many of his buildings are in in countries south of the border with Mexico. He answered that he didn't identify as anything other than someone who tries to serve the public wherever that may be. He continued, saying that he didn't believe in nations and borders, and that people should be able to travel and live wherever they like.

I was pleasantly surprised by this, far beyond what I expected. I only went to the lecture because the Wright Design Series has been going on for years, and it was high time I went to one of its offerings. Monona Terrace is an enjoyable place to go for its various events, classes, rooftop restaurant, and to just walk around. I had no idea that I would be hearing someone at the top of the architecture profession talking about the relationship of democracy and climate change to the design of buildings and cities.  I also had no idea such a visionary and innovator would be an advocate of open borders, or really no borders.

It was three weeks earlier in Madison that local "Hispanics" held a "Day Without Latinos" rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Over 20,000 people of Mexican, Salvadoran, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, Panamanian and other "south of the border" descent took the day off from work and protested at the Capitol. The intent of the rally was to show how integral Latino workers are to the Wisconsin economy.

The state legislature, led by criminal sociopath governor Scott Walker, has a bill in the works to make "sanctuary cities" ineligible for state funding in Wisconsin. Sanctuary cities, Madison among them, have enacted ordinances to prevent local law enforcement officials from cooperating with the Federal government's deportation activities. The only sanctuary cities in Wisconsin are Madison and Milwaukee, along with Milwaukee County as a whole.

The sign translates roughly to “Dream to be free in spirit. Struggle to be free in life.”
The law has been postponed. In other words, delayed while "Republicans" assess the political risks of enacting such a law. They have been passing one repressive law after another in recent years, and their arrogance and crony capitalism may be reaching their limits.

So maybe the tide is turning. At the national level the absurdity of the "Republican" presidential campaign is beyond surreal, and the public is getting a painful Civics lesson. The clumsy attempt to stifle Obama's Supreme Court nomination is providing another Civics lesson. Fox News is having an identity crisis.

We can only hope. This winter is the warmest in recorded history planet-wide. The supremacy of authoritarian, reptilian brain, lower-level beings will fail eventually. What better time than now?

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R.I.P. George Martin. Words cannot express what the Beatles have meant in my life. Here's a song. This is the first song George Martin produced for the Beatles. This album is the last he produced with the Beatles.