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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.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Tempting Fate

It may be unwise to respond to Donald Trump's goofy tweets, but it is hard to resist. Huffington Post and other sites make it easy by  embedding his tweets in stories. Such as this one today. Too easy. Shortly after sending my reply the browser crashed.

It mattered little. I just opened another browser and sent a tweet from a different article, about Alec Baldwin tiring of his role  playing Trump on Saturday Night Live.

These were fun tweets, and I tend to do them with a sense of mirth, but sometimes it's painful. Over the weekend Trump tweeted an outrageous accusation that the previous president, Barack Obama, was wiretapping him during last fall's campaign.

This called for a response, so I heeded the call. I try not to do these tweets with malice aforethought. In this case, a mild suggestion that tweeting in the middle of the night might be an unhealthy practice for a seventy-year-old obese man who is under great stress.

Trump retweeted one of my offerings during the election campaign - to one of his sons. None since then. I can't imagine that he would read any of them, but apparently he read at least one.

I only do this if I feel I have something meaningful to say. It isn't often, and I don't use Twitter very much.  An example of more meaningful commentary is an exchange I had on Facebook a few days ago. Former president George W. Bush - he of the invasion and occupation of Iraq based on lies - appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show last Thursday to promote his book of paintings of combat veterans. I only caught the last couple of minutes of the interview, when Kimmel said to Bush "Well thank you so much for being here Mr. President. It has been a real honor."

Twitter wasn't the best way to respond to this, so I posted to the Jimmy Kimmel Show Facebook page:
Celebrities of any kind are intrinsically a mutually gratifying subculture of society. That being the case, a war criminal who stole two presidential elections can appear on a comedy show in an effort to rehabilitate his public image. It works, but it doesn't change the underlying truth that said war criminal and election thief is still a war criminal and election thief, among other things. 
Me in Heidelberg, summer 1970I served three years in the U.S. Army during the time Bush was not showing up for duty in the Texas/Alabama National Guard. I showed up, didn't desert.  Worthy of mention is that Jimmy Kimmel was more than happy to oblige in this mutual gratification ritual, which is necessary for the celebrity culture to reinforce its status. He cried on air about Cecil the Lion, but for the grand farce unleashed by Bush's phony invasion and occupation of Iraq, not so much. It's all show biz.
A woman replied with an angry diatribe, mixing resentment, her family's "100% military" history and Christianity, which I answered without anger, but with intention:
U.S. Army Specialist 5 patch
Hmm. I suppose what your litany is meant to convey is that some people are more "American" than others. My family goes as far back in the U.S. military as the Civil War (Union) and the Cavalry in Wyoming and Montana. I don't know of any in World War I, but in World War II there were several. Vietnam too (Infantry). I "served" during the Vietnam debacle, but not in it. I was sent to Germany, which was surreal enough for me. I didn't kill anyone, and wasn't killed. I call that even. Unlike Bush, I didn't desert. I was tempted a few times, but "soldiered" on. I even made rank, E5, nothing great but not bad either. I could do the "manly" too.
Here's an example.

There is more about Bush. He lied the country into the invasion and occupation of Iraq, but under the rules of "victor's justice" he will never be tried. He authorized kidnapping, torture, false imprisonment and murder. All this, I believe, was to deflect attention from his - and his regime's - active negligence in advance of the attacks of September 11, 2001. For all these crimes he qualifies as a world criminal, and no amount of paintings will absolve him of responsibility. He's a sociopath, and sociopaths have no trouble whatsoever sleeping at night.

I used to be a "Christian." The "Catholic" sect. We were taught that everyone else was going to "Hell," or at best "Purgatory." Pure invention. I walked away after graduating from a "Catholic" college. Now I'm not anything, though I tend towards Buddhist, Taoist and Yogic philosophies and practice. I'm not as diligent as I'd like, but I do what I can.

And, as I thought I made clear, a criminal former president who makes the rounds of entertainment media to show the nation his goodness very likely has an agenda lurking under the surface. A leopard, as the metaphor goes, does not change its spots. An election thief who looked the other way when warned of imminent terrorist attacks, then diverted attention by invading two countries, authorizing kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture and murder can paint himself silly if he wants, but it does not change the world crimes he committed. The best thing I can say about him is that he is a brain-damaged drug and alcohol abuser of many years, and had diminished capacity to think straight. That only mitigates. It does not exonerate.

De nada. We'll all be gone soon enough. It all evens out in the end. I've been around long enough to see that antecedents and consequences don't flow in a Western linear fashion. What happens to Bush in the grand scheme of things is not my concern. If there were any temporal justice in the present he and his cronies would be breaking rocks in the hot sun for the rest of their misspent lives. Here's a song.
We rarely know the effect of what we do. I don't expect Trump to be affected by what I write, but others might see it and get inspired to resist. The Facebook go-around might change a mind or two. I don't think of effect when I write. I just put out what I feel needs to be said. It is only afterward that I think about effect, and I don't think about it very much.  All I can do is do my best and hope for the best. Given our current predicament, we all need to do our best.

Here's a song. Here's another.

Here's one of my theme songs. Here's another. And another, not the original, but good enough. I saw her do this song live here in Madison in 2000, just an amazing performance, more lively than this one. Here's the original on Vimeo. This is another theme song. Same band. And this.

This also is one of my theme songs. Same album. And thisThis too. Can't forget Jimmy CliffAnother Jimmy Cliff. And thisThis.

This is my all-time favorite theme song. I still remember the first time I heard it, It was in May, 1967, weeks before graduating from college, while breaking up with a girlfriend. Or, more accurately, when she was breaking up with me. I remember it as a precious time, when I felt the most affection for her, and this song appeared on my rattletrap car's radio as we drove down University Avenue in St. Paul and Minneapolis.  De nada. I had a lot to learn. Still do. She might appreciate this song.

When I was in Army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in 1968 I cleaned my rifle to this song a number of times. There must have been an "underground" radio station in nearby Waynesville, because they always played the long version - about the length of time it took to clean an M14. They also played this song a lot, and I may have cleaned my rifle to it as well. I thought there was a long version, but apparently there isn't.

21st Support Command Patch, the overall command for the 1st Support Brigade, which was the next level up for the 66th Maintenance BattalionThis was a theme song during the Kaiserslautern phase of my Army indenture in Germany. It is my favorite Hendrix song. This album was a theme, especially this song. I was only in "K-Town" for nine months, then transferred to Heidelberg, where I spent the next year-and-nine months. There were many theme songs in Heidelberg. Here's one of them. I hope YT doesn't remove it. Here's another. And this. This album. This song, but really the entire Blind Faith album. This entire album too, especially this song. This Country Joe and the Fish song. This Who song was on a greatest hits album I bought at the PX. This song was also on the album, as was this. This too, a total surprise. A couple of instrumentals became theme music, one by Quicksilver Messenger, and the other by Santana.

I got out of the Army in July 1971. This song was in the background that summer. In early 1972 I started working as a substitute teacher and took some classes at the local community college. I was getting in the groove of going to graduate school. Two songs were prominent in my consciousness that spring, one by Jackson Browne, and the other by the Eagles. This Neil Young song too. I bought two albums that spring that became my themes for transition, one by Joni Mitchell, and the other by the Allman Brothers.

When I started graduate school in Economics in the summer of 1972 this song was playing on AM radio all the time, it seemed. It fit with what I was going through at the time, and became a theme song off-and-on ever since. This isn't a theme song, but during that time in graduate school the local "underground" station played it many times. It is in my DNA. In 1973 this song appeared, and has been part of my soundtrack ever since.

Simper Fi

Salon had a story Monday about the Marines who posted nude photos of their female colleagues. I wrote a comment from my Army experience that sheds a bit of light, I hope. If you want to read it from the Salon site, click here. Or, read below:

In 1968 and early 1969 I studied the manly art of projector repair at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. My classmates were mostly pikers like me, but there were a couple of Marines in the class - a sergeant and a corporal. The sergeant was a "lifer," a dimwitted cliche of career NCOs. He tried to make us do pushups during our breaks. That happened once, then the Army caught wind of it, and let him know he was just another student, a guest who could easily be sent back to Quanico, Paris Island, Camp Lejeune, or wherever he came from. I think it was Camp Pendleton, of Surfer Joe fame.

The corporal was a one-termer, but had signed up for a six-year commitment, and still had a couple of years left, hence the course in projector repair, which the Marines did not have.

One day during a break the corporal told us a story of his time in Vietnam that I never forgot. He said they found out a guy in their unit was gay, and he was forced to fellate everyone in the unit, which if I remember right, was a platoon. Typically there are four squads to a platoon, and 12 men in each squad, or 48 men total at full strength. That would mean a forced oral sodomy by 48 men.

I asked the corporal if he took part in the episode. He replied "Sure! If it meant gettin' my dick sucked for free, why not?"

Such is the esprit de Marine Corps. Some might remember the boot camp scene from "Full Metal Jacket." The guy playing the drill instructor - R. Lee Ermey - had been a real drill instructor in the Marines. It wasn't an act. Army basic training was pretty crude and sexualized (I want to every swingin' dick out of that barracks in two minutes!), but the Marines are of a different order.

So it was inevitable that this would happen. With women playing an increasing role in all the armed services, they have become automatic targets for harassment, assault, humiliation and objectification. In a combat situation some will likely suffer the same fate as the gay Marine in Vietnam.

There are a few ways out of this: Abolish the Marine Corps, make it smaller, or, heaven forbid, stop having wars. If we were to put the Bush criminal regime on trial for its many war crimes, maybe our "leaders" wouldn't be so zealous about invading, bombing and occupying around the planet.

I followed that comment with another, explaining a bit about Fort Monmouth:

Most of the projector repair course was in 1968. Fort Monmouth was a fairly easy base. The service club gave out Broadway theater tickets, New York Jets football tickets, and others. A barracks-mate and I got tickets to the Ed McMahon "Snap Judgement" TV show. It was pretty ignominious, but for a private in the Army on weekend pass, good enough. Fort Monmouth was where Julius Rosenberg worked when he was spying for the Russians.

R.I.P. Clyde Stubblefield. He was the "funky drummer" in James Brown's band, "the most sampled drummer in hip-hop history." He lived in Madison for many years until he died February 18. I only saw him play once, with his great blues band. He held court from his drum kit. I still remember his smokin' version of Mustang Sally. Here's his blues band at the High Noon Saloon in Madison.

Clyde was a thoroughly decent guy, greeted people at the door. I saw him in 2010 at a forum about African American music during the Vietnam war. He toured there with James Brown. He was the voice of calm and reserve, when Madison "leftists" in the audience tried to dominate the dialogue with their various claims of "We were here stopping the war, blah, blah, blah." I walked out. In some ways he was too good for this town, though within the music culture he was a king.

At Ed Garvey's victory party. He may not have won the election, but he won the battle of integrity.R.I.P. Ed Garvey. I volunteered for his campaign when he ran for governor in 1998. I had a time on election night standing on the corner of Mineral Point and Gammon Road - next to Madison's West Towne Mall - waving a big sign with the names Ed Garvey, Tammy Baldwin and Russ Feingold on it.  Baldwin and Feingold won. Garvey didn't. I also volunteered at his law office in 1995 for the short-lived congressional campaign of Madison physician Gene Farley.

It was a great experience. Gene Farley was a true gem of a human being, as was his wife Linda. Being around them was a meditative experience. Unfortunately Farley dropped out of the race when Madison mayor Paul Soglin entered the race. Volunteering for both of these campaigns was the purest form of political activity I have ever been involved in. The "Democratic" party of Wisconsin gave no assistance to either of these campaigns. They wanted hack candidates.

Update, March 11:

The nude photo scandal is expanding beyond the Marine Corps.

Here's a song for someone I met today. Here's another. Alternate version. Alternate alternate version. Chet AtkinsHere's the original hit, though this was the first recording.

Here's a Fresh Air interview I missed, something Hitler fans might find disturbing.

Here's a song for Trump. Here's another. Woody Guthrie.