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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.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The America We Live In

This story will be familiar to just about anyone who has purchased a car from a dealer. Any car dealer. A letter arrived last fall from the corporate headquarters of the manufacturer of the car, telling me my car had a defective part and that I needed to bring it in for a free repair. I was leery, because I had bad experience with the company’s local dealership – in both its east and west Madison locations. When I would take my car in for the simplest routine maintenance, like an oil change or to have the tires rotated they tried to upsell me for more expensive repairs.

When the warranty expired I stopped using the dealership, and went back to my good independent mechanic that I used before getting my almost-new car. He had already saved me plenty of money when the car was under warranty, and I would take the car to him when they tried to upsell me. They were lying EVERY time.

So I didn’t trust the “recall” notice. It was a simple repair, something to do with the spare tire, almost meaningless. I took the car in, though, and sure enough the dealer tried to upsell me. I had bought new tires and had a complete brake repair done by my good mechanic in the spring, but the dealer told me straight-faced that my tires were showing excessive wear and needed to be replaced. And, I needed a complete brake job. And, so smoothly, “We can set you up for an appointment right now.”

I lied back to them, telling them that I would mull it over for a while, then took their invoice to my good mechanic, and he very judiciously told me that they were mistaken. He had done this years before when another dealer tried to cheat me. He didn’t badmouth car dealers, or anyone else, for that matter. He just relies on his own good work, and keeping his business going.

This is the America we live in. The smallest businesses with the most direct relationships with customers can still be honest, but anything connected to a large corporation is all about separating customers from their money – all of it if they can.

I tried doing what I call hard-core sales many years ago, toward the end of the time I lived in Hawaii. It was for a solar hot water contractor in Honolulu. The training was for about two weeks. We were to generate our own "leads," making cold calls and even working the street, knocking on doors. I still remember the lead trainer telling us "Never lie to a customer," then proceeding with a litany of lies to tell customers. One I remember was "All our installers are licensed plumbers." Since I had been a plumber I went out on a few installs with one of the crews. Not one of them was a licensed plumber. The work they did was shoddy, including what they called "cold soldering," a common practice on Oahu.

I was a terrible salesman. I didn’t sell one solar water system. One day I was trying my luck in the well-to-do Diamondhead area, going door-to-door making my pitch. At one house the man who answered the door was a really nice guy, Chinese-American, and he was a vitamin salesman. He invited me in and we traded sales pitches. After about a half-hour I left with a bag of vitamins and no sale. One true thing the trainer said is that the easiest people to sell to are other salesmen, good or bad. I quit the job not long afterward, and returned to Illinois a few weeks later.

I wasn’t a good bullshitter. I’m thankful. If I had been a good bullshitter I would be just like so many others in this country for whom lying is like breathing. Almost half this country’s electorate voted for the 100% liar Donald Trump in two elections. It isn’t as if this country is divided between half liars and half non-liars. It’s more like psychotic liars versus a continuum of semi-dishonest to honest. Who knows how many people fall into each type?

We are conditioned to accept lying as truth. TV commercials are the most obvious. I have fallen for more than a few. I even fell for one of the worst politicians in the nation’s history. Lyndon LaRouche, probably the most dangerous “right wing” crackpot to ever run for office. In 1976 I wasn’t very impressed with either Ford or Jimmy Carter for president, and Lyndon LaRouche of the "U.S. Labor Party" paid for a half-hour or full-hour ad on national television. He was pretty convincing, spouting a lot of seeming anti-corporate, pro-labor rhetoric that had me fooled. It was pretty easy to vote for him, since Carter coasted to an easy victory, but it was a painful lesson in how easy it is to fall for pure hogwash.

So I can be a little forgiving of people who voted for Trump. Not much more than little, though. Trump, a deranged criminal sociopath, Is far worse than the crackpot Lyndon LaRouche. He is a totally malevolent human being, an obsessive narcissist and a predator. And roughly half the country’s electorate voted for him.

Trump was able to incite a mob to try to overthrow the government in January. Thankfully, Trump is as stupid as he is evil, and his attempted coup failed. He actually thought about 10,000 rioters could do his bidding and take over the nation’s Capitol. A ragtag mob of deluded Trump followers were as dumb as Trump, believing that they would succeed because the charlatan they fell for told them it would work.

The attempted coup having failed, but it made the country aware of a looming threat: “hate” groups. “Right wing” domestic terrorists. The Oath Keepers. The Proud Boys. “The” Ku Klux Klan. Various Nazi groups. “White” supremacy groups, dedicated to dominance by something that doesn’t exist – the "white" race.

We should look at these groups in context. They exist in the United States of America, where dishonesty doesn’t exactly rule, but proliferates. The various Nazi groups are imitations of what they think existed in Germany in the 1930s. One thing they don’t consider is that the Nazi Party in Germany was indigenous and original to Germany, invented out of nothing after the country lost World War I. "Nazi" is short for Nationalsozialismus, (in English National Socialist), itself a fake name. There was nothing socialist about them. American Nazi groups are dress-up outfits, fetishising fascist symbology. They appropriate the German word instead of calling themselves "Nationals," or "Natis." They are violent and hateful, but what "liberals" and our mainstream media fail to see is that what is most prevalent in the membership of extremist "right" organizations is mental illness. It takes a certain level of madness to be in one of these groups, and madness precedes ideology. Who would fall for a crackpot book like "The Turner Diaries" if he weren’t already disturbed mentally?

Trump brought these people out of the woodwork, so to speak, but the madness was there before him. He just gave them confidence and a sense of legitimacy. They became his "base," and many of them still believe he is the real president. No doubt a goodly number of them would like to attack the Capitol again.

Since they are Trump’s base, they are also the base of the "Republican" party. Which says all we need to know about the "Republicans." They are as bad as their followers. Worse, really, because they should know better. But they have their own delusions. The poster boy for today’s "Republican" party is Matt Gaetz, a man with no principles, no morals, no ethics and no worth. He will be gone soon enough, but what about the rest of them? Maybe they could go into the car business.

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Here's a video. Here's a song. Hoyt Axton. Steppenwolf. The Who. John Mellencamp. David Lindley. The Beach Boys. Wilson Pickett. The Beach Boys again. Johnny Cash. Another from Johnny Cash. Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen. Chuck Berry.

Monday, January 11, 2021

A Reminder for Proud Boys Who Are in Jail

Remember: No masturbating.

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Here's a song. Here's another. A Proud Boy might need some privacy from time-to-time. Though some Proud Boys brought their mamas along for the riot, most stayed behind, having tried. Maybe they should have tried harder. The Proud Boys might find a lot of their fellow-travelers in the jailhouse. If there are enough of them they could throw a party. If it turns into a riot they could find themselves having more privacy. Some might be motivated to leave early, but that would likely result in even more privacy. Which raises a question: What does a psycho killer to when overthrowing the government is no longer an option? It is likely that when they are in prison they will learn not to stand so close together.

Here's the story of the Proud Boys. Here's a quick rundown on their obsession with masturbation.

This is me with my 7th grade teacher at the Museum of Science and Industry in <br />Chicago, in March or so of 1958. She was from the “order” known as the Congregation de Notre Dame, based in Montreal. They were a mean bunch. It was a happy day for my teacher, getting out of the convent. This picture shows her at her best.I was a proud boy many years ago. I won the 5th grade spelling bee, and was declared president of the class by "Mother Superior," the school principal. That was her real titular name. She kind of jumped the gun. She "asked" the class to approve her dictate by acclamation, which they did. We actually had no class president before, no student government, and I had no duties, except to hand out candy to my classmates. I was a politician by default. Not only was there no class president before, but none in the succeeding years, and no other class officers. This of course calls for a song.


'Counting coup' on the NRA
A couple of years later I was a proud boy in the Boy Scouts, earning a "Pro Marksman" medal at summer camp. It was the lowest marksmanship medal one could get, but enough to make me a proud boy. It was a strange irony to receive a medal from the National Rifle Organization, which turned out to become such a backward political organization a few decades later. 

My Order of the Arrow ID card
A year-or-so after that I was a proud boy again in the Boy Scouts, being elected to "Order of the Arrow."  This also was kind of meaningless, since I never had any further involvement with Order of the Arrow, and didn't have much to do with the Boy Scouts after that time.

In high school I was a proud boy when I played football my junior year, and gained yardage in my one time carrying the ball. I was the smallest guy on the team. My stats weren't the worst on the team, so it was good enough for me.
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February 16, 2021 update: Here's the current state of the "Republican" party.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Three Questions

For Trump: Is this all ya got? For the Congress: If this isn't enough to remove Trump, what would be? For Trump's coupsters: Did you really think this was going to work?

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Here's a song. Green Day. The Grateful Dead. The Clash. Gil Scott-Heron was wrong. Grandmaster Flash. A proper home for Trump. The Beatles. Slow version. Here's a song for all the "men" who tried to overthrow the government. The Honey Drippers. The Rolling Stones.

The mainstream news media have been complicit with Trump for well-over four years, since before he was president, because he is "good copy." They knew he was a deranged criminal sociopath, but suppressed any mention of it, preferring to talk about his "policies" and "beliefs. This includes NPR and PBS.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Where to Start

Everyone, it seems, is looking back on 2020, trying to figure out what went on. The Coronavirus, of course, is pretty clear. It originated in China, and spread throughout the world, killing 1,842, 967 so far across the planet. The highest number of deaths is in the United States, with 347,956. This is largely due to Donald Trump, our deranged criminal sociopath president, who had no concern for anyone other than himself and his reelection. Many have written about this, so there's no need to rehash his criminality here. He was defeated in his "reelection" effort, and will soon be evicted from the White House.

What is more interesting to me is the cult-like devotion of many, if not most, of Trump's followers. His vote total was 74,222,957, 46.8 % of total votes cast. That is very high, way too high, for a deranged criminal sociopath. Roughly half of Americans voted for a clear, verifiable, provable sociopath for president. I don't buy the conventional pundit rationalization that Trump voters feel left-out, or dispossessed, or ignored by "Democrats." They are the same element of the country that gave us Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. 

"White" people. There is no such thing, of course, as a "white" person, or even a person with white skin, but that doesn't slow the all-knowing knowers down a bit. People of European ancestry are known metaphorically as "white" people, and people of African, Australian Aboriginal, some East Indians, and a broad swath of what is known as "Oceania" are called "black." Just as "white" people aren't white, "black" people aren't black. 

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, killing him, May 25, 2020

 Though no one is white, 75% of those who identify as being white voted for Donald Trump. Three quarters of white people chose a deranged criminal sociopath for president of the United States, down by 3% from 2016. Or maybe 5%, according to another source. The same source, Vox, says that Trump improved by 2% among "white" women, to 55%. If you filter down the percentage of "white" people who are "gay," college educated, urban, young, and union members, that leaves virtually ALL "white" people not in these demographics voting for Trump. Rural, small-town, lesser-educated, heterosexual, Christian, and old. Yikes! What a divide!

Trump, visibly controlled by Russian president Vladimir Putin, is a traitor. This matters not one bit to his followers. He's the Great White Hope. This is worth remembering when "white" Americans accuse other Americans of being unpatriotic, or traitors. They are just mouthing words, attempting to scapegoat others about something they have no real concern about, just using it as an excuse for hysteria.

A question worth asking at this point is what is so sacrosanct about "whiteness," and "white" culture, that it is a life-and-death proposition. No one is white, but it is still worth killing others for, and putting a deranged criminal sociopath and traitor in power over the whole country, indefinitely.

I grew up in this culture, in urban, rural and small-town "America." "White" culture is based on Western, European culture, which is broadly characterized by the ego, or ahamkara - the individual self, acquisitive, competitive, exclusive, rapacious, and ultimately paranoid and tribal. Even in its most tribal manifestation, though, the "tribe" of white people is not a collective. It is at best a loose collection of paranoids.

And, it is doomed. Capitalism, the economic system of individual greed, is doomed, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is destroying the planet. It also maldistributes economic reward, giving the lion's share to the very few. Trump, in this sense may have been a blessing in disguise. He is the embodiment of human evil, and he has almost singlehandedly destroyed the country. 

And yet his fanatical followers would kill to keep him in office. Fanaticism dies a hard death. Trump called the Coronavirus a hoax, so his followers refuse to wear masks or social distance. Some insist the pandemic is a hoax to their dying breath from COVID. 

So here we are, 2021. A new president, whom I find myself liking more each day. Trump and many "Republicans" are still refusing to accept the election result, trying every means possible to overturn the result. It should come as no surprise. Trump is a criminal and so are the "Republicans." 

The next several years should be very challenging, to say the least. The pandemic will likely linger for a long time. Our economic system will likely fail. The climate will most certainly get hotter and more destructive. We may not survive as a species. We can choose to survive. First, though, we need to learn how to recognize truth. We can start by giving up on being "white" - or "black." Or any other color. We are not our skin color. Skin is just skin, a major organ of the body, a sheath and integral and interactive part of the functioning of our entire systems. We are much more than skin, and much more than our bodies. About half the people in this country choose to be less than their skins.

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Here's a song. Here's another. This tune can get you in the mood for working together. Here's a song for the departure of Trump. His empire was an illusion, but it is now fallen. This is how Trump created his pretend empire. Here's a song by the Waterboys, not to be confused with the Proud Boys. Or the Boys in the Band. Or the Boyz n the Hood. This song is by what some would call a boy band, though they were no longer boys. If Vladimir Putin had his way, this would be our national anthem. Had Trump been more competent - that is, competent at all - he might have gotten his way.

Surprise of surprises, Trump pressured Georgia's secretary of state to "find" enough votes for him to win. I wonder, as this develops, how many election officials in how many states he pressured to "find" enough votes. Irony of irony, Trump may be charged with felony election fraud after he is evicted from the White House. 

The Godfather theme is music too fine for Trump and his "Republican" enablers. This song is more to their level of understanding. Or this. Poor Trump. He thought he knew everything. Monumental fool doesn't even begin to describe this profoundly evil being. Thankfully, he is the ultimate LOSER. When he finally gets sent to prison, Parchman Farm would be fitting. He can sing this song. At noon January 20 this will be Trump's new theme song.

All Trump has left is politicians throwing stones.

The pandemic has been very kind to the super-rich.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Two Questions for Trump Supporters

Would you like to kill someone? If so, how many would you like to kill before you are happy?
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Here's a song. Here's another. The Fugs. Warren Zevon. Bob Marley. Jimi Hendrix. Another from Jimi Hendrix. The Clash. Another from Warren Zevon. Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Grateful Dead.

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Here's what "white" mobs used to look like. 

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Transitions

I gave a sleeping bag to a homeless guy on the street Thursday. It was an old sleeping bag, and I had been planning to give it away for months, but kept forgetting. I was downtown the day before, and passed by a man standing next to a building, so I asked him if he wanted a sleeping bag. He was deaf, and I had to say it more carefully. He said yes, he did need a sleeping bag. I told him I would be back the next day with the bag, and he said he would be there.

I doubted this, but a man should do what he says he is going to do. So I went back Thursday, and sure enough the guy wasn't there, but an African-American guy was at the same place, and said that he could use a sleeping bag. He was a really nice guy. I figured good enough, and gave him the bag. I talked with him for a few minutes, gave him some encouragement, then left.

On the way home I was second-guessing myself, wondering if I had treated the guy with enough respect, or that I was not thinking too much of myself. This soon gave way to anger. Anger at the system for putting people in this position. Anger that we live in such a fragmented society that some people are filthy rich while others have noting. An arrangement like this is madness, and madness is not a model for longevity.

By itself mass homelessness doesn’t seem like a threat to the “American” way of life. But that is the reductionist view, that separate parts are just that – separate parts, with little to no effect on each other. In reality it is all holographic. Every part is related to every other part, and every part is an example of the whole. We pretend the part is independent of the whole at our peril.

The reptilian brain, home of “right-wingers”What I call the backward element in this country – and others – is largely responsible for this predicament, but really it is all of us. We are all complicit. Some more than others, for sure, but we all participate to some degree in this compartmentalized, reductionist way of looking at the world.

It isn’t just an intellectual exercise, though. Greed, destruction of the planet, overconsumption, tribalism, exclusivity, waste, entertainmentism and recreationism are rooted in human psychology. It is partly due to what has been described as the reptilian brain, but I believe it is best explained by Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In this approach human consciousness progresses (hopefully) through stages, with the lowest level known as deficiency, then through the more advanced being needs, leading ultimately to self-actualization.

The chakras in the human subtle bodyThis approach parallels the yogic method of advancing through energy levels, or chakras, to the highest level of enlightenment, or God realization, Samadhi. In Buddhism it is known as Nirvana, and is still not the highest level. In Zen Buddhism at least, there is the highest level known as the Void. I’m no expert on higher level consciousness or theories about it. It is mainly experiential, for everyone to know for themselves, in their own way and in their own time.

In your own time means it can take longer for some than others, hence the notion of reincarnation. Or, as Willie Nelson once put it, you keep coming back until you get it right.

It’s pretty obvious that as a nation, and as a species, we haven’t gotten it right. We are getting a great lesson in this Pandemic crisis. We have a perfect lesson in how not to be, and of how not to choose our leaders. Donald Trump, deranged criminal sociopath, narcissist, rapist, pathological liar, is the perfect leader for millions in this country. They identify with his crudeness, his racism, his lying, his greed, his dishonesty, his self-dealing and his promotion of violence. He called the Coronavirus a hoax, then proceeded with a negligent response to the growing crisis. Many of his followers are dying as we struggle through the economic and health devastation that he has wrought. It is a bitter lesson. The lockstep that his “Republican” cronies keep with him show how entrenched the sociopathic way of being is in this country.

In a backhanded way, though, this is a time for optimism. If we keep up the way we have, we are through as a species. Millions will refuse to see this, retreating to their crackpot religions, their crackpot ideologies, and their profligate ways. In Freudian terms they are natural-selecting themselves out of existence. If we are lucky we will learn from this.
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Here’s a song. Add one word - self - to this song and you have the story of Donald Trump. A song for these difficult times. Here's some traveling music. Here's a tip on how to reach higher consciousness. Some words of wisdom on getting through this crisis. Ladysmith Black Mambazo. R.I.P. Joseph Shabalala.

Here's an example of natural (self)selection at work.

Here is what we can expect when we engage in natural (self)selection.

Here's an example of how easy it is to fool Trump followers.

Something I wrote recently explains my view of the "Republican" party.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Good Riddance Trump

As the COVID-19 crisis deepens three things are emerging in our common awareness. One is that we live on a biological planet. Human existence is not separate and or the thriving and dynamic ecosystem of life forms, whether plant, animal or microbial. We depend on the function and support of this ecosystem for our health and well-being,

If the ecosystem breaks down, or if one aspect of it disproportionately affects another, serious consequences can result. Climate change is a perfect example of system breakdown, causing forest fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, species decline and extinction, rising sea levels.

The Coronavirus is a perfect example of one aspect of our biological ecosphere disproportionately affecting another. Animals living in close proximity to large masses of people can transmit naturally occurring bacteria and viruses to humans, and if some of them are disease-causing, the spread of illness can be planetary and devastating.

There are almost eight billion people on the planet, and the 68% of them live in urban areas. This makes them vulnerable to rapid spread of transmissible diseases. The steady growth of mass transportation worldwide has made it easy for disease to quickly travel all over the globe. Our human institutions – the city, the gathering place, the buses, steetcars, trains, planes and ships all are facilitate the spread of disease.

If a disease spreads to a sufficient level to cause a widespread curtailment of human activity, whole economies are affected. The panic in the stock market is the first evidence of this vulnerability. The cancellation of sports and other entertainment events came soon afterward. The supposed great “health” of the economy doesn’t appear to be such a certainty. In fact, what we are seeing is that our economic system is a house of cards. A change in the winds of circumstance can blow the house down.

Add in the aggravating factor of a deranged criminal sociopath as the overall manager of the crisis and you have a recipe for disaster. A disease pandemic, a house of cards economy and a deranged sociopath all mixed together in a toxic brew. In all likelihood the pandemic will get worse, and with the added factor of Trump’s malevolent incompetence it could result in a total system collapse.

It might be helpful in looking at this situation to look backwards from Trump, to reverse engineer the crisis back to the virus itself. Trump, completely out of his skill set and mental disposition, will likely become irrelevant soon. His day in the sun is pretty much over anyway, just a common crook who went way beyond his level of incompetence, in Peter principle parlance. We can look back in amazement that he lasted this long.

For the economy, a similar predicament exists. We can look back in amazement that it lasted this long. An infinite-growth system that destroys the ecosystem is unsustainable, and will inevitably fail. That inevitability has finally come to pass. There may be a stock market "recovery" when this crisis passes, but there may not, and the devil-may-care attitude of doing whatever we want to the planet is over.

For the virus, who knows? What is likely is that there will be a peak level of illness, many deaths, then a gradual decline, a vaccine will be developed, and changes will be made in how humans prepare for and respond to such emergencies.

It can safely be said that we are entering a new era. What we thought was the world we lived in is no longer the case. There will be no return to business as usual. We can at least celebrate one thing: Good riddance Trump.
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Here's a song. Here's another. More Talking Heads. AC/DC. Melanie. More from Melanie. R.E.M. More R.E.M. The Beatles. More from the Beatles. George Harrison. Bob Dylan. More from Bob Dylan. Donovan. Bob DylanThe Grateful Dead. Jimmie Dale Gilmore.