Saturday, November 28, 2009

Troubled Standards

The Nation magazine ran an editorial 11/2/09 which pointed out the hypocrisy of congress taking action to forbid federal funding of ACORN, a community organization working to register voters and assist low income communities. The usual hysterical right wing pundits joined by their more "moderate" colleagues, had been attacking embarrassed ACORN for the stupidity or corruption of several of their employees caught in a “sting” operation. The worker’s actions were obviously reprehensible (and corrupt if they were paid by the lavishly-funded Right who conducted the ‘investigation’, to betray ACORN – given the outrageous nature of the sting this seems likely). The employees were fired and the hapless organization began the distracting, maybe impossible, task of repairing the damage.

The Nation’s point is that an embarrassing, outrageous but ultimately minor event produces a frenzied congressional punitive action, yet convicted felons continue to receive federal funds with no right wing pundit attacks, no sting operations and no congressional action to forbid future federal contracts with criminals.

Examples from the Nation article:

• Three war contractors: Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman were caught in 108 instances of misconduct since 1995 and paid fines or settlements totaling nearly $3 billion. In 2007 they made $77 billion in federal contracts.

• Phizer, a pharmaceutical company, paid $2.3 billion to fend off criminal and civil cases, including Medicare fraud. Yet they made $40 billion in 2008 profits and $73 million in federal contracts in 2007.

Apparently the double message is, if you try to organize low income people watch out! Make a mistake and your reputation is shot, funding evaporates and you’re banned from future federal contracts! If you make WMD, be sure to pad the budget to cover legal fees, fines and any other expenses that arise if you’re caught cheating. If you’re not caught, hey, it’s all gravy.

A post-script: the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran a wire story November 25, reporting the results of an inquiry in Ireland where a Catholic Bishop and underlings had covered up child abuse, sexual and otherwise, by priests for years. This is hardly the first church scandal of this sort but since it doesn’t discredit progressives it isn’t likely to be amplified across the right wing pundit spectrum (It doesn’t need any exaggerating). The Right gleefully discredits an entire organization based on the misconduct of a few employees. It would follow then, to be consistent, that a large part of the church hierarchy participating in criminal conduct targeting children should discredit the entire Catholic church. We need to be skeptical and wary of all authority, hold all groups feeding from the public trough accountable but we also need to apply the same consistent standard.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Support the Troops?

The drawing came out of an experience I had at a night club. A singer-songwriter trio of Nashville musicians was performing and one of them had a support our troops sticker on his guitar and stated how proud he was of his nephew for serving in Iraq and urged us to Support the troops – I wanted to shout, “Bring’em home!” but I allowed myself to be intimidated. That failure haunted me enough to compensate with the drawing.

The text below was printed on the flip-side of the drawing, a pocket-sized flyer I would hand out to folks at demonstrations and in parking lots. When I saw Bush or Support our Troops bumper stickers I’d leave one under the windshield wiper. The situation has changed somewhat with Obama’s ascendancy to the throne but the pressure to continue the violence option is pretty hard to resist, whether that pressure comes from the defense industry, ideologues or from within one’s own psyche.

The Bush Administration lied about the reasons for invading Iraq, claiming:

• that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and intended to develop nuclear weapons.

• that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and was involved in 9/11

• Both of these rationales were discredited by the 911 Commission. Despite this the White House continues to portray the war on Iraq as a war against terrorism.

Administration officials advocated for invading Iraq long before 9/11 as part of their fantasies of empire. The real motives seem to lie here and in the oil riches of the region. War profiteering is a predictable bonus for the administration’s friends & allies in the Military and “Security” Industrial Complex.

The Administration talks of “Freedom on the March” but this is transparent propaganda. Aside from the illegal invasion, measures contained in the Patriot Act and other Administration actions, such as ignoring a Supreme Court ruling on prisoner rights to legal representation, the torture scandal, dismissal of dissent at home and the alienation created by its arrogant relations to the world community put the lie to its pretense of promoting Democracy.

The Administration exploits fear of terrorism among the population to distract from its deeply undemocratic agenda. This agenda includes dangerous and expensive militarization, continued transfer of power and wealth to the already powerful and wealthy, and denial of environmental pollution that threatens the viability, even the survival, of our civilization. Administration policies harm our standing in the world of nations and undermine our security by creating resentment and animosity toward our country.

Join us in reclaiming Democracy:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hawks and Doves

I looked down at the affluent California cities from an airplane taking me to Fresno, just mustered out of Vietnam in 1965, by the skin of me teeth. I’m embarrassed to report that these maudlin thoughts were running through my mind, “Gee, if only those communists could see this, they would abandon communism.” Only a few months later, back in the Midwest, I watched Television reporters mildly quiz Johnson Administration officials on the war. Though I knew these officials were lying I cheered them on, concerned predictably if unconsciously, not with the truth of the situation but with our side winning the argument. Had I this mindset during Contra-gate, I would have been with the myopic faction that saw Oliver North as a hero. And given that I was such an easy victim of the propaganda machine, one would expect me to be patient with those who still are. Well… sometimes.

A year later, on the night shift in a factory, saving up for Art School tuition, I agreed with other workers who talked of assaulting anti-war demonstrators when they announced their intention to join the 4th of July parade. Six months later I was trying out, just for fun, on these same factory workers, the anti-war arguments I had encountered on campus. In the course of our talks I gradually realized that the hawks failed to adequately address the issues while the doves were coherent, persuasive and honest. Soon I too was crashing 4th of July parades and hearing my former hardhat class mates yelling, “Get a job!”

All these years later (during the Bush II. Administration around the time of the illegal invasion of Iraq), someone shouted at a group of us Standing for Peace on a busy Atlanta intersection, “Support the President!”… Without missing a beat, a flag-waving veteran responded, “Support the Constitution!”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Classy Society

Michael Parenti’s America Besieged, turns the idea that the U.S. is threatened by foreign enemies on its head. His notion is that the politically active segment of the privileged and wealthy class is intent on maintaining their privilege by any means necessary. The freedoms the rest of us have won are thus under siege since those freedoms potentially threaten that privilege. His chapter on distribution of wealth confirms what Chomsky and others have said in various of their books and lectures (not something you’ll find on TV where the greater population gets its information, - another subject). Parenti’s book was published in 1998 so it can be safely assumed (recall which administration presided over this period) that the trends he cites have gotten even more pronounced, which comports with the illustration above.

• 1% of the population owns 60% of all stock
• 90% of U.S. families have little or no assets
• The top 500,000 people have more wealth than the bottom 200,000,000.
• From 1983 to 1998 after-tax income for the top 1% increased by 85%
• For the same period income for the bottom 20% dropped 10%
• Using a child’s building block to represent $1,000, the average income would stack about 36” while the wealthiest would be far higher than the Eiffel Tower
• The census bureau excludes the highest earners when it averages U.S. income, giving the impression that making about $300,000 annually puts you in the top bracket

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Consciousness (again)

Consciousness consists of thoughts and emotions, the latter often triggered by thoughts but also coming from accumulated negative energy from our personal and social environment. Mild, or not, traumatic or unresolved experiences can hang around as negative energy packets awaiting release, triggering. The other factor in consciousness is awareness.

The world as we know it, drifting toward extinction - threatened by over-population, consumption/pollution and war (nukes et al.) is captained by this consciousness with its imbalance of the three components, favoring thoughts/emotions over awareness.

We experience then a mindstream of thoughts and emotions with occasional gaps of awareness. An artificial identity is created as refuge from the fearsome belief that we are isolated, vulnerable entities living in a hostile, indifferent world. The entity protects us from unpleasant feelings more or less effectively if temporarily by searching for or constructing evidence for our superiority to others, resisting what is with anger, impatience and judgment, accumulating status through things, gathering power over others and seeking the seductive security of money.

The belief that we exist precariously in a stony landscape of endless threats is false. We are indeed intimately interconnected. In addition to providing fake refuge the mistaken notion also stands as a barrier between us and the joie de vivre smile of recognition that lives in the gaps in mindstream, the experience of being.

And we call it ego, dysfunction, the mind-chatter that keeps us in our heads and out of our hearts, that is to say in the present where we experience the felt interconnection of ONE which is being, fathomless being, inclusive of ALL, intelligence, source of all that we are and know, beyond the passing material world. Our task in what Tolle calls the awakening is to reverse the common ratio of presence to mind-chatter which is the dysfunction plaguing our fragile life system, reverse that ratio from high percentage spent in mind-chatter to high percentage spent in presence. Out of this new consciousness will flow A New Earth, the one intuited by sages throughout his(her)story, an imperative for our species, now only a small step away.

It is an incredibly exciting and simple insight, that creating gaps in mindstream requires nothing more than shifting your attention away from words in your head to taking a breath and re-realizing that you are.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Commonist! Health Care

The ruling elite has taken, over the years, great pains to stigmatize the word communism, deliberately associating it with rapacious world conquest, gulag, tyranny etc; and to fold socialism neatly in with the same knee-jerk associations. When a proposal characterized by sharing and compassion arises it can thus be labeled “socialist”! – with an accusing exclamation point and thus be discredited. So successful has this campaign been that the same forces soon turned their skills to the word Liberal, with nearly the same results.

Social Security and Medicare somehow slipped through the normally tight net and are very popular programs so calling them “socialist” could backfire. There is the danger that people might come to the unwelcome conclusion, “oh, maybe socialism isn’t so bad then.” Can’t risk that so these programs are attacked in subtler ways, saving the stigmatized ammunition for expansion of these programs, such as medicare for all or new programs aimed to help the general population, as opposed to the affluent. Apparently when I wasn’t looking medicare was saddled with co-pays, limits to coverage, Plans B. , C. and other complications; and medical care such as prescription drugs and dental were eliminated or shall we say, assigned to the profit-making sector. No doubt the lobbyists were out in force, literally highly paid extensions of the “upper” class.

The current health care debate is instructive. Pundits in all seriousness are calling the President a socialist, and they are loudly parroted by storm-trooper devotees. This of the man who appointed Larry Summers, capitalist par excellance, and a high-ranking member of the cabal who dismantled the regulations which consequently were not there to stem or even slow the recent flood of economic blood-letting – appointed this extreme incompetent or criminal or both, Treasury Secretary. Actually, incompetent is not accurate since the intent is always to transfer yet more wealth to the already wealthy and that was accomplished in spades. There were probably losers in the exulted class also but hey, it’s dog eat Darwin, survival of the fittest.

The national healthcare system, tested and proven quite sound in Western Europe, Canada, Australia and most of the other industrialized countries, can hardly be mentioned here in high political circles, nor in the mainstream media, without derision and outright lies, except by the few hardy souls who have taken their role as representatives of the people seriously. I watched one of the Democratic Party presidential candidate debates whose subject was health care and dispiritedly watched them, candidates and media, avoid even mentioning single payer in two hours. This of course was after Dennis Kucinich had withdrawn from the race, out of money, marginalized by a system that is fanatically devoted to elite rule, all the while posturing the pretense that democracy and freedom are its raison d’etre.

As others have pointed out, single payer is seen in elite circles and thus in their media, as not “politically viable”. The fact that polls show healthy public support for such a plan suggests that it isn’t the public that makes something politically viable. The obvious decisive factor is corporations, in this case insurance companies with their large war chests of campaign contributions and capacity to attack those it considers a threat to their profits. Other corporations in solidarity oppose medicare-for-all, despite the savings they might garner if health insurance responsibilities were taken from them. The obvious conclusion is that what they oppose is any program that benefits or empowers the general population. Just as the U.S. will attack or otherwise attempt to undermine foreign governments that pursue policies aimed to serve their people rather than multi-national corporations, just so will U.S. corporate elites attack politicians who have the effrontery to do the same here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


When I first encountered the idea of meditation it seemed interesting, maybe even important yet I got nowhere when I eventually tried it out. It bored me and my mind raced with ideas, memories, things to do, unfinished business when I was expecting some kind of esoteric experience. Once I even became quite frightened and thought, hey, is that it?, remembering maybe that scary line from my religious indoctrination, that no one can look upon the face of God and live. Understanding the practice, much later, as a means to becoming present, abiding in that deeply rooted state, as Tolle describes it, gave me a more concrete as-it-were, way of understanding what I found intuitively appealing. Joie de vivre is the real face of God, not the Biblical projection of fear.

My most profound experiences, given this understanding, can be explained as having entered into the state of presence. I once burst into tears before a Van Gogh, in the Toledo Museum of Art and just as unexpectedly broke down at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. and as I witnessed and caught my daughter’s slippery, primeval womb exit. I stood on the chilly December shores of Lake Superior anticipating a sunrise, the intensity of my consciousness gradually increasing until the sun’s appearance was accompanied by a metaphoric crescendo of a thousand voice chorus in the sky; Staring out the window of a European train watching the world unfold; captivated by a passage of Chopin; delighted by a Beatle riff, a flourish of paint, a flattened tin can, a splatter of rain against the window, reading/writing words that seem to magically materialize and cohere and express something true, at the heart of reality, doing the same visually with line and color – all moments of awareness, of felt interconnection, interrupting a dysfunctional stream of mind-chatter that otherwise dominates and subdues the joy of being.

Riding in the front passenger seat of a car going through a major intersection at about 25 mph I saw another vehicle obviously failing to stop for the light, impact unavoidable. I jumped instinctively into the area separating the bucket seats (no seat belt on) and, in slow-motion, felt the impact, felt myself falling into the impact, felt a delicate slice in the back of my head, was very aware of the careening auto and of myself being thrown out onto the road, rolling to my feet and running like a rabbit to the roadside, knowing I was now on foot on a very busy thoroughfare and aware also in there somewhere that my father’s brother had been killed when the car he had been thrown from rolled over him.

I had had a dream early that morning that a nurse with a clipboard came up to me lying on a gurney, saying, “I’m sorry, but you’re gong to die.” This came back to me in a flash while I lay on a gurney in the emergency room hallway and saw a nurse come up with a clipboard, look down and ask…, well, she was retrieving standard admittance information but it gave me a start. As I lay there waiting I became increasingly anxious, perhaps slipping into shock. I found my consciousness suddenly located, not in my head as I normally thought of it but in my lower spine, sort of “looking up” and experiencing the arrival of sensory data, sound, temperature, words, light on a pre-interpretation, pre-naming level, as raw data. It was extremely strange, despite several previous psychedelic experiences, and extremely frightening. I felt that life was a delicate vulnerable thread in a torrent of churning jetsam.

What unites these experiences is that they occur in that gap in mindstream called presence, triggered by some intense or novel experience. They are also colored by the confusion and fear that a belief common to our culture engenders, the belief that we are separate and vulnerable, isolated individuals. When the contrary fact that we are interconnected is felt, not thought, the confusion and fear dissipate, replaced by a state characterized by a feeling of peace and joie de vivre with the depth of those feelings potentially fathomless and referenced throughout history in terms like mystical, cosmic, peak experience, godhead, expansive continuum, etc;
That felt interconnection is awareness, of being. The feelers via which we experience go deep and wide. If we are absolutely interconnected then we feel the full reach of physical reality, the inseparable but simultaneous layers of past and future and most profoundly, the ground of being out of which the illusion of form flows. In this state we dwell en-joy and we are moved to acts of creativity in the dance of life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dennis K

Kucinich is in town, i heard by email, heading up a hearing on foreclosure. i jumped on my bike & rode over. went thru capital security, got in the elevator for the 4th floor, walked around the corner & there's dennis himself stepping in front of a camera for an interview. the hallway was full of suits. i walked up, no one else listening to the interview, stood within touching distance and when he finished i shook his hand & handed him my card with the url for a song i wrote for him during his campaign (below) that i could never seem to get to him. i told him so & he took the card, looked at it and asked how he could hear the song & i said go to that url & he said he'd do it when he gets back to washington.... andrew young then stepped up, introduced himself and took dennis away to a circle of black politicos... i tried to go into the hearing room... it was so jammed no way i could get in so with clear conscience i headed happily home toward my to-do list.