THE UNITED STATES OF DENIAL

12 11 2017

I want to explore the geography of the United States of Denial just a little. No, “The United States of Denial” is not a new name for Egypt. I’m talking about the good ol’ USA, where we are all united in being in various states of denial. Some of those states are adjacent to each other, some are pretty far apart, and some of the ones that are adjacent to each other are simultaneously quite distant from their neighbors. That’s one of the ways we’re united–in denying our denial. Those other people–they’re in denial Not me!

There’s Republican states of denial, Democratic states of denial, and then there are various liberal-left-socialist-Green states of denial, as well. I think it’s wonderful that, even though the United States of America has effectively closed its political process to all but two basically similar parties, in the United States of Denial there’s room for lots of political flavors.

Republican states of denial have been on the front burner a lot lately. Climate change denial has been front and center, along with science denial in general, as well as denial of racism, sexism, and compassion.  And then, of course, there’s denial of reality in general. Speaking of generals, there’s denial of the danger that a war anywhere in the world would pose to life everywhere in the world.

That particular state of denial, the denial of the danger of war, borders one of the most prominent Democratic states of denial, which also denies the dangers of war. While the Republican state of denial of war danger borders North Korea and Iran, its Democratic counterpart bumps up against Russia. The two states of denial also share a common border with Afghanistan.

Republican climate denialism is so well-known that I’m going to skip over it and give some attention to its neighbor, Democratic climate denialism. Democratic climate denialism is more subtle than the rugged Republican version, which simply denies that the problem exists. Hey, mass extinction is the capitalist way to solve overpopulation!

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PSYCHOPATHY

8 10 2017

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible is available for free at this link, but I urge you to buy the book and show your support for the author.

Note: This another amazingly relevant chapter from a book written four years ago. Because of its length, I am reading half of it this month, and half next month.

If something bites you, it is inside of your clothes.

—Swahili proverb

I have argued that change will come not from overcoming the powers-that-be, but through their transformation. I have stated that we are fundamentally the same being looking out at the world through many sets of eyes. I have described how our perception of evil comes from a lack of understanding of what it is like to be another person. I have asserted that what we do unto the other, we do unto ourselves, and that this is something we can feel. And I have invoked the principle of the gift, that we are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are. In answer to all of these, sometimes people bring up the counterexample of the psychopath, a distinct subset of humanity that supposedly possesses no compassion, no ability to feel love, and no shame.

These people are, it is said, totally out for themselves, suffering no compunctions in ruthlessly pursuing short-term self-interest. Unfeeling, charming, charismatic, daring, and ruthless, they tend to rise to the top in business and government. To a large extent, they are the powers-that-be, and it would be naive to think that anything but raw force would stop them. Without pity, without conscience, without even the capacity to feel anything but a few basic proto-emotions, they are the epitome of evil. According to many researchers, they can never be cured. They don’t want to be cured. They are happy the way they are…..

….

Many classic psychopathic behaviors make sense within the context of a general shutdown in feeling. Inured to feeling, the psychopath nonetheless has, like all of us, a strong physiological need to feel. Therefore he is given to impulsiveness, drama, pointlessly risky behavior that doesn’t contribute to his self-interest at all. Anything powerful enough to breach the walls he has constructed will attract him. For some, it could be the intensity of infatuation, for others, murder, for others closing the big deal. It could be the big risk, the big purchase, the big gamble. Many psychopaths are addicted to such things that, they sometimes say, make them feel alive. Most academic researchers believe psychopathy is a conjunction of two independent axes of variation: lack of empathy, and impulsivity. In my hypothesis, the two are closely linked. The risky behavior is an attempt to breach the lack of feeling.

I must acknowledge that there is very little research supporting this hypothesis. I base it on my own experience—first and foremost with myself. I was an extremely sensitive child and, due to traumatic bullying in my early teens, learned to shut off most of my feelings. Though the shutoff wasn’t nearly as profound as that of a psychopath, still it enabled me to do some pretty callous, manipulative things. I also exhibited other psychopathic traits, such as impulsivity and a penchant for drama. I was trapped in numbness and wanted desperately to feel. Tori Amos’s lyric spoke to me: “Give me life, give me pain, give me my self again.”

music: Tori Amos “Little Earthquakes” (Note: the video for this song contains a lot of shockingly graphic images, as befits a song that seems to be about domestic violence.)

Second half, which concludes the November broadcast:

In addition, I have also had extensive interactions with several psychopathic individuals, at least one of whom was profoundly so: a man whose ruthlessness knew no bounds. I’ll call him C. He also had other classically psychopathic traits: glib self-justification, total lack of shame, extreme impulsiveness, extraordinary charisma, and great physical courage that often crossed the line into foolhardiness. But there were a few times when I caught a fleeting glimpse of something else, a tenderness or a purity that came out in very convoluted ways, for example as spontaneous, secret, and sometimes magnanimous acts of generosity or caregiving. These were distinct from the cynical devices he routinely enacted to seem a swell guy. There was something else, a real human being. As far as I know, that real human being is still deeply buried, but it is in there and somehow, someday, might awaken……

…..Imagine what this world could be, if we could channel that tremendous pent-up life-force toward something worth caring about. To be sure, most people do have access to things worth caring about on a personal level. There are babies to hold, shoulders to cry on, gardens to plant. Our Story of the World and its systems often squeeze these simple avenues of service to the hurried margins of life. Besides, we also need more than just these, at least in certain stages of life. That is why we, and especially young people, hunger for a cause. Like F., we want to care. We want to find a way to open the floodgates of the heart. Such things as “ending polio in Africa” or “internet freedom” might serve for a time, but eventually they cease to excite us. The gates shut again, maybe via burnout or compassion fatigue. For some of us, none of these causes, taken in isolation, can pierce the ennui, the uncaring, the cool. We need to see what bigger thing we are serving. We need a story of the world we really care about.

Music: Bjork, “It’s In Our Hands





A SMOKING GUN AT LAST, OR JUST MORE SMOKE AND MIRRORS?

13 08 2017

The latest round of accusations in the ongoing controversy over Russian interference in last year’s US election has produced what many in the media are calling “a smoking gun”: Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a woman described by the English national who set up the meeting as a “Russian government lawyer” who claimed to have “potentially compromising material on Ms. Clinton.”

There it is in plain black and white, we are told: the Trump campaign’s core members met with a Russian national and received “material aid” for the Trump campaign from her and her country. Ka-ching! Violations of US campaign finance laws!

Trial for Impeachment!

Trial for Treason!

Let’s step out of the roar of the crowd at this thrilling turn of events and consider what really happened, and what it means.

First of all, I think former US ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock has the most concise commentary on whether it is proper for representatives of a political campaign to speak with the diplomatic representatives of other countries:

Our press seems to be in a feeding frenzy regarding contacts that President Trump’s supporters had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and with other Russian diplomats. The assumption seems to be that there was something sinister about these contacts, just because they were with Russian diplomats. As one who spent a 35-year diplomatic career working to open up the Soviet Union and to make communication between our diplomats and ordinary citizens a normal practice, I find the attitude of much of our political establishment and of some of our once respected media outlets quite incomprehensible. What in the world is wrong with consulting a foreign embassy about ways to improve relations? Anyone who aspires to advise an American president should do just that.

In other words, the Democrats are attempting to sensationalize and criminalize just the kind of openness and communication, i.e., freedom, that the United States supposedly champions in the world, and that this country has pushed long and hard to establish in both the old Soviet Union and in the Russian Federation it has since become. What has turned the Democrats into such a bunch of soreheads? “Why do they hate us for our freedom?”

I think that the driving force behind that anger, and”Russiagate,” is  the Democratic National Committee’s frustration at having lost control of the narrative about Hillary Clinton, as not only Republican but left-wing non-mainstream news sources presented facts about her that disagreed sharply with the DNC’s presentation of her. “If only the Russians, and their allies and useful idiots in the American left, hadn’t publicized all that nasty stuff about her, some of which was totally made up, she would be President now instead of him. ” Read the rest of this entry »





SETH RICH–THE MYSTERY CONTINUES

27 06 2017

August 7, 2017 update:

The story about Faux news making up quotes they attributed to “FBI agents” has been all over the news lately, repeating the claim that “this was an armed robbery gone wrong.” What has barely been in the news is the investigation by Ray McGovern and Veteran Intelligence Professionals For Sanity, which involved “a forensic analysis of the metadata for the DNC’s computer server” and concluded that

on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computers, and then doctored to incriminate Russia.

After examining metadata from the “Guccifer 2.0” July 5, 2016, intrusion into the DNC server, independent cyber investigators have concluded that an insider copied DNC data onto an external storage device, and that “telltale signs” implicating Russia were then inserted.

Key among the findings of the independent forensic investigations is the conclusion that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack. Of equal importance, the forensics show that the copying and doctoring were performed on the East Coast of the U.S.

The article goes on to sketch out a rationale that explains why this was most likely done by a DNC insider, and not a Russian mole in the DNC. That story is beyond the scope of this one, and well told my Mr. McGovern. Its significance for this story is, obviously, that the DNC material was definitely leaked, not hacked. And, on reflection, I have understood that his parents may well be right, that Seth could not have been the leaker. He might simply have had the misfortune of knowing who the leaker was.

I certainly hope we find out the truth of this matter, along with a great many of its corollaries.

(This post has been edited and expanded slightly since I first posted it, since it has become part of my July radio show.)

I have a bit of a backlog of “must-read” links. By the time some of them reach the light of day, they are no longer relevant, because things can change a lot in a month. So, after reading Caitlin Johnstone​’s late-May piece “Someone Just Edited Seth Rich’s Reddit Posts,” I checked to see if there was any reliable more recent information that might help me determine whether the post was still noteworthy, or not.

After skipping over various right-wing sources that did not feel I could trust, I found a Newsweek article titled “Seth Rich Update: DNC Staffer Murdered by Serial Killer, Not in Botched Robbery, Report Claims.” The title, however, proved to be somewhat misleading, as I found when I read the article, which quoted a police report that said  “death was more likely committed by a hired killer or serial murderer.”

The article also cites a report by a group called “The Profiling Project,” which points out

“The murderer brought a most likely unregistered firearm to the crime scene, utilized the firearm and most likely carried the firearm away from the crime scene….That the crime scene appeared to be almost sanitized (no firearms casings were reported to be found, no physical evidence was reported), and that there does not appear to be excessive use of force (as only two shots were reported), the offender does not appear to be psychotic.”

Verrry interesting. Soon, however, “The Profiling Project” starts to spin the information. In this next quote, the first sentence is a reasonable statement, the second spins the facts, and the third deposits us in what looks to me like disinformation territory.

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DON’T TREAD ON US!

8 04 2017

If, as I am, you are accustomed to listening to Radio Free Nashville at home and while you’re driving around town, you got a rude shock last week when you tuned in to 103.7 or 107.1. You didn’t hear WRFN. You heard 24-hour-a-day Christian talk/news radio. Bott Broadcasting is attempting to open a station on our frequency. Their programming is not local, but originates in Kansas City and is repeated on dozens of stations nationwide. WRFN manager Ginny Welsch got them to stop while we sort this out with the FCC, so we need all the help we can get, in the form of letters from you to the FCC, to let them know you appreciate being able to hear WRFN in Nashville. Bott has several other repeaters on other frequencies in the Nashville area, so it’s not like they’ll be shut out of the market if they don’t get 107.1, which they apparently don’t even have call letters for yet. Let’s keep it that way.

Here’s a letter from Ginny telling us what to do:

Hey folks-

Please consider filing an informal objection with the FCC to granting Bott Broadcasting’s translator on 107.1  That is the translator causing us all this interference.
Informal objections need to be mailed to the FCC and signed. Make three copies of your letter, and send them all (in one envelope)   to

FCC Headquarters
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

They don’t need to be fancy.  You just need to say you object because it is interfering with the station you listen to.   Please ask your friends to send one, too.
So, here’s my letter. Feel free to copy and/or adapt it for yourself.
Dear FCC
      Over the last several years, I have enjoyed listening to Radio Free Nashville, WRFN-LP, 103.7/107.1, at home and while I’m driving around town. The station offers a wide variety of music and thoughtful talk shows. Much of its programming is original. There’s no other radio station like it in Nashville. I got a rude shock last week when, instead of hearing my local station, WRFN, I instead heard what I soon determined was syndicated programming coming out of Kansas City, which did not serve my needs at all. Please do not allow Bott Broadcasting to stamp out a local institution like Radio Free Nashville, and keep 107.1 and 103.7 as the frequencies for our community station.
      Thank you very much
     Martin Holsinger
music: Bob Marley, “Get Up, Stand Up” (not part of the FCC letter!)




GREEN PARTY ELECTION NEWS–THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

8 04 2017

Let’s start with election news: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was a good news – bad news kind of evening for the Wisconsin Greens in Dane County elections on April 4. The Greens lost both contested races they entered but won four seats on Madison City Council, with candidates running unopposed in each instance.

district17

Samba Baldeh

district18

Rebecca Kimble

Steve Arnold took 41.4% of the popular vote in a two way race for Mayor of Fitchburg but came up short. Similarly, Ali Muldrow of the Greens garnered 44.1% and over 20,000 votes but wound up second in her bid for a place on the Madison School Board. Winning their seats to Madison City Council were Ledell Zellers (Distruct 2), Marsha Rummel (District 6), Samba Baldeh (District 17) and Rebecca Kemble (District 18). Congratulations to the Wisconsin Greens candidates and volunteers for making it happen!

Out in Los Angeles, US House candidate Ken Mejia had this to say about his April 4 election:

As of this morning, we are 7th out of 23 candidates, with the top 2 front runners who raised the most money (over $1,000,000 combined) getting a majority of the votes. However, we are only 249 votes away from 4th place out of 23 people – beating 16 Democrats and all other party candidates (Republican, Non-Partisan, Libertarian). In addition, there are many mail-in and provisional ballots left to be counted.

We always knew it was going to be a tough race, especially running as the outsider campaign in a very low voter turn out Special Election (9.6% voter turnout so far). Nevertheless, regardless of what the final numbers are, WE HAVE ALREADY WON!

yeswekenThe top two candidates, both Democrats, will face each other in a general election in June.The winners received 5-8,000 votes to Mejia’s 1300. When you consider that the winning, corporate-sponsored, candidates outspent him by a factor of ten to one–Mejia raised about $50K compared their roughly half a million each–Meijia did very well, indeed. By doing some admittedly simplistic math, we could say that, if Mejia had had access to the same kind of financing as the winners of the election, he would have received 13,000 votes for his money, as many votes as the actual top two combined, and nearly enough to win outright and not need a runoff. Sure, that’s a fantasy, but it points up the tilted nature of our political playing field, and the need for serious campaign finance reform, if not a whole other socio-economic-political paradigm.

So that’s some good news, and some bad news. The ugly stuff happened in Philadelphia, where Democrats did a serious number on Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala’s campaign for a Pennsylvania State House seat.

cherihonkala

Poll workers, who were almost universally Democratic Party activists, reportedly pushed people to vote for the Democrat by, for example, telling voters that if they were registered Democrats, they had to vote for the Democrat,  and otherwise overtly campaigning in the polling places. The write-in election featured the use of ink stamps of the candidates’ names, to eliminate the possibility of illegible ballots. Some voters reported that, when they requested a Honkala stamp, they were given a stamp for her opponent instead, and then not allowed to change the misvote. According to the official results, Honkala lost by about a 4-1 margin, but both she and the Republican candidate, the only one actually on the ballot, have filed complaints, and it seems the DA and the legislature will both be investigating.

And, on that note, a song from The Clash seems appropriate…..

The Clash,”Know Your Rights





SMOKE, MIRRORS, AND ENOUGH ROPE

8 04 2017

Have you noticed that American politics has slipped into Alice and Wonderland territory? That the Tea Party is now hosted by the Mad Hatter’s cousin, the Mad Hairpiecer? And that the Red Queen has morphed into the Blue Queen, with her king and all her courtiers  shouting “Consider your verdict!” when the trial hasn’t even begun, and ordering “Off with their heads!” as the fate of anyone who dares disagree with them? How many people have noticed this, and how many people are simply too swept up in the emotions of the moment to reflect on the absurdity, and danger, of  the things they are being manipulated into believing?

billy-butcher-trump-clinton-pop-characters-5

Thanks to Butcher Billy for the artwork!

The Wonderland metaphor breaks down somewhere around this point, because in our current situation, the Blue Queen and her court have been almost wholly disempowered by the Mad Hairpiecer, so that all they can do is howl. Given the size of their echo chamber, the howl sounds pretty fearsome, but, just like the trial Alice attended, the evidence in the question of  who stole the tarts–or, in this case, the election–remains shaky at best.

For instance, here’s a conversation with our former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that the off-with their heads/the Russians are coming crowd has had to conveniently ignore since it popped up smack dab in the middle of the mainstream, on NBC’s “Meet the Press“:

CHUCK TODD:
Does intelligence exist that can definitively answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?

JAMES CLAPPER:
We did not include any evidence in our report, and I say, “our,” that’s N.S.A., F.B.I. and C.I.A., with my office, the Director of National Intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.

CHUCK TODD:
I understand that. But does it exist?

JAMES CLAPPER:
Not to my knowledge.

Read the rest of this entry »








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