The Open Dimension

Commentary on social issues; politics; religion and spirituality

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Location: Laguna Hills, California, United States

I am a semi-retired psychotherapist/psychiatric social worker and certified hypnotherapist. Originally a practicing attorney, I changed careers during the 1980's. My interests include history, constitutional law, Hindustani classical music, yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ennis Friary, Ireland

Cashel Tower, Ireland

Friday, January 09, 2009

Would Anyone Care For Some Gupta?

Talk about difficult. Who in his right mind would want to be Barack Obama right now? The country has been blown to pieces by decades of corrupt corporate government, a government which probably well over half the American population supports. The nation is a conglomeration of innumerable self-interested factions all clamoring for their own brands of indulgence and generally oblivious of the big picture. Many- perhaps most- of his own party are really in league with the other party, which is all set to blame him for everything negative that’s happened to the country since the Chicago fire. He’s by all accounts probably quite a progressive liberal but has to don the mantle of centrism in order to assuage God-knows-how-many interest groups and not be run out of office. And on and on.

His main task would seem to be to know for sure what is possible now and to do what he needs to do to accomplish it, doubtless with the unstated thought that the seeds thereby created will provide the way for future development along lines more favorable to his personal and ideological preferences. Objective thought. Obama has to be eminently capable of it if he hopes to succeed in the pertinent sense of the word. Is he? Who knows for sure. But his personal history and his campaign signal that he deserves our support- provisionally of course. We need to try to understand not only his actions but his short-term and long-term intent. A tall order perhaps. But Obama’s is a lot taller.

His choice of Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon-General provides an example. Dr. Gupta would not have been my choice. His recent attempt to impugn the substance of Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko” revealed his personal biases. He appeared to function as the agent of and spokesman for the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Moore would have none of it; and I think demonstrated clearly and convincingly that Gupta’s criticism of his research and data was inaccurate and groundless. The real issue was of course single-payer health insurance; in other words Medicare for everyone- with the insurance companies pretty much out of the picture in terms of control. That’s the system in effect in Canada and I think just about every other industrialized nation. And I agree entirely with Moore that it should be the system in the U.S. But would it pass in Congress? Virtually impossible given the power of the insurance lobby and their Congressional servants- Republican and Democratic alike. Even if Obama- for the sake of argument- were in substantial agreement with Moore on the issue, where would that leave him in terms of the reality of the situation? Nowhere to go. So he has to go for better if not best. Hence the plan he developed- a compromise for sure; but at least health coverage is extended to millions of Americans. And the groundwork is set for future development.

Gupta’s appointment may be another aspect of Obama’s practical bent. Whatever one may think of Dr. Gupta, he has media savvy, name recognition and a certain credibility with the public. Obama’s point of view may be that to have him on his side in terms of support for his healthcare agenda may help to tip the balance in favor of passage. And Obama may consider that Gupta might be an asset in other areas of healthcare: education; prevention; and so forth. Gupta, whatever his biases, is likely to be useful if he gets with the program. He’s a “star” in his own right. And Obama can use all the stars he can get considering the magnitude of the enterprise.

Objective thought. Most of us have to be really smart every once and a while. Obama has to be extraordinarily smart just about every minute. What a job. The Hillary Clinton appointment comes to mind. Again, she would not have been my choice for Secretary of State. Too hawkish. Too Bushite for that matter. Too cozy with the corporations. But Obama had to do something with her. She got 18 million votes. There’s 18 million and one potential enemies and opponents. He could have left her to languish in the Senate as junior Senator from New York, where I suspect her resentment and unfulfilled ambition would have simmered to the boiling point. Or he could have brought her in close, lavished her with praise and given her the top Cabinet position - which he did. Where would you want her- mad and in a separate but equal branch of government; or mollified and next to you following your agenda? And the fact is that both she and Bill Clinton command great respect internationally. She will doubtless be a great asset in terms of implementing effective foreign policy. And she didn’t even have to give up her presidential ambitions. If McCain could run at 72, why couldn’t she- in eight years- at 68 or whatever? Smart.

I do have some concerns though. I don’t see Obama losing his personal values or his integrity. And I pray that I’m right. But I do think it is possible for him as President to underestimate the possibilities and to compromise principles to the point of becoming just a “nicer” version of the opposition. In that case I think he would forfeit his potential for greatness- as unfortunately I think Bill Clinton did. And the nation would be the loser.

I’m troubled by the bailouts. I understand that something had to be done quickly. But the fact is that the situation is getting worse and the American people have been forced to pay a very high price for the sins of the financial elite. There has to be an end to the Bush- Paulson Solution: Refill the pockets of the malefactors and give their leaders big bonuses. And don’t ask them what they’re doing with the money. I presume and I trust that Mr. Obama will end the dole of money without strict accountability and tight pre-conditions for extensive reorganization, reform and regulation. This simply has to be the priority.

And I’m troubled about Afghanistan. If Mr. Obama yields to turning it into another Iraq- expanding the occupation and pouring more billions of treasure into it- then we might just as well have voted for McCain and the “Hundred Year” continuation of the Iraq disaster. Engaging in perpetual warfare will destroy us. It almost has already. The best military minds and the best intelligence minds have to be assigned the task of devising methods of conducting operations against Al Qaeda and its allies from relatively neutral locations. The massive occupations and the grand-scale warfare has to end. It isn’t working and it’s making a monster out of us as a nation.

I’ll leave it there for now. I’m confident that President Obama will stay smart, stick to his principles and do what he has to do as quickly as he can. That’s why I voted for him.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

L'Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont Royal, Montreal

Monday, January 05, 2009

"The Wisdom of the American People": Give Me a Break

You hear the cable-TV pundits talk about it all the time - “the wisdom of the American people.” Well, they have to sell their books and magazines and programs. Mustn’t ruffle the public’s feathers. But really. I think the one who got it right was George Carlin, who said it all: “The public sucks.” Well, at least an unfortunately high percentage of them do.

I supported Barack Obama and was happy to see him win. I think 53 million people voted for him. Good. But we have to remember that something like 47 million voted for McCain. Unbelievable. That after eight years of hell with Bush and Cheney. That after it was known uncontrovertibly that McCain had supported ninety percent of Bush’s policies. Yes, policies like unending, unjustified war; environmental pollution; destruction of citizens’ rights; policies that resulted in radical economic decline; and on and on.

Yes, the wisdom of the American people. How blasted stupid can they be? Who the hell are they? What happened to their brains? As the headline read after Bush was re-elected: “How can so many millions of people be so dumb?”

I know that the reader is aware of all this. But what I want to stress is that this degeneration of the American psyche is really the central critical problem which faces this nation. It is nothing less than frightening. Benjamin Franklin spoke candidly about the issue over two-hundred years ago, saying: “This form of government will work only so long as the population hasn’t become corrupt.” The dictionary definition of the word “corrupt” includes : “ altered for the worse; debased; lacking integrity.” How “debased” are the millions of Americans who give silent- or not-so-silent- consent to the destruction and slaughter of thousands of human beings - all for the financial profit and power-mania of their rulers? How altered for the worse are people who consistently vote against their own best interests? And how stupid, for that matter? One can make excuses for them and maintain that they’ve just been duped by the right-wing propaganda; but it seems that the sad truth is that a very substantial number of them just favor a basically fascistic governmental system. If that’s the “American Way,” God help us indeed.

The brutal fact is that I’m talking about well over half the American population. It is difficult to estimate with precision; but that appears to be a safe bet. And we must disabuse ourselves of any notion that they will change: “Those who refuse to see become blind.” They are essentially robotic and tightly programmed and they constitute a virtually permanent bloc. They will present an ongoing, relentless threat to the basic values of this nation. And they think they’re so right. Apparently, unjustified war is right. Torture is right. Enriching the few at the expense of the many is right. They wave their flags and raise their crosses while all this goes on.

And you must be noticing the general tenor that’s becoming standard behavior in this society. Our glorious public asserts its “equality” by being rude and inconsiderate to just about everyone. Bad manners are in. Civility- if they can even conceive of it- is old-fashioned. And more and more they even talk as if they were computers- devoid of individual judgment, human warmth or common sense. Narcissistic and selfish to the point of being sociopathic ; untrustworthy; mercenary; and amoral. You must have heard about the recent poll that was conducted among American high-school students recently: Over 60% of them admitted readily to lying and cheating regularly; and over 90% of them said they were quite comfortable with their behavior. Well, what kind of example have their “leaders” provided?

It’s not that there aren’t millions of sane and basically decent Americans left. There are. It’s just that it’s becoming more and more difficult for them to function comfortably in an increasingly negative and hostile social milieu. The dog-eat-dog society: When I was younger I thought that to be an exaggeration. No longer.

Enter Obama. A brilliant campaign based on mobilizing millions of Americans fed up with the corrupt status quo. My impression is that his stated objective of positive change and unification is genuine and sincere. But I don’t see him as a cow-eyed idealist. He has to know what he’s up against. He made two remarks during the campaign that were quite telling: One- which raised quite a fuss- was the comment about the masses and their “guns and religion.” The other- which went largely unnoticed- was the line in his nomination-acceptance speech I think: “Government is not supposed to be against the people; it’s supposed to be for the people.” Those two statements really sum up what less eloquent people like myself have been trying to say for years. And when you think about it they are very strong positions, particularly the last one- because if the government is “against the people,” then the people would be entitled to overcome it by force if necessary. That’s really the central founding principle of our nation. Thanks to the genius of our Constitution we haven’t come close to armed rebellion in this country since the Civil War. But if things had continued in the direction they were going for long enough, who knows?

The critical problem that faces Obama as he enters the Oval Office is this robotic bloc- these essentially mindless millions, not to mention their hypocritical, fear-mongering leaders with their insane egos and bottomless pockets. They will be prepared to pounce on him from day one. In fact they’ve begun already. Their main tactic we know for sure: They’ll blame Obama for all the chaos and havoc which they themselves have brought about. The blame- transfer will be in full swing. This will be nothing like “loyal opposition.” This will be out-and-out sabotage of lethal potential. If they can get away with it, that is. Their plans to establish a permanent power-aristocracy of wealth founded on the fearful submission of millions of compliant subjects have been interfered with; and we can be sure they’ll do anything and everything they can not to lose what they’ve gained.

This all becomes so problematic. One doesn’t want to become the mirror image of the opposition in the process of attempting to defeat them. But they have to be defeated. One can use words like “compromise” or “accommodation” or what have you; but the fact is that the essentially un-American agenda that has been established and implemented by this immensely powerful cabal has to be obliterated. Nothing less. Otherwise we have to be willing to become a nation of serf-subjects begging for subsistence from the ruling masters of the Star Chamber. There was a rebellion against that sort of thing over two-hundred years ago: It was called the American Revolution.

You know the really frightening thing about these millions and their rulers is that conscience is bracketed out of their mind-set. You see, it really isn’t they who are implementing or tacitly supporting the needless slaughter of thousands of human beings. No, it’s just a function of “national security.” And no, it isn’t they who are depriving workers of fair wages and bargaining rights and pensions- and their jobs and healthcare for that matter. No, it’s just the “corporate agenda.” Torture and deprivation of legal and privacy rights? No, that’s not on their plate. Just “intelligence necessities” occasioned by the “war on terror.” There’s no end to the functional sociopathy. And they’re quite polite; go to church; don’t make scenes; help old ladies to cross the street; and give to charity. Guiltlessness. Salvation by abstraction. The American Way. Yes, very problematic.

I can’t even begin to say how all this will be resolved, if at all. But I think a very positive factor was the Obama campaign’s remarkable ability to gather and to mobilize vast numbers of people to actively support Obama’s candidacy and his agenda. The establishment of that counter-force was wisdom indeed. And based upon what I am hearing via emails from the Transition Team, it appears that the President-Elect is going in the right direction in terms of preserving, enhancing and expanding his people’s base and organizing them for specific, sustainable supportive work. Any real change will most certainly have to come from the grassroots up. And Barack Obama and his White-House staff and Cabinet will need all the help they can get, given the kind of organized opposition they will encounter. We’re playing for keeps now. Our life as a nation and as a people depends on the outcome.

I’m going to be optimistic. And I pray that optimism will be a self-fulfilling prophesy. If the President-Elect’s superb campaign is any indication of his potential ( and why wouldn’t it be? ), then we have good reason to expect the best. And who knows? Maybe I’m wrong about the un-changeability of some Americans. Perhaps good example and change that they can see and feel might wake them up. Godspeed to this challenging and crucial new enterprise.