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.

Friday, May 30, 2014

May 30, 2014, OpEdNews.COM

Daniel Ellsberg: Snowden would not get a fair trial -- and Kerry is wrong
By Daniel Ellsberg

Nothing excuses Kerry's slanderous and despicable characterizations of a young man who, in my opinion, has done more than anyone in or out of government in this century to demonstrate his patriotism, moral courage and loyalty to the oath of office the three of us swore: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.::::::::
Cross-posted from The Guardian

Edward Snowden is the greatest patriot whistleblower of our time, and he knows what I learned more than four decades ago: until the Espionage Act gets reformed, he can never come home safe and receive justice
snowden nbc interview

John Kerry was in my mind Wednesday morning, and not because he had called me a patriot on NBC News. I was reading the lead story in the New York Times -- "US Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016" -- with a photo of American soldiers looking for caves. I recalled not the Secretary of State but a 27-year-old Kerry, asking, as he testified to the Senate about the US troops who were still in Vietnam and were to remain for another two years: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
I wondered how a 70-year-old Kerry would relate to that question as he looked at that picture and that headline. And then there he was on MSNBC an hour later, thinking about me, too, during a round of interviews about Afghanistan that inevitably turned to Edward Snowden ahead of my fellow whistleblower's own primetime interview that night:
"There are many a patriot -- you can go back to the Pentagon Papers with Dan Ellsberg and others who stood and went to the court system of America and made their case. Edward Snowden is a coward, he is a traitor, and he has betrayed his country. And if he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so."
On the Today show and CBS, Kerry complimented me again -- and said Snowden "should man up and come back to the United States" to face charges. But John Kerry is wrong, because that's not the measure of patriotism when it comes to whistleblowing, for me or Snowden, who is facing the same criminal charges I did for exposing the Pentagon Papers.
As Snowden told Brian Williams on NBC later that night and Snowden's lawyer told me the next morning, he would have no chance whatsoever to come home and make his case -- in public or in court.

Snowden would come back home to a jail cell -- and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment).

More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. Legal scholars have strongly argued that the US supreme court -- which has never yet addressed the constitutionality of applying the Espionage Act to leaks to the American public -- should find the use of it overbroad and unconstitutional in the absence of a public interest defense. The Espionage Act, as applied to whistleblowers, violates the First Amendment, is what they're saying.

As I know from my own case, even Snowden's own testimony on the stand would be gagged by government objections and the (arguably unconstitutional) nature of his charges. That was my own experience in court, as the first American to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act -- or any other statute -- for giving information to the American people.

I had looked forward to offering a fuller account in my trial than I had given previously to any journalist -- any Glenn Greenwald or Brian Williams of my time -- as to the considerations that led me to copy and distribute thousands of pages of top-secret documents. I had saved many details until I could present them on the stand, under oath, just as a young John Kerry had delivered his strongest lines in sworn testimony.

But when I finally heard my lawyer ask the prearranged question in direct examination -- Why did you copy the Pentagon Papers? -- I was silenced before I could begin to answer. The government prosecutor objected --irrelevant -- and the judge sustained. My lawyer, exasperated, said he "had never heard of a case where a defendant was not permitted to tell the jury why he did what he did." The judge responded: "well, you're hearing one now."

And so it has been with every subsequent whistleblower under indictment, and so it would be if Edward Snowden was on trial in an American courtroom now.

Indeed, in recent years, the silencing effect of the Espionage Act has only become worse. The other NSA whistleblower prosecuted, Thomas Drake, was barred from uttering the words "whistleblowing" and "overclassification" in his trial. (Thankfully, the Justice Department's case fell apart one day before it was to begin). In the recent case of the State Department contractor Stephen Kim, the presiding judge ruled the prosecution "need not show that the information he allegedly leaked could damage US national security or benefit a foreign power, even potentially."

We saw this entire scenario play out last summer in the trial of Chelsea Manning. The military judge in that case did not let Manning or her lawyer argue her intent, the lack of damage to the US, overclassification of the cables or the benefits of the leaks ... until she was already found guilty.
Without reform to the Espionage Act that lets a court hear a public interest defense -- or a challenge to the appropriateness of government secrecy in each particular case -- Snowden and future Snowdens can and will only be able to "make their case" from outside the United States.

As I know from direct chat-log conversations with him over the past year, Snowden acted in full knowledge of the constitutionally questionable efforts of the Obama administration, in particular, to use the Espionage Act in a way it was never intended by Congress: as the equivalent of a British-type Official Secrets Act criminalizing any and all unauthorized release of classified information. (Congress has repeatedly rejected proposals for such an act as violating the First Amendment protections of free speech and a free press; the one exception to that was vetoed by President Clinton in November 2000, on constitutional grounds.)

John Kerry's challenge to Snowden to return and face trial is either disingenuous or simply ignorant that current prosecutions under the Espionage Act allow no distinction whatever between a patriotic whistleblower and a spy. Either way, nothing excuses Kerry's slanderous and despicable characterizations of a young man who, in my opinion, has done more than anyone in or out of government in this century to demonstrate his patriotism, moral courage and loyalty to the oath of office the three of us swore: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Everything the Buddha Ever Taught in 2 Words.

Via on May 12, 2014,

Great Wave

When asked to sum the Buddha’s teachings up in one phrase, Suzuki Roshi simply said, “Everything changes.”

Everyone and their mom knows, at least intellectually, that the whole of creation is in a state of endless revolution. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said, “No same man could walk through the same river twice, as the man and the river have since changed.”

Impermanence is the very nature of life.

In fact, change is just another word for living—“to live” means “to change.” But few people go through life truly conscious of this fact. We “get it” but this knowledge fails to affect our behavior. We simply ignore the way things actually are. So the point of this discussion is not to explain impermanence to you, but to point it out; to wake you up to the truth of change.

Alan Watts used to compare life to music. The point of music is music, he would say. People enjoy listening to music for the rhythm, the stream of melody. No one is listening to music to hear it end. If they were then, as Watts pointed out, their favorite songs would be the ones that ended abruptly with one single uproar of noise. Life is the same way.

The point of Life is Life, to participate in the melody. Melodies are streams; they are flowing. You cannot frame them or dam them up. When you do there is no flow. That is death.

The only way to participate in the melody is through simple awareness. Simple awareness is fluid. A simple mind loses its sense of self in the music, whereas a self-centered mind keeps trying to pause the music. We are trying far too hard to hear what we want to hear, rather than moving to the music, living. We stand back as a spectator, a listener trying catch the beat. We want to grab a hold of it, own it, identify with it.

It is not enough to enjoy the music. We have to know the words. So, we keep pausing the song and rewinding it, in order to commit it to memory and claim it as our own.

The ego derives a sense of identity or meaning from its interactions with “other.”

These interactions produce vouchers, which the ego tries to collect and preserve. Rather than enjoying the concert firsthand, the ego takes pictures and films the concert, so it can talk about it and share the pictures later. The river of life is forever flowing, but for the ego, whose very existence is dependent upon freezing this stream of change, fluctuation is terrifying, which is why we call it impermanence.

From the pessimistic point of view of ego fluctuation represents a threat to its stability, but in the centerless state of basic awareness the space that enables flow or change is the womb of vitality. Life, adaptation emerges from this space. The ego seeks to ignore this space by stuffing it full of credentials and solicited testimonials.

The ego is the ultimate hoarder.

It keeps every voucher, every memory it stands to profit from. In an ego-centric mind there is no space, no room to breathe. But deep down the ego knows the whole thing may come crumbling down at any moment. It remembers the space, the silent gap between each note that enables the music to flow. This memory haunts the ego. It breeds paranoia and insecurity.

This insecurity is the benefactor that finances the ego’s obsession with collecting vouchers. An ego-centric mind is a co-dependent, and this co-dependency is all about avoiding space, fluctuation. The ego is dependent upon relationship or entertainment, which requires separation.

So, the ego has to think of itself as a distinct entity. It has to separate itself from life. Upholding this segregationist strategy is necessary, if any sort of exchange is to be possible. Separation is the foundation upon which the ego’s empire is built. As a result, it is chronically discontented or lifeless.
In addition to chronic discontentment, consider for a moment the problems one is bound to acquire, if they view themselves as an island or a solid entity in a fluid world.

Things change. However, the river is not the only thing that changes. According to Heraclitus, so does the man. But the ego sees itself as unchanging. When we stand in the river of life with our feet planted, like we are an island, life begins to feel like an overwhelming wall of water bearing down on us.

Take for example, the transition between being single and in a relationship. When you are single you develop a lifestyle that that doesn’t have to take into consideration another person. You can wake up in the morning drink your coffee, read the paper, have breakfast, go to work, go to the gym, hang out with friends, and watch whatever you want on TV. But when you bring another person into the mix you cannot continue to operate on the same schedule. The situation has changed, so your old schedule is outdated.

When ‘I’ is a fixed entity or a habit of thought, this transition is difficult. If you cling this expired image, the relationship will begin to feel claustrophobic. There will be one confrontation after the next. The intensity will continue to build over time until everything, your self image and the relationship—the man and the river—washes out.

What we think about ourselves is challenged by change. Many people say, “I shouldn’t have to give up who I am in order to be in a relationship.” I say, if you do not give up who you are, then you are not in relationship.

In fact, if you do not have to give up who you are every moment of every day, then you are not alive. To be alive is to be in a constant state of revolution. Changing situations should affect our behavior.
That is sanity; allowing new information to inform my point of view. My point of view—the man in Heraclitus’ example—must remain open or fluid. “Everything changes.” That is the basic point, according to Shunryu Suzuki. Everything—the economy, politics, the weather, relationships, our beliefs, our very sense of identity—is in state of fluctuation. When we are open to change, the transition is relatively smooth. We are going with the flow. On the other hand, when we try to save all of our vouchers we drown.

We cannot swim with our hands full.

An open mind is a sane mind. An open mind is not a mind that gives due consideration to any idea, regardless of how ridiculous it is.

An open mind is a swinging door. It is a mind that does not resist change. An open mind allows thought to be a reflection of change. From this point of view, thought is always fresh, because life is always changing. This is original thought, imagination. In basic awareness, the man and the river pour into one another.

We have to accept the fact that we cannot wrestle happiness out of this world simply by putting life in a head-lock and forcing it to play with us. We have to see that life is change, change is life; that they are one in the same thing.

Trying to organize impermanent phenomena into permanent categories of thought is like trying to herd cats. Furthermore, we are not somehow other than this change, we are Life. We are change. Confusion and discontentment arise from the mistaken belief that we are a noun. Contentment is realized when we stop swimming against the stream and settle into the fact that we are a current in the stream. The current is not other than the stream. It is the movement of the stream.

We are not a co-dependent noun standing on the bank watching life flow by, but a verb emerging out of the stream of life.


Since everything is but an apparition,

perfect in being what it is,

having nothing to do with good or bad,

acceptance or rejection,

one may well burst out in laughter.

~ Longchenpa

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014


Krugman: How American Capitalism Fails—and Northern European 'Socialism' Succeeds—at Job Creation

And why that's not a story the mainstream media likes to tell.
Photo Credit: Screenshot via youtube
Paul Krugman wrote his column this morning in the New York Times from Europe, a place which—conservatives like Paul Ryan would like you to believe—demonstrates the complete failure of the welfare state. That's because, as Krugman points out, "Our political discourse is dominated by reverse Robin-Hoodism — the belief that economic success depends on being nice to the rich, who won’t create jobs if they are heavily taxed, and nasty to ordinary workers, who won’t accept jobs unless they have no alternative."

France, a country that the American media and conservatives particularly love to bash, is having particular success in employment rates. Krugman reports this "startling, little-known fact: French adults in their prime working years (25 to 54) are substantially more likely to have jobs than their U.S. counterparts."

Hmmm. There's a story you won't hear told in the mainstream media.

He continues:
It wasn’t always that way. Back in the 1990s Europe really did have big problems with job creation; the phenomenon even received a catchy name, “Eurosclerosis.” And it seemed obvious what the problem was: Europe’s social safety net had, as Representative Paul Ryan likes to warn, become a “hammock” that undermined initiative and encouraged dependency.
But then a funny thing happened: Europe started doing much better, while America started doing much worse. France’s prime-age employment rate overtook America’s early in the Bush administration; at this point the gap in employment rates is bigger than it was in the late 1990s, this time in France’s favor. Other European nations with big welfare states, like Sweden and the Netherlands, do even better.
What about young people? Doesn't America, with all of its problems, still kick France's ass when it comes to the employment rate of those younger than 25. Yes, Krugman concedes. Then he wonders if that is something we should be bragging about, since it is certainly due in part to the fact that French students receive a lot more financial aid for their education than American students do, so they are not immediately saddled with huge debt to work off, much less work their way through school.

"Is that a bad thing"" Krugman wonders.

Us too.

Also, the French take more vacations and retire earlier than we do.

How horrible! Who would want to live in a place like that.

But, getting back to Krugman's main point: "On the core issue of providing jobs for people who really should be working, at this point old Europe is beating us hands down despite social benefits and regulations that, according to free-market ideologues, should be hugely job-destroying."

In fact, he writes, our "cruel experiment" in depriving so-called lazy unemployed Americans of their long-term benefits so they will get off their asses and look for work has been an abject failure. Did people in terrible straits find jobs?

"No — not at all," Krugman replies. "Somehow, it seems, the only thing we achieved by making the unemployed more desperate was deepening their desperation."

Will people listen to the European example? Krugman is doubtful. He concludes:
I’m sure that many people will simply refuse to believe what I’m saying about European strengths. After all, ever since the euro crisis broke out there has been a relentless campaign by American conservatives (and quite a few Europeans too) to portray it as a story of collapsing welfare states, brought low by misguided concerns about social justice. And they keep saying that even though some of the strongest economies in Europe, like Germany, have welfare states whose generosity exceeds the wildest dreams of U.S. liberals.

But macroeconomics, as I keep trying to tell people, isn’t a morality play, where virtue is always rewarded and vice always punished. On the contrary, severe financial crises and depressions can happen to economies that are fundamentally very strong, like the United States in 1929. The policy mistakes that created the euro crisis — mainly creating a unified currency without the kind of banking and fiscal union that a single currency demands — basically had nothing to do with the welfare state, one way or another.

The truth is that European-style welfare states have proved more resilient, more successful at job creation, than is allowed for in America’s prevailing economic philosophy.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.
While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.

In European countries hit hardest by recent financial crises, such as Greece and Portugal, incomes have of course fallen sharply in recent years.

The income data were compiled by LIS, a group that maintains the Luxembourg Income Study Database. The numbers were analyzed by researchers at LIS and by The Upshot, a New York Times website covering policy and politics, and reviewed by outside academic economists.
The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

LIS counts after-tax cash income from salaries, interest and stock dividends, among other sources, as well as direct government benefits such as tax credits.

The findings are striking because the most commonly cited economic statistics — such as per capita gross domestic product — continue to show that the United States has maintained its lead as the world’s richest large country. But those numbers are averages, which do not capture the distribution of income. With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.

“The idea that the median American has so much more income than the middle class in all other parts of the world is not true these days,” said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist who is not associated with LIS. “In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer.”

That is no longer the case, Professor Katz added.

Median per capita income was $18,700 in the United States in 2010 (which translates to about $75,000 for a family of four after taxes), up 20 percent since 1980 but virtually unchanged since 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The same measure, by comparison, rose about 20 percent in Britain between 2000 and 2010 and 14 percent in the Netherlands. Median income also rose 20 percent in Canada between 2000 and 2010, to the equivalent of $18,700.

The most recent year in the LIS analysis is 2010. But other income surveys, conducted by government agencies, suggest that since 2010 pay in Canada has risen faster than pay in the United States and is now most likely higher. Pay in several European countries has also risen faster since 2010 than it has in the United States.

Three broad factors appear to be driving much of the weak income performance in the United States. First, educational attainment in the United States has risen far more slowly than in much of the industrialized world over the last three decades, making it harder for the American economy to maintain its share of highly skilled, well-paying jobs.

Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 have literacy, numeracy and technology skills that are above average relative to 55- to 65-year-olds in rest of the industrialized world, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group. Younger Americans, though, are not keeping pace: Those between 16 and 24 rank near the bottom among rich countries, well behind their counterparts in Canada, Australia, Japan and Scandinavia and close to those in Italy and Spain.

A second factor is that companies in the United States economy distribute a smaller share of their bounty to the middle class and poor than similar companies elsewhere. Top executives make substantially more money in the United States than in other wealthy countries. The minimum wage is lower. Labor unions are weaker.

And because the total bounty produced by the American economy has not been growing substantially faster here in recent decades than in Canada or Western Europe, most American workers are left receiving meager raises.

Finally, governments in Canada and Western Europe take more aggressive steps to raise the take-home pay of low- and middle-income households by redistributing income.
Janet Gornick, the director of LIS, noted that inequality in so-called market incomes — which does not count taxes or government benefits — “is high but not off the charts in the United States.” Yet the American rich pay lower taxes than the rich in many other places, and the United States does not redistribute as much income to the poor as other countries do. As a result, inequality in disposable income is sharply higher in the United States than elsewhere.

Whatever the causes, the stagnation of income has left many Americans dissatisfied with the state of the country. Only about 30 percent of people believe the country is headed in the right direction, polls show.

“Things are pretty flat,” said Kathy Washburn, 59, of Mount Vernon, Iowa, who earns $33,000 at an Ace Hardware store, where she has worked for 23 years. “You have mostly lower level and high and not a lot in between. People need to start in between to work their way up.”

Middle-class families in other countries are obviously not without worries — some common around the world and some specific to their countries. In many parts of Europe, as in the United States, parents of young children wonder how they will pay for college, and many believe their parents enjoyed more rapidly rising living standards than they do. In Canada, people complain about the costs of modern life, from college to monthly phone and Internet bills. Unemployment is a concern almost everywhere.

But both opinion surveys and interviews suggest that the public mood in Canada and Northern Europe is less sour than in the United States today.

“The crisis had no effect on our lives,” Jonas Frojelin, 37, a Swedish firefighter, said, referring to the global financial crisis that began in 2007. He lives with his wife, Malin, a nurse, in a seaside town a half-hour drive from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city.

They each have five weeks of vacation and comprehensive health benefits. They benefited from almost three years of paid leave, between them, after their children, now 3 and 6 years old, were born. Today, the children attend a subsidized child-care center that costs about 3 percent of the Frojelins’ income.

Even with a large welfare state in Sweden, per capita G.D.P. there has grown more quickly than in the United States over almost any extended recent period — a decade, 20 years, 30 years. Sharp increases in the number of college graduates in Sweden, allowing for the growth of high-skill jobs, has played an important role.

Interactive Feature | Change in Median Income Since 2000
Elsewhere in Europe, economic growth has been slower in the last few years than in the United States, as the Continent has struggled to escape the financial crisis. But incomes for most families in Sweden and several other Northern European countries have still outpaced those in the United States, where much of the fruits of recent economic growth have flowed into corporate profits or top incomes.

This pattern suggests that future data gathered by LIS are likely to show similar trends to those through 2010.

There does not appear to be any other publicly available data that allows for the comparisons that the LIS data makes possible. But two other sources lead to broadly similar conclusions.
A Gallup survey conducted between 2006 and 2012 showed the United States and Canada with nearly identical per capita median income (and Scandinavia with higher income). And tax records collected by Thomas Piketty and other economists suggest that the United States no longer has the highest average income among the bottom 90 percent of earners.

One large European country where income has stagnated over the past 15 years is Germany, according to the LIS data. Policy makers in Germany have taken a series of steps to hold down the cost of exports, including restraining wage growth.

Even in Germany, though, the poor have fared better than in the United States, where per capita income has declined between 2000 and 2010 at the 40th percentile, as well as at the 30th, 20th, 10th and 5th.
More broadly, the poor in the United States have trailed their counterparts in at least a few other countries since the early 1980s. With slow income growth since then, the American poor now clearly trail the poor in several other rich countries. At the 20th percentile — where someone is making less than four-fifths of the population — income in both the Netherlands and Canada was 15 percent higher than income in the United States in 2010.

By contrast, Americans at the 95th percentile of the distribution — with $58,600 in after-tax per capita income, not including capital gains — still make 20 percent more than their counterparts in Canada, 26 percent more than those in Britain and 50 percent more than those in the Netherlands. For these well-off families, the United States still has easily the world’s most prosperous major economy.

"So what we end up doing, which seems to be not terribly bright, is spending perhaps $50,000 a year keeping people in jail because they dropped out of school. They never found a job. They got hooked on drugs or whatever. We pay to put them in jail rather than investing in childcare, in education, in sustaining their families." - Senator Bernie Sanders