Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Musical Interlude: Yanni, “Spirit of Nature”

Yanni, “Spirit of Nature”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Described as a "dusty curtain" or "ghostly apparition", mysterious reflection nebula VdB 152 really is very faint. Far from your neighborhood on this Halloween Night, the cosmic phantom is nearly 1,400 light-years away. Also catalogued as Ced 201, it lies along the northern Milky Way in the royal constellation Cepheus. 
Click image for larger size.
Near the edge of a large molecular cloud, pockets of interstellar dust in the region block light from background stars or scatter light from the embedded bright star giving parts of the nebula a characteristic blue color. Ultraviolet light from the star is also thought to cause a dim reddish luminescence in the nebular dust. Though stars do form in molecular clouds, this star seems to have only accidentally wandered into the area, as its measured velocity through space is very different from the cloud's velocity. This deep telescopic image of the region spans about 7 light-years.”

The Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke, "Sunset"

"Sunset"

"Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you,
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,
leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so helplessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs –
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Chet Raymo, “Virtual Immortality: Second Life"”

“Immortality”
by Chet Raymo

“A second life? I can barely cope with this one. I'm referring to the increasingly popular virtual world Second Life, available to online gamers. One enters Second LIfe by creating a three-dimensional, animated avatar that is one's virtual self. Then one can do just about anything in the Second Life world that is possible to do in real life, including, one presumes, things one would not do in real life. By all accounts, the Second Life universe is booming, to the extent that real-world businesses are setting up virtual franchises in a place that exists only in the belly of a computer. There is a buoyant economy in Second Life, with a virtual currency known as Lindens that are convertible to real dollars. Now the Swedes and Chinese are coming on with an alternate virtual universe called Entropiathat promises to give Second Life a run for its Lindens.

Ah, the idea of creating an avatar Chet who is thirty years younger with a thick head of curly black hair is enticing, but my two computer savvy sons, who are way ahead of me in these matters, say "Pop, don't bother." And I suppose they are right. My life as a writer has been a celebration of the natural world, the real world. In my book "The Path," I suggested that any one-mile walk contains enough wonders to occupy a person for a lifetime. What do I need with alternative universes?

How about immortality? My sister Anne sends me a story about a project to take avatars to a whole new level, endowing them not only with 3-D animation, but with intelligence, will and emotions. For the present, a real person at a computer guides an avatar in cyberspace. But it is possible to imagine avatars of the not so distant future that carry into virtual worlds a person's very soul. There he goes, into the vast universe of some future Entropia, a virtual Chet, who exists only as binary bits in cyberspace, but who bears the real Chet's lifetime of experiences, personality quirks, desires, loves and phobias. Once there, he will act on his own, without me dictating his action from my computer. And since he need not age or die, he will continue his virtual "second life" after I'm dead and gone. I doubt if he will find a one-mile path in cyberspace that is interesting enough to occupy him for eternity. But- what the heck- while I'm at it, I'll give him that head of curly black hair.”

Second Life: http://secondlife.com/
Entropia: http://www.entropiauniverse.com/

"Proper Perspecitves..."

“Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it. What frustrates us and robs our lives of joy is this absence of meaning. Does our being alive matter?”
- Harold S. Kushner

“All of us have been dying, hour by hour, since the moment we were born. Realizing this, let all things be placed in their proper perspective. Remember, it is always later than you think.”
- Og Mandino

“Don't be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin.”
- Grace Hansen

The Daily "Near You?"

Lincoln, Illinois, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

“Four Topics About Fear”

“Four Topics About Fear”
by Chandresh Bhardwaj
Posted by Paulo Coelho

“The origin of fear lies in the unknown. Be it the darkness, ghosts, weather calamities or whatever is unknown to the man is feared the most. If you are walking in darkness, you are afraid to go ahead, fearing what will come next. However, as the light appears, the fear tends to settle down. Fear, thus, is just a manifestation of your imagination ruled by cowardliness. When we get certain information on our fears, we get relaxed. However, it’s not going to be possible that we will always get the information on the unknown. Then what can we really do to manage our fears?

1. Accept your fears: There’s no need to fight your fears. The more you fight, the more they will haunt you. If you accept them the way they are, they will bring a shift in your consciousness necessary to move beyond the fear.

2. Fear is normal: There’s nothing to be embarrassed about in being afraid. If you are afraid, then you are. Society has connected fear with the sign of weakness and that is one of the reasons why we hate to accept that we are afraid. When you accept fear as a normal emotion, it doesn’t bother you anymore.

3. Explore the unknown: Every year, make a list of things that you fear the most. Then, do something everyday that gets you closer to the unknown factor residing in your fear. Gradually, you will overcome all your fears one by one.

4. Know the roots: Go into the source of your fear. Some fears are based on past conditioning. Having a good understanding of the roots from where it all started will help in moving toward state of fearlessness.

Moving on, death seems to be the second issue bothering everyone if the world ends. There’s nothing one can do to avoid death. You can avoid the possibility of birth by using pills, protection and so on, but man hasn’t been able to interfere in the business of death. What you can do is accept it with open arms. If the world ends, it ends. It will release all of us from a life where we yearn for things that are useless to show off to the people who don’t matter. When the world ends, it will end for everyone. Why we are giving it so much attention?!"
(I found this very interesting text by chance, and decided to post it here. To read the full article, please CLICK HERE - Paulo Coelho) 

"The Only Way..."

"The only way to avoid being miserable is not to have 
enough leisure to wonder whether you are happy or not."
    - George Bernard Shaw

"Living the Good Life: 35 Profound Quotes From the 'Seven Sages of Greece'"

"Living the Good Life: 
35 Profound Quotes From the 'Seven Sages of Greece'"
by Thai Nguyen

"There are many things for which we owe the Greeks: democracy, geometry, the marathon. Not to mention souvlaki, moussaka and baklava. But arguably the most valuable asset to any person: wisdom. Indeed wisdom is synonymous with Greece- the cradle of Western thought is traced to the ancient à ª ª ∑ Ω µ ¬ . Of all the wise philosophers, seven were distinguished from the early 6th Century BC and bestowed the title of "The Seven Sages." On living a good life, here are five profound quotes from each of the 7 sages:

Pittacus of Mytilene: "Do not say before hand what you are going to do; for if you fail, you will be laughed at."
"Forgiveness is better than revenge."
"Whatever you do, do it well."
"Know thy opportunity."
"Measure a person by what they do with power."

Periander of Corinth: "Rest is beautiful."
"Pleasures are transient, honors are immortal."
"Be moderate in prosperity, prudent in adversity."
"Judge of a tree by its fruit, not by its leaves."
"Nothing is impossible to industry (fortitude)."

Cleobulus of Lindos: "Be fond of hearing rather than of talking."
"Be superior to pleasure."
"Do nothing by force."
"Be ready for reconciliation after quarrels."
"We should render a service to a friend to bind him closer to us, and to an enemy in order to make a friend of him."

Solon of Athens: "Rule, after you have first learned to submit to rule."
"Wealth I desire to have; but wrongfully to get it, I do not wish."
"In giving advice seek to help, not to please, your friend."
"Seek to learn constantly while you live; do not wait in the faith that old age by itself will bring wisdom."
"Reprove thy friend privately: commend him publicly."

Chilon of Sparta: "If one is strong be also merciful, so that one's neighbors may respect one rather than fear one."
"Do not make too much haste on one's road."
"Learn how to regulate one's own house well."
"Do not let one's tongue outrun one's sense."
"Restrain anger."

Bias of Priene: "Choose the course which you adopt with deliberation; but when you have adopted it, then persevere in it with firmness."
"Gain your point by persuasion, not by force."
"Cherish wisdom as a means of traveling from youth to old age, for it is more lasting than any other possession."
"Seek to please all the citizens, even though your house may be in an ungracious city."
"One ought to calculate life both as if they were fated to live a long and a short time."

Thales of Miletus: "Time is the wisest of all things that are; for it brings everything to light."
"Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing."
"Hope is the poor man's bread."
"Suretyship (Dogma) is the precursor of ruin."
"The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself."

"How It Really Is"

"Never Apologize..."

"Our Responsibilty..."

“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions and pass them on. It is our responsibility to leave the people of the future a free hand. In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant as we are.

If we suppress all discussion, all criticism, proclaiming ‘This is the answer, my friends; man is saved!’ we will doom humanity for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.

It is our responsibility, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations.”
- Richard Feynman

The Economy: "Oh, Look At The Admission!"

"Oh, Look At The Admission!"
 by Karl Denninger

"Hoh hoh hoh hoh hoh hoh hoh... By estimating that zero stimulus would be consistent with a 10 percent quarterly drop in equities, they calculate it takes around $200 billion from central banks each quarter to keep markets from selling off.

What? Note that central bank "stimulus" is not real.  An example will suffice. Let's say there are exactly two things in the world of economic value- $100 and 100 bushels of corn. What's the likely clearing price- that is, what you would exchange one bushel of corn for? $1, right?

Remember, other than time preference there is nothing else in the economy to express value through than corn and dollars. Ok, so now the central banks simply double the number of dollars. That is, there now exists $200. What is now the likely clearing price for one bushel of corn? $2.

So the "price" of markets "not selling off" is the theft of that $200 billion a quarter, or $800 billion a year, from you in the form of your purchasing power. In other words that $800 billion a year is stolen from you. If you were taxed to the tune of a few thousand dollars a year so people with stocks would not see the price of their stock decline, and it was literally given to those people who owned stock, you'd be outraged. The lower-income people who can't afford to and don't own any stock would likely revolt- and quite-possibly violently so.

So let's now have a full and fair discussion about your silent consent to this now-admitted theft...”

The Economy: "The Great Inflation Lie"

For The 1%: Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!
"The Great Inflation Lie"
by Bill Bonner

"That we live in an age of man-made wonders is beyond dispute. Painless root canals. Tinder. Central bank price controls. We were traveling hard over the last couple weeks. Somewhere along the way we picked up a cold, which dogged us from Vermont to Maryland's Eastern Shore. But the security X-ray at Nashville International Airport seemed to finally knock it out. 

Global stocks have lost more than $3 trillion of their value so far this month. But the authorities rushed to the rescue like a surgeon taking out a ruptured gallbladder. As St. Louis Fed president James Bullard told Bloomberg TV: "I also think that inflation expectations are dropping in the US. And that is something that a central bank cannot abide. We have to make sure that inflation and inflation expectations remain near our target. And for that reason I think a reasonable response of the Fed in this situation would be to invoke the clause on the taper that said that the taper was data dependent. And we could go on pause on the taper at this juncture and wait until we see how the data shakes out into December. So... continue with QE at a very low level as we have it right now. And then assess our options going forward."

Perhaps some future generation of philosophers will understand it better. To us, it resides among the great mysteries... along with the virgin birth and Hillary's front-runner status. 

Statistical Mirage: Bullard is worried about too little inflation. Instead of going up 2% a year – by the official tally – consumer prices are going up only 1.7% a year. This missing 0.3% has stuck in his craw. It bugs him so much he wants to do something about it. Of course, simply calculating the CPI slightly differently could erase it. Or it could simply be ignored... since it is largely a statistical mirage, with no meaning in the real world. 

It is like the early Christian scholars who argued over whether the host merely represented Christ... or was the flesh of the Redeemer Himself. Unable to resolve these issues by logic or argument, they often went to war. 

And so it was that James Bullard declared war on the 0.3% inflation that he says is missing... and that he considers essential to a properly functioning economy. Does that mean that an economy with a CPI of only 1.7% will necessarily underperform, leaving widows and orphans hungry and homeless? Will investors be unwilling to back major capital improvements if they see the CPI falling 0.3% short of the Fed's goal? Will employers hesitate before putting up a "help wanted" ad... sensing a serious lack of inflation as a threat to their businesses and their livelihoods?

Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler! Investors didn't worry too much about Bullard's words or their meaning. They interpreted this passage as though he had said, "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" The Dow popped up 263 points on Friday. But les bons temps were short-lived. 

Boston Fed president Eric Rosengren said he would be "pretty comfortable" allowing QE to expire later this month as scheduled. And yesterday, the stock market rally sputtered; the Dow ended up only 19 points. European Central Bank president Mario Draghi is wrestling with the same devil: low inflation. Says Draghi, "If this period of low price inflation were to last for a prolonged time, the risk to price stability would increase."

What does that mean? Let's say inflation was running 1,000% a year. Would that be price stability? Of course not. Price stability increases as the inflation rate approaches zero, not the other way around. Draghi might have misspoken. More likely, and more disturbing, he believes what he says. He and Bullard – the high priests of the central bank cult – believe they have the right, and responsibility, to set prices wherever they want them. 

All of which reminds us of an old dictum: The people who always insist that we follow their ideas are always the same people whose ideas are idiotic.

The Golden Anchor: We wonder what he would have thought of inflation expectations a century ago. Then there was neither consumer price inflation nor any expectation of it. And yet the US economy expanded... absorbing millions of immigrants from Europe – with full employment and rising incomes for rich and poor. 

On the evidence, the lack of inflation expectations was a big plus. Central bankers were not alarmed; it's part of their job description. Their duty was to maintain the stability of the US dollar. They did this in a simple and effective manner – by making sure it was linked to gold in an express and unchangeable way. Gold was subject to inflation, too – big gold discoveries in South Africa and California added to the supply and boosted consumer prices in the mid-1800s. But then the market went to work – improving productivity and output, thereby increasing the supply of goods and services that money could buy. 

Result: Consumer prices fell in the latter part of the 19th century. Such was the golden anchor to which the dollar was tethered that, by 1914, the ship was back in the harbor it had left 100 years before – with the purchasing power of the greenback almost exactly what it had been in 1814. Messrs. Draghi and Bullard can stop worrying." 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"How It Really Is"

“Alan Shore,” “Speech on America”

“Alan Shore,” “Speech on America”
A little dated, but totally accurate, and it's much worse now. "Boston Legal" character Alan Shore, an attorney, gives an interesting speech on the status quo of the American throng. A thought provoking video... - CP

“Hollow Justice and Courts of Order in an Age of Government-Sanctioned Tyranny”

“Hollow Justice and Courts of Order 
in an Age of Government-Sanctioned Tyranny”
By John W. Whitehead

“The Constitution is not neutral. 
It was designed to take the government off the backs of the people.”
—Justice William O. Douglas

Justice in America makes less sense with each passing day. A Michigan couple that has been raising chickens in their backyard as a source of healthy food for their family could get up to 90 days in jail for violating a local ban on backyard hens. A Kentucky prison guard who was charged with 25 counts of sexual abuse against female inmates, trafficking controlled substances, and 50 counts of official misconduct walks away with no jail time and seven years’ probation. A 53-year-old Virginia man is facing 20 years in jail for kidnapping, despite the fact that key evidence shows him to be innocent and his accuser a liar, yet the courts claim they’re unable to do anything about it. Meanwhile, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent refusal to hear the case of Jones v. U.S., judges can now punish individuals for crimes of which they may never have been convicted or even charged.

With every ruling handed down, it becomes more apparent that we live in an age of hollow justice, with government courts, largely lacking in vision and scope, rendering narrow rulings focused on the letter of the law. This is true at all levels of the judiciary, but especially so in the highest court of the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, which is seemingly more concerned with establishing order and protecting government agents than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Given the turbulence of our age, with its police overreach, military training drills on American soil, domestic surveillance, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, wrongful convictions, and corporate corruption, the need for a guardian of the people’s rights has never been greater.

Yet when presented with an opportunity to weigh in on these issues, what does our current Supreme Court usually do? It ducks. Prevaricates. Remains silent. Speaks to the narrowest possible concern. More often than not, it gives the government and its corporate sponsors the benefit of the doubt. Rarely do the concerns of the populace prevail.

In this way, preoccupied with their personal politics, cocooned in a priggish world of privilege, partial to those with power, money and influence, and narrowly focused on a shrinking docket (the court accepts on average 80 cases out of 8,000 each year), the justices of the current Supreme Court rarely venture beyond their rarefied comfort zones.

Every so often the justices toss a bone to those who fear they have abdicated their allegiance to the Constitution. In Riley v. California, for instance, a unanimous Court ruled that police need warrants in order to physically search the cellphones of people they arrest. Even in that instance the victory rang hollow to those who understand that government agents, equipped with military-grade surveillance equipment, don’t need physical access to our phones in order to know who we’ve been talking to or texting and what we’ve been saying.  

Too often, however, as I document in A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the Supreme Court tends to march in lockstep with the police state.

In recent years, for example, the Court has ruled that police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits; police officers can stop cars based only on “anonymous” tips; Secret Service agents are not accountable for their actions, as long as they’re done in the name of security; citizens only have a right to remain silent if they assert it; police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes,” justifying any and all police searches of vehicles stopped on the roadside; police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime; police can stop, search, question and profile citizens and non-citizens alike; police can subject Americans to virtual strip searches, no matter the “offense”; police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home; and it’s a crime to not identify yourself when a policeman asks your name.

The cases the Supreme Court refuses to hear, allowing lower court judgments to stand, are almost as critical as the ones they rule on. Some of these cases have delivered devastating blows to the rights enshrined in the Constitution. By remaining silent, the Court has affirmed that: legally owning a firearm is enough to justify a no-knock raid by police; the military can arrest and detain American citizens; students can be subjected to random lockdowns and mass searches at school; and police officers who don’t know their actions violate the law aren’t guilty of breaking the law.

What a difference nine people can make. Contrast the Roberts Supreme Court and its occupants’ preoccupation with personal politics, its cocooned, priggish world of privilege, its partiality to those with power, money and influence, and its narrowly focused on a shrinking docket (the court accepts on average 80 cases out of 8,000 each year) with the Warren Court (1953-1969), when Earl Warren served as Chief Justice, alongside such luminaries as William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter and Thurgood Marshall.

The Roberts Court’s decisions in recent years, characterized most often by an abject deference to government authority, military and corporate interests, have run the gamut from suppressing free speech activities and justifying suspicionless strip searches and warrantless home invasions to conferring constitutional rights on corporations, while denying them to citizens.

The Warren Court, on the other hand, handed down rulings that were instrumental in shoring up critical legal safeguards against government abuse and discrimination. Without the Warren Court, there would be no Miranda warnings, no desegregation of the schools and no civil rights protections for indigents. Yet more than any single ruling, what Warren and his colleagues did best was embody what the Supreme Court should always be—an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds.

Justice Douglas, who served on the Supreme Court for 36 years, was particularly vocal in his belief that Americans have a right to be left alone (“The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom”).

Considered the most “committed civil libertarian ever to sit on the court,” Douglas was frequently controversial and far from perfect (he was part of a 6-3 majority in Korematsu vs. United States that supported the government’s internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.)

Even so, his warnings against a domineering, suspicious, totalitarian, police-driven surveillance state resonate still today. They stand as a potent reminder that while the technology and social concerns of Douglas’ day have undergone dramatic transformations in our time, the rights we are struggling to safeguard remain the same, as do the threats posed by the government.

Then, as now, government surveillance was invasive and unregulated. As Douglas observed: “We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government. The aggressive breaches of privacy by the Government increase by geometric proportions. Wiretapping and “bugging” run rampant, without effective judicial or legislative control. Secret observation booths in government offices and closed television circuits in industry, extending even to rest rooms, are common. Offices, conference rooms, hotel rooms, and even bedrooms are “bugged” for the convenience of government”.

Although the Roberts Court has so far remained silent on the NSA’s domestic surveillance program, Douglas had plenty to say about “the privacy of our citizens and the breach of that privacy by government agents”: “Once electronic surveillance … is added to the techniques of snooping which this sophisticated age has developed, we face the stark reality that the walls of privacy have broken down and all the tools of the police state are handed over to our bureaucracy on a constitutional platter… The dangers posed by wiretapping and electronic surveillance strike at the very heart of the democratic philosophy. A free society is based on the premise that there are large zones of privacy into which the Government may not intrude except in unusual circumstances…”

Here’s Douglas on the dangers posed by electronic surveillance: “Wiretapping and electronic “bugging” invariably… lay down a dragnet which indiscriminately sweeps in all conversations within its scope, without regard to the nature of the conversations, or the participants. A warrant authorizing such devices is no different from the general warrants the Fourth Amendment was intended to prohibit… Such practices can only have a damaging effect on our society.”

Douglas on the ramifications of indiscriminate government surveillance: “Once sanctioned, there is every indication that their use will indiscriminately spread. The time may come when no one can be sure whether his words are being recorded for use at some future time; when everyone will fear that his most secret thoughts are no longer his own, but belong to the Government; when the most confidential and intimate conversations are always open to eager, prying ears. When that time comes, privacy, and with it liberty, will be gone. If a man's privacy can be invaded at will, who can say he is free? If his every word is taken down and evaluated, or if he is afraid every word may be, who can say he enjoys freedom of speech? If his every association is known and recorded, if the conversations with his associates are purloined, who can say he enjoys freedom of association? When such conditions obtain, our citizens will be afraid to utter any but the safest and most orthodox thoughts; afraid to associate with any but the most acceptable people. Freedom as the Constitution envisages it will have vanished.”

Douglas would undoubtedly have had a lot to say about the NSA’s efforts to get the country’s “biggest spy center” in Bluffdale, Utah, fully operational, as well as government data collecting programs such as MAINWAY. Here’s his take on government data repositories on citizens: “The dossiers on all citizens mount in number and increase in size. Now they are being put on computers so that by pressing one button all the miserable, the sick, the suspect, the unpopular, the offbeat people of the Nation can be instantly identified. These examples and many others demonstrate an alarming trend whereby the privacy and dignity of our citizens is being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole, there begins to emerge a society quite unlike any we have seen—a society in which government may intrude into the secret regions of man's life at will.”

Perhaps the greatest difference between Justice Douglas and his contemporaries and those who occupy the bench today can be found in his answer to a government that refuses to listen to its citizen or abide by the rule of law. “We must realize that today’s Establishment is the New George III,” noted Douglas. “Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.”

Satire: "New Texas Law Would Require Candidates for Governor to Show Proof of I.Q."

"New Texas Law Would Require Candidates 
for Governor to Show Proof of I.Q."
by Andy Borowitz

AUSTIN (The Borowitz Report) — "A controversial new bill in the Texas House of Representatives would require those running for governor to show proof of the minimum I.Q. necessary to perform the duties of the office. If the bill were to become law, every politician in Texas with gubernatorial ambitions would be issued an I.D. card featuring his or her photo, current address, and performance on a state-administered I.Q. test.

Carol Foyler, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, acknowledged that the idea of a minimum I.Q. for candidates was viewed as incendiary in some circles, but insisted that the requirements of the I.D. card were not onerous. “All they have to do is show mastery of simple tasks, such as uttering complete sentences and things of that nature,” she said.

But the bill faces an uphill fight in the House, where representatives like Harland Dorrinson, of Plano, have vowed to defeat it. “I know that the folks behind this so-called bill are well meaning,” Dorrinson said. “But if this had been enacted fifteen years ago, it would have choked off our supply of governors.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Musical Interlude: 2002, “Falling Through Time”

2002, “Falling Through Time” 

"A Look to the Heavens"

“An asterism is just a recognized pattern of stars that is not one the 88 official constellations. For example, one of the most famous (and largest) asterisms is the Big Dipper within the constellation Ursa Major. But this pretty chain of stars, visible with binoculars towards the long-necked constellation of Camelopardalis, is also a recognized asterism. 
Click image for larger size.
Known as Kemble's Cascade, it contains about 20 stars nearly in a row, stretching over five times the width of a full moon. Tumbling from the upper right to lower left in the picture, Kemble's Cascade was made popular by astronomy enthusiast Lucian Kemble. The bright object at the lower left is the relatively compact open cluster of stars, NGC 1502.”

"Thucydides In The Underworld"

 "Master, what gnaws at them so hideously their lamentation stuns the very air?"
"They have no hope of death," he answered me..." 
- Dante Alighieri, "The Inferno"

"Thucydides In The Underworld"
by J. R. Nyquist

"The shade of Thucydides, formerly an Athenian general and historian, languished in Hades for 24 centuries; and having intercourse with other spirits, was perturbed by an influx into the underworld of self-described historians professing to admire his History of the Peloponnesian War. They burdened him with their writings, priding themselves on the imitation of his method, tracing the various patterns of human nature in politics and war. He was, they said, the greatest historian; and his approval of their works held the promise that their purgatory was no prologue to oblivion.

As the centuries rolled on, the flow of historians into Hades became a torrent. The later historians were no longer imitators, but most were admirers. It seemed to Thucydides that these were a miserable crowd, unable to discern between the significant and the trivial, being obsessed with tedious doctrines. Unembarrassed by their inward poverty, they ascribed an opposite meaning to things: thinking themselves more “evolved” than the spirits of antiquity. Some even imagined that the universe was creating God. They supposed that the "most evolved" among men would assume God’s office; and further, that they themselves were among the “most evolved.”

Thucydides longed for the peace of his grave, which posthumous fame had deprived him. As with many souls at rest, he took no further interest in history. He had passed through existence and was done. He had seen everything. What was bound to follow, he knew, would be more of the same; but after more than 23 centuries of growing enthusiasm for his work, there occurred a sudden falling off. Of the newly deceased, fewer broke in upon him. Quite clearly, something had happened. He began to realize that the character of man had changed because of the rottenness of modern ideas. Among the worst of these, for Thucydides, was that barbarians and civilized peoples were considered equal; that art could transmit sacrilege; that paper could be money; that sexual and cultural differences were of no account; that meanness was rated noble, and nobility mean.

Awakened from the sleep of death, Thucydides remembered what he had written about his own time. The watchwords then, as now, were "revolution" and "democracy." There had been upheaval on all sides. "As the result of these revolutions," he had written, "there was a general deterioration of character throughout the Greek world. The simple way of looking at things, which is so much the mark of a noble nature, was regarded as a ridiculous quality and soon ceased to exist. Society had become divided into two ideologically hostile camps, and each side viewed the other with suspicion."

Thucydides saw that democracy, once again, imagined itself victorious. Once again traditions were questioned as men became enamored of their own prowess. It was no wonder they were deluded. They landed men on the moon. They had harnessed the power of the atom. It was no wonder that the arrogance of man had grown so monstrous, that expectations of the future were so unrealistic. Deluded by recent successes, they could not see that dangers were multiplying in plain view. Men built new engines of war, capable of wiping out entire cities, but few took this danger seriously. Why were men so determined to build such weapons? The leading country, of course, was willing to put its weapons aside. Other countries pretended to put their weapons aside. Still others said they weren't building weapons at all, even though they were.

Would the new engines of destruction be used? Would cities and nations be wiped off the face of the earth? Thucydides knew the answer. In his own day, during an interval of unstable peace, the Athenians had exterminated the male population of the island of Melos. Before doing this the Athenian commanders had came to Melos and said, "...we on our side will use no fine phrases saying, for example, that we have a right to our empire because we defeated the Persians, or that we have come against you now because of the injuries you have done us - a great mass of words that nobody would believe." The Athenians demanded the submission of Melos, without regard to right or wrong. As the Athenian representative explained, "the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept." The Melians were shocked by this brazen admission. They could not believe that anyone would dare to destroy them without just cause. In the first place, the Melians threatened no one. In the second place, they imagined that the world would be shocked and would avenge any atrocity committed against them. And so the Melians told the Athenians: "in our view it is ... useful that you should not destroy a principle that is to the general good of all men -- namely, that in the case of all who fall into danger there should be such a thing as fair play and just dealing... And this is a principle which affects you as much as anybody, since your own fall would be visited by the most terrible vengeance and would be an example to the world."

The Athenians were not moved by the argument of Melos; for they knew that the Spartans generally treated defeated foes with magnanimity. "Even assuming that our empire does come to an end," the Athenians chuckled, "we are not despondent about what would happen next. One is not so much frightened of being conquered by a power [like Sparta]." And so the Athenians destroyed Melos, believing themselves safe - which they were. The Melians refused to submit, praying for the protection of gods and men. But these availed them nothing, neither immediate relief nor future vengeance. The Melians were wiped off the earth. They were not the first or the last to die in this manner.

There was one more trend that Thucydides noted. In every free and prosperous country he found a parade of monsters: human beings with oversized egos, with ambitions out of proportion to their ability, whose ideas rather belied their understanding than affirmed it. Whereas, there was one Alcibiades in his own day, there were now hundreds of the like: self-serving, cunning and profane; only they did not possess the skills, or the mental acuity, or beauty of Alcibiades. Instead of being exiled, they pushed men of good sense from the center of affairs. Instead of being right about strategy and tactics, they were always wrong. And they were weak, he thought, because they had learned to be bad by the example of others. There was nothing novel about them, although they believed themselves to be original in all things.

Thucydides reflected that human beings are subject to certain behavioral patterns. Again and again they repeat the same actions, unable to stop themselves. Society is slowly built up, then wars come and put all to ruin. Those who promise a solution to this are charlatans, only adding to the destruction, because the only solution to man is the eradication of man. In the final analysis the philanthropist and the misanthrope are two sides of the same coin. While man exists he follows his nature. Thucydides taught this truth, and went to his grave. His history was written, as he said, "for all time." And it is a kind of law of history that the generations most like his own are bound to ignore the significance of what he wrote; for otherwise they would not re-enact the history of Thucydides. But as they become ignorant of his teaching, they fall into disaster spontaneously and without thinking. Seeing that time was short, and realizing that a massive number of new souls would soon be entering the underworld, the shade of Thucydides fell back to rest."

"Stop Being Perfect..."


“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. The things you own end up owning you. We are defined by the choices we make. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person? I say, never be complete. I say, stop being perfect. I say, let’s evolve and let the chips fall where they may…"
~ Chuck Palahniuk, "Fight Club"

Chet Raymo, “Finding It Where You Are”

“Finding It Where You Are”
by Chet Raymo

“Yes, I've been to Walden. Been there several times, in fact. With students. We sat on the earth at the site of the cabin and read from the book. And the wind stirred the pines, and the hickories, and the oaks, and rippled the pond that shone like silver in the early morning sun. And then, to honor the spirit of the man we came to visit, we sat silently, as if on the stoop of his cabin with friends, knowing that any words, even his own, intruded on the haunting beauty of the place itself.

Walden Pond

Mary Oliver has a poem called "Going To Walden," in which she recounts refusing an invitation to visit the pond, remembering "that far-off Yankee whisper:/ How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!" Going to Walden is not so easy a thing as taking oneself to Concord, she writes. Rather: "It is the slow and difficult/ Trick of living, and finding it where you are."

Maybe so. No, certainly so. And yet, and yet. I don't regret having made the journey, particularly with young people who, like me, are used to hurrying here and there, and who, maybe, just maybe, while sitting in the silence and the shadows of pines, and hickories, and oaks, caught a glimmer of the trick of living that sustained Thoreau in his anchored solitude."

“Going To Walden”
by Mary Oliver

"It isn’t very far as highways lie.
I might be back by nightfall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water.

Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.
They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow form hurrying here and there!

Many have gone,
and think me half a fool to miss a day away in the cool country.
Maybe.
But in a book I read and cherish,
going to Walden is not so easy a thing as a green visit.
It is the slow and difficult trick of living, and finding it where you are."

The Daily "Near You?"

St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"Life..."

"Life... is not about how fast you run or even with what degree of grace. 
It's about perseverance, about staying on your feet and slogging forward no matter what."
- Dean Koontz

“Once When We Were Free”

“Once When We Were Free”
By Jon Rappoport

"We’re so much more sensible now. We don’t live our lives as much as we arrange them and organize them. B follows A. D follows C. We take our medicine and our shots because the doctor says so. We’re careful, because accidents happen. We don’t say what’s on our minds a lot of the time, because other people might pass that on, and who knows? We might get into trouble.

But once upon a time, when we were young, we were free. We didn’t take any shots and when we got sick we recovered. We were stronger than kids are now. We didn’t ask for much protection and we weren’t given much, and we survived.

There was no talk about the needs of the group. When we went to school, we weren’t told about ways we could help others. That was something we learned at home. We weren’t taught about The Planet. Instead, we learned to mind our own business, and it wasn’t considered a crime.

When we played games, adults weren’t hovering or coaching every move we made. We found places to play on our own, and we figured it all out. There were winners and losers. There were no plastic trophies. We played one game, then another. We lost, we won. We competed. Losing wasn’t a tragedy.

There were no childhood “conditions” like ADHD or Bipolar, and we certainly didn’t take any brain drugs. The idea of a kid going to a psychiatrist would have been absurd.

People were who they were. They had lives. They had personalities. They had eccentricities, and we lived with that.

There was far less whispering and gossip. There were fewer cliques. Kids didn’t display their possessions like signs of their identity. A kid who did was ignored, even shunned.

Kids never acted like little adults. They didn’t dress like adults. They didn’t want to be fake adults.

Our parents didn’t consult us about what we wanted. We weren’t part of the decision-making process. They didn’t need us for that.

We weren’t “extra-special.” We weren’t delicate.

No one asked us about our feelings. If they had, we would have been confused. Feelings? What’s that? We were alive. We knew it. We didn’t need anything else.

We could spot liars a mile away. We could spot phonies from across town. We knew who the really crazy adults were, and we stayed away from them.

We didn’t need gadgets and machines to be happy. We only needed a place to play. If you wanted a spot to be alone, you found one, and you read a book.

There was no compulsion to “share.”

School wasn’t some kind of social laboratory or baby-sitting service. We were there to learn, and if we worked hard, we did. Teachers knew how to teach. The textbooks were adequate. Whether the books were new or old didn’t matter.

Kids weren’t taught how to be little victims.

Sex was a private issue. You were taught about that at home or not at all. You certainly didn’t learn about it in school. That would have been ridiculous.

Some of us remember being young, and now, we still have that North Star. We still don’t take our shots and medicines. We still don’t take every word a doctor says as coming from God. We still know losing isn’t a crime or an occasion for tragic theater.

We still know how to be alone. We still think gossip and cliques are for morons. We still feel free. We still want to live, and we do.

We still resent intrusion on our freedom, and we speak up and draw the line. We still like winning and competing. We still like achieving on our own.

We can spot self-styled messiahs at a hundred yards.

As kids, we lived in our imaginations, and we haven’t forgotten how. It’s part of who and what we are.

We aren’t bored every twelve seconds. We can find things to do.

We don’t need reassurances every day. We don’t need people hovering over us. We don’t need to whine and complain to get attention. We don’t need endless amounts of “support.”

We don’t need politicians who lie to us constantly, who pretend we’re stupid. We don’t need ideology shoved own our throats. Our ideology is freedom. We know what it is and what it feels like, and we know no one gives it to us. It’s ours to begin with. We can throw it away, but then that’s on us.

If two candidates are running for office, and we don’t like either one, we don’t vote. We don’t need to think about that very hard. It’s obvious. Two idiots, two criminals? Forget it. Walk away.

We don’t fawn, we don’t get in other people’s way. We don’t think “children are the future.” Every generation is a new generation. It always has been. We don’t need to inject some special doctrine to pump up children. We remember what being a child is. That’s enough.

When we were kids, there was no exaggerated sense of loyalty. We were independent. Now, we see what can be accomplished in the name of obligation, group-cohesion, and loyalty: crimes; imperial wars; destruction of natural rights.

It didn’t take a village to raise a kid when we were young, and it doesn’t take one now. That’s all propaganda. It panders to people who are afraid to be what they are, who are afraid to stand up for themselves.

We don’t feel it’s our duty to cure every ill in the world. But it goes a lot further than that. We can see what that kind of indoctrination creates. It creates the perception of endless numbers of helpless victims. And once that’s firmly entrenched, then magically, the endless parade of victims appears, ready-made. When some needs have been met, others are born. The lowest form of hustlers sell those needs from here to the sky and beyond. They make no distinction between people who really can use help and those who are just on the make.

We didn’t grow up that way. We don’t fall for the con now.

When we were kids, the number of friends we had didn’t matter. We didn’t keep score. Nobody kept track of the count. That would have been recognized in a second as a form of insanity.

As kids, we didn’t admire people simply because other people admired them. That was an unknown standard.

We were alive. That was enough. We were free. That was enough.

It still is.

When we were young, we had incredible dreams. We imagined the dreams and imagined accomplishing them. Some of us still do. Some of us still work in that direction. We haven’t given up the ghost just because the world is mad. The world needs to learn what we know. We don’t need to learn what the world has been brainwashed into believing."

Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet- On Laws"

"The Prophet- On Laws"

"You delight in laying down laws,
Yet you delight more in breaking them.
Like children playing by the ocean who build sand-towers with
constancy and then destroy them with laughter.
But while you build your sand-towers the ocean brings more sand to the shore,
And when you destroy them the ocean laughs with you.
Verily the ocean laughs always with the innocent.

But what of those to whom life is not an ocean,
and man-made laws are not sandtowers,
But to whom life is a rock, and the law a chisel with which
they would carve it in their own likeness?
What of the cripple who hates dancers?
What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer
of the forest stray and vagrant things?
What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin,
and calls all others naked and shameless?
And of him who comes early to the wedding-feast,
and when over-fed and tired goes his way saying that
all feasts are violation and all feasters lawbreakers?

What shall I say of these save that they too stand in
the sunlight, but with their backs to the sun?
They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws.
And what is the sun to them but a caster of shadows?
And what is it to acknowledge the laws but to stoop down
and trace their shadows upon the earth?
But you who walk facing the sun,
what images drawn on the earth can hold you?
You who travel with the wind,
what weather-vane shall direct your course?
What man's law shall bind you if you break your yoke but upon no man's prison door?
What laws shall you fear if you dance but stumble against no man's iron chains?
And who is he that shall bring you to judgment if you tear off
your garment yet leave it in no man's path?

People of Orphalese, you can muffle the drum,
and you can loosen the strings of the lyre,
but who shall command the skylark not to sing?"

Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet- On Laws"

"How It Really Is"

Ebola: “Top Scientist Warns This Version Of Ebola Looks Like ‘A Very Different Bug’"

“Top Scientist Warns This Version Of Ebola 
Looks Like ‘A Very Different Bug’"
by Michael Snyder

“Barack Obama and the head of the CDC need to quit saying that we know exactly how Ebola spreads.  Because the truth is that there is much about this virus that we simply do not know.  For example, a top Ebola scientist that is working in the heart of the outbreak in Liberia says that this version of Ebola looks like it could be "a very different bug" from past versions.  Other leading scientists are echoing his concerns.  And yet Barack Obama and Thomas Frieden continue to publicly proclaim that we know precisely how this virus behaves.  Not only is that bad science, but it could also potentially result in the unnecessary deaths of a very large number of people.  For example, Obama has refused to implement an Ebola travel ban because he is greatly underestimating the seriousness of this virus.  This decision could turn out to be incredibly costly.  If what you will read about below is true, we could be dealing with some sort of "super Ebola" that nobody has ever seen before.

Peter Jahrling of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease is on the front lines fighting this disease in Liberia.  He is one of the top authorities in the world on Ebola, and what his team has been seeing under the microscope is incredibly sobering: "Now U.S. scientist Peter Jahrling of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease believes the current Ebola outbreak may be caused by an infection that spreads more easily than it did before.

Dr Jahrling explained that his team, who are working in the epicentre of the crisis in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, are seeing that the viral loads in Ebola patients are much higher than they are used to seeing. He told Vox.com: 'We are using tests now that weren't using in the past, but there seems to be a belief that the virus load is higher in these patients today than what we have seen before. If true, that's a very different bug. I have a field team in Monrovia. They are running tests. They are telling me that viral loads are coming up very quickly and really high, higher than they are used to seeing. It may be that the virus burns hotter and quicker."

Other top scientists are making similar observations. The following comes from a recent article posted on Washington's Blog: "The head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota – Dr. Michael Osterholm – is a prominent public health scientist and a nationally recognized biosecurity expert. Dr. Osterholm just gave a talk shown on C-Span explaining that a top Ebola virologist – the Head of Special Pathogens at Canada’s health agency, Gary Kobinger – has found that the current strain of Ebola appears to be much worse than any strain seen before… and that the current virus may be more likely to spread through aerosols than strains which scientists have previously encountered. I have posted video of that talk on C-Span below...


But even if we were dealing with the exact same strain of Ebola, that does not mean that our leaders are telling us the truth when they say that it is not an airborne virus. Just check out the following quotes from top scientists about the spread of Ebola from a recent Los Angeles Times article: "Dr. C.J. Peters, who battled a 1989 outbreak of the virus among research monkeys housed in Virginia and who later led the CDC’s most far-reaching study of Ebola’s transmissibility in humans, said he would not rule out the possibility that it spreads through the air in tight quarters. “We just don’t have the data to exclude it,” said Peters, who continues to research viral diseases at the University of Texas in Galveston.

Dr. Philip K. Russell, a virologist who oversaw Ebola research while heading the U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Development Command, and who later led the government’s massive stockpiling of smallpox vaccine after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also said much was still to be learned. “Being dogmatic is, I think, ill-advised, because there are too many unknowns here.“
And I have written about this before, but so many people don't know about this that it bears repeating. The following is an excerpt from a news story about a study that was conducted back in 2012 that demonstrated that the Ebola virus can be transferred from one animal to another animal without any physical contact whatsoever: "When news broke that the Ebola virus had resurfaced in Uganda, investigators in Canada were making headlines of their own with research indicating the deadly virus may spread between species, through the air.

The team, comprised of researchers from the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, the University of Manitoba, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, observed transmission of Ebola from pigs to monkeys. They first inoculated a number of piglets with the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus. Ebola-Zaire is the deadliest strain, with mortality rates up to 90 percent. The piglets were then placed in a room with four cynomolgus macaques, a species of monkey commonly used in laboratories. The animals were separated by wire cages to prevent direct contact between the species.

Within a few days, the inoculated piglets showed clinical signs of infection indicative of Ebola infection. In pigs, Ebola generally causes respiratory illness and increased temperature. Nine days after infection, all piglets appeared to have recovered from the disease. Within eight days of exposure, two of the four monkeys showed signs of Ebola infection. Four days later, the remaining two monkeys were sick too. It is possible that the first two monkeys infected the other two, but transmission between non-human primates has never before been observed in a lab setting."

So when Barack Obama and Thomas Frieden get up and tell us that they know with 100% certainty that Ebola is not airborne, they are lying to you. There is so much about this outbreak that we simply do not know. Our public officials should be honest about that. Instead, it seems like they are flying by the seats of their pants and just saying whatever they think will keep everyone calm.

We are potentially facing the greatest health crisis of this generation, and bad science and false assurances are not going to help anyone. Sadly, Barack Obama just continues to make bad decision after bad decision. This includes his very foolish decision to send thousands of U.S. troops right into the heart of the Ebola death zone. It is being reported that these troops are only going to get just four hours of Ebola training, and the Pentagon is saying that they "will only need gloves and masks" to protect themselves: "Troops from the 101st Airborne Division leading the military response to Ebola in West Africa will only need gloves and masks to protect themselves from the deadly virus, so said Gen. David Rodriguez at a Pentagon briefing Wednesday.

“They don’t need the whole suit – as such – because they’re not going to be in contact with any of the people,” the commander of U.S. troops in Africa said. Soldiers from the 101st Airborne will primarily be building hospitals, ultimately leading what could be a contingent of 4,000 American service members. They’ll be housed either in tent cities at military airfields or in Liberian Ministry of Defense facilities, Rodriguez said. Soldiers’ health will be monitored through surveys and taking their temperature on their way in and out of camps. If a service member does get sick, Rodriguez said they will be flown home immediately for treatment."

Who is going to be held accountable when these young men and women start coming home sick? So far the federal response to this Ebola crisis has been a parade of incompetence. And yet we continue to be told that "everything is under control". I don't know about you, but I have a bad feeling about all of this.”