Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Fumbling Towards Collapse"

"Fumbling Towards Collapse"
by James Howard Kunstler

"In all the smoke and fog emitted by Trump and his adversaries, it must be hard to make out the actual issues dogging this society, and even when you can, to find a coherent position on them. This was nicely illustrated in Paul Krugman’s fatuous column in Monday’s New York Times, “On Economic Arrogance”- the title describes Krugman’s own attitude to a T.

In it, Krugman attempts to account for the no-growth economy by marshaling the stock-in-trade legerdemain of academic economics: productivity, demographics, and labor metrics. Krugman actually knows zip about what afflicts us in the present disposition of things, namely the falling energy-return-on-energy-investment in the oil industry, which is approaching the point where the immense activity of getting oil out of the ground won’t be worth the cost and trouble of doing it. And since most of the things we do and produce in this economy are based on cheap oil- with no reality-based prospect of replacing it with so-called “renewables” or as yet undiscovered energy rescue remedies- we can’t generate enough wealth to maintain anything close to our assumed standard of living. We can’t even generate enough wealth to pay the interest on the debt we’ve racked up in order to hide our growing energy predicament. And that, in a nutshell, is what will blow up the financial system. And when that department of the economy goes, the rest will follow.In all the smoke and fog emitted by Trump and his adversaries, it must be hard to make out the actual issues dogging this society, and even when you can, to find a coherent position on them. 

So, the real issue hidden in plain sight is how America- indeed all the so-called “developed” nations- are going to navigate to a stepped-down mode of living, without slip-sliding all the way into a dark age, or something worse. By the way, the Ole Maestro, Alan Greenspan, also chimed in on the “productivity” question last week to equally specious effect in this Business Insider article. None of these celebrated Grand Viziers knows what the hell he’s talking about, and a nation depending on their guidance will find itself lost in a hall of mirrors with the lights off.

So, on one side you have Trump and his trumpets and trumpistas heralding the return of “greatness” (i.e. a booming industrial economy of happy men with lunchboxes) which is not going to happen; and on the other side you have a claque of clueless technocrats who actually believe they can “solve” the productivity problem with measures that really only boil down to different kinds of accounting fraud.

You also have an American public, and a mass media, who do not question the premise of a massive “infrastructure” spending project to re-boot the foundering economy. If you ask what they mean by that, you will learn that they uniformly see rebuilding our highways, bridges, tunnels, and airports. Some rightly suspect that the money for that is not there- or can only be summoned with more accounting fraud (borrowing from our future). But on the whole, most adults of all political stripes in this country think we can and should do this, that it would be a good thing.

And what is this infrastructure re-boot in the service of? A living arrangement with no future. A matrix of extreme car dependency that has zero chance of continuing another decade. More WalMarts, Target stores, Taco Bells, muffler shops, McHousing subdivisions, and other accoutrement of our fast-zombifying mode of existence? Isn’t it obvious, even if you never heard of, or don’t understand, the oil quandary, that we have shot our wad with all this? That we have to start down a different path if we intend to remain human?

It’s not hard to describe that waiting world, which I’ve done in a bunch of recent books. We’re going there whether we like it or not. But we can make the journey to it easier or harsher depending on how much we drag our heels getting on with the job.

History is pretty unforgiving. Right now, the dynamic I describe is propelling us toward a difficult reckoning, which is very likely to manifest this spring as the political ineptitude of Trump, and the antipathy of his enemies, leaves us in a constitutional maelstrom at the very moment when the financial system comes unglued. Look for the debt ceiling debate and another Federal Reserve interest rate hike to set off the latter. There may be yet another converging layer of tribulation when we start blaming all our problems on Russia, China, Mexico, or some other patsy nation. It’s already obvious that we can depend on the Deep State to rev that up.”

Musical Interlude: Simon & Garfunkel, "The Boxer"

Simon & Garfunkel, "The Boxer"

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Musical Interlude: Yanni, “To the One Who Knows”

Yanni, “To the One Who Knows” 
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF3kxNYTmsk

"A Look to the Heavens"

“A remarkable telescopic composition in yellow and blue, this scene features a trio of interacting galaxies almost 90 million light-years away, toward the constellation Virgo. On the left, two, spiky, foreground Milky Way stars echo the trio galaxy hues, a reminder that stars in our own galaxy are like those in the distant island universes. 
Click image for larger size.
Predominately yellow, with sweeping spiral arms and dust lanes, NGC 5566 is enormous, about 150,000 light-years across. Just below it lies small, blue NGC 5569. Near center, the third galaxy, NGC 5560, is multicolored and apparently stretched and distorted by its interaction with NGC 5566. The galaxy trio is also included in Halton Arp's 1966 Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 286. Of course, such cosmic interactions are now appreciated as a common part of the evolution of galaxies.”

"A Chime Of Words..."

"Yes there is a meaning; at least for me, there is one thing that matters-
 to set a chime of words tinkling in the minds of a few fastidious people."
- Logan Pearsall Smith

"People Who Don’t Get It: Living with It"

 "People Who Don’t Get It: Living with It"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"When dealing with people who seem very unaware, remember that everyone must find their own way to awakening. You may be someone who understands the true nature of reality, perceiving deeply that we all emanate from the same source, that we are all essentially one, and that we are here on earth to love one another. To understand this is to be awakened to the true nature of the self, and it is a blessing. Nevertheless, people who just don’t get it are seemingly everywhere and, often, in positions of power. It can be frustrating and painful to watch them behave unconsciously. We all encounter individuals of this bent in our families, at work, and in all areas of public life. It is easy to find ourselves feeling intolerant of these people, wishing we could be free of them even though we know that separation from them is an illusion.

It helps sometimes to think of us all as different parts of one psyche. Just as within our own hearts and minds we have dark places that need healing, the heart and mind of the world has its dark places. The health of the whole organism depends upon the relative health of the individuals within it. We increase harmony when we hold onto the light, not allowing it to be darkened by judgment, anger, and fear about those who behave unconsciously. It’s easier to accomplish this if we don’t focus on the negative qualities of individuals and instead focus on how increasing our own light will increase the light of the overall picture.

When dealing with people who seem very unconscious, it helps to remember that every one must find their own way to awakening and that the experiences they are having are an essential part of their process. Holding them in the light of our own energy may be the best way to awaken theirs. At the same time, we are inspired by their example to look within and shed light on our own unconscious places, sacrificing the urge to judge and surrendering instead to humble self-inquiry."

Chet Raymo, “Speaking of Water…”

“Speaking of Water…”
by Chet Raymo

“How many water molecules- H2O- are there in the world's oceans? This is the kind of time-wasting calculation I love doing, but I will leave it as an exercise for one of you.

Look up the mass of a proton in grams. A water molecule has essentially the mass of 18 protons (hydrogen=1, oxygen=8 protons + 8 neutrons; remember, this is an order of magnitude calculation). A cubic centimeter of water has (by definition) a mass of one gram. Divide for the number of water molecules in a cubic centimeter of water.

How many cubic centimeters in the oceans? Look up the radius of the Earth (in centimeters). The area of a sphere is 4πr2, and about three-quarters of the Earth's surface is ocean. The average depth is about 4 kilometers, or 4x105 centimeters. You're home free. Make it easy. Use powers of ten and round off generously.

And what did you get? A very big number indeed. A number so big it is essentially meaningless. Its meaning is its meaninglessness. Its meaning is the almost incomprehensible gulf between the world of our senses and the world of atoms. Between what we are and what we are made of.

Why even do such a calculation? Only to show that the human brain can frolic in the world of atoms and molecules with a pencil on the back of an envelope. Go for it. Have fun.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Hurst, Texas, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"That Must Be Tough..."

"The Illusion of Freedom: The Police State Is Alive and Well"

"The Illusion of Freedom: The Police State Is Alive and Well"
By John W. Whitehead

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security... This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.”

"Brace yourself. There is something being concocted in the dens of power, far beyond the public eye, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of this country.

Anytime you have an entire nation so mesmerized by the antics of the political ruling class that they are oblivious to all else, you’d better beware. Anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware. And anytime you have a government so far removed from its people as to ensure that they are never seen, heard or heeded by those elected to represent them, you’d better beware.

The world has been down this road before. As historian Milton Mayer recounts in his seminal book on Hitler’s rise to power, "They Thought They Were Free," “Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about- we were decent people‑ and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the 'national enemies', without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.”

We are at our most vulnerable right now. The gravest threat facing us as a nation is not extremism-delivered by way of sovereign citizens or radicalized Muslims- but despotism, exercised by a ruling class whose only allegiance is to power and money.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. America is burning, and all most Americans can do is switch the channel, tune out what they don’t want to hear, and tune into their own personal echo chambers. We’re in a national state of denial.

Yet no amount of escapism can shield us from the harsh reality that the danger in our midst is posed by an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution, Congress, the courts or the citizenry. If the team colors have changed from blue to red, that’s just cosmetic. The playbook remains the same. The leopard has not changed its spots. Scrape off the surface layers and you will find that the American police state is alive and well and continuing to wreak havoc on the rights of the American people.

“We the people” are no longer living the American Dream. We’re living the American Lie. Indeed, Americans have been lied to so sincerely, so incessantly, and for so long by politicians of all stripes-who lie compulsively and without any seeming remorse- that they’ve almost come to prefer the lies trotted out by those in government over less-palatable truths.

The American people have become compulsive believers. As Nick Cohen writes for The Guardian, “Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power. Their trust turns the charlatan into the president. Their credulity ensures that the propaganda of half-calculating and half-mad fanatics has the power to change the world.”

While telling the truth “in a time of universal deceit is,” as George Orwell concluded, “a revolutionary act,” believing the truth- and being able to distinguish the truth from a lie- is also a revolutionary act.

Here’s a truth few Americans want to acknowledge: nothing has changed (at least, not for the better) since Barack Obama passed the reins of the police state to Donald Trump. The police state is still winning. We the people are still losing. In fact, the American police state has continued to advance at the same costly, intrusive, privacy-sapping, Constitution-defying, relentless pace under President Trump as it did under President Obama.

Police haven’t stopped disregarding the rights of citizens. Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip, shoot and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials are no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace. Indeed, they continue to keep the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.

SWAT teams haven’t stopped crashing through doors and terrorizing families. Nationwide, SWAT teams continue to be employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activities or mere community nuisances including angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession. With more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans for relatively routine police matters and federal agencies laying claim to their own law enforcement divisions, the incidence of botched raids and related casualties continue to rise.

The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security haven’t stopped militarizing and federalizing local police. Police forces continue to be transformed into heavily armed extensions of the military, complete with jackboots, helmets, shields, batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, assault rifles, body armor, miniature tanks and weaponized drones. In training police to look and act like the military and use the weapons and tactics of war against American citizens, the government continues to turn the United States into a battlefield.

Schools haven’t stopped treating young people like hard-core prisoners. School districts continue to team up with law enforcement to create a “schoolhouse to jailhouse track” by imposing a “double dose” of punishment for childish infractions: suspension or expulsion from school, accompanied by an arrest by the police and a trip to juvenile court. In this way, the paradigm of abject compliance to the state continues to be taught by example in the schools, through school lockdowns where police and drug-sniffing dogs enter the classroom, and zero tolerance policies that punish all offenses equally and result in young people being expelled for childish behavior.

For-profit private prisons haven’t stopped locking up Americans and immigrants alike at taxpayer expense. States continue to outsource prison management to private corporations out to make a profit at taxpayer expense. And how do you make a profit in the prison industry? Have the legislatures pass laws that impose harsh penalties for the slightest noncompliance in order keep the prison cells full and corporate investors happy.

Censorship hasn’t stopped. First Amendment activities continue to be pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country. The reasons for such censorship vary widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remained the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the “principal pillar of a free government.”

The courts haven’t stopped marching in lockstep with the police state. The courts continue to be dominated by technicians and statists who are deferential to authority, whether government or business. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s decisions in recent years have most often been characterized by an abject deference to government authority, military and corporate interests. They have run the gamut from suppressing free speech activities and justifying suspicionless strip searches to warrantless home invasions and conferring constitutional rights on corporations, while denying them to citizens.

Government bureaucrats haven’t stopped turning American citizens into criminals. The average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day, thanks to an overabundance of vague laws that render otherwise innocent activity illegal, while reinforcing the power of the police state and its corporate allies.

The surveillance state hasn’t stopped spying on Americans’ communications, transactions or movements. On any given day, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether it’s your local police, a fusion center, the National Security Agency or one of the government’s many corporate partners, is still monitoring and tracking you.

The TSA hasn’t stopped groping or ogling travelers. Under the pretext of protecting the nation’s infrastructure (roads, mass transit systems, water and power supplies, telecommunications systems and so on) against criminal or terrorist attacks, TSA task forces (comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams) continue to do random security sweeps of nexuses of transportation, including ports, railway and bus stations, airports, ferries and subways, as well as political conventions, baseball games and music concerts. Sweep tactics include the use of x-ray technology, pat-downs and drug-sniffing dogs, among other things.

Congress hasn’t stopped enacting draconian laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the NDAA. These laws- which completely circumvent the rule of law and the constitutional rights of American citizens, continue to re-orient our legal landscape in such a way as to ensure that martial law, rather than the rule of law, our U.S. Constitution, becomes the map by which we navigate life in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t stopped being a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast.” Is the DHS capable of plotting and planning to turn the national guard into a federalized, immigration police force? No doubt about it. Remember, this is the agency that is notorious for militarizing the police and SWAT teams; spying on activists, dissidents and veterans; stockpiling ammunition; distributing license plate readers; contracting to build detention camps; tracking cell-phones with Stingray devices; carrying out military drills and lockdowns in American cities; using the TSA as an advance guard; conducting virtual strip searches with full-body scanners; carrying out soft target checkpoints; directing government workers to spy on Americans; conducting widespread spying networks using fusion centers; carrying out Constitution-free border control searches; funding city-wide surveillance cameras; and utilizing drones and other spybots.

The military industrial complex hasn’t stopped profiting from endless wars abroad. America’s expanding military empire continues to bleed the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour). The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. Yet what most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense.

The Deep State’s shadow government hasn’t stopped calling the shots behind the scenes. Comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes, this government within a government continues to be the real reason “we the people” have no real control over our so-called representatives. It’s every facet of a government that is no longer friendly to freedom and is working overtime to trample the Constitution underfoot and render the citizenry powerless in the face of the government’s power grabs, corruption and abusive tactics.

And the American people haven’t stopped acting like gullible sheep. In fact, many Americans have been so carried away by their blind rank-and-file partisan devotion to their respective political gods that they have lost sight of the one thing that has remained constant in recent years: our freedoms are steadily declining.

Here’s the problem as I see it: “we the people” have become so trusting, so gullible, so easily distracted, so out-of-touch and so sure that our government will always do the right thing by us that we have ignored the warning signs all around us. In so doing, we have failed to recognize such warning signs as potential red flags to use as opportunities to ask questions, demand answers, and hold our government officials accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law.

Unfortunately, once a free people allows the government to make inroads into their freedoms, or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government.

This is what happens when you ignore the warning signs. This is what happens when you fail to take alarm at the first experiment on your liberties. This is what happens when you fail to challenge injustice and government overreach until the prison doors clang shut behind you.

In the American police state that now surrounds us, there are no longer such things as innocence, due process, or justice- at least, not in the way we once knew them. We are all potentially guilty, all potential criminals, all suspects waiting to be accused of a crime. So you can try to persuade yourself that you are free, that you still live in a country that values freedom, and that it is not too late to make America great again, but to anyone who has been paying attention to America’s decline over the past 50 years, it will be just another lie.

The German people chose to ignore the truth and believe the lie. They were not oblivious to the horrors taking place around them. As historian Robert Gellately points out, “Anyone in Nazi Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo, the concentration camps, and the campaigns of discrimination and persecutions need only read the newspapers.” The warning signs were definitely there, blinking incessantly like large neon signs.

“Still,” Gellately writes, “the vast majority voted in favor of Nazism, and in spite of what they could read in the press and hear by word of mouth about the secret police, the concentration camps, official anti-Semitism, and so on. There is no getting away from the fact that at that moment, ‘the vast majority of the German people backed him.’”

Half a century later, the wife of a prominent German historian, neither of whom were members of the Nazi party, opined: “On the whole, everyone felt well. And there were certainly eighty percent who lived productively and positively throughout the time. We also had good years. We had wonderful years.” In other words, as long as their creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as their bank accounts remained flush, as long as they weren’t being discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed and turned into slave labor, life was good.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls. As Primo Levi, a Holocaust survivor observed, “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”

• Freedom demands responsibility. 
• Freedom demands that people stop sleep-walking through life, stop cocooning themselves in political fantasies, and stop distracting themselves with escapist entertainment.
• Freedom demands that we stop thinking as Democrats and Republicans and start thinking like human beings, or at the very least, Americans.
• Freedom demands that we not remain silent in the face of evil or wrongdoing but actively stand against injustice.
• Freedom demands that we treat others as we would have them treat us. That is the law of reciprocity, also referred to as the Golden Rule, and it is found in nearly every world religion, including Judaism and Christianity.

In other words, if you don’t want to be locked up in a prison cell or a detention camp- if you don’t want to be discriminated against because of the color of your race, religion, politics or anything else that sets you apart from the rest- if you don’t want your loved ones shot at, strip searched, tasered, beaten and treated like slaves- if you don’t want to have to be constantly on guard against government eyes watching what you do, where you go and what you say- if you don’t want to be tortured, waterboarded or forced to perform degrading acts- if you don’t want your children to grow up in a world without freedom- then don’t allow these evils to be inflicted on anyone else, no matter how tempting the reason or how fervently you believe in your cause.

As German theologian and anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

"How It Really Is"

"6,000 Years on the Hamster Wheel"

"6,000 Years on the Hamster Wheel"
by Paul Rosenberg

"Modern man is trained to think in certain ways and to turn away from anything that differs… to give authority the benefit of every doubt, instinctively and forever. Nearly all of us have been pushed (nay, shoved) in that direction, and we’ve instinctively feared to break our inertia: “But I’ll be poor.” “Girls (or boys) will think I’m weird and won’t want me.” “Only crazy people step off the path.” That path, however, has no end and kills us by inches. It was paved by our abusers and it is, in effect, a hamster wheel we never leave.

Back to 4000 BC: Between 5400 BC and 3800 BC, the model of rulership we know formed in Mesopotamia, beginning in a city called Eridu. With a few sags, breaks, and occasional exceptions, the basic pattern has held ever since. The pattern, as we well know, features one group of men dominating all other people. This small group orders the others around, takes a large share of their earnings, punishes them if they fail to obey, sends their children to kill people they’ve never met (or to be killed by them), and is held to be righteous while doing so.

There are other parts of the model, and they’ve been consistent over the millennia as well: mandatory accounting, state-aligned intellectuals, surveillance, monuments, and the glorification of order. (Fear has always played a major role, but mainly because it’s the best way to make people stupid.) None of those parts are our subject for today, however. As ridiculous as they are– and as horrifying as it is that they’ve continued since the Early Bronze Age– today I want to focus on the more intimate aspects of our abuse.

Like the Sumerians Before Us: I’ve written before on the obsession with status: It’s irrational and devolutionary, but it’s encoded in human cultures and was clearly involved in the model from 4000 BC. The great assyriologist, Samuel Noah Kramer, held it to be a fundamental part of the rulership model and described it as an “ambitious, competitive… drive for pre-eminence and prestige.” And why was it made a fundamental part of the system? Because it distracted people from the fact that they were repeatedly being robbed.

The cultivation of status was used to drive men, even as the fruits of their labors were stripped away. It trained them to strive for a cheap imitation of actual rewards. This scam began for the Sumerians in the same way it does for us: in school. “May you rank the highest among the school graduates,” is found among Sumerian inscriptions, just as it is among ours. Kramer describes the situation: "The drive for superiority and prestige deeply colored the Sumerian outlook on life and played an important role in their education, politics, and economics."

The bosses from 4000 BC built hierarchical structures, each level of which gave its occupants a certain level of status– status they fought for all their lives. They could never be as high as the ruler, but they could at least be higher than their neighbor… and they learned to trade that for actual prosperity and self-determinacy.

What This Means: This means that all the times we ignored the small group of men stealing from us… and all the times we scrambled to be better than our neighbors… we were being suckers. (Sorry, but that’s the truth.) Sure, we were born into it and were trained in it all our lives, but no matter how much we excuse ourselves (and we can, to a large extent), we were still playing the role of the sucker.

Which is more sensible, to work endlessly to convince people that you’re better than the guy across the street or across the hill, or to actually make yourself better?

Think about this: It’s more work to appear better than the other guy than it is to simply be better. So why do it the hard way? Why care about the other guy so much? Why not care about you– what’s in you, what you can develop, what makes you happy– rather than what impresses other people?

The Truth of It…: The truth of this is that all the status crap we’ve been immersed in– that we see 24/7 on Facebook and TV– is a huge, old scam. It tears us away from creating actual benefit for ourselves and our families and focuses us on the mere opinions of others… opinions that are subject to change at any time.

To work for real, concrete benefits is not only more rational than life on the hamster wheel, but it’s a far more efficient way to live. Still, the ramp down from the hamster wheel is marked off with bright red tape, saying, “If You Cross, Everyone Will Hate You.” That can be scary.

Getting off the hamster wheel requires us to transcend our fears and even to suffer the slanders of those who remain on the wheel. In other words, it requires us to be heretics. But if becoming a heretic sounds frightening, remember that the other choice is to yield your very life to your abusers. Living as a heretic strikes me as far better than living as a hamster on a wheel."

"What Happened?"

"Rome tolerated every abominable practice, embraced every foul idea in the name of freedom and the rights of the common man. Citizens no longer carried on deviant behavior in private, but pridefully displayed it in public. It was those with moral values who could no longer freely walk in a public park without having to witness a revolting display. What happened to the public censors who protected the majority of citizenry from moral decadence? Did freedom have to mean abolishing common decency? Did freedom mean anyone could do anything they wanted anytime they wanted, without consequences?"
- Francine Rivers

"Global Pedophilia Rings Exposed and Arrested– Where’s U.S. Press Coverage?"; A Comment

"Global Pedophilia Rings Exposed and Arrested– 
Where’s U.S. Press Coverage?"
by Catherine J. Frompovich

“Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.”
– Herbert Ward

“Pizzagate” is a familiar pop culture buzzword and everyone probably knows what it means or that it is affiliated with sexual abuse of children, especially in Washington, DC. However, there has been breaking news about world-wide arrests regarding pedophilia, but the U.S. media and television- other than CBS journalist Ben Swann in Atlanta, Georgia- have not investigated the problem to expose it and its perpetrators?

In Canada, a recent Project Spade press conference took place, which you can listen to here:

The U.S. Postal Service was represented at the Toronto press conference. How come the U.S. press has not covered that international event?  Some children as young as five years old were involved. What a scourge upon society! By the way, have you heard the rumblings that some want to have pedophilia made legal? What is wrong with society?

How high up the professional ladders do these sick activities go; who will be exposed and how soon-barring none at any level of involvement, including the swamp in Washington, DC, which has been alleged to be crawling with pedophiles in all levels of government. Why isn’t the U.S. media investigating and reporting on it?  What say you Washington Post?

Here’s coverage of a California pedophilia bust, which ought to make people wonder why it wasn’t national front page news plus a short clip on the DA’s press conference on sexual exploitation arrests across southern California.

Lastly, a huge pedophilia-sex operation was exposed in Norway. Did you hear anything about that on the nightly news?  Here’s some of the information that surfaced: "Norwegian police have filed charges against 51 people suspected of various kinds of abuse of children including babies. Even the future abuse of yet unborn children was discussed in the country’s largest ever pedophile ring."

Truly one of the sick, sad and pathetic parts about pedophilia is those who are educated and should know better. "Several perpetrators were obviously familiar to their immediate environments. Family and friends reacted with shock when they were arrested. Perpetrators come from all walks of life, many of them have a higher education, possess high IT skills and have used encryption to hide their tracks,” prosecutor Janne Ringset Heltne told NRK

Abuse of children at any level, in any form/format, including vaccines neurotoxic ingredients, has to stop, and all responsible government agencies must be made to deal with it whether they like it or not, or want to or not, since, apparently, many at the top may be involved.”
https://www.intellihub.com/

Related:
A comment: I believe there is no viler crime against humanity, or "sin" if you prefer, than pedophilia. This atrocity may not kill the victims body, but it does far worse- it kills their soul. Any bleeding-heart babble about "rehabilitation" is garbage- they're doing what they want to do, it's their nature, not their nurture, however often that's used as a defense to excuse this unspeakable horror. If imprisoned, upon release they immediately resume their favored activities. These monsters have forfeited any claim to being human, any claim to compassion and understanding, or leniency, and should be dealt with accordingly. They should, immediately upon conviction, receive the same degree of mercy they showed their victims:
Zero tolerance. Zero rehabilitation. Zero mercy. Instant justice. 
And one less inhuman predator ravaging helpless children.
 And if that's being "insensitive" in this Age of Precious Snowflakes, I frankly don't give a damn.
That's my opinion, share yours below if you wish.
- CP

"Christian the Lion"

"Christian the Lion"
Full story: “The Lion Who Lived in Our Flat: 
The Incredible Story of the Flatmates Who Raised a Cub.”
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Monday, February 20, 2017

"Oh-So Tasty!"

"People who are too optimistic seem annoying. This is an unfortunate misinterpretation of what an optimist really is. An optimist is neither naive, nor blind to the facts, nor in denial of grim reality. An optimist believes in the optimal usage of all options available, no matter how limited. As such, an optimist always sees the big picture. How else to keep track of all that's out there? An optimist is simply a proactive realist. An idealist focuses only on the best aspects of all things (sometimes in detriment to reality); an optimist strives to find an effective solution. A pessimist sees limited or no choices in dark times; an optimist makes choices. When bobbing for apples, an idealist endlessly reaches for the best apple, a pessimist settles for the first one within reach, while an optimist drains the barrel, fishes out all the apples and makes pie. Annoying? Yes. But, oh-so tasty!"
- Vera Nazarian

Musical Interlude: Gov't Mule, “Forevermore”

Warren Haynes, Gov't Mule, “Forevermore”

"Musick has Charms to soothe a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak".
- William Congreve
(24 January, 1670 – 19 January, 1729)

"Never More Frightening..."

"Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than 
when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right."
~ Laurens van der Post

Musical Interlude: Gov't Mule, “Soulshine”

Gov't Mule, “Soulshine”

"A Look to the Heavens"

"The Crab Nebula is cataloged as M1, the first object on Charles Messier's famous 18th century list of things which are not comets. In fact, the Crab is now known to be a supernova remnant, debris from the death explosion of a massive star, witnessed by astronomers in the year 1054. This sharp, ground-based telescopic view uses narrowband data to track emission from ionized oxygen and hydrogen atoms (in blue and red) and explore the tangled filaments within the still expanding cloud. 
Click image for larger size.
One of the most exotic objects known to modern astronomers, the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star spinning 30 times a second, is visible as a bright spot near the nebula's center. Like a cosmic dynamo, this collapsed remnant of the stellar core powers the Crab's emission across the electromagnetic spectrum. Spanning about 12 light-years, the Crab Nebula is a mere 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Taurus."

Chet Raymo, "Sunshine"

"Sunshine"
by Chet Raymo

"Deep in the belly of the Sun, where the temperature is 10 million degrees, protons- the nuclei of hydrogen- are fused together to form the heavier nuclei of helium. By a marvelous magic of nature, the helium nuclei weigh about one percent less than the total weight of the four protons out of which it was made. Mass has vanished from the universe. And in its place- energy. 

Every second at the Sun's core, 660 million tons of hydrogen is converted into 655 million tons of helium. The missing 5 million tons is turned into an amount of energy equal to the vanished mass times the speed of light squared. The rate of conversion is prodigious, but the amount of hydrogen in a Sunlike star is virtually inexhaustible. The Sun will burn for another 5 billion years before it has exhausted the hydrogen at its core. 

All of that energy produced deep in the Sun takes several million years to make its way to the surface, up through a half-million miles of roiling plasma. At the surface, it is hurled into space as heat and light. Eight minutes later, a tiny fraction of this flux bathes the Earth- to warm the planet and sustain photosynthesis. 

Imagine the Sun as a basketball. On this scale, the Earth would be a pinhead about 85 feet away. The Sun pours out its energy in every direction. Only that part that falls upon the pinhead can we count as ours. It would be nice to think that the Sun burns for us alone, but the vast majority of its bounty is destined for deep space. We catch what we can. Every second, about a millionth of a millionth of an ounce of the Sun's depleted mass falls onto my body as I lie on the sand. I consume the Sun.”

"A Checkerboard..."

"Life is a checkerboard, and the player opposite you is time. If you hesitate before moving, or neglect to move promptly, your men will be wiped off the board by time. You are playing against a partner who will not tolerate indecision!"
- Elbert Hubbard

“Rescreening Dr. Strangelove”

“Rescreening Dr. Strangelove”
By Hugh Iglarsh

"A friend of mine saw Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” when it first opened in Paris in 1964. He and his American army friends were rolling on the floor throughout. The French audience, however, sat in stony silence. It wasn’t a comedy to them; it was a documentary. What is it now? In general, Hollywood is America dreaming– but Strangelove is something different, a “nightmare comedy,” in Kubrick’s words. It is prophecy disguised as farce– the finest dramatic analysis we have of the paradoxes of deterrence, that strange world of interpenetrated enmity and overriding common interest. What follows is a look at Kubrick’s masterpiece as satire, history and cultural critique.

Watching the film today, one realizes that Kubrick was exaggerating only the details and personality quirks, not the fundamentals. Peter George’s somber novel 'Red Alert,' upon which the film is based, evolved into a comic script of its own deeper nature, almost without intervention. As Kubrick said, “The most realistic things are the funniest.” In the Strangelove universe, the serious constantly morphs into the humorous, which then reveals itself as deadly serious.

Historian Margot Henriksen, author of 'Dr. Strangelove’s America,' describes the movie as a kind of expose– a frontal assault on “the cherished seriousness and rationality of America’s nuclear ethos and establishment." Strangelove showed the previously disguised cold war reality for what it was: immoral, insane, deadly– and ridiculous. Distinguished critic Lewis Mumford defended the film’s blackly humorous take on nuclear holocaust as an example of deadpan Swiftian wit: “It is not this film that is sick: What is sick is our supposedly moral, democratic country which allowed this policy to be formulated and implemented without even the pretense of public debate.”

Strangelove’s literary antecedents go back even further, to the Old Comedy of Aristophanes– the comedy of Periclean Athens, which was ribald and irreverent and deeply political. It’s a theater of living, participatory democracy, of a citizenry involved in every matter of state. Also, it’s a comedy grounded in the body and nature, as for instance in Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens bring the bloody and stupid Peloponnesian War to an end through a brilliantly organized sex strike, or in other plays, where the chorus of frogs or wasps or birds comments on human affairs from an ironic inter-species distance. The film’s insistent “strange love” sexual subtext places it firmly in the Aristophanic tradition.

The characters in Strangelove embody social hierarchies; they are flattened, if highly compelling, and command a very different kind of response than does the typical Hollywood character– a critical reaction, rather than an emotional identification. It is similar to what Bertolt Brecht describes as the alienation effect, forcing the viewer to see characters in terms of what they represent, coloring the subjective perception of objective reality, and creating the psychological conditions for both detachment and enlightened re-engagement.

Historically, 1963 was a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis and a couple of years after the Berlin Wall crisis. It was the last moment that some Pentagon brass and nuclear strategists believed that the USA would have a significantly superior strategic position vis-à-vis the Soviets, allowing the possibility of a first strike. President Kennedy was surrounded by such thinking. From the book "JFK and the Unspeakable," by James Douglass, regarding events in 1961: “His military advisors continued to ride hard toward the apocalypse. Kennedy was appalled by Generals Lemnitzer and LeMay’s insistence at two summer meetings that they wanted his authorization to use nuclear weapons in both Berlin and Southeast Asia. His response was to walk out of the meetings. After one such walkout, he threw his hands in the air, glanced back at the generals and admirals left in the Cabinet Room, and said, ‘These people are crazy.’”

Only one month after the terrifying Cuban Missile crisis, the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested a buildup of strategic forces to the level of a disarming first-strike capability. On November 20, 1962, they sent a memorandum to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara stating, “The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that a first-strike capability is both feasible and desirable.” Their studies showed that a first strike would kill at least 140 million Russians– but that American casualties could be kept down to a “manageable” 10 or 12 million. This is almost exactly what General Turgidson says in the movie. (“Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say, no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh… depending on the breaks.”) In September 1963, Air Force General Leon Johnson said to Kennedy, “I have concluded from the calculations that we could fight a limited war using nuclear weapons without fear that the Soviets would reply by going to all-out war.”

Kennedy understood the real but unstated objective. Knowing that the Pentagon was gaming him, he responded, “I have been told that if I ever released a nuclear weapon on the battlefield, I should start a pre-emptive attack on the Soviet Union, as the use of nuclear weapons was bound to escalate and we might as well get the advantage by going first.” Again, it’s precisely the gambit attempted by General Turgidson in the War Room regarding the “unpublished study” about the correct (i.e., murderous) response to a nuclear “accident”– a study apparently not shared with the president.

Kubrick’s mind was legendarily omnivorous and retentive. He subscribed to the "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" and had read just about every book ever written on deterrence and thermonuclear war. His imagination is so rooted in hard fact that he could intuit what was taking place behind closed doors. Lyman Lemnitzer, Curtis LeMay, Edwin Walker, Herman Kahn, Henry Kissinger, so many others– like Kennedy, Kubrick realized it was a cast of maniacs that kept the nuclear show going. Kubrick and co-screenwriter Terry Southern encapsulate that insanity in the characters of Ripper, Turgidson and Strangelove– an alliance of the psychotic, the narcissistic and the psychopathic, each bizarre in his own way, but all ultimately collaborating in a genocidal groupthink.

Good satire goes directly for the insoluble contradictions, and Kubrick hits so many of them– for instance:

    * Only those with a superhumanly developed self-restraint and sanity could be trusted to be in control of nuclear weapons – but only a madman could create and support the logic of mutual assured destruction and its associated concepts of “overkill” and “megadeath.”

    * Also: The effectiveness of nuclear deterrence depends on a hair-trigger response to attack – so a system ostensibly intended for preventing war is constantly provoking fear, creating a spiral of suspicion in which defense and aggression become indistinguishable.

   * Also: To deter, the system must be rigid and flexible at the same time, robotic and humanly controllable. An engineer will tell you that any system designed around fundamentally opposed qualities is an accident waiting to happen. It is a doomsday machine, an idiot system of world-destroying power.

   * Also: While the rhetoric is that of war avoidance- “Peace is our profession”– the underlying mentality is that of total victory over an evil enemy. So “accidents” are programmed in, as the pretext for a first strike with “acceptable” American losses. But the extent to which the possibility of a first strike is countenanced gives the lie to any ethical superiority over the other side. The system is morally bankrupt.

    * And finally: The bomb supposedly exists to protect freedom and democracy, but at moments of crisis (which in a balance of terror means every moment), we see how the system actually functions– as the ultimate expression of elitism, accepting the very real possibility of human annihilation as the cost of dominance and control. It is the apotheosis of what C. Wright Mills, writing a bit earlier, described as “crackpot realism,” the thought process of a paranoiac. The system is politically self-deconstructing, reducing itself to rubble here before our eyes, in 90 real-time minutes.

All of these contradictions are embodied in the character of Dr. Strangelove, the crippled, fragmented machine-man who hovers like a dark angel in the corner of the War Room and our consciousness. He is the ultimate accomplishment of the film: a rich and open-ended symbol– a key to understanding both an aspect of human nature and a specific moment in time. He has become a permanent part of our culture, graphically revealing the surreal, fascistic energy that permeates the inner workings of the military-industrial complex.

In the end, Strangelove walks– he regains his potency– because this Nazi technocrat has finally become the voice of authority in the putative democracy that helped defeat his first Fuhrer. He no longer needs to conceal his nature and desires. These boil down to a sadomasochistic scenario of female sexual slavery, in which the sickest members of the military-industrial patriarchy are given exclusive right to the most nubile women. It is a eugenics-inspired rape fantasy, out-Hitlering Hitler. And the gathered War Room crowd salivates over the prospect.

We realize that the narrative arc of the movie is that of coitus interruptus, which begins with Turgidson’s painfully suspended tryst with his secretary and is consummated with the final orgasm of destruction. At last, with the end of the world, the sexual suspense is broken and we can breathe; the relief is palpable. The only kind of sexual satisfaction that can exist within the mechanized and disembodied world portrayed in the film involves violence and the projection of power, which compensates for the inner emptiness and lack of feeling in a militarist wasteland.

This is the crux of Kubrick’s and Southern’s irony in Dr. Strangelove: that the higher the stakes, the greater the megatons and megadeaths wielded by these nuclear warriors, the more diminished and enfeebled and grotesque they become. A system that grants godlike powers simultaneously denies real humanity. In the end, loving the bomb means losing the soul.

Strangelove reveals the nuclear standoff as more than a political problem– it is also a symptom of self-alienation, of an imbalance between life and death, Eros and Thanatos. Underneath the antic surface– for instance, in the close-ups of General Ripper’s lined face and haunted eyes– there’s a tragic half-awareness of something terribly wrong. Something that may have to do with communists or fluoride or precious bodily fluids, or maybe something deeper that we no longer have the spiritual or emotional capability to understand or confront. The film is an attempt to regain that capability by seeing the situation as a whole, from a comically human perspective. The belly laughs that the movie elicits come from our core and bring us back into our full, social selves, away from the isolated, phobic, hyper-rationalized world of General Ripper and his compatriots.

Dr. Strangelove offers no solutions to the nuclear quandary. It just shows us where the logic of the system points, in terms of both origins and outcomes. By casting the nightmarish absurdity of the system in a comical light, he strips it of its metaphysical terror. Once we have seen Dr. Strangelove– the ghost in the war-making machine– as he is, we can begin the process of freeing ourselves from him."
Hugh Iglarsh is a Chicago-based writer, editor and film buff, who can be reached at hiiglarsh@hotmail.com.

Major Kong, from "Dr. Strangelove" 

"The Things That Hurt Us..."

"Life is painful and messed up. It gets complicated at the worst of times, and sometimes you have no idea where to go or what to do. Lots of times people just let themselves get lost, dropping into a wide open, huge abyss. But that's why we have to keep trying. We have to push through all that hurts us, work past all our memories that are haunting us. Sometimes the things that hurt us are the things that make us strongest. A life without experience, in my opinion, is no life at all. And that's why I tell everyone that, even when it hurts, never stop yourself from living."
- Alysha Speer

The Daily "Near You?"

Anacortes, Washington, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

The Poet: A.A. Milne, "Spring Morning"

"Spring Morning"

"Where am I going? I don't quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow-
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.

Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.

If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You'd sail on water as blue as air,
And you'd see me here in the fields and say:
"Doesn't the sky look green today?"

Where am I going? The high rooks call:
"It's awful fun to be born at all."
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
"We do have beautiful things to do."

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!"

Where am I going? I don't quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know."

- A.A. Milne

"So We All Ran Around..."

"So we all ran around in mad, mindless, meaningless circles, as if we were in a cotton-candy eating contest where the grand prize was getting kicked in the face. We were oblivious to everything around us that no truly sane person would ever tolerate. And we needed someone else to tell us to stop it."
- Edward M. Wolfe

"Think of Your Choices as Effects, Not Causes"

"Think of Your Choices as Effects, Not Causes" 
by David Cain

Imagine, for a moment, that you could see your own life from above, as though your home, neighborhood, and workplace were little dioramas with open roofs. Your miniature self isn’t aware you’re watching, and exhibits all the habits you do. With a kind of embarrassed concern, you watch your hapless self wake up, hit snooze a few times, then sit up and read Reddit on your phone for twenty minutes (or whatever you normally do). You watch as you interact with the world, making some good decisions and some bad ones.

You’d learn a lot about yourself just from seeing your everyday behavior from the outside. How much time you actually spend staring at electronic devices. How you’re more argumentative than you thought. How often you cut your workouts short so you can get on with lunch. How you almost never clean behind the couch.

Now imagine you could intervene in subtle ways, not by making choices for your mini-self, but by changing the surrounding environment. You could move an object in a room your mini-self will visit later, maybe putting a bag of cookies in the cupboard that would otherwise be sitting out when you get home from work. You could position a birthday card where it might remind you to call your mother. You could quietly delete Reddit from your miniature’s phone.

Over time, small changes like these might be all you need to guide your mini-self to a significantly better life. None of them give your mini-self any more resolve or willpower, but they do set up a different succession of triggers throughout each day, each of which leads to predictably healthier behaviors, and a predictably better life. 

If each of us was given even two weeks of this kind of top-down management, it would change our view of self-improvement forever. Our consistently self-defeating behaviors, and the routines and triggers that lead to them, would become obvious. Without even trying, we’d notice dozens of places we could improve our lives, even without any gains in courage, skill, integrity, or any of the other qualities we associate with lasting improvement.

Ah, when I use my phone as an alarm clock, my day starts with browsing Facebook.
When I have a great day at the gym, I tend to treat myself to junk food later.
When I go for a drink after work, even if I leave early I tend to watch bad TV all night.

After watching your mini-self stumble in the same places repeatedly, and struggle to make the simple, healthy choices you want it to make, you’d begin to see self-control differently. It would become obvious that human behavior depends much more on unconscious routines and conditioning than it does on conscious intentions or resolve.

Your attitude at 5:30pm, when you ultimately decide whether you’re going to the gym, depends on many more factors than your desire to get fit. It depends on how your workday went, the tone of your last conversation at the office, what podcast you listened to during your commute, how you slept, whether you caught Rocky on TV the other day, whether it occurred to you this week that your father died early of heart disease, and countless other factors that aren’t being given credit for their role in whether you end up skipping your workout or not.

We attribute our successes and failures to choices- good choices make for a good life- and we tend to think of choices as causes, rather than effects. But our choices have causes too. The choices we’re able to make are constrained by what’s going on in our heads at the precise moment the decision point comes up: our mood, energy level and expectations of success.

How often we can choose to do the healthy and productive things we want to do depends on our routines and lifestyles- conditions that are in place long before the decision moment arrives. Of course you usually skip the gym: given your current routine, you’re at your most worn down at 5:30pm, when the decision gets made. The conditions simply aren’t there for a gym habit. Sometimes a surge of willpower can override the weariness, but it won’t be there every day.

If we could regularly see our lives from above, we’d probably move away from a “just do it” sort of self-improvement philosophy, where we believe character and resolve are the vital (but so often missing) factors. Instead, we’d begin to see improvement as a matter working diligently on the causes of our choices, because there’s much more leverage to be found there.

Why did you skip Spanish practice Wednesday but not Tuesday? What was different? Were you cranky because you stayed up after drinking coffee too late? Did you feel rushed because you tried to get it over with before your show came on? There are clues here.

Does reading the newspaper first thing leave you feeling impatient and pessimistic- and conflicted about working on your side business? Do you tend to skip your Wednesday-night obligation half the time because it feels like an annoyance, given your overloaded Tuesdays and Thursdays?

Minor changes on this level can set up decision moments that are much more agreeable. We are capable of a lot more than we think, because we tend to mistake the limitations imposed by our routines and lifestyles as intrinsic personal limitations. (I just can’t stick to cardio routines- believe me I’ve tried.)

This is why high achievers so often have unconventional habits. Look how different many of their regimens were. Kafka did most of his writing in the middle of the night. Dickens insisted on several hours of exercise daily. Maya Angelou wrote in rented hotel rooms, not at home. Clearly these people recognized the enabling and inhibiting effects of seemingly unrelated environmental details on their abilities, and spent a lot of time experimenting with them. Their eclectic routines didn’t arise by accident.

With intimidating goals, the common wisdom is “attack the corners”. But we tend to look for those corners only in the task itself: begin the book by beginning the outline, and begin the outline by jotting down possible topics. But maybe the book’s first step is changing your bedtime, to take advantage of more clear-minded morning hours.

Our choices are products of our mental states, which are products of the details of our lives. Nothing is disconnected. Good lives do come from good choices, but good choices need fertile ground to germinate. Good self-improvement, then, resembles caring for the field more than planning the harvest. Or maybe that’s what planning a harvest really entails."