Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Musical Interlude: Deuter, “Memories Of An Angel”

Deuter, “Memories Of An Angel”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Have you ever seen the Pleiades star cluster? Perhaps the most famous star cluster on the sky, the Pleiades can be seen without binoculars from even the depths of a light-polluted city. Also known as the Seven Sisters and M45, the Pleiades is one of the brightest and closest open clusters. Hurtling through a cosmic dust cloud a mere 400 light-years away, the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster is well-known for its striking blue reflection nebulae. 
 Click image for larger size.
This remarkable wide-field (3 degree) image of the region shows the famous star cluster near the center, while highlighting lesser known dusty reflection nebulas nearby, across an area that would span over 20 light-years. In this case, the sister stars and cosmic dust clouds are not related, they just happen to be passing through the same region of space.”

The Poet: David Whyte: "In the Beginning"

"In the Beginning"
․ 
"Sometimes simplicity rises
like a blossom of fire
from the white silk of your own skin.
You were there in the beginning
you heard the story, you heard the merciless
and tender words telling you where you had to go.
Exile is never easy and the journey
itself leaves a bitter taste. But then,
when you heard that voice, you had to go.
You couldn't sit by the fire, you couldn't live
so close to the live flame of that compassion
you had to go out in the world and make it your own
so you could come back with
that flame in your voice, saying listen...
this warmth, this unbearable light, this fearful love...
It is all here, it is all here."

~ David Whyte

"True Learning..."

"Place yourself among those who carry on their lives with passion, and true learning will take place, no matter how humble or exalted the setting. But no matter what path you follow, do not be ashamed of your learning. In some corner of your life, you know more about something than anyone else on earth. The true measure of your education is not what you know, but how you share what you know with others."
- Kent Nerburn

Chris Floyd, "Broken Light: Work, for the Night is Coming"

 "Broken Light: Work, for the Night is Coming"
by Chris Floyd

"Black milk of daybreak, we drink it at evening..."
–  Paul Celan, "Deathfugue"

"The children were walking to school. The young people were going out to a dance. The children stepped on a booby trap planted by a soldier. The young people were shredded by the nails of a suicide bomb. They were all blown up, destroyed. One moment, the force of life animated their biological matter, their brains seethed with billions of electrical impulses, the matrix of consciousness brought the entire universe into being, within them, within each of them, each solitary vessel of knowing. The next moment, only the matter remained: inert, coagulated, decaying. There was no more knowing, no more being; the universe had come to an end.

Why?
"We drink it at midday and morning; we drink it at night..."

They would have us believe it is because Ishmael warred with Jacob. They would have us believe it is because this or that Divine Will requires it. They would have us believe it is because ethnicity or nationality or religion or some other arbitrary accretion of history and happenstance must override both the innumerable commonalities of all human beings and the radical, irreplaceable uniqueness of each individual.

They would have us believe anything other than the truth: that everyone and everything will die; that all nations, ethnicities, religions and structures will fall away into rubble, into nothingness, and be forgotten; that even the planet itself will be reduced to atoms and melt away, like black milk, into the cold deeps of empty space. And in the face of this truth, nothing matters ultimately but each specific, fleeting instance of individual being, the shape we give to each momentary coalescence of atomic particles into a particular human situation.

That's all we have. That's all there is. That's what we kill when we murder someone. That's what we strangle when we keep them down with our boot on their throat.
"We drink and we drink..."

Is it not time to be done with lies at last? Especially the chief lie now running through the world like a plague, putrescent and vile: that we kill each other and hate each other and drive each other into desperation and fear for any other reason but that we are animals, forms of apes, driven by blind impulses to project our dominance, to strut and bellow and hoard the best goods for ourselves. Or else to lash back at the dominant beast in convulsions of humiliated rage. Or else cravenly to serve the dominant ones, to scurry about them like slaves, picking fleas from their fur, in hopes of procuring a few crumbs for ourselves.

That's the world of power – the "real world," as its flea-picking slaves and strutting dominants like to call it. It's the ape-world, driven by hormonal secretions and chemical mechanics, the endless replication of protein reactions, the unsifted agitations of nerve tissue, issuing their ignorant commands. There's no sense or reason or higher order of thought in it – except for that perversion of consciousness called justification, self-righteousness, which gussies up the breast-beating ape with fine words and grand abstractions. And so the fine words and breast-beating goes on and on – prosperity, freedom, holiness, security, justice, glory, our people, our homeland, God's will be done, we will prevail.
"We shovel a grave in the air where you won't lie too cramped..."

Beyond the thunder and spectacle of this ape-roaring world is another state of reality, emerging from the murk of our baser functions. There is power here, too, but not the heavy, blood-sodden bulk of dominance. Instead, it's a power of radiance, of awareness, connection, breaking through in snaps of heightened perception, moments of encounter and illumination that lift us from the slime.

It takes ten million forms, could be in anything – a rustle of leaves, the tang of salt, a bending blues note, the sweep of shadows on a tin roof, the catch in a voice, the touch of a hand, a line from Sappho or John Clare. Any particular, specific combination of ever-shifting elements, always unrepeatable in its exact effect, and always momentary. Because that's all there is, that's all we have – the moments. The moments, and their momentary power – a power without the power of resistance, defenseless, provisional, unarmed, imperfect, bold. The ape-world's cycle of war and retribution stands as the image of the world of power; what can serve as the emblem of this other reality? A kiss, perhaps: given to a lover, offered to a friend, bestowed on an enemy – or pressed to the brow of a murdered child.

Both worlds are within us, of course, like two quantum states of reality, awaiting our choice to determine which will be actuated, which will define the very nature of being – individually and in the aggregate, moment by moment. This is our constant task, for as long as the universe exists in the electrics of our brains: to redeem each moment or let it fall. Some moments will be won, many more lost; there is no final victory. There is only the task.
"We drink you at morning and midday; we drink you at night..."

So do we counsel fatalism, a dark, defeated surrender, a retreat into bitter, curdled quietude? Not a whit. We advocate action, positive action, unstinting action, doing the only thing that human beings can do, ever: Try this, try that, try something else again; discard those approaches that don't work, that wreak havoc, that breed death and cruelty; fight against everything that would draw us down again into our own mud; expect no quarter, no lasting comfort, no true security; offer no last word, no eternal truth, but just keep stumbling, falling, careening, backsliding, crawling toward the broken light.

And what is this "broken light"? Nothing more than a metaphor for the patches of understanding – awareness, attention, knowledge, connection – that break through our darkness and stupidity for a moment now and then. A light always fractured, under threat, shifting, found then lost again, always lost. For we are creatures steeped in imperfection, in breakage and mutation, tossed up – very briefly – from the boiling, chaotic crucible of Being, itself a ragged work in progress toward unknown ends, or rather, toward no particular end at all. Why should there be an "answer" in such a reality?

This and this alone is the only "ideology" behind these writings, which try at all times to fight against the compelling but ignorant delusion that any single economic or political or religious system – indeed, any kind of system at all devised by the seething jumble of the human mind – can completely encompass the infinite variegations of existence. What matters is what works – what pulls us from our own darkness as far as possible, for as long as possible. Yet the truth remains that "what works" is always and forever only provisional – what works now, here, might not work there, then. What saves our soul today might make us sick tomorrow.

Thus all we can do is to keep looking, working, trying to clear a little more space for the light, to let it shine on our passions and our confusions, our anger and our hopes, informing and refining them, so that we can see each other better, for a moment – until death shutters all seeing forever.”

"The Fleeting Happiness of Life"

"The Fleeting Happiness of Life"
By Jocelyn Soriano 

"The truth is, there is no one place, however we may envy it, which would be indisputably good for us to occupy; much less for us to remain in. The zest of life, like the pleasure which we receive from a work of art, or from nature, comes from undulations –from inequalities; not from any monotony, even though it be the monotony of seeming perfection.

The beauty of the landscape depends upon contrasts, and would be lost in one common surface of splendor. The grandeur of the waves is in the deep hollows, as well as the culminating crests; and the bars of the sunset glow on the background of the twilight. The very condition of a great thing is that it must be comparatively a rare thing.

We speak of summer glories, and yet who would wish it to be always summer? – who does not see how admirably the varied seasons are fitted to our appetite for change? It may seem as if it would be pleasant to have it always sunshine; and yet when fruit and plant are dying from lack of moisture, and the earth sleeps exhausted in the torrid air, who ever saw a summer morning more beautiful than that when the clouds muster their legions to the sound of the thunder, and pour upon us the blessing of the rain? 

We repine at toil, and yet how gladly do we turn in from the lapse of recreation to the harness of effort! We sigh for the freedom and glory of the country; but, in due time, just as fresh and beautiful seem to us the brick walls the busy streets where our lot is cast, and our interests run.

There is no condition in life of which we can say exclusively “It is good for us to be here.” Our course is appointed through vicissitude,–our discipline is in alternations;  and we can build no abiding tabernacles along the way."

"The Hound In The Kennel"

"The Hound In The Kennel"
by  John James

"In my experience most of us take whatever frightens us or makes us uncomfortable and push it out of sight. This puts it into the unconscious. It does not disappear, but just lies in waiting like a faithful hound until let out. Meanwhile the conscious part can go on living as if nothing had happened. But as Carl Jung pointed out so perspicaciously, the hound keeps howling from the depth and thereby influences all that we do. So we can’t go on as before. We may try to carry on as always, but in truth everything we do is influenced by the unseen and suppressed feelings from the hound in the kennel. There being no escape, we act out this unconscious material, but pretend we are still being normal.

It is an essential aspect of growing up that we suppress who we really are in order to be accepted and loved by mum and dad. This means we actually push our real needs away in order to cope with their demands. It is as if we have sacrificed our original selves to get their love, and it leaves a trail of sorrow.

We call it Existential Grief because it’s about our very existence. It is about us being ’socialized’ by the family and school so that we forget who we truly are. This leaves an enormous grief that is too difficult to confront, and we hide it in the kennel of the unconscious, leaving the howls from the kennel to undermine our self-confidence.

In our society we use material goods and social roles to cover up the black hole of grief. By surrounding ourselves with pretty and expensive things we tell everyone else that we are really OK. This is, so I learn from my clients, the major cause of going shopping, going on buying sprees and being consumers. We have come to believe that bright new things will fill the empty spaces inside. This seems to be why we cannot really confront the devil of global warming that is being fed by every dollar we spend. For our own safety as a species we should all be consuming less and sharing more and striving to make life simple, whereas we are literally hell-bent on getting the most while we still can.

The hound sitting in the kennel of our emptiness makes it too hard for us to look at the truth and change our ways. We cannot alter the terminal path we are on, because to do so would expose our deepest fears that underneath all the tinsel and stuff we really are not worth much at all. Not even the protection we should be giving to our beautiful children is enough to move us to confront this terrifying personal fear.

A four-year analysis of the world’s ecosystems sponsored by the Worldwatch Institute found that over-consumption has pushed 15 out of 24 ecosystems essential to human life “beyond their sustainable limits”. Our insatiable desire for more is moving the planet toward a state of collapse that may be “abrupt and potentially irreversible”. Since we all know that, can we not go beyond the fear to follow David Attenborough, who said in an interview, “How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew and did nothing?”

The Daily "Near You?"

Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"The Legend Of The Thorn Bird"

“There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the price of great pain… or so says the legend."

"Do You Find it Difficult to Trust Others?"

"Do You Find it Difficult to Trust Others?"
by Jonathan

"Are you naturally trusting, or do you tend to be suspicious of other people’s motives? Have you ever been taken advantage of by someone you trusted? Do you feel that trusting others is naive? Sadly, there is no shortage of people in this world who will try to take advantage of you. How many weird emails do you get telling you that you have won a lottery, or there’s a question about your item on ebay, or that you are the beneficiary of millions of dollars from overseas someplace? What do all these messages have in common? Someone is trying to take advantage of you. Does this mean that it’s unwise to be trusting of others? Well, sometimes it is unwise, but then again, being suspicious of everyone you meet is not a very positive way to live your life. So what’s the answer?

Before we delve into answers, let’s consider how we are affected by our own attitude toward trust. As with everything else, your level of trust, or suspicion, sends a subtle message to those around you. People respond to that message in various ways, and their response will have a direct impact on your quality of life. How do you feel when you meet somebody, and right away you sense that they don’t trust you? Consider three possibilities:

1) Does it make you feel like you have to prove that you are trustworthy? That’s not a very comfortable feeling because it immediately puts you on the defensive.
2) Perhaps it causes you to jump to negative conclusions about that person, thinking, “what is their problem anyway?” In this case, you reacted with suspicion to their lack of trust. Again, not a comfortable feeling.
3) If you are someone who struggles with a lack of self confidence, how do you think it would feel to have someone who doesn’t even know you, be suspicious of you? Needless to say, it is very difficult to build self confidence with that kind of negative emotional feedback.

In all three of these examples, having someone else treat us with a lack of trust had a negative influence on our mental and emotional state. If that is how they made us feel, we need to ask ourselves… Are those the feelings I want to bring out in other people? The truth is, we don’t like it, and neither do they. 

Now, let’s look at the flip side. How does it make you feel when you first meet somebody, and you immediately sense that they are trusting toward you? It makes you feel good, right? In fact, you like that person right off, don’t you? If they make you feel good, and you like them, you are much more likely to treat them with respect in return. If you want others to treat you with trust and respect, do the same for them. In most cases, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Trusting others sets up a subconscious desire in them, to live up to your trust. Many times, that is all that is needed to help them rise to the occasion.
 
Everybody likes approval: Trust is a form of approval, and when someone else feels your approval, they will generally respond in a very positive way. Approval is one of the strongest motivators there is. People seek out approval, and will go to great lengths to gain it. If they view you as a source of approval, they will feel drawn to you without even realizing why. Making people feel good about themselves is a win-win situation.
 
Successful relationships are built on trust: The more we count someone as trustworthy, the higher they rate on our internal people-meter. Obviously, complete trust is something that must be earned. But, could we begin every relationship by giving the other person the benefit of the doubt?

Who do you like to do business with, and who are your best friends? The answer to both of those questions is directly related to who has earned your trust. When we feel that we have good reasons for trusting a company and their products, we become repeat customers. When we feel that we have legitimate reasons for trusting other people, they become our friends. Now, let me ask you this: who is the most important person in your life? Isn’t it the person that you trust above all others? Trust is a factor in all positive relationships. The greater the level of trustworthiness, the stronger the relationship.
 
Back to our opening question: In a world where some people are looking to take advantage, is it unwise to trust others? Only if you have some legitimate reason not to trust them. Keep in mind that we’re not talking about trusting somebody you just met with your newborn baby or life savings. All we are talking about here is the attitude you project toward people you meet for the first time. So use common sense and exercise caution when caution is called for. But, don’t let the spammers and scammers of this world mold your opinion of people in general. If you greet most people with trust and give them the benefit of the doubt, you will not be disappointed. Helping others to feel good about themselves will raise the quality of their life, and yours.”

Monday, September 29, 2014

"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

"How It Really Is"

"Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. 
We don't know because we don't want to know."
 - Aldous Huxley

"What's Really Destroying the American Middle Class"

    
"What's Really Destroying the American Middle Class"
By Robert Reich

"I was in Seattle, Washington, recently, to congratulate union and community organizers who helped Seattle enact the first $15 per hour minimum wage in the country. Other cities and states should follow Seattle’s example. Contrary to the dire predictions of opponents, the hike won’t cost Seattle jobs. In fact, it will put more money into the hands of low-wage workers who are likely to spend almost all of it in the vicinity. That will create jobs.

Conservatives believe the economy functions better if the rich have more money and everyone else has less. But they’re wrong. It’s just the opposite. The real job creators are not CEOs or corporations or wealthy investors. The job creators are members of America’s vast middle class and the poor, whose purchases cause businesses to expand and invest. 

America’s wealthy are richer than they’ve ever been. Big corporations are sitting on more cash they know what to do with. Corporate profits are at record levels. CEO pay continues to soar. But the wealthy aren’t investing in new companies. Between 1980 and 2014, the rate of new business formation in the United States dropped by half, according to a Brookings study released in May. Corporations aren’t expanding production or investing in research and development. Instead, they’re using their money to buy back their shares of stock. There’s no reason for them to expand or invest if customers aren’t buying. Consumer spending has grown more slowly in this recovery than in any previous one because consumers don’t have enough money to buy. 

All the economic gains have been going to the top. The Commerce Department reported last Friday that the economy grew at a 4.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter of the year. So what? The median household’s income continues to drop. Median household income is now 8 percent below what it was in 2007, adjusted for inflation. It’s 11 percent below its level in 2000.


It used to be that economic expansions improved the incomes of the bottom 90 percent more than the top 10 percent. But starting with the “Reagan” recovery of 1982 to 1990, the benefits of economic growth during expansions have gone mostly to the top 10 percent. Since the current recovery began in 2009, all economic gains have gone to the top 10 percent. The bottom 90 percent has lost ground. We’re in the first economic upturn on record in which 90 percent of Americans have become worse off.

Why did the playing field start to tilt against the middle class in the Reagan recovery, and why has it tilted further ever since? Don’t blame globalization. Other advanced nations facing the same global competition have managed to preserve middle class wages. Germany’s median wage is now higher than America’s. One factor here has been a sharp decline in union membership. In the mid 1970s, 25 percent of the private-sector workforce was unionized. Then came the Reagan revolution. By the end of the 1980s, only 17 percent of the private workforce was unionized. Today, fewer than 7 percent of the nation’s private-sector workers belong to a union. This means most workers no longer have the bargaining power to get a share of the gains from growth.

Another structural change is the drop in the minimum wage. In 1979, it was $9.67 an hour (in 2013 dollars). By 1990, it had declined to $6.84. Today it’s $7.25, well below where it was in 1979. Given that workers are far more productive now – computers have even increased the output of retail and fast food workers — the minimum wage should be even higher.

By setting a floor on wages, a higher minimum helps push up other wages. It undergirds higher median household incomes. The only way to grow the economy in a way that benefits the bottom 90 percent is to change the structure of the economy. At the least, this requires stronger unions and a higher minimum wage. It also requires better schools for the children of the bottom 90 percent, better access to higher education, and a more progressive tax system.

GDP growth is less and less relevant to the wellbeing of most Americans. We should be paying less attention to growth and more to median household income. If the median household’s income is is heading upward, the economy is in good shape. If it’s heading downward, as it’s been for this entire recovery, we’re all in deep trouble.”

Related:
“Americans Have No Idea How Bad Inequality Really Is”
- http://www.slate.com/

“How the Rich Conquered the Economy, in One Chart”
- http://www.slate.com/

“20 Facts About The Great U.S. Retail Apocalypse That Will Blow Your Mind”

“U.S. Aggression - Will Russia and China Hold Their Fire?”

“U.S. Aggression- 
Will Russia and China Hold Their Fire?”
by Paul Craig Roberts

“Obama’s September 24 speech at the UN is the most absurd thing I have heard in my entire life. It is absolutely amazing that the president of the United States would stand before the entire world and tell what everyone knows are blatant lies while simultaneously demonstrating Washington’s double standards and belief that Washington alone, because the US is exceptional and indispensable, has the right to violate all law. It is even more amazing that every person present did not get up and walk out of the assembly. The diplomats of the world actually sat there and listened to blatant lies from the world’s worst terrorist. They even clapped their approval.

The rest of the speech was just utter bullshit: “We stand at a crossroads,” “signposts of progress,” “reduced chance of war between major powers,” “hundreds of millions lifted from poverty,” and while ebola ravages Africa “we’ve learned how to cure disease and harness the power of the wind and the sun.” We are now God. “We” is comprised of the “exceptional people”–Americans. No one else counts. “We” are it.

It is impossible to pick the most absurd statement in Obama’s speech or the most outrageous lie. Is it this one? “Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition.”

Or is it this one? “After the people of Ukraine mobilized popular protests and calls for reform, their corrupt president fled. Against the will of the government in Kiev, Crimea was annexed. Russia poured arms into eastern Ukraine, fueling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands. When a civilian airliner was shot down from areas that these proxies controlled, they refused to allow access to the crash for days. When Ukraine started to reassert control over its territory, Russia gave up the pretense of merely supporting the separatists, and moved troops across the border.”

The entire world knows that Washington overthrew the elected Ukrainian government, that Washington refuses to release its satellite photos of the destruction of the Malaysian airliner, that Ukraine refuses to release its air traffic control instructions to the airliner, that Washington has prevented a real investigation of the airliner’s destruction, that European experts on the scene have testified that both sides of the airliner’s cockpit demonstrate machine gun fire, an indication that the airliner was shot down by the Ukrainian jets that were following it. Indeed, there has been no explanation why Ukrainian jets were close on the heels of an airliner directed by Ukrainian air traffic control.

The entire world knows that if Russia had territorial ambitions, when the Russian military defeated the American trained and supplied Georgian army that attacked South Ossetia, Russia would have kept Georgia and reincorporated it within Russia where it resided for centuries.

Notice that it is not aggression when Washington bombs and invades seven countries in 13 years without a declaration of war. Aggression occurs when Russia accepts the petition of Crimeans who voted 97 percent in favor of reuniting with Russia where Crimea resided for centuries before Khrushchev attached it to the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine in 1954 when Ukraine and Russia were part of the same country.

And the entire world knows that, as the separatist leader of the Donetsk Republic said, “If Russian military units were fighting with us, the news would not be the fall of Mariupol but the fall of Kiev and Lviv.”

Which is “the cancer of violent extremism”–ISIS which cut off the heads of four journalists, or Washington which has bombed seven countries in the 21st century murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians and displacing millions?

Who is the worst terrorist– ISIS, a group that is redrawing the artificial boundaries created by British and French colonialists, or Washington with its Wolfowitz Doctrine, the basis of US foreign policy, which declares Washington’s dominant objective to be US hegemony over the world?

ISIS is the creation of Washington. ISIS consists of the jihadists Washington used to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya and then sent to Syria to overthrow Assad. If ISIS is a “network of death,” a “brand of evil” with which negotiation is impossible as Obama declares, it is a network of death created by the Obama regime itself. If ISIS poses the threat that Obama claims, how can the regime that created the threat be credible in leading the fight against it?

Obama never mentioned in his speech the central problem that the world faces. That problem is Washington’s inability to accept the existence of strong independent countries such as Russia and China. The neoconservative Wolfowitz Doctrine commits the United States to maintaining its status as the sole Unipower. This task requires Washington “to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.” A “hostile power” is any country that has sufficient power or influence to be able to limit Washington’s exercise of power.

The Wolfowitz Doctrine explicitly targets Russia: “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere.” A “rival” is defined as any country capable of defending its interests or those of allies against Washington’s hegemony.

In his speech, Obama told Russia and China that they can be part of Washington’s world order on the condition that they accept Washington’s hegemony and do not interfere in any way with Washington’s control. When Obama tells Russia that the US will cooperate with Russia “if Russia changes course,” Obama means that Moscow must accept the primacy of Washington’s interest over Russia’s own interest. Clearly, this is an inflexible and unrealistic position. If Washington keeps to it, war with Russia and China will ensue.

Obama told China that Washington intended to continue to be a Pacific power in China’s sphere of influence, “promoting peace, stability, and the free flow of commerce among nations” by building new US air and naval bases from the Philippines to Vietnam so that Washington can control the flow of resources in the South China Sea and cut off China at will.

As far as I can tell, neither the Russian nor Chinese governments understand the seriousness of the threat that Washington represents. Washington’s claim to world hegemony seems too farfetched to Russia and China to be real. But it is very real. By refusing to take the threat seriously, Russia and China have not responded in ways that would bring an end to the threat without the necessity of war.

For example, the Russian government could most likely destroy NATO by responding to sanctions imposed by Washington and the EU by informing European governments that Russia does not sell natural gas to members of NATO. Instead of using this power, Russia has foolishly allowed the EU to accumulate record amounts of stored natural gas to see homes and industry through the coming winter. Has Russia sold out its national interests for money?

Much of Washington’s power and financial hegemony rests on the role of the US dollar as world reserve currency. Russia and China have been slow, even negligent from the standpoint of defending their sovereignty, to take advantage of opportunities to undermine this pillar of Washington’s power. For example, the BRICS’ talk of abandoning the dollar payments system has been more talk than action. Russia doesn’t even require Washington’s European puppet states to pay for Russian natural gas in rubles.

One might think that a country such as Russia experiencing such extreme hostility and demonization from the West would at least use the gas sales to support its own currency instead of Washington’s dollar. If the Russian government is going to continue to support the economies of European countries hostile to Russia and to prevent the European peoples from freezing during the coming winter, shouldn’t Russia in exchange for this extraordinary subsidy to its enemies at least arrange to support its own currency by demanding payment in rubles? Unfortunately for Russia, Russia is infected with Western trained neoliberal economists who represent Western, not Russian, interests.

When the West sees such extraordinary weakness on the part of the Russian government, Obama knows he can go to the UN and tell the most blatant lies about Russia with no cost whatsoever to the US or Europe. Russian inaction subsidizes Russia’s demonization.

China has been no more successful than Russia in using its opportunities to destabilize Washington. For example, it is a known fact, as Dave Kranzler and I have repeatedly demonstrated, that the Federal Reserve uses its bullion bank agents to knock down the gold price in order to protect the dollar’s value from the Federal Reserve’s policies. The method used is for the bullion banks to drive down the gold price with enormous amounts of naked shorts during periods of low or nonexistent volume.

China or Russia or both could take advantage of this tactic by purchasing every naked short sold plus all covered shorts, if any, and demanding delivery instead of settling the contracts in cash. Neither New York Comex nor the London market could make delivery, and the system would implode. The consequence of the failure to deliver possibly could be catastrophic for the Western financial system, but in the least it would demonstrate the corrupt nature of Western financial institutions.

Or China could deal a more lethal blow. Choosing a time of heightened concern or disruptions in US financial markets, China could dump its trillion dollar plus holdings of US treasuries, or indeed all its holdings of US financial instruments, on the market. The Federal Reserve and the US Treasury could try to stabilize the prices of US financial instruments by creating money with which to purchase the bonds and other instruments. This money creation would increase concern about the dollar’s value, and at that point China could dump the trillion dollars plus it receives from its bond sales on the exchange market. The Federal Reserve cannot print foreign currencies with which to buy up the dollars. The dollar’s exchange value would collapse and with it the dollar’s use as world reserve currency. The US would become just another broke country unable to pay for its imports.

Possibly, Washington could get Japan and the European Central Bank to print enough yen and euros to buy up the dumped dollars. However, the likelihood is that this would bring down the yen and euro along with the dollar. Flight would occur into the Chinese and Russian currencies, and financial hegemony would depart the West.

By their restraint, Russia and China enable Washington’s attack upon them. Last week Washington put thousands of its NGO operatives into the Moscow streets protesting “Putin’s war against Ukraine.” Foolishly, Russia has permitted foreign interests to buy up its newspapers, and these interests continually denounce Putin and the Russian government to their Russian readers. Did Russia sell its soul and communication system for dollars? Did a few oligarchs sell out Russia for Swiss and London bank deposits?

Both Russia and China have Muslim populations among whom the CIA operates encouraging disassociation, rebellion, and violence. Washington intends to break up the Russian Federation into smaller, weaker countries that could not stand in the way of Washington’s hegemony. Russian and Chinese fear of discord among their own Muslim populations have caused both governments to make the extremely serious strategic mistake of aligning with Washington against ISIS and with Washington’s policy of protecting Washington’s status quo in the Muslim world.

If Russia and China understood the deadly threat that Washington presents, both governments would operate according to the time honored principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Russia and China would arm ISIS with surface to air missiles to bring down the American planes and with military intelligence in order to achieve an American defeat. With defeat would come the overthrow of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and all of the American puppet rulers in the area. Washington would lose control over oil, and the petro-dollar would be history. It is extraordinary that instead Russia and China are working to protect Washington’s control over the Middle East and the petro-dollar.

China is subject to a variety of attacks. The Rockefeller Foundation creates American agents in Chinese universities, or so I am informed by Chinese academics. American companies that locate in China create Chinese boards on which they place the relatives of local and regional party officials. This shifts loyalty from the central government to the American money. Moreover, China has many economists educated in the US who are imbued with the neoliberal economics that represents Washington’s interests.

Both Russia and China have significant percentages of their populations who wish to be western. The failure of communism in both countries and the success of American cold war propaganda have created loyalties to America in place of their own governments. In Russia they go by the designation “Atlanticist Integrationists.” They are Russians who wish to be integrated into the West. I know less about the Chinese counterpart, but among youth Western materialism and lack of sexual restraint is appealing.

The inability of the Russian and Chinese governments to come to terms with the threat posed to their existence as sovereign countries by the neoconservative insistence on American world hegemony makes nuclear war more likely. If Russia and China catch on too late in the game, their only alternative will be war or submission to Washington’s hegemony. As there is no possibility of the US and NATO invading and occupying Russia and China, the war would be nuclear.

To avoid this war, which, as so many experts have shown, would terminate life on earth, the Russian and Chinese governments must soon become far more realistic in their assessment of the evil that resides in what Washington has turned into the world’s worst terrorist state–the US.

It is possible that Russia, China, and the rest of the world will be saved by American economic collapse. The US economy is a house of cards. Real median family incomes are in long-term decline. Universities produce graduates with degrees and heavy debts but no jobs. The bond market is rigged by the Federal Reserve which necessitates rigging the bullion markets in order to protect the dollar. The stock market is rigged by the outpouring of money from the Federal Reserve, by the Plunge Protection Team, and by corporations repurchasing their own stock. The dollar is supported by tradition, habit, and currency swaps.

The American House of Cards continues to stand only as a result of the tolerance of the world for vast corruption and disinformation and because greed is satisfied by the money made from a rigged system. Russia and/or China could pull down this House of Cards whenever either country or both had leadership capable of it.”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Musical Interlude: Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"

Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"

"My Purpose..."

“The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars...”

~ from “Ulysses,” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"A Look to the Heavens"

"What surrounds the florid Rosette nebula? To better picture this area of the sky, the famous flowery emission nebula on the far right has been captured recently in a deep and dramatic wide field image that features several other sky highlights. Designated NGC 2237, the center of the Rosette nebula is populated by the bright blue stars of open cluster NGC 2244, whose winds and energetic light are evacuating the nebula's center. Below the famous flower, a symbol of Valentine's Day, is a column of dust and gas that appears like a rose's stem but extends hundreds of light years.
 Click image for larger size.
Across the above image, the bright blue star just left and below the center is called S Monocerotis. The star is part of the open cluster of stars labelled NGC 2264 and known as the Snowflake cluster. To the right of S Mon is a dark pointy featured called the Cone nebula, a nebula likely shaped by winds flowing out a massive star obscured by dust. To the left of S Mon is the Fox Fur nebula, a tumultuous region created by the rapidly evolving Snowflake cluster. The Rosette region, at about 5,000 light years distant, is about twice as far away as the region surrounding S Mon. The entire field can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros)."

Chet Raymo, "The Avid Pursuer"

"The Avid Pursuer"
by Chet Raymo

"In his autobiography, "Speak Memory," the novelist and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov writes of the joys of butterfly collecting: "The highest enjoyment of timelessness...is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude..." The possibility of learning more and more about butterflies - those tiny truths - drew Nabokov, the avid pursuer, ever deeper into the world of the senses, through layer upon layer of concrete details, receding into inexhaustible mystery. This, it has always seemed to me, is the proper trajectory of a life: from the concrete to the ineffable, from the particular to the universal. The opposite trajectory is fraught with idolatry and self-deception. Begin with answers, as many of us do, and the commonplace becomes shallow, shabby, and uninteresting. But begin with a mourning cloak butterfly resurrected from its winter sleep, flagging its magnificent wings of purple velvet trimmed with gold, and maybe - just maybe - one might catch an intimation of the Mystery that shines in the face of creation.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life," wrote Thoreau famously in Walden. The trick, of course, is knowing what is essential. What was essential for Thoreau - the pond, the bean patch, the sounds of night - might not be essential for, say, the ballerina, or the contemplative monk, or the doctor in Darfur. It is what Thoreau said next that unites us all, the medieval mystic and the hermit of Walden: "I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms."

To live deliberately. The word has at its root the Latin libra, a balance or scales, as in the zodiacal sign. A scientific instrument. To weigh, to measure, to trust only what can be reliably, reproducibly, quantitatively discerned by the senses. To shave close. To cut away the phantasmagoria of superstition that has accumulated culturally over millennia, and to find those things that have a universal empirical basis, the things that bind me in a respectful unity with those who have been born into different cultures and traditions. Drive life into a corner and reduce it to its lowest terms, said Thoreau. Sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touches. Food, clothing, shelter. Sex. The need to give and receive love. Altruism. Curiosity. Awareness of mystery. Awareness of how little we really know and understand.

The avid pursuit, the universal human pursuit, the pursuit that impassioned the medieval mystics and that impassions the scientific skeptic too, is the quest for what critic Edmund Gosse called "all the tender, indulgent affections, all the genial play of life, all the exquisite pleasures and soft resignations of the body, all that enlarges and calms the soul."

"A Perpetual Illusion..."

"Human life is thus only a perpetual illusion; men deceive and flatter each other. No one speaks of us in our presence as he does of us in our absence. Human society is founded on mutual deceit; few friendships would endure if each knew what his friend said of him in his absence, although he then spoke in sincerity and without passion. Man is then only disguise, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in himself and in regard to others. He does not wish any one to tell him the truth; he avoids telling it to others, and all these dispositions, so removed from justice and reason, have a natural root in his heart."
- Blaise Pascal

"Honoring Life Changes: The Wisdom of Fear"

"Honoring Life Changes: The Wisdom of Fear"
by The DailyOm

"Anything really worth doing in our lives will always have some fear attached to it. Anything worth doing will always have some fear attached to it. For example, having a baby, getting married, changing careers—all of these life changes can bring up deep fears. It helps to remember that this type of fear is good. It is your way of questioning whether you really want the new life these changes will bring. It is also a potent reminder that releasing and grieving the past is a necessary part of moving into the new.

Fear has a way of throwing us off balance, making us feel uncertain and insecure, but it is not meant to discourage us. Its purpose is to notify us that we are at the edge of our comfort zone, poised in between the old life and a new one. Whenever we face our fear, we overcome an inner obstacle and move into new and life-enhancing territory, both inside and out. The more we learn to respect and even welcome fear, the more we will be able to hear its wisdom, wisdom that will let us know that the time has come to move forward, or not. While comfort with fear is a contradiction in terms, we can learn to honor our fear, recognizing its arrival, listening to its intelligence, and respecting it as a harbinger of transformation. Indeed, it informs us that the change we are contemplating is significant, enabling us to approach it with the proper reverence.

You might wish to converse with your fear, plumbing its depths for a greater understanding of the change you are making. You could do this by sitting quietly in meditation and listening or by journaling. Writing down whatever comes up—your worries, your sadness, your excitement, your hopes—is a great way to learn about yourself through the vehicle of fear and to remember that fear almost always comes alongside anything worth doing in your life."

"We're All Mad Here..."

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat, "We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here." - Lewis Carroll, “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland”
True, true, lol... - CP

The Poet: Robert Bly, "Things to Think"

"Things to Think"

"Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door,
Think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time,
Or that it's been decided that if you lie down no one will die."

- Robert Bly, “Morning Poems”

"A Riddle..."

 "A Riddle..."

“This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins towns,
And beats high mountain down.”

- One of Gollum’s riddles for Bilbo in
“The Hobbit,” by JRR Tolkein.
Answer:
Time

The Daily "Near You?"

Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Thanks for stopping by.

"Essential Books For Surviving In A Post-Disaster World"

"Essential Books For Surviving In A Post-Disaster World"
by George Ure and Gaye Levy

"We are not suggesting it will happen, but suppose something goes terribly wrong and there is a major terrorist attack in a big city.  If this happened, there would be a tremendous ripple effect going forward in time for the entire country. Perhaps because of a recent death (Whitney) but one such city comes to mind: Houston.

The Nightmare Scenario: Let us imagine a national nightmare moment.  One of our nuclear weapons is missing from the national inventory.  (And don’t kid yourself: there could be hundreds missing worldwide.  Some left over from the Cold War like the one-man munitions, and others from things like improperly secured Russian MIRV warheads.  Remember the movie “The Peacemaker”?) Let us further suppose that America’s enemies are smart enough to be able to read maps and that they notice that there is quite a concentration of oil refineries in the Houston area.  And not just with the Houston/Baytown capacity, but also downwind 70 miles in Port Arthur and Beaumont where there would likely be fallout from a nuclear device. And, finally, just suppose that forces which want to destroy America have set off such a device in the Houston area. When that happens, our key energy refinery center is destroyed.

Now we do not think such a predicable plot alone would be allowed by the Powers That Be, although certain rituals such as a halftime event, and the death of a major pop star, would certainly press speculation in the illuminist’s direction (fool us once).  But to get back on track, our point today is to consider what happens to knowledge if and when such a dastardly deed is done.

The Lifestyle Fallout: Yes, it would be awful.  But yes, America would eventually recuperate.  But getting through the period that would follow such a nightmarish event most assuredly would not not be fun for anyone. To begin with, some of that refined Texas product is diesel which goes up the Mississippi and fuels America’s breadbasket. Other products go through distribution pipelines which take product north – sometimes as diesel and other times as gasoline, jet fuel, or whatever the cracking mix of the season might be.

Except this one. Besides the nuclear fallout, there would be huge lifestyle fallout.  That’s right:  a Lifestyle Fallout.  Consider this: A check of LaPorte Municipal, with its dual runways and a check of meteorological reports suggests that an east-to-west wind is possible this time of year; so an attack on Port Arthur or Beaumont could send debris and fallout over Houston. Can you imagine the disruption?  Regional telephone, energy, and shipping suddenly unworkable at what would be a heavy time of year getting product up north?

If an unlikely event of this type were to occur, there are lots of strategic angles to launch off on, but the one which is front and center on our table today is sorting out what kind of “portable knowledge” you’d want to have around to pass on to the kids and to share with fellow survivors. Being the industrious sort, we started looking into this since the lifestyle fallout and portable knowledge issue is part and parcel of getting very serious about our prepping.  Gaye in Washington State, and George in Eastern Texas – makes no matter since the concept of a coming “game-changer” seems foremost in our thoughts.  That, plus the fact we are both downwind for some major refineries. So with the game-changer mentality circling the Net, there comes a boom in the sale of all kinds of prepping goods. This includes stored foods, water filters, firearms and all the rest.

The Black Hole of Knowledge: What we’re not too sure of is the matter of post-“whatever”  knowledge engineering.  And while we appreciate that it is hard to imagine the worst of worst-cases,  it seems to us that a limited number of books, no more than a half-dozen or so, should be selected to ensure that if (when?) the grid goes down, you will at least have books in hand which solve the “portable knowledge” problem. Why?  Because in a post-disaster world, there is not likely to be any Internet access, nor might there be supplies of this and that from China and India, where a huge fraction of American consumer goods come from.  We will be on our own and will need to make do with what we have in our brains and on our shelves. So let’s pick out some books.

Four Books and One Freebie: Our first pick is the Thomas Glover and Richard Young’s book "Desk Ref" (hardcover, $27) which although 1,268 pages in length, is a tremendous resource.  Oh, sure, the section on first-aid is not there, nor are recipes for building nuclear shelters, or when to plant crops.  Those kinds of things are missing. On the other hand, drafting symbols, chemical details, basic electronics including color codes for components and so forth, are there in abundance.

The second most important book would be an EMT training book like the ($82) paperback version of "Emergency Care" (edition or later) because it will at least give you a fighting chance at keeping someone alive. If you don’t have the latest in EMT training, at least be aware that as of 2010, the American Heart Association’s cardiopulmonary steps were rearranged from A-B-C (airway, breathing, chest compression) to C-A-B (chest compressions, airway, breathing).  You can find the latest version here for free.

The next piece of pass-on learning would no doubt involve food.  It is hard to beat something like John Jeavon’s "How to Grow More Vegetables" or, for smaller areas, Gaye’s favorite: Mel Bartholomew’s "All New Square Foot Gardening."

You will notice that we’ve moved any concern about radiation way down our list of books, but somewhere in your travels, a copy of Cresson Kearney’s classic "Nuclear War Survival Skills" handles the lowdown on everything from improvised clothing and protection to how to arrange logs to withstand a 53-pound over-pressure blast zone. By the way, humans can handle about 5 pounds of overpressure.  That is when eardrums break and there is other long-lasting damage (such as death).  The main numbers are 2 PSIm which is like getting hit with an instant 70 MPH wind, while 5 PSI overpressure is like walking into a 163-mile-an-hour wind.  No fooling – you would probably get hurt.

Four books.  Not an altogether bad little collection.  With these four books you get tons of information.  They are not excessively bulky and are mostly readable.  But are there some other books which maybe have served previous generations?

Additional Books for Extra Credit: Now we have to sit back and do a little visioning of the world in the future. Will there be a shortage of food? If so, then we’d want to have a copy of "The Forager’s Harvest," except that won’t get us around problems like our (hypothetical) chemical or nuclear disaster down in Houston.  We know food will be at a premium if terror ever struck there, however, so this one is a must-read.

Fed, watered, well-read, what’s the next problem?  People will hate you, so toss both the "SAS Survival Handbook" and the companion "SAS Urban Survival Handbook" (no relation to George’s Urban Survival, but thanks for asking.  He actually coined the term in 1997 FYI). For getting around, we might add the "The SAS Guide to Tracking," and, next to that, the more digestible "Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass."

Given something bad happening, or even on a bad weekend in the Big City, these books would really help someone get along.  But what if something really off-the-wall and not covered in other prepping books pops up?

Oh, you mean like getting control of a runaway hot air balloon?  Or how to survive a 16-car freeway accident when everyone is freaking out?  Got just the ticket here: "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Extreme Edition."  Now, we hope you never have to use the “how to take a bullet” advice, or how to endure a Turkish prison, but such things do make for interesting and amusing reading.

Cripes, these books are breaking my back! With a pretty solid little library, it is going to start to get a little heavy to carry your portable knowledge long distances – especially if it boils down to a choice between water and food (our pun writers are working overtime) or knowledge.  What we now have to figure out is how to put this knowledge somewhere so we can come back to it later on and share it, if we are so inclined.

Ideally, before nuclear war, false flags, or whatever other nefarious event breaks out, we think it would be convenient to have a lot of this knowledge on hand.  That way some of it will be carried around in our heads instead of on our person. This is especially true as it relates to your health and the medicines you take.  For example, if have asthma and use Qvar, and don’t know that it’s actually “beclometasone dipropionate”, then you need to get hitting the books.  Information like the name of prescription drugs, along with memorizing the top drug interactions with your meds is about the most basic kind of information critical to staying alive that there is.

Here’s the problem that our “winking out” scenario poses:  Right now, the handy pharmacy dude/dudette/babe/or stud down at the Wal-Mart or Walgreen’s runs a computer check of your meds with all the dangerous combinations, and when they come in, they give you review of the risks.  They even make you sign a paper saying you “get it” and everyone’s doctors and lawyers are happy. Now, what happens if there is NO internet and NO cloud and all those survival eBooks you had been collecting just bit the dust?   If they are your on computer they are toast, since printers and all other electronic devices have an ugly dependency on electricity.  When you think about it, sure, there are lots of books which fit well onto the new Kindle Fire and are perfectly suitable for modern times... when the power is on.

But let us not forget that in the old days (five years ago) books, not computers and not gizmos, were where people gleaned their knowledge.  Turn off the power, turn off the food supply, turn off the lights, have people walking off the job because they are not getting paid - and suddenly books, pencils, pens, paper, and all those old-fashioned things (physical calendars, astronomical books, old farmerly stuff) begin to make sense.  Yep, all of it.

So where does this discussion lead?  Down to a couple of simple questions:

    * Do you have a go-forward plan to preserve critical knowledge and be able to pass it on to another human should you be incapacitated?
    * Is your collection of portable knowledge something you could put in a Tupperware box with a couple of garbage bags around it, and bury it three feet deep so you could come back and get it later?
    * If you emptied your pockets right now would you have:

               -A pocket knife?
               -A flashlight?
               -A lighter or flint & steel?
               -A paracord bracelet on your arm?

Each of these things is a marvelous if not downright amazing survival tool in the right hands.  But are those your hands, or someone else’s hands?

Getting Back to the Portable Knowledge: If you know how to read, you can learn how to become a much more competent human being.  Sure, if you’re within the fireball area of a 1 MT blast, you’re a goner.  But 80 miles away? You may have a lot of reading time on your hands, because there won’t be any television; the sources of food and water will be sketchy...  and on goes the list. Worse than a 1MT bomb? A derivatives blow-up could do almost the same thing, minus the fallout.

We live in a period where prepping – which we’ve been talking and writing about – has suddenly become mainstream.  And with the odds of a major dust-up in the Middle East, we hear that Geiger counter sales have gone up 30% in the past two months.  Clearly, we do not see the need for prepping to diminish any time soon.

If you don’t have the means to “get around the country” unimpeded, it’s past time to get a set of hiking boots and commit a whole lot of information to memory.  Then figure out which one, or two, of your survival books will do you the most good on the trail.  Or, worst case, figure out in advance which pages from which books you will want with you.  Foraging, first aid, radiation, engineering water flows, pulleys – just what is it that you want in your portable knowledge cache? And remember:  If it has a battery, it’s already gone and the knowledge will have to be learned once again through another cycle of humans.  Take this with a big sign and an even bigger “oh well”.

This might be a good time for a quick refresher course on what the immediate impacts of nuclear weapons are, of the sort speculated as being in the wings for the Middle East.  Need we mention that global escalation is one of the possible outcomes?  And though we reference Houston, an attack could happen anywhere. Our crystal ball is telling us it is time to build a portable library of knowledge. Hang on and enjoy the ride..."