Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Musical Interlude: Liquid Mind, "Velvet Morning"

Liquid Mind, "Velvet Morning"
Liquid Mind ® is the name used by Los Angeles composer and producer
 Chuck Wild of the best-selling Liquid Mind relaxation music albums.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp3BuiupOrc&feature=related

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is truly a majestic island universe some 200,000 light-years across. Located a mere 60 million light-years away toward the chemical constellation Fornax, NGC 1365 is a dominant member of the well-studied Fornax galaxy cluster. 
 Click image for larger size.
This impressively sharp color image shows intense star forming regions at the ends of the bar and along the spiral arms, and details of dust lanes cutting across the galaxy's bright core. At the core lies a supermassive black hole. Astronomers think NGC 1365's prominent bar plays a crucial role in the galaxy's evolution, drawing gas and dust into a star-forming maelstrom and ultimately feeding material into the central black hole.”

"The More I See Of Man..."


"The more I see of Man, the more I like dogs."
 - Madame de Stael

Chet Raymo, “Chimps And Cosmologists”

“Chimps And Cosmologists”
by Chet Raymo

“Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and president of the Royal Society in Britain, caused something of a flap by suggesting that humans may never be able to understand the universe. "Some aspects of reality may elude us simply because they're beyond human brains, just as surely as Einstein's ideas would baffle a chimpanzee," he said. Einstein used existing mathematics to develop general relativity, describing how gravity controls the universe on the largest scale. Dirac also used "off-the-shelf" mathematics when devising quantum theory, which describes nature on the subatomic level. After decades of trying, physicists have not been able to unify the two theories, maybe because the mathematical tools to do so are beyond our comprehension, said Rees. So too, understanding our own consciousness and self-awareness may require grasping aspects or dimensions of the universe where the human brain is not equipped to go.

Of course, Rees may be right. The universe may exist on scales and in dimensions that will forever elude us. Our brains are finite; the universe may be infinite. But I wouldn't be too quick to shut the door of progress. History suggests that every generation has had its "dream of a final theory," only to have the next generation take us to a new level of understanding. Yes, our brains are finite, but the future will almost certainly see artificial brains- not necessarily silicon based- vastly superior to our own.

So yes, complete understanding of the universe, or even a complete inventory of what exists, may be ultimately beyond us, which is why it is so silly to base arguments for or against the existence of God on the scientific theory de jour. But I would also suppose that a hundred years or two hundred years from now, our descendants will look back on the science of today with as much condescension as we look back at the science of the medieval university- or the cosmological thought of chimpanzees.”

Crowfoot, "What Is Life"

"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."

- Crowfoot, 
Blackfoot warrior and orator, 1830-1890

"A Few Questions to Ask"

"A Few Questions to Ask"
By Eric Peters

"Debating the merits of  a particular government policy or proposal with authoritarian-minded political opponents is pointless– if you’re hoping to persuade, at any rate. Far better to ask them a few apparently simple questions– and force them to confront the disquieting answers about the authoritarian nature of the political and social system they support.

For instance, you might ask what their view of slavery is. Is it morally wrong to own another human being? Probably, they will say it is wrong. Now ask: What does it mean to be a slave? Usually, they will tell you it means being the property of another. Now ask the killer follow-up: What does it mean to be the property of another? Point out that it means having control over another person’s life– control of his actual person, his body. His mind, even. To be in a position– to be entitled– to use violence to enforce compliance.

A slave is not at liberty to act as he wishes to act. He must do as he is told– and if he does not, he can expect physical punishment and that punishment will not be considered assault. The slave must accept his punishment. There is no appeal, no recourse. He must bow low and submit– or risk the repercussions, which ultimately include death. His only hope is escape.

The slave, most obviously, owns nothing– because he controls nothing. He may be allowed to use things. But the owner of these things– himself included – is someone else. Someone else gets to say yes– or no. When– and where. How– and how much. The slave has no real say– in that he is never in a position to say no. Not without consequences raining down upon him. He merely obeys. Because he must obey.

The fact that his hands may hold the scythe does not mean the scythe is his. The fact that the effort of his body cuts the wheat does not mean the wheat is his. He is permitted to keep a portion. In principle, because in fact, the slave owns nothing that may not be taken away from him. At any time, for any reason. And he is powerless to do anything about it. The slave’s dwelling, the clothes he wears– even his very body– are subject to arbitrary control against his will by another person or persons. This is the essence of what it means to be a slave.

Be sure your opponent accepts these points– which he must accept, because to not accept them is not unlike refusing to accept that 2 + 2= four. Now ask him whether he (or anyone else he knows) is free to determine the course of his own life. Or do others set down terms and conditions which he must obey? Is he free to do business with whomever he chooses to do business? Or is he told exactly with whom he must do business– and under what conditions?

May he travel freely? Or is he required to travel with permission– and only under certain conditions? Must he carry ownership papers with him wherever he goes? And is it not true that if he is caught without these papers, he is subject to arrest and imprisonment for that reason alone? Is he free to raise his children as he considers best? To teach them as he sees fit? Or must he teach them things others decree he must teach them?

Is he even free to choose whom to marry? Or must he submit to the authority of others in even this most personal of life’s choices? Is he free to defend himself when accosted by strangers? Or must he submit to these strangers, if they wear a certain type of outfit? (Did not the overseer also wear a certain type of outfit?)

May he own things? More precisely, is he permitted other than conditional use of things? For instance, that which he may think of as “his” home. If it is in fact “his,” then surely that means no one else has legal claim to it and cannot take it away from him once he has paid the original seller in full. Ask him about the large payments he must make to others every year, forever, in order to be allowed to remain on “his” property. Remind him that plantation slaves also had homes– in the sense that they were allowed conditional use of dwellings. Dwellings ultimately owned by someone else. The slaves were permitted to use these dwellings so long as their labor provided enough return to the true owners of the dwelling. A slave who refused to work– who declined to make payments in the form of his labor then (and tax payments now) would soon discover who the true owner of “his” dwelling really was.

Just as today.

Ask whether he is compelled to give up whatever portion of the fruits of his labors others decide they are entitled to– and how this differs from the slave in the field being forced to pick cotton for the benefit of others. Ask him what he thinks will happen if he declines to hand over the fruits of his labor. Ask whether he is at liberty to do as he wills even with his own poor body. May he freely choose to treat his body’s ailments as he sees fit? Or will he be chained and jailed if he treats himself in other than the “lawful” manner?Ask whether he knows that he may be forcibly taken from his home if he declines to be “treated” in the manner prescribed by others.

Who, then, owns his body? His very person? If I have the power to compel you to do– or not do– then is it not a fact that to some degree at least, I am your owner?And in that case, are you not a slave? The control need not be vicious or even mean. The owner of a beloved dog is no less the owner of the animal by dint of the fact that he treats it kindly and tends to its needs. The dog is not at liberty to come and go as it pleases. It is allowed to use certain items– an old sofa, for example– and not other things. It does not own anything. It is owned. Neither did the plantation slave own anything. And many had benevolent masters– for example, Thomas Jefferson– who tried to treat them with kindness, as they saw it. Who saw themselves as  parents of subnormal adult children in need of guidance – and restraint. This benevolent treatment, however, in no way made the slaves other than slaves.

Behind the gentle guiding hand, always the whip. As it is today– with the exception that today’s slaves are unaware of their condition and imagine themselves to be free. Its subtlety is its genius. Instead of individual plantations, there is one consolidated plantation called “our country.” But we are owned nonetheless.

It is immaterial that we are not normally chained… if the chains may be put on at the first hint of disobedience.  That we are allowed use of more (and nicer) things than the slaves of the past does not in any way change the fact that they are just as owned (because just as controlled) by someone else – and may be taken away at any moment, if the true owners so choose. Our cotton fields are the cubicles of the modern office; our overseers called by different names. But their job is what it has always been: To make sure we toil, submit and obey. And if we do not… Well, we all know the answer to that one."

The Poet: Robert Louis Stevenson, "Give Us Courage"

"Give Us Courage"

"Give us courage, gaiety and the quiet mind.
Spare us to our friends, soften to us our enemies.
Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter
that which is to come, that we be brave in peril,
constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath,
and in all changes of fortune and down to the gates
of death, loyal and loving to one another."

- Robert Louis Stevenson

The Daily "Near You?"

Anderson, Indiana, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"Two Ways To Be Fooled..."

 "There are two ways to be fooled. 
One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true."
— Søren Kierkegaard

“Life's Crossroads: How To Thrive in Times of Change”

“Life's Crossroads: 
How To Thrive in Times of Change”
by Linda Durnell

“Life's crossroads create opportunity for us to choose between different options, and when we see someone embracing the moment when choices are decided upon, it can be awe-inspiring. A crossroads is about change. Choices must be made - not just when things are not working out as we had planned, but also during positive moments when we must choose to continue the course or veer off into something new. When we experience an ending in a marriage, a change in careers, political upheavals, the end of childrearing, or challenges with our health, the crossroads we find ourselves facing can either inspire us to choose differently, or during these moments of change we can paralyze ourselves with fear. Making a crossroads a moment of profound and lasting change and learning how to thrive when life's changes descend upon us can be learned. The key to weathering life's crossroads:

1. Do not settle for normal. When our habitual response leads us to what is expected and customary - when we choose ordinary - we can expect the unremarkable.

2. Do not resist. Attempting to control, manipulate or force things to happen is a typical response to the fear that comes with change. Some of us will be so fearful that we refuse to make a change without understanding that even if we choose not to make a decision or take action, this in and of itself is a choice. Our learned way of coping with stress and uncertainty should be reevaluated constantly as we evolve in this world. Move with the changes instead of against them.

3. Trust your deepest feelings for guidance. We all know, deep within ourselves, what we need to do - what we know, how to think, when to trust - during times of crisis. We can learn to access and trust our innate wisdom; it is personal and always available. Through this, we will know how to adjust our course, move toward our personal destiny. When we don't follow our inner guidance, we feel a loss of power and energy.

4. Dream bigger. Change what you expect from life and then create a plan and work to cultivate the right conditions for your growth and success.

5. Limit distractions and strive to create balance in the midst of chaos. When we let go of our own or other's agendas and when we push away the demanding concerns of the moment, we are able to hear our own thoughts. Do less at the moments of crossroads and give yourself the gift of time - time to be in the present moment. Respect the value of being here and now. Ask yourself, "What is the one area of my life that needs more balance?"

6. Failure is just another way to start again. When we face a crossroads with fearlessness and the choice turns out to be prosperous, we are hailed as a genius or visionary. When our choice creates failure, then we are judged harshly, ridiculed and diminished, and it has the potential to make being fearless more difficult when we face the next crossroads. We must remember that failing creates not only additional opportunities for success, but fosters courage and determination in those of us who are brave enough to attempt it.

When I'm faced with fear at life's inevitable crossroads, I have learned to "let it rip" and charge "no holds barred" into the abyss - if for no other reason than to see what is there. I have emerged out the other side bloody and battered at times, but I'm stronger for having risked, taken a stand, trusted and believed.”

"There Is A Theory..."

"There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened."
- Douglas Adams

"How It Really Is"

The Economy: “Vicious Out of Control Downturn Coming”

“Vicious Out of Control Downturn Coming”
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

“Economic researcher and co-founder of Peak Prosperity, Dr. Chris Martenson, says, “Here’s where we are in the larger story. World economies can’t grow anymore, at least not like they used to. We are not going to see 3, 4 or 5 percent real growth. The pie is no longer expanding like it used to, and here’s the problem. The banking overlords got used to a certain take or lifestyle. They became addicted to a certain amount of skim, and when everything is expanding, the banks can skim, and there is enough left over for things like middle class and 401ks to go up and pensions to be funded. When the economy is not growing fast enough, and the skimming continues, then there is not enough left over for other people. That’s where we are in the story. That’s step one. Step two is will the banks convert all of their loans into physical hard assets, and the answer is yes.”

The economy and banks are more debt filled than ever, and Dr. Martenson goes on to point out, “There is one thing we have a lot less of, and that’s trust. I don’t know anybody who loves these markets. Everybody is highly distrustful of them. All of the big money people that I talk with, all them have one foot right next to the exit. Everybody is convinced they will be able to get out just a little faster than the next guy. I think they are mistaken in that regard. Without that trust, and without that ability that the authorities are going to be able to contain it, I think we could see a very vicious downturn, something that gets out of control of the central planners. Markets have a way of winning out in the end.”

According to Dr. Martenson, watching the Fed to see when or if it will raise interest rates is not what people should be focusing on. Dr. Martenson explains, “Here’s what they should be focusing on. After 6 years of pumping trillions of dollars into the market, do we have the organic growth we need to pay off the loans that are already in circulation? The answer is no, we are not getting the growth. If we are not getting the growth and we have all these structural problems, that’s what people need to be focused on. That’s called reality. You can smell the fear, and they are afraid of this market going down. This is a Franken market of the Fed’s own creation.”

Chris Martenson, who also holds an earned PhD in Toxicology, says watch China because the recent signs are not good. Martenson contends, “You get your early signals from the place that is closest to the true economic action, and China is the center of that. So, to me, watching commodities tank first, gyrations in the Chinese stock market second, says third, you better be prepared for a big deflationary event or a big crash. This is the mother of all crashes because the crash of 2008 was actually a side show. We are going to discover that, like all bubbles, you return from where you started. That means $40 trillion will have to get wiped out in the U.S. market alone.”

Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on One with Dr. Chris Martenson of PeakProsperity.com. (There is much, much more in the in-depth interview.)"

The Economy: "Why the Government Hates Gold"

"Why the Government Hates Gold"
by Bill Bonner

PARIS – “It’s a total disaster. It’s like hell here.” Thus did a trader describe the reopening of the Greek stock market. The main Athens stock market index, the Athex, ended the day down 16%, after trading was allowed for the first time in five weeks. And it was down by more than 23% just minutes after the opening bell. Down and out… despised… scorned – the situation in Greece is excellent. For investors with ultra-long-term time horizons and strong constitutions, it may be a great time to buy Greek stocks... 

Mr. Market Gets Even: Yes, prices are being discovered again… by free declaration of buyers and sellers. Owners of Greek stocks are discovering that their equity stakes aren’t as valuable as they believed. But for every seller there is a buyer… Sellers are losing money. Buyers believe they are getting a bargain. You can fool all of the people some of the time. Some of the people all of the time. And most of the people once in a while. You can obstruct price discovery and you can disguise and distort the real value of things. But Mr. Market will get even someday. He always does. 

Yesterday, we mentioned but did not explain, that Alan Greenspan betrayed Mr. Market… In 1987, after President Reagan appointed him Paul Volker’s successor as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan went over to the zombies… or more precisely, to their allies, the cronies. It must not have been easy for the former free market defender and member of Ayn Rand’s inner circle…

The Largest Paper Money Racket Ever: In the late 1980s and early 1990s – you could almost see Greenspan struggling with the contradictions. He had been loyal to free markets. But his job carried with it the biggest central planning authority of all time. He knew that currency unbacked by gold was a scam, but his position as chief of the Fed put him in charge of the largest paper money racket ever. Greenspan believed in letting Mr. Market set prices. But as gatekeeper of U.S. credit, he corrupted more prices than any human being ever had before him. But what was he to do? 

In 1993, at her husband’s inaugural address to Congress, Ms. Clinton – now the leading Democratic candidate for president – chose to stand next to him. It was one of those magic moments in history, when power and money came together to celebrate. (When we were in Vancouver, we went to an Anglican church. A banner hung down from the ceiling proudly proclaiming the trinity: “King, Country, God.” The parishioners like to imagine that all their leaders are united… It spares them the trouble of choosing just one.) 

Of all the bigwigs in Washington, it was Alan Greenspan who had the biggest wig of all. He was practically a god to the members of Congress, to whom the economy was as big a mystery as Heaven itself.

Gold Stymies the “Welfare Statists”: To the American people, Greenspan was a combination of Mr. Fixit and the Wizard of Oz. They didn’t understand a word of what he said. And why should they? Greenspan made no sense when he spoke as Fed chairman – intentionally. As he later explained: "What I've learned at the Federal Reserve is a new language, which is called Fed-speak.” You soon learn to mumble with great incoherence.

But the blither and blather worked. The politicians kneeled before him. The press took off their hats. And the masses, awestruck by the incomprehensible, thought he was a genius. What was he supposed to do? Turn his back on all that for the sake of the truth? “What was the truth?” asked the jesting Greenspan. And he did not wait for an answer. 

We wrote contemptuously about Mr. Greenspan from the end of the 1990s until he stepped down as Fed chairman in 2006. He did his thinking in the bathtub, the press reported. Alan “Bubbles” Greenspan, we renamed him. He had sold out – for glory, for money, and for power. But we had to admit: He got a good price! Had we been in his shoes, we probably would have been bought at half the price. 

But what a pleasure it was to rediscover the old Alan Greenspan, before he turned his coat and forked his tongue. Back in 1966, when he still believed in free markets and sound money, he expressed himself clearly. "In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold." 

If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves. 

This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.

Credit Nation: But now, who speaks the truth? No one. Because the elites – economists… businessmen… academics… policymakers – are paid not to see it. And if they do catch a glimpse of it by mistake, they keep their mouths shut. Like Alan Greenspan, it is all very well to understand how things really worked. But you wouldn’t want to give up money, power, and status for it. 

The Huffington Post explains how the cronies bought the economics profession: "The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession […] 

One critical way the Fed exerts control on academic economists is through its relationships with the field’s gatekeepers. For instance, at the Journal of Monetary Economics, a must-publish venue for rising economists, more than half of the editorial board members are currently on the Fed payroll — and the rest have been in the past. 

A Fed spokeswoman says that exact figures for the number of economists contracted with weren’t available. But, she says, the Federal Reserve spent $389.2 million in 2008 on “monetary and economic policy,” money spent on analysis, research, data gathering, and studies on market structure; $433 million is budgeted for 2009. That’s a lot of money for a relatively small number of economists."

But the Huffington Post misses the really big story... The feds have bought off the entire intellectual, financial, business, and academic establishment. How? With easy money. 

As we explained in our speech at the Sprott-Stansberry Natural Resource Symposium in Vancouver, there is scarcely a single public figure with substantial wealth or reputation who doesn’t owe it to the great credit expansion. In 1999, for example, Fortune magazine named Jack Welch “Manager of the Century.” Was it because of Welch’s genius… or the fact that GE had moved into financial services during a credit boom? Warren Buffett is regarded as the greatest investor who ever lived. But it was Buffett’s great fortune to be investing during the greatest credit expansion there ever was. And how did Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen get to be heads of the Fed? They could not have done so without the wind of credit expansion behind them, which seemed to make sense of their preposterous theories. 

While the cheap credit embellished résumés and reputations, it also made people dependent. Academia reaped tax-free donations from people who had made their fortunes in debt-fueled finance… not to mention more than $1 trillion in tuition fees financed by the feds’ student loan program. Corporations sold their products on cheap credit… made their profits from cheap credit… and then depended on cheap credit to issue their bonds, buy back their own stock, and pay their bonuses. Meanwhile, Washington ran deficit after deficit – again, all made possible by cheap credit. And now, practically every sentient being in the nation (and some Democrats, too!) needs cheap credit to pay his mortgage, keep his job, boost his stocks, and hold down his finance costs. Who is left to speak the truth?"

"Cats: How They Train US To Meet Their Needs"

"Cats: How They Train US To Meet Their Needs"
by Eurekalert.com

"Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods."
- Christopher Hitchens

"Anyone who has ever had cats knows how difficult it can be to get them to do anything they don't already want to do. But it seems that the house cats themselves have had distinctly less trouble getting humans to do their bidding, according to a report published in an issue of 'Current Biology.'  The rather crafty felines motivate people to fill their food dishes by sending something of a mixed signal: an urgent cry or meowing sound embedded within an otherwise pleasant purr. The result is a call that humans generally find annoyingly difficult to ignore.

"The embedding of a cry within a call that we normally associate with contentment is quite a subtle means of eliciting a response," said Karen McComb of the University of Sussex. "Solicitation purring is probably more acceptable to humans than overt meowing, which is likely to get cats ejected from the bedroom." She suggests that this form of cat communication sends a subliminal sort of message, tapping into an inherent sensitivity that humans and other mammals have to cues relevant in the context of nurturing their offspring.

McComb said that she was inspired by her own cat, who consistently wakes her up in the mornings with a very insistent purr. She learned in talking with other cat owners that some of their cats too had mastered the same manipulative trick. As a scientist who already studied vocal communication in mammals, from elephants to lions, she decided to get to the bottom of it. It turned out that wasn't so easy to do. The cats were perfectly willing to use their coercive cries in private, but when strangers came around they tended to clam right up. Her team therefore had to train cat owners to record their own cats' cries.

In a series of playback experiments with those calls, they found that humans judged the purrs recorded while cats were actively seeking food as more urgent and less pleasant than those made in other contexts, even if they had never had a cat themselves. "We found that the crucial factor determining the urgency and pleasantness ratings that purrs received was an unusual high-frequency element—reminiscent of a cry or meow—embedded within the naturally low-pitched purr," McComb said. "Human participants in our experiments judged purrs with high levels of this element to be particularly urgent and unpleasant." When the team re-synthesised the recorded purrs to remove the embedded cry, leaving all else unchanged, the urgency ratings for those calls decreased significantly.

McComb said she thinks this cry occurs at a low level in cats' normal purring, "but we think that cats learn to dramatically exaggerate it when it proves effective in generating a response from humans." In fact, not all cats use this form of purring at all, she said, noting that it seems to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one relationship with their owners rather than those living in large households, where their purrs might get overlooked by poorly trained people. In those instances, she said, cats seem to find it more effective to stick to the standard meow."

Neuroscience: "Hurt? Go Ahead and Swear!"

"Hurt? Go Ahead and Swear!"
by Sott.net

"The next time you hammer your thumb, do what comes naturally: Swear. It won't sound pretty, but colorful expletives may help ease the pain, according to a study in an issue of 'NeuroReport,' a journal of neuroscience research. In even the most civilized cultures, people curse out of habit, to let off steam or to shock. Swearing is also a common response to physical pain. But can off-color language actually affect how much an injury hurts? To find out, researchers at Britain's Keele University asked 64 undergraduates to plunge a hand into a bucket of ice water for as long as possible while invoking either their favorite swear word or a "neutral" term. Although the researchers suspected that using profanity would increase a person's perception of pain, they found the opposite was true: When people swore, they were able to keep their hands submerged longer than when they didn't, showing increased pain tolerance, researchers said.

One possible explanation is that swearing triggers our natural "flight-or-flight" response, said lead researcher Richard Stephens, a psychology lecturer at Keele University. When they swore, volunteers showed accelerated heart rates, which could indicate an increase in aggression and thus a decreased perception of pain. But swearing definitely sparked an emotional and physical response. Careful who you swear in front of, though!"
- http://www.sott.net/

"Little Things Can Have Big Impact: Getting the Right Thing Done Right"

"Little Things Can Have Big Impact: Getting the Right Thing Done Right"by Russell Bishop

"Here's a personal example of what happens if you don't know the value of what you are doing or why it matters. When I was growing up, my father owned a little two man machine shop. He was a tool and die maker and by all accounts did great work. He went bankrupt a couple of times, not because of lack of skill, but because of lack of business sense. That's where I enter in. Dad used to have me come to the shop on weekends to help get things done. Sometimes it was pretty simple work, like cleaning up scrap filings and other messes built up during the week.

Sometimes he had me make simple parts for him. On this one Saturday, he sat me down in front of a drill press and put a box of 5,000 plastic tubes in front of me. Each little tube was about three inches long, and each one needed a hole drilled in the middle, equidistant between the two ends. With not much more instruction than what I just gave you here, he told me to get going and that we could go home when I was done. At 15, I didn't need much motivation to move quickly and get out of there. So, I powered my way through those little plastic tubes. Drill. Drill. Drill. And then the drill bit broke, so I had to go tell him and he set up another one in the press. Drill. Drill. Drill. And another one broke. I was about 1,500 pieces through when the second one broke.

Now he was mad. So he sat me down with a third new bit in place and told me to show him what I was doing. So I powered the bit through the top of the tube. From the way he freaked out, you would have thought I had just killed his favorite kitten or something. That's when he provided the missing bit of information. I wasn't supposed to be "drilling" holes in these tubes. I was supposed to be "tapping" them. Tapping means that the bit was not a drill after all, but something that looks like a drill bit but actually puts a thread inside the hole that it makes. Ooops.

As I powered through the first 1,500 of these little tubes, I was pulling so hard on the handle that the tap functioned just like a drill instead. It put a nice clean hole in each piece, but no thread. On top of that, powering through each one meant that when the tap bit broke through the top of the tube, it slammed into the inner side of the tube and put a nice little hole in it as well. So now I had ruined 1,500 pieces in two ways - smooth holes instead of threaded opening, and a damaged inner surface which would disrupt the flow of whatever it was that was supposed to be going through the tube. Ooops.

Of course, you can see that it would have been a clever thing for my Dad to explain what I was working on, what my part of the job entailed, and why it was important. That wouldn't have made me any the more happy to be spending my Saturday at the shop again, but at least I would have understood what I was doing and why. And he would have gotten what he wanted from my work. Ooops.

So back to your world. It could be that you are working on drilling holes in things that really should be tapped instead, and no one told you. It could be that the little tiny, insignificant tasks that you perform are the difference between something working, and something failing, between real success and also-ran OK. If you are an executive or manager, flip this around: perhaps you have assigned something meaningful, something critical to your staff, but all you did was assign the task absent of sufficient context and meaning. Kind of like that little weld on the space shuttle that blew up. After all, it was just a little weld. How could that matter? In addition to the difference between what you are focused on (the Symbols of life) vs. why you want them (the Experience of life), there's another tiny thing that seems to matter. Meaning.

Most of us could use a greater experience of meaning in our lives, of being meaningful, of having what we do matter. Sometimes, Meaning comes with a capital M - say ending world hunger - and sometimes it is just a little "m," say helping a neighbor through a tough time. And sometimes meaning comes just in knowing why tapping a hole matters and drilling one screws things up."

"The Duty..."

"The voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command. Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent." 
– Charles Eliot Norton

Monday, August 3, 2015

Musical Interlude: Adiemus, “In Caelum Fero”

Adiemus, “In Caelum Fero” 

"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)."

The Poet: Theodore Roethke, "The Waking"

"The Waking"

"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go."

- Theodore Roethke,
"The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke"

"Overachieving and Overreaching: A Sign of Imbalance"

 
"Overachieving and Overreaching: A Sign of Imbalance"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOm

"Sometimes when we don't feel good enough, we create imbalance by overachieving or needing to be the best at something. Overachievers are people who have achieved but still feel the need to do more, creating an imbalance in their lives. People who exhibit this behavior may be trying to compensate for feelings of insecurity and doubts about their worth. They may be chasing unresolved issues from their past into the present, or they might not be looking at their lives as a whole, but judging themselves based only on one aspect of their being. If this is a word that we’ve heard used with respect to our choices and lifestyle, it is worth examining in order to balance our lives for a more rewarding experience.

If we find that we cannot allow ourselves to experience and enjoy the present moment, putting pleasure off into some distant future, it may be a sign that we are being driven to achieve more than is truly necessary. Pushing ourselves beyond the point of exhaustion, or to the exclusion of important people in our lives, robs us of true and meaningful joy. Once we make the connection to the eternal part of us, it can nourish us and allow our priorities to shift from chasing after an elusive feeling to being fully present in the moment so that we can live our lives in the now.

Sometimes we need to look to those we love and admire in order to realize what we value about life. We can take time to note what we like about others, and then turn the mirror to reflect the light of those same words and feelings toward ourselves. It can be quite a revelation to see ourselves in this nourishing light. When we can put the energy that we’ve been devoting to a phantom sense of achievement into the truly satisfying aspects of our lives, we can restore the balance between our inner and outer worlds and experience true joyful peace."

Chet Raymo, “The Burden of Thinking”

“The Burden of Thinking”
by Chet Raymo

“Let me speak for gray. Not black or white. Good or evil. Truth or falsity. Yes or no. Let me speak for maybe. Sort of. More or less. I think so. I am reluctant to speak for gray for fear of being considered wishy-washy. Indecisive. Unprincipled. But lately it seems as if we are surrounded on every side by zealots, and it's not a pretty sight.

We are surrounded by people who are so certain of their Truth that they are willing to strap bombs to their chests and walk into crowded pizza parlors. Or fly airplanes into towers. Or bomb abortion clinics. Or subvert American principles of civil liberties to fight those who have no principles of civil liberty. There's an ugly stridency in the air, too many people who are certain God is on their side. Too much certainty with a capital C.

So why does the world look gray to me? After all, I was raised in a tradition of Absolute Truth. I was taught that infidels will burn in hell, at least those guilty of "culpable ignorance." "Armies of youth flying standards of Truth," we sang. But I was studying science, too, and the history and philosophy of science. I discovered truth with a lower-case t. Evolving truth. I encountered people who held their most cherished beliefs to the refining fire of experience, and who changed their minds when their tentative truths failed the test.

When a group of Englishmen established the first modern scientific society in the 17th century, they took as their motto, "Take no one's word." They believed the only reliable guide to truth was the evidence of the senses. And even the senses can be deceiving. Which is why they embraced the experimental method. Reproducibility. Observations that can be repeated by anyone, and that always give the same result.

Many people think of science as a body of knowledge - the germ theory of disease, evolution by natural selection, Newton's laws of motion, that sort of thing. Well, yes, it is. But these things are tentatively held, with varying degrees of certainty. More fundamentally, science is a way of thinking. A way that rejects absolutes.

Of course, one can't blow hither and yon on a sea of uncertainty. To be useful, any system of knowledge must be confident of itself. To do scientific work at all, one must start with firm convictions. But every good scientist must be radically open to marginal change, and marginally open to radical change. Black and white is easy. It relieves us of the burden of thinking, of learning, of experiencing the other. Gray is more difficult - but it's the planet's best hope for a civilized future.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Gujranwala, Punjab, Pakistan. Thanks for stopping by.

"Contradictions..."

"Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction,
 check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong."
- Ayn Rand

The Economy: “Why It’s Not Time to Dance on Gold’s Grave”

“Why It’s Not Time to Dance on Gold’s Grave”
by Bill Bonner

PARIS – “Today, help comes from an unexpected direction – Alan Greenspan! After so many years of mumbly-dumbly gobbledygook and credit-pumping folderol (much of the blame for the credit crisis of 2008 can be sent to his inbox), we had forgotten about Greenspan’s earlier oeuvre. Yes… before he became a public servant he might have passed for an honest man. And his 1966 essay “Gold and Economic Freedom” is a classic. It helps explain how this credit bubble finally ends. (Thanks to Pater Tenebrarum at David Stockman’s Contra Corner for reminding us.) 

A City Gone Quiet: We are sitting at a sidewalk café in Paris. It is August. Families have decamped for the country. So it is quiet in this part of the city (the 16th arrondissement). At this hour of the morning, there would normally be children going to school with satchels on their backs. The streets would be clogged with commuters. And the cafés would be crowded with all manner of people. But the children are gone. Along with their parents. All that is left are a few fathers wondering how to get into trouble with their families gone, along with some old people, tourists, and mental defectives, dragging behind them their worldly goods in rolling caddies. We are not sure which category we fit into. 

At one table sits a pair of elderly women enjoying a morning coffee. At another are a man and a woman. Both attractive. Fortysomething. They are talking about real estate. Probably planning an affair. At another table is a man of our age. He drinks his coffee. He might otherwise read the paper, but the news kiosk is closed for the summer. There are no papers to be had – not in this neighborhood. So he just stares out into the street, looking at nothing in particular.Two workmen – their clothes spattered with white splotches – sit at another table. They are rough-looking sorts in T-shirts taking a morning coffee break. Buses go by. A few cars. Passersby, none moving very ambitiously. It’s going to be a warm summer day. 

The Dow was off a little bit on Friday. Shanghai stocks were off too. And oil. But gold rose $7.40 an ounce in New York trading. So let’s return to gold. And an avant-propos…

Rich Man, Poor Man: Poverty is better than wealth in one crucial way: The poor are still under the illusion that money can make them happy. People with money already know better. But they are reluctant to say anything for fear that the admiration they get for being wealthy would turn to contempt. “You mean you’ve got all that moolah and you’re no happier than me?” “That’s right, man.” “You poor S.O.B.” 

We bring this up because it is at the heart of government’s scam – the notion that it can make poor people happier. In the simplest form, government says to the masses: Hey, we’ll take away the rich guys’ money and give it to you. This has two major benefits (from an electoral point of view). First, and most obvious, it offers money for votes. Second, it offers something more important: status. 

After you have food, shelter, clothing, and a few necessities, everything else is status, vanity, and power. Extra money helps us feel good about ourselves… and attract mates. It’s not just the money that matters. It’s your relative position in society. From this point of view, it does as much good to take away a rich person’s money as it does to give money to a poor person. Either way, the gap closes. 

Never, since the beginning of time up to 2015, has government ever added to wealth. It has no way to do so. And no intention of doing so. All it can do is to increase the power, wealth, or status of some people – at others’ expense.

The Trouble with Socialism: That is a perfectly satisfactory outcome for most people, at least in the short term. But the more this tool is used – the more some people’s power, status, and wealth is taken away – the more the wealth of all of them declines. The trouble with socialism, as Maggie Thatcher remarked, is that you run out of other people’s money. You run out because there is only so much wealth available… and because the redistribution of that wealth distorts the signals and incentives needed to create new wealth. This means that society gets poorer relative to other societies that are not stealing from one group to give to another. After a while, the difference becomes a problem. 

The meddlers see that they are falling behind and change their policies to try to get back in the race. (This is more or less what happened in Britain and China in the 1970s and the Soviet Union in the 1980s.) Or the poorer society is conquered by the richer one (which has more money to spend on weapons). 

There is one other wrinkle worth mentioning… Although it is true that “leveling” may have a pleasing aspect to the masses (bringing the rich down so there is less difference between the two groups)… it is also true that leveling is just what powerful groups do not want to happen. Even when the elite go after “the rich” with taxes, confiscations, and levies, they tend to look out for themselves in other ways. They allow themselves special rations – special medical care… special pensions… special parking places… and various drivers, valets, and assistants. One study found that there was more difference between the way Communist Party members and the masses lived in the Soviet Union than there was between the rich and poor in Reagan’s America.

Alan Greenspan Was Right: All of this brings us to here and now... and to gold. Traditionally, gold is a form of money. Money has no intrinsic value. It is the economy that gives money its value. The more an economy can produce the more each unit of money is worth. It doesn’t matter whether it is gold, paper, or seashells. But just as the common man is deceived by money (he thinks more of it will make him happier), so are policymakers. Their belief is a little more sophisticated. They know it is the economy, not money, that creates wealth. But they believe that adding money (and more demand) will make the economy function better… and make people wealthier. 

And in today’s post-Bretton Woods monetary system, they don’t add physical money (gold, paper, or coins); they add digital credit. This new form of money takes the scam to a new level. We have been trying to understand (and explain) how the system works and why it is doomed to failure. But Alan Greenspan – bless his corrupted little heart – was on the case even before the credit bubble began: "Under a gold standard, the amount of credit an economy can support is determined by the economy’s tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. 

But government bonds are not backed by tangible wealth, only by the government’s promise to pay out of future tax revenues, and cannot easily be absorbed by the financial markets. A large volume of new government bonds can be sold to the public only at progressively higher interest rates. Thus, government deficit spending under a gold standard is severely limited. The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit." More tomorrow…”

"How It Really Is"

Healthcare: “But It's Damn Profitable!”

“But It's Damn Profitable!”
 by Karl Denninger

“Yet another "see, I told you so"...* "An important new medical study finds that chemotherapy does not extend life for end-stage, terminal cancer patients. What's more, those who received chemotherapy treatment near the end of their disease had a worse quality of life than those who didn't."

Got that one? If you have a terminal cancer diagnosis- that is, you have a metastatic or otherwise inoperable cancer chemo not only fails to extend your life it damages the quality of life in the time you have left. Why would anyone go through such a regime?  

Simple: You're offered false hope and those pushing said false hope make a hell of a lot of money if they can con you into damaging or destroying your enjoyment of the time you have left.

Nobody wants to face the fact that we're all mortal and we will die some day of something. When that death comes quickly and without warning there's little opportunity for anyone to play on our fears. But all too often you find out a few weeks or months before the end comes that the reaper is on the way, and then the medical machinery goes to work selling you false hope and carefully-couched misleading statistical claims.

I wrote several articles when Provenge was originally developed by Dendreon and faced review. The clinical data showed that it had a median improvement of time-to-live of about 4 months and cost roughly $100,000. Note that there was zero evidence that it produced a durable remission; that is, that the drug actually reversed the progress the cancer was making- it simply slowed it down somewhat, but at horrific cost.

Dendreon went as high as $57.67 on this hype machine before collapsing with the firm filing Chapter 11 with the wreckage being acquired. Why? Simple: There was no cost-benefit analysis that favored the drug under any reasonable circumstance except when you could force others (e.g. Medicare) to pay for it. This was obvious at the inception of approval and the expected pricing, but nobody picked up on it. And while Dendreon blew up the fact remains that huge parts of our medical industry run on this same crap on a daily basis, and nowhere is it more-evident than when it comes to metastatic cancer of virtually every sort.

Will this finding change the debate?  It ought to- but you can bet the drug pushers will line up the usual arguments on the other side; "you're trying to kill Grandma!" being one of the most-common.

No, folks, I'm not trying to kill Grandma. Rather, when it is evident that Grandma is going to die I would prefer that she have the facts in front of her on a clean basis without hype or misrepresentation because the time she has remaining is unlikely to be materially extended by these drugs, but the misery of those last months will be increased if she chooses to take them, while the drug companies, doctors and hospitals will be materially enriched at the same time.

Monster (n):

1. Making money by increasing human misery in the last weeks and months of a person's life by peddling false hope and intentionally misleading claims, all for the purpose of selling high-priced drugs at an obscene profit.”
* Study: "Chemo Hurts Patients With End-stage Cancer"

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rightwing Nuthouse: “6 Despicable Right-Wing Moments This Week: Trump Cozies Up to Palin”

“6 Despicable Right-Wing Moments This Week: 
Trump Cozies Up to Palin”
by Janet Allon

"1. Fox News finds new ways to blame unarmed black men for their own deaths by cop. All these videotapes of unarmed black men being executed by cops are really starting to grate on Fox Newsians. On Friday’s stellar discussion on “The Five,” Eric Bolling and Kimberly Guilfoyle had to struggle to find a way to blame the black guy again. They were forced to grudgingly admit that Samuel DuBose should not have been shot and killed by Cincinnati cop Ray Tensing.

“It’s tough because look, first of all it’s a tragedy,” Bolling ventured. “There’s another instance where someone had a missing front license plate and ends up dead.” But still, Bolling really feels, “everyone is rushing this,” even the prosecutor. “I’m not defending this at all, but people have to realize you can’t resist arrest.” So, actually he is defending it. “This guy is taking off,” he continued. “I don’t think that cop was fearing for his life, so I think he’ll probably be found guilty, but stop resisting.”

Yes, unarmed black people, stop making cops shoot you. Guilfoyle agreed that the people who put themselves in danger are to blame, rather than the ones doing the shooting. “Time and time again, it always comes down to someone getting hurt, getting killed, by bad decisions by a cop,” Bolling said. “But those decisions wouldn’t have been made if the perp didn’t run away. Can you imagine what society would be like if everyone thought, if I just run away that cop can’t chase me? We’d be a lawless society.”

So, thank goodness, the Fox Newsians were able to preserve their world view of innocent cops forced to make bad decisions by unruly black people. It’s getting harder and harder.

2. Pres. Huckabee would stop abortions by any means necessary. Mike Huckabee is nothing if not open-minded. One of the things he appears to be open-minded about is using the FBI or federal troops to prevent women from having abortions. "I will not pretend there is nothing we can do to stop this," the Huckster told a reporter at a campaign stop in Iowa. Reporter Matt Taibbi tweeted that when he asked Huckabee if he would send the National Guard to shut down abortion clinics, Huckabee replied: "We'll see if I get to be president," then added, "All American citizens should be protected."

By which he apparently does not mean women exercising their lawful rights or the doctors who help them.

3. Trump calmly explains he called a lawyer who was deposing him “disgusting” because “she wanted to pump breast milk in front of him.” That’s all. Now do you understand? Another charming moment from Donald Trump’s past emerged this week from 2011, when a lawyer representing clients who wanted their deposits back for a failed real estate venture was deposing him. When the time came for a lunch break, attorney Elizabeth Beck had planned on pumping breast milk for her infant. Trump decided he did not want to take a break and became furious when she mentioned the reason she needed a break.

“He got up, his face got red, he shook his finger at me and he screamed, ‘You’re disgusting, you’re disgusting,’ and he ran out of there,” Beck told CNN this week. She called the incident an “absolute meltdown.” But Trump and his lawyer Alan Garten told CNN there was a perfectly good reason for that hissy fit. “She was disgusting,” Garten told CNN in a phone interview. “She was attempting to breast feed.”

Wow, that is disgusting. It appears that Trump and his lawyer have similar vocabularies. Also, doesn’t Elizabeth Beck know what breasts are for? They’re for augmenting and parading in a Miss Universe pageant bathing suit. Yeesh!

4. Donald Trump wants Sarah Palin in his cabinet because she’s “special.” Donald Trump is very fond of Sarah Palin. Because, of course he is. Come to think of it, they make a pretty sweet political couple. They both spew an incredible amount of so-called patriotic bile, have limited vocabularies and share xenophobic world views. Palin even backed Trump up after his little dustup with Palin’s former benefactor John McCain. She said Trump is a “hero” too.

Sweet, right?

The Donald retuned the favor when he called Mama Grizzly a “really special person” this week, and suggested she might be someone he would tap for his cabinet.

Chew on that nightmarish scenario for a while.

Trump divulged this dandy little cabinet spoiler to the co-host of Sarah Palin’s radio show (yes, she has a radio show, because, of course she does. She has to get her message out now that Fox cut her loose). The host, Kevin Scholla, asked Trump whether he could see himself bringing Governor Palin “along in some capacity,” like “picking up the phone, giving [her] a call and picking her brain on some things.” Sure, Trump responded, “I’d love that. Because she really is somebody who knows what’s happening and she’s a special person, she’s really a special person and I think people know that.” From there, he expanded the praise to “everyone loves Palin” because she is “smart” and “tough.” She’s just what the world needs now.

How wonderful would it be if Trump were to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate? If that does not bring Jon Stewart out of retirement, or spawn a thousand comic careers, nothing will. It’s gold-plated comedy gold on mega-steroids. We can’t even come up with enough superlatives for that. Trump can’t even come up with enough superlatives for that. No one can. That’s how golden it is.

5. Sarah Palin immediately proves just how “smart” and “tough” she is. The idiot from Alaska demonstrated some of her Trump-approved “toughness” and “smartness” this week when she asserted that Planned Parenthood was deadlier to blacks than the Confederate Flag. This truly awful woman espoused this view on her disturbingly popular Facebook page, which alas has 4.4 million likes.


The absurd and offensive meme puts Palin squarely in right-wing conspiracy nut Alex Jones territory. Insane kook Jomes claims that Planned Parenthood is a conspiracy to kill black babies, as if he might care (Actually, Sarah Palin is worse. The elevation of the Confederate Flag is her own unique touch.) Her war on Planned Parenthood, and the numerous life-saving health services it provides to women of all races puts her squarely in the mainstream of the Republican party.

6. Fox News Host Tantaros on the role of modern women. Twenty-first century Fox Newisan Andrea Tantaros is nothing if not up-to-date in her views on modern women. She thoroughly enjoyed a recent Glamour magazine article which included tips on how to keep your man happy. And she was deeply disappointed when the magazine retracted the piece because—with tips like making your man a sandwich after sex, and getting him a beer when he comes out of the shower—it was not seen as very empowering to women. Actually, it was downright misogynist. “Look at this list, it has great suggestions in here!” Tantaros said. “After you engage in a little horizontal hula, make him a sandwich. That’s not called 1950s. That’s called kindness. And frankly, I think women should do a little more of that.”

Yeah, you know. She’s right. What is wrong with that? More kindness, flowing from women to men is what the world needs now.

“What’s wrong with giving your man a brewski when he comes out of the shower?” Tantaros asked. Comedian Ryan Reiss did not get that one. “Who needs a brewski out of the shower? What, are you dating Don Draper? What’s going on? I’ve never gotten out of the shower and been like, ‘I need to get drunk quick.'” Co-host Stacey Dash jumped in to express some feminist solidarity with Tantaros. “You don’t have the right woman. I think that’s why divorce rates are so high. Women don’t know how to take care of their men anymore.” Also, wives should greet their husbands in lingerie, Tantaros said, or “maybe he’ll run off with the neighbor.”

That’s just what she calls “kindness.” You may have a different definition.”