Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"How It Really Is"


Satire: “Georgia Unveils New Slogan: ‘We Make Florida Look Safe’”

“Georgia Unveils New Slogan: ‘We Make Florida Look Safe’”
by Andy Borowitz

ATLANTA (The Borowitz Report)— "Flanked by members of his state’s legislature on Wednesday afternoon, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal proudly unveiled Georgia’s new official state slogan, “We Make Florida Look Safe.” Gov. Deal told reporters that the slogan was “more than just words,” reflecting Georgia’s determination to best its rival Florida for the nation’s most reckless gun law. “When Florida passed Stand Your Ground, we knew we were playing catch-up,” Gov. Deal said. “Thanks to the fine men and women in the Georgia state legislature, we’re No. 1.”

Gov. Deal said he hoped that the state’s newly enacted Safe Carry Protection Act, which makes it legal to carry guns in bars, schools, churches, and some government buildings, would send the message that Georgia was taking its competition with Florida “very, very seriously. In recent years, if you wanted to fire off a gun any damn place you pleased, there was a sense that Florida was the state for you,” he said. “We’re hoping to change that perception.”

“The Death Of Capital”

“The Death Of Capital”
by Andrew McKillop

“Elite Psychosis Again: Rather predictably, the elite-serving glove puppet media has decided it is right and good at this time to wheel on its handpicked, most obedient and servile journalists to opine about Piketty's new book “Capital”. This coincides with David Stockman's almost triumphant declaration of Greenspan-and-Bernanke's come-uppance Truth Moment (“America's Housing Fiasco Is On You, Alan Greenspan”).

Another 2008 crisis is not only possible, but probably overdue. Piketty contrasts the Victorian era of extreme and massive income equality with exactly the same thing today, finding that the only difference is that in the times of Thorsten Veblen the rich could pass on almost all their gotten-gains to their offspring, and perpetuate capitalism. Today, they have to share a lot too much with Big Government, which of course dilapidates these gotten-gains and, terribly unfortunately, economic growth bombs down to oblivion. Capital and growth are the bedrocks of our latter-day society and culture, or Mass Kultur.

Social Darwinism: The Victorian era-focus of Piketty is obligatory. In a very very short period  following the shock discovery in 1859, thanks to Charles Darwin, that humans are descended from apes and therefore also from reptiles, vertebrate fish, and invertebrates (even from bacteria!), Herbert Spencer had cobbled together his “Social Darwinism” theory, to massive applause from the elite.

Victorian middle class English society was descended, or rather ascended from the hapless “prolos” or animal-like proletariat too stupid to know about derivatives and FX trading. Worthless zombies, they were good for working the factories of David Ricardo, extracting capital from “comparative advantage”, and above all from the ability of paying one person 100-times less than another, that is the Captains of Industry. The worth premium is raised to 1000 times less when we take the late unlamented (to me) Steve Jobs or the unhappily still-present Bill Gates, and the post-2010 clones and clowns of latterday capitalism, for example the profiters of the marvelously absurd, reheated dotcom boom, such as the charlatan inventors of intrinsically worthless entities like Whats App and Facebook.

To be sure, to pay a person 1000 times less than another, the Born Losers have to crawl in poverty. That goes without saying, and Piketty only skims that part of the bad deal. The ethics and social philosophy, or moral dimension is of course usually avoided. That would ruin the “scientific economics” chart displays and the pompous gurgling. However, critics and commentators, usually outside the glove puppet media, have underscored the role and importance of “honest money”, and its opposite, unhonest money in trashing capitalism. There is something inherently dishonest in fractional banking – in fact it is a simple confidence trick.

Bizniss is bizniss however, and the Victorian elite of England sincerely wanted to feel morally righteous, to feel genuine pleasure and pride seeing their fellow citizens in the gutter, suffering repeated cholera epidemics in coal-smeared mega cities like Manchester and London. Herbert Spencer supplied them a nice line of lies and illusions!

By a happy coincidence, English capitalist imperialism soon enabled massive supplies of Chinese and Asian opium to be imported, to further befuddle the Hapless Prolos of England. The English imperial onslaught sucked in new capital from China. To be sure, the English airily “forgot all about it”, possibly helped by drug dependence, but the Chinese did not. Opium War has enduring meaning, to the Chinese.

Marx and Engels, for all their faults, at least explained that the capitalist predator class, once it has sucked all it can from its home-base population, will move on to Imperialism and try the same dirty trick on foreign nations and peoples. So doing, it stacks up blowback for later on. Today we have a minute-by-minute grope forward of Western neo-Imperialism in the Ukraine crisis, facing down “KGB-ruled Russia”, but trying the same neo-Imperialist trick against nuclear-armed China or India may run on a lot shorter time fuze. Enduring resentment against Western capitalist imperialism is intense, in China and India.

To be sure, capitalism heavily needs plenty of tricks and chance discoveries (called “innovation”) to stumble along, enriching the Nice People and trashing the Born Losers in the gutter. In particular, for at least 100 years, but with antecedents tracing back to John Law's “financial miracle” in the France of 1715, followed by the total collapse of his dirty and fundamentally dishonest scam, we have the moral dimension and question of honest money.

The Ruling Class Needs War: Dishonest money has its direct counterpart and dark twin in the urge to war. If “Vlad the Vampire” Putin can be unhinged and of course killed, like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, enormous riches will befall to the Good and the Brave. On the back of liberated Russian natural resources, the money printing presses can whirr even more frenetically! You can find that warm and progressive message in almost black-and-white print, in the elite glove puppet media of today.

The basic problem is that Piketty's “dilution of capital” is an inevitable process. Since the probable last or definitive crisis of modern capitalism, in 2008, economic growth was and is the first collateral victim. Ergo war is necessary – the elite glove puppet media will tell you so!

Dishonest money was firstly necessary, to preserve the Victorian capitalist model of society and culture featuring grotesque social inequality, and secondly was the harbinger of imperial war. In moral intellectual or conceptual terms, nothing at all has changed for our elites since Victorian times. However, industrial and technological innovation have also, very unfortunately, democratized nuclear weapons as well as other weapons. Very unfortunate, in particular, for atavistic morons admiring Victorian capitalism. Countries like China and India can hit back very, very hard, today.

For our elites, while they are still there at the helm of the Ship of State, the situation is in fact really simple. You really do have the choice even if you do not want to admit it!  Not admitting there is an alternative is absolutely critical to the elite, we can surmise. Their Herd Schizophrenia probably helps explain this.

Hassan Sabah (1034-1124), also called the Wise Man of the Mountain, in today's Syria, edicted the doctrine of assassination. His argument was that the assassination of one Warlord poised to start an epic battle, will avoid the useless death of 10 000 men. Junking the Victorian-minded neo-capitalist elite in the gutter, where they belong, will do the same.”

“Take This Away and the US Stock Market Crashes”

“Take This Away and the US Stock Market Crashes”
by Bill Bonner

Gualfin, Argentina. “Yesterday, we were explaining how the US empire and the Fed-induced credit bubble depend on each other. To make a long story short, after the 1970s there was not enough juice in the US economy to pay for a welfare state at home... and an imperial juggernaut all over the world. 

The solution? More credit. Borrowing by the private sector created some $33 trillion in excess (above the traditional level of debt to GDP) economic activity. It fueled sales... spending... jobs... corporate profits (heavily concentrated in the financial sector) and investment profits. All of these things gave voters the feeling they were making progress. And they gave the government tax revenues, which it badly needed. 

Debt grew. We've been over the numbers so often we don't need to repeat them. More important, the economy – and the US empire – became more and more dependent on debt just to continue doing business as usual. Debt no longer provided a big boost to economic growth; it was necessary just to stay in the same place. Take it away, the stock market crashes... and the economy goes into recession or depression. That was what happened in 2008-09. The private sector stopped taking on debt. And all Hell broke loose. 

Hog Wild on Spending: The background: The Bush II Administration went hog wild on spending. It did so largely because it was the most overtly pro-empire US administration ever. Covertly, it was also the most pro-welfare state administration in history. Guns and butter – the Bush team liked them both. It never met a country in which it didn't want to meddle... never found a trap into which it didn't want to put its big foot... and never saw a spending bill it wanted to veto. Under cover of "security" spending, it blundered into the biggest deficits in history. 

After the 9/11 attacks, jingoism clouded budget discussions. "Security" depended on a strong economy... which depended on continuing credit expansion. Then... and again after the crisis of 2008-09... the credit expansion seemed in danger of coming to an end. But the Fed came to the rescue; and its chiefs were hailed as Scipios and Caesars. Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke got their mugs on the cover of TIME magazine, as though they were conquering heroes, rather than nerdy economists with dubious theories. In 1999, TIME labeled Greenspan, along with Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, "The Committee to Save the World." And later, The Atlantic labeled Bernanke "The Hero"... and TIME named him "Person of the Year." Their real contributions? They helped Americans go further into debt... which in turn helped unproductive industries keep their grip on a large part of the nation's resources.

More Rules: And now, the feds exert more and more control over the way money is spent... and invested. The Economist reports: "Ever since Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008 a common assumption has been that the crisis happened because the state surrendered control of finance to the market. The answer, it follows, must be more rules. The latest target is American housing, the source of the dodgy loans that brought down Lehman. Plans are afoot to set up a permanent public backstop to mortgage markets, with the government insuring 90% of losses in a crisis." 

Which might be comforting, except for two things. First, it is hard to see how entrenching state support will prevent excessive risk-taking. And, second, whatever was wrong with the American housing market, it was not lack of government: far from a free market, it was one of the most regulated industries in the world, funded by taxpayer subsidies and with lending decisions taken by the state. 

But... the more the state protected the system, the more likely it was that people in it would take risks with impunity. That danger was amply illustrated in 2007-08. Having pocketed the gains from state-underwritten risk-taking during the boom years, bankers presented the bill to taxpayers when the bubble went pop. Yet the lesson has not been learnt. Since 2008 there has been a mass of new rules, from America's unwieldy Dodd-Frank law to transaction taxes in Europe. Some steps to boost banks' capital and liquidity do make finance more self-reliant: America's banks face a tough new leverage ratio. But overall the urge to regulate and protect leaves an industry that depends too heavily on state support. 

Since investors know governments will usually bail out big financial firms, they let them borrow at lower rates than other businesses. America's mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, used a $120 billion funding subsidy to line shareholders' pockets for decades. The overall subsidy for banks is worth up to $110 billion in Britain and Japan, and $300 billion in the euro area, according to the IMF. At a total of $630 billion in the rich world, the distortion is bigger than Sweden's GDP – and more than the net profits of the 1,000 biggest banks. 

In many cases the rationale for the rules and the rescues has been to protect ordinary investors from the evils of finance. Yet the overall effect is to add ever more layers of state padding and distort risk-taking. Predictably, the return on investment falls... and growth slows. As it does, current output is less able to keep up with debt service costs and current spending. The need for more credit increases. 

But now we hear the federal budget situation is improving. Tax receipts are up. Expenditures are down. Alas, this is a temporary phenomenon. Congressional Budget Office estimates show the federal deficit bottoming out this year and next – still at over $500 billion! – and then turning up again. 

This is good news for the empire... and for the credit-dependent economy. Debt can't grow unless someone is foolish enough to borrow. So, the Fed has become the borrower of last resort. It will continue to borrow to fund the empire... and its zombie industries... until they all blow up. “

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Musical Interlude: Chuck Wild, Liquid Mind, "Laguna Indigo II (Aurora)"

Chuck Wild, Liquid Mind, "Laguna Indigo II (Aurora)"

"A Look to the Heavens"

“One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. This grand spiral galaxy lies 11.8 million light-years away toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). 
Click image for larger size.
The deep image of the region reveals details in the bright yellow core, but at the same time follows fainter features along the galaxy's gorgeous blue spiral arms and sweeping dust lanes. It also follows the expansive, arcing feature, known as Arp's loop, that seems to rise from the galaxy's disk at the upper right. Studied in the 1960s, Arp's loop has been thought to be a tidal tail, material pulled out of M81 by gravitational interaction with its large neighboring galaxy M82. But a subsequent investigation demonstrates that at least some of Arp's loop likely lies within our own galaxy. The loop's colors in visible and infrared light match the colors of pervasive clouds of dust, relatively unexplored galactic cirrus only a few hundred light-years above the plane of the Milky Way. Along with the Milky Way's stars, the dust clouds lie in the foreground of this remarkable view. M81's dwarf companion galaxy, Holmberg IX, can be seen just above the large spiral. On the sky, this image spans about 0.5 degrees, about the size of the Full Moon.”

Paulo Coelho, "The Cry Of The Desert"

"The Cry Of The Desert"
by Paulo Coelho

"As soon as he arrived in Marrakesh, Morocco, a missionary decided he would stroll through the desert at the city’s boundary every morning. On his first stroll he noticed a man lying on the sand, caressing the ground with his hands and leaning his ears towards the earth. “He is mad,” the missionary said to himself. But he saw the man every morning during his walks and after a month, intrigued by that strange behavior, he decided to approach the stranger.

He knelt beside him and asked, in broken Arabic, “What are you doing?”
“I keep the desert company and offer solace for its loneliness and its tears.”
“I didn’t know the desert was capable of crying.”
“It cries every day, because it dreams of being useful to mankind and turning into a huge garden where people could cultivate, flowers and sheep.”
“Well, then, tell the desert it accomplishes its mission very well,” said the missionary. “Every time I walk here, I am able to understand the true dimension of the human being, as its open space allows me to see how small we are before God. When I look at its sands, I imagine the millions of people in the world who were raised alike although the world isn’t always fair towards everyone. Its mountains help me meditate. As I see the sun rising on the horizon, my soul fills with joy and I get closer to the Creator.”

The missionary left the man and went back to his daily chores. To his surprise, he found him the next morning at the same place, in the same position. “Did you tell the desert everything I told you?” he asked.
The man nodded.
“And even so it keeps crying?”
“I can hear each of its sobs,” answered the man, his head tilted towards the ground. “Now it is crying because it spent thousands of years thinking it was completely useless and wasted all this time blaspheming God and its own destiny.”

“Well, then tell the desert that despite having a short lifespan, we human beings spend much of our days thinking we are useless. We rarely find the reason for our destiny and think God has been unfair to us. When a moment finally arrives in which we are shown the reason why we were born, we think it is too late to change and keep on suffering. And as the desert, we blame ourselves for the time we have wasted.”
“I am not sure the desert will bother to hear it,” said the man. “It is used to suffering and it can’t see things differently.”
“So then let us do what I always do when I feel people have lost faith. Let us pray.” Both of them went down on their knees and prayed; one turned to Mecca as he was a Muslim and the other joined his hands in prayer, as he was Catholic. They prayed, each one to his own God.

The next day when the missionary resumed his daily walk, the man was no longer there. The ground where he used to embrace the sand seemed to be wet as if a small spring had formed. During the following months that spring grew and the city’s residents built a well around it. The place is now called “The Well of the Desert’s Tears”. It is said that those who drink its water will be able to transform the reason of their suffering into the reason of their joy and will end up finding their true destiny.”

The Poet: William Stafford, "Starting With Little Things"

"Starting With Little Things"
 

"Love the earth like a mole,
fur-near. Nearsighted,
hold close the clods,
their fine-print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands-
Like spades, but pink and loving; they
break rock, nudge giants aside,
affable plow.
Fields are to touch;
each day nuzzle your way.
Tomorrow the world."

- William Stafford 

"The Breton Fisherman's Prayer: On Destroying What We Love"

"The Breton Fisherman's Prayer: 
On Destroying What We Love"
by Robert C. Koehler

“Oh God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

"The Arctic ice is melting at a record pace this summer — just one more measurable phenomenon indicating that extraordinary change in the global ecosystem is in progress. As the ice melts, and the vast polar reflecting surface diminishes, the planet absorbs more and more of the sun’s energy and... grows warmer. More ice melts.

So what? Sitting at my desk in Chicago, I was tempted to opt out of caring about this — trend Republican, you might say. Put it on the back, ahem, burner. It takes a leap of consciousness to align my own well-being with the fate of the Arctic ice, the ocean, the Inuits, the polar bears.

I’ve lived my life pretty much within the gated community of the American middle class, sheltered, more or less, not just from poverty but from the challenges of weather and basic physical survival. I have lived within the bubble of a functioning economy and have been able to take the ecosystem that surrounds it for granted. No elders or teachers out of my childhood ever guided me toward awareness that I have a direct relationship with that ecosystem, and that I can act toward it either with reverence or abusive indifference. Indeed, the economy that sustained me was based on abusive indifference, which, ipso facto, was a good thing. We were winning, exercising the human mandate to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Oh limited world view! I understand it all too well. So what if the Arctic ice cover is turning, in the words of a research scientist with the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, into “a giant slushie”? So what if human beings, endlessly spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, are largely responsible? I can understand the inability to care about this. It’s simply beyond reckoning. “There are no comparisons to be made,” George Monbiot writes this week in The Guardian/UK. The melting Arctic ice “is not like war or plague or a stockmarket crash. We are ill-equipped, historically and psychologically, to understand it, which is one of the reasons why so many refuse to accept that it is happening.”

“Oh God, thy sea is so great . . .” At some point, as I pondered all this, a memory ripped loose from my boyhood. I thought about the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer, inscribed on a wall plaque. It hung on the wall of a cottage on Lake Erie, owned by friends of my parents, which we visited every summer. The piercing simplicity of the prayer’s surrender, not to some theological abstraction but to the vast encircling natural world, beguiled and unnerved me. I wanted there to be more — something instructional, perhaps — but that was it. It hung in my heart like a Zen koan. It defined reverence.

I fear that, if we lack at least a trace of this reverence, we will remain trapped within the gated community of human dominion — trapped within the sure thing of our technology, even as the sureness vanishes.

And the hurricane-haunted Republican National Convention convenes in Tampa. “The Republican platform slated for approval at the party’s convention,” writes Ben Geman in The Hill, “includes expanded offshore oil-and-gas development, opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling rigs and thwarting Environmental Protection Agency climate change regulations.” Such a platform is no less arrogant than the Russian energy giant Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Pechora Sea, which Greenpeace activists occupied for 15 hours last week, enduring, among other things, water cannon blasts that almost swept them into the frigid waters. “And so I write to you today,” explained Kumi Naidoo after the occupation had ended, “not as the executive director of Greenpeace International, but as one of a team of activists who stood up to say No to a Russian oil giant determined to destroy our fragile Arctic.”

What’s fragile are the complex environmental conditions that make life — human and otherwise — possible. To recognize this fragility is to recognize our own fragility. Perhaps, in a technological sense, we have “outgrown” the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer. The ocean is no longer so vast that we can’t cross it in a few hours. But our ability to do so has come at a serious cost, environmentally and, perhaps, spiritually.

The largest economic and political institutions we have thus far created — nations, multinational corporations — regard climate change primarily as opportunity. Suddenly they have access to a previously hidden part of the planet, to drill, fish, mine and otherwise exploit. In our pursuit of dominion over the seas and the heavens, have we lost the ability to love the planet that has sustained us? Do we love only our control over it?”

Chet Raymo, "Ratchet"

"Ratchet"
by Chet Raymo

"My MacBook laptop has been annoying me with glitches that are signs of old age (or planned obsolescence). Am I sorry? Not really. At last I can justify buying what I've wanted for several years - a MacBook Air. And here it is, in my trembling hands, in a package so sleek and slim that one wonders where there is room for the circuitry, flash drive and battery. For my money, the Air is the most sublime manifestation of human technology on the planet today.

As a graduate student in physics in the early 1960s, I availed myself of a Univac computer that sat in the central space of a large building built for it alone. Now I lie here on the couch holding a machine vastly more powerful than the Univac. And with a few clicks of these beautiful back-lit keys I have instant access to… well, to almost anything I can imagine that can be presented on a screen. I am reminded of Arthur Clarke's 3rd Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. It was a stunning ride, from Eniac to Univac to personal computer to the Air, all in one brief lifetime.

In a recent issue of "Science," an international group of researchers addressed the question of cumulative culture. Why is it that in a few tens of thousands of years humans have advanced from small groups of hunter/gatherers armed with sharp sticks to a planet-dominating species connected by the internet and Airs, while our nearest primate cousins are still digging termites out of holes with twigs as they did all those thousands of years ago? The researchers presented young human children, chimpanzees, and capuchin monkeys with a puzzle box that required sequential problem-solving to obtain rewards. Well, it's a long story, but what stands out is the tendency of the human children to share knowledge and rewards, something not manifested by the chimps or capuchins.

It is no big surprise that pro-social behavior should be related to cumulative culture. The larger question is perhaps why humans evolved pro-social behaviors. Collective hunting? Fire and cooking? Language? Brain size? Delayed maturity? My goodness, there is no end of possible contributing factors, and essentially no way in this chicken-and-egg conundrum to sort out causality. Maybe we'll never know what was the evolutionary tipping point that unleashed the human rise to planetary dominance. If pro-social behaviors are the cause or result or cumulative culture hardly matters. My new Air was made in China, by people who are as much entranced by these sleek machines as I am. We are bound together by DNA and WiFi, poking at our puzzle boxes, and - when we are at our best - sharing knowledge and rewards.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Elizabethton, Tennessee, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"Two Possibilities Exist..."

"Welcome to Planet Earth, the third planet from a star named the Sun. The Earth is shaped like a sphere and composed mostly of rock. Over 70 percent of the Earth's surface is water. The planet has a relatively thin atmosphere composed mostly of nitrogen and oxygen.


This picture of Earth, dubbed Blue Marble, was taken from Apollo 17 in 1972 and features Africa and Antarctica. It is thought to be one of the most widely distributed photographs of any kind. With its abundance of liquid water, Earth supports a large variety of life forms, including potentially intelligent species such as dolphins and humans. Please enjoy your stay on Planet Earth."
- http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap100713.html

"Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not.
Both are equally terrifying."
- Arthur C. Clarke

Carl Sagan, “The Pale Blue Dot: Where We Make Our Stand”

Carl Sagan, “Pale Blue Dot”

“10 Planetary Facts for Earth Day 2014”

“10 Planetary Facts for Earth Day 2014”
by Phil Plait

“Today is Earth Day, a worldwide celebration of our home planet. I know you’ll be hearing a lot of talk about the environment today, humanity’s global impact, and more … which is great, and I wholly support that conversation (obviously). But as an astronomer and science dork, I do love me some fun factoids. So I gathered together/calculated a few to give you a better appreciation of our planet’s place in the Universe. You might want to check out the ones I posted last year, too. You can’t know too much about Earth.

The Earth as seen from Saturn is a reminder: 
The Universe is big, and we are not. Happy Earth Day!

1) Earth Day is April 22 every year. On average (jumping over leap years and such), between subsequent Earth Days our planet moves about 940 million kilometers (580 million miles), the circumference of its orbit around the Sun. That means it’s faster—way faster—than a speeding bullet: about 30 km/sec (18 miles/sec)! Typical rifle bullets travel 1-2 km/sec, so the Earth outpaces them handily.

[UPDATE (Apr. 22 at 18:00 UTC): I'm getting some comments about this, mostly referring to how I measure that speed. Implicit in my words is that I meant relative to the Sun, so that's how quickly the Earth would move around the Sun. In general, the speed of the Earth (or anything) depends on what you're measuring its speed against. Since I'm on Earth, it's not moving at all relative to me, and if you're in a distant galaxy we're moving away at a large fraction (or even faster than) the speed of light. All motion is relative... you can quote me on that!]

2) It’s not a small world after all. The surface area of the Earth is about 510 million square kilometers, or 197 million square miles. It’s not a perfect sphere (see listing No. 4 here), but if it were, using the surface area to find the Earth’s diameter would give you a ball 12,742 km (7,900 miles) across.

3) The Earth is the biggest of the terrestrial (rocky, as opposed to Jupiter-like gas giant) planets in our solar system.

4) Venus, the closest planet in the solar system to Earth’s size, has a diameter of 12,104 km (7,504 miles), 95 percent the width of Earth. It has about 82 percent the mass of Earth, too, making it our twin. However, its thick atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, it rains sulfuric acid, the air pressure on its surface is 90 times Earth’s, and the average temperature is a lead-melting 460 C (860 F). So it’s more like our evil twin.

5) Nearly 2,000 confirmed exoplanets (worlds orbiting other stars) have been found so far. The smallest, Kepler-37b, is barely bigger than our own Moon! Another, KOI-314c, has the same mass as Earth but is so hot it’s puffy, with a huge atmosphere. The planet that has the best chance of being most like Earth is Kepler-186f, which has 1.1 times the Earth’s diameter and is the right distance from its star to have liquid water. We really don’t know what it’s like beyond that, though. It might be more like Venus, or Mars.

6) We’ve only just started looking for other planets, though. There may be billions of Earth-size planets in our galaxy alone.

7) Coming back home again, Earth has something no other planet we know of has: a lot of water on the surface. It’s about 71 percent water by area, dominated by the Pacific Ocean, which covers a staggering 155.6 million square km (60 million square miles) of the surface. That’s nearly a third of the planet.

8) Most of the Southern Hemisphere (by a long shot) is covered in water: About 80 percent of the planet’s area south of the equator is water. North of the equator it’s about 60 percent.

9) Water exists naturally in all three physical states on Earth’s surface: solid (ice), liquid, and gas (water vapor). Due to a peculiar property of water—called its triple point—it can even exist in all three states at the same location and time. So now when things go wrong, you can say, “Well it could be worse: It could be raining and snowing and steaming!”

10) The more we look, both in our neighborhood and in deep space, the more we find that our Earth is one-of-a-kind. Even if we do eventually spot those billions of other planets similar in size to Earth, it’s unlikely they will be just like ours, with our exact balance of chemistry, temperature, and life. Heck, in the distant past the Earth didn’t look like it does now, and it’s the same planet.

What this tells us is that what we have now is precious, unique, and vital to us and ours. We don’t have an emergency backup, a summer home, a spot we can retreat to. The Earth is all we’ve got. We need to treat it that way.”
- http://www.slate.com/

Satire: “Supreme Court Calls Lying By Politicians An Expression Of Their Religion”

“Supreme Court Calls Lying By Politicians An Expression Of Their Religion”
by Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)— “In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of the United States declared on Tuesday that lying by politicians is protected by the First Amendment because it is an expression of their religion. By a 5–4 majority, the Court struck down an Ohio law that would make it harder to lie in political ads, arguing instead that “any attempt to restrict or punish lying by politicians is an unconstitutional infringement on a religion they have practiced for decades.”

The Court’s decision won praise from politicians of both parties, with many saying that the Justices’ recognition of lying as a religion was “long overdue.” Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts argued, “For politicians, lying is a religious observance akin to attending a church or a synagogue, except that they do it seven days a week.”

"How It Really Is"


“Extreme Climate Change And Life On This Planet”

“Extreme Climate Change And Life On This Planet”
By Andrew McKillop

“Elite Climate Change and Global Warming (CCGW): There is no need to dwell on the political elite theory and fear of CCGW except that its main goal is to enrich the crony capitalist “carbon finance” industry and reward techno-geek start ups rushing their newest gimmick able to store sunlight for nighttime use to market, and then to IPO, powered by free sunshine! The elite doomster theme of CCGW is essentially no different from that of former Nazi ideologist Gunther Schwab. In his 1958 book “Dance With The Devil” he melded Goethe's Faust with Svante Arrhenius' original CO2 global warming theory, which by 1908 was defined, debated and discussed – and disputed – in scientific circles. Schwab used his Nazi-flavored version of CCGW theory to make an “Appeal to Humanity”, to abandon non-Aryan industry and cut CO2 emissions.

Later charlatans including Al Gore, James Lovelock and James Hansen recycled the Schwab theory, called it their own, and enriched themselves with it. They deliberately melded climate change with global warming - treating them as one and the same thing – the scientific basis of which is unsure.

The Arrhenius theory was not “proto-Nazi” and was scientific. Its main scientific argument is that human emissions of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, slightly change the chemical make-up of the planet's atmosphere and cause warming. Various effects such as “the greenhouse gas effect” and others including angular incident solar radiation effects, virtual albedo modifications, the ozone layer effect, were already suspected or under active study as climate modifiers well before Arrhenius' definitive-version warming theory of 1908. One of his critics, also a colleague,  Anders Angstrom for whom the angstrom (size of the atom) unit is named,  particularly criticized earlier versions of Arrhenius' theory, where he exaggerated the warming effect of greenhouse gas concentrations increasing, by at least two-fold. Critics and colleagues of Arrhenius also included the US astronomer Pierpoint Langley, and several other early atom scientists.

Arrhenius and the late-19th century scientific establishment were exposed to multiple shocks of drastically expanding knowledge, and changing theory. His first warming theory was for instance also affected by the publication, 20 years earlier, of Charles Darwin's evolution theory. Life was imagined to be in “fragile equilibrium” and pursuing a climate-change-free program of evolution towards English Victorian middle class values – for the human component of planetary life forms. That is 1 on the 5415 known mammal species of the planet, and 1 on the minimum of 1.5 million all known animal species on a current basis. Human arrogance has no limits, but Darwin had other interests in mind.

GRB and ECC Events: Arrhenius and the early atom scientists including Angstrom were unaware of what is studied and discussed-debated in cosmological physics and radioastronomy of today. The first scientific attempts to prove and measure cosmic radiation can be dated to 1910 and the German scientist Theodore Wulf who climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris with a geiger counter-type device (called an electroscope),  leading to balloon ascents also testing the invisible radiative environment, by scientists such as Bracciano Pacini. Other scientists, some of them receiving Nobel physics prizes such as Viktor Hess, were able to show by 1913 that gamma ray and other cosmic radiation intensity was 4 – 5 times that at ground level, when measurements are made at 7500 metres – the typical altitude of commercial jetliner flights, if not Flight MH370.  Other major and reputed atom scientists also active in pre-1914 studies on cosmic radiation included Wilhelm Roentgen and Max Planck.

Politics and war exercized a strong negative impact on cosmic radiation study and theory, due to a large number of German scientists being involved. By the early 1920s the Nobel committee had severely reduced the number of physics prizes awarded to Central Power nationals (Germany, Hungary, Yugoslavia and others) and greatly increased physics prize awards to nationals of the Allied Powers (US, UK, France) and Neutral Powers including Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain and Holland.

This however in no way prevented cosmic radiation from being real!

GRB or Gamma Ray Bursts are cosmological origin, from inside or outside our “local galaxy” the Milky Way. Our solar system's position and disc-axis relationship is always changing.  As you read this article, our solar system is moving at about 865 000 kilometres per hour as it rotates in the galaxy but also moves relative to the plane of the galaxy's thin disc at a variable speed, certainly above 2500 kms per hour.  Incident GRB from novae and supernovae and other cosmological explosion events are not easily predictable but cosmologists and astronomers often utilise an approximate frequency of 1 mega event per billion years for any exposed solar system in the disc. Depending on the intensity of galactic or extra-galactic GRB, incidence angle of the radiation, and other parameters such as the type of nucleosynthesis trigggered by the GRB, cosmologists in the US, Russia and Japan today estimate the frequency may be closer to 9 ECC events every 1 billion years, for this planet.

Solar system positioning in the disc also affects the frequency. At present, our solar system is moving out of the plane. This can have a major impact on GRB incidence potentials for either north-south hemisphere, due to galactic and solar system architecture. Predicting the next GRB event which can cause an ECC event - which will always be towards intense or extreme cooling - is therefore highly speculative, simply due to geometry effects or incident angle of GRB.

While today's elite version of CCGW concerns a highly speculative warming of maybe 2 degC by about 2045 and an “extended thesis” of perhaps 5 or 6 degC warming by 2099, the type of ECC events caused by major GRB are radically intense, rapid, and always lead to large or massive cooling.

Expressed in simple easy to understand terms, cosmic rays include radiation with the incredible (to us) energy of about 10 to the power 15 times the energy intensity of light or normal photons, of the type the solar start up geeks want to store and use to their profit and kudos from “protecting the climate”. Heavy cosmic radiation literally slices through entire planets and keeps going. Planets are cut through like butter by a hot knife, whatever their type, gaseous or metallic. On its way, GRB can totally destroy ozone shields on planets like ours with a relatively delicate, relatively fixed gaseous composition. Very obviously, this is not just intense temperature change, but also has drastic impacts on prevailing climates and therefore on life forms of affected planets.

Planetary gaseous make-up is itself closely dependent on repeated cycles of radiative change of the local solar system, and radiative density change at the galactic and universal levels, concerning all types of radiation, whether visible to human beings or not. Relative to this, our present planetary CO2 concentration may be unimportant for the durability of life on this planet, for example because of GRB enabling or causing major changes of nitrogen gas and NOx (oxide derivatives of the nitrogen atom) quantities and activity when major events occur. The process is always rapid.

ECC Events and Mass Dieoffs: Evolutionists may or may not agree that massive die offs favor the emergence of new species. One leading explanation of the emergence of mammals, and therefore us, attributes this to the Triassic-Jurassic die-off event, particularly of saurians like the dinosaurs. The documented and scientifically agreed consensus view on GRB-induced mass die offs, on our planet, certainly includes the late Ordovician mass die-off, from extreme climate change, about 440 million years ago (Mya). In this event, approximately 95% of all invertebrate life disappeared. At the time, the few aquatic vertebrate life forms that existed on our planet were wiped out. No vertebrates existed on land.

The so-called “conquest by life” of non-aquatic terrestrial environments, including vertebrate evolution or emergence occurred well after 440 Mya. Previous to the Ordovician mass die off, the Earth's life forms were basically aquatic and only microbial, bacterial and a few plant organisms were able to exist on the single super-continent of this planet, Pangaea, which started to break up about 250 Mya.

The Ordovician mass die off was a global reset, for living things. The start of insect life on this planet closely corresponds with the event. Climate change was certainly massive due to features such as the almost total destruction of the ozone shield or layer. Intense global cooling was in the range of -10 degC (cooling of 10 degrees celsius) at least two times the claimed (or hoped for) global warming by 2099, of the more-hysterical CCGW charlatans anxious to peddle doomster predictions. The  penetration effects of intense gamma radiation and other high energy radiation including high speed protons and thermal neutrons, in the Ordovician event was at least 10 – 30 metres depth in all oceans and seas. Nearly all oceanic life was wiped out. The chemical make-up of the atmosphere was rapidly and massively changed, notably by the CNO (carbon-nitrogen-oxygen) process of nucleosynthesis, and by spallation, and by thermal neutron bombardment.

Cosmological physicists and stellar astronomers argue that this process – when it starts – can run very fast, not at all on the million-year scale of change, but above all it is unpredictable. They contrast the GRB-induced reset for life on this planet, with “random event change” such as the impact, in a physical sense, of bolide (asteroids and meteorites above 2 kms diameter) collisions with the Earth. These are given scientific consensus support as a main, or possibly the only cause of the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event dated at about 201 Mya, but this was however much smaller, and slower than the GRB-induced Ordovician event.

What can be called mechanical-induced climate change (bolide impacts) also interact with the constantly changing gamma ray and cosmic radiation environment. As just one example, the possible impacts of SN1987A, the 1987 supernova at about 50 kiloparsec (around 170 000 light years) distance from our solar system, possibly due to a blue supergiant EMP (low metallicity) star explosion upstream of the event, has yet to provide a corresponding predicted neutron star. There is a “missing neutron star” with a very large and calculable GRB potential. Related radiative events may or can be large or extreme in our Galaxy, but on an unpredictable time basis.

GRB events, of variable intensities but able to change Earth climate are possibly overdue at this time, and are impossible to exclude as climate changers. The known, but unexplained large variations in ozone layer thickness in Antarctica, but almost zero change of the Arctic ozone shield, is possibly explainable by different incident angles of GRB, from galactic or extra galactic sources. Galactic architecture or the exact position of our solar system relative to major gamma ray emitters is above all uncertain. This leads to the real possibility of GRB ECC events occurring - or already being under way - but assumed by human beings as due to their own CO2 emissions. Human arrogance again!”
Human life is certainly precarious, despite our arrogance... and this is very real...
Fukushima: "First thing, grasp the difficult concept that this is an ELE or Extinction Level Event. There is no escaping our fate, there are no solutions."

"The Small Beacon..."

"One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us." 
-  James Baldwin, "The Fire Next Time"

“Princeton Researchers Conclude US Political System Has Been Almost Completely Usurped”

“Princeton Researchers Conclude US Political System 
Has Been Almost Completely Usurped”
Of the elite, by the elite, for the elite.
by Steve Watson

“A recent scientific study by Princeton and Northwestern universities, which has gone somewhat under reported in the mainstream media, concludes that the US is now a fully fledged oligarchy. The paper, entitled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens”, notes that America is no longer even a Democracy, which begs the question, how far removed is the country from being the Republic envisioned and painstakingly established by Benjamin Franklin and the founding fathers.

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence,” the study notes. In other words, powerful elites have taken over the country and effectively run the government, it is official. Of the people, by the people, for the people is now a thing of the distant past.


The research undertaken by the universities included the study of close to two thousand government policies enacted over a 21 year period between 1981 and 2002. Using a framework of political models – Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism – researchers found that the majority of those US policies were specifically designed to benefit wealthy elites.

Policy outcomes “tend to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations,” the research states, meaning the US falls into the category of Biased Pluralism. Researchers concluded that the reason for the trend is that policies are made by special interest groups rather than by politicians acting on behalf of average Americans. “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.” the study also notes. “In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.” the study also notes.

The study points toward the conclusion that the US is nothing more than an illusion of democracy. “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association” the study notes, while warning “we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

The authors of the study, Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concur that the will or opinion of the majority in the US has no effect on the way government is run. “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

“Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does,” Gilens and Page write. “Perhaps they know better which policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends, when deciding which policies to support. But we tend to doubt it” they add.”

“Pssst... The Military-Industrial Complex Is Alive and Well”

“Pssst... The Military-Industrial Complex Is Alive and Well”
by Bill Bonner

Gualfin, Argentina. “We made an observation last week: The US empire and its credit bubble will probably come to an end at the same time. Each depends on the other. If the US were not so big and powerful, it could not impose its money as the world's reserve currency. Without its position as the issuer of the world's reserve currency (dollars instead of gold), the US wouldn't be able to flood the world with its cash. Without the rest of the world's need for dollars, the credit bubble couldn't continue growing. And without the credit growth there would be no way to pay the expense of maintaining a worldwide empire. This does not explain the miracle of "growth without savings" we discussed last week, but it gives us a hint as to what will happen when the trick no longer works. 

All Empires End: All bubbles... and all empires... eventually blow up. An empire that depends on a credit bubble is doubly explosive. All it takes is a turn in the credit cycle, and the fuse is lit. We wrote a book on the subject, along with co-author Addison Wiggin, in 2006. From the invasion of the Philippines to the Vietnam War... the US empire was financed by the rich, productive power of the US economy. 

But as the war in Vietnam was winding down, the source of imperial finance changed from current output to future output. The US switched to a purely paper money system... and turned to borrowing to finance its military adventures. Today's blockhead puffs out his chest and enjoys feeling like a big shot. He passes the bill on to tomorrow's taxpayer.

The argument for heavy security spending collapsed between 1979 (when China took the capitalist road) and 1989 (when Russia abandoned communism). But by then, the "military-industrial complex" (or the military-industrial-congressional complex) President Eisenhower warned us about was already firmly in control of Washington. Presidents – Democrat and Republican – came and went. Nothing nor nobody could keep resources from the security industry. 

One disastrous adventure led to another. Each provided a source of more funding... more status... more power... more generals... more security clearances... more clandestine, "off-budget" operations... and more jackass parasites pretending to protect Americans from unknown enemies. 

Zombie Lard: The return on investment from this spending was probably well below zero. That is to say the foreign meddling probably created more enemies than it neutralized. But it didn't matter. Besides, the same phenomenon was happening in other major industries. In health care, education and finance more and more resources were commanded by political considerations – even though these industries were still considered part of the private sector economy. 

In education, for example, the number of teachers stagnated, as the number of administrators and "educators" soared. Freighted with zombies, there were few real gains in these sectors. Meanwhile, the US manufacturing sector withered. Real wages stopped increasing. Economic growth slowed. And social welfare spending increased. "Guns and Butter" was LBJ's promise. Both were greasy and slippery. And without the strong growth of the 1950s and 1960s, it was not possible to pay for so much zombie lard. 

The US empire turned to credit. It has not had a genuinely balanced budget since. Instead, since the end of the Carter administration, deficits have increased, year after year. When the Reagan team came into office in the early 1980s there was a fierce internal battle about what to do with federal finances. The fiscal conservatives – led by David Stockman, Reagan's young budget director – felt the government had an obligation to balance its budget. The new, or "neo," conservatives were more hip to the public mood... and to the miracle made possible by increasing credit. 

"Deficits don't matter," said Dick Cheney. The neocons won. Stockman left the administration and went to work on Wall Street. Deficits soared. Later, Stockman wrote a good book, The Great Deformation, explaining how the US economy had been corrupted by its leading industries: government, security and finance. 

By the 1990s, the combination of a bull market on Wall Street, falling interest rates, the end of the Cold War and disillusionment with old-style democratic spending left the Clinton administration in a rare sweet spot. It found it couldn't spend money fast enough. Its revenues were high. Its spending opportunities were low. The result was what was feted as a "balanced budget" – but the books only balanced if you ignored the cost of Social Security! 

It was President George W. Bush, however, who really took the lid off the credit machine. Details to follow... tomorrow.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

But Not You..."

"Let others lead small lives, but not you.
Let others argue over small things, but not you.
Let others cry over small hurts, but not you.
Let others leave their future in someone else's hands, but not you."
- Jim Rohn

Musical Interlude: 2002, "Starwalkers"

2002, "Starwalkers" 

"A Look to the Heavens"

“It's the bubble versus the cloud. NGC 7635, the Bubble Nebula, is being pushed out by the stellar wind of massive central star BD+602522. Next door, though, lives a giant molecular cloud, visible to the right. At this place in space, an irresistible force meets an immovable object in an interesting way. 
Click image for larger size.
The cloud is able to contain the expansion of the bubble gas, but gets blasted by the hot radiation from the bubble's central star. The radiation heats up dense regions of the molecular cloud causing it to glow. The Bubble Nebula, pictured above in scientifically mapped colors to bring up contrast, is about 10 light-years across and part of a much larger complex of stars and shells. The Bubble Nebula can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Queen of Aethiopia (Cassiopeia).”

"Ten Rules For Being Human"

 "Ten Rules For Being Human"
by Cherie Carter-Scott 

Rule One:
You will receive a body. You may love it or hate it, but it will be yours for the duration
of your life on Earth.

Rule Two:
You will be presented with lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called 'life.'
Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons
or hate them, but you have designed them as part of your curriculum.

Rule Three:
There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of experimentation,
a series of trials, errors, and occasional victories. The failed experiments
are as much a part of the process as the experiments that work.

Rule Four:
A lesson is repeated until learned. Lessons will be repeated to you in various
forms until you have learned them. When you have learned them,
you can then go on to the next lesson.

Rule Five:
Learning does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain lessons.
If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

Rule Six:
'There' is no better than 'here'. When your 'there' has become a 'here,' you will
simply obtain a 'there' that will look better to you than your present 'here'.

Rule Seven:
Others are only mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another
person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.

Rule Eight:
What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need.
What you do with them is up to you.

Rule Nine:
Your answers lie inside of you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

Rule Ten:
You will forget all of this at birth. You can remember it if you want by
 unravelling the double helix of inner knowing.

- Cherie Carter-Scott,
From "If Life is a Game, These are the Rules"

Chet Raymo, “This View of Life, With Its Several Powers”

 “This View of Life, With Its Several Powers”
by Chet Raymo

“Somewhere in his "lost" notebooks Loren Eiseley writes of the pleasure of exploding a puffball in a woodland clearing, or shaking seeds out of their pods. As I recall, he takes a gleeful satisfaction in messing with evolution, in hurrying the process along.

I remember identifying with that sentiment when I read it. I like exploding puffballs too. Dropping insects into spider webs. Picking up turtles that are half-way across a road and placing them in a ditch on the other side. Most of all I like breaking off the stalks of ripe milkweeds and shaking them gloriously in a meadow on a breezy day. Love that snowstorm of fecund parachutes blowing hither and yon. Love the idea that I am helping the monarch butterflies that feed and breed exclusively on milkweed.

Yes, I know, in the great scheme of things my random intrusions into the grinding engine of evolution won't make an iota's worth of difference. The problems besetting monarch butterflies won't be significantly alleviated by one more milkweed plant. And that turtle I put in the ditch may just turn around and head back across the road. Still, I take a childish pleasure in mixing it up. Of helping the natural in natural selection. Of kicking up a little dust on the tangled bank. We live in a creative universe, Eiseley said. Let's be creative."