Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Enjoy The Little Things In Life..."

 They don't last forever...


Moody Blues, “Days of Future Passed”
http://youtu.be/Cph1YcCidWQ

The Call, "Let The Day Begin"

Happy New Years 2012!

2011, what a year it's been... and 2012 looks like it's going to get really interesting, too. At the present rate at some point at the end of January this little blog will top one million page loads, over nearly 3 1/2 years of life, with 17,289 posts. Get a life! LOL Amazing... Posting will be sporadic between now and January 2, so thanks in advance for your patience. Thank you all for stopping by, and let's make 2012 the best year we can. Above all else, be kind to each other, we really are all we have... Happy New Years, folks! - CP

Friday, December 30, 2011

"A Look to the Heavens"

"The most distant object easily visible to the eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two and a half million light-years away. But without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy - spanning over 200,000 light years - appears as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, details of a bright yellow nucleus and dark winding dust lanes, are revealed in this digital telescopic image. 
Click image for very large size.
Narrow band image data recording emission from hydrogen atoms, shows off the reddish star-forming regions dotting gorgeous blue spiral arms and young star clusters. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept in the 20th century. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" - distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.”

Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet, On Time"

"On Time"

"And an astronomer said, "Master, what of Time?"

And he answered: "You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.
You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of 
  your spirit according to hours and seasons.
Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness,
And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.
 And that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the
bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.

Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless? 
And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed
within the centre of his being, and moving not from love thought to love thought,
nor from love deeds to other love deeds?
And is not time even as love is, undivided and spaceless?

But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons,
let each season encircle all the other seasons,
 And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing."

- Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet, On Time"

Chet Raymo, “Learning And Yearning”

“Learning And Yearning”
by Chet Raymo

“This photograph of the Eagle Nebula made by a rather modest telescope - the 0.9 meter instrument at Kitt Peak, Arizona - appeared on APOD (click to enlarge). I sat in front of the computer screen for ten minutes, breathless. One tiny corner of the Milky Way Galaxy, one of tens of billions of galaxies that we can potentially see with our telescopes! At the center are the so-called "Pillars of Creation" from a famous Hubble photograph.

Click image for very large size.
 
I recall when the Hubble photograph appeared in the media hundreds of viewers claimed to see the face of Jesus in the billowing clouds. Which prompted these observations from "Skeptics and True Believers": "In an article on the psychological basis of belief, the psychologist James Alcock proposed that two aspects of the human brain might be called the "yearning unit" and the "learning unit." He probably didn't mean these terms to be taken literally, as referring to separate compartments of the brain, but yearning and learning are certainly central to the way we interact with the world. It is hard to imagine how we can be fully human without a little of each. Finding the proper balance between the two is a task that can keep us occupied for most of our lives.

We yearn when we dream of fulfillment, of greater happiness, of knowing more. We yearn when we love, when we laugh, when we cry, when we pray. Yearning is wondering what is around the next bend, over the rainbow, beyond the horizon. Yearning is curiosity. Yearning is the driving force of science, philosophy, and religion.

Learning is listening to parents, wise men, shamans. Learning is reading, going to school, traveling, doing experiments, being skeptical. Learning is looking behind the curtain for the Wizard of Oz, touching the stove to see if it's hot, not taking anyone's word for it. In science, learning means trying as hard to prove that something is wrong as to prove it right, even if that something is a cherished belief.

Yearning without learning is seeing Elvis in a crowd, the fossilized footprints of humans and dinosaurs together in ancient rocks, weeping statues. Yearning without learning is buying tabloid newspapers with headlines announcing "Newborn baby talks of Heaven" and the like. Yearning without learning is looking for UFOs in the sky and the meaning of life in horoscopes.

Learning without yearning is pedantry, scientism, dogmatic belief. Learning without yearning is believing that we know it all, that what we see is what we get, that nothing exists except what can be presently weighed and measured. Learning without yearning is science without a heart, without a dream, without a hope of beauty.

Yearning without learning is seeing the face of Jesus in a gassy nebula. Learning without yearning is seeing only the gas."

The Daily "Near You?"

Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"The Human Trouble..."

"Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death- ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life."
 
- James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time”

"Man's Search For Meaning" (Excerpt)

 "Man's Search For Meaning" (Excerpt)
by Viktor Frank

"When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.

For us, as prisoners, these thoughts were not speculations far removed from reality. They were the only thoughts that could be of help to us. They kept us from despair, even when there seemed to be no chance of coming out of it alive. Long ago we had passed the stage of asking what was the meaning of life, a naive query which understands life as the attaining of some aim through the active creation of something of value. For us, the meaning of life embraced the wider cycles of life and death, of suffering and of dying.

Once the meaning of suffering had been revealed to us, we refused to minimize or alleviate the camp's tortures by ignoring them or harboring false illusions and entertaining artificial optimism. Suffering had become a task on which we did not want to turn out backs. We had realized its hidden opportunities for achievement, the opportunities which caused the poet Rilke to write, "Wie viel ist aufzuleiden!"(How much suffering there is to get through!) Rilke spoke of "getting through suffering" as others would talk of "getting through work." There was plenty of suffering for us to get through. Therefore, it was necessary to face up to the full amount of suffering, trying to keep moments of weakness and furtive tears to a minimum. But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer. Only very few realized that. Shamefacedly some confessed occasionally that they had wept, like the comrade who answered my question of how he had gotten over his edema, by confessing, "I have wept it out of my system."

The tender beginnings of a psychotherapy or psycho-hygiene were, when they were possible at all in the camp, either individual or collective in nature. The individual psychotherapeutic attempts were often a kind of "life-saving procedure." These efforts were usually concerned with the prevention of suicides. A very strict camp ruling forbade any efforts to save a man who attempted suicide. It was forbidden, for example, to cut down a man who was trying to hang himself. Therefore, it was all important to prevent these attempts from occurring.

I remember two cases of would-be suicide, which bore a striking similarity to each other. Both men had talked of their intentions to commit suicide. Both used the typical argument—they had nothing more to expect from life. In both cases it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them. We found, in fact, that for the one it was his child whom he adored and who was waiting for him in a foreign country. For the other it was a thing, not a person. This man was a scientist and had written a series of books which still needed to be finished. His work could not be done by anyone else, any more than another person could ever take the place of the father in his child's affections.

This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how."

"A Whole New World: Reading for Pleasure"

"A Whole New World: Reading for Pleasure"
by The DailyOm

"Each time we read for enjoyment, the empathy awakened within us creates entire landscapes in our mind's eye. Every book has the potential to touch the human soul deeply, arousing patterns of thought that might otherwise have lain dormant. The pleasure we derive from the written word is unique in that we must labor for it. Other forms of art provide us with stimulus and ask nothing more than our emotional response. Reading is an active pastime that requires an investment of emotion as well as our concentration and imagination. The words we read are merely a starting point for a process that takes place largely within our minds and hearts.

There are few activities as comforting, relaxing, and healthy as perusing the pages of a good piece of fiction or nonfiction. Curling up with a book and a cup of tea is one of the simplest ways we can remove ourselves from the confines of reality in order to immerse ourselves in the drama and intrigue of the unfamiliar. The pleasure of transcending reality is only one aspect of the reading experience, however. Each time we read for enjoyment, whether we prefer the fantastic nature of fiction, the empathy awakened within us by memoir, or the instructive passion of nonfiction, we create entire landscapes in our mind's eye. The books we choose provide us with the inspiration we need to accomplish such a feat, but it is our own creative reserves that empower us to use our imaginations for this unique and beautiful purpose.

The tales you lose yourself in can lead you on paths of discovery that take you out of your own life and help you see that existence can unfold in an infinite number of ways. You can learn so much from the characters and mentors who guide you from page to page. Your emotions are awakened each time you read, allowing you to become vessels of the passion that pours forth from line after line of print. Ultimately, the books you absorb—those that touch you deeply—will become a part of who you are, providing you with a rich and thrilling world within that you can revisit anytime you wish by simply closing your eyes. If you haven't read a book for pleasure lately, try and allow yourself the time—you deserve it."

"How It Really Is"


“Strait of Hormuz Standoff: Iran Films US Aircraft Carrier”

“Strait of Hormuz Standoff: Iran Films US Aircraft Carrier”
By Raf Sanchez

"Iran claimed to have taken surveillance footage of a US aircraft carrier near the Strait of Hormuz as both countries raised the stakes in their standoff over the key oil route.  The commander of Iran's navy said the reconnaissance mission was proof that his fleet had "control over the moves by foreign forces" but it was unclear what intelligence could be derived from the grainy video, which was played triumphantly on state television. Admiral Habibollah Sayyari's statement came as Iranian ships, helicopters and submarines continued a 10-day war game exercise designed to give credibility to the country's threat to close the Strait and choke off the world's oil supplies if the West moves ahead with sanctions. The drill is underway in international waters near the Strait and only a few hundred miles from America's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet. The US Navy has vowed to prevent any closure of the channel, through which 15 million barrels of oil pass every day. A Navy spokeswoman would not comment on the footage but confirmed that the USS John C Stennis, one of the fleet's largest carriers, was on a "routine transit" through the Strait to provide support to Nato forces in Afghanistan.


This map tells the whole story. Each star represents a U.S. military base. In the middle, in blue, is Iran. Iran has no military bases outside its borders. Just north of Iran is Georgia that has essentially become a U.S./NATO base. Turkey belongs to NATO. Iran has been checkmated. North of Georgia is Russia. Can there be any wonder why Russia is so alarmed about an attack on Iran?

Despite the Fifth Fleet's advantage in firepower, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander vowed yesterday that "Any threat will be responded [to] by threat." "We will not relinquish our strategic moves if Iran's vital interests are undermined by any means," General Hossein Salami told Press TV. This afternoon, the US also announced it was selling more than 80 F-15 strike aircraft to Saudi Arabia, an American ally and Iran's main rival for military dominance in the Middle East. Without specifically naming Iran, the State Department said the sale was intended as "a strong message to countries in the region that the United States is committed to stability in the Gulf and broader Middle East."

Barry Pavel, Director of the Brent Scowcroft Centre on International Security at the Atlantic Council, said that Iran's navy was potentially capable of closing the Strait but would be unlikely to do so because of the country's dependence on revenues from oil exports. "It would have to be a very extreme situation for Iran to basically shut down its own economy," he said. The Iranian threat to close the narrow shipping lane was made after the EU, backed by the US, announced it was tightening sanctions on Iran for pressing ahead with its nuclear programme. Europe buys around 20 per cent of all Iranian oil exports and a full embargo would cause serious damage to Iran's economy."

Greg Hunter, "Weekly News Wrap-Up 12.30.11"

"Weekly News Wrap-Up 12.30.11"
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

"The big story, with worldwide implications, is Iran threatening to close down the Strait of Hormuz.  The Iranians are fighting mad at the U.S. and EU for plans to tighten sanctions on their oil and financial interests because of Iran’s nuclear program.  Iran claims it is for peaceful purposes.  Nevertheless, tensions with Iran have been escalating in recent weeks.  It was reported yesterday, the Iranian Navy was shooting surveillance video of the American aircraft carrier, the USS Stennis.  The Iranians have, also, been conducting drills to shut down the Strait this past week.  15 million barrels of crude oil pass through this narrow shipping route every day.  Other North Africa and Middle East hot spots include Syria, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.  In other news, the Iowa Republican caucus is voting on a presidential candidate, and it looks like it is coming down to Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.   The EU debt crisis continues as nothing has been fixed.  Expect a weird combination of bank defaults and money printing in 2012 for that troubled region.  All that and much more from USAWatchdog.com and Greg Hunter in the Weekly News Wrap-Up.”

Karl Denninger, "This Got PRINTED? ("There Will Be Violence")

"This Got PRINTED? ("There Will Be Violence")
by Karl Denninger

    "As 2011 slithers to its end, none of the major problems that led to the crisis point three years ago have really been solved. Bank balance sheets still reek. Europe day by day becomes a financial black hole, with matter from the periphery being sucked toward the center until the vortex itself collapses. The Street and its ministries of propaganda have fallen back on a Big Lie as old as capitalism itself: that all that has gone wrong has been government's fault. This time, however, I don't think the argument that "Washington ate my homework" is going to work. This time, a firestorm is going to explode about the Street's head - and about time, too.

    Over the next year, I expect the "what" will give way to the "how" in the broad electorate's comprehension of the financial situation. The 99 percent must learn to differentiate the bloodsuckers and rent-extractors from those in the 1 percent who make the world a better, more just place to live. Once people realize how Wall Street made its pile, understand how financiers get rich, what it is that they actually do, the time will become ripe for someone to gather the spreading ripples of anger and perplexity into a focused tsunami of retribution. To make the bastards pay, properly, for the grief and woe they have caused. Perhaps not to the extent proposed by H. L. Mencken, who wrote that when a bank fails, the first order of business should be to hang its board of directors, but in a manner in which the pain is proportionate to the collateral damage. Possibly an excess-profits tax retroactive to 2007, or some form of "Tobin tax" on transactions, or a wealth tax. The era of money for nothing will be over.

    But it won't just end with taxes. When the great day comes, Wall Street will pray for another Pecora, because compared with the rough beast now beginning to strain at the leash, Pecora will look like Phil Gramm. Humiliation and ridicule, even financial penalties, will be the least of the Street's tribulations. There will be prosecutions and show trials. There will be violence, mark my words. Houses burnt, property defaced. I just hope that this time the mob targets the right people in Wall Street and in Washington. (How does a right-thinking Christian go about asking Santa for Mitch McConnell's head under the Christmas tree?) There will be kleptocrats who threaten to take themselves elsewhere if their demands on jurisdictions and tax breaks aren't met, and I say let 'em go!"

Hoh hoh hoh.

Michael Thomas is right, you know.  I've been trying to get purchase for draining the swamp and punishing the wrongdoers among the various political classes in DC and elsewhere for a long time, in some cases dating back to the 1990s.  My stock in trade is mathematics - that irrespective of the money flowing into the coffers of campaigns and lobbying offices what's being attempted cannot work and as a consequence we are choosing between doing the right thing now and having it suck and doing it later by force and having it suck more.

Why appeal to people in this way?  Well, what else do you have when the base case - that you should do the right thing because it's right - no longer has any currency?  In a city (DC) and nation (America) where bribery and corruption have become a way of life, where lies told to the electorate as a means of buying votes has become the degenerate set that's left of what used to pass for law and order, you can no longer appeal to people's "better virtues." All that's left is trying to appeal to their desire to survive what's coming, whether that survival is political or at rather-more-fundamental level.

This isn't the sort of thing that anyone wants to talk of openly, of course, but we must, because just like mathematics it is inevitable on the path we are on.  The idea that one can "throw money from helicopters" as Bernanke has put forward is an intentional fraud.  Diluting the currency base of course simply makes everything more expensive you need while attempting to bail out those in debt at the same time.  For the common man in debt nothing happens.  For the poor who never had access to credit at a material level they literally starve and thus civil and political order is threatened.  The wealthy, for their part, simply skim off more and more to "protect" their capital.   That a man who runs this sort of crap manages to get reconfirmed after intentionally averting his eyes to the bubble being blown as a consequence of his policies is an outrage.  It speaks to the high corruption of public process and public life, but it is not an isolated incident or uncommon in the world of today.

The IMF's Lagarde talks of Europe being "everyone's problem", as if Germany and France decided to con the world with hinky Greek derivative deals.  Perhaps some French or German banks did so (along with American ones), but France and Germany themselves?  No.  But now, having happened, it suddenly is someone else's problem to bail out, and oh by the way, it's not just Greece. At its core the problem is both simpler and more complex than it first appears.  The complexity is intentionally used as a foil by various pundits and others who argue that we must support the "financial innovators" lest it all go somewhere else.  But Paul Volcker, hardly a dummy, has said in public that the only real "innovation" in the financial industry in the last 30 years was the ATM!

He's right, you know.  Ginning up some debt deal and selling it to rubes, knowing full well that it was crap and destined to eventually blow up, is nothing new at all.  A column over at Interfluidity argues that the bankster model is not only old hat but has driven much of innovation through the ages.  To that argument I call bull. Simply put the question being put forward in the latter article proceeds from a false premise.  The idea that we gain some sort of "societal benefit" from these misallocations of capital is trivially proved to be false using nothing more than basic analysis and mathematics.  All you have to do is look here:


Notice how the outstanding debt increase, quarter by quarter, exceeds that of output.  The premise run by Interfluidity is that the societal good in terms of Nash Equilibria is therefore false, as it is not adjusted for the claims made against the future.  This of course is exactly the sort of lie the banksters and politicians have run as their stock in trade for 30 years, and it is not surprising at all that Steve would fall into the trap.  After all most of us alive have spent the majority of our lives in this lie.

If I can falsify the premise from which you proceed then the remainder of your argument goes in the ashcan.  Sorry Steve.

The smartest guys in the room (that would be the banksters) always believe they can get away with it, of course.  Some of them are delusional, many for the same reasons.  A number of those who are considered "respectable" even subscribe to idiocies like "MMT", believing that somehow the government causes economic growth through deficit spending.
But the graph above does not lie.  As I have repeatedly commented these beliefs are much like perpetual motion in its various forms; there is always someone who claims to have figured it out.  But the laws of thermodynamics say perpetual motion is impossible, and ultimately once again the person running the scheme is proved to be wrong - usually intentionally so when their hidden energy source is discovered.

The choice is not between a modern economic system that favors growth and living in caves.  It is between economic progress that is sustainable and funded from economic surplus and one that is built on debt bubbles, lies, and ultimately must and does collapse. The former is an economy that grows through actual innovation and improvement in productivity, where debt is a tool to liquify transaction flow rather than pyramid upon the shoulders of the people.  The latter is the lie we've lived for 30 years, and which is now reaching its mathematical conclusion.

We face a time when in the present we have a choice of becoming adults and accepting what we've done, along with what we must do, or continuing to pound on the table like a petulant child demanding another bar of chocolate.  The latter path has been the road of the last 30 years, but now the supply of chocolate is exhausted.  There is food to be had outside in the form of strawberries, ears of corn and even a rabbit or three, but to obtain the latter we must get off our collective asses and pick the strawberries, cultivate the corn or shoot, skin and cook the rabbit.  We are choosing now between recognition and personal effort, along with acceptance of the harm we've done by eating all that chocolate (we're all 100lbs overweight!) or literal starvation through laziness.

The old political and bankster ways are out of gas folks.  There is no path forward on the road we've been traveling - the bridge is out and our choice is to either stop before we reach the edge or take the plunge onto the rocky cliffs below. Choose wisely.”

Bill Bonner, "Avoiding the Danger Zones in the Year Ahead"

"Avoiding the Danger Zones in the Year Ahead"
by Bill Bonner

"And here we are at the end of the week…and the end of the year. And we’re no surer of what is going on than we were at the beginning of it. The Dow rose 135 points yesterday. But gold kept going down. It is looking more and more like gold intends to make its big correction now… It’s been down for 6 days in a row. We’ve been waiting for it. We’ve been hoping for it. We’ve been counting on it. Is it here yet? We don’t know. Gold is edging down towards $1,500. But it is still solidly ahead for the year! What kind of bull market correction is that? Who knows? Maybe 2012 will give us a better opportunity to buy more gold… We hope so… In the meantime, the markets are fairly quiet. The politicians are keeping their mouths closed too.

Here at The Daily Reckoning Christmas headquarters we’re drinking eggnog, eating fruitcake and wondering what 2012 will bring. We’ve given up trying to actually look into the future. We don’t seem to have the knack for it. Instead, we’re just trying to figure out what we OUGHT to believe in order to end the coming year in the best possible situation. That is, what belief is least likely to be fatal? Which is most likely to pay off? Generally, you ought to believe that things will turn out worse than they actually will. Why? Because the danger is on the downside. And this is a dangerous market.

Europe could blow up at any time. Despite what you read in the papers, Europe’s debtor nations — and the banks that hold the debt — are just a few basis points from disaster. Traders and speculators are taking it easy over the holidays. We’ll see what happens when they get back to work in January.

China, too, is a danger zone. Trouble is, we don’t know exactly what the danger is. The economy is still growing at more than 5% per year. If the growth rate goes up…China will put a big strain on the world’s demand for oil and other commodities…which will make it harder for US and European families to make ends meet. On the other hand, China is also showing signs of a slowdown…or even a blow-up. Shanghai property prices are said to be falling…fast. And the size of China’s bad debts may be greater than America’s subprime or European ‘olive country’ bonds.

Meanwhile, the US is sitting pretty. For now. Money is fleeing China and Europe for the perceived safety of the USA. Whatever else may happen, there’s one thing investors can count on. Ben Bernanke and his merry band of price fixers will print the money necessary to pay off bondholders. But America is dangerous too. It has a doomed currency…an out-of-control military…and a dysfunctional Congress. Sooner or later, it will blow up too. We don’t know which bomb will go off first. But at least we know to keep our heads down in 2012.

That’s all we have for this week, best wishes for the New Year…"

"Be Careful What You Wish For..."

"It hurts to find out that what you wanted 
doesn't match what you dreamed it would be." 

- Randy K. Mulholland

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chet Raymo, "Nature Loves To Hide"

"Nature Loves To Hide"
by Chet Raymo

"A rainbow. Pretty to look at. But what do you see? The arc of a perfect circle. Pure geometry. Think about how seldom we see pure geometric forms in nature. Rivers never run straight and true. Nature draws straight lines reluctantly. Circles? The sun and moon. I look out my window at a broad panorama or earth, sea and sky, and I see not a single shape or line that might be found in a geometry book.

In the “Timaeus”, Plato suggested that behind the manifestly ungeometrical higgledy-piggledy of nature there lay a hidden world of geometrical atoms. It was a prescient insight, but led nowhere at the time. Kepler hoped to explain the spacing of the planets with nested Platonic solids - spheres, cubes, tetrahedra, etc. - but it turned out to be a bit of a wild goose chase. When Galileo rolled balls downed inclined planes and measured distances and times, a parabola winked in his data. Plato was right! It wasn't long before mathematical regularities started showing up everywhere. The book of nature really is written in the language of mathematics. But how closely nature hides that secret. I look out the window and I don't see a hint of it. Then - the rainbow appears in the sky...”

"A Look to the Heavens"

"While Comet Lovejoy entertained early morning risers in in the southern hemisphere, a lovely conjunction of a young crescent Moon and Venus graced western skies at sunset. Captured on December 26th the conjunction, with beautiful sunset colors above and below, is seen here over Viverone Lake near Turin, Italy. 
 Click image for larger size.
But if you've been outdoors at all lately enjoying sunsets on planet Earth, then you've probably noticed Venus low in the west as the season's brilliant evening star. Sometimes mistaken for a terrestrial light near the horizon, Venus is the third brightest celestial beacon, after the Sun and Moon. That distinction is particularly easy to appreciate in this peaceful scene.”

Kahlil Gibran, "Beyond My Solitude"

"Beyond My Solitude"

"Beyond my solitude is another solitude, and to him who dwells therein my
aloneness is a crowded market-place and my silence a confusion of sounds.

Too young am I and too restless to seek that above-solitude. The voices of
yonder valley still hold my ears and its shadows bar my way and I cannot go.

Beyond these hills is a grove of enchantment and to him who dwells
therein my peace is but a whirlwind and my enchantment an illusion.

Too young am I and too riotous to seek that sacred grove. The taste of blood is clinging
in my mouth, and the bow and the arrows of my fathers yet linger in my hand and I cannot go.

Beyond this burdened self lives my freer self; and to him my dreams are a
battle fought in twilight and my desires the rattling of bones.

Too young am I and too outraged to be my freer self. And how shall I become
my freer self unless I slay my burdened selves, or unless all men become free?

How shall the eagle in me soar against the sun until my fledglings
leave the nest which I with my own beak have built for them?"

- Kahlil Gibran

Free Download: Viktor E. Frankl, "Man's Search for Meaning"


"Man's Search for Meaning"
by Viktor E. Frankl

"Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl is among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud. The book begins with a lengthy, austere, and deeply moving personal essay about Frankl's imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for five years, and his struggle during this time to find reasons to live. The second part of the book, called "Logotherapy in a Nutshell," describes the psychotherapeutic method that Frankl pioneered as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps. Freud believed that sexual instincts and urges were the driving force of humanity's life; Frankl, by contrast, believes that man's deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. Frankl's logotherapy, therefore, is much more compatible with Western religions than Freudian psychotherapy. This is a fascinating, sophisticated, and very human book. At times, Frankl's personal and professional discourses merge into a style of tremendous power. "Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is," Frankl writes. "After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips."

 
 Freely download "Man's Search For Meaning" here:

"Flying Home: Free of Gravity"

"Flying Home: Free of Gravity"
by The DailyOm

"We take flight mentally when we rise above our habitual ways of thinking about things and experience new insights. As earthbound beings, humans have always had a fascination with winged creatures of all kinds. The idea of being able to spontaneously lift off from the earth and fly is so compelling to us that we invented airplanes and helicopters and myriad other flying machines in order to provide ourselves with the many gifts of being airborne. Flying high in the sky, we look down on the earth that is our home and see things from an entirely different perspective. We can see more, and we can see farther than we can when we're on the ground. As if all this weren’t enough, the out-of-this-world feeling of freedom that comes with groundlessness inspires us to want to take flight again and again.

Metaphorically, we take flight whenever we break free of the gravity that holds us to a particular way of thinking or feeling or being. We take flight mentally when we rise above our habitual ways of thinking about things and experience new insights. This is what it means to open our minds. Emotionally, we take flight when the strength of our passion exceeds the strength of our blockages; the floodgates open and we are free to feel fully. Spiritually we take flight when we locate that part of ourselves that is beyond the constraint of linear time and the world of form. It is in this place that we experience the essential boundlessness that defines the experience of flight.

Taking flight is always about freeing ourselves from form, if only temporarily. When we literally fly, in a plane or on a hang glider, we free ourselves from the strength of gravity's pull. As we open our minds and our hearts, we free ourselves from habitual patterns of thought and emotional blockages. As we remember our true nature, we free ourselves from identification with the temporary state of our physical forms. The more we stretch our wings, the clearer it becomes that taking flight is a state of grace that simply reminds us of who we really are."

"Dazed Lemmings Can't Bridge The Reality Gap"

"Dazed Lemmings Can't Bridge The Reality Gap"
by Zen Gardner

"Ever wonder why people can't make the leap to real awareness of what's going on? Why do so few people seem to care about the dangers of the unreported radiation levels and toxic debris washing across the pacific? How is it no one but local residents raise the alarm about the horrific effects of the Gulf oil spill and the poisonous seafood landing on American dinner tables? As the Orwellian American police state sweeps into place, the economy crumbles, and their faultless leader languishes on a Hawaiian beach, Americans are preparing to celebrate their entry into a brave new 2012 with minimal awareness of the true dangers already dissolving their health, wealth and chances for survival in an engineered conflagration of mythic proportions that is already descending on their heads.

As the gap between reality and manipulated public perception grows, it may just be too big a leap for many at this point. Having been dumbed-down and unresponsive for so long, it's too much for them to take in. Sad, but again, that's reality. Hey, why wake up when everything's such a bummer? That's the underlying mentality. The thing is, this is a conditioned response. Overload and recoil. And it's been going on a long, long time.

Why? Like the dumbing down effect of fluoride and chemtrails and adulterated food, it eventually suppresses natural responses. When the real alert presents itself, the subject will not be able to react and protect himself. Why all the dramatic end of the world sci-fi movies? Why the emphasis on violence and horror movies and graphic, destructive wars? Why does the news major on the bad events of the day? Why the combative gladiator sports, emphasis on technology instead of humanity, and mind-numbing crass consumerism and sexualization of society? This is deliberate social engineering, and that's the biggie. It's all engineered..and that's the last thing most people want to realize. And it usually is.

The Power of Cognitive Dissonance: The world has become essentially schizophrenic in outlook. Being told one thing while the exact opposite is happening before their eyes for so long, the "dissonance" created by this conflict causes humanity to shut down. America is the perfect example. Ostensibly fighting for "freedom and liberty" we commit genocide and destroy nation after nation. To protect our liberties the government has overturned the Bill of Rights and made the Constitution a mockery. Yet the populace sits and takes it. Why? Too big of a leap. If it turned out they've been completely conned by a massive manipulated agenda they may just completely break down. And subconsciously the horror of that reality is therefore a "no". Even if it were true they're at the point they'd rather not know.

I'll Take Conscious Reality. "Why all the negativity?" is what you'll hear a lot of the time when you bring these things up. The answer, as David Icke often says, is that ignorance is negative. Truth is empowering, no matter how awful it may be sometimes. And at this point in history the more you learn the more negative it may seem, with the Controllers' agenda in full final-phase swing. But so what. Things haven't changed all that much. The purpose of life is to rediscover who you truly are, and that wonderful awakening makes everything else pale in comparison. Our mission then becomes to inform and empower, share and encourage. The same one it always has been. That it's taking this kind of extreme compression to awaken the slumbering masses is really no surprise, and ultimately a gift from the Universe to help people back into the real world.....that of conscious loving awareness."
"Awaken from slumber, one and all..."

"Massive Solar Storm 'Could Knock Out Radio Signals' Over Next Three Days"

"Massive Solar Storm 'Could Knock Out 
Radio Signals' Over Next Three Days"
By Ted Thornhill

"Skywatchers will be hoping for clear skies from today because particles from a recent solar storm will slam into Earth and produce amazing Northern Lights, or auroras. On the downside, experts expect radio blackouts for a few days, caused by the radiation from the flare – or coronal mass ejection (CME) – causing magnetic storms. The flare is part of a larger increase in activity in the Sun, which runs in 11-year cycles. It is expected to peak around 2013.

It's coming this way: The CME, seen by Nasa's STEREO-B spacecraft, 
can be seen blasting out from the Sun on the right-hand side (circled).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center wrote: ‘Category G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storms are expected 28 and 29 December due to multiple coronal mass ejection arrivals. R1 (Minor) radio blackouts are expected until 31 December.’ Devices that depend on radio waves include GPS systems, radios and mobile phones.

A coronal mass ejection contains billions of tons of gases bursting with X-rays and ultraviolet radiation that are flung into space at around 5million mph. They are mind-bogglingly hot – around 100,000,000C. The Earth is occasionally hosed by these ejections, leading to amazing shimmering light shows. They are caused by the ionized solar particles becoming imprisoned by Earth’s magnetic field, exciting the gases in the atmosphere and emitting bursts of energy in the form of light. However, these particles can also cause magnetic storms, which in extreme cases have been known to disrupt satellites and electricity grids.

In 1989, a CME was held responsible for leaving six million people in Quebec, Canada, without power. Last month one of the largest storms our star can produce was detected. Known as an X1.9 flare, it was one of the biggest seen in years. The flare was so powerful that it disrupted communications systems on earth a short time later. Another gigantic flare occurred in August but because it took place on the side of the Sun not facing Earth, there was no disruption to communications or power.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Marlow, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom. Thanks for stopping by.

"The Illusion of a ‘Limited War’ Against Iran"

"The Illusion of a ‘Limited War’ Against Iran"
by Mahan Abedin

"The frank admission by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and America’s highest ranking officer, that the U.S. has plans to attack Iran to prevent that country from acquiring nuclear weapons, is being treated with the utmost seriousness in political, intelligence and military circles in Tehran. This is the first time that a high-ranking U.S. official has spoken about the existence of military plans to prevent the Islamic Republic from crossing the nuclear threshold. There is considerable evidence that Mullen’s frank statement, coupled with the Obama Administration’s increasingly hostile and dismissive attitude towards Iran, and reinforced by the fourth round of United Nations sanctions imposed in June (followed by even harsher unilateral sanctions imposed by both the European Union and the United States), has radically altered the Tehran regime’s strategic calculations on the possibility of a military confrontation with the United States.

Hitherto the conventional wisdom amongst strategic policy makers in the Islamic Republic was that the U.S. would adhere to the ‘no war no peace’ policy, irrespective of the bellicose rhetoric of American leaders and officials. The policy of ‘no war no peace’ has characterized Iranian-American relations since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in February 1979. The basic premise of this policy is that at different stages Iran and America edge towards war or peace – depending on the prevailing strategic scenario in the region – but never quite actually achieve either. The result is that most of the time the two states are somewhere in the middle conducting a Cold War, in which leaders and officials from both sides trade insults and engage in ideological and political grandstanding, but stop well short of the point where further escalation of tensions might trigger a hot war.

For the past thirty-one years this policy has benefited most of the key stakeholders, including hardline political factions in both countries, the regional Arab states, Turkey, Pakistan and Israel. All have benefited from this Iranian-American Cold War, insofar as the paucity of diplomatic and political relations between Iran and America has continuously opened up a wide range of strategic, political and economic benefits. By the same token, these stake holders would have much to lose if Iran and America actually engaged in real fighting. While this argument has manifold shortcomings, nonetheless it does capture a large part of the reality of Iranian-American relations since 1979. In any case it is what key Iranian strategic policy makers have believed all along. Until now that is.

Despite the fact that a few days before Mullen’s statement, the supreme commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC—Sepah-e-Pasdaran in Persian), Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Jafari, dismissed U.S. threats, claiming that America “would not dare to attack Iran”, other IRGC leaders have in recent months continuously warned of the immediate and long-term fallout of any military confrontation. The head of the IRGC’s political-ideological unit recently warned of “dire” threats to regional security in the event of an American military attack. Meanwhile Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s defence minister and a former commander of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force (responsible for special foreign operations), has pledged a “robust” response to any American military aggression against Iran.

It has been clear for months that the mood of IRGC commanders has been changing and Mullen’s statement appears to lend credence to the strategic calculations of the Revolutionary Guard commanders. This development is of the utmost significance, since in the event of an Iranian-American military confrontation, the IRGC is expected to be at the forefront of containing the American assault and retaliating with military measures of its own.

In fact, in the event of a military confrontation Iranian leaders are likely to relieve the regular Iranian military from fighting, so as to keep them out of harm’s way and maintain the integrity and fighting strength of the regular armed forces. There is another reason for this decision and that has to do with the depleted capabilities of the national military; in the past thirty years the national armed forces have insidiously lost power and prestige to the IRGC. It is worth noting that Iran is the only country in the world that operates two completely independent military commands; one centred on the regular armed forces, and the other on the IRGC, which operates its own ground forces, navy and air force, as well as a myriad of intelligence and security services. Moreover, the IRGC controls all of Iran’s strategic military assets, including mid-range ballistic missile capability.

It has become fashionable to paint the IRGC as an economic conglomerate more interested in making money than fighting for the values of the Islamic Revolution. Much of the reporting on IRGC economic activity is inaccurate and disingenuous and is indicative of the faux-naif style of analysis often employed by Western journalists and analysts. The truth is that whilst the IRGC has a sizeable economic wing centred on the Khatam ol-Anbia complex (Qarargah-e Khatam ol-Anbia), its economic and financial activities are kept strictly separate from its fighting units. In any case, the IRGC is foremost an ideological army that is totally and unequivocally committed to the survival of the Islamic Revolution, and the political-religious system that emerged from that revolution. Even former reformist president (and now opposition leader) Mohammad Khatami referred to the IRGC as the “most ideological armed force in the world.”

American political and military leaders would be mistaken if they believed they could get away with a “limited” military strike on Iran, designed to destroy that country’s nuclear infrastructure. Any military strike on Iran by the United States will be interpreted by Iran’s rulers, and their IRGC enforcers, as a direct assault on the integrity and the very existence of the Islamic Republic. From a strategic point of view, IRGC commanders will interpret any American strike as the beginning of an existential conflict, and will respond appropriately.

A top priority for the IRGC high command is to respond so harshly and decisively so as to deter the Americans from a second set of strikes at a future point. The idea here is to avoid what happened to Iraq in the period 1991-2003, when the former Baathist regime was so weakened by sanctions and repeated small-scale military attacks that it quickly collapsed in the face of American and British invading armies. The range of predictable responses available to the IRGC high command include dramatic hit and run attacks against military and commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf, the use of mid-range ballistic missiles against American bases in the region and Israel and a direct assault on American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. All these options are likely to be used within 48 hours of the start of hostilities.

What is less predictable is the response of the IRGC Qods Force, which is likely to be at the forefront of the Pasdaran’s counter-attack. One possible response by the Qods force is spectacular terrorist-style attacks against American intelligence bases and assets throughout the region. The IRGC Qods Force is believed to have identified every key component of the American intelligence apparatus in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are likely to put this information to good use, especially since the Qods Force suspects that the CIA had a hand in last October’s Jundullah-organised suicide bombing targeting IRGC commanders in Iran’s volatile Sistan va Baluchistan province. The IRGC navy will also play a key asymmetrical role in the conflict by organising maritime suicide bombings on an industrial scale. By manning its fleet of speedboats with suicide bombers and ramming them into American warships and even neutral commercial shipping, the Pasdaran will hope to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which nearly 40 percent of world crude oil supplies pass.

The combination of these asymmetrical forms of warfare with more conventional style missile and even ground force attacks on American bases in the region will likely result in thousands of American military casualties in the space of a few weeks. The IRGC has both the will and wherewithal to inflict a level of casualties on American armed forces not seen since the Second World War.

Even if the United States manages to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and much of the country’s military assets, the IRGC can still claim victory by claiming to have given the Americans a bloody nose and producing an outcome not dissimilar from the Israeli-Hezbollah military engagement in the summer of 2006. The political effect of this will likely be even more explosive than the actual fighting. Not only will it awaken the sleeping giant of Iranian nationalism, thus aligning the broad mass of the people with the regime, it will also shore up Iran’s image in the region and prove once and for all that the Islamic Republic is prepared to fight to the death to uphold its principles. Suddenly Iran’s allies in the region – particularly non-state actors like Hezbollah and Hamas – would stand ten feet tall.

Ironically U.S. military aggression will likely accelerate the actualisation of the very scenario that American political and military leaders insist they are determined to prevent, i.e. a nuclear armed Iran. Even if we accept the contentious proposition that Iran’s nuclear programme has a military dimension, the immediate reaction of Iran’s rulers to military aggression would be to start a crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon, as a means of deterring future aggression.

Contrary to what Mike Mullen and other American military commanders appear to believe, a military attack on Iran really is the very worst option. Its consequences for Iran, the region and the United States are dangerously unpredictable, to the extent that any decision to attack would be nothing less than stunningly reckless and quite possibly the worst strategic mistake in American military history. Responsible actors in the international system should exert the maximum effort to avoid an Iranian-American War."

“Iran Warns Of Closing Strategic Hormuz Oil Route”

“Iran Warns Of Closing Strategic Hormuz Oil Route”
By Ali Akbar Dareini

“Iran's navy chief warned Wednesday that his country can easily close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the passageway through which a sixth of the world's oil flows. It was the second such warning in two days. On Tuesday, Vice President Mohamed Reza Rahimi threatened to close the strait, cutting off oil exports, if the West imposes sanctions on Iran's oil shipments. In response, the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet's spokeswoman warned that any disruption "will not be tolerated." The spokeswoman, Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, said the U.S. Navy is "always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation."

With concern growing over a possible drop-off in Iranian oil supplies, a senior Saudi oil official said Gulf Arab nations are ready to offset any loss of Iranian crude. That reassurance led to a drop in world oil prices. In New York, benchmark crude fell 77 cents to $100.57 a barrel in morning trading. Brent crude fell 82 cents to $108.45 a barrel in London.


"Closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces," Adm. Habibollah Sayyari told state-run Press TV. "Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway," the navy chief said. The threats underline Iranian concern that the West is about to impose new sanctions that could target Tehran's vital oil industry and exports. Western nations are growing increasingly impatient with Iran over its nuclear program. The U.S. and its allies have accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its program is geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

The U.S. Congress has passed a bill banning dealings with the Iran Central Bank, and President Barack Obama has said he will sign it despite his misgivings. Critics warn it could impose hardships on U.S. allies and drive up oil prices. The bill could impose penalties on foreign firms that do business with Iran's central bank. European and Asian nations import Iranian oil and use its central bank for the transactions.

Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil producer, with an output of about 4 million barrels of oil a day. It relies on oil exports for about 80 percent of its public revenues. Iran has adopted an aggressive military posture in recent months in response to increasing threats from the U.S. and Israel that they may take military action to stop Iran's nuclear program. The navy is in the midst of a 10-day drill in international waters near the strategic oil route. The exercises began Saturday and involve submarines, missile drills, torpedoes and drones. The war games cover a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometer) stretch of sea off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea as a show of strength and could bring Iranian ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels in the area.

Iranian media are describing how Iran could move to close the strait, saying the country would use a combination of warships, submarines, speed boats, anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, surface-to-sea missiles and drones to stop ships from sailing through the narrow waterway. Iran's navy claims it has sonar-evading submarines designed for shallow waters of the Persian Gulf, enabling it to hit passing enemy vessels.

A closure of the strait could temporarily cut off some oil supplies and force shippers to take longer, more expensive routes that would drive oil prices higher. It also potentially opens the door for a military confrontation that would further rattle global oil markets.

Iran claimed a victory this month when it captured an American surveillance drone almost intact. It went public with its possession of the RQ-170 Sentinel to trumpet the downing as a feat of Iran's military in a complicated technological and intelligence battle with the U.S. American officials have said that U.S. intelligence assessments indicate the drone malfunctioned.”
And it's all so ominously, horrifyingly familiar... - CP

"Insatiable US Debt and Other Jokes"

"Insatiable US Debt and Other Jokes"
by Bill Bonner

"Yesterday, the Dow dropped 139 points…with all 30 Dow stocks lower. Gold lost $31. It seems to be heading towards $1,500…or maybe $1,400…or lower! But don’t expect us to do any serious thinking this week. We’re celebrating 12 days of Christmas. And we’ve got 7 more to go. The holidays don’t stop us from having an un-serious thought or two, however. For example, later in the week, we’re going to give you our predictions for 2012… You need to be prepared…in case the world doesn’t end on schedule. Who knows, maybe the Mayans miscalculated?

Here’s a prevue: Stocks will go down. Gold will go down. The dollar will go up. The US may be going broke, but perversely, people want dollars…and US Treasury debt. It’s the only thing they can count on. If the feds ever run out, they know they can depend on Ben Bernanke & his central banker friends to give them more.

Here’s the Bloomberg update: "The US government received record demand for its bonds in 2011, pushing longer-maturity Treasuries to their best performance since 1995 in a sign that President Barack Obama may have little difficulty financing a fourth consecutive year of $1 trillion budget deficits. The Treasury Department attracted $3.04 for each dollar of the $2.135 trillion in notes and bonds sold, the most since the government began releasing the data in 1992 during the George H. W. Bush administration. The US drew an all-time high bid-to-cover ratio of 9.07 for $30 billion of four-week bills it auctioned on Dec. 20 even though they pay zero percent interest.

While Standard & Poor’s stripped the US of its AAA credit rating on Aug. 5, Treasuries due in 10 years or more returned 25.6 percent this year. The spreading sovereign debt crisis in Europe and slower global growth are driving investors to the safety of US assets, helping to contain borrowing costs and making it cheaper as a percentage of gross domestic product to finance deficits than when the nation last had budget surpluses. “If the last two weeks are any indication of how next year will start, there’s near-insatiable demand,” Ira Jersey, an interest-rate strategist at Credit Suisse Group AG in New York, one of 21 primary dealers that are required to bid at auctions, said in a Dec. 21 telephone interview. “We have a significantly shrinking supply of risk-free assets in the world and US Treasuries are one of the few left.”

Yeah, yeah…insatiable demand. We’ve heard that before. In 1999 there was an insatiable demand for stocks. Remember, there were 70 million baby boomers preparing for retirement. What choice did they have? They had to buy stocks, right? Wrong…stocks went down in January 2000. In real terms, they’re considerably lower now — depending on how you adjust for inflation. Then, in 2005, remember the insatiable demand for housing? More immigrants. More families getting richer. Everyone wanted to get on the housing ‘escalator’ before it was too late. But in 2007 it turned out that investors were already satiated. They had enough housing…and housing debt. And now, demand for US government debt is ‘insatiable.’ Heh…heh…heh…

But wait? Aren’t we implying that US government debt is in a bubble. Doesn’t that suggest that it will soon go down? Yes. Well…maybe. US government bonds are in a bubble…with the highest prices and lowest yields in more than a century. But bubbles do not necessarily blow up right away. It can take time for the pin to approach… And Mr. Market is a pretty cunning old fellow. Our guess is that he will want to draw more of the world’s wealth into the US bond market…before blowing it up.

Does that mean you can safely buy US bonds in 2012? Not at all! Stay away…far away… Bubbles are always dangerous. And a bubble in the world’s reserve asset — US dollar-denominated debt — is the most dangerous ever. When it blows…penguins at the South Pole will have to cover their ears. Deaf people will complain about the noise. And the shock wave will knock down a large part of the entire world’s capital structure…

Beware, dear reader, beware…Here’s how government really works. The insiders get richer; the outsiders get poorer. The New York Times has the story:

WASHINGTON — "When Representative Ed Pastor was first elected to Congress two decades ago, he was comfortably ensconced in the middle class. Mr. Pastor, a Democrat from Arizona, held $100,000 or so in savings accounts in the mid-1990s and had a retirement pension, but like many Americans, he also owed the banks nearly as much in loans. Today, Mr. Pastor, a miner’s son and a former high school teacher, is a member of a not-so-exclusive club: Capitol Hill millionaires. That group has grown in recent years to include nearly half of all members of Congress — 250 in all — and the wealth gap between lawmakers and their constituents appears to be growing quickly, even as Congress debates unemployment benefits, possible cuts in food stamps and a “millionaire’s tax.”

Mr. Pastor buys a Powerball lottery ticket every weekend and says he does not consider himself rich. Indeed, within the halls of Congress, where the median net worth is $913,000 and climbing, he is not. He is a rank-and-file millionaire. But compared with the country at large, where the median net worth is $100,000 and has dropped significantly since 2004, he and most of his fellow lawmakers are true aristocrats.

Largely insulated from the country’s economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress — many of them among the “1 percenters” denounced by Occupy Wall Street protesters — have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the last six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group. How do the insiders get rich? Here’s another story that provides part of the answer. The government gives “foreign aid” to poor countries. And then, it turns the ‘foreign’ aid into military aid…so the money goes into the pockets of Pentagon contractors…their lobbyists…and their pet politicians.
"Two Thirds of US Foreign Aid is Really Military Aid"
by David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff

"When some Americans complain that foreign aid is wasting taxpayer money abroad that could be put to better use at home, they may not realize that today’s version of foreign aid isn’t what it used to be. Call it the Pentagon-zation of US foreign assistance. Until a few years ago, the State Department was the leading US government agency when it came to doling out foreign aid. But beginning in the second term of George W. Bush’s presidency, and continuing through the Obama administration, the Department of Defense has surpassed the State Department in supporting foreign initiatives, most of which have been military oriented.

For the past two years, the Pentagon has been given $10 billion more than the State Department for foreign aid projects. With $17 billion, Defense officials plan for the coming year to invest in foreign military and police training, counter-drug assistance, counterterrorism activities and infrastructure projects, among other programs. Among the expenditures included in the recently passed 2012 National Defense Authorization Act are $1.1 billion to the government of Pakistan for alleged counterinsurgency efforts and $415 million for two programs known euphemistically as the Combatant Commander Initiative Fund and the Commander Emergency Response Fund. Translated into everyday English, this means cash that can be handed out by US commanders."

"How It Really Is"


"Faith..."

"When you come to the end of all the light you know,
and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown,
faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen:
Either you will be given something solid to stand on...
or you will be taught to fly."

- Edward Teller

Musical Interlude: George Harrison, "What Is Life?"

"Stress Kills, So Try A New Action-Meditation"

"Stress Kills, So Try A New Action-Meditation"
by Paul B. Farrell

"Ask any expert, stress kills, especially when there’s no let up. Like right now during the holiday season. We all want to enjoy, be happy, have fun. Unfortunately today’s stressors not only won’t let up, they’re getting worse. That’s right: Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse with the Congressional supercommittee’s super failure to deal with America’s economic problems, this news flash from Paris: The prestigious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is now warning world leaders: “Prepare to face the worst.” In its latest economic outlook, the OECD warns that the European Union is also a super failure. Not only is the EU’s debt crisis metastasizing across the developed world, there’s a danger it will become a global contagion with “highly devastating outcomes.”

Get it? More stress. Lots more. And it’s not going to let up, not for Americans, not for the EU and other developed nations. Thanks to inept leaders in the U.S. and EU the entire world may soon be in a global recession… upstaging Santa, elves, reindeer and his sledge full of toys that make the kid in each of us happy. Bah humbug.

OK, so everybody’s stressed out! Had enough? Here’s how you can destress, calm-down, lower your blood pressure for Santa. Try my new meditations. I know you hate sitting meditation, so I’m going to let you in on my famous no-sitting, destressing method. This started with something Pimco’s Bill Gross said several years ago, got me “thinking outside the box” about sitting meditation. Bill said: “Yoga is great physical training, not something spiritual or religious. I want to be as effective as I can be in my job. It’s results-driven. And the results are remarkable.” Get it? Moving meditation works for action-oriented folks on Wall Street: And Bill needs it, his firm manages over a trillion dollars.

New research: Stress is healthy, you need action-oriented meditations: Years ago I discovered that sitting meditation doesn’t work for 80% of busy Americans. Sitting may work for monks in monasteries. But don’t be misled by America’s naïve media. They’re enamored with monks sitting, eyes closed, chanting mantras. Forget sitting. There are millions like you who “hate sitting like a monk, prefer sweating like a jock.”

In researching my “Millionaire Code” book, a psychological study of the wealth-building habits of investors, I discovered that sitting works best for maybe 20% of you. But it is not the best way for the other 80% to meditate. Get it? 4 of 5 of you are naturally suited to physical meditations, not sitting passively like a monk playing mind games. So odds are that sitting is not the best way for you either — not if you want the benefits of stress reduction, physical health, increased energy, higher productivity, and success on the bottom line.

Passive sitting meditation was developed over many centuries by spiritual masters who believe stress is a mental “problem.” Your “monkey brain” must be silenced, controlled. But new scientific research by modern sports psychologists has discovered just the opposite. The new research proves stress is actually natural and healthy. So rather than eliminate stress, like the sitting monks, today’s sports psychologists begin with the premise that stress is positive, healthy, natural. In fact, under pressure stress helps us build inner strength, hone our character, handle even more stress, and reach new levels of performance. In short, while monks fight stress, jocks work with it. So if you’re one the 4 of 5, get into action!

So here’s “The Only Guide to Meditation & Stress Management You’ll Ever Need,” from my “Millionaire Meditation” guide: Four simple rules that work in all meditation systems, ancient and modern, personal and institutional, secular and spiritual. And you don’t need a guru. This short course works for anyone, anywhere, any activity, any time:
* One: Focus on what you’re doing in this moment — and nothing else!

* Two: Anything you’re doing can become a meditation — anything!

* Three: Trust yourself, the results are within you — discover your way!
* Four: Keep it real simple, everybody meditates, it happens naturally!

Study the new research and you’ll be amazed to see how many Americans are doing things they love, and in the process, naturally meditating without knowing it. America already has 30 million runners, 72 million hikers, 50 million fishing, 25 million golfers, 85 million cycling, 25 million in tennis — tens of millions of active folks like you all meditating naturally, “focusing on what they’re doing in this moment.” Listen to a few examples that are my pre-Christmas gift to you, so you can de-stress, enjoy the family, and even succeed in gyrating markets:

Marjorie Adams, publisher, Bottom Line Personal newsletter: “Truthfully, I hate to meditate. Sitting still is not the only way to meditate, it’s simply the best known. You can meditate while exercising, pursuing a hobby, or playing a game… anything can be a meditation.”

Andy O’Keefe, Wall Street broker, in ‘Real Men Do Yoga’: “I’m married with seven kids. Been on Wall Street for 20 years. I’m the owner of a brokerage firm: 110 employees. I’m 6’4”, 225 pounds. I’ve lifted weights for years, run, played lacrosse, basketball, football. I love sports. I just thought yoga was a weird Eastern thing. But that’s not true at all. Feel stronger, more flexible, and it’s helped me with my golf. Mentally, it kind of clears your head. You can’t think about anything, but what you’re doing while you’re in there. It’s a good escape for me.”

Deepak Chopra, M.D. in ‘The A.I.M. of Golf’: “When Mitchell (Spearman, golf instructor) and I first spoke, he remarked, ‘The spiritual stuff you think about is something I frequently experience on the golf course. I wish I could experience it when I’m not playing golf.’ I responded, ‘That’s how I feel most of the time, but I lose it when I play golf.’ We made a deal. I would teach Mitchell the rules that make the game of life a joyful, ecstatic expression. Mitchell would teach me the rules that make the game of golf a joyful, ecstatic experience. Guess what. They are the same rules.”

Sam Keen, philosopher, in ‘Hymns to an Unknown God’: “Sitting meditation, like repentance, is work. Walking, by contrast, is pure grace, an effortless art that produces surprising moments of spontaneous self-transcendence. When I walk, my mind leaps ahead, skips steps, and presents me with images and ideas out of nowhere. With surprising regularity the thoughts that come to me when I am on a long hike in the hills contain the breakthrough insights I have been unable to reach after weeks of hard intellectual or emotional work.”

Ryel Kestenbaun, in ‘The Ultralight Backpacker’: “Our brains are so used to being fed a constant diet of stimulation. You can practice meditation anywhere, at any time — sitting in your car at a red light, eating dinner at a restaurant, and yes, backpacking along a trail. The most profound meditative states I’ve ever reached came while walking by myself along a trail deep in the backcountry, immersed completely in the world around me and within my own self. Nature is one giant meditation room, and provides us with an opportunity to turn down the volume of our everyday lives and become utterly connected with who we truly are.”

Martha Clopfer, in ‘Positive Addictions’ by William Glasser M.D.: “Meditative is probably the best single word but it is different from Quaker meeting type meditation. The rhythm of running is a strong element. Sometimes problems get solved while I am running or I think of things to say to people but it is not a figuring out process. More of a sudden flash of insight that comes when you are least trying to find an answer.”

Chuck Norris, martial arts champion, ‘The Secret Power Within’: “Your mind is not here,” he said. Students of martial arts soon learn that their teachers can see right through them. Standing there on the hard ground in Korea, I just bowed my head slightly and waited for Mr. Shin to continue. ‘What you are doing at the moment must be exactly what you are doing at the moment — and nothing else.’ Get to the bottom line.”

Robert Pirsig, in ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’: “Just to sit with the line in the water,” fishing, “not moving, not really thinking about anything, not really caring about anything either, seems to draw out the inner tensions and frustrations that have prevented you from solving problems you couldn’t solve before.” Which reminds me of a police commander who told me he meditated when his wife went to Sunday church, while gardening in their back yard.

Julia Cameron, on journal writing in ‘The Artist’s Way’: “Morning Pages are my way of meditating, three pages a day. They work for anyone, for painters, for sculptors, for poets, for actors, for lawyers, for housewives, for anyone who wants to try anything creative. Lawyers who use them swear they make them more effective in court. They are a potent form of meditation for hyperactive Westerners.”

Bottom line: Meditation is not what you think. No big secrets, no mantras, incense, bells, strange music, no sitting and no gurus. Meditation is as simple and natural as breathing. Yes, most gurus will still defend sitting as the only way. But remember, from the psychological perspective, sitting meditation works for only 20%. The other 80% actively meditate. And they often do it without “thinking” they’re meditating, without even calling it “meditation.” You do what you love. Make whatever you’re doing at the moment exactly what you are doing at that moment, and nothing else. Be at peace, you are alive.

If there is a secret, the secret is that you can’t “not meditate,” that’s impossible. We do it naturally. It just happens. We do it often during the day, breathing, reading, rocking to music, walking, praying, exercising, sports, affirming goals, working on a positive mental attitude. Many years ago Zen master Alan Watts asked mythologist and swimmer Joseph Campbell how he meditated. Campbell said reading was his favorite meditation… well, guess what, you’ve been “meditating” all along, with me, while reading this column.”

Alan Watts, "It Comes, Then, To This..."

"It comes, then, to this: that to be "viable", livable, or merely practical, life must be lived as a game - and the "must" here expresses a condition, not a commandment. It must be lived in the spirit of play rather than work, and the conflicts which it involves must be carried on in the realization that no species, or party to a game, can survive without its natural antagonists, its beloved enemies, its indispensable opponents. For to "love your enemies" is to love them as enemies; it is not necessarily a clever device for winning them over to your side. The lion lies down with the lamb in paradise, but not on earth - "paradise" being the tacit, off-stage level where, behind the scenes, all conflicting parties recognize their interdependence, and, through this recognition, are able to keep their conflicts within bounds.

This recognition is the absolutely essential chivalry which must set the limits within all warfare, with human and non-human enemies alike, for chivalry is the debonair spirit of the knight who "plays with his life" in the knowledge that even mortal combat is a game. No one who has been hoaxed into the belief that he is nothing but his ego, or nothing but his individual organism, can be chivalrous, let alone a civilized, sensitive, and intelligent member of the cosmos."
~ Alan Watts,
"On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are"