Thursday, February 28, 2013

Musical Interlude: Angels of Venice, “Sad Lisa”


Angels of Venice, “Sad Lisa”

Musical Interlude: Tron Syversen, “Moonlight Reflections”


Tron Syversen, “Moonlight Reflections”

"A Look to the Heavens"


“How many arches can you count in the below image? If you count both spans of the Double Arch in the Arches National Park in Utah, USA, then two. But since the above image was taken during a clear dark night, it caught a photogenic third arch far in the distance- that of the overreaching Milky Way Galaxy. Because we are situated in the midst of the spiral Milky Way Galaxy, the band of the central disk appears all around us.
Click image for larger size.
The sandstone arches of the Double Arch were formed from the erosion of falling water. The larger arch rises over 30 meters above the surrounding salt bed and spans close to 50 meters across. The dark silhouettes across the image bottom are sandstone monoliths left over from silt-filled crevices in an evaporated 300 million year old salty sea. A dim flow created by light pollution from Moab, Utah can also be seen in the distance.”

Chet Raymo, “The Still Small Voice”


“The Still Small Voice”
by Chet Raymo

"There is a power in nature, restless and terrible- storm, wildfire, earthquake, tidal wave. There is a delicacy too, to which we attend with a more perceptive eye and ear- the woolly bear caterpillar in the grass, the red-tailed hawk circling high and silent above the meadow, the six-dotted shadow of the water strider on the bottom of the pond. I think of lines from a poem of Grace Schulman, a poem called “In Place of Belief”:

“...I would eavesdrop, spy,
and keep watch on the chance, however slight,
that the unseen might dazzle into sight.”

Listening. Watching. Waiting admidst the clamor of strident certainity for the still small voice. Waiting for the unseen to dazzle into sight. Karl Popper, the eminent philosopher of science, once wrote, "It is imperative that we give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it is beyond our reach." Reaching. Groping. Evavesdroping. Four centuries after Galileo, the world is still beset by those who claim access to ultimate sources of knowledge- divine revelation through tradition, holy books, or prophets. If there is a fundamental way to divide people in the world today it is into those who know and those who grope.

In the southern hemisphere summer of 1848, at age twenty-three, Thomas Huxley was sailing Australian waters as Assistant Surgeon on HMS Rattlesnake. He was head-over-heels in love with a remarkable young women he had met Down Under, and drifting into the skepticism about matters of religion he would later dub "agnosticism." Other than young Henrietta "Nettie" Heathorn, the main thing on his mind was jellyfish, of which he had netted hundreds. As the ship sailed up the Australian coast he worked at sorting out the relationships between his many specimens, and between the jellyfish and other marine organisms. Huxley's biographer Adrian Desmond writes: "Nettie, a sensible girl who liked Schiller and penned love poems, must have asked 'Why jellyfish?' And he must have led her self-importantly from these pulsing 'nastinesses' to the great problem of existence, contrasting the tiny truths of creation with the great sandcastle sophistries for which men were willing to die. The tiny truths were real bricks which would build a palatial foundation to Truth. They were stanzas of Nature's great poem; and only by reciting the ultimate sonnet could we gain a rational set of mores and a real meaning to life."

The tiny truths of creation! Huxley was convinced that we have something to learn about the creation and ourselves by studying the lowliest blobs of protoplasm afloat in the sea. The great truths, if they are to be found, will be discovered in the Book of Nature, as a patient accumulation of individually minute observations. For Huxley, the only knowledge worth having was secular, not theological, and "was not to be delegated by episcopal patrons, but seized by plebeian hands." His jellyfish represented common knowledge- groping, partial, tentative- the still small voice, by and for the common man.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"Proper Perspective..."



“Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it. What frustrates us and robs our lives of joy is this absence of meaning. Does our being alive matter?”
- Harold S. Kushner

“All of us have been dying, hour by hour, since the moment we were born. Realizing this, let all things be placed in their proper perspective. Remember, it is always later than you think.”
- Og Mandino

“Don't be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin.”
- Grace Hansen

The Poet: Maya Angelou"When Great Trees Fall"


"When Great Trees Fall"

"When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down in tall grasses,
and even elephants lumber after safety.
When great trees fall in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid,
promised walks never taken.

Great souls die and our reality,
 bound to them, takes leave of us.
Our souls, dependent upon their nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly. 
 Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never to be the same,
 whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  
Be and be better. 
For they existed."

~ Maya Angelou

"Dealing with Difficult People: Opening the Channels of Communication"


"Dealing with Difficult People: 
Opening the Channels of Communication"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"We all have the experience of difficult people in our lives at one point or another and honest but clear communication is the answer. We encounter a wide variety of people throughout our lives. Many of them touch us in some positive way. Occasionally, however, we encounter those individuals who, for whatever reason, can be difficult to deal with. Perhaps this person is a colleague or close friend that you feel is deliberately being obtuse, inviting in trouble, or doing foolish things that you find annoying. Sometimes, it may be possible to appease or avoid those people short term.  Dealing with them in the long term, however, can be exhausting. The behavior of difficult people can even make you feel like losing your temper, but keep your cool. Staying calm is the first step, especially when you are ready to confront them.

Avoiding a difficult person can improve impossible and not in your best interest, especially if you live or work together.  Likewise, attempts to steer clear of them can become a source of stress and anxiety when they are a part of your social circle. When this is the case, it is best to kindly address the problem. Try not to let their actions or mood affect you. You also may want to try expressing your feelings directly. Tell to the person how their actions make you feel and encourage them toward a more positive course of action. Speak assertively, but respectfully, and don’t portray yourself as a victim. Another approach for dealing with a difficult individual is to gain a deeper understanding of who that person is. Ask them why they do or say certain things. If you disagree with their motives, question them further so you can try and discover the root of their behaviors. In doing so, you may be able to gently shift their perceptions, or at least help them understand your !
 point of view.

You may want to think about what you want to say to a difficult person before you actually talk to them. If you can, avoid being judgmental or defensive, and try to approach the conversation objectively. If the person is open to the idea, try  coming to an agreement. If approaching them fails, let it go and move on. There is no reason to let difficult person or situation have power over your state of being. Remember that a lot can be accomplished when you take the time to listen and offer up alternative perspectives."

"How It Really Is"


Satire: "Chinese Hackers Drop US Government From List of High-Value Targets"


"Chinese Hackers Drop US Government From List of High-Value Targets"
by Andy Borowitz


SHANGHAI (The Borowitz Report)— "In a rare announcement from a notoriously publicity-shy group, Chinese hackers revealed today that they were dropping the United States government from their official list of high-value targets. “We have to allocate our time and energy to hacking powerful organizations,” a spokesman for the hackers said. “Right now, calling the United States government an ‘organization’ would be a reach.” He added that the hackers’ ultimate goal had been to hurl the U.S. government into a state of abject paralysis, “and they seem to have already taken care of that on their own.”

The spokesman acknowledged that despite years of compromising U.S. government computers, the hackers had obtained little of value, especially on the hard drives of congressional offices. “Those computers did not appear to be used for anything work-related,” the spokesman said. “Basically all we found were restaurant reservations and porn.”

U.S. stock markets plummeted on the news of the hackers’ downgrade, which was widely denounced by American politicians as a hostile act designed to cripple the economy. “This is an insult to the American people,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia). “We demand that the Chinese resume hacking us at once.”

But according to the hackers’ spokesman, any chance that they might put the U.S. government back on their list of targets was remote at best. “We need to focus on higher-functioning governments,” he said. “We’re taking a close look at Venezuela.”

Paul Craig Roberts, “One Nation, Under Monsanto: Polluted America”


One Nation, Under Monsanto:
Polluted America”
by Paul Craig Roberts

“In the United States everything is polluted. Democracy is polluted with special interests and corrupt politicians. Accountability is polluted with executive branch exemptions from law and the Constitution and with special legal privileges for corporations, such as the Supreme Court given right to corporations to purchase American elections. The Constitution is polluted with corrupt legal interpretations from the Bush and Obama regimes that have turned constitutional prohibitions into executive branch rights, transforming law from a shield of the people into a weapon in the hands of government.

Waters are polluted with toxic waste spills, oil spills, chemical fertilizer run-off with resulting red tides and dead zones, acid discharges from mining with resulting destructive algae such as prymnesium parvum, from toxic chemicals used in fracking and with methane that fracking releases into wells and aquifers, resulting in warnings to homeowners near to fracking operations to open their windows when showering.

The soil’s fertility is damaged, and crops require large quantities of chemical fertilizers. The soil is polluted with an endless array of toxic substances and now with glyphosate, the main element in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide with which GMO crops are sprayed. Glyphosate now shows up in wells, streams and in rain.

Air is polluted with a variety of substances, and there are many large cities in which there are days when the young, the elderly, and those suffering with asthma are warned to remain indoors.

All of these costs are costs imposed on society and ordinary people by corporations that banked profits by not having to take the costs into account. This is the way in which unregulated capitalism works.

Our food itself is polluted with antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, and glyphosate.  Glyphosate might be the most dangerous development to date. Some scientists believe that glyphosate has the potential to wipe out our main grain crops and now that Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack, has approved genetically modified Roundup Ready alfalfa, maintaining sustainable animal herds for milk and meat could become impossible. Alfalfa is the main forage crop for dairy and beef herds. Genetically modified alfalfa could be unsafe for animal feed, and animal products such as milk and meat could become unsafe for human consumption. 

On January 17, 2011, Dr. Don Huber outlined the dangers of approving Roundup Ready alfalfa in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. Huber requested that approval be delayed until independent research could evaluate the risks. Vilsack ignored Huber's letter and ten days later deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa on January 27, thus accommodating Monsanto’s desire for monopoly profits that come from the company’s drive to control the seed supply of US and world agriculture by approving Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Who is Don Huber, and why is his letter important? Huber is professor emeritus at Purdue University. He has been a plant pathologist and soil microbiologist for a half century. He has an international reputation as a leading authority. In the US military, he evaluated natural and manmade biological threats, such as germ warfare and disease outbreaks and retired with the rank of Colonel. For the USDA he coordinates the Emergent Diseases and Pathogens Committee. In other words, he is high up in his scientific profession.

You can read online what Huber told the Secretary of Agriculture. Briefly, the outcome of many years of Roundup Ready GMO corn and soybeans has been a decline in nutritional value, the outbreak of new plant diseases resulting in widespread crop failures, and severe reproductive problems in livestock, with some herds having a spontaneous abortion rate that is too high to maintain a profitable business.

Glyphosate is a powerful biocide. It harms beneficial soil organisms, altering the natural balance in the soil and reducing the disease resistance of crops, thus unleashing diseases that devastate corn, soybean, and wheat crops, and giving rise to a new pathogen associated with premature animal aging and infertility. These developments, Huber told the Agriculture Secretary, “are threatening the economic viability of both crop and animal producers.” The evidence seems to be real that genetically modified crops have lost their genetic resistance to diseases that never previously were threats. 

There is evidence that the new pathogen is related to a rise in human infertility and is likely having adverse effects on human health of which we are still uninformed. Like fluoride, glyphosate might enter our diet in a variety of ways. For example, the label on a bottle of Vitamin D says, “Other ingredients: soybean oil, corn oil.” 

Monsanto disputes Huber’s claims and got support for its position from the agricultural extension services of Iowa State and Ohio State universities. However, the question is whether these are independently funded services or corporate supported, and there is always the element of professional rivalry, especially for funding, which comes mainly from agribusiness. 

The Purdue University extension service was more circumspect. On the one hand it admits that there is evidence that supports Huber’s claims: “The claim that herbicides, such as glyphosate, can make plants more susceptible to disease is not entirely without merit. Research has indicated that plants sprayed with glyphosate or other herbicides are more susceptible to many biological and physiological disorders (Babiker et al., 2011; Descalzo et al., 1996; Johal and Rahe, 1984; Larson et al., 2006; Means and Kremer, 2007; Sanogo et al., 2000; Smiley et al., 1992). . . Although some research indicates there is an increase in disease severity on plants in the presence of glyphosate, it does NOT necessarily mean that there is an impact on yield.” 

On the other hand, the Purdue extension service maintains its recommendation for “judicious glyphosate use for weed control.” However, one of Huber’s points is that weeds are developing Roundup resistance. Use has gone beyond the “judicious” level and as glyphosate builds up in soil, its adverse effects increase.

A submission to the Environmental Protection Agency by 26 university entomologists describes the constraints that agribusiness has put on the ability of independent scientists to conduct objective research. The submission, in which the scientists are afraid to reveal their names because of the threat of funding cutoffs, is included as an item in one of the bibliographical references below. Here is the statement:

“The names of the scientists have been withheld from the public docket because virtually all of us require cooperation from industry at some level to conduct our research. Statement: Technology/stewardship agreements required for the purchase of genetically modified seed explicitly prohibit research. These agreements inhibit public scientists from pursuing their mandated role on behalf of the public good unless the research is approved by industry. As a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology, its performance, its management implications, IRM, and its interactions with insect biology. Consequently, data flowing to an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel from the public sector is unduly limited.”

Monsanto is not only sufficiently powerful to prevent any research other than that which it purchases with its funding, but also Monsanto succeeded last year in blocking with money and propaganda the GMO labeling law in California. I would tell you to be careful what you eat as it can make you ill and infertile, but you can’t even find out what you are eating.

You live in America, which has “freedom and democracy” and “accountable” government and ”accountable” corporations. You don’t need to worry. The government and responsible corporations are taking good care of you. Especially Obama, Vilsack, and Monsanto."
Short bibliography:













Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Musical Interlude: 2002, "Suddenly Yours"


 2002, "Suddenly Yours"
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQn4U-IxDL8

"A Look to the Heavens"

“What kind of clouds are these? Although their cause is presently unknown, such unusual atmospheric structures, as menacing as they might seem, do not appear to be harbingers of meteorological doom. Known informally as Undulatus asperatus clouds, they can be stunning in appearance, unusual in occurrence, are relatively unstudied, and have even been suggested as a new type of cloud. 
Click image for larger size.
Whereas most low cloud decks are flat bottomed, asperatus clouds appear to have significant vertical structure underneath. Speculation therefore holds that asperatus clouds might be related to lenticular clouds that form near mountains, or mammatus clouds associated with thunderstorms, or perhaps a foehn wind- a type of dry downward wind that flows off mountains. Such a wind called the Canterbury arch streams toward the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. The above image, taken above Hanmer Springs in Canterbury, New Zealand, in 2005, shows great detail partly because sunlight illuminates the undulating clouds from the side.”

"The Invitation"

"The Invitation"

"It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking
like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know
if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by
life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance
with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember
the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. 
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
 if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul;
 if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it's not pretty, every day,
and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand
on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to
know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like
the company you keep in the empty moments."

- Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Paulo Coelho, “We Are The Revolution”

“We Are The Revolution”
by Paulo Coelho

“My literature is totally committed with a new political attitude – human beings in search of their own identity.

We are the revolution taking place. We are responsible for the world in every sense – political, social, moral. We are responsible for the planet. We are responsible for the unemployed. Of course, we can blame the banks, the disaster that irresponsible people created in the financial system, the political repression, the inability of the Govts. to hear what people has to say. But this will not help the world to become a better place. 

We need to act, and we need to act now. And we don’t need permission to act. We are much more powerful than we think we are. Let’s use this power, use the strength that everyone has when he/she is following his/her real Bliss, Personal Legend, you name it.

We are the dreamers, but we are also the revolution. Dreams are not negotiable. Dreamers can’t be tamed.

I outlined my declaration of principles in the links below. Do the same. And implement everything you think should be implemented.
Declaration of Principles
Statutes For the Present Moment

1] All human beings are different. And should do everything possible to continue to be so.

2] Each human being has been granted two courses of action: that of deed and that of contemplation. Both lead to the same place.

3] Each human being has been granted two qualities: power and gift. Power drives a person to meet his/her destiny, his gift obliges that person to share with others which is good in him/her. A human being must know when to use power, and when to use compassion.

4] Each human being has been granted a virtue: the capacity to choose. For he/she who does not use this virtue, it becomes a curse – and others will always choose for him/her.

5] Each human being has the right to two blessings, which are: the blessing to do right, and the blessing to err. In the latter case, there is always a path of learning leading to the right way.

6] Each human being has his own sexual profile, and should exercise it without guilt – provided he does not oblige others to exercise it with him/her.

7] Each human being has his own Personal Legend to be fulfilled, and this is the reason he is in the world. The Personal Legend is manifest in his enthusiasm for what she/he does.
Single paragraph – the Personal Legend may be abandoned for a certain time, provided one does not forget it and returns as soon as possible.

8] Each man has a feminine side, and each woman has a masculine side. It is necessary to use discipline with intuition, and to use intuition objectively.

9] Each human being must know two languages: the language of society and the language of the omens. The first serves for communication with others. The second serves to interpret messages from God.

10] Each human being has the right to seek out joy, joy being understood as something which makes one content – not necessarily that which makes others content.

11] Each human being must keep alight within him the sacred flame of madness. And must behave like a normal person.

12] The only faults considered grave are the following: not respecting the rights of one’s neighbor, letting oneself be paralyzed by fear, feeling guilty, thinking one does not deserve the good and bad which occurs in life, and being a coward.
Paragraph 1 – we shall love our adversaries, but not make alliances with them. They are placed in our way to test our sword, and deserve the respect of our fight.
Paragraph 2 – we shall choose our adversaries, not the other way around.

12A] We hereby declare the end to the wall dividing the sacred from the profane: from now on, all is sacred.

14] Everything which is done in the present, affects the future by consequence, and the past by redemption.

15] The impossible is possible."

The Daily "Near You?"

Argyle, Minnesota, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

The Poet: Galway Kinnell, "Another Night in the Ruins"

"Another Night in the Ruins"

"How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren't, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,
that for us
as we go up in flames,
our one work is
to open ourselves,
 to be the flames?"

~ Galway Kinnell

"Perspective..."

"There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be."
- Douglas Adams

"Time, Life, and the Roller Coaster"

"Time, Life, and the Roller Coaster"
by CoyotePrime

Remember when you were 10 years old, and summer felt like it lasted forever? Got a little older, not so bad, still plenty of time to do everything you wanted. Someone told me back then that time speeds up the older you get. Being young, and knowing everything as the young do, I of course ridiculed this idea. But guess what- it’s true. Now I view life, and time, as a roller coaster with just one enormous riser. As you climb the beginning towards the top time is slower to pass. At 30 or so you’re at the very top, then you start the fall towards the bottom. Faster and faster you go, as time goes by ever quicker. Weeks and months flash by, and you wonder where it all went and as you descend ever faster you realize that somewhere on the tracks below there’s a solid brick wall or some other disaster awaiting your arrival. The only thing you don’t know is where on the tracks ahead of you it is. So you appreciate even more the things you can enjoy, and the people whom you love and that love you, because the ride isn’t going to last forever...

Satire: “Oakland Rapper Pope Emeritus Threatens Lawsuit”


“Oakland Rapper Pope Emeritus Threatens Lawsuit”
by Andy Borowitz

OAKLAND (The Borowitz Report)— “The Vatican’s plan to call the retiring pontiff Benedict XVI “Pope Emeritus” hit a snag today, in the form of a threatened lawsuit by an Oakland-based rapper who has been recording under that name since 2006. “I don’t care who he is, I ain’t let nobody mess with my brand,” said Mr. Emeritus, who prior to 2006 recorded under the name Notorious P.O.P.E.

While the Vatican said it was unaware that Mr. Emeritus had already claimed the name seven years ago, the Oakland rapper scoffed at that idea: “They should have done what I did before I picked it out: Google it.” Furious at what he is calling a clear case of trademark infringement, Mr. Emeritus said that he has no intention of stepping aside for the former pontiff: “He’s the one who should step aside. Call himself P. Biddy or something. This is wack, yo.”

According to a source close to the Vatican, Benedict is likely to choose another name for himself rather than risk a legal tussle with the aggrieved rapper: “The last thing the Church needs right now is another lawsuit.”

"How It Really Is"


The Economy: “Lords of Disorder: Billions for Wall Street, Sacrifice for Everyone Else”

“Lords of Disorder:
 Billions for Wall Street, Sacrifice for Everyone Else”
by Richard (RJ) Eskow

“The president's "sequester" offer slashes non-defense spending by $830 billion over the next ten years. That happens to be the precise amount we're implicitly giving Wall Street's biggest banks over the same time period. We're collecting nothing from the big banks in return for our generosity.  Instead we're demanding sacrifice from the elderly, the disabled, the poor, the young, the middle class- pretty much everybody, in fact, who isn't "too big to fail." That's injustice on a medieval scale, served up with a medieval caste-privilege flavor. The only difference is that nowadays injustices are presented with spreadsheets and PowerPoints, rather than with scrolls and trumpets and kingly proclamations. And remember: The White House represents the liberal side of these negotiations.

The Grandees: The $83 billion 'subsidy' for America's ten biggest banks first appeared in an editorial from Bloomberg News - which, as the creation of New York's billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, is hardly a lefty outfit.  That editorial drew upon sound economic analyses to estimate the value of the US government's implicit promise to bail these banks out. Then it showed that, without that advantage, these banks would not be making a profit at all. That means that all of those banks' CEOs, men (they're all men) who preen and strut before the cameras and lecture Washington on its profligacy, would not only have lost their jobs and fortunes in 2008 because of their incompetence - they would probably lose their jobs again today.

Tell that to Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, or Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, both of whom have told us it's imperative that we cut social programs for the elderly and disabled to "save our economy." The elderly and disabled have paid for those programs  just as they paid to rescue Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, and just as they implicitly continue to pay for that rescue today. Dimon, Blankfein and their peers are like the grandees of imperial Spain and Portugal. They've been given great wealth and great power over others, not through native ability but by the largesse of the Throne.

Lords of Disorder: Just yesterday, in a rare burst of candor, Dimon said this to investors on a quarterly earnings call: "This bank is anti-fragile, we actually benefit from downturns." It's true, of course. Other corporations - in fact, everybody else - has to survive or fail in real-world conditions. But Dimon and his peers are wrapped in a protective force field which was created by the people, of the people, and for ... well, for Dimon and his peers. The term "antifragile" was coined by maverick financier and analyst Nassim Taleb, whose book of the same name is subtitled "Things That Gain From Disorder." That's a good description of JPMorgan Chase and the nation's other megabanks.

Arbitraging Failure: Dimon's comment was another way of saying that his bank, and everything it represents, is The Shock Doctrine made manifest. The nation's megabanks are arbitraging their own failures, and the economic crises that flow from those failures. These institutions are designed to prey off economic misery. They suppress genuine market forces in order to thrive, and they couldn't do it without our ongoing help. The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve are making it happen. We who have made these banks "antifragile" have crowned their leaders our Lords of Disorder.

Once Dimon told reporters that he explained to his seven-year-old daughter what a financial crisis is - "something that happens ... every five to seven years," which "we need to do a better job" managing. Thanks to fat political contributions, Dimon manages them well. So do his peers. Misery is the business model. And by Dimon's reckoning another shock's coming any day now.

Money For Nothing: Bloomberg's use of the word 'subsidy' in this instance can be slightly misleading. Public institutions don't issue $83 billion in checks to Wall Street's biggest banks every year. But they didn't let them fail as they should have - through an orderly liquidation - after they created the crisis of 2008 through fraud and chicanery. Instead it allowed them to prosper from it, creating that $83 billion implicit guarantee. As we detailed in 2011, the TARP program didn't "make money," either. Banks received a free and easy trillion-plus dollars from our public institution, on terms that amounted to a gift worth tens of billions, and possibly hundreds of billions. That gift prevented them from failing. In private enterprise, this kind of rescue is only given in return for part ownership or other financial concessions. But our government asked for nothing of the kind.

Unpaid Debts: Breaking up the big banks would have protected the public from more harm at their hands. That didn't happen. Government institutions could have imposed a financial transaction tax, whose revenue could be used to repair the harm the banks caused while at the same time discouraging runaway gambling.  They still could. They could have imposed fees on the largest banks to offset the $83 billion per year advantage we've given them. They still could. But they haven't. This one-sided giveaway is the equivalent of an $83 billion gift for Wall Street each and every year.

Cut and Paste: $83 billion per year: Our current budget debate is framed in ten-year cycles, which means that's $830 billion in Sequester Speak.  You'd think our deficit-obsessed capital would be trying to collect that very reasonable amount from Wall Street. Instead the White House is proposing $130 billion in Social Security cuts, $400 in Medicare reductions, $200 billion in "non-health mandatory savings," and $100 billion in non-defense discretionary cuts. That adds up to exactly $830 billion.

No doubt there is genuine waste that could be cut. But $830 billion, or some portion of it, could be used to grow our economy and brings tens of millions of Americans out of the ongoing recession that is their daily reality, even as the Lords of Disorder continue to prosper. It could be used for educating our young people and helping them find work, for reducing the escalating number of people in poverty, for addressing our crumbling infrastructure, for giving people decent jobs. It's going to Wall Street instead.

Trillion-Dollar Tribute: The right word for that is tribute. As in, "a payment by one ruler or nation to another in acknowledgment of submission..." or "an excessive tax, rental, or tariff imposed by a government, sovereign, lord, or landlord ... an exorbitant charge levied by a person or group having the power of coercion." (Courtesy Merriam-Webster) In this case the tribute is made possible, not by military occupation, but by the hijacking of our political process by the corrupting force of corporate contributions. The fruits of that victory are rich: Bank profits are at near-record highs. Most of the country is still struggling to dig out from the wreckage they created but, as Demos' Policy Shop puts it, "for the banks it's 2006 all over again."

On Bended Knee: "Millions for defense," they said in John Adams' day, "but not one cent for tribute." Today we're paying for both. That doesn't leave much for the elderly, the disabled, the impoverished, the children, or anybody else who doesn't "benefit from disorder." Nobody's fighting for them in this budget battle. That leaves the public with a clear choice: Demand solutions that are more just and democratic - or submit willingly to the Lords of Disorder.”

"Uncertainty, Certainty..."

"Earth is home. Evolution connects us all. Death comes to all. On this blue planet we the human species are united by our common habitation, our common origin and our common mortality. The actual is greater than the superficial and the certainty of death can be a driving force for solidarity and not a suppressed anxiety that drives us towards division and despair. The uncertainty of life and the certainty of death unite all of us who come to this existence on this blue planet."
- Carl Sagan

"Nuclear Expert: 'The Melted Core Cracked The Containment Vessel … There Really Is No Containment' At Fukushima Reactors"

 "Nuclear Expert: 'The Melted Core Cracked The Containment Vessel…
 There Really Is No Containment' At Fukushima Reactors"
Nuclear Cores and Spent Fuel Pools Have Both Lost Containment
by WashingtonsBlog

"Steven Starr– Director of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program at the University of Missouri/Senior Scientist at Physicians for Social Responsibility– said: "The Japanese basically lied about what happened with the reactors for months. They said they were trying to prevent a meltdown, when in fact they knew within the first couple of days Reactors 1, 2, and 3 at Fukushima Daiichi had melted down, and they actually melted through the steel containment vessels. So there was a worst case scenario that they were trying to hide, they even knew that at that time enormous amounts of radiation were released over Japan and some of it even went over Tokyo. The melted core cracked the containment vessel, there really is no containment. So as soon as they pump the water in it leaks out again."

Asahi Shimbum notes that the location of Fukushima melted fuel is unknown. It could be ‘scattered’ in piping, vessels … “we’ve yet to identify all hotspots” around plant. While the Japanese government tried to cover up the lack of containment with “mission accomplished” type announcements of “cold shutdown“, the loss of containment has been known for years.

For example, AP wrote in December 2011: "The nuclear fuel moved as it melted, so its condition and locations are little known."

AP noted a couple of days later: "The complex still faces numerous concerns, triggering criticism that the announcement of “cold shutdown conditions” is based on a political decision rather than science. Nobody knows exactly where and how the melted fuel ended up in each reactor..."

We noted last year: If the reactors are “cold”, it may be because most of the hot radioactive fuel has leaked out.
The New York Times pointed out last month: "A former nuclear engineer with three decades of experience at a major engineering firm who has worked at all three nuclear power complexes operated by Tokyo Electric said, “If the fuel is still inside the reactor core, that’s one thing. But if the fuel has been dispersed more widely, then we are far from any stable shutdown.”
Indeed, if the center of the reactors are in fact relatively “cold”, it may be because most of the hot radioactive fuel has leaked out of the containment vessels and escaped into areas where it can do damage to the environment. After drilling a hole in the containment vessel of Fukushima reactor 2, Tepco cannot find the fuel. As AP notes: "The steam-blurred photos taken by remote control Thursday found none of the reactor’s melted fuel. The photos also showed inner wall of the container heavily deteriorated after 10 months of exposure to high temperature and humidity, Matsumoto said. TEPCO workers inserted the endoscope— an industrial version of the kind of endoscope doctors use— through a hole in the beaker-shaped container at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant’s No. 2 reactor." 

New video of the inside of the torus room in Fukushima reactor 1 shows piles of sediment. As nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen pointed out last year: "Tokyo Electric ran a probe into the basement of Unit 1. This is not inside the containment, this is outside the containment. On the top of the water surface they found lethal radiation, 1000 rem an hour. But then they put the probe down into the water and what’s even worse is the bottom, the sediment on the bottom, was thousand of times hotter than that. And what that indicates is that fuel, nuclear fuel, has left the containment, as particles, and settled out on the bottom outside the containment. So, I think that’s a pretty clear indication that the containment was breached. It just makes decommissioning these plants… it was going to be hard already, but this information makes it worse."

Loss of containment of nuclear fuel also exists within the spent fuel pools at Fukushima. For example, Chris Harris, former licensed Senior Reactor Operator and engineer says of new video released by Tepco showing extensive damage and debris in Fukushima spent fuel pool 3: "Plenty of heavy steel beams and refueling equipment that must be cleared out of the way in order to see how badly damaged each fuel assembly is. There is little doubt that failed fuel exists, which is highly radioactive."

Asahi Shimbum notes: "The water [inside Fuel Pool 4] was muddy and brown."

The Fukushima fuel pools continue to be one of the main threats to Japan, the United States, and all of humanity. And the Fukushima accident is presently causing higher and higher levels of contamination hundreds of miles away… and is still contaminating wildlife thousands of miles away.
A comment: OK, so what do we have here? The melting temperature of uranium dioxide is 5,189 degrees Fahrenheit," said Martin Bertadono, a nuclear engineer at Purdue University. As the graphic above clearly shows, the reactor plant lies directly on the Pacific Ocean coastline. If the cores actually melt down and burn through the bottom of the containment vessels they will eventually reach ground water. The molten cores will "burn" for many, many years at 5,189 degrees F while boiling off literally unlimited amounts of highly radioactive Pacific Ocean steam into the atmosphere. THIS is why they're lying like hell about the true situation, because if it really happens, and it certainly appears that it has in fact happened, hell will have been brought to Earth. - CP

“The Fuel Pools of Fukushima: The Greatest Short-term Threat To Humanity”
- http://coyoteprime-runningcauseicantfly.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-fuel-pools-of-fukushima-greatest.html
“When the Fukushima Meltdown Hits Groundwater”
- http://coyoteprime-runningcauseicantfly.blogspot.com/2012/10/when-fukushima-meltdown-hits.html

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Universe: Journey from Earth to the Edge of the Cosmos"


"Universe: Journey from Earth to the Edge of the Cosmos"
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIxAPFYDsnQ

Musical Interlude: 2002, “Unopened Flower”


2002, “Unopened Flower”
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhNx862u1Ds

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Across the heart of the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies lies a striking string of galaxies known as Markarian's Chain. The chain, pictured above, is highlighted on the upper right with two large but featureless lenticular galaxies, M84 and M86. Prominent to their lower left is a pair of interacting galaxies known as The Eyes. 
 Click image for larger size.
The home Virgo Cluster is the nearest cluster of galaxies, contains over 2000 galaxies, and has a noticeable gravitational pull on the galaxies of the Local Group of Galaxies surrounding our Milky Way Galaxy. The center of the Virgo Cluster is located about 70 million light years away toward the constellation of Virgo. At least seven galaxies in the chain appear to move coherently, although others appear to be superposed by chance.”

Chet Raymo, “We Are Such Stuff...”


“We Are Such Stuff...”
by Chet Raymo

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices,
That, if I then had wak'd after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again.”

"Caliban is talking to Stephano and Trinculo in Shakespeare's “Tempest”, telling them not to be "afeard" of the mysterious place they find themselves, an island seemingly beset with magic, strangeness, ineffable presences. And you and I, and, yes, all of us, find ourselves inexplicably thrown up on this island that is the world, and we too, if we are attentive, hear the strange music, the sounds and sweet airs, that seems to come from nowhere and everywhere

No, I'm not talking about the usual ubiquitous clamor, the roar of internal combustion, the blare of the television, the beeping of mobile phones. I'm not talking about the Limbaughs and the Becks, the televangelists, the blathering politicians, the twitterers and bloggers (including this one). I'm not even talking about the exquisite music of Mozart, the poetry of Wordsworth, the theories of Einstein.

I'm talking about the sounds we hear in utter silence, in moments of repose, in the heart of darkness, when we are a little bit afraid, disoriented, off kilter. A strange music that comes from beyond our knowing, a felt meaning. You've heard it. I've heard it. You'd have to be deaf not to have heard it. 

Where we differ is how we describe it. Mostly, we give its source a name. Angels. Fairies. Gods or demons. Yahweh. Allah. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nixies, E.T.s, shades and shadows. Naiads, dryads, Ariel and Puck. A host of invisible creatures who are, in one way or another, images of ourselves. And, in naming, we are a little less afraid.

And some of us are just content to listen, to take delight. Having woken to the inexplicable mystery of the world- the sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not- we let the music lull us back into a sweet slumber, a kind of dreamless dream, a reverie. Does reverie share a deep root with reverence? I don't know.”

“Dark Night of the Soul: Surrendering the Ego”


“Dark Night of the Soul: Surrendering the Ego”
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"While we are in a dark night of the soul experience, hold steady knowing the light will appear once again. Whenever a word is overused, it is most likely being misused, and over time, it begins to lose its meaningfulness. For example, we often refer to a fleeting feeling of depression or a period of confusion, as a dark night of the soul, but neither of these things qualifies as such. A dark night of the soul is a very specific experience that some people encounter on their spiritual journeys. There are people who never encounter a dark night of the soul, but others must endure this as part of the process of breaking through to the dawn of higher consciousness.

The dark night of the soul invites us to fully recognize the confines of our egos’ identity. We may feel as if we are trapped in a prison that affords us no access to light or the outside. We are coming from a place of higher knowing, and we may have spent a lot of time and energy reaching toward the light of higher consciousness. This is why the dark night has such a quality of despair: We are suddenly shut off from what we thought we had realized and the emotional pain is very real. We may even begin to feel that it was all an illusion and that we are lost forever in this darkness. The more we struggle, the darker things get, until finally we surrender to our not knowing what to do, how to think, where to turn. It is from this place of losing our sense of ourselves as in control that the ego begins to crack or soften and the possibility of light entering becomes real.

Some of us will have to endure this process only once in our lives, while others may have to go through it many times. The great revelation of the dark night is the releasing of our old, false identity. We finally give up believing in this false self and thus become capable of owning and embracing the light."

The Daily "Near You?"

San Bernardino, California, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

“Are Humans Getting Dumber?”


“Are Humans Getting Dumber?”
by Tom Purcell

“The report said people are getting dumber— at least I think that’s what it said, but the big words kept throwing me off.”

“Ah, yes, you speak of a recent study by Stanford University researcher and geneticist Dr. Gerald Crabtree. He believes human beings are undergoing intellectual decline.”

“We are?”

“Writing about the study in the Natural Society Newsletter, Mike Barrett says that, according to Crabtree, our cognitive abilities are the result of ‘the combined effort of thousands of genes.’ If a mutation were to happen to anyone, it could damage intelligence— and Crabtree thinks such mutations have occurred.”

“Which reminds me: Honey Boo Boo is on tonight.”

“Says Crabtree: ‘I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues.’”

“Perhaps, but I’m confident I’d beat the Greek at beer pong.”

“Crabtree says part of the reason people are dumber now is that Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest— the strong survive and the weak are weeded out— is no longer as relevant.”

“Well, Darwin didn’t survive, either, so what does he know?”

“Look, Crabtree is just arguing that the stronger and smarter are no longer necessarily able to dominate society, whereas the weaker and dumber are better able to survive and thrive than ever before.”

“Well, somebody has to run Congress.”

“Barrett, the fellow who wrote about Crabtree’s study, suggests there are additional reasons for people getting dumber. For starters, he says our water and food systems are contributing to lower intelligence. We pump fluoride into our water to prevent tooth decay, but some studies find it has an adverse effect on neurodevelopment in children.”

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

“Barrett cites other studies that show pesticides, which end up in our food supply, are ‘creating lasting changes in overall brain structure… that have been linked to lower intelligence levels and decreased cognitive function.’”

“Maybe so, but who wants to eat an apple with a bunch of wormholes?”

“Barrett also cites studies that show a correlation between consuming processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup and IQ decline in children. Fructose may sabotage learning and memory.”

“I don’t know about IQ decline, but processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup make me cuckoo — cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!”

“There is plenty of debate on whether or not pesticides and processed foods are doing as much damage as some researchers claim, but I think we can agree there are other things that are making humans dumber.”

“You’re not going to take away my video games again, are you?”

“Television is the biggest culprit. Every week, American adults spend 34 hours sitting in front of the tube, which trains their minds to be inactive and lazy— whereas reading a book or solving a puzzle helps develop critical thinking.”

“Who needs to think anymore? I rely on the major media to tell me what to think.”

“Regrettably, there is a frightening amount of truth in what you say. There is less critical thinking today. The less critical thinking there is, the easier it is for people to be easily persuaded by television and social media— and the less likely they are to make sound, intelligent decisions about the houses they buy or the politicians they vote for.”

“But back in 2008, everyone was buying houses they couldn’t afford and making a bundle! It wasn’t my fault I bought a mansion just before the bubble burst — or voted for ‘hope and change’ that has never come.”

“My point exactly.”
- http://www.cagle.com/

Satire: "Boehner Defends Decision to Remain on Ass"


"Boehner Defends Decision to Remain on Ass"
by Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)— "Minutes after telling the United States Senate to “get off their ass” to avoid the deep spending cuts that will take effect this Friday, House Speaker John Boehner called an impromptu press conference to announce his intention of remaining on his ass “for the foreseeable future.”

“The United States Senate is showing contempt for the American people by refusing to get off their ass,” a defiant Mr. Boehner told reporters. “And the only fitting way for me to protest their reckless behavior is by remaining on my ass for as long as humanly possible. Take a good look, ladies and gentlemen of the press,” he said, before leaving the lectern in a huff. “This is the last you’ll see of old John Boehner off his ass.”

Mr. Boehner’s words drew a strong rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said that Mr. Boehner’s suggestion that the Senate get off their ass while he remained on his “seems like the height of hypocrisy, ass-wise.” True to his word, Mr. Boehner then held an additional press conference, this time sitting in a chair from which he showed no signs of budging."

"How It Really Is"


"The Government..."

“The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods."
 
"All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior in every way against both. One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.”
- H.L. Mencken

The Economy: "The Sequestration Debate Misses the REAL Issue"

 "The Sequestration Debate Misses the REAL Issue:
Waste and Fraud Are the Real Causes of the Deficit"

by WashingtonsBlog

"With sequestration set to go into effect in a few days, everyone is talking about it. Sequestration means across-the-board cuts in government spending, split 50%-50% between the military and domestic spending. As this post will show, the hypocrisy surrounding the sequestration debate is stunning.

For example, president Obama says that sequestration is the GOP’s fault. But Bob Woodward and YouTube reveal that Obama supported sequestration from day one. And Dems obviously want to slash military spending and protect domestic programs, while the GOP wants to slash entitlements and leave military spending as is. But the whole sequestration debate misses the bigger picture: Tremendous savings can be wrung out of both military and domestic spending without reducing services to either.

Military Wasting Bucketloads of Money on Non-Defense Costs: BusinessWeek and Bloomberg point out that we could slash military spending without harming our national security. Specifically, we could slash boondoggles that even the generals don’t want: " A devastating series by our colleagues at Bloomberg News shows that “the defense budget contains hundreds of billions of dollars for new generations of aircraft carriers and stealth fighters, tanks that even the Army says it doesn’t need and combat vehicles too heavy to maneuver in desert sands or cross most bridges in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East.”

BusinessWeek also notes that redundancy wastes a lot of money: “One need only spend 10 minutes walking around the Pentagon or any major military headquarters to see excess and redundancy,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in September at an event organized by the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. He should know. As defense chief in 2009, he culled 20 weapons systems he thought unnecessary or too expensive, including the F-22 fighter. One place to start thinning the bureaucracy: the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That office has more than tripled in manpower, to 4,244 in 2012 from 1,313 in 2010, according to the Pentagon’s annual manpower report. (Fewer bureaucrats means fewer memos and fewer meetings. Win-win-win. BusinessWeek provides a list of cost-cutting measures which will not undermine national security. American Conservative does the same.

So why doesn’t Congress trim the fat? Because politicians want to bring home the pork. As BusinessWeek notes: "Why is sensible military budgeting so difficult? Because lawmakers, including small-government Republicans, protect defense business in their home states with the ferocity of Spartans. Even if the Pentagon offered up the cuts we’ve outlined here, Congress would almost certainly reject them. The senators and representatives don’t have the political courage to face voters and tell them that the republic simply does not need the weapon under construction in their hometown."

American Conservative reports: "The cuts to the Pentagon budget will be only 7% or some $40+ billion, not the $500 billion they bandy about! Anyone who confuses the (unlikely) ten year cut with next year’s cut is just promoting lies. A good example is the Wall Street Journal editorial, “The Coming Defense Crackup,” warning that the cuts would create the smallest navy since 1914. It intentionally confuses next year’s cut with the consequences of 10 year cuts. [In reality, the size of the proposed sequestration cuts aren't really that big.]"
 
Ok, but when every smart bomb and missile hits its target, why does one need as many shells as the old battleships where most shots missed? During the Korean war the Air Force tried futilely for months to bomb a bridge over the Yalu River. Today destroying a bridge takes one cruise missile from a hundred miles away. In Washington we find all the big media opposed to cutting defense spending, waste and all, even the Washington Post. Politico, usually a leftist paper, publishes articles also intentionally confusing 10 years of cuts with a one year cut. Today’s congressmen can’t oblige future congresses on what they will spend; defense apologists use the 10-year number to try to stop the sequestration for one year, 2013. All the big Washington newspapers are full of costly ads from defense contractors.

Of course, this just scratches the surface. In reality, the military wastes and “loses” (cough) trillions of dollars.  See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this. The Secretary of Defense acknowledged in May 2012 that the DOD “is the only major federal agency that cannot pass an audit today.” The Pentagon will not be ready for an audit for another five years, according to Panetta.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn also notes that the Department of Defense can reduce $67.9 billion over 10 years by eliminating the non-defense programs that have found their way into the budget for the Department of Defense. And Coburn documents abusive wastes of taxpayer dollars, including:

    * A $100,000 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency strategy planning workshop including a session entitled “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” that entailed a panel debating the implications for Christian philosophy should life be found on other planets
    * A DOD and Department of Agriculture co-produced reality cooking show called “Grill It Safe”
    * DOD-run microbreweries

In addition, the defense department spends huge sums securing our access to oil.  In 1991, the Government Accountability Office estimated that – between 1980 and 1990 – the US spent $366 billion to defend oil supplies in the Middle East.  America was not fighting any major wars – in the Middle East or elsewhere – at the time. George W. Bush, John McCain, Sarah Palin, a high-level National Security Council officer, Alan Greenspanand others all say that the Iraq war was really about oil.  Nobel prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz says that we’ll end up spending $3-5 trillion spent on the Iraq war alone. See this, this and this.

Indeed, most of our wars are fought for petroleum resources.

Security experts – including both hawks and doves – agree that waging war against Iraq and in other Middle Eastern countries weakens national security and increases terrorism. So why is our defense spending so high? Because war and defense spending – as President Eisenhowerwarned so long ago – is a feature, not a bugwhich makes the rich even richer.

American Conservative reports: "[The war-monger's] big government program is unending wars, imperialist foreign policy, and ever expanding Homeland Security. The money is not all for defense. At least half is for attacking other nations, as Ron Paul called it the defense/militarism budget. Roughly half goes for defense, the rest is for military adventures abroad, most of them quite unnecessary, indeed counterproductive as they just create more enemies for America. Look at Turkey where 90% of the population used to support America; now 85% oppose us. Obviously if we attacked fewer foreigners we could do with much less spending. Firing 250,000 bullets for each dead guerilla can get expensive. As also paying  $400 per gallon to get fuel to the front lines."

Any lingering doubts about whether we can cut defense costs without undermining our national security can be dispatched with a few facts: The American government has directly been supporting Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups for the last decade.  See this, this, and this. (Remember, if there aren’t scary enough enemies in real life, we’ve got to create them.  Oops… did I say that out loud?) And the American government lies – and even kills its own – to justify new wars.
 
Top American economists say that endless war has ruined our economy.  It benefits a handful of elites, while levying a tax on the vast majority of Americans. Congress members – part of the super-elite which has made money hand over fist during this economic downturn – are heavily invested in the war industry, and routinely trade on inside information … perhaps even including planned military actions. No wonder the American government is making the state of war permanent, and planning to unleash new, widespread  wars in the near future.

Government Squandering Taxpayer Money on Unnecessary Domestic Expenses: All of the top independent economists and financial experts (and many bankers) say that we’ve got to break up the big banks to save the economy. Instead, the government has thrown trillions at the big banks to artificially make them appear profitable. The bailouts are continuing non-stop … to this very day (and see this).

Indeed, the government chose the big banks over Main Street, the average American … or the economy as a whole. As such, the government has sucked trillions out of the real economy by pushing policies which destroy jobs (sorry… Obama doesn’t care), redistributed wealth upwards from the broad economy to a handful of the very richest (which trashes the economy ... and Obama is even worse than Bush), and destroyed savers and Main Street.

In other words, we have thrown many trillions of dollars at the banks, and then sucked trillions more out of the real economy. As we noted recently: "The central banks’ central bank – the Bank for International Settlements- warned in 2008 that bailouts of the big banks would create sovereign debt crises … which could bankrupt nations."
   
That is exactly what has happened. The big banks went bust, and so did the debtors. But the government chose to save the big banks instead of the little guy, thus allowing the banks to continue to try to wring every penny of debt out of debtors. Treasury Secretary Paulson shoved bailouts down Congress’ throat by threatening martial law if the bailouts weren’t passed. And the bailouts are now perpetual.
 
Moreover: The bailout money is just going to line the pockets of the wealthy, instead of helping to stabilize the economy or even the companies receiving the bailouts:

            * Bailout money is being used to subsidize companies run by horrible business men, allowing the bankers to receive fat bonuses, to redecorate their offices, and to buy gold toilets and prostitutes.
            * A lot of the bailout money is going to the failing companies’ shareholders
            * Indeed, a leading progressive economist says that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”
            * The Treasury Department encouraged banks to use the bailout money to buy their competitors, and pushed through an amendment to the tax laws which rewards mergers in the banking industry (this has caused a lot of companies to bite off more than they can chew, destabilizing the acquiring companies)
 
And as the New York Times notes, “Tens of billions of [bailout] dollars have merely passed through A.I.G. to its derivatives trading partners”. In other words, through a little game-playing by the Fed, taxpayer money is going straight into the pockets of investors in AIG’s credit default swaps and is not even really stabilizing AIG. Moreover, a large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks (and see this). And so did a huge portion of the money from quantitative easing. Indeed, the Fed bailed out Gaddafi’s Bank of Libya, hedge fund billionaires, and big companies, but turned its back on the little guy.
 
A study of 124 banking crises by the International Monetary Fund found that propping up banks which are only pretending to be solvent often leads to austerity: "Existing empirical research has shown that providing assistance to banks and their borrowers can be counterproductive, resulting in increased losses to banks, which often abuse forbearance to take unproductive risks at government expense. The typical result of forbearance is a deeper hole in the net worth of banks, crippling tax burdens to finance bank bailouts, and even more severe credit supply contraction and economic decline than would have occurred in the absence of forbearance. Cross-country analysis to date also shows that accommodative policy measures (such as substantial liquidity support, explicit government guarantee on financial institutions’ liabilities and forbearance from prudential regulations) tend to be fiscally costly and that these particular policies do not necessarily accelerate the speed of economic recovery.
 
All too often, central banks privilege stability over cost in the heat of the containment phase: if so, they may too liberally extend loans to an illiquid bank which is almost certain to prove insolvent anyway. Also, closure of a nonviable bank is often delayed for too long, even when there are clear signs of insolvency (Lindgren, 2003). Since bank closures face many obstacles, there is a tendency to rely instead on blanket government guarantees which, if the government’s fiscal and political position makes them credible, can work albeit at the cost of placing the burden on the budget, typically squeezing future provision of needed public services. In other words, the “stimulus” to the banks blows up the budget, “squeezing” public services through austerity."
 
Numerous top economists say that the bank bailouts are the largest robbery and redistribution of wealth in history. Why was this illegal? Well, the top white collar fraud expert in the country says that the Bush and Obama administrations broke the law by failing to break up insolvent banks … instead of propping them up by bailing them out. And the Special Inspector General of the Tarp bailout program said that the Treasury Secretary lied to Congress regarding some fundamental aspects of Tarp – like pretending that the banks were healthy, when they were totally insolvent. The Secretary also falsely told Congress that the bailouts would be used to dispose of toxic assets … but then used the money for something else entirely. Making false statements to a federal official is illegal, pursuant to 18 United States Code Section 1001.

Given the above – and the fact that we no longer prosecute the big white collar criminals – we no longer have a free market economy … we have fascism, communist style socialism, kleptocracy, oligarchy or banana republic style corruption. As such, the machinery of capitalism – which could generate enough prosperity to dig us out of this budget deficit – has been broken. Indeed, fraud caused the Great Depression and the current financial crisis.  The government could easily close the budget deficit by clawing back bonuses and ill-gotten gains from every Wall Streeter who committed fraud.

Moreover, the government has encouraged American companies to move their facilities, resources and paychecks abroad. And some of the biggest companies in America have a negative tax rate… that is, not only do they pay no taxes, but they actually get tax refunds. If we want to stop the budget deficit from spiraling out of control, we should stop the “giant sucking sound” which is shipping prosperity abroad. (And a large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks. And so did a huge portion of the money from quantitative easing. 

Finally, the current banking system is set up so that the government has to pay trillions of dollars in unnecessary interest costs to the big banks to “create money” and expand the money supply. To understand this crazy system, read this.

The Bottom Line: The bottom line is that the entire “sequestration” debate misses the real issues and the true sources of our budget deficit:

    * Unnecessary military projects
    * Redundancy in arms and personnel
    * Costs which have nothing to do with defense
    * Waste and fraud in military spending
    * Wars for oil
    * War profiteering
    * Endless bailouts for the big banks
    * Economic policies which are destroying the real economy
    * Crony capitalism
    * Failure to enforce the rule of law, including clawing back ill-gotten gains
    * Shipping jobs and prosperity abroad
    * Paying trillions in unnecessary interest costs due to a faulty banking system

Note: "Time Magazine" noted last December in an article entitled “The Best Way to Cut Government Spending: Get Really Tough on Fraud”: "Fortunately, there is a way to begin reining in spending that would be painless: Get really tough on fraud. The challenge on the spending side becomes clear if you consider the consternation caused by the so-called sequester. It certainly makes sense to go after fraud aggressively before contemplating cuts that would do real harm to national security and the general welfare."