Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Daily "Near You?"

Spofford, New Hampshire, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"Now You Know Why Cyprus Has No 2nd Amendment"

"Now You Know Why Cyprus Has No 2nd Amendment"
by Karl Denninger

"Because if they did... With banks confiscating up to 80 percent of uninsured deposits over 100,000 euros ($130,000) and the country facing a deep economic crisis, Cyprus has forgiven loans to politicians and companies while others are generally being required to pay in full, media reports said, setting off fury on the island country. The Greek newspaper Ethnos and the website 24h.com.cy said that loans to Members of Parliament from the three major political parties and other officials in the public administration from the Bank of Cyprus and Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki) will be written down or off.

Oh that's special. So the common Cypriot gets hosed and his debts to these banks are fully collectible and being enforced. At the same time "special people" had their debts to these very same banks forgiven. Those sorts of special deals sound a lot of like Friends of Angelo, but on steroids.

Eventually the people will get tired of this sort of organized looting. The question is, exactly when does that happen and how far are the people willing to go to put a stop to this sort of blatant, in-your-face corruption and theft?"
Of course, the American public, being eternally and truthfully fully informed by their beloved main stream media and government, react predictably to the thought of this actually happening to THEM...

"How It Really Is"

"Eternal Enemies..."

"Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter. A democratic state may profess to venerate the name, and even pass laws making it officially sacred, but it simply cannot tolerate the thing. In order to keep any coherence in the governmental process, to prevent the wildest anarchy in thought and act, the government must put limits upon the free play of opinion. In part, it can reach that end by mere propaganda, by the bald force of its authority — that is, by making certain doctrines officially infamous. But in part it must resort to force, i.e., to law. One of the main purposes of laws in a democratic society is to put burdens upon intelligence and reduce it to impotence. Ostensibly, their aim is to penalize anti-social acts; actually their aim is to penalize heretical opinions.


At least ninety-five Americans out of every 100 believe that this process is honest and even laudable; it is practically impossible to convince them that there is anything evil in it. In other words, they cannot grasp the concept of liberty. Always they condition it with the doctrine that the state, i.e., the majority, has a sort of right of eminent domain in acts, and even in ideas — that it is perfectly free, whenever it is so disposed, to forbid a man to say what he honestly believes. Whenever his notions show signs of becoming "dangerous," ie, of being heard and attended to, it exercises that prerogative. And the overwhelming majority of citizens believe in supporting it in the outrage. Including especially the Liberals, who pretend — and often quite honestly believe — that they are hot for liberty. They never really are. Deep down in their hearts they know, as good democrats, that liberty would be fatal to democracy — that a government based upon shifting and irrational opinion must keep it within bounds or run a constant risk of disaster. They themselves, as a practical matter, advocate only certain narrow kinds of liberty — liberty, that is, for the persons they happen to favor. The rights of other persons do not seem to interest them. If a law were passed tomorrow taking away the property of a large group of presumably well-to-do persons — say, bondholders of the railroads — without compensation and without even colorable reason, they would not oppose it; they would be in favor of it. The liberty to have and hold property is not one they recognize. They believe only in the liberty to envy, hate and loot the man who has it."
- H.L. Mencken,
"Liberty and Democracy" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (13 April 1925)

“Agency of Fear: The FBI's Bomb Factory”

“Agency of Fear: The FBI's Bomb Factory”
by Jeffrey St. Clair

“It’s nearing dusk on November 26, 2010. More than 25,000 people have gathered in a light rain at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland, Oregon to watch the annual lighting of the holiday tree, a 100-foot-tall Douglas-fir logged from the Willamette National Forest. Three men in a nearby hotel room have just finished eating a take-out pizza. The TV turned to a local news channel, which is covering holiday celebration. The men spread towels on the floor and say an Islamic prayer, asking that Allah bless their operation. The men pat each other on the back, leave the room and walk to their vehicle, a white van.

One of the men is a teenager named Mohamed. The other two men are older. One is called Youssef. The leader of the group is a man in his fifties who known only as Hussein. Hussein is a bomb-maker for al-Qaeda. He’s been making explosives for three decades. Their operation to set off a massive bomb in the heart of Portland has been in the works for more than three months. Hussein unlocks the doors to the van and takes the driver’s seat. The young Mohamed, who is wearing a hard-hat, slides into the passenger seat. In the cargo hold of the van sit six 55-gallon blue drums filled with nearly 2,000 pounds of fertilizer-based explosives. Each drum has an explosive cap. They are linked together by a detonation cord, which runs up to a toggle switch.

As Hussein pulls the van, which reeks of diesel fuel, out into traffic, the bomb-maker begins to chant loudly in Arabic. Hussein parks the van on Yamhill Street, directly across from Pioneer Square. He orders Mohamed to flip the toggle switch, arming the bombs. The two men get out of the van and scurry down Broadway Street and then up to 10th avenue, where Youssef is waiting for them in an SUV. They drive to the Portland train station, where they drop Youssef off, and then park the vehicle in a lot a couple of blocks away.

Hussein mutters “Allahu Akbar.” Then turns to his teenage sidekick and asks, “You read?” Mohamed nods his head, “Ready.” The bomb-maker hands Mohamed a cell phone. The phone is meant to activate the bomb. He reads out a number. Mohammed nervously enters the digits on the phone. There is no explosion.

Hussein suggests that the signal may be poor and that they should step out of the van. The two men get out of the van and Mohamed reenters the numbers. The phone begins to ring. Then dozens of voices shatter the tense scene, screaming “FBI! FBI!” The two men are ordered to the ground. As Hussein is being handcuffed, he struggles with the federal agents and continues to chant “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” When Mohamed spits at an officer, Hussein says, “I love that.” The federal agents have arrived, it seems, just in the nick of time. Their felicitous intervention has disrupted a sophisticated terrorist operation and saved thousands of innocent lives. The bomb plotters had been caught and trundled off to prison: another triumphant day in the battle to protect the homeland from al-Qaeda’s terror cells.

But wait a minute. Almost nothing about this scenario was true. The cell phone wasn’t connected to the toggle switch. The detonation cords weren’t wired to an explosive device. The blue drums weren’t filled with diesel-saturated fertilizer, but harmless grass seed. Mohamed wasn’t a member of al Qaeda. Of Somali origin, he was a troubled college dropout from Beaverton, Oregon, home of Nike. Youssef wasn’t a member of al Qaeda. Hussein was not one of al Qaeda’s top bomb makers. Youssef and Hussein were not really arrested and neither was charged with being part of a terrorist plot. Youssef and Hussein were both federal agents.

The bomb plot itself was not an al Qaeda idea. It was hatched by the FBI. Young Mohamed Mohamud did not seek out the bomb plotters; they found him and seduced the young man into joining their conspiracy. The teenager did not build the bomb. The fake bomb was actually constructed by John Hallock, who later testified that he designed the device for “maximum effect.” Mohamed did not select the target. The order to activate the device came from a federal agent. The order to detonate the bomb also came from a federal agent. From conception to execution, the infamous Portland Christmas Tree Bomb Plot was scripted by the FBI.

Yet it was Mohamed Mohamud who was arrested, slapped with federal terrorism and conspiracy changes, subjected to a bruising trial in January and convicted on all counts by a jury that deliberated less than six hours. After the verdict was read, the gleeful FBI agents and federal prosecutors hailed their victorious sting operation, braying that they had rid the streets of a dangerous jihadist. But this was not a government sting. It was a textbook case of entrapment, where federal agents recruited a disaffected kid, whose only previous legal entanglement had been an unproven allegation of date rape during his freshman year at college, into a fake bomb plot that they had concocted.

Mohamed Mohamud was not a terrorist when the FBI began spying on him while he was still in high school. In the two years he was under FBI surveillance, he did not commit a terrorist act or join a terrorist group. It took the FBI to recruit him into a terrorist cell, indoctrinate him into terrorist ideology and lure him into participating in its bomb plot.

Our government increasingly fantasizes about blowing things up here at home. This is the sixth case where the FBI has invented a bomb plot aimed at snagging hapless, often alienated, individuals who were not terrorists until they were enticed into joining the agency’s own conspiracy.  So what is the point of these operations? To scoop up a handful of estranged, young Muslim men? To make suburban Americans feel safer?

Hardly. The point is fear. The government needs to keep the public in a state of terror anxiety in order to justify its own ever-encroaching powers. So, Mohamed sits in prison. The Constitution lies in tatters. Fear rules the land.”
Related: “FBI’s 15,000 Strong Army Of Agent Provocateurs”
“What the common man longs for in this world, before and above all his other longings, is the simplest and most ignominious sort of peace: the peace of a trusty in a well-managed penitentiary. He is willing to sacrifice everything else to it. He puts it above his dignity and he puts it above his pride. Above all, he puts it above his liberty. The fact, perhaps, explains his veneration for policemen, in all the forms they take–his belief that there is a mysterious sanctity in law, however absurd it may be in fact.

A policeman is a charlatan who offers, in return for obedience, to protect him (a) from his superiors, (b) from his equals, and (c) from himself. This last service, under democracy, is commonly the most esteemed of them all. In the United States, at least theoretically, it is the only thing that keeps ice-wagon drivers, Y.M.C.A. secretaries, insurance collectors and other such human camels from smoking opium, ruining themselves in the night clubs, and going to Palm Beach with Follies girls. Under the pressure of fanaticism, and with the mob complacently applauding the show, democratic law tends more and more to be grounded upon the maxim that every citizen is, by nature, a traitor, a libertine, and a scoundrel. In order to dissuade him from his evil-doing the police power is extended until it surpasses anything ever heard of in the oriental monarchies of antiquity.”
- H.L. Mencken, 1926

“You Have the Right to Remain Silent, But…”

“You Have the Right to Remain Silent, But…”
by Dave Lindorff

“Willie James Sauls is unlikely to see the outside of a prison. Last fall a court in the state of Texas sentenced this 37-year-old man to 45 years in jail. His crime: he snatched the purse from an old woman.

In Norway, meanwhile, a court sentenced Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing racist who slaughtered 77 people, mostly teenagers, and injured several hundred, to 21 years in prison, with an option for that detention to be extended by five-year increments if he is determined to be still dangerous. Otherwise, the 32-year-old, if considered rehabilitated, could be released at the age of 53.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, Germany was rocked by killings committed by a radical left group called the Red Army Faction. Its members killed over 30 people, including prosecutors and industrialists. Eventually its leaders were caught and convicted, but by 2007, almost a decade after the Red Army Faction had announced its own dissolution, those still in prison were pardoned by the country’s president.

It is beyond inconceivable to imagine a US president, governor or even a judge, releasing a prisoner from a US jail who had committed the kind of offenses committed by either Breivik or members of Germany’s Red Army Faction.  It is, in fact, hard to imagine any political leader in the US pardoning purse-snatcher Willie James. This is, after all, a country that hounded a 26-year-old internet activist, Aaron Swartz, into committing suicide, after a federal prosecutor threatened him with 35 years in jail — this for the heinous crime of copyright violation (in a protest action he had publicly hacked an MIT server and downloaded hundreds of academic papers which a private contractor wanted to charge for!).

Right-wing Americans love to call the US a “nanny state,” claiming that the federal government is always trying to pass laws regulating people’s lives. What the US really is, though, is a “puni-state” — a nation that thrives on vengeance and retribution, and that rejects the whole notion of rehabilitation or character change. How else to explain the prosecutorial passion for charging absurdly youthful offenders as adults?

In 2011, a Pennsylvania judge agreed with a prosecutor’s request to try Jordan Brown, an 11-year old boy, as an adult, because ahead of the trial, he “refused to admit his guilt” in the shooting death of his father’s pregnant fiancee. While Brown became the youngest kid in the world to be facing a potential sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, he would not be unusual in the state of Pennsylvania, which leads the US — itself a country that leads the world in such prosecutions of children as adults — in having an astonishing 450 people serving life terms in prison with no opportunity for parole who were sentenced as adults for acts they committed as children.

Say what?

One of the fundamental realities about children is that they grow up, and generally, if given a modicum of love and attention, they grow up to be more mature than they were as kids. That doesn’t compute in the US, where what you did is all that matters to the average citizen, apparently. Some 40 of the 50 states allow children to be tried as adults in the United States, making it a pariah among nations in its brutishnish and barbarism.

Politicians — Democrat and Republican — campaign on “get-tough-on-crime platforms which have also made the US the most locked-up society in the world, outstripping even police states like China, which despite being almost four times the population of the US, has fewer people behind bars. In the US, 2.3 million people are in prison, but another 4.9 million are out of jail but still on parole or probation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, meaning they’ve been in prison already, and are still under the control of prison and police authorities. That’s over 3 percent of the US population, counting kids and old people. We lock people up at six times the rate, relative to population, of the average for all industrialized nations. Our lock-up rate is five times Britain’s, nine times Germany’s and 12 times Japan’s, yet we have crime rates far in excess of those more enlightened countries.

America has turned everything in to a crime. We get locked up for actions that rarely lead to prison in other modern societies — things like writing bad checks or using recreational drugs…or purse snatching.  And US prison sentences are much longer than sentences for the same crimes in other more enlightened countries. Take burglaries. In the US, the average sentence for a burglary is 16 months — almost a year and a half. In  Canada, it’s five months, and in England, seven months. Of course, we stand out too as having one of the busiest execution programs in the world, trumped only by China and Iran, two countries that are not particularly laudable for the quality of their justice systems.

Of course, the US justice system, if it can even be called that these days, is also rife with racism. The BJS reports that although blacks do not commit crimes at a rate significantly different from whites, they account for 39.4% of the US prison population, while accounting for only 13.1% of the general population. Hispanics, who account for 20.6% of the prison population nationally, represent only 16.3% of the population. Another way of looking at things: In 2010 black non-Hispanic males were incarcerated at the rate of 4,347 inmates per 100,000 in the US. White males were incarcerated at the rate of 678 inmates per 100,000. Hispanic males were incarcerated at the rate of 1,755 inmates per 100,000 U.S.

We’ve all heard it. Everytime someone does something and it makes the news, the response you hear in conversation is “They should lock ‘em up!” Rarely does the notion creep in that a criminal suspect is sick, needs psychiatric help or needs addiction treatment. Nor is poverty ever mentioned as a cause for some crime. In America, we are supposed to hunker down and endure our fate if we have no job, even if that means our kids have nothing to eat.

In Mississippi, a news story recently reported that a young boy had been sent to reform school because he came to school with his sneakers painted black instead of wearing required black school uniform shoes. It didn’t matter that his mother came in and explained that they had no money for the mandated leather shoes, so she had tried to conform by painting his sneakers.

In 1997, a homeless man in California named Gergory Taylor was sentenced to 25 years to life(!) for breaking into a church kitchen and trying to steal a loaf of bread. After 13 years behind bars, a judge reduced his sentence to time served and let him out. The initial outlandish sentence, and the outrageous amount of time he did serve until his release was the result of that state’s “three strikes and you’re out” law, which says if you commit a third offense after already having been convicted twice of crimes, you get the 25-to-life sentence, regardless of the crimes involved. Judges are allowed no discression. In Taylor’s case, his first crime had been stealing a woman’s purse, and his second had been attempted robbery. Neither of those prior crimes had involved any violence. No matter. It was his third “strike.”

The nation’s criminal code keeps getting bigger each year, too, as charlatans in elected office at the local, state and federal level keep piling on new crimes to punish. Louisiana State University Law Professor John S. Baker, Jr., writing in 2004 in a publication called "The Federalist Society", noted that as of 2003, there were 4000 criminal offenses carrying criminal penalties listed in the US Criminal Code. That, he said, was an increase of more than 1300 offenses over 1980. (In general, he notes that many more crimes are added to the list in election years than in non-election years.) The Heritage Foundation reports that the number of federal crimes had grown by another 450 to a total of 4450 by 2007.

Prosecutors for federal crimes often don’t even need to prove intent to commit a crime. Thus, for example, prosecutors have argued, with some success, that a person can be convicted of aiding and supporting terrorism under the post 2001 anti-terrorism laws, for innocently donating to a charitable organization that, while itself not involved in funding terrorism, might have sent some of its funds onward to some second organization totally unknown to the initial donor, which did contribute to a terrorist organization. Incredible? Well, how about the father and son who went on an innocent dig on federal land to look for Indian arrowheads — something that used to be considered a fun hobby –and who were arrested in Idaho by federal authorities under a new law that made it a felony to dig on what was an unmarked archeological site. The 68-year-old Eddie Anderson, a retired logger, and his son ended up pleading guilty and getting slapped with a one-year probation sentence and a $1500 fine each.  The joke is that the National Park stores generall sell arrowheads, all of which, if they are real, were “dug” from what by definition would be archeological sites.

At some point, and we passed it a long, long time ago, this punitive obsession in America has made the US not a “land of the free,” but a land of the intimidated. Everytime I’m driving and I see a police car behind me, I expect to be pulled over. Not because I’m doing anything wrong, but because increasingly, that’s what police do. Recently, I was going shopping with my wife. We saw two cops outside of a squad car talking to a couple of kids by their car, in what clearly was some kind of incident. I wanted to park in a space two cars away.  “Don’t go near the police,” she said. “I don’t want to go near them. Something could happen.” Sadly, she’s right. It’s like that these days. I might have felt compelled to say something, which could have gotten me busted.

And remember, as you think about all this, the the top law enforcement official in the country, Attorney General Eric Holder, just told Congress that he had no intention of seeking criminal indictments against the nation’s top bankers, despite a wide-spread conviction that they are all guilty of the most massive fraud and theft in the history of the country, because he says such prosecutions could “destabilize” the nation’s financial system. So they skate while Willie James rots in prison the rest of his life... Welcome to the United Police States of America.”

- http://www.counterpunch.org/

Friday, March 29, 2013

“The 13th Warrior: Prayers Before Final Battle”

“The 13th Warrior: Prayers Before Final Battle”

Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan: “Merciful Father, I have squandered my days with plans of many things. This was not among them. But at this moment, I beg only to live the next few minutes well. For all we ought to have thought, and have not thought; all we ought to have said, and have not said; all we ought to have done, and have not done; I pray thee God for forgiveness.”


“Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother and my sisters, and my brothers.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me
they bid me take my place among them in the Halls of Valhalla,
where the brave may live forever.”

Musical Interlude: Vangelis, “Beautiful Planet Earth”

Vangelis, “Beautiful Planet Earth”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Far beyond the local group of galaxies lies NGC 3621, some 22 million light-years away. Found in the multi-headed southern constellation Hydra, the winding spiral arms of this gorgeous island universe are loaded with luminous young star clusters and dark dust lanes. Still, for earthbound astronomers NGC 3621 is not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy. Some of its brighter stars have been used as standard candles to establish important estimates of extragalactic distances and the scale of the Universe. 
Click image for larger size.
This beautiful image of NGC 3621 traces the loose spiral arms far from the galaxy's brighter central regions that span some 100,000 light-years. Spiky foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy and even more distant background galaxies are scattered across the colorful skyscape.”

Chet Raymo,“The Maintenance of Self”

“The Maintenance of Self”
by Chet Raymo

"Ah, yes, the pitcher plant. Those devouring goblets. Those caldrons of digestive juices. And now naturalists have found the biggest one yet, as big as a chalice, on a mountaintop in the Philippines, its punch bowl filled with beetles, flies and wasps.

Come hither, ye who flitter. Admire my colors. Sip my nectar. Yes, yes, just like that, 
touch my milky pool. I'll be your Tar Baby. Your flypaper paramour. That's it. 
Sniff my irresistible scent. My buffet waits. Sip. Lap. Gorge yourself. 

Gotcha!

Countless plants use insects to consummate the business of sex, and some, that generally live in nutrient-deficient soils, have turned to carnivory. Alastair Robinson, who was part of the team that discovered the gargantuan pitcher, says the plant is "akin to an open stomach." Which is miracle enough. But what I want to know is: Why don't its dissolving juices dissolve the plant itself?

Oh, wait. My closed stomach does the same thing, digesting plants and animals but not itself. How can that be? Well, as we all learned in school, it does. The gastric juices eat away at the stomach's mucus lining, which has to be constantly replaced. Somewhere I read that the stomach lining sacrifices half-a-million cells a minute, completely replacing itself every three days. Digestion of food is a work in progress, a delicate balance between the dissolver and the dissolved. The stomach lining works like like an ablative heat shield on a space craft, except it is perpetually regenerating. 

Pitcher plants, apparently, use a variety of mechanisms to turn their prey into useful nutrients-enzymes, bacteria, mutualistic insect larvae- but they too must have some way of maintaining the integrity of self. Maintaining the integrity of self! That's what it's all about, isn't it. We need to eat. Other organisms want to eat us. Ablating stomach walls. Immune systems. Repair mechanisms. Our bodies are winds of molecules, torrents of cells. Blowing in and blowing out. And somehow a self remains.

The biological integrity of self, upon which depends utterly the intellectual integrity of self. Astonishingly resourceful- for the pitcher plant and for ourselves. But not unlimited. We are all doomed to die. Let's give the last word to one of William Blake's Songs of Innocence:

"Little fly,
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want
Of thought is death,

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.”

Paulo Coelho, “Solitude Is Not The Absence of Love”

“Solitude Is Not The Absence of Love”
by Paulo Coelho

“Without solitude, Love will not stay long by your side, because Love needs to rest as well, so that it can journey through the heavens and reveal itself in other forms.

Without solitude, no plant or animal can survive, no soil can remain productive for any length of time, no child can learn about life, no artist can create, no work can grow and be transformed.

Solitude is not the absence of Love, but its complement.

Solitude is not the absence of company, but the moment when our soul is free to speak to us and help us decide what to do with our life.

Therefore, blessed are those who do not fear solitude, who are not afraid of their own company, who are not always desperately looking for something to do, something to amuse themselves with, something to judge.

If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself, and if you do not know yourself, you will begin to fear the void. But the void does not exist. A vast world lies hidden in our soul, waiting to be discovered. There it is, with all its strength intact, but it is so new and so powerful that we are afraid to acknowledge its existence.

Just as Love is the divine condition, so solitude is the human condition. And for those who understand the miracle of life, those two states peacefully coexist.”

Life Skills: "Alive in Joy: Dispelling Drama"

"Alive in Joy: Dispelling Drama"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"Some people are so used to creating drama that a peaceful existence seems uncomfortable for them. There are scores of people in the world who seem to be magnets for calamity. They live their lives jumping from one difficult to the next, surrounded by unstable individuals. Some believe themselves victims of fate and decry a universe they regard as malevolent. Others view their chaotic circumstances as just punishments for some failing within. Yet, in truth, neither group has been fated or consigned to suffer. They are likely unconsciously drawing drama into their lives, attracting catastrophe through their choices, attitudes, and patterns of thought. Drama, however disastrous, can be exciting and stimulating. But the thrill of pandemonium eventually begins to frustrate the soul and drain the energy of all who embrace it. To halt this process, we must understand the root of our drama addiction, be aware of our reactions, and be willing to accept that a serene, joyful life need not be a boring one.

Many people, so used to living in the dramatic world they create, feel uncomfortable when confronted with the prospect of a lifetime of peace and contentment. The drama in their lives serves multiple purposes. Upset causes excitement, prompting the body to manufacture adrenaline, which produces a pleasurable surge of energy. For those seeking affection in the form of sympathy, drama forms the basis of their identity as a victim. And when drama is familial, many people believe they can avoid abandonment by continuing to play a key role in the established family dynamic. The addiction to drama is fed by the intensity of the feelings evoked during bouts of conflict, periods of uncertainty, and upheaval.

Understanding where the subconscious need for drama stems from is the key to addressing it effectively. Journaling can help you transfer this need from your mind onto a benign piece of paper. After repeated writing sessions, your feelings regarding the mayhem, hurt feelings, and confusion often associated with drama become clear. When you confront your emotional response to drama and the purpose it serves in your life, you can reject it. Each time you consciously choose not to take part in dramatic situations or associate with dramatic people, you create space in your inner being that is filled with a calm and tranquil stillness and becomes an asset in your quest to lead a more centered life."

The Daily "Near You?"

Dundee, Dundee City, United Kingdom. Thanks for stopping by.

"Here's To The Crazy Ones..."


"We Few, We Happy Few, We Band Of Brothers..."

“Eve of  St. Crispin’s Day Speech”
William Shakespeare, “Henry V” (1599) 

“WESTMORELAND: O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING: What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

"How It Really Is"


"Think Your Money is Safe? Think Again"

"Think Your Money is Safe? Think Again: 
The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors"
 By Ellen Brown

“Confiscating the customer deposits in Cyprus banks, it seems, was not a one-off, desperate idea of a few Eurozone “troika” officials scrambling to salvage their balance sheets. A joint paper by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England dated December 10, 2012, shows that these plans have been long in the making; that they originated with the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland (discussed earlier here); and that the result will be to deliver clear title to the banks of depositor funds.  

New Zealand has a similar directive, discussed in my last article here, indicating that this isn’t just an emergency measure for troubled Eurozone countries. New Zealand’s Voxy reported on March 19th: "The National Government [is] pushing a Cyprus-style solution to bank failure in New Zealand which will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts... Open Bank Resolution (OBR) is Finance Minister Bill English’s favored option dealing with a major bank failure. If a bank fails under OBR, all depositors will have their savings reduced overnight to fund the bank’s bail out."

Can They Do That? Although few depositors realize it, legally the bank owns the depositor’s funds as soon as they are put in the bank. Our money becomes the bank’s, and we become unsecured creditors holding IOUs or promises to pay. (See here and here.) But until now the bank has been obligated to pay the money back on demand in the form of cash. Under the FDIC-BOE plan, our IOUs will be converted into “bank equity.”  The bank will get the money and we will get stock in the bank. With any luck we may be able to sell the stock to someone else, but when and at what price? Most people keep a deposit account so they can have ready cash to pay the bills.

The 15-page FDIC-BOE document is called “Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions.”  It begins by explaining that the 2008 banking crisis has made it clear that some other way besides taxpayer bailouts is needed to maintain “financial stability.” Evidently anticipating that the next financial collapse will be on a grander scale than either the taxpayers or Congress is willing to underwrite, the authors state: "An efficient path for returning the sound operations of the G-SIFI to the private sector would be provided by exchanging or converting a sufficient amount of the unsecured debt from the original creditors of the failed company [meaning the depositors] into equity [or stock]. In the U.S., the new equitywould become capital in one or more newly formed operating entities. In the U.K., the same approach could be used, or the equity could be used to recapitalize the failing financial company itself—thus, the highest layer of surviving bailed-in creditors would become the owners of the resolved firm. In either country, the new equity holders would take on the corresponding risk of being shareholders in a financial institution."

No exception is indicated for “insured deposits” in the U.S., meaning those under $250,000, the deposits we thought were protected by FDIC insurance. This can hardly be an oversight, since it is the FDIC that is issuing the directive. The FDIC is an insurance company funded by premiums paid by private banks. The directive is called a “resolution process,” defined elsewhere as a plan that “would be triggered in the event of the failure of an insurer.” The only  mention of “insured deposits” is in connection with existing UK legislation, which the FDIC-BOE directive goes on to say is inadequate, implying that it needs to be modified or overridden.   

An Imminent Risk: If our IOUs are converted to bank stock, they will no longer be subject to insurance protection but will be “at risk” and vulnerable to being wiped out, just as the Lehman Brothers shareholders were in 2008. That this dire scenario could actually materialize was underscored by Yves Smith in a March 19th post titled "When You Weren’t Looking, Democrat Bank Stooges Launch Bills to Permit Bailouts, Deregulate Derivatives". She writes: "In the US, depositors have actually been put in a worse position than Cyprus deposit-holders, at least if they are at the big banks that play in the derivatives casino. The regulators have turned a blind eye as banks use their depositaries to fund derivatives exposures. And as bad as that is, the depositors, unlike their Cypriot confreres, aren’t even senior creditors. Remember Lehman? When the investment bank failed, unsecured creditors (and remember, depositors are unsecured creditors) got eight cents on the dollar. One big reason was that derivatives counterparties require collateral for any exposures, meaning they are secured creditors. The 2005 bankruptcy reforms made derivatives counterparties senior to unsecured lenders."

One might wonder why the posting of collateral by a derivative counterparty, at some percentage of full exposure, makes the creditor “secured,” while the depositor who puts up 100 cents on the dollar is “unsecured.” But moving on– Smith writes: "Lehman had only two itty bitty banking subsidiaries, and to my knowledge, was not gathering retail deposits. But as readers may recall, Bank of America moved most of its derivatives from its Merrill Lynch operation [to] its depositary in late 2011." 

Its “depositary” is the arm of the bank that takes deposits; and at B of A, that means lots and lots of deposits. The deposits are now subject to being wiped out by a major derivatives loss. How bad could that be? Smith quotes Bloomberg: "Bank of America’s holding company... held almost $75 trillion of derivatives at the end of June. That compares with JPMorgan’s deposit-taking entity, JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, which contained 99 percent of the New York-based firm’s $79 trillion of notional derivatives, the OCC data show."

$75 trillion and $79 trillion in derivatives! These two mega-banks alone hold more in notional derivatives each than the entire global GDP (at $70 trillion). The “notional value” of derivatives is not the same as cash at risk, but according to a cross-post on Smith’s site: "By at least one estimate, in 2010 there was a total of $12 trillion in cash tied up (at risk) in derivatives..."

$12 trillion is close to the US GDP. Smith goes on: "Remember the effect of the 2005 bankruptcy law revisions: derivatives counterparties are first in line, they get to grab assets first and leave everyone else to scramble for crumbs. Lehman failed over a weekend after JP Morgan grabbed collateral. But it’s even worse than that. During the savings & loan crisis, the FDIC did not have enough in deposit insurance receipts to pay for the Resolution Trust Corporation wind-down vehicle. It had to get more funding from Congress. This move paves the way for another TARP-style shakedown of taxpayers, this time to save depositors."

Perhaps, but Congress has already been burned and is liable to balk a second time. Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank Act specifically prohibits public support for speculative derivatives activities. And in the Eurozone, while the European Stability Mechanism committed Eurozone countries to bail out failed banks, they are apparently having second thoughts there as well. On March 25th, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who played a leading role in imposing the deposit confiscation plan on Cyprus, told reporters that it would be the template for any future bank bailouts, and that “the aim is for the ESM never to have to be used.” That explains the need for the FDIC-BOE resolution. If the anticipated enabling legislation is passed, the FDIC will no longer need to protect depositor funds; it can just confiscate them.

Worse Than a Tax: An FDIC confiscation of deposits to recapitalize the banks is far different from a simple tax on taxpayers to pay government expenses. The government's debt is at least arguably the people’s debt, since the government is there to provide services for the people. But when the banks get into trouble with their derivative schemes, they are not serving depositors, who are not getting a cut of the profits. Taking depositor funds is simply theft. What should be done is to raise FDIC insurance premiums and make the banks pay to keep their depositors whole, but premiums are already high; and the FDIC, like other government regulatory agencies, is subject to regulatory capture.  Deposit insurance has failed, and so has the private banking system that has depended on it for the trust that makes banking work.

The Cyprus haircut on depositors was called a “wealth tax” and was written off by commentators as “deserved,” because much of the money in Cypriot accounts belongs to foreign oligarchs, tax dodgers and money launderers. But if that template is applied in the US, it will be a tax on the poor and middle class. Wealthy Americans don't keep most of their money in bank accounts.  They keep it in the stock market, in real estate, in over-the-counter derivatives, in gold and silver, and so forth.

Are you safe, then, if your money is in gold and silver? Apparently not – if it’s stored in a safety deposit box in the bank.  Homeland Security has reportedly told banks that it has authority to seize the contents of safety deposit boxes without a warrant when it’s a matter of “national security,” which a major bank crisis no doubt will be.

The Swedish Alternative: Nationalize the Banks: Another alternative was considered but rejected by President Obama in 2009: nationalize mega-banks that fail. In a February 2009 article titled "Are Uninsured Bank Depositors in Danger?", Felix Salmon discussed a newsletter by Asia-based investment strategist Christopher Wood, in which Wood wrote: "It is amazing that Obama does not understand the political appeal of the nationalization option. Despite this latest setback nationalization of the banks is coming sooner or later because the realities of the situation will demand it. The result will be shareholders wiped out and bondholders forced to take debt-for-equity swaps, if not hopefully depositors."

On whether depositors could indeed be forced to become equity holders, Salmon commented: "It’s worth remembering that depositors are unsecured creditors of any bank; usually, indeed, they’re by far the largest class of unsecured creditors."

President Obama acknowledged that bank nationalization had worked in Sweden, and that the course pursued by the US Fed had not worked in Japan, which wound up instead in a "lost decade."  But Obama opted for the Japanese approach because, according to Ed Harrison, “Americans will not tolerate nationalization.” But that was four years ago. When Americans realize that the alternative is to have their ready cash transformed into “bank stock” of questionable marketability, moving failed mega-banks into the public sector may start to have more appeal.”

"Government Malfeasance: You Pay, They Laugh"

"Government Malfeasance: You Pay, They Laugh"
by Karl Denninger

"In a just world when someone swindles you they go to prison. If the swindle is extreme and the loss similarly extreme, they should get the death penalty- after a proper and fair trial, of course. But we do not live in a just world. We live in a world where plunder is the order of the day.  

The recent Cyprus bank confiscation is both right and wrong. It's right in that it's the correct way to resolve a bank, provided the capital structure is honored and both shareholders and bondholders are wiped out- entirely- before depositors are hit. But it's wrong in that the government, including Brussels and the ECB, provided assurances that these institutions were financially sound and it turns out they lied. Now the fruit of this poison tree is upon us. Small businesses, which simply cannot operate without being over insured deposit limits in most cases at least some of the time, have been destroyed. There are now reports from real companies coming in that 85% of these firms'working capital has been effectively seized. The correct word for this is theft. This has and will force an immediate shutdown of these businesses and the loss of every single job associated with them. 

I have no quarrel with someone losing an imprudently-made investment. That happens all the time, and I lose money all the time when I make bad investments. But this is not a matter of a bad investment.  It is a function of outright fraud committed by government agencies and false claims that they have repeatedly made, upon which these firms relied, and now they have been destroyed as a consequence. You cannot at the same time have the government telling you that the banks are safe and sound and at the same time preparing to, or actually, seizing your funds. That is felony grand theft and fraud- period.  

That is not confined to Cyprus. Now Canada intends to put the same system in place. Buried on page 144 and 145 of their latest budget document is the following ditty: "The Government proposes to implement a  bail-in regime for systemically important banks. This regime will be designed to ensure that, in the unlikely event that a systemically important bank depletes its capital, the bank can be recapitalized and returned to viability through the very rapid conversion of certain bank liabilities into regulatory capital. This will reduce risks for taxpayers. The Government will consult stakeholders on how best to implement a bail-in regime in Canada. Implementation timelines will allow for a smooth transition for affected institutions, investors and other market participants. Systemically important banks will continue to be subject to existing risk management requirements, including enhanced supervision and recovery and resolution plans." 

But note that there is no recompense when that "enhanced supervision" fails. When you deposit funds into a bank the cash the bank now has is an asset. The deposit is a liability. What they are talking about is you, the depositor, being the one who is tagged for that "very rapid conversion"- that is, they're simply going to steal your money. This, coming in the paragraph before they claim to have enhanced supervision, is an all-on joke. Either that supervision is an obligation of the government upon which you have a right to depend or it is an active and intentional fraud intended to lead you to leave money on deposit through deception when in point of fact doing so is not safe. Which is it?

In the Euro Zone the answer is already known- it's an active and intentional fraud that did lead you to leave your money on deposit through intentional deception. Incidentally, the model here is the United States. In the United States, if you remember, IndyMac bank was backdating deposits. The OTS knew it and in fact one of their employees had been caught allowing the same thing to happen during the S&L crisis. He not only kept his job after the S&L crisis he wasn't prosecuted this time either, and yet anyone who was over insured limits in Indymac got screwed. In addition, Washington Mutual, which I reported on at the time in 2007, was paying dividends out of money they didn't actually have. Once again, the OTS and FDIC did nothing and the firm eventually collapsed. 

In the United States 12 USC ß1831o requires bank regulators to take "Prompt Corrective Action" to prevent the exhaustion of bank capital and close the institution before that occurs. These are not suggestions, they are statutory requirements- requirements that were ignored in the United States and as a consequence real injury occurred to real people. Now the same thing has occurred in Cyprus.    

These are not ordinary business failures where investors lose their money. They are failures where the government has falsely certified health and soundness and, in many cases, where it has intentionally ignored practices such as backdating deposits that intentionally created a false appearance of health. The organs of these governments, including our government, have been willful and intentional co-conspirators with those who committed these acts. And yet.... nobody has gone to jail. Trust? Honor? Integrity? Honesty? The rule of law?  Forget it- all you have left is the rule of the Jungle, and as it stands right now, given your choices and actions thus far, you're what's for dinner.“
 - http://market-ticker.org/
"It's a big club, and you and I ain't in the club."
-George Carlin

The Economy: "Bitcoin’s Moment"

"Bitcoin’s Moment"
by Jeffrey Tucker

"Bitcoin may reach $100 today. That brings the total value of the existing Bitcoin stock (10,960,500) to more than $1 billion. It was only a few weeks ago when a local Bitcoin trader in my town wanted a 40% premium for a local cash-to-BTC exchange at the rate of $70 per coin. I balked on grounds that it was too high, since the prevailing market rate was $48. Today, that same trader is asking $132. Seems like I passed up a good deal.

Many people fear that Bitcoin is overpriced right now. This view is held even by people in the Bitcoin community who worry that a move from $15 to $93 in three months is not good for long-term viability. A crash could bring down the currency unit in devastating ways, leading to another round of debunking and clucking from the advocates of government money. But here’s the truth: No one knows for sure. Maybe the price will keep climbing. Next month at this time, people might be kicking themselves for not getting in right now. My instincts right now tend in this direction. I’m seeing BTC at $250, then $500, and then $1,000 by year-end.

Why bullish? Government paper is failing at a faster pace than anyone imagined would have happened in the past year. The Cyprus disaster took nearly everyone by surprise. No close observer believes that the latest bandage amounts to anything permanent. Moreover, the Cyprus save sets in place an incredible precedent: Bank deposits will hereafter be treated as government property first and belong to the depositors only at the discretion of the masters of the money.

It’s no wonder that Bitcoins are being brought from locales all over Europe, including Spain, Greece, Italy, and beyond. This also accounts for why mainstream news outlets are starting to write about Bitcoin as if it were the real thing, something serious, something that really matters on the world stage.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin applications are flourishing all over the Web. Among them:

Bitspend.net, which allows you to use BTC on any website
Bitpay.com, which enables payments on any website
Coinbase.com is a popular place to buy and sell BTC, plus it gives you a local wallet
Bitcoinstore.com is the emerging Amazon of BTC
Blockchain.info is the application that many smartphone users choose.

I can completely understand why this emerging currency causes alarm, not just for central bankers, but also for regular people. People have a hard time wrapping their brain around the whole idea of a digital currency. It seems too abstract, kind of sketchy; maybe it is a pyramid scheme of some sort.

Now, you might think that these same people would have just as much trouble figuring out how such a thing as a dollar or a euro exists. After all, this stuff is just cotton fiber paper backed by nothing real at all, and its value has nothing whatever to do with its physical properties. That has been the case for fully 40 years now, since Richard Nixon destroyed the last remnants of the gold standard. So there is actually nothing entirely unusual about a money being an abstraction. What’s ironic here is that Bitcoins are in fact more “real” than dollars or euros. They are built from 1s and 0s arranged in a particular way to serve a particular monetary function.

Someone might say, “But that’s not real. That’s just code.” Well, actually, code is real, as real as email, YouTube, Microsoft Office, the weather application on your smartphone, or any other piece of software on the planet. When Bill Gates first started experimenting with the idea of making an economic good out of software and turning it into a commercial enterprise, he was practically alone. The whole idea of “commodifying” stuff made out of code struck many people as outlandish and probably impossible. We know what happened: Code has become the basis of practically every significant economic advance over the last 30 years. Yet we still have doubts! I’ve thought about this a long time, investigated my own doubts, and here’s what I find to be an additional major point of resistance.

In the world of software and digits, stuff is reproducible. You send an image to Mom and you still keep the image on your computer. When you download a song, you don’t “take” it from anyone; it’s still there for someone else to download. When you invent software, you don’t have to keep inventing it; instead, you sell the same thing thousands or millions of times. In other words, copyability is the key advantage that the digital world offers over the physical world. The Internet is one big copy machine.

But copying money? That’s not a feature; it’s a bug. Any digital currency has to and must solve the problem of reproducibility. It must be strictly controlled, as with the gold standard. If you want more gold, you have to mine gold. It turns out that this is exactly how Bitcoin works. The servers run by miners have to work very hard solving complex math problems that grow more difficult over time. You have to use real resources to make more Bitcoins.

But what about those that exist? How can property rights be enforced? This is the real brilliance of Bitcoin. The structure includes a ledger that keeps track of all existing coins and their owners (not by name, but by digits). There is absolutely no way for one coin to be possessed by two separate people. The ledger is open and changes second by second, depending on the trades. This is why Bitcoin succeeds where every other attempt to make a digital currency (and there were plenty before) had previously failed. Bitcoin assigned property rights to each unit of exchange and made that ownership a major feature of the software itself. In other words, Bitcoin used computer code to reject what is seemingly the key advantage of computer code: its status as a nonscarce good. Instead, it built scarcity into the code.

Incredible, isn’t it? What’s more, the integrity of the system itself doesn’t depend on a single institution like a central bank or one big corporation, but instead operates in a completely decentralized way, peer to peer. There are no money masters and no money slaves.

Dollars can be produced infinitely, and this power has been used to liberally since 2008. Bitcoins, in contrast, are mined about one every 20 seconds, and each new Bitcoin has a particular owner and cannot be spent simultaneously by two owners. In other words, it is sound, like the gold standard, and structured to be this way. This is why so many people are drawn to it.

There are other advantages that this currency unit has over even gold itself. Gold in large quantities usually has to be stored. Historically, this gave rise to deposit banks that tempt bankers to blur the lines of ownership. When accounts are overleveraged and banks find themselves unable to pay out, they traditionally turn to government for help. That’s how we ended up with egregious institutions like central banks.

Bitcoins completely bypass this problem of storage, since they are literally weightless. They cannot be owned by more than one person at a time, so all loan markets will have to emerge within the strict confines of property rights. That means that emerging markets will exist on a sound basis, with no sneaky attempts to blur ownership titles.

Of course, the promise held out by an anonymous, market-created global unit of exchange with near-zero transactions costs can only be described as mind-blowing. Will it continue to advance? No one knows for sure, but my doubts are melting by the day, especially given the incredible failure of government money and the global clamor for a modern currency that serves human needs.”

Musical Interlude: The Moody Blues, “Your Wildest Dreams”

The Moody Blues, “Your Wildest Dreams”

Greg Hunter, "Weekly News Wrap-Up 3.29.13"

"Weekly News Wrap-Up 3.29.13"
by Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com 

"There were new all-time highs on the Dow and S&P 500 this week. Of course, the mainstream media didn’t mention a word about the how the Fed’s “open-ended” $85 billion a month bond buying program helped push the stock market to new highs. Maybe that’s why even some of the folks on CNBC called the market “creepy.” Legendary investor Jim Rogers said he wasn’t buying into this market.  Rogers was more concerned with the ripple effect that the Cyprus banking crisis was throwing off. He’s worried that other banks around the world will start taking money out of bank accounts. Rogers says the dye is cast, and it is going to happen elsewhere. He told CNBC viewers to “run for the hills.” There is now record all-time high in food stamp usage. Nearly 48 million Americans are using government assistance to buy food. How can there be a “recovery” in the economy with that kind of statistic? 

They opened the banks in Cyprus, but you can only take out a little of your money. Everybody learned a new word over there, and you all should pay attention.  It’s called “capital controls.”  It’s like going to your drycleaners to pick up your 10 shirts, but they will only give you one per day. Think that can’t happen anywhere else? Think again. The IMF and EU have condoned this.  Even Canada has a new provision to seize money out of bank accounts in the event of a systemic failure. That should make anyone with bank deposits very nervous, especially in the U.S. There is $10.8 trillion in deposits with just $33 billion in the FDIC insurance fund. No one has ever lost money in an insured FDIC account, but isn’t there a first time for everything? 

The State of Texas is the latest to want control over its gold, and it looks like it will make a request to get it back from the Federal Reserve. Countries such as Germany and Switzerland are doing the same thing. Jim Rickards says this is not a run on the federal government; it is a run on the Federal Reserve gold holdings. Seems this trend towards repatriation of gold is only growing. At some point, you got to wonder if the Fed really has all this gold it has been keeping for people. You also have to wonder if there are multiple owners for the same numbered bars. Gold is coming back into the monetary system, that’s for sure. Legendary gold trader Jim Sinclair says gold is poised to go much higher in price. 

Finally, North Korea has been pounding the war drums and threatening war. This is a nuclear armed country, and it is dangerous. I compare it to an eight year-old waiving around a loaded .45. The eight year-old is probably not a very good shot, but the gun could go off and kill somebody. This is North Korea, and the U.S. military is taking its threats seriously. It sent B-2 bombers to South Korea recently. These bombers can carry nuclear weapons. That means if there is a mistake or miscalculation, this could go nuclear in a hurry. I do not take the threats from North Korea lightly because war can sometimes be started accidentally, but it is still war.  

Join Greg Hunter as he gives his analysis of these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Bright spiral galaxy NGC 3169 appears to be unraveling in this cosmic scene, played out some 70 million light-years away just below bright star Regulus toward the faint constellation Sextans. Its beautiful spiral arms are distorted into sweeping tidal tails as NGC 3169 (left) and neighboring NGC 3166 interact gravitationally, a common fate even for bright galaxies in the local universe. In fact, drawn out stellar arcs and plumes, indications of gravitational interactions, seem rampant in the deep and colorful galaxy group photo.
Click image for larger size.
The picture spans 20 arc minutes, or about 400,000 light-years at the group's estimated distance, and includes smaller, dimmer NGC 3165 at the right. NGC 3169 is also known to shine across the spectrum from radio to X-rays, harboring an active galactic nucleus that is likely the site of a supermassive black hole.”

Chet Raymo, “Cranes or Skyhooks?”

“Cranes or Skyhooks?”
by Chet Raymo

“In the late 19th century, an intractable problem bedeviled scientists. Geologists had convincingly demonstrated that the Earth was hundreds of millions of years old, and fossil evidence suggested that life had been around for most of that time. Which means the Sun must have been burning more or less steadily throughout the duration. Yet physicists and chemists could not provide any credible source of energy that would keep the Sun shining for all that time. Not gravitational contraction. Not chemical combustion or any other known chemical reaction.

Nada. Nothin'. Zippo.

So what to do? Do we abandon the geological time scale, perhaps affirming anew the biblical chronology? Do we hypothesize some cosmic or supernatural energy source to keep the stars burning? Does the failure of physicists to account for the Sun's extended lifetime prove the geophysical paradigm "almost certainly false"? Well, no. Not false, but, as it turned out, incomplete. The new century brought a new insight: the equivalence of matter and energy and E=mc2. Riddle solved.

And what is the moral of this story for the problem of consciousness? Don't rush to conclusions that confirm your personal prejudices. Wait and see.

It may yet turn out that the riddle of consciousness can be resolved within the context of materialist neo-Darwinian science. Certainly, research on that basis is proceeding apace. The fact that consciousness evolved in step with neuronal complexity gives gentle hope for the eventual reduction of consciousness to an activity of the electrochemical brain. On the other hand, it may turn out that neuroscience needs a paradigm shift comparable to E=mc2. Either way, we stay within a naturalistic worldview.

Daniel Dennett's 1991 book “Consciousness Explained” promised more than it delivered. Nagel's book “Mind and Cosmos” delivers considerably less than it promises. Of the two, Dennett at least provided a possible schemata for ongoing research. Nagel provides wishful thinking.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Camden, New Jersey, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

“What Is Perhaps the Most Powerful Word in the English Language?”

“What Is Perhaps the Most Powerful Word in the English Language?”
by Michael S. Broder, Ph.D.

“I'll spare you the tease. That word is "no"!

The ability to be assertive and say "no" is a communication skill we all learn at a very young age. If you're a parent, you know better than anyone that once this word enters a child's vocabulary it's used very often. However, as an adult, "no" is often much more difficult to say. As life gets busier and obligations increase, the ability to say "no" is increasingly important. If you can learn to assert yourself, it can be the difference between chronic overwhelm (aka, not having an enjoyable life) and spending far more time with the things you enjoy and that fulfill you the most.

Between keeping up with your email, your career and family, your friends and your relationship(s), the many requests for your time that you receive on a regular basis can feel daunting. Perhaps the kids need you to drive them and their friends to the movies, your neighbors want you to walk their dog and your boss is pleading with you to take a work project home to complete in order to meet a deadline. Perhaps you agree to take on more than you can handle, merely because you don't want to be rejecting or somehow become scorned by someone's wrathful reaction. The fear of being rejected by others is one that we become most sensitive to in adolescence, which I discuss in detail in my book “Stage Climbing: The Shortest Path to Your Highest Potential”. But when this fear is too prominent as an adult, it can certainly hold you back. The key to being able to pick and choose what you can and cannot take on, is remembering that when you say "no" you aren't rejecting the person, you are simply rejecting their request. For example, if someone asks you to lend them $100, you might say "no." But if that person were to ask if you could pay him to do some yard work for you, you might agree to this. So by saying no the loan, you were merely rejecting an undesirable request. A more attractive request- paying money for yard work you need done- where there's a benefit to you could be one you might easily accept. In this example, as with most requests you probably consider, it's less personal than practical. The problem is, we tend to easily forget that.

Being able to carefully consider and mindfully choose which obligations or requests you take on from the people in your life will allow you to feel empowered and positive about the things you decide to say "yes" to. When you are unapologetically the one who's in charge of your life and your decisions, you will get a level of respect that may have previously eluded you. In reality, there are so many things coming at you today that weren't there just a few short years ago. This means that managing your schedule is far more challenging than it was before. Most importantly, strive to feel great about how you choose to spend your time, as time is the one asset we have, that when lost- we can't get it back. So who can you say no to today?”