Friday, January 31, 2014
“Amazing Photos Of The Universe By Hubble Space Telescope”
by N. Morgan
“A wonderful collection of photos from the Hubble Space Telescope. This collection is just breathtaking and the video maker included history,along with the photos, so you get a real in depth look into the universe and all of its natural wonders! Most of these photos were taken from NASA’s official website, spacetelescope.org and National Geographic.”
“It’s Later Than Men Think”
by Tom Purcell
“The illusion was good while it lasted. I speak of the male biological clock. Yet another study, reported at PsychCentral.com, finds that children of older fathers are more likely to suffer “from mental health issues, including schizophrenia, mood disorders, neurotic disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders and other developmental and childhood disorders such as autism and mental retardation.” And this news is a real bummer for middle-aged fellows.
Oh, how glorious things used to be before these male biological constraints were known. We fellows were free to believe we could dilly-dally through our 30s and 40s, acquire some dough, then marry an attractive young woman who would bless us with a couple of healthy young children, who could push us around in our wheelchairs in our rapidly approaching old age. We cheered on any old fellow who procreated later in life.
Actor Tony Randall had his first kid with a young woman when he was 78. Novelist Saul Bellow sired his fourth child at the age of 84. Author George Plimpton had twins when he was 68. Actor Anthony Quinn fathered two children with his secretary, who later became his wife — the first when he was 78, the second when he was 81. And let us not forget gorgeous actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, who has had two kids with aging actor Michael Douglas — or is that Kirk Douglas? They both look so old, I get confused.
Then the studies started coming out. Scientists said men start suffering low sperm count as soon as the age of 35. They said our “little guys” can’t swim as fast as they could when we were young and have higher concentrations of broken DNA strands, which cause maladies in our offspring. Scientists suggested that if we are still crazy enough to procreate after 35, we better give up fun. We must forsake smoking and drinking and everything else that could damage our reproductive capacity. They said we have to give up delicious fatty foods, too, and consume as many oysters, fish and walnuts as we can take.
I suppose we had it coming. For years, you see, lots of studies documented the female biological clock. Infertility research shows that a woman’s eggs deteriorate with age. The longer women wait to have kids, the more likely their children will have issues of some kind — if they are even able to get pregnant. Hence, many articles and books have suggested that career women can’t have it all — that if they want families, they should put their careers on hold and have children while they’re young and at their biological best.
The female biological clock actually benefitted some of us men. Women who dreamed of having a family, aware of their time limitations, were much more likely to consort with boring men of high moral character. Even a bald, chubby fellow could land a lovely wife, so long as he was a CPA. And before the male biological clock was documented, there was some opportunity for a fellow to dedicate years to developing his talents and growing his wealth. In his late 40s or early 50s, at the top of his career, he still might find a lovely woman who liked the idea of having a family with a financially stable older fellow.
But those days are gone — and, in fact, were never really here. We humans like to think we can impose our will on reality — in this case, biological reality — but that is just not possible. The regrettable truth is that younger people are best suited to procreation and, if you want children, waiting too long isn’t a good idea. So pick up the pace, fellows. Your clock is ticking.”
“Your Comfort Zone Refuge: Create a Soft Place to Land”
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM
“Create a soft place to land in your home, a refuge from the stress of the day. Our day-to-day demands can quickly take their toll on our well-being if we are not vigilant about caring for ourselves as best we can. One way we can ensure that we have an opportunity to relax and recuperate each day is to create a soft place to land when we arrive home. This landing pad, whether it is an entire room or merely a small corner of a larger area, can provide us with a safe and comforting refuge in which we can decompress and recover from the day’s stresses. There, we are enveloped in feelings of security that transcend other issues that may be unfolding in our homes. Our landing pads also act as way stations that enable us to shift our attention away from our outer-world concerns and back to our inner-world needs.
To create a soft place to land in your home, begin by scouting potential locations. Or perhaps your entire home is your landing pad in which case you may only need to declutter. Your habits can often provide you with insight into the perfect spot, as there may be an area of your home you gravitate to naturally when you are in need of comfort. Any space in which you find it easy to let go of stress and anxiety can become your landing pad. A basement or attic, spare room, or unused storage area, furnished with items that soothe you, can give you the privacy you need to unwind. If you appreciate the elements, you may find that spending time in a section of your garden or outdoor patio helps you release the day’s tensions. Preparing these spaces can be as easy as replacing clutter with a small selection of beautiful objects that put you in a relaxed frame of mind. Remember to consider noise and activity levels while choosing the site of your landing pad. If you know that ordinary human commotion will distract you from your purpose, look for a secluded spot.
The soft place to land that you create should inspire within you the mantra, “I can breath here. I can relax here. I know I am safe here.” When you return to your home after braving worldly rigors, you will feel a subtle yet tranquil shift occur inside of you as you settle in to this most personal of retreats and feel centered once again.”
“Why Getting Comfortable With Discomfort Is Crucial To Success”
Gerald Celente: “We Are In A Global Depression”
By Live Free or Die
“Gerald Celente comes right out and says it how it is; we are now in a global depression. While countless Americans believe that we are somehow still in a ‘recovery’, followers of alternative news understand that we are anything but ‘recovering’. This is a jam packed 11 minute video with Alex Jones and Gerald Celente that sugar coats nothing.”
“Weekly News Wrap-Up 1.31.14”
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com
“Let’s go back to the Middle East for the top stories. The Syrian peace talks have gone nowhere. Absolutely nothing has been accomplished from the U.S. perspective. They have failed and the best thing you can hope for is another round of talks. The Syrians and the Assad regime, on the other hand, look to be the big winners. They claimed to be destroying their chemical weapon stockpile but are way behind schedule and have only come up with a little more than 4% of their stockpile. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is concerned, as he should be. It looks like the Syrians and the Russians have put one over on the Obama Administration. There appears to be no end to the Syrian civil war that has claimed the lives of more than 130,000 and displaced more than 7 million.
Speaking of Syria, it appears the civil war there is continuing to spill across its borders. It is being reported that the military in Turkey has been attacking al-Qaeda forces inside Syria. The attacks by the Turkish military are in retaliation for cross-border fire earlier this week. This is just another sign of increasing instability in the region.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Middle East, it appears like the Iranians have also made fools of the Obama Administration. The country is not getting rid of its nuclear program. Last week, the Iranian Foreign Minister said the White House “underplays the concessions and overplays the Iranian commitments.” This is in sharp contrast to what the President said this week in the State of the Union Address. The West wants to curb Iran’s nuclear program because it is afraid the program will eventually produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies those claims.
The Federal Reserve pulled a bit of a surprise this week. It, once again, cut back or “tapered” the bond buying program. It is still pumping out $65 billion a month propping up the economy and holding down interest rates. The Fed has some bad timing, though, with recent news on an uptick in unemployment and falling home sales. In the State of the Union Address, the President bragged on the economy while asking for more money for unemployment benefits. His idea of making things better is raising the minimum wage. Nothing was talked about in terms of the growing debt bubble that could implode the economy and send the world into a depression. It seems both parties are in denial about how bad the economy really is. The Fed is still pumping out $65 billion a month. Greg Mannarino told me the Fed is trying to prop up the stock market by driving money back to the U.S. from emerging markets. Mannarino and Doug Casey say the bond bubble is the big problem, and it is only a matter of time until it pops.
Maybe this is why the President introduced a new IRA called MYRA, it stands for My Retirement Account. It allows American to buy Treasury Bonds. Is this an opening the government is taking to start pushing people into government debt? Could it be forced on Americans someday if the Fed stops buying all this debt? Didn’t we hear there is a bond bubble? Shouldn’t people stay away from bubbles before they pop? Have you heard what former World Bank Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin said this week? “Dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises,” said Lin. He also says the dollar should be “replaced” as the reserve currency. Interest rates would head much higher along with inflation in the U.S., and those bonds the President wants you to buy would tank.
Finally, I guess some bankers in the UK don’t feel too good about the so-called “recovery.” This past week, one hung himself, and another threw himself off a high-rise in London. Coincidence? Maybe, and maybe not. Meanwhile, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who lost $23 billion in fines restitution and trading losses, is getting a 74% raise. He bagged $20 million in 2013. His company was fined for working with fraudster Bernie Madoff, and nobody loses their job, and Dimon gets a big raise? We live in a world where bad is good and a lie is the truth.
Join Greg Hunter as he analyzes these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up.”
Thursday, January 30, 2014
“A Glimpse into the Coming Economic Collapse”
By Jeff Thomas
“Beginning in 1999, we predicted a systemic economic collapse that would take place in the First World and would impact all other economies. We began to list some of the "dominoes" that would fall as the collapse evolved and described that the "Great Unravelling," as we termed it, would take roughly ten years. At that time, we guesstimated that the first two of the dominoes, a real estate crash and subsequent stock market crash in the US, would begin in about 2005.
We were premature in this prediction, as the first of the crashes did not occur until 2007. And, truth be told, we have frequently been incorrect in the timing of the other dominoes. Whilst the actual events have been predicted correctly, our timing has often been incorrect. In every such case, the prediction has been premature.
Sadly, however, the prediction of the events of the collapse have been almost entirely correct. We also predicted that, just as a ball of string speeds up its rotation as it rolls along unravelling, so, too, the events of the Great Unravelling would occur more quickly as the situation worsened. Additionally, the severity of the events would increase concurrently with the increase in velocity.
However, none of the above was the result of gypsy fortune-telling, nor did it require the brightest of minds to work out. It is mostly based on the simple assumption that history repeats itself—that the world's leaders make the same mistakes in every era, because human nature never changes. Anyone who is willing to expend the effort to study history diligently and to be prepared to think in contrarian terms, may develop a meaningful insight into the events of the future.
Back in 1999, of course, the very idea that the world was headed for serious economic calamity was considered ridiculous by most. The unfortunate fact is, most people do truly deal in the present, rarely questioning the future beyond what they consider to be the very next event. The truth of this statement is borne out by the fact that the great majority of people, who have already seen the first half of the Great Unravelling come to pass, still somehow cannot imagine the second half—the more disastrous half—as being in any way possible. Surely, somehow, the governments of the world will fix things.
However, the number of people whose eyes have been opened seems to be growing, and many of them are asking what the collapse will look like as it unfolds. What will the symptoms be? Well, the primary events are fairly predictable: they would include major collapses in the bond and stock markets and possible sudden deflation (primarily of assets), followed by dramatic inflation, if not hyperinflation (primarily of commodities), followed by a crash of several major currencies, particularly the euro and the US dollar.
The secondary events will be less certain, but likely: increased unemployment, currency controls, protective tariffs, severe depression, etc. But, along the way, there will be numerous surprises—actions taken by governments that may be as unprecedented as they would be unlawful. Why? Because, again, such actions are the norm when a government finds itself losing its grip over the people it perceives as its minions. Here are a few:
• Travel Restrictions. This will begin with restrictions on foreign travel, including suspension/removal of passports. (This has begun in a small way in both the EU and US.) Later, travel restrictions will be extended within the boundaries of countries (highway checkpoints, etc.)
• Confiscation of wealth. The EU has instituted the confiscation of bank accounts, which can be expected to become an international form of governmental theft. This does not automatically mean that other assets, such as precious metals and real estate will also be confiscated, but it does mean that the barrier for confiscation has been eliminated. There is therefore no reason to assume that any asset is safe from any government that approves theft through bail-ins.
• Food Shortages. The food industry operates on very small profit margins and survives only as a result of quick payment of invoices. With dramatic inflation, marginal businesses (suppliers, wholesalers, and retailers) will fall by the wayside. The percentage of failing businesses will be dependent upon the duration and severity of the inflationary trend.
• Squatters Rebellions. A dramatic increase in the number of home and business foreclosures will result in homelessness for anyone whose debt exceeds his ability to pay—even those who presently appear to be well-off. As numbers rise significantly, a new homeless class will be created amongst the former middle class. As they become more numerous, large scale ownership of property may give way to large scale "possession" of property.
• Riots. These will likely happen spontaneously due to the above conditions, but if not, governments will create them to justify their desire for greater control of the masses.
• Martial Law. The US has already prepared for this, with the passing of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which many interpret as declaring the US to be a "battlefield." The NDAA allows the suspension of habeas corpus, indefinite detention, and the assumption that any resident may be considered an enemy combatant. Similar legislation may be expected in other countries that perceive martial law as a solution to civil unrest.
The above list is purposely brief—a sampling of eventualities that, should they occur, will almost definitely come unannounced. As the decline unfolds, they will surely happen with greater frequency. But the value in projecting what the collapsing governments may do to their citizens is not merely an exercise in speculation. By anticipating the likelihood of any of the above, the individual may find that it would be prudent to turn off the game on television tonight and spend his time musing on the possibility of what he would do if any of the above events were to take place. (And, again, these projections are not mere fancy; they are actions typically taken by governments as their declines play out.)
Most importantly, if the reader concludes that there is a significant percentage of likelihood that any of the above are coming his way, he would be well-advised to assess whether they are developments that he feels he could live with. If not, he might wish to assess how much time he has before these events become a reality and what he may do to sidestep their impact on him.
Whilst, throughout the First World, the comment, "The whole world is going to Hell," is becoming common, in fact, this is not the case. Although some countries are in decline, others are on the rise. It is left to the reader to decide whether he will fall victim to coming events, or will use them as an opportunity to internationalise himself."
“The Return of the Worldwide Crack-Up Boom”
by Bill Bonner
“A kiss is still a kiss. A sigh is still a sigh… And a bubble is still a bubble. When a kiss is over, it’s over. When a bubble pops…well…that’s all she wrote! All kisses end – even the wettest “French” kisses. And so do all bubbles – even sloppy mega-bubbles of liquidity. This one will be no exception. But of course, it’s not the certainties that make life interesting… it’s the uncertainties – the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns, as Mr. Rumsfeld says. We are all born of woman and end up where all men born of women end up – dead. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun between baptism and last rites.
You’ll remember we said that this worldwide financial bubble is both worldlier, and more financial than any in history. And, for the moment, it is very much alive. So much alive that the media can hardly keep up with it. Forbes magazine, for example, tries to estimate the wealth of the world’s richest people. But the rich don’t typically give out their balance sheets, telephone numbers and home addresses. So, there’s a fair amount of guesswork in the calculations.But when it came to guesstimating the net worth of Stephen Schwarzman, founder of Blackstone, the Forbes crew wandered off into fiction. They put his wealth at about $2 billion. Recent filings in connection with the new Blackstone IPO show he earned that much in a single year!
In this phase of the bubble, it is as if your neighbors were throwing a wild party – and you weren’t invited. You detest them…envy them…and want to join them, all at once. A very small part of the population is having a ball; everyone else is getting restless and wondering when the noise will stop. We wish we knew. And we’ve given up guessing.
Meanwhile, the experts, commentarists, kibitzers and analysts are saying that there is a whole new phase of the giant bubble about to unfold; things could get a whole lot crazier. Even many of our respected colleagues are pointing to a text by the great Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, for a clue. What we have here, they say, is what Mises described as a “Crack-Up Boom.”
Before we go on, readers should be aware that the “Austrian school” of economics is probably the best theory about the way the world works. Like The Daily Reckoning, it is suspicious of efforts to control the natural workings of an economy, in general…and suspicious of central banking, in particular. The fact that it was a one-time “Austrian,” Alan Greenspan, who became the most celebrated central banker in history, only increases our suspicions. He was able to master central banking, we imagine, because he understood what it really is – a swindle.
What is a “Crack-Up Boom?” Von Mises explains: “This first stage of the inflationary process may last for many years. While it lasts, the prices of many goods and services are not yet adjusted to the altered money relation. There are still people in the country who have not yet become aware of the fact that they are confronted with a price revolution which will finally result in a considerable rise of all prices, although the extent of this rise will not be the same in the various commodities and services. These people still believe that prices one day will drop. Waiting for this day, they restrict their purchases and concomitantly increase their cash holdings. As long as such ideas are still held by public opinion, it is not yet too late for the government to abandon its inflationary policy.
But then, finally, the masses wake up. They become suddenly aware of the fact that inflation is a deliberate policy and will go on endlessly. A breakdown occurs. The crack-up boom appears. Everybody is anxious to swap his money against ‘real’ goods, no matter whether he needs them or not, no matter how much money he has to pay for them. Within a very short time, within a few weeks or even days, the things which were used as money are no longer used as media of exchange. They become scrap paper. Nobody wants to give away anything against them.
It was this that happened with the Continental currency in America in 1781, with the French mandats territoriaux in 1796, and with the German mark in 1923. It will happen again whenever the same conditions appear. If a thing has to be used as a medium of exchange, public opinion must not believe that the quantity of this thing will increase beyond all bounds. Inflation is a policy that cannot last.”
Mises is describing the lunatic phases of a classic inflationary cycle. At first, no one can tell the difference between a real dollar – one that is earned, saved, invested or spent – and one that just came off the printing presses. They figure that the new dollar is as good as the old one. And then, prices rise…and people don’t know what to make of it. Later, they begin to catch on…and all Hell breaks loose. You see, if you could really get rich by printing more currency, Zimbabweans would all be as rich as Midas, since the Mugabe government runs the presses night and day.
Von Mises died in 1973 – long before this boom really got going – let alone cracked up. He may have never heard of a hedge fund… or even a derivative, for that matter. A world money system without gold? He probably couldn’t have imagined it. People spending millions of dollars for a Warhol? Twenty million for a house in Mayfair? Chinese stocks at 40 times earnings? He would have chuckled in disbelief. He understood how national currency bubbles expand and how they pop, but he probably never would have imagined how insane things could get when you have a whole world monetary system in bubble mode.
He’d have recognized the beginning of this bubble…and he’d have recognized the end, but the middle…or the beginning of the end – that would have dumbfounded him. During his lifetime he saw a Crack Up Boom in Germany in the ’20s…and a few more here…but he never saw a worldwide Crack Up Boom. No, dear reader, no one, anywhere, has ever seen a worldwide Crack Up Boom. We’re the first, ever. Pretty exciting, huh?”
Andrey Vinogradov, “Without You”
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
“NGC 7841 is probably known as the Smoke Nebula, found in the modern constellation of Frustriaus, the frustrated astrophotographer. Only a few light-nanoseconds from planet Earth, The Smoke Nebula is not an expanding supernova remnant along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, though it does look a lot like one.
Click image for larger size.
Instead it was created by flash photography of rising smoke. The apparently rich starfield is actually composed of water droplets sprayed from a plant mister by an astrophotographer grown restless during a recent stretch of cloudy weather in Sweden. A single exposure and three external flashes were triggered to capture the not-quite-cosmic snapshot.”
“Obama’s Call to End Tragedies Angers Pro-tragedy Wing in Congress”
by Andy Borowitz
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — “President Obama’s call during his State of the Union address to “stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans” received a frosty response from the pro-tragedy wing in Congress last night. After Mr. Obama made his controversial stopping-tragedies remark, prominent pro-tragedy members of Congress looked on in stony silence, refusing to applaud. “I thought it was offensive and inappropriate,” said Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana). “If the President wants coöperation from Congress, he should refrain from his divisive and inflammatory anti-tragedy rhetoric.”
The pro-tragedy lobby is among the most powerful in Washington, spending millions annually to defeat politicians who oppose tragedies. Another congressman with a strong pro-tragedy voting record, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina), also blasted the President’s remark, accusing Mr. Obama of conducting a “war on tragedy.” “If the President really thinks he is going to prevent more tragedies, he should be prepared for a fight,” Rep. Wilson said. “The American people’s right to tragedies is protected by the United States Constitution.”
“Fukushima Out of Control”
"The World is at a critical crossroads. The Fukushima disaster in Japan has brought to the forefront the dangers of Worldwide nuclear radiation. The crisis in Japan has been described as "a nuclear war without a war". In the words of renowned novelist Haruki Murakami: "This time no one dropped a bomb on us. We set the stage, we committed the crime with our own hands, we are destroying our own lands, and we are destroying our own lives."
Nuclear radiation- which threatens life on planet earth- is not front page news in comparison to the most insignificant issues of public concern.
While the long-term repercussions of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster are yet to be fully assessed, they are far more serious than those pertaining to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine, which resulted in almost one million deaths (New Book Concludes- Chernobyl death toll: 985,000, mostly from cancer Global Research, September 10, 2010, See also Matthew Penney and Mark Selden "The Severity of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster: Comparing Chernobyl and Fukushima", Global Research, May 25, 2011)
The shaky political consensus both in Japan, the U.S. and Western Europe is that the crisis at Fukushima has been contained. The realties, however, are otherwise. An opinion poll in May 2011 confirmed that more than 80 per cent of the Japanese population do not believe the government's information regarding the nuclear crisis. (quoted in Sherwood Ross, "Fukushima: Japan's Second Nuclear Disaster", Global Research, November 10, 2011)
The Impacts in Japan: The Japanese government has been obliged to acknowledge that "the severity rating of its nuclear crisis... matches that of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster". In a bitter irony, however, this tacit admission by the Japanese authorities has proven to been part of the cover-up of a significantly larger catastrophe, resulting in a process of global nuclear radiation and contamination:
"While Chernobyl was an enormous unprecedented disaster, it only occurred at one reactor and rapidly melted down. Once cooled, it was able to be covered with a concrete sarcophagus that was constructed with 100,000 workers. There are a staggering 4400 tons of nuclear fuel rods at Fukushima, which greatly dwarfs the total size of radiation sources at Chernobyl." ( Extremely High Radiation Levels in Japan: University Researchers Challenge Official Data, Global Research, April 11, 2011)
Worldwide Contamination: The dumping of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean constitutes a potential trigger to a process of global radioactive contamination. Radioactive elements have not only been detected in the food chain in Japan, radioactive rain water has been recorded in California: "Hazardous radioactive elements being released in the sea and air around Fukushima accumulate at each step of various food chains (for example, into algae, crustaceans, small fish, bigger fish, then humans; or soil, grass, cow's meat and milk, then humans). Entering the body, these elements -- called internal emitters -- migrate to specific organs such as the thyroid, liver, bone, and brain, continuously irradiating small volumes of cells with high doses of alpha, beta and/or gamma radiation, and over many years often induce cancer". (Helen Caldicott, "Fukushima: Nuclear Apologists Play Shoot the Messenger on Radiation", The Age, April 26, 2011)
While the spread of radiation to the West Coast of North America was casually acknowledged, the early press reports (AP and Reuters) "quoting diplomatic sources" stated that only "tiny amounts of radioactive particles have arrived in California but do not pose a threat to human health."
"According to the news agencies, the unnamed sources have access to data from a network of measuring stations run by the United Nations' Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. ...Headquarterd in Austria..Greg Jaczko, chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, (a Commission with no current funding) told White House reporters on Thursday (March 17) that his experts "don't see any concern from radiation levels that could be harmful here in the United States or any of the U.S. territories
The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee chairman Anne McIntosh described the scale of the contamination in the food chain as "breathtaking".
“Gee, What's Going On Here?”
by Karl Denninger
“Hmmm... William Broeksmit, a recently retired executive at Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) who worked at Merrill Lynch in the 1990s with Anshu Jain, now Deutsche Bank’s co-chief executive officer, has died. He was 58. He died on Jan. 26 at his home in London, according to a memo to employees obtained by Bloomberg News. Deutsche Bank spokesman Michael Golden confirmed the contents, which didn’t give a cause. In an interview, a spokesman for the London police said a 58-year-old man was found hanging in a residence on Evelyn Gardens, the street where Broeksmit lived, and that authorities aren’t treating the death as suspicious.
"Has died"? Well, ok, technically correct I suppose. But it would be more accurate to say "appears to have committed suicide", yes? And why would he commit suicide, may I ask?
There's nothing in the Bloomberg story on that. But there is an old story out there from, well, about a year ago. It seems that this guy was involved in some of the derivative valuation questions that arose regarding some $12 billion in losses that were unrealized (read: hidden?) although the bank claimed they were unfounded allegations. Related? Who knows. But gee, there do seem to be an awful lot of people who have suddenly decided they don't want to breathe any more without apparent and disclosed cause.
Just for the public record, if I happen to be found in a state that does not include spontaneous respiration, the means by which I reached that state wasn't voluntary on my part.”
We're so lucky these kinds of things could never happen here in
the glorious land of the free and the home of the brave, right? Right?
“The Place to Be When the House of Debt Collapses”
by The Mogambo Guru
“I was more dyspeptic than usual that morning at breakfast, the latest disappointment being my latest and greatest Fabulous Mogambo Plan (FMP) to make a few bucks that popped (“boing!”) into my head as I woke up, namely hooking up generators to the kids’ bicycles and let them merrily pedal away all day in the garage, generating electricity, so that I could sell the excess power to the local grid and make a few bucks, or at least reduce my electric bill somewhat.
Alas, my enthusiasm was soon dampened by remembering the laws of physics, which is not to mention those pesky “child labor” laws that have been the Achilles heel of many a former FMP.
And perhaps it was that same kind of sloppy inattention to detail and not “thinking things through” that explains, to some degree, how I had, in my last Mogambo Guru newsletter, declared that the price of bonds had halved, which is NOT true, because interest rates had doubled, which IS true, as pointed out by Junior Mogambo Ranger (JMR) Dick P., whom I mention because he is the only one who did not use the words “half-wit, lowlife moron” anywhere in his email informing me of, ahem, my error.
So please ignore that part of that newsletter, but the point was how Completely Freaked Out (CFO) I am by the doubling — doubling! — of interest rates, and accentuated by my lingering paranoid hostility about the recent court case where it was revealed that the government has, by virtue of the Exchange Stabilization Fund, the absolute authority to secretly manipulate any and all markets, including the gold and silver markets, which were the issue at hand, thus committing a legalized fraud on a massive scale. Unbelievable! I still find it absolutely unbelievable that the federal government can now commit any crime, as long as they pass a law saying that it is not illegal when the government commits it!
You rudely laugh at me because I am childishly hiding behind the couch, have a sour scowl on my face, a loaded pistol in each hand and pockets jammed full of gold and silver, but I mean, how paranoid do you have to BE to be justifiably afraid of a rogue government that has given itself the legal authority to monitor your every move, has given itself the legal authority to kill anybody at any time without due process, the legal authority to manipulate every market, and a compliant Federal Reserve to continuously create massive amounts of new currency and credit (actually monetizing the debt!) to finance the government’s unbelievable orgies of welfare-state deficit-spending and accrual of insane amounts of future liabilities?
Gaaahhh! I mean, for a guy barely holding by his broken and bloody fingernails onto the last, tattered remnants of his twisted version of reality, how big a bunker, how big a stash of gold and silver, how many guns, and how many frozen burritos in how many freezers does one need to survive such shocking un-American, un-Constitutional corruption and its guaranteed economic collapse?
Perhaps that’s why, in between nervously checking the security locks on the door of the Mogambo Bunker Of True Paranoia (MBOTP) and eating yummy microwave pizza rolls, I spend a lot of time hatching sinister plots in my mind where I will rally my fellow Americans to rise up in outrage, throw the government bums out, put America back on the gold standard, thus to be hailed by future generations as the greatest American patriot of all time, where happy people will name their children after me (“Your son is named Fabulous Patriot Mogambo? So is mine!”).
And things did not improve when I was informed by my wife that our gold-oriented IRAs had been essentially halved over the past year, after suffering a similar fate the year before.
My normal reaction to being blamed for anything is to put my fingers in my ears and scream “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” until she shuts up about it, but this time I patiently explained to her that, despite the clear evidence presented by the heroic Gold Anti-Trust Action committee and Ted Butler all those years, I just could not bring myself to really believe such creepy, corrupt government manipulation of markets could last so long.
And so we, as a family, paid the price for my underestimating how corrupt a government can be.
The usual family reaction to my failure was, as usual, gleefully yelling ,“You’re still a moron!” and “I hate you!”, phrases which have thankfully lost their sting over the years.
To my credit, instead of getting into the ritual screaming match ensuing after I cleverly retort “No, YOU’RE the morons!” and “I hate you, too!”, this time I graciously tried to turn it into a “teaching moment” for the wife and the kids when I went on to explain that this was a clear example of how Dollar-Cost Averaging (buying a set dollar-amount of an investment per month) is the best investment philosophy, especially so when all this time the government was manipulating the gold and silver markets down, see, so we would have been buying more and more gold and silver at cheaper and cheaper prices!
“And,” I said, “we all know that one day this whole insane, unbelievable Debt Out The Wazoo (DOTW) idiocy will fall apart, as it must, for if it was actually possible to keep such a corrupt, debt-besotted fiat currency system viable over the long term, another example of it would exist in history, and it doesn’t. Not one!”
I didn’t tell the kids this part, but one other thing history shows is that gold and silver are The Place To Be (TPTB) when this happens, whereupon we, as a nuclear family of carbon-units, would be on our way to a wonderful life of Happy Times On Easy Street (HTOES), where we hire teams of control-freak nannies to watch the kids and keep them out of our hair until they are eighteen, when we can kick them out and hire expensive lawyers and bodyguards in case they tried to get back! HTOES! Hahaha!
So, it would seem to be enough to own gold and silver at times like these, capitalizing on a collapsing dollar suffering from a malignant, government-centric economy gorging on a multiplying money supply, thanks to the evil Federal Reserve creating the currency and credit and the idiot-savant Keynesian economists who erroneously think they can justify it all.
But with the East buying and hoarding gold by the hundreds of tons a year, with a reported 115 ounces of “paper gold” sold short for each ounce of physical gold, with the price of gold manipulated down, down, down to the rising cost of production, and with similar if not worse statistics for silver (which is in actual shortage, and the supply-deficit being temporarily filled with scrap), what else can one do except to buy gold and silver? And when one does what one must do as regards buying gold and silver, what else can one say except to throw up one’s hands in excited jubilation and exultation, exclaiming, “Whee! This investing stuff is easy!”?
Richard Daughty (Mogambo Guru) is general partner and COO for Smith Consultant Group, serving the financial and medical communities, and the writer/publisher of the Mogambo Guru economic newsletter, an avocational exercise to better heap disrespect on those who desperately deserve it. The Mogambo Guru is quoted frequently in Barron's, The Daily Reckoning, and other fine publications. For podcasts featuring the Mogambo, click here.
"Want to See Your NSA or FBI File? Here's How..."
by The DailyKOS
"Have you ever Tweeted a politically subversive message, attended a protest, or signed an oppositional petition (or read this blog? lol)? If so, you may have a dedicated file on you kept by the FBI and/or the NSA. With a simple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, any U.S. citizen can obtain one's NSA or FBI file, if such a file exists.
It simply takes a few minutes to fill out the requisite forms and mail them to the appropriate address. An independent site– www.getmyfbifile – will, free of charge, generate the necessary forms for you already filled out. Of course, you can also do this directly through the NSA or FBI if you are worried about providing personal information to an independent site.
While an appropriate level of cynicism may be warranted concerning the level of transparency one should expect from such a request – should your file be substantial – it is the law that your complete file be provided to you upon request. Demand that the law be followed, for it is your right as a citizen to know this information.
“Cut Off the NSA’s Juice”
By Norman Solomon
“The National Security Agency depends on huge computers that guzzle electricity in the service of the surveillance state. For the NSA’s top executives, maintaining a vast flow of juice to keep Big Brother nourished is essential — and any interference with that flow is unthinkable. But interference isn’t unthinkable. And in fact, it may be doable.
Grassroots activists have begun to realize the potential to put the NSA on the defensive in nearly a dozen states where the agency is known to be running surveillance facilities, integral to its worldwide snoop operations. Organizers have begun to push for action by state legislatures to impede the electric, water and other services that sustain the NSA’s secretive outposts.
Those efforts are farthest along in the state of Washington, where a new bill in the legislature — the Fourth Amendment Protection Act — is a statutory nightmare for the NSA. The agency has a listening post in Yakima, in the south-central part of the state. The bill throws down a challenge to the NSA, seeking to block all state support for NSA activities violating the Fourth Amendment. For instance, that could mean a cutoff of electricity or water or other state-government services to the NSA site. And the measure also provides for withholding other forms of support, such as research and partnerships with state universities.
Here’s the crux of the bill: “It is the policy of this state to refuse material support, participation, or assistance to any federal agency which claims the power, or with any federal law, rule, regulation, or order which purports to authorize, the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant that particularly describes the person, place, and thing to be searched or seized.” If the windup of that long sentence has a familiar ring, it should. The final dozen words are almost identical to key phrases in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In recent days, more than 15,000 people have signed a petition expressing support for the legislation. Launched by RootsAction.org, the petition is addressed to the bill’s two sponsors in the Washington legislature — Republican Rep. David Taylor, whose district includes the NSA facility in Yakima, and Democrat Luis Moscoso from the Seattle area.
Meanwhile, a similar bill with the same title has just been introduced in the Tennessee legislature — taking aim at the NSA’s center based in Oak Ridge, Tenn. That NSA facility is a doozy: with several hundred scientists and computer specialists working to push supercomputers into new realms of mega-surveillance capacities.
A new coalition, OffNow, is sharing information about model legislation. The group also points to known NSA locations in other states including Utah (in Bluffdale), Texas (San Antonio), Georgia (Augusta), Colorado (Aurora), Hawaii (Oahu) and West Virginia (Sugar Grove), along with the NSA’s massive headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland. Grassroots action and legislative measures are also stirring in several of those states.
One of the key organizations in such efforts is the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, where legal fellow Matthew Kellegrew told me that the OffNow coalition “represents the discontent of average people with… business-as-usual failure to rein in out-of-control domestic spying by the NSA and other federal departments like the FBI. It is a direct, unambiguous response to a direct, unambiguous threat to our civil liberties.”
In the process — working to counter the bipartisan surveillance-state leadership coming from the likes of President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, the House Intelligence Committee’s chair Mike Rogers and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s chair Dianne Feinstein — activists urging a halt to state-level support for the NSA include people who disagree on other matters but are determined to undermine the Big Brother hierarchies of both parties.
“By working together to tackle the erosion of the Fourth Amendment presented by bulk data collection,” Kellegrew said, “people from across partisan divides are resurrecting the lost art of collaboration and in the process, rehabilitating the possibility of a functional American political dialogue denied to the people by dysfunction majority partisan hackery.”
From another vantage point, this is an emerging faceoff between reliance on cynical violence and engagement in civic nonviolence. Serving the warfare state and overall agendas for U.S. global dominance to the benefit of corporate elites, the NSA persists in doing violence to the Constitution’s civil-liberties amendments — chilling the First, smashing the Fourth and end-running the Fifth.
Meanwhile, a nascent constellation of movements is striving to thwart the surveillance state, the shadowy companion of perpetual war. This is a struggle for power over what kind of future can be created for humanity. It’s time to stop giving juice to Big Brother.”
Hey, NSA! Yeah, YOU!
“We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world, a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us. No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we’ll kill you. Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having all this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid little rich kids like George Bush? They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us; they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis. And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. F**k them!”
- Hunter S. Thompson
“Why There's No Outcry”
By Robert Reich
“People ask me all the time why we don't have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society. Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all the economic gains are going to the top, and big money is corrupting our democracy. So why isn't there more of a ruckus? The answer is complex, but three reasons stand out.
First, the working class is paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has. In earlier decades, the working class fomented reform. The labor movement led the charge for a minimum wage, 40-hour workweek, unemployment insurance, and Social Security. No longer. Working people don't dare. The share of working-age Americans holding jobs is now lower than at any time in the last three decades and 76 percent of them are living paycheck to paycheck. No one has any job security. The last thing they want to do is make a fuss and risk losing the little they have. Besides, their major means of organizing themselves- labor unions- have been decimated. Four decades ago more than a third of private-sector workers were unionized. Now, fewer than 7 percent belong to a union.
Second, students don't dare rock the boat. In prior decades students were a major force for social change. They played an active role in the Civil Rights movement, the Free Speech movement, and against the Vietnam War. But today's students don't want to make a ruckus. They're laden with debt. Since 1999, student debt has increased more than 500 percent, yet the average starting salary for graduates has dropped 10 percent, adjusted for inflation. Student debts can't be cancelled in bankruptcy. A default brings penalties and ruins a credit rating.
To make matters worse, the job market for new graduates remains lousy. Which is why record numbers are still living at home. Reformers and revolutionaries don't look forward to living with mom and dad or worrying about credit ratings and job recommendations.
Third and finally, the American public has become so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible. When asked if they believe government will do the right thing most of the time, fewer than 20 percent of Americans agree. Fifty years ago, when that question was first asked on standard surveys, more than 75 percent agreed. It's hard to get people worked up to change society or even to change a few laws when they don't believe government can possibly work.
You'd have to believe in a giant conspiracy to think this was all the doing of the forces in America most resistant to positive social change. It's possible, of course, that they intentionally cut jobs and wages so much as to cow average workers, buried students under so much debt they'd never take to the streets, and made most Americans so cynical about government they wouldn't even try to for change. But it's more likely they merely allowed all this to unfold, like a giant wet blanket over the outrage and indignation most Americans feel but don't express.
Change is coming anyway. We cannot abide an ever-greater share of the nation's income and wealth going to the top while median household incomes continue too drop, one out of five of our children living in dire poverty, and big money taking over our democracy. At some point, working people, students, and the broad public will have had enough. They will reclaim our economy and our democracy. This has been the central lesson of American history. Reform is less risky than revolution, but the longer we wait the more likely it will be the latter.”
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
- Mike Oldfield, “Tubular Bells- Finale”
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you - beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”
- Edward Abbey, "Benedicto"
“M83 is one of the closest and brightest spiral galaxies on the sky. Visible with binoculars in the constellation of Hydra, majestic spiral arms have prompted its nickname as the Southern Pinwheel. Although discovered 250 years ago, only much later was it appreciated that M83 was not a nearby gas cloud, but a barred spiral galaxy much like our own Milky Way Galaxy.
Click image for larger size.
M83, pictured above by the Hubble Space Telescope in a recently released image, is a prominent member of a group of galaxies that includes Centaurus A and NGC 5253, all of which lie about 15 million light years distant. Several bright supernova explosions have been recorded in M83. An intriguing double circumnuclear ring has been discovered at the center of of M83.’
“The Wild Silence And The Wild Dark”
by Chet Raymo
"It is probably obvious by now that I have been reading Yeats. So let me share one more poem, "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven":
“Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
There is a wonderfully sexy scene in “Frankie Starlight” where Anne Parillaud reads this poem to Matt Dillion while sprawled on a bed, with that lovely French accent. Although the poetry of Yeats figures in “The Dork of Cork”, the novel on which the film is based, this poem is not there. Once, when I was passing through an airport with the film's producer Noel Pearson, talking about the script, he suddenly darted into a book stall and came back with a tiny souvenir volume of Yeats which held the poem. His instinct was unerring; it went into the script. A beautiful little poem, sentimental, yes, but perfect for my Bernadette.
The poem is from Yeats' collection “The Wind among the Reeds”, which recalls the biblical reed shaken by the wind and anticipates Kenneth Grahame's “The Wind in the Willows”. And asks the question I posed on the penultimate page of “The Soul of the Night”: “There is a tendency for us to flee from the wild silence and the wild dark, to pack up our gods and hunker down behind city walls, to turn the gods into idols, to kowtow before them and approach their precincts only in the official robes of office. And when we are in the temples, then who will hear the voice crying in the wilderness? Who will hear the reed shaken by the wind? Who will watch the Galaxy rise above the eastern hedge and see a river infinitely deep and crystal clear, a river flowing from the spring that is Creation to the ocean that is Time?”
So read, Anne Parillaud, those soft, sweet syllables, spread your dark cloths, show us that the world unfiltered by rite and ritual, priests and shamans, is wild, and dark, and sexy. Listen. Listen! In the dark and the dim and the half-light for the sound of the wind in the reeds, the wild, wild wind of creation that is the only revelation.”
“Embracing Life-Affirming Death Awareness: How to Transform Yourself and Possibly Save Human Civilization”
“Embracing Life-Affirming Death Awareness:
How to Transform Yourself and Possibly Save Human Civilization”
By Fred Branfman
“I never want to forget the prospect of death. Because, if I am ever able to block out those emotions, I will lose the sense of purpose and focus that cancer has given my own life." —Hamilton Jordan, "No Such Thing as a Bad Day"
"My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. The country (is) caught up in moral decay. (Our leaders) must speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul." —Lee Atwater, "Life" Magazine, 1991
When he was 55, a newspaper mistakenly printed an obituary of Alfred Nobel, condemning him for his invention of dynamite and stating "the merchant of death is dead." Nobel was so shocked that he created the Nobel Peace Prize.
When he was 41, Anthony Burgess, working unhappily in the British colonial service, was given a terminal diagnosis with one year to live. He quit, wrote five novels in the next year and 11 including “Clockwork Orange” by age 46.
After serving as Jimmy Carter's chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan contracted several cancers. He wrote in his memoir that cancer was "a strange blessing," and that "after my first cancer, even the smallest joys of life took on a special meaning."
His Republican counterpart Lee Atwater, known for such dirty tricks as claiming off the record that a political opponent "had been hooked up to jumper cables," contracted cancer and then apologized to Michael Dukakis for his "naked cruelty" in running the Willy Horton ad, and repudiated the "Reagan Revolution" he had done so much to create. He wrote in a 1991 Life magazine article, "what power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth. My illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything."
Former CEO Eugene O'Kelley wrote in “Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life”, that "the present felt to me like a gift. Living in it now, maybe for the first time, I experienced more Perfect Moments and Perfect Days in two weeks than I had in the last five years. (When a CEO) I had barely even considered limiting my office schedule. I wished I'd known then how to be and stay in the present, the way I now knew it."
These people are not alone. Countless lives have been transformed for the better over the centuries by breaking through their denial about their own deaths, whether due to a terminal diagnosis, surviving a serious illness or suicide, engaging in combat, having a serious accident, being a crime victim, or experiencing the death of a loved one.
Many people find their lives enriched by facing death voluntarily, not because they were forced to. In his famous Stanford commencement speech Steve Jobs said that since he was 17, "remembering that I'll be dead soon (has been) the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life, don't be trapped by dogma, and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."
Let It Come: In the summer of 1990, I was directing “Rebuild America”, a think tank whose advisors included Larry Summers, Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, and semiconductor inventor Robert Noyce, with Gov. Bill Clinton just having agreed to join as well. At 3am one night, I noticed a small fear of death arising, that I automatically pushed it away, and said to myself "Let it come!" I was plunged into the most painful experience of my life, as I felt I was disintegrating, followed by the most ecstatic moments I have ever known. The next morning I quit a sterile full-time politics that was burning me out, and embarked on a spiritual and psychological journey. After a time, I gradually returned to the world of social and political action, enriched and refreshed by my spiritual and psychological explorations.
One of my most moving experiences was spending several months with a psychologist named Jackie McEntee, after she had received a terminal diagnosis. She reported that the diagnosis was a wakeup call which led her to feel far more profoundly, deepened her relationship with her husband Bob, kids and community, and spend her time more purposefully and meaningfully. I asked whether she would rather have lived decades more as she had been living, or these few years as she was living now. She replied: "I call this my Year of Ecstasy. Sublime, incredible things have happened. That's why I wouldn't go back. Even though my previous life was good, it was not the bliss, the splendor, the ecstasy of how I live now."
I asked her what she felt her experience had to teach people who did not face a terminal diagnosis. "I think we need as a society to sustain death in our consciousness. Death is a reality by virtue of life. Our society has been in such a fog, evading death and dying, that I really think we don't live as fully because of that evasion. Well, I've learned to live fully now. And it's my deepest wish that everyone else will also—and without having to go through this kind of illness." That is a key question each of us faces. Do we want to wait for a terminal diagnosis, like Eugene O'Kelly or Jackie McEntee, before discovering that facing death could have transformed our lives for the better years earlier? Or do we wish to explore that question now?
There is no whitewashing the fact that feeling our sadness about our approaching deaths is more painful than defending against it. But, as adults, we can stand it. Doing so can release the enormous psychic energy we have been repressing, enriching our lives and leading to a far greater concern for those in need today and all who will follow us.
Feeling Our Sadness: The most important common feature of those whose lives have been enriched by facing their death is that they were willing to experience sadness and even intense pain about having to lose what they value in this life, and then used it as energy to transform their lives for the better. One could hear that sadness pulsating through the voice of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as he faced his own pain at social injustice and living under a daily threat of death. Sadness is the opposite of the closed, contracted state we call depression. As in the case of Dr. King, it can energize and activate, connecting people on a far deeper level than anger or outrage.
As Hamilton Jordan suggests, it is possible to "block out" much of the emotional pain that can arise even from a terminal diagnosis. We can use antidepressants, entertainment, constant activity, exercise, and a variety of other means to maintain the denial of death we have practiced since early childhood. As Jordan put it, "Nobody thinks too much on Desolation Row," especially about their own deaths, as long as they keep busy and occupied with other matters. But as he also found, daring to feel one's pain at the prospect of death can transform one's life.
I discovered this truth, to my amazement, when my life was transformed by facing my own eventual death at age 48. When the death anxiety I had been repressing burst to the surface I discovered that facing it, though painful, released enormous energy, appreciation for the preciousness of life, deep reservoirs of feeling I never knew existed, and a deep desire to contribute to the wellbeing of those who would follow me. Indeed, the more emotional pain I was consciously willing to feel about my death, the more truly alive, loving, empathetic and appreciative I felt. It was almost mathematical: more pain, more life; more life, more pain.
The key was to consciously bring my pain to the surface. We normally avoid doing so as much as possible, and only react with denial, anger, bargaining or depression when we must, which can make it much harder to handle. But when we choose to bring our sadness to the surface so as to release energy for life, as Hamilton Jordan and Lee Atwater found, it can enhance our experience of life in ways we never dreamed possible—and transform our attitudes toward political action as well.
Facing death openly does not necessarily, of course, lead to political action. The opposite is often true. Many people in their retirement years react to reminders of death by turning to meditation and other spiritual and religious practices. They feel they've done enough politically, and they pursue long-deferred creative projects, focus on their grandchildren, face health issues, care for their mates, or conserve their declining energy.
Much of this is healthy for the individual and society. Spiritually inclined, serene and peaceful elders who have moved beyond materialism and frenetic activity can serve as important role models for an America that badly needs to move beyond the "acquisition," frenetic activity and mindless materialism Lee Atwater so rightly decried. "Don't just do something, sit there," as Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein has written. If enough of us experienced “a touch of Enlightenment," the world would be a far better place.
Facing Our Deaths: Facing repressed death anxiety can benefit anyone at any age. In their book, "Beyond Death Anxiety: Achieving Life-Affirming Death Awareness", the psychotherapist Robert Firestone and Joyce Catlett explain how we first learn we will die between the ages of 3 and 8, and we automatically repress this frightening information. We continue this pattern as adults, rarely reexamining whether it make sense to continue this denial of our death, although we now have the tools to handle it.
They explain how our unconscious death anxiety influences every aspect of our adult lives, including our relationships and our sexuality. We often either unconsciously distance ourselves because true intimacy is so painful, or we violently turn against our partners when we realize they will not be the saviors we imagined. Our anxiety about death affects our child-rearing, as we often partly have children because we wish to live on through them, and then seek to control them so they will be the kind of "immortality vehicle" we seek. Death anxiety also lies at the heart of much of the midlife crisis many undergo, and explains many of our social behaviors as well. We identify with religious, ethnic or national "immortality vehicles" (USA! USA! USA!), because if the "other" triumphs, our own will fail. These processes are unconscious, which is why they have so much power.
The importance of Firestone and Catlett's work is that it is not based upon theory but the actual lived experience of a group of over 100 friends who have broken through much of the death-denial and openly discuss their death anxiety on a regular basis. This experience indicates, first of all, that people can bear it—while painful, surfacing repressed death anxiety does not destroy one's equilibrium, but enhances it. They have discovered that sharing their sadness together is a positive, life-enhancing experience. It also leads to greater empathy and compassion for each other and for the world as a whole.
Gifts of Death Awareness: Reports by people whose lives have been transformed by facing their own deaths reveal what might be called the gifts of death awareness. Examples of these gifts include:
• Increased aliveness and vitality: Feeling sadness about our mortality can release enormous reservoirs of psychic energy, aliveness and vitality that is otherwise wasted on repressing our death-feelings.
• A wider range of feeling: We cannot repress painful feelings without repressing joyful ones as well. Death awareness can widen and deepen our feelings. We find we can stand the painful feelings we have spent a lifetime avoiding. We open up new vistas of love, appreciation, tenderness, joy, compassion, and empathy.
• Deeper relationships: When we deny our pain about our own death and those of loved ones, we often unconsciously pull away from intimacy. Repressing feelings not only deadens us, but causes us to shrink from the pain that true closeness brings. Consciously facing death can lead to deeper intimacy and love for those closest to us. A friend recently wrote me about attending a funeral and sitting with the sister of the deceased, weeping side by side without saying anything for 15 minutes. It was their most intimate interaction in a decade, and it forged a lifelong bond between them.
• Increased life-purpose and passion: Like Hamilton Jordan, Steve Jobs and countless others, facing the shortness of time we have left often leads to a greater sense of purpose and focus. Our passion is increased, as we realize that with the time we have left we will create what we wish to create, and enjoy our most precious experiences.
• Wider perspective: People facing death commonly report that they gain a greater sense of perspective, are less prone to petty fears, slights, jealousies, and anxieties, and have their sights raised to issues of meaning and the human condition. Facing our mortality broadens our perspective.
• Great lucidity and sanity: When one becomes exposed to death, often when parents die, many experience a painful but somehow liberating sense of clarity and sanity. As I was flying back to New York from Florida after my father's death, I found myself writing these words: "I have been living as if I will never die, which is a lie. And to live a lie is not really to live at all."
• Greater creativity: Increased passion often brings greater creativity. As Steve Jobs noted, death-awareness can lead us to commit to following our own path and not be trapped by the opinions of others.
• Greater compassion and empathy: Death awareness can lead us to focus on what we have in common with our fellow beings. It is not only that we are all going to die, but that we are all facing similar difficulties in dealing with this fact. As we become more feeling, our compassion can also deepen and extend to millions who suffer unnecessarily.
• The courage to be vulnerable: Though we tend to see courage as involving strength, decisiveness and risk-taking, the greater bravery is daring to feel and display our vulnerability. Facing death leads to a softer and more feeling appreciation of life and closer relationships with those around us.
• Gratitude, appreciation and awe: Experiencing our vulnerability as creatures who will die can lead to the most precious possible experiences of appreciation and awe that life even exists, let alone that we have been privileged to participate in it. It is precisely because our time with loved ones, or our opportunity to experience life, is so limited that it is so precious.
• Greater aesthetic appreciation: Death awareness opens us up to the beauty of life in space and in time. We become more aware of fleeting and infinitely precious moments of beauty.
• Spiritual openings and the experience of oneness with life: Death awareness can lead to unmediated, direct spiritual experiences in which the personal ego dissolves and we experience a sense of oneness with all life, including the countless humans who have preceded us and those who will follow us.
• Greater concern for preserving civilization for future generations: Such death-influenced spiritual experiences can lead to a greater commitment to saving human civilization for our offspring and all who will follow us.
Exploring Life-Affirming Death Awareness: Words are cheap and only useful if they encourage us to experiment for ourselves whether they might be true. This is particularly true for an issue like whether to surface our sadness about death, which goes against the habits of a lifetime. The following exercises are meant to help us explore how we wish to respond to the fact of our eventual deaths. Many of us have never consciously considered this question as adults, continuing the denial of our feelings that we first learned as kids. But we may find now that exploring this issue can enrich and revitalize our lives, as well as all society.
These explorations are intended to help explore two basic issues: 1) feeling rather than denying painful feelings about our eventual death; 2) using these feelings as energy to live with more purpose and compassion. These exercise tend to yield the deepest results if they are preceded by some minutes of quiet reflection.
1. Focus on what unites us. Pick a time-period—a few hours, a day, longer—in which you focus on what you have in common with each person you see or interact with, whether you know them or not. They, like you, are going to one day die; they, like you, are confused and frightened by this knowledge, and tend to think or feel about it as little as possible; and they, like you, may have a dull look in their eyes, or rigid expression on their face, partly because they are using up precious psychic energy to repress their death anxiety.
Note what you are feeling as you engage in this exercise, particularly any feelings of compassion or empathy for yourself or others. How does this exercise make you feel? Does this exercise in any way change how you feel toward others? Perhaps extend this exercise by meeting with people you normally dislike or disagree with, and note whether any change in your normal feelings arise as a result.
2. Appreciate a last meal or walk. Set aside a time when you can eat a meal alone in a quiet place, and imagine it is the last meal you will ever eat. Eat slowly, noting each smell, how each component of the meal tastes, everything it took for this meal to reach you, from the life of the animal or plant involved to the apparatus—farmer, transport, supermarket, etc.—required to get this food to you. Note your feelings at the prospect that this will be the last meal you will ever eat in this lifetime.
Set a time to take a walk, imagining it is the last walk you will ever take on this earth. Walk extremely slowly, taking the time to smell every smell, hear every sound, see every sight. Note the feelings that arise, whether sadness that you will never have this experience again, or gratitude that you have been able to have this experience of life. As you return to daily life, reflect on whether these experiences change how you might want to eat or take walks from here on out.
3. Appreciate the preciousness of life. Reflect upon those experiences of life you most value at this point in your life, perhaps making a list of them in order, e.g. your experiences of loved ones, travel, learning, contributing, nature, art, and so on and so forth.
Now notice the feelings that emerge as you go through the list, and imagine never being able to have those experiences again. Note where the feelings of sadness, loss or worse, are most intense. Although you are likely to experience a range of feelings, including a distancing from feeling, focus on any feelings of sadness that arise as you understand dying as losing the experiences of life that you most value. Reflect on what your sadness tells you about the parts of your life you value most, your deepest regrets, your deepest desire for developing the qualities you desire, your relationship to the violence and injustice of the world, the unfinished business of your life, internal and external.
4. Appreciate loved ones and friends. Pick a moment when you can gaze upon a loved one or close friend. Either with eyes closed or open, imagine her head as the skull it will be, her body as the skeleton it will become after she dies. Feel the sadness, the pain of it. Now return to the present, feel your love for her, your appreciation of the fact that you can have this experience of her. Note your feelings of appreciation for the fact that you can now experience her, the preciousness of this opportunity to know, interact with and love her.
5. Feel valued by society. Imagine that you had died today and were reading your obituary in the newspaper. Write out what you imagine it might say. Imagine you have another 10 years to live, and then write out your obituary as you would like it to appear then. Conclude by noting the key changes you need to make in your life so as to have your obituary read as you would like it to a decade from now.
6. Set priorities, inner and outer. Imagine that you are on your deathbed, looking back on your life. (This exercise is best conducted while lying on your back, in a dark room, in the actual position you are most likely to be in while facing your actual end.) Note the outer events—your accomplishments, impact on your kids, grandkids, community, America, the world—that are the most meaningful to you at this point. Note the inner events that are most meaningful—ways in which you developed internally, touching experiences with loved ones, friends, nature, the cosmos, moments of spiritual transcendence, etc. Note which kinds of experiences are the most meaningful, inner and outer, past and present, or the impact your life will have after you have gone. Note your feelings about the state of the world you are leaving behind.
Think of those people who have wronged you whom you wish to forgive, or those from whom you wish to ask forgiveness. Perhaps write letters to the most important ones. After conducting this exercise, reflect on whether the thoughts and feelings you had have any implications for how you want to lead your life from here on out. Did you note any enhanced experiences of aliveness and energy, compassion or love for yourself or others, the world, greater serenity, a greater sense of direction and life-purpose, a greater concern for the environment and the world you are leaving behind, a deeper sense of spirituality and connection to all things?
7. Looking backward, looking forward. Reflect on the next 10 years of your life— the people with whom you will interact, the places you will visit, the countless feelings you will experience, and so forth. Reflect upon how long these 10 years seem, how rich the many experiences you will have. Now reflect back on the last 10 years of your life, note how it all seems to have passed in an instant.
Now imagine that you are on your deathbed, looking back on the time between now and when you die. Reflect on how it, too, will seem to have passed in an instant. Reflect on any implications this may have for how you want to live from here on out, whether it helps illuminate what is and isn't important to you, whether it seems to call for an increased commitment to any sort of activities or experiences, and so forth.
8. The precious shortness of life. Imagine your doctor has just told you that you have three years to live in full possession of your health, after which you will decline precipitously and die. Reflect on what you imagine your priorities, internal and external, would be if you knew you had but three more years to live. Would you change anything about your present life? Relationships? External projects? Inner development? Would you live with greater purpose and waste less time? Would you devote yourself to artistic creation, travel or political activity? How would your relationships with people change? Then imagine that your doctor tells you he was mistaken, and you can look forward to a normal lifespan. If you would have lived differently if you had only three years to live, does this have any implications for your future now?”
Related: "Time, Life, and the Roller Coaster"