Monday, March 31, 2014

"A Look to the Heavens"

“As dawn broke on March 27, the center of the Milky Way Galaxy stood almost directly above the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory. In the dry, clear sky of Chile's Atacama desert, our galaxy's dusty central bulge is flanked by Paranal's four 8 meter Very Large Telescope units in this astronomical fisheye view. 
Click image for larger size.
Along the top, Venus is close to the eastern horizon. The brilliant morning star shines very near a waning crescent Moon just at the edge of one of the telescope structures. Despite the bright pairing in the east, the Milky Way dominates the scene though. Cut by dust lanes and charged with clouds of stars and glowing nebulae, the center of our galaxy sprawls across the darker zenith even as the deep blue sky grows brighter and buildings still glint in moonlight.”

Chet Raymo,“Sanctus”

“Sanctus”
by Chet Raymo

“Early in Claire Messud's new novel, “The Woman Upstairs”, the narrator asks herself and others whether they would rather be able to fly or be invisible. I suspect most who visit this blog would prefer to fly. Me too. Until lately. More on that later. For now I want to ask a less frivolous question, one more likely to split down the middle: Do you prefer, as a matter of personal taste, Romanesque or Gothic?

Gothic aspires, Romanesque inspires. Gothic soars. Romanesque hunkers. Gothic seeks to let go of the earth. Romanesque grips like a barnacle. Gothic favors light over matter. Romanesque uses matter to contain light. Gothic flys, heavenward in spires and ribs and buttresses. Romanesque makes the world beyond the walls invisible.

I have visited the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe, admired their beauty, and stood astonished at their engineering. But it is the Romanesque abbeys and monastic houses, such as the Cistercian Abbey of Le Thoronnet in Provence, that most deeply stir my soul. It is an architecture of inward turning, of silence, of rest. Of the subtle play of light on stone. Of firmness. Rootedness. An architecture of the circle, diurnal and annual, where every prayer is a whisper, and every whisper echoes infinitely along a corridor or vault.

There, I've had my say. Let the Gothicists among you have yours.

To fly or be invisible? My days of flying, or wanting to fly, are over. Now, at age 77, I would choose to be invisible. To watch unseen. To walk like a specter in a Romanesque cloister, listening to the wind and the voices of the monks leaking from the abbey choir. To feel the coolness of rough-hewn stone against my invisible palm, to trace shadows that I do not cast myself. To discard the cloak of my skin, to dissolve my bones in the moted air, to become as insubstantial and surrendering as a Te Deum chanted at Matins end.”

"How It Really Is"


“‘Just Salute and Follow Orders’: When Secrecy and Surveillance Trump the Rule of Law”

“‘Just Salute and Follow Orders’: 
When Secrecy and Surveillance Trump the Rule of Law”
By John W. Whitehead

“The Secret Government is an interlocking network of official functionaries, spies, mercenaries, ex-generals, profiteers and superpatriots, who, for a variety of motives, operate outside the legitimate institutions of government. Presidents have turned to them when they can’t win the support of the Congress or the people, creating that unsupervised power so feared by the framers of our Constitution...” - Journalist Bill Moyers and White House press secretary under President Johnson (1988)

Question: How can you tell when a politician is lying?
Answer: When he’s moving his lips.

If that didn’t generate a chuckle, how about:

Q: Why is honesty in politics like oxygen?
A: The higher you go, the scarcer it gets.

Then there’s President Obama’s gaffe on the Tonight Show: “We don’t have a domestic spying program,” which is downright laughable in light of this past year’s revelations about domestic spying by the National Security Agency. But if that still doesn’t push you over the edge into near hysterics, here’s one guaranteed to get the biggest laugh of all, at least from those clear-sighted enough to grasp the irony of a politician talking about “trust”: “If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law,” declared President Obama in June 2013, in response to questions about the government’s domestic spying program, “then we’re going to have some problems here.”

What’s not at all amusing, of course, is the fact that our nation is riddled with all manner of problems, and it’s because we have government officials in the executive branch, Congress, and the courts incapable of abiding by the Constitution. These people have proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to do what they say, and they certainly can’t be trusted to abide by their oaths of office to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Indeed, the American people have been cheated and lied to for so long that we’ve arrived at a stage of disbelief and skepticism. So when the Obama administration announces that it will be rolling out proposals to rein in the NSA bulk collection of data about Americans’ private communications, you’d be perfectly justified in wondering what other far-fetched schemes they plan to sell you next.

Minus a few bells and whistles, Obama’s new NSA scheme is no different from the old scheme (apart from the fact that it’s worse): In a nutshell, the NSA will stop storing the data generated by American phone calls and will, instead, have the phone companies collect and store it in their own databases. Rather than the government storing metadata for up to five years, phone companies would keep the data for as long as they please.

Here’s where we’re just being subjected to more of the same scam: While the Obama administration works its sleight of hand trick over the bulk collection of telephony metadata, specifically related to land line calls, the NSA is collecting some 5 billion records on cell phone location data every single day. As before, this surveillance will not be confined to the targeted number, but could be expanded as far away as two “hops” in a chain of phone calls (“meaning all the numbers connected to the suspect number, and all the numbers connected to that first set of connections”), exponentially expanding the amount of information collected.

The NSA also has a program of surveillance by which they penetrate digital devices not connected to the Internet by means of radio waves. This program has been active since at least 2008, and the NSA has penetrated almost 100,000 computers through this method. And then there’s XKeyscore, a surveillance program which “intercepts 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other types of communications each day” and “allows the government to enter a person’s name or other question into the program and sift through oceans of data to produce everything there is on the internet by or about that person or other search term.” These programs will continue unabated.

Also unfazed by Obama’s proposals regarding domestic phone calls are the NSA’s many nasty and nefarious methods of carrying out surveillance, including infecting target computers with malware by way of spam emails and Facebook in order to give NSA hackers access to the data stored on those devices and record audio or video from a computer’s microphone and webcam. This program, dubbed TURBINE, which has already infected up to 100,000 computers, can record conversations with computer microphones, snap photos with a webcam, record Internet browsing history, record login/password information, log keystrokes, and take data off of flash drives plugged into the computer.

Another program left untouched by Obama’s so-called NSA “reforms” is MYSTIC, which allows NSA agents to retrieve and listen to up to 30 days’ worth of all phone calls abroad, including Americans traveling abroad or placing calls outside the country. Clips of millions of those phone calls are then processed and kept for long-term storage.

Here’s where Obama’s new scheme would make things even worse: Under this new program, not only would government agents gain access to whatever data they please, but they would also receive real-time updates once a target number has been selected.

Moreover, by requiring phone companies to standardize their data, the government will be able to gain even greater access to Americans’ cell phone calls. And as always, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret, holds secret hearings and issues secret rulings, has a history of rubberstamping the NSA’s surveillance programs, would be relied upon for oversight. In fact, out of a mind-boggling 34,000 requests for surveillance, the FISA court has denied only 11 such requests.

Unfortunately, with so much of the public attention focused on the NSA’s misdeeds, there is a tendency to forget that the NSA is merely one of a growing number of clandestine intelligence agencies tasked with spying on the American people. Indeed, as I point out in my book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the CIA, FBI, DHS, and DEA among others, routinely step outside the bounds of the law in order to spy on the citizenry and will continue to do so. 

The FBI, whose crimes against dissidents and minority groups stretch back to the founding of the organization, has been and will continue to serve as the NSA’s accomplice. One of the FBI’s most notorious tactics involves the use of National Security Letters, which are carried out without court approval and by which the agency “can demand financial records from any institution from banks to casinos, all telephone records, subscriber information, credit reports, employment information, and all email records of the target as well as the email addresses and screen names for anyone who has contacted that account.  Those who received the NSLs from the FBI are supposed to keep them secret.”  Moreover, tasked with collecting data from telecoms under the NSA’s Prism system, the FBI picked that data out of private servers, then turned around and handed it over to the NSA.

The FBI also conducts its own signals intelligence program, which focuses on collecting emails and other internet data from American companies. The main core of this operation is the Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU), whose motto is “Vigilance Through Technology.” One of the DITU’s many responsibilities is making software that private companies install onto their networks in order to allow government agents ready access to personal information, whether emails or internet traffic. This surveillance is generally conducted without a warrant, as the FBI asserts the authority to collect metadata under the Patriot Act.

This is what is referred to as violating not only the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law, as well. By law, I am referring to the only law that truly matters—the U.S. Constitution—the only law that truly safeguards us against government abuse, overreach, expansion and secrecy, which for these very reasons continues to be trampled upon, shoved aside, disregarded, whittled down, choked to death, and generally castrated by the President, Congress, state governments, and the courts, who without fail march in lockstep to the bidding of the military and security industrial complexes, law enforcement officials, corporations and the like.

As journalist Bill Moyers, who served as White House Press Secretary during the Johnson administration, recognized in his 1987 expose book in which he interviews top military, intelligence, and government insiders to reveal the inner workings of the secret government: “The powers claimed by presidents in national security have become the controlling wheel of government, driving everything else. Secrecy then makes it possible for the president to pose as the sole competent judge of what will best protect our security. Secrecy permits the White House to control what others know. How many times have we heard a president say, “If you only knew what I know, you would understand why I’m doing what I’m doing.” But it’s a self-defeating situation. As Lord Acton said, “Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice.” So in the bunker of the White House, the men who serve the president put loyalty above analysis. Judgment yields to obedience. Just salute and follow orders.”

“Americans Have Become a ‘Slave Race’"

“Americans Have Become a ‘Slave Race’" 
by Bill Bonner

“We went down to the town of Cafayate last week from the family ranch: a three-hour drive, mostly over unpaved roads. There, old friends Doug Casey and John Mauldin were holding forth. The "deep state," among other things, was their topic. "The term comes from Turkey," Doug explained. "People noticed that there was the government – you know the government that they teach you about in school. And there was a deeper, more important and more powerful government. It was not described in any constitution. The newspapers didn't report on it. To most people it was largely invisible. But it was how the country was really governed." 

In a nutshell, Doug – along with many others – believes a "deep state" has taken over the US. "The War Between the States was the largest and bloodiest war the US has ever had," Doug continued. "Practically the entire country was mobilized, with a greater proportion of men in uniform than ever before or ever since. But after the war was over the soldiers went home. The army was miniscule. And things went back to normal. Same thing after World War I. But after World War II things started to change. Gradually, more and more of America's resources were going to the military on a permanent basis, even though there really wasn't any war worth talking about." 

The Deep State Takes Over: To look at it another way, after World War II the return on investment in the military sector fell. Why? Because there was no one worth fighting. There were no real challenges to the US... except the Soviet Union, which turned out to be a hollow threat. Then in 1989, the Soviet Union disappeared. But US spending on "security" hardly slowed down at all. After the 1980s, the US was taken over by "deep state" interests, which used "security" to justify huge transfers of power and money from the public to themselves. 

"You know, France had a deep state experience too," Elizabeth volunteered on our drive home. "During the Revolution, it had secret political committees, a parallel army and a whole apparatus for controlling people. The revolutionaries used terror... including the idea that the country was full of spies... to keep the public alarmed and afraid. It was a bit like what we see in the US with all its secret agencies and Code Red alarms... and the ‘see something, say something' campaign. They're all designed to keep the public worried... and keep it lined up behind the state." 

It did not come up in our conversation in Cafayate, but there's more to the deep state than the military. Informal, largely hidden power arrangements exist in all major industries – particularly health, education and finance. Every detail in these industries is closely regulated to prevent innovation and competition. 

We've reported on the high percentage of retired generals who take up cushy jobs in the defense industry. But health-care researchers, "educators" and Wall Street's hot shots routinely pass between government, think tanks and private enterprises... trading information, favors and pay-offs. Witness Tim Geithner. He bailed out Wall Street. (The total cost is now estimated at $10 trillion, including the Fed's assistance.) Surprise, surprise! Now, he is a partner in one of Wall Street's private equity firms. In all these industries, the return on investment approaches zero... or is already negative. Still, the deep state insists that more and more resources go to them. 

The Great Deformation: David Stockman knows this better than anyone. He was part of the federal apparatus, as President Reagan's budget director. Then he went to Wall Street... where he, too, was a partner in a private equity firm. He watched as the country was taken over by deep-state institutions... financed with borrowed money and with one major goal: to look out for themselves. 

Stockman calls the transformation of US society the "Great Deformation." It's what happens when capitalism is corrupted by the government... and is perverted by deep-state institutions. "The deep state," Doug elaborated, "includes dozens and dozens of agencies that we're not supposed to know anything about. It includes a million people with CIA security clearances. There are people at the lowest level who frisk you at airports... and at the highest levels who make millions of dollars by providing contract services to the government." 

Armed with intimate details about everyone's personal life, the deep state protects itself. What politician will challenge the NSA budget, knowing that the agency could wreck his career? Who is above reproach? And who is so saintly that a devil couldn't touch him? 

"Americans, for the most part, submit willingly," Doug went on. "That is the most astonishing thing. Americans have become a slave race, ready to go along with anything the deep state asks for." 

Satire: "Sheldon Adelson Says No Republican Candidate Worth Buying”

Sheldon Adelson Says No Republican Candidate Worth Buying”
by Andy Borowitz

LAS VEGAS (The Borowitz Report)— “The casino billionaire and Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson met several 2016 G.O.P. candidates available for purchase over the weekend, but decided to buy none of them, Adelson confirmed today. After hearing speeches by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and several others who were for sale, Mr. Adelson concluded that none of them are worth owning. “I don’t want to spend millions on another loser,” said Adelson, who purchased both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in 2012.

The casino magnate was scathing in his assessment of the candidates he declined to buy, calling them “a third-rate grab bag of has-beens and dimwits.” “I guess the Republican Party is thinking, Here comes crazy old Sheldon, he’ll blow his money on the first washed-out wingnut we throw out there,” Adelson said. “Well, guess again.”

Republicans, lol...

Chet Raymo, “The Seat of the Soul”

“The Seat of the Soul” 
by Chet Raymo

"It was not my first visit. I had been there once before to talk with the great man, to the Castle of Cloux, near Amboise, in the valley of the Loire. He had been living there since 1516, at the invitation of Francis I, king of France. He was 67 years old, bundled up in a thick fur wrap by a roaring fire. His face showed age but not infirmity. Long white hair fell about his shoulders. White beard. Thick, downswept brows shaded his eyes like awnings. A strong nose. And of course the mouth, serious yet generous, not unlike the mouth of the Christ he had painted on the wall of the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

The king likes to surround himself with luminaries - artists, poets, philosophers, talented people of all sorts. Leonardo's reputation, of course, is known throughout Europe. It was inevitable that the king would draw him to France. A prize of war? So be it.

The last time I visited we talked about his paintings, only three of which had followed him to France. This time I wanted to hear about his anatomical studies. I had heard he had hundreds of drawings, recording the meticulous dissection of cadavers. "Might I see them?" I asked. Kindly, he aquiesced, and asked his young apprentice and friend, Count Francesco Melzi, to fetch several thick portfolios. As I carefully turned the sheets, I was stunned. Never had I seen such detailed representations of the human frame. Bones, muscles, tissues. Heart, lungs, stomach, liver. "From life?" I asked, forgetting myself. "From death," he replied with a slight smile. "Not so may years ago I had the privilege of working with Marcantonio della Torre, professor of anatomy at the University of Pavia. He gave me access to corpses."

As the thickly-annotated sheets slipped through my fingers I realized I was looking at something marvelous, a marriage of art and science.


"Extraordinary," I whispered. "All a waste," he said. He closed his eyes. "A waste? What do you mean?" I knew I was looking at documents of historic significance.

He rocked quietly for a moment, then looked into my eyes. "I was looking of the soul," he said. "All my life I have been trying to capture the human soul in my paintings, the ineffable essence of a man or woman. But all I was painting was the surface of a person, the face, the skin. What I wanted was something else, whatever it is that shines out through the eyes, that warms and animates the skin. I wanted the thing behind the gesture, the lamp that gives the light."

"And…?" He pulled the fur robe more tightly about him. "I didn't find it. I didn't discover the seat of the soul. When I had taken the body apart, looked into its most secret recesses, all I had was a gory mess of tissue and blood."

"The soul had flown? Returned to its Maker?" "Perhaps." The old man looked to Count Melzi, who smiled sympathetically. Then Leonardo returned his gaze to me. "Perhaps," he said. "Or perhaps what I was looking for was there all along, in the face, in the gestures, in the glow of skin. As the music is in the tuned lyre. Dismember the lyre, untune the strings…"

I looked again at the densely inscribed sheets in my hands, the flayed muscles, the sectioned valves. "Sir," I whispered. "If I may be permitted. There is no music without wood and fret and strings. You have given us a …" "Shush," he said. He closed his eyes and his chin dropped to his chest. Melzi indicated it was time to go. I placed the anatomical drawings in their portfolios, and looked again at the old man in the chair. A great soul. Of science and of art.”

"Do You?"

"Honor is simply the morality of superior men."
    - H. L. Mencken

"He does not believe who does not live according to his belief."
 - Thomas Fuller

Isn't it curious how so many, especially politicians, "talk the talk", and how so very, very few actually walk it? I suppose that's because words are cheap and easy, actions aren't. Real easy to run one's mouth, not so easy to actually do something, is it?
- CP

Creedence Clearwater Reviva , “Fortunate Son”

Tecumseh, "Live Your Life"

"Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting
or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes
wise ones turn to fools and robs their spirit of its vision.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
When your time comes to die, be not like those
whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray
for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."

- Tecumseh, Shawnee

Musical Interlude: Outlaws, “Green Grass and High Tides”

We're supposed to "make a joyful noise", according to some. Well, hard to beat this...
Turn it up! lol
Outlaws, “Green Grass and High Tides”

Musical Interlude: Elton John, "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding"

Elton John, "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding"

"That Dreadful Universal Thing..."

“The more one analyzes people, the more all reasons for analysis disappear. 
Sooner or later one comes to that dreadful universal thing called human nature.”
- Oscar Wilde

A Goddamned Outrage! “One Percenter Convicted Of Raping Infant Child Dodges Jail Because He 'Will Not Fare Well'”; A Comment

“One Percenter Convicted Of Raping Infant Child 
Dodges Jail Because He 'Will Not Fare Well'”
by Ashley Alman

"A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he "will not fare well" in prison. In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well. Richards is the great grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, a chemical baron.

According to the lawsuit filed by Richards' ex-wife, he admitted to assaulting his infant son in addition to his daughter between 2005 and 2007. Richards was initially indicted on two counts of second-degree child rape, felonies that translate to a 10-year mandatory jail sentence per count. He was released on $60,000 bail while awaiting his charges.

"He would not fare well..." WHAT?!

Richards hired one of the state's top law firms and was offered a plea deal of one count of fourth-degree rape charges- which carries no mandatory minimum prison sentencing. He accepted, and admitted to the assault. In her sentence, Jurden said he would benefit from participating in a sex offenders rehabilitation program rather than serving prison time.

Delaware Public Defender Brendan J. O'Neill told "The News Journal" that it was "extremely rare" for an individual to fare well in prison. "Prison is to punish, to segregate the offender from society, and the notion that prison serves people well hasn't proven to be true in most circumstances," he said, adding that the light sentence for the member of the one percent raised questions about “how a person with great wealth may be treated by the system.” (Though perhaps it provides more answers than questions.) (And this scum, this filthy degenerate doesn't deserve to be punished?!)

According to the The News Journal, several attorneys claimed treatment over jail time was a deal more typically granted to drug addicts, not sex offenders. Kendall Marlowe, executive director of the National Association for Counsel for Children, told The News Journal that sex offenders are jailed for the safety of the children they threaten. "Child protection laws are there to safeguard children, and adults who knowingly harm children should be punished," she said. "Our prisons should be more rehabilitative environments, but the prison system's inadequacies are not a justification for letting a child molester off the hook."

News of the lenient sentence for the confessed rapist comes as a new book, Thomas Piketty's "Capitalism In The 21st Century," has put new focus on the distorting role of inheritance in the free market economy.”
A Comment: I'm speechless, which right now is a good thing... if I said what I'm thinking about this goddamned piece of filth, Google would shut this blog down instantly and a SWAT team would be beating down my door, omg, THERE'S your goddamned 1%, in all their glory! There is NOTHING more vile than the sexual abuse of children. Nothing! In my humble opinion anyone lawfully convicted of this atrocity should be immediately put to death, no appeal, no bullshit rehabilitation, if you're this insanely defective we don't need you in society. And this piece of garbage, this filthy parasite walks free because he's rich? He "would not fare well?" My f****ng heart just breaks at the thought of this monster not faring well... and from the bottom of my heart and soul, I don't give a damn who doesn't like this... - CP

"How Do We Grieve?"

How do we grieve the loss of our beautiful, precious world, and us, all of us, with it?
 I don't know if there are words for that... I don't know them, anyway...

“My heart broke on its shame and sorrow. I suddenly knew how much crying there was in me, and how little love. I knew, at last, how lonely I was. But I couldn’t respond. My culture had taught me all the wrong things well. So I lay completely still, and gave no reaction at all. But the soul has no culture. The soul has no nations. The soul has no color or accent or way of life. The soul is forever. The soul is one. And when the heart has its moment of truth and sorrow, the soul can’t be stilled.

I clenched my teeth against the stars. I closed my eyes. I surrendered to sleep. One of the reasons why we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you.”
- Gregory David Roberts, "Shantaram"
Samuel Barber, "Adagio for Strings" 

"All That Is Life..."

Click image for larger size.

"You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life."
- Jiddu Krishnamurti

Musical Interlude: David Lanz, “Cristofori's Dream”

David Lanz, “Cristofori's Dream”

"The Most Precious Resource..."

"My favorite things in life don't cost any money. 
It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time."
- Steve Jobs

Sunday, March 30, 2014

“Fukushima Equals 6,000 Hiroshima Bombs Today, More Tomorrow; There is No Place On Earth to Escape the Rad”

“Fukushima Equals 6,000 Hiroshima Bombs Today, More Tomorrow;
There is No Place On Earth to Escape the Rad” 
by Bob Nichols, “Veterans Today”

“My opinion only, as requested by Alfred Webre, Dec 28, 2013, 1,024 Days from Mar 11, 2011.

First thing, grasp the difficult concept that this is an ELE or Extinction Level Event. There is no escaping our fate, there are no solutions. 

We can extend our lives somewhat, though. These steps are personal. People can do them or not. You will die quicker, or later, your choice.
1. Take off your shoes and outer ware (coats) when you enter your place.
2. Stay under a protective Roof as much as possible.
3. Filter your water. 
Bonus: Eat foods as low on the food chain as possible that are thought to be less radioactive and eat electrically negatively charged foods each day.

Several people who have heard about Fukushima since the early days are puzzled that so many are “still alive”. Others, in addition to the psychopaths who apparently believe themselves to be immune from radiation poisoning, are those of the EXTEND AND PRETEND strongholds of delusions and galactic thought, along with the ‘end of times’ crowd expecting clouds to part and higher beings to ride in and ‘save us’.” You are going to have to make your own choices. You will live a little longer, or, die sooner by these choices, as will I. No one is exempt. The radioactive particles are all over the world now.

What’s next?  Friends, virtual and non-virtually, have said and asked things like: 

Question: In basic math terms, in comparison to Hiroshima, how much worse is Fukushima and why?”
Answer: Fukushima, now, equals the detonation of 5,910.11 Hiroshima Atomic Bombs or it’s about 6,000 Times worse than the A-Bombing of Japan; and, it is still going strong, with no end in sight. That is equal to 6.45 Hiroshima Atomic Bombs a Day for 916 Days. There are only 336 cities on Earth with more than One Million people. That is the equivalent of 17.5 Hiroshima Atomic Bombs apiece.

Question: In basic math terms, in comparison to Nagasaki, how much worse is Fukushima and why?
Answer: The Nagasaki Bomb was slightly larger; therefore Fukushima equals slightly fewer Nagasaki  Bombs. However, at this point, it makes no difference.

Question:  In basic math terms, in comparison to Chernobyl, how much worse is Fukushima and why?
Answer: At 916 days of growth Fukushima is 14.75 Times bigger than the Chernobyl atomic disaster in 1986. The International Atomic Agency (IAEA) stated: “The accident at Chernobyl was approximately 400 times more potent than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima…” Fukushima so far is 14.75 Times worse than Chernobyl and growing.

Question: In basic non-scientific language, what causes this to be an ELE, Extinction Level Event, and is there any shot at it being reversible?
Answer: Throughout the time humans lived on Earth, humanity has never experienced radiation this high. The radiation and its associated Lethality is very high and will kill everybody. The Radiation’s Lethality will last well past the end of every one’s lifetime. No, there is no shot at reversing the effects and every human on Earth is included.

Question: How long before we are tripping and stumbling over dead-dying bodies?
Answer: In a sense we already are. Human fetuses are the first to die and are typically cremated at the hospital. We just don’t see them. Women, children, already sick people and the elderly infirm are next. Middle aged men are last.

Question: Anything you recommend to lengthen ‘shortened-life spans’?
Answer: No.

Question: Any resources you would direct interested people to?
Answer: No.

Question:  What other questions must be asked when confronted with an Extinction Level Event, and why have any hope whatsoever?”
Answer: Ask what is the published lethality of all of the released isotopes and do not let the Empire paid trolls fool you by using radioactivity numbers; it is the LETHALITY that counts. When you find the numbers for the two Cesium Twins multiply by 14 for the total radiation in a single release from an active reactor core. Multiply the combined Cesium137/134 radioactivity numbers by 5 for the total radioactivity in a single release for old fuel rods. Those will give you a rough idea of the radiation released for that instance. As for “hope,” that is fine, knock yourself out."
Sources and Notes:
1. AIPRI, Thursday, September 5, 2013, “The Bitter Waters of Fukushima Daiichi, by Dr Paolo Scampa, Physicist. AIPI was founded in 1993. The bitter waters of Fukushima-Daiichi. (II)
This is a simple theoretical calculation based on two public data sets 1) 300 m3  groundwater have passed through the Fukushima to leak at sea every day for two and a half years, the other, 2) according to information provided by Kurion that water from the plant is loaded with Cs-137  up to 2 million Bq per milliliter. The product of these two factors gives chills…” http://aipri.blogspot.com/  
2. “Frequently Asked Chernobyl Questions,” Copyright©, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna International Centre, “The accident at Chernobyl was approximately 400 times more potent than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima,” http://www.iaea.org/
“It’s even worse that CNN has reported, a horrific equivalent of radiation equal to 10 Hiroshima’s an hour 24/7 has been pumped into seas for since 3.11.13. That’s equal to about 8,700 Hiroshima’s. Is it any wonder our world is dying? What the Fukushima?!”

Musical Interlude: Kevin Kern, “Above the Clouds”

Kevin Kern, “Above the Clouds”

"School Science Project Reveals High Levels Of Fukushima Nuclear Radiation in Grocery Store Seafood"

"School Science Project Reveals High Levels Of 
Fukushima Nuclear Radiation in Grocery Store Seafood"
 By Michael Snyder

"A Canadian high school student named Bronwyn Delacruz never imagined that her school science project would make headlines all over the world.  But that is precisely what has happened.  Using a $600 Geiger counter purchased by her father, Delacruz measured seafood bought at local grocery stores for radioactive contamination.  What she discovered was absolutely stunning.  Much of the seafood, particularly the products that were made in China, tested very high for radiation.  So is this being caused by nuclear radiation from Fukushima?  Is the seafood that we are eating going to give us cancer and other diseases?  The American people deserve the truth, but as you will see below, the U.S. and Canadian governments are not even testing imported seafood for radiation.  To say that this is deeply troubling would be a massive understatement.

In fact, what prompted Bronwyn Delacruz to conduct her science project was the fact that the Canadian government stopped testing imported seafood for radiation in 2012. Alberta high-school student Bronwyn Delacruz loves sushi, but became concerned last summer after learning how little food inspection actually takes place on some of its key ingredients. The Grade 10 student from Grande Prairie said she was shocked to discover that, in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) stopped testing imported foods for radiation in 2012. And what should be a major red flag for authorities is the fact that the seafood with the highest radiation is coming from China

Armed with a $600 Geiger counter bought by her dad, Delacruz studied a variety of seafoods – particularly seaweeds – as part of an award-winning science project that she will take to a national fair next month. “Some of the kelp that I found was higher than what the International Atomic Energy Agency sets as radioactive contamination, which is 1,450 counts over a 10-minute period,” she said. “Some of my samples came up as 1,700 or 1,800.” Delacruz said the samples that “lit up” the most were products from China that she bought in local grocery stores.

It is inexcusable that the Canadian government is not testing this seafood.  It isn’t as if they don’t know that it is radioactive.  Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada:

• 73 percent of the mackerel
• 91 percent of the halibut
• 92 percent of the sardines
• 93 percent of the tuna and eel
• 94 percent of the cod and anchovies
• 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish

So why was radiation testing for seafood shut down in Canada in 2012? Someone out there needs to answer some very hard questions.

Meanwhile, PBS reporter Miles O’Brien has pointed out the extreme negligence of the U.S. government when it comes to testing seafood for Fukushima radiation.  The following comes from a recent EcoWatch article: "O’Brien also introduces us to scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute who have been testing waters around the reactors—as well as around the Pacific Rim—to confirm the levels of Fukushima fallout, especially of cesium.

These scientists are dedicated and competent. But they are also being forced to do this investigation on their own, raising small amounts of money from independent sources. They were, explains lead scientist Ken Buesseler, turned down for even minimal federal support by five agencies key to our radiation protection. Thus, despite a deep and widespread demand for this information, no federal agency is conducting comprehensive, on-the-ground analyses of how much Fukushima radiation has made its way into our air and oceans."

In fact, very soon after Fukushima began to blow, President Obama assured the world that radiation coming to the U.S. would be minuscule and harmless. He had no scientific proof that this would be the case. And as O’Brien’s eight-minute piece shows all too clearly, the “see no evil, pay no damages” ethos is at work here. The government is doing no monitoring of radiation levels in fish, and information on contamination of the ocean is almost entirely generated by underfunded researchers like Buesseler. A video news report in which O’Brien discusses these issues is posted below:


It is the job of the authorities to keep us safe, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster was the worst nuclear disaster in human history. So why aren’t they doing testing? Why aren’t they checking to make sure that this radiation is not getting into our food chain?

The Japanese are doing testing off the coast of Japan, and one fish that was recently caught off the coast of the Fukushima prefecture was discovered to have 124 times the safe level of radioactive cesium. So why are all the authorities in North America just assuming that the fish are going to be perfectly fine on this side of the Pacific? One test that was conducted in California discovered that 15 out of 15 Bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima. So how can the authorities say “don’t worry, just eat the seafood”?

Everyone agrees that a plume of radioactive water has been moving from Fukushima toward the west coast of the United States. According to researchers at the University of South Wales, that plume is going to hit our shores at some point during 2014. "The first radioactive ocean plume released by the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster will finally be reaching the shores of the United States some time in 2014, according to a new study from the University of New South Wales — a full three or so years after the date of the disaster."

The following graphic comes from that study:

And multiple independent tests have already confirmed that levels of nuclear radiation are being detected on California beaches that are more than 10 times the normal level. Clearly something is happening. So why are the U.S. and Canadian governments willingly looking the other way?"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

“How to Quiet the Mind”

“How to Quiet the Mind”
From “How to Quiet the Mind On-Line Course”
by Gina Lake, The DailyOM

“The following is an excerpt from the "How to Quiet the Mind" on-line course. If you would like to take the entire course, click here."

"The mind is a wonderful tool for thinking, but it has a dark side. There is an aspect of the mind that is not useful but pretends to be useful, which is called the egoic mind. It is the aspect of our mind that chats with us as we move about our day. It is the "voice in our head," as Eckhart Tolle calls it. Much of the time, this voice seems like our own thoughts and our own voice, and we often express these thoughts (e.g., "I love doing that!" "I can't wait until tomorrow." "I wonder what will happen"). At other times, this voice is like the voice of a parent or other authority figure or a friend (e.g., "You should try harder." "Don't forget to take your vitamins." "Wouldn't it be fun to try that!"). It may even seem evil or mean (e.g., "You never do anything right. You're worthless. You might as well give up"). We tend to take this voice seriously—we believe it, agree with it, and don't question it. We believe it because we are programmed, or wired, to believe our own thoughts, regardless of whether they are true and helpful or not.

Not only do we believe these thoughts, but we believe they are "ours." We identify with them—we feel they reflect who we are. We don't tend to question our own thoughts, although we readily question other people's thoughts, especially if those thoughts are different from ours. But when we stop and examine what this mental voice is saying, we discover a lot of contradictory advice, misinformation, prejudices, judgments, and other negativity. This mental voice is often unkind, belittling, fearful, self-doubting, judgmental, complaining, confused, and unhelpful.

It turns out that the voice in our head is not a very good guide to life, and yet we tend to accept what it says and do what it suggests. This voice, in fact, is the cause of human suffering. It fights life, rails against it, and is discontent and afraid. It is the voice of the false self—the ego—not the true self. The thoughts that arise in our mind cause every negative emotion we experience: fear, guilt, anger, jealousy, shame, sadness, resentment, envy, hopelessness, worthlessness, and depression. Without these thoughts, we would live in peace within ourselves and in harmony with others. But you already know this, don't you?

The funny thing is that we can see the truth about the egoic mind and still be entranced by it, still be mesmerized by it. The programming to pay attention to and believe this aspect of the mind is very strong, and it takes not only seeing the truth about it, but also a practice, as in meditation, of not giving our attention to this mental voice before we gain enough distance from it to experience freedom and the joy and peace of our true self, or Essence,  as I like to call it.

The reason for moving out of the egoic mind and into the Now is to experience who we really are. Our thoughts represent the false self, the ego. In fact, all the false self is, is thoughts. There is no substance, no thing, that is the false self—only thoughts. The false self is made up of ideas about yourself: "I'm a woman, I'm a mother, I don't like traveling, I'm middle-aged, I like blue, I'm married, my father deserted me when I was young, I want to be a novelist, I'm not pretty enough," and so on. Such ideas create an image and sense of yourself, but you are not an image or even this sense of yourself. Images aren't real or true. Feelings about yourself aren't even real or true, since they are based only on thoughts, which aren't real or true. Who you really are has nothing to do with any of these ideas, feelings about yourself, or stories you tell about yourself.

Your true self is the experience of yourself existing in this moment, free of such constructs, stories, and self-images. To experience your true self, or Essence, you have to move out of your self-images and thoughts about yourself into the experience you are having right here and now, absent of thoughts and self-images, which obscure who you really are. We become entranced by our thoughts and overlook reality—the real experience we are having here and now. The egoic mind, however, doesn't want you to stop paying attention to it, so it continually tries to engage your attention. It persists in this because this is how the false self is maintained. If you stop paying attention to your thoughts, the false self disappears, and all that's left is Essence—the real you who is experiencing this moment.

There is something else here besides this character you suppose yourself to be, and that's what is actually living your life. This that you truly are is looking out of your eyes, hearing sounds, reading and understanding these words, and having every other experience that is part of this very unique and potentially delightful moment. What else are you experiencing besides reading? What colors are you experiencing? What sounds? What sensations? What intuitions? What drives? What insights? What is the Being that you are experiencing right now?

The more we bring our focus into the present moment and onto our actual experience (as opposed to focusing on our thoughts), the more we experience the joy and contentment of the spiritual being that we are. This that we are is having a wonderful time having this adventure we call life. It embraces all of it—every experience. When we come into the Now, we experience the peace, joy, contentment, wisdom, patience, kindness, and strength of our true nature. At our core, we are all loving and joyous beings! It is only identification with the egoic mind that makes us feel and act otherwise. The only thing that interferes with the experience of Essence is absorption in thought. Imagine that! The egoic mind is the only thing that interferes with living more lovingly and more at peace with ourselves and the world. We are all beautiful and amazing creations!

My intention is to help you see the truth about your ego and the egoic mind so that you can more easily and more consistently experience who you really are. Fulfillment and true happiness is found by dropping out of our ego and egoic mind (the false self) into the Now—into the experience of Essence. That is what we are about here. The practices, explorations, video, and guided meditation offered in this lesson are a very important part of this discovery. Please give yourself fully to them this week. Sending all love and blessings…

Definition of Terms:

The Now: The Now is defined most simply as the present moment. Of course, the present moment is all that exists, since the past and future are simply thoughts about the past and the future. But because we are programmed to pay attention to our thoughts, we often fail to notice what is actually going on now. Most people live in a mental world. When we drop out of this mental world into the Now, we experience a depth, a richness, and a joy and peace that feel sacred. This is the experience of our true self, or Essence. So, when we talk about being in the Now, we are also talking about this experience of Essence.

The ego: The ego is the idea of who we are (not who we really are) that is created by thoughts about ourselves: "I am fat, tall, a father, a hard worker, a musician, not good enough." These thoughts create the false self, the sense of who we are as an individual. The ego is also a primitive aspect of the mind related to survival and the storehouse of conditioned ideas and beliefs.

The egoic mind: The egoic mind is the aspect of the mind that reflects and is driven by the ego. It is the voice in our head that chats with us and chatters on. It is the ongoing mental commentary that we think of as our thoughts. The egoic mind is different from the functional or practical aspect of the mind that we use to read, learn, calculate, analyze, and so forth. The functional mind doesn't speak to us but is a tool we use when engaged in tasks that require us to think.

Conditioning: Our conditioning is comprised of beliefs, opinions, judgments, “shoulds,” and any number of other ideas that belong to our psychological makeup, most of which we acquired from other people, particularly from those who raised us, from our culture, and from what we have experienced and concluded about life. This conditioning affects what we like and don't like and how we see and react to the world, and we often respond unconsciously to it without realizing we have a choice.

Essence: Essence is who we really are, the divine Self that is living this life through us. It is our essential goodness. We are actually spiritual beings playing at being human beings.

Practices: To be done throughout the week:

1. Practice being aware of your thoughts. Where do thoughts come from? Thoughts arise out of nowhere. Just because a thought is happening in your own head doesn't mean it is any more true than a thought that arises in someone else's head. What is arising in your mind right now? Where did it come from? Someone? Something you read? Something you were taught? A TV commercial? Is it true? Is it wise? Is it useful in this moment? Is it helpful or destructive? How necessary are most of your thoughts? Do you need them to function? Do they help you function better or not? How do they make you feel?

2. Notice how uninterested the mind is in the present moment. It's fascinated with the past and the future, and it likes to evaluate the present, but the mind finds nothing of interest in the actual experience of the moment. Notice this. Notice how persistently your mind makes suggestions for thinking about something or doing something other than just being in the moment and responding to whatever is coming out of the moment. The mind has a job to do, and that job is to keep you out of the Now. How does your mind attempt to keep you out of the moment? Which tactics are the most successful at getting you to turn away from the Now? A memory? A fantasy? A desire? A fear? A should? A judgment? A thought about food, sex, time, imperfection, cleanliness, being successful, or how you look? How long do you actually stay in the Now before you go unconscious and rejoin the egoic mind?

3. Notice how much you like to be involved with the egoic mind and with thoughts about yourself and how your life is going. What wants to think is the ego, the false self; and what is capable of being aware of thoughts and of the desire to think is Essence. Whenever you are having the experience of thinking or wanting to think, it's also possible to realize that the Noticer (Essence) is perfectly content with just noticing whatever is arising in the moment and responding to that without a lot of thought.

Explorations: Do just one of these explorations, or inquiries, a day.

1. Take some time to examine what you are referring to when you think the thought "I." Try to find the I you're referring to when you're thinking about yourself. Can you locate it anywhere? You may point to your body when you say “I,” but the I isn't just the body is it? Does the I reside in the body? If it resides in the body, what is it that's aware of your body and your thoughts and even able to contemplate this question? Could that awareness be who you really are? Is awareness—consciousness—limited to the body or the mind? What if you were that awareness, and you were just pretending to be attached to a particular body-mind for the experience it provides consciousness? Who would you be then?

The real you is not your body, your mind, your personality, or any of the things you call yourself. What are such labels, after all? They are just ideas, concepts. Are you an idea, or are you what is aware of the ideas, labels, thoughts, desires, and feelings of a particular body-mind?

2. What are you aware of right now? If you are aware of a thought, ask: “Who or what is aware of this thought?” If you are aware of a feeling, ask: “Who or what is aware of this feeling?” If you are aware of a sensation, ask: “Who or what is aware of this sensation?” Take sufficient time with each of these questions to allow yourself to experience that which is aware of a thought, feeling, or sensation. The real you is what is aware of every thought, feeling, sound, sensation, intuition, urge, and insight—everything you are aware of. You are that which is experiencing this life, and That has no gender, age, past, future, or any other specific definition, but is pure Awareness, Consciousness. Who is it that is aware of the thoughts that define you? Is it the character you seem to be, or is there something else here that is character-less, that is just purely experiencing life, without ideas about liking or disliking, having or not having, wanting or not wanting?

3. Get a pencil and paper, and jot down a description of the character that your mind describes as you. What characteristics and qualities belong to that character? What does that character look like? How does that character behave? How does it feel much of the time? What are its beliefs? How does it see itself in relationship to others and to the world? This is the character you are playing, but it isn't who you really are. You are what is able to contemplate this character.”

For more information visit "How to Quiet the Mind On-Line Course":

Friday, March 28, 2014

Musical Interlude: Logos, “Cheminement”

Logos, “Cheminement”

Musical Interlude: Michael Franti, "Hey World (Don't Give Up)"

Michael Franti, "Hey World (Don't Give Up)"

"The Decline of Critical Thinking"

"The Decline of Critical Thinking"
by Lawrence Davidson 

"In 2008 Rick Shenkman, the Editor-in-Chief of the History News Network, published a book entitled "Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter" (Basic Books). In it he demonstrated, among other things, that most Americans were: (1) ignorant about major international events, (2) knew little about how their own government runs and who runs it, (3) were nonetheless willing to accept government positions and policies even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggested they were bad for the country, and (4) were readily swayed by stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears, and public relations babble.

Shenkman spent 256 pages documenting these claims, using a great number of polls and surveys from very reputable sources. Indeed, in the end it is hard to argue with his data. So, what can we say about this? One thing that can be said is that this is not an abnormal state of affairs. As has been suggested in prior analyses, ignorance of non-local affairs (often leading to inaccurate assumptions, passive acceptance of authority, and illogical actions) is, in fact, a default position for any population.

To put it another way, the majority of any population will pay little or no attention to news stories or government actions that do not appear to impact their lives or the lives of close associates. If something non-local happens that is brought to their attention by the media, they will passively accept government explanations and simplistic solutions.

The primary issue is “does it impact my life?” If it does, people will pay attention. If it appears not to, they won’t pay attention. For instance, in Shenkman’s book unfavorable comparisons are sometimes made between Americans and Europeans. Americans often are said to be much more ignorant about world geography than are Europeans. This might be, but it is, ironically, due to an accident of geography. Americans occupy a large subcontinent isolated by two oceans. Europeans are crowded into small contiguous countries that, until recently, repeatedly invaded each other as well as possessed overseas colonies. Under these circumstances, a knowledge of geography, as well as paying attention to what is happening on the other side of the border, has more immediate relevance to the lives of those in Toulouse or Amsterdam than is the case for someone in Pittsburgh or Topeka.  If conditions were reversed, Europeans would know less geography and Americans more.

Ideology and Bureaucracy: The localism referenced above is not the only reason for widespread ignorance. The strong adherence to ideology and work within a bureaucratic setting can also greatly narrow one’s worldview and cripple one’s critical abilities. In effect, a closely adhered to ideology becomes a mental locality with limits and borders just as real as those of geography. In fact, if we consider nationalism a pervasive modern ideology, there is a direct connection between the boundaries induced in the mind and those on the ground. Furthermore, it does not matter if the ideology is politically left or right, or for that matter, whether it is secular or religious. One’s critical abilities will be suppressed in favor of standardized, formulaic answers provided by the ideology.

Just so work done within a bureaucratic setting. Bureaucracies position the worker within closely supervised departments where success equates with doing a specific job according to specific rules. Within this limited world one learns not to think outside the box, and so, except as applied to one’s task, critical thinking is discouraged and one’s worldview comes to conform to that of the bureaucracy. That is why bureaucrats are so often referred to as cogs in a machine.

Moments of Embarrassment:  That American ignorance is explainable does not make it any less distressing. At the very least it often leads to embarrassment for the minority who are not ignorant. Take for example the facts that polls show over half of American adults don’t know which country dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or that 30% don’t know what the Holocaust was. We might explain this as the result of faulty education; however, there are other, just as embarrassing, moments involving the well educated. Take, for instance, the employees of Fox News. Lou Dobbs (who graduated from Harvard University) is host of the Fox Business Network talk show Lou Dobbs Tonight. Speaking on 23 March 2013 about gun control, he and Fox political analyst Angela McGlowan (a graduate of the University of Mississippi) had the following exchange:

McGlowan: “What scares the hell out of me is that we have a president... that wants to take our guns, but yet he wants to attack Iran and Syria. So if they come and attack us here, we don’t have the right to bear arms under this Obama administration.”

Dobbs: “We’re told by Homeland Security that there are already agents of Al Qaeda here working in this country. Why in the world would you not want to make certain that all American citizens were armed and prepared?”

Despite education, ignorance plus ideology leading to stupidity doesn’t come in any starker form than this. Suffice it to say that nothing the president has proposed in the way of gun control takes away the vast majority of weapons owned by Americans, that the president’s actions point to the fact that he does not want to attack Syria or Iran, and that neither country has the capacity to “come and attack us here.” Finally, while there may be a handful of Americans who sympathize with Al Qaeda, they cannot accurately be described as “agents” of some central organization that dictates their actions.

Did the fact that Dobbs and McGlowan were speaking nonsense make any difference to the majority of those listening to them? Probably not. Their regular listeners may well be too ignorant to know that this surreal episode has no basis in reality. Their ignorance will cause them not to fact-check Dobbs’s and McGlowan’s remarks. They might very well rationalize away countervailing facts if they happen to come across them. And, by doing so, keep everything comfortably simple, which counts for more than the messy, often complicated truth.

Unfortunately, one can multiply this scenario many times. There are millions of Americans, most of whom are quite literate, who believe the United Nations is an evil organization bent on destroying U.S. sovereignty. Indeed, in 2005 George W. Bush actually appointed one of them, John Bolton (a graduate of Yale University), as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Likewise, so paranoid are gun enthusiasts (whose level of education varies widely) that any really effective government supervision of the U.S. gun trade would be seen as a giant step toward dictatorship. Therefore, the National Rifle Association, working its influence on Congress, has for years successfully restricted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from using computers to create a central database of gun transactions. And, last but certainly not least, there is the unending war against teaching evolution in U.S. schools. This Christian fundamentalist effort often enjoys temporary success in large sections of the country and is ultimately held at bay only by court decisions reflecting (to date) a solid sense of reality on this subject. By the way, evolution is a scientific theory that has as much evidence to back it up as does gravity.

Teaching Critical Thinking? As troubling as this apparently perennial problem of ignorance is, it is equally frustrating to listen to repeated schemes to teach critical thinking through the public schools. Of course, the habit of asking critical questions can be taught. However, if you do not have a knowledge base from which to consider a situation, it is hard think critically about it. So ignorance often precludes effective critical thinking even if the technique is acquired. In any case, public school systems have always had two primary purposes and critical thinking is not one of them. The schools are designed to prepare students for the marketplace and to make them loyal citizens. The marketplace is most often a top-down, authoritarian world and loyalty comes from myth-making and emotional bonds. In both cases, really effective critical thinking might well be incompatible with the desired end.

Recently, a suggestion has been made to forget about the schools as a place to learn critical thinking. According to Dennis Bartels’s article “Critical Thinking Is Best Taught Outside the Classroom” appearing in Scientific American online, schools can’t teach critical thinking because they are too busy teaching to standardized tests. Of course, there was a time when schools were not so strongly mandated to teach this way and there is no evidence that at that time they taught critical thinking. In any case, Bartels believes that people learn critical thinking in informal settings such as museums and by watching the "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. He concludes that “people must acquire this skill somewhere. Our society depends on them being able to make critical decisions.” If that were only true it would make this an easier problem to solve.

It may very well be that (consciously or unconsciously) societies organize themselves to hold critical thinking to a minimum. That means to tolerate it to the point needed to get through day-to-day existence and to tackle those aspects of one’s profession that might require narrowly focused critical thought. But beyond that, we get into dangerous, de-stabilizing waters. Societies, be they democratic or not, are not going to encourage critical thinking about prevailing ideologies or government policies. And, if it is the case that most people don’t think of anything critically unless it falls into that local arena in which their lives are lived out, all the better. Under such conditions people can be relied upon to stay passive about events outside their local venue until the government decides it is time to rouse them up in some propagandistic manner.

The truth is that people who are consistently active as critical thinkers are not going to be popular, either with the government or their neighbors. They are called gadflies. You know, people like Socrates, who is probably the best-known critical thinker in Western history. And, at least the well-educated among us know what happened to him.”