Monday, November 30, 2015

Musical Interlude: Yanni, “Until the Last Moment”

Yanni, “Until the Last Moment”
- https://www.youtube.com/

"Remember..."

Musical Interlude: Dr. John, “Right Place Wrong Time”

Dr. John, “Right Place Wrong Time”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Moving left to right near the center of this beautifully detailed color composite, the thin, bright, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge on. The interstellar shock wave plows through space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. Cataloged as NGC 2736, its elongated appearance suggests its popular name, the Pencil Nebula.
Click image for larger size.
 The Pencil Nebula is about 5 light-years long and 800 light-years away, but represents only a small part of the Vela supernova remnant. The Vela remnant itself is around 100 light-years in diameter, the expanding debris cloud of a star that was seen to explode about 11,000 years ago. Initially, the shock wave was moving at millions of kilometers per hour but has slowed considerably, sweeping up surrounding interstellar material. In the narrowband, wide field image, red and blue-green colors track the characteristic glow of ionized hydrogen and oxygen atoms.”

The Universe

“It's no accident that when you look closely into the eyes of another, the very first thing you see, is yourself. That when you hold their hand, you can feel your own warmth. And that when you give of yourself, you give to yourself. Because, quite simply, both you and they are me. Freaky? Maybe. An accident? No.”
“Let's get it started, uh-huh -” 
    The Universe

“Thoughts become things... choose the good ones!”

"The World You Desired..."

"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours."
- Ayn Rand

Chet Raymo, "Chimps and Cosmologists"

"Chimps and Cosmologists"
by Chet Raymo

"Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and president of the Royal Society in Britain, caused something of a flap by suggesting that humans may never be able to understand the universe. "Some aspects of reality may elude us simply because they're beyond human brains, just as surely as Einstein's ideas would baffle a chimpanzee," he said. Einstein used existing mathematics to develop general relativity, describing how gravity controls the universe on the largest scale. Dirac also used "off-the-shelf" mathematics when devising quantum theory, which describes nature on the subatomic level. After decades of trying, physicists have not been able to unify the two theories, maybe because the mathematical tools to do so are beyond our comprehension, said Rees. So too, understanding our own consciousness and self-awareness may require grasping aspects or dimensions of the universe where the human brain is not equipped to go.

Of course, Rees may be right. The universe may exist on scales and in dimensions that will forever elude us. Our brains are finite; the universe may be infinite. But I wouldn't be too quick to shut the door of progress. History suggests that every generation has had its "dream of a final theory," only to have the next generation take us to a new level of understanding. Yes, our brains are finite, but the future will almost certainly see artificial brains - not necessarily silicon based - vastly superior to our own.

So yes, complete understanding of the universe, or even a complete inventory of what exists, may be ultimately beyond us, which is why it is so silly to base arguments for or against the existence of God on the scientific theory de jour. But I would also suppose that a hundred years or two hundred years from now, our descendants will look back on the science of today with as much condescension as we look back at the science of the medieval university - or the cosmological thought of chimpanzees."

The Daily "Near You?"

High Springs, Florida, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"Summon Your Aliveness: Being Fully Present"



"Summon Your Aliveness: Being Fully Present"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"When we live fully in the moment there is an aliveness that comes easily. When we are fully present, we offer our whole selves to whatever it is that we are doing. Our attention, our integrity, and our energy are all focused in the moment and on the task at hand. This is a powerful experience, and when we are in this state, we feel completely alive and invigorated. This kind of aliveness comes easily when we are absorbed in work or play that we love, but it is available to us in every moment, and we can learn to summon it regardless of what we are doing. Even tasks or jobs we don’t enjoy can become infused with the light of being present. The more present we are, the more meaningful our entire lives become.

Next time you find yourself fully engaged in the moment, whether you are making art, trying to solve an interesting puzzle, or talking to your best friend, you may want to take a moment to notice how you feel. You may observe that you are not thinking about what you need to do next, your body feels like it’s pleasantly humming, or your brain feels tingly. As you enjoy the feeling of being located entirely in the present moment, you can inform yourself that you may try to recall this feeling later. You might try this while driving home or getting ready for bed, allowing yourself to be just as engaged in that experience as you were in the earlier one.

The more we draw ourselves into the present moment, the more we honor the gift of our lives, and the more we honor the people around us. When we are fully present, we give and receive aliveness in equal measure. For today, try to be fully present in your daily activities and watch a new reality open for you.

The Poet: Mary Oliver, "Mysteries, Yes"

"Mysteries, Yes"

"Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads."

~ Mary Oliver

Bill Bonner, "A Family Revelation…"

"A Family Revelation…"
by Bill Bonner

BALTIMORE – "Markets have been calm over the Thanksgiving holiday. Americans – distracted by friends and family – had better things to do than panic. We celebrated at our family farm in Maryland. In addition to Thanksgiving, we attended a family reunion and a grandchild’s christening. The three family events focused our attention on family history and how the culture of Southern Maryland has evolved over the last 50 years. Whether this has any parallels in other parts of the country – or whether this has any significance – we don’t know. But we’ll tell you what happened anyway… 


Those Were the Days: At the family reunion, we each brought our old photos and tried to identify the people in them. Many were almost 100 years old. The grainy, brownish photos showed people in romantic poses – at a windblown, empty beach… a couple in front of Model A Fords in Bonnie-and-Clyde-style outfits. 

One showed an uncle out in Wyoming in 1928 in a cowboy outfit. Another showed a family on the lawn – five blond children, along with a father wearing a bowtie and mother in a long, frilly dress. Nobody smiled. There were work horses. And tractors. Barns. “That’s Uncle Edward…” said a cousin. “No, that’s Uncle Hal…” said another. “I can’t tell… It looks like a woman… Isn’t that Aunt Ellen?” “Let’s ask Anne.” 

Anne is your editor’s mother. At 94, she is the oldest member of the family. We count on her to remember. “Let’s see,” she said, studying the old photos. “That’s definitely Uncle Hal. But I don’t know who that is on the left.” If she didn’t know, no one would. The poor man was lost. Gone from family history, erased by time and indifference. We hoped he was not from our family at all and that his family remembered him at its family reunions. 

“But look at Frank,” mother continued. “He was such a handsome man.” They all looked handsome. In the 1950s, these were people we knew only as old people. But here, on film, they had been captured 20 or 30 years before we were born. They were good-looking. Young. Full of life. 

“Life is full of so many surprises,” the matriarch went on. “You just never know how things will work out. I’m surprised I’m still alive. Some of these people we’re looking at had such wonderful lives. Others – many of those who seemed to have every advantage – lived in ways that were very sad. You can’t predict it. I mean, I feel so lucky in so many ways. And I don’t understand why I should have so many good things happen to me… 

These people were all my friends and relatives. They were all so much smarter than I was. And so much more at ease in the world. I was always very timid, shy… painfully shy. But they were so nice. They always tried to include me. Those were the days!”

A Different Rhythm: The Chesapeake Bay area was a farming area then. You were either a farmer or a waterman. There wasn’t much else to do. And so the rhythm of life had only two main tempos: farming, which almost always meant tobacco; or the bay, which was mostly oysters. There were no suburbs. No office workers. No marketers. No baristas. No app developers. And no strangers. 

“Everyone knew everyone else,” mother went on. “And if you didn’t know the person personally, you ‘knew of’ the person. You knew what family they were from or what church they went to… and whether they were a tobacco person or an oyster person. There just wasn’t much more to know. 

But it was so much fun. In the summer, we’d drive down to Fairhaven [a little community on the bay]. We’d go swimming. The bay was clean… or at least we thought it was. And there was no one at the beach there. Jules [mother’s brother] drove down in my father’s Packard. It was a convertible. It was such a pleasure to drive down the gravel road to that beautiful beach. We’d spend the whole day there. And then we’d go to Aunt Lillian’s or Aunt Ellen’s or Aunt Sophie’s for dinner. There were always tomatoes and corn on the cob directly from the garden. And somehow, they found time to bake a cake – from scratch. It was full of butter that they got from their own cows. 

Or if it was the winter, we’d go ice skating on the West River. We’d go down to Ivy Neck and make a fire on the shore. We’d play hockey on the ice until the moon was out. And if the moon was bright enough, we’d just keep playing until we were worn out. 

Now, the bay doesn’t freeze the way it used to. You have to remember – this was before the war. We had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world. And we didn’t care. We only cared about our world. Our world was safe. And we were all happy. 

It was very different then. It must be hard for you to imagine it. Today, everybody is so worried about what happens on the other side of the world. And everyone is so worried about money. I don’t know why… but we didn’t have much money, and we didn’t worry about it either. 

I was a few years younger than everyone else. And they’re all gone now. I mean, I’m happy to be alive… and to still be with the family. But sometimes, I miss them all so much that I can barely stand it. You see, I loved them… as I love you. And I want to see them again. All of them. I knew them. They knew me. We were friends. We were family. Now, everyone lives in the suburbs… and everyone is a stranger.” 

;-)

"How It Really Is"

"The Truth..."

“Paranoia is just another mask for ignorance. The truth, when you finally
 chase it down, is almost always worse than your darkest visions and fears.” 
- Hunter S. Thompson.

"It’s a $cam! The American Way of War in the Twenty-First Century"

"It’s a $cam! The American Way of War in the Twenty-First Century"
Roads to Nowhere, Ghost Soldiers, and a $43 Million Gas Station in Afghanistan
By Tom Engelhardt

"Let’s begin with the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills, Iraqi oil money held in the U.S. The Bush administration began flying it into Baghdad on C-130s soon after U.S. troops entered that city in April 2003. Essentially dumped into the void that had once been the Iraqi state, at least $1.2 to $1.6 billion of it was stolen and ended up years later in a mysterious bunker in Lebanon. And that’s just what happened as the starting gun went off.

It’s never ended. In 2011, the final report of the congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated that somewhere between $31 billion and $60 billion taxpayer dollars had been lost to fraud and waste in the American “reconstruction” of Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, for instance, there was that $75 million police academy, initially hailed “as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country’s security.” It was, however, so poorly constructed that it proved a health hazard. In 2006, “feces and urine rained from the ceilings in [its] student barracks” and that was only the beginning of its problems.

When the bad press started, Parsons Corporation, the private contractor that built it, agreed to fix it for nothing more than the princely sum already paid. A year later, a New York Times reporter visited and found that “the ceilings are still stained with excrement, parts of the structures are crumbling, and sections of the buildings are unusable because the toilets are filthy and nonfunctioning.” This seems to have been par for the course. Typically enough, the Khan Bani Saad Correctional Facility, a $40 million prison Parsons also contracted to build, was never even finished.

And these were hardly isolated cases or problems specific to Iraq. Consider, for instance, those police stations in Afghanistan believed to be crucial to “standing up” a new security force in that country. Despite the money poured into them and endless cost overruns, many were either never completed or never built, leaving new Afghan police recruits camping out. And the police were hardly alone. Take the $3.4 million unfinished teacher-training center in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, that an Iraqi company was contracted to build (using, of course, American dollars) and from which it walked away, money in hand.

And why stick to buildings, when there were those Iraqi roads to nowhere paid for by American dollars? At least one of them did at least prove useful to insurgent groups moving their guerrillas around (like the $37 million bridge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built between Afghanistan and Tajikistan that helped facilitate the region’s booming drug trade in opium and heroin). In Afghanistan, Highway 1 between the capital Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, unofficially dubbed the “highway to nowhere,” was so poorly constructed that it began crumbling in its first Afghan winter.

And don’t think that this was an aberration. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) hired an American nonprofit, International Relief and Development (IRD), to oversee an ambitious road-building program meant to gain the support of rural villagers. Almost $300 million later, it could point to “less than 100 miles of gravel road completed.” Each mile of road had, by then, cost U.S. taxpayers $2.8 million, instead of the expected $290,000, while a quarter of the road-building funds reportedly went directly to IRD for administrative and staff costs. Needless to say, as the road program failed, USAID hired IRD to oversee other non-transportation projects.

In these years, the cost of reconstruction never stopped growing. In 2011, McClatchy News reported that “U.S. government funding for at least 15 large-scale programs and projects grew from just over $1 billion to nearly $3 billion despite the government’s questions about their effectiveness or cost.”

The Gas Station to Nowhere: So much construction and reconstruction – and so many failures. There was the chicken-processing plant built in Iraq for $2.58 million that, except in a few Potemkin-Village-like moments, never plucked a chicken and sent it to market. There was the sparkling new, 64,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, $25 million headquarters for the U.S. military in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, that doubled in cost as it was being built and that three generals tried to stop. They were overruled because Congress had already allotted the money for it, so why not spend it, even though it would never be used? And don’t forget the $20 million that went into constructing roads and utilities for the base that was to hold it, or the $8.4 billion that went into Afghan opium-poppy-suppression and anti-drug programs and resulted in… bumper poppy crops and record opium yields, or the aid funds that somehow made their way directly into the hands of the Taliban (reputedly its second-largest funding source after those poppies).

There were the billions of dollars in aid that no one could account for, and a significant percentage of the 465,000 small arms (rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, and the like) that the U.S. shipped to Afghanistan and simply lost track of. Most recently, there was the Task Force for Business Stability Operations, an $800-million Pentagon project to help jump-start the Afghan economy. It was shut down only six months ago and yet, in response to requests from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Pentagon swears that there are “no Defense Department personnel who can answer questions about” what the task force did with its money. As ProPublica’s Megan McCloskey writes, “The Pentagon’s claims are particularly surprising since Joseph Catalino, the former acting director of the task force who was with the program for two years, is still employed by the Pentagon as Senior Advisor for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism.”

Still, from that pile of unaccountable taxpayer dollars, one nearly $43 million chunk did prove traceable to a single project: the building of a compressed natural gas station. (The cost of constructing a similar gas station in neighboring Pakistan: $300,000.) Located in an area that seems to have had no infrastructure for delivering natural gas and no cars converted for the use of such fuel, it represented the only example on record in those years of a gas station to nowhere.

All of this just scratches the surface when it comes to the piles of money that were poured into an increasingly privatized version of the American way of war and, in the form of overcharges and abuses of every sort, often simply disappeared into the pockets of the warrior corporations that entered America’s war zones. In a sense, a surprising amount of the money that the Pentagon and U.S. civilian agencies “invested” in Iraq and Afghanistan never left the United States, since it went directly into the coffers of those companies.

Clearly, Washington had gone to war like a drunk on a bender, while the domestic infrastructure began to fray. At $109 billion by 2014, the American reconstruction program in Afghanistan was already, in today’s dollars, larger than the Marshall Plan (which helped put all of devastated Western Europe back on its feet after World War II) and still the country was a shambles. In Iraq, a mere $60 billion was squandered on the failed rebuilding of the country. Keep in mind that none of this takes into account the staggering billions spent by the Pentagon in both countries to build strings of bases, ranging in size from American towns (with all the amenities of home) to tiny outposts. There would be 505 of them in Iraq and at least 550 in Afghanistan. Most were, in the end, abandoned, dismantled, or sometimes simply looted. And don’t forget the vast quantities of fuel imported into Afghanistan to run the U.S. military machine in those years, some of which was siphoned off by American soldiers, to the tune of at least $15 million, and sold to local Afghans on the sly.

In other words, in the post-9/11 years, “reconstruction” and “war” have really been euphemisms for what, in other countries, we would recognize as a massive system of corruption.

And let’s not forget another kind of “reconstruction” then underway. In both countries, the U.S. was creating enormous militaries and police forces essentially from scratch to the tune of at least $25 billion in Iraq and $65 billion in Afghanistan. What’s striking about both of these security forces, once constructed, is how similar they turned out to be to those police academies, the unfinished schools, and that natural gas station. It can’t be purely coincidental that both of the forces Americans proudly “stood up” have turned out to be the definition of corrupt: that is, they were filled not just with genuine recruits but with serried ranks of “ghost personnel.”

In June 2014, after whole divisions of the Iraqi army collapsed and fled before modest numbers of Islamic State militants, abandoning much of their weaponry and equipment, it became clear that they had been significantly smaller in reality than on paper. And no wonder, as that army had enlisted 50,000 “ghost soldiers” (who existed only on paper and whose salaries were lining the pockets of commanders and others). In Afghanistan, the U.S. is still evidently helping to pay for similarly stunning numbers of phantom personnel, though no specific figures are available. (In 2009, an estimated more than 25% of the police force consisted of such ghosts.) As John Sopko, the U.S. inspector general for Afghanistan, warned last June: “We are paying a lot of money for ghosts in Afghanistan… whether they are ghost teachers, ghost doctors or ghost policeman or ghost soldiers.”

And lest you imagine that the U.S. military has learned its lesson, rest assured that it’s still quite capable of producing nonexistent proxy forces. Take the Pentagon-CIA program to train thousands of carefully vetted “moderate” Syrian rebels, equip them, arm them, and put them in the field to fight the Islamic State. Congress ponied up $500 million for it, $384 million of which was spent before that project was shut down as an abject failure. By then, less than 200 American-backed rebels had been trained and even less put into the field in Syria – and they were almost instantly kidnapped or killed, or they simply handed over their equipment to the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. At one point, according to the congressional testimony of the top American commander in the Middle East, only four or five American-produced rebels were left “in the field.” The cost-per-rebel sent into Syria, by the way, is now estimated at approximately $2 million.

A final footnote: the general who oversaw this program is, according to the New York Times, still a “rising star” in the Pentagon and in line for a promotion.

Profli-gate: You’ve just revisited the privatized, twenty-first-century version of the American way of war, which proved to be a smorgasbord of scandal, mismanagement, and corruption as far as the eye could see. In the tradition of Watergate, perhaps the whole system could be dubbed Profli-gate, since American war making across the Greater Middle East has represented perhaps the most profligate and least effective use of funds in the history of modern warfare. In fact, here’s a word not usually associated with the U.S. military: the war system of this era seems to function remarkably like a monumental scam, a swindle, a fraud.

The evidence is in: the U.S. military can win battles, but not a war, not even against minimally armed minority insurgencies; it can “stand up” foreign militaries, but only if they are filled with phantom feet and if the forces themselves are as hollow as tombs; it can pour funds into the reconstruction of countries, a process guaranteed to leave them more prostrate than before; it can bomb, missile, and drone-kill significant numbers of terrorists and other enemies, even as their terror outfits and insurgent movements continue to grow stronger under the shadow of American air power. Fourteen years and five failed states later in the Greater Middle East, all of that seems irrefutable.

And here’s something else irrefutable: amid the defeats, corruption, and disappointments, there lurks a kind of success. After all, every disaster in which the U.S. military takes part only brings more bounty to the Pentagon. Domestically, every failure results in calls for yet more military interventions around the world. As a result, the military is so much bigger and better funded than it was on September 10, 2001. The commanders who led our forces into such failures have repeatedly been rewarded and much of the top brass, civilian and military, though they should have retired in shame, have taken ever more golden parachutes into the lucrative worlds of defense contractors, lobbyists, and consultancies.

All of this couldn’t be more obvious, though it’s seldom said. In short, there turns out to be much good fortune in the disaster business, a fact which gives the whole process the look of a classic swindle in which the patsies lose their shirts but the scam artists make out like bandits.

Add in one more thing: these days, the only part of the state held in great esteem by conservatives and the present batch of Republican presidential candidates is the U.S. military. All of them, with the exception of Rand Paul, swear that on entering the Oval Office they will let that military loose, sending in more troops, or special ops forces, or air power, and funding the various services even more lavishly; all of this despite overwhelming evidence that the U.S. military is incapable of spending a dollar responsibly or effectively monitoring what it’s done with the taxpayer funds in its possession. (If you don’t believe me, forget everything in this piece and just check out the finances of the most expensive weapons system in history, the F-35 Lightning II, which should really be redubbed the F-35 Overrun for its madly spiraling costs.)

But no matter. If a system works (particularly for those in it), why change it? And by the way, in case you’re looking for a genuine steal, I have a fabulous gas station in Afghanistan to sell you…"
Related: 
"The Greatest Racket of All Time"
- http://www.acting-man.com/?p=41465

"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. Well, shit on that dumbness. George W. Bush does not speak for me or my son or my mother or my friends or the people I respect in this world. We didn't vote for these cheap, greedy little killers who speak for America today- and we will not vote for them again in 2002. Or 2004. Or ever. 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 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, 1939 - 2005

I couldn't agree more...especially the last sentence.
- CP

Privacy: “Microsoft Makes Windows 10 Automatic Spying Worse"

“Microsoft Makes Windows 10 Automatic Spying Worse:
When Are You Going to Be Done?”
by Karl Denninger

It just never ends, does it? “Microsoft MSFT +0.00% has been on a roll lately. Its massive Windows 10 update ‘Threshold 2’ has far more good features than bad ones, the ‘free upgrade’ rules have been improved and even Microsoft’s Black Friday 2015 deals are surprisingly great. But a new discovery has been made which isn’t good news – at all…” 

What Microsoft did was rename the "telematics" service from DiagTrack to "Connected User Experiences." Uh huh. They didn't get rid of it, which is what they wanted you to think. Instead they renamed it.

So Forbes caught it; I've not yet been "offered" Threshold 2, so it's not on my machines yet. But this is a reminder that free never exists and the price is usually something you think is no big deal but in fact is a very big deal indeed. I will keep reminding you that not is free never actually free but what's worse is that the data collected, once collected, is never deleted and that while there are plenty of "benign" or even helpful things that someone can do with data they collect on you, there are also very malignant things that can be done too.

There is something that everyone needs to understand about companies like Facebook and similar that claim large "revenue per user" figures: Someone is paying them that money. You've probably never paid for advertising and such, unless you have either run a company that bought it or were involved in a larger marketing organization for a large firm.  I have, because I did when I ran MCSNet.

Here's the calculus that intelligent businesses put into such advertising buys: They must return at least 10x what is spent on them in revenue. This is is because nobody has a 100% profit margin; even if you sell a service with no direct hard costs (like an ISP does) there are a lot of costs!  I had to buy hardware to run the ISP, I had to buy telecom services and most importantly I had to pay people- that is, paychecks and benefits to employees- which is almost always your largest expense as a business.

All of that comes off the top before anyone sees anything called "profit." So look at what Facebook, for example, claims. Their claim is that a US/Canada user provides $10.49 in revenue per quarter, or about $42/year. Think about that.  You don't pay Facebook anything.  So exactly how does Facebook make $42 a year off your being on their site? They sell your eyeballs to people for that $42. What does that have to return to the buyer to be worth it? About $400- and that's just one company in the Internet space.

Facebook is not free for you. It costs you about $400 a year to use it on average, but you don't see the price directly. You do pay it though- you must, or they couldn't operate as they wouldn't have that revenue. Now contemplate how that happens, then multiply by the number of applications and other things on your phone, your tablet and your computer that collect data about you- such as exactly where you are 24x7 and what you do while online- and send it off to mother.

If you think this doesn't go into various pricing decisions that are individualized to you- such as your car and other forms of insurance- you're dead wrong. Whether you'll pay more than someone depends highly on how your "individual risk" is assessed; these firms do not make money by being wrong about how risky you are.

Why is Microsoft doing this? Because Facebook and others have gotten away with it without you revolting; if you'll put up with Facebook doing it why not Microsoft? But this of course leads to the obvious question: Exactly how many $420 extractions per year, all by stealth, can you absorb?

If you're wondering how you get bled to almost-literally nothing in this world today, that's one way it happens. You're tricked into believing that something like Facebook is "free", while the company discloses that you are "worth" $42 a year to them in direct revenue that someone else forks up and then must multiply by a factor of 10 or more in order for their investment to be worth it. That money all comes out of your pocket whether you recognize it or not, and it happens simply because you use Facebook and thus give those firms the ability to buy the data that they then use against you to extract that $420!

Start thinking of your "relationship" with these businesses in this way and you might wake up a bit. You might also decide that this isn't such a good deal, especially if that $420 means something to you. Or, perhaps, you might decide that having $420 taken from you every year by stealth while it is claimed that your use of said resource is "Free and always will be" is perfectly fine."

"The good news is you can disable the Connected User Experiences and Telemetry Service the same way as DiagTrack:

Click image for larger size.

1. Hold down the Windows key and tap the R key
2. In the box that opens type ‘services.msc’ and press the Enter key
3. In the ‘Services (Local)’ section locate ‘Connected User Experiences and Telemetry’ and double-click it
4. In the ‘Service status’ section click ‘Stop’
5. Under the ‘Startup type’ drop down menu select ‘Disabled’ and then confirm this and close the window by clicking ‘OK’
Note: it is advisable to disable Not delete the service. Deleting it can cause problems."
Related:
"Microsoft Admits Windows 10 Automatic Spying Cannot Be Stopped"
- http://www.forbes.com/

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Be Not Afraid..."

"These then are my last words to you: 
Be not afraid of life. 
Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact." 
- William James

Musical Interlude: 2002, “An Ocean Apart”

“Pamela and Randy Copus are the duo known as 2002. Randy Copus plays piano, electric cello, guitar, bass and keyboards. Pamela Copus plays flutes, harp, keyboards and a wind instrument called a WX5. Both musicians also provide all of the vocals on their albums, recording their voices many, many times and layering them to create a "virtual choir" with a celestial, angelic quality.”
2002, “An Ocean Apart”
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMqLFemZOOg&feature=related

"A Look to the Heavens"

“This colorful skyscape features the dusty, reddish glow of Sharpless catalog emission region Sh2-155, the Cave Nebula. About 2,400 light-years away, the scene lies along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the royal northern constellation of Cepheus.  
 Click image for larger size.
Astronomical explorations of the region reveal that it has formed at the boundary of the massive Cepheus B molecular cloud and the hot, young, blue stars of the Cepheus OB 3 association. The bright rim of ionized hydrogen gas is energized by the radiation from the hot stars, dominated by the bright blue O-type star above picture center. Radiation driven ionization fronts are likely triggering collapsing cores and new star formation within. Appropriately sized for a stellar nursery, the cosmic cave is over 10 light-years across.”

The Poet: May Sarton, "Now I Become Myself"

 
"Now I Become Myself"

“Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places,
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"hurry, you will be dead before -----"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
or the end of the poem, is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move,
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the Sun!”

~ May Sarton,
 Collected Poems, 1930-1993

Chet Raymo, "Matters of Life and Death"

"Matters of Life and Death"
by Chet Raymo

"For the past few days I've have passed this poor bedraggled creature on the sidewalk. I cannot help but think of that essay in Lewis Thomas' "The Lives of a Cell" called "Death In the Open." How rare it is, he writes, to see a dead wild animal. He mentions squirrels in particular. They teem in his backyard, he says, all year long, but he has never seen, anywhere, a dead squirrel.

It is always a queer shock, part a sudden upwelling of grief, part unaccountable amazement. It is simply astounding to see a dead animal on the highway. The outrage is more than the just the location. It is the impropriety of such visible death, anywhere. You do not expect to see dead animals in the open. It is the nature of animals to die alone, off somewhere, hidden. It is wrong to see them lying out on the highway, it is wrong to see them anywhere.

Yet here he is, asleep in his own shadow, a reminder - as if any were necessary - that all things die. Everything that comes alive, writes Thomas, seems to be in trade for something that dies. There might be some comfort, he says, in recognizing that "we all go down together, in the best of company."

What is life? The great 19th-century French physiologist Claude Bernard famously (and paradoxically) said "Life is death." He seems to have meant more or less what Thomas said, that everything alive is in trade for something that dies. An even earlier French physiologist, Marie Francois Xavier Bichat, sometimes called the father of modern pathology and histology, gave it a different spin: "Life is the totality of the death-resisting functions."

Two centuries have passed since Bichat's death at age thirty-one, and we are not a lot closer to understanding what life is. The mechanics of the "death-resisting functions" have been marvelously explicated, but the mystery remains. The biologist Lynn Margulis, with her son Dorian Sagan, wrote a big, beautiful book called "What Is Life?" Each chapter ends with the poser "So what is life?", recapitulating the chapter. We get some lovely science, and some lovely writing, but the enigma remains, unless their "Life is evolutionary exuberance" satisfies. Whatever life is, we recognize it most forcefully in its absence, as here on the sidewalk. And in its absence, we rejoice that, for the moment at least, our own bodies swell with the exuberance that animates the Earth."

The Daily "Near You?"

Helsinki, Southern Finland, Finland. Thanks for stopping by.

"Huxley vs. Orwell"

"Huxley vs. Orwell"
by  Neil Postman

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that 
there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one...
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.
 Huxley feared those who would give us so much
 that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism... 
Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. 
Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance...
   
Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy...
As Huxley remarked in 'Brave New World Revisited', the civil libertarians and the rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In '1984,' Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In 'Brave New World,' they are controlled by inflicting pleasure...
In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us.
 Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us."
 - http://www.dailykos.com/
Huxley was quite obviously correct...

“The Fourth Turning: Politicians Driving The World Towards War”

“The Fourth Turning: 
Politicians Driving The World Towards War”
by James Quinn

“In Part 1 of this article I discussed the catalyst spark which ignited this Fourth Turning and the seemingly delayed regeneracy. In Part 2 I pondered possible Grey Champion prophet generation leaders who could arise during the regeneracy. In Part 3 I focused on the economic channel of distress which is likely to be the primary driving force in the next phase of this Crisis. In Part 4 I assessed the social and cultural channels of distress dividing the nation. In Part 5 I’ll examine the technological, ecological, political, and military channels of distress likely to burst forth with the molten ingredients of this Fourth Turning, and finally in Part 6 our rendezvous with destiny, with potential climaxes to this Winter of our discontent.

“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.”
 – Aldous Huxley, "Ends and Means"

Technological Distress: The level of distress being produced by technology was probably underestimated by Strauss & Howe when they wrote their book in 1997. The internet, cell phones and e-commerce were still in their infancy, while cyber security was an unknown concept. Huxley would be shocked by how backwards we have “progressed” through the efficient distribution of iGadgets, creating millions of distracted, non-thinking, passive, easily pliable, willfully ignorant sheep who adore their technological servitude.

A vast swath of the populace never reads a book and can’t go more than a few minutes without checking their iGadget to view the latest funny cat video, the latest update on Kim Kardashian’s ass, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s courage, or Lamar Odom’s latest whorehouse escapade. Our country is drowning in a sea of irrelevance as our infinite craving for diversions and triviality overwhelms any thoughts of confronting our oppressors. The adoration of technology has degraded our ability to think and allowed the Deep State to control the masses by amusing them to death.

The totalitarian Orwellian utilization of technology was exposed by a millennial with courage, intelligence, and love of his country – Edward Snowden. His revelations were very distressful to the felonious government apparatchiks who blatantly flaunt their disregard for the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The criminals at the NSA, fully supported by Obama and Congress, have made Big Brother look like an amateur, as they siphon up every phone call, text, email, and facebook entry made by each person in this country and for good measure the political leaders of our allies and enemies.

The failure of Americans to be outraged at this traitorous offense against their right to privacy and ludicrous belief that Snowden is a criminal is distressful to the principles of liberty and freedom upon which this country was founded. Sacrificing freedom for security is a false trade-off, as we become less free, less secure, and less responsible for our own lives. The implications of allowing an all-powerful surveillance state to use your private communications against you are far reaching and a dire moment for humanity. The one method left for citizens to communicate without the government able to decipher their messages is encryption. The government is now attempting to gain a backdoor to encryption with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris as their rationale. Every real or imagined threat is used to grow the Deep State.

They have failed thus far in controlling the internet, as it remains the only remaining avenue of free speech and truth, but they will stop at nothing in using the threat of terrorists to capture complete control over all communication outlets. Blaming Snowden for the complete and utter failure of the trillion dollar surveillance state to stop a bunch of amateur terrorists, living in France and using open cell phone communications, from killing 130 people divulges the desperate flailing of spineless incompetent government apparatchiks who are exceedingly good at taking away freedoms and astonishingly awful at ensuring safety and security .

The sophistication and complexity of computers, code, and networks is only exceeded by the brilliance of hackers working on their own, for groups like Anonymous, or on behalf of governmental entities. Cyber-crime, cyber-attacks, cyber-warfare, and cyber-terrorism could be game breakers during this Fourth Turning. The trillions spent on high tech military hardware, aircraft carriers, missile systems, spy satellites, and computer systems could all be for naught if cyber warriors are able to disable these systems with computer code.

Commerce at major retailers has already been disrupted by cyber criminals who have stolen millions of credit card holders’ data. The next world war could be determined by which side can successfully disable satellites and key missile systems of their foes. The hypocrisy of an outraged U.S. government when hackers from China, Russia and Iran hack into government computer systems is comical, as they opened Pandora’s Box by releasing the Stuxnet virus into the Iranian governmental computer systems. You live by the sword and you die by the sword, or in this case the computer virus.

Ecological Distress: One of the most hyped channels of distress, and the one which humans have the least amount of control due to its complexity, is ecological distress. The extreme rhetoric surrounding the issue of global warming is deafening, and as with many issues during a Fourth Turning, there is no middle ground. The climatologists and scientists who depend upon the government for research grants allow their financial interests to dictate their findings. Whenever someone declares an issue as settled science, you know they are lying and pushing an agenda. Science is never settled. It requires constant questioning and exploration of new data.

When terminology like global warming is proven to be false and scientists are caught faking their data, they just change the terminology to climate change and start over again. No one can argue the climate doesn’t change. It changes every day. Does the burning of fossil fuels impact the environment? I’m sure it does. So does cow flatulence and my breathing. So do the trees outside my window. So does solar activity. So does volcanic activity. The variables affecting our environment are limitless and no computer model can accurately predict the future with any reasonable degree of certainty. If computer models can’t accurately predict the path and intensity of storms within a 48 hour window, how could anyone believe forecasts a decade or two in the future?

The facts do not stop the ideologues like Al Gore and nanny state government drones from declaring their position in-contestable. Anyone who dares challenge their facts, story-line or motivation is declared an ignorant right wing climate change denier. The vehement vitriolic fervor of the venomous environmental justice warriors is reminiscent of the angry pomposity of the bitter social justice warriors with their black lives matter, safe spaces, and feminazi agenda. They believe the louder and angrier they appear, the more likely the passive sheep will quiver and let them have their way.

The goal is always more control, more taxes siphoned from the remaining productive few, and less free and honest debate about the issues. The critical thinking, rational, courageous few who refuse to cower from the malicious meanderings of these climate sociopaths are the last barrier to allowing some world organization to tax and regulate us to death. The absurdity of believing a carbon tax levied on Americans will save the planet is laughable, as China, India, South America, Africa and the rest of the developing world ignore global environmental mandates. The technocrats controlling the developed world need more money to keep their power and dominion over the masses, and climate taxation is their last remaining method.

The planet has enough land mass to easily support the 7 billion existing people. The problem is the people are clustered into urban areas and the existing water and food sources are not distributed evenly among the population groupings. The hatred of free market capitalism in much of the world results in mis-allocation of resources and economic development, leaving large swaths of the planet living in abject poverty and starvation. Extreme poverty and hopelessness leads to the rise of dictators, extremist criminal groups, war and anarchy. Poverty is a driving force, along with Islamic religious extremism for the chaos in the Middle East, exacerbated by U.S. interventionism. As this Fourth Turning intensifies, the poverty, starvation, war and extremism will grow, adding fuel to the global wars.

Just like there is no avoiding the harsh winter gales of a Fourth Turning, there is nothing that can be done to bypass the consequences floods, droughts, water shortages, pandemics, seismic events, tsunamis, solar flares, or other unanticipated ecological events. The climate will change. If a solar flare does significant damage to satellite systems and the electrical grid the pandemonium and helplessness of our energy dependent civilization would be laid bare immediately. A devastating earthquake in California would have far reaching economic consequences to an already bankrupt nation.

The fear during the recent Ebola scare revealed how irrational the masses can act. Imagine the panic which would occur during a real pandemic. The Dust Bowl droughts during the 1930’s exacerbated the already terrible economic conditions. A worsening of the recent droughts in California and Pacific Southwest could have far reaching impacts on food and water supplies. No matter what ecological distress is experienced, the answer from politicians will be more government control, further straining the relationship between the people and their rulers. The people of this country are so divided, there is little chance for compromise solutions. Will this division result in our desolation?

Political Distress: “The average man will permit the oligarch, whether economic or political, to hide his real purposes from the scrutiny of his fellows and to withdraw his activities from effective control. Since it is impossible to count on enough moral goodwill among those who possess irresponsible power to sacrifice it for the good of the whole, it must be destroyed by coercive methods and these will always run the peril of introducing new forms of injustice in place of those abolished.” 
– Reinhold Niebuhr

The channel encompassing the maximum level of distress at this stage in the Fourth Turning is the political arena. The initial trigger was the 2008 financial collapse, but the political actions prior to and since 2008 have been the driving force behind this ongoing Crisis. Politicians of both parties were bought off by financial interests to repeal the Glass Steagall Act, unleashing Wall Street to go on a ravenous greed driven bacchanal over the next decade, creating the worldwide financial implosion.

The revolving door between Washington DC and Wall Street is self-evident, with Goldman Sachs providing Treasury Secretaries (Rubin, Paulson, Summers), Fed Presidents (Dudley, Harker, Kaplan, Kashkari), and hundreds of other White House and regulatory agency operatives, as they have engineered an infiltration, subversion and silent coup of the Federal government. Goldman was the single largest contributor to Obama’s campaign and is likewise, the largest contributor to Hillary Clinton. They buy off key Congressmen of both parties (McConnell, Schumer). That may explain why not one criminal banker was jailed after the crime of the century in 2008.

The oligarchy controlling the levers of power behind the scenes of our political, economic, and financial systems use their immense wealth, control over the propaganda media outlets, dominion over the regulatory and judicial structures, and legislative authority to siphon off the wealth of the masses, while leaving a withering dying carcass in their wake. The political process has been bastardized as candidates, hand-picked by the vested interests, are sold to an increasingly uninformed and uninterested populace like a bar of soap. They are bought and paid for by special interests before they ever reach Washington. It’s a pay to play system, and the public aren’t playing. The traitorous actions taken by politicians and their banker co-conspirators at the start of this Fourth Turning divulges their true constituency. And it’s not you.

Ben Bernanke and his Goldman cohort Paulson proceeded to save their Wall Street benefactors and throw grandma and the rest of Main Street USA under the bus. They poured trillions of taxpayer funds into the coffers of criminal banks who took excessive risks, committed massive mortgage fraud, and used derivatives of mass destruction to screw clients, pension plans, little old ladies and the country. When public outrage resulted in 90% of Americans coming out against TARP, Congress initially voted it down.

Then Wall Street threw a hissy fit, Bernanke and Paulson lied to the country about the problem and threatened the spineless weasels slithering around the halls of Congress. Congress did as they were told (including presidential candidates Obama and McCain) by their real bosses and passed TARP. Paulson then used it in the opposite manner from which he sold it to the public. ZIRP, QE1, QE2, and QE3 have badly hurt senior citizens, savers, and middle class working families who have seen their real household income fall since 2007.

The congressional approval rating of 11%, down from 40% in 2009, and presidential approval rating of 44%, down from 67% in 2009, reveal the disgust Americans currently have for their politician “leaders”. When the economy is doing well or when confronted with an attack from a foreign threat, the approval ratings of politicians jumps higher. The nonstop decline since 2009 exposes the much touted economic recovery to be a fraud. Average Americans know their standard of living continues to decline, despite the propaganda laden highly manipulated economic data shoveled by the government on a monthly basis. You would have to be brain dead or an Ivy League educated economist to believe the true unemployment rate in this country is 5.1%.

The reason only 25% of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction is because its current economic trajectory is collapse. The Fed can print fiat and enrich their owners, and politicians can promise free stuff to voters until the cows come home, but someone will have to pay the bill – and it’s a doozy. With an $18.7 trillion national debt, $200 trillion of unfunded welfare promises, $600 billion to $1 trillion deficits for as far as the eye can see, and no politician with the courage to tell the truth, Americans know deep down in their bones this farce can’t continue. With a rapidly aging population, there is no mathematical possibility those bills can be paid by the younger generations.

The next financial earthquake will be far worse than the initial tremor in 2008, as bubbles in stocks, bonds, and real estate simultaneously pop, and the Fed already zero bound on interest rates. The retribution sought by the masses against those guilty of crimes against the nation could be bloody and swift. Our relatively peaceful society could go off the rails quickly.

With less than a year until the next presidential election, we have the front runners on the Democrat side running on promises of more free shit to their constituents in the form of free college, a $15 minimum wage, equalization of pay for women, free healthcare, and a bevy of other goodies. We’ve got the front runners on the Republican side promising tax cuts, building walls after kicking 10 million illegal immigrants out of the country, repealing Obamacare without offering an alternative, and expanding the war on terrorism.

All the major candidates are itching for war with Russia and China, while promising more spending on the military. All the major candidates will again be on the take from Wall Street. Not one major candidate has any intention of cutting spending or balancing the budget. They know voters will not elect anyone who promises them discomfort, pain, or shared sacrifice. One year from now we are likely to have either a lying, corrupt, criminal, socialist president or a bombastic, pompous blowhard reality TV president. In either case, they will reside in the White House during the most intense and likely bloody phase of the Fourth Turning.

Military Distress: “History offers even more sobering warnings: Armed confrontation usually occurs around the climax of Crisis. If there is confrontation, it is likely to lead to war. This could be any kind of war – class war, sectional war, war against global anarchists or terrorists, or superpower war. If there is war, it is likely to culminate in total war, fought until the losing side has been rendered nil – its will broken, territory taken, and leaders captured.” 
– Strauss & Howe, "The Fourth Turning"

As we’ve witnessed throughout history, when the ruling class loses control of their domestic situation, economic turmoil ensues, they begin losing the support of the masses, and attempt to retain control by producing a foreign conflict to rally the people around the flag. War serves three vital purposes for the establishment. The politicians in power gain support, as the masses decide it would be unpatriotic to throw the bums out in the midst of a conflict. Secondly, the military industrial complex increases its power, generating obscene profits for its constituent arms dealers. Thirdly, the Wall Street cabal finances the conflicts, reaping more riches, and compensating the politicians waging the wars.

The best wars from a government’s standpoint are wars against concepts – like terror or poverty. They can’t be won, so they go on forever. The government is free to invade or bomb any country they say are housing terrorists. The government can restrict all liberties, freedoms and Constitutional rights in the name of keeping us safe from terrorists. The concept can be utilized any time for any reason, without any proof required by the ruling class. The true terrorists are in Washington DC. They wear suits, hold hearings, give speeches, and accept bribes. These charlatans are terrorizing the world and the citizens of this country with their neo-con ambitions to rule the world.

Linear thinkers expecting technology and human ingenuity to keep our country and the world on a path of progress are badly mistaken. They ignore the obvious escalation of global distress, as history suddenly hurls us towards some cosmic chaos that defies all rational predictive models. To those not blinded by ideology or captured by the vested interests, it is plainly evident the world has become more chaotic and dangerous in the last two years. The initial economic chaos created the atmosphere and political conditions which are now leading inevitably toward global war.

American foreign policy, dictated by neo-cons of both parties, has purposely destabilized the Middle East and the Ukraine in an effort to keep the petro-dollar king and to ensure no regime in the Middle East could challenge Israel. As with most diabolically immoral plans, the unintended consequences will be far worse than the initial outcome. By overthrowing Hussein, Gaddafi, Mubarak, and attempting to overthrow Assad, the U.S. has unleashed thousands of Islamic fanatics and disaffected soldiers from the overthrown regimes to wreak havoc throughout the Middle East and now in Europe. Creating anarchy and chaos in countries previously living in peace under strongmen is blowing up in our faces.

The provocation of Russia by overthrowing the democratically elected president of the Ukraine, and friend of Russia, began the war phase of this Fourth Turning. Putin then annexed Crimea and civil war waged in eastern Ukraine and an airliner was shot down by the Ukrainian government in an effort to blame Putin. The U.S. armed any Muslim willing to fight Assad, in their effort to overthrow his regime and allow Saudi Arabia and Qatar to build a gas pipeline to Europe, further weakening Russia.

The latest terrorist threat to the world – ISIS – was created, funded, and armed by the U.S. The coordinated oversupply of oil had its purpose to destroy the economies of Russia, Iran, Argentina and Venezuela. The unanticipated deepening global recession has produced the unanticipated consequences of damaging the economy of Saudi Arabia, crushing the oil sands industry in Canada – pushing their economy into recession, and revealing the U.S. shale industry to be a debt enabled fraud – now in a slow motion collapse.

The ongoing saber rattling between the U.S. and Russia over Syria and the Ukraine, along with the increasingly provocative actions taken by the U.S., Japan and China over the contested islands in the South China Sea, are setting the stage for a showdown no one anticipates or actually wants. But, psychopathic politicians feel driven to prove their manhood by using their military assets to bully opponents they know cannot fight back. The U.S. and their feeble minded NATO allies were sure they could overthrow Assad, just as they had done with Hussein and Gaddafi, because they have far more firepower and unlimited funds printed by their central bankers.

Putin put a stop to those illusions, as he refused to let his only Mediterranean port fall under U.S. control. When Putin stepped into the Syrian conflict it immediately became apparent the U.S., Turkey, and the rest of NATO had no intention of defeating ISIS, as they allowed them to run refineries, ship oil to Turkey in thousands of tanker trucks and arm themselves with U.S. provided weapons. Continuous never ending conflict is good for American business.

Even though the latest American created evil terrorist threat – ISIS – has been wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East, they were fighting Assad, so we weren’t going to eradicate them. Putin immediately began obliterating their command infrastructure, refineries, oil tankers, bridges, and other essentials an enemy uses to sustain them. This real war embarrassed the U.S., Turkey and NATO, while infuriating a desperate ISIS leadership.

Now we’ve reached a tipping point, as the swirl of accusations, rhetoric, provocations, miscalculations, egos, hubris, and luck will combine to produce a combustible mixture which could erupt at any time. The Islamic radicals (ISIS, the supposed moderates, Turks, Iraqis, Egyptians, French, Belgians and Muslims across the world) have lashed out in response to their betrayal by the U.S. in allowing Putin to actually fight them, by blowing up a Russian airliner, slaughtering 130 people in France, killing dozens in Mali and Tunisia, while threatening similar attacks in the U.S.

Hollande has thrown the French Constitution in the trash bin in his pathetic attempt to appear tough on terrorism so he doesn’t get ousted in the next election. Nothing like a bomb going off in Rockefeller Center or the Mall of America to get an already fearful American public in the Christmas spirit and deepening the recession the 99% are already experiencing. In this tense global atmosphere all that would be needed to set off a conflagration would be for someone to do something stupid. And Turkey just obliged.

The shooting down of a Russian bomber over Syrian territory by Turkish F-16s, provided by U.S. arms dealers, and then the shooting down of a Russian rescue helicopter with a U.S. provided TOW missile by “moderate” Syrian rebels will have far reaching consequences. This was a deliberate unprovoked attack by Turkey as either retaliation for their cheap oil supplies being cut-off, a frantic attempt by Erdogen to boost his popularity before elections, or as instructed by those calling the shots in Washington D.C.

Putin is unlikely to do anything rash, but this event has solidified the fact Russia is considered the true enemy of the West, not Islamic radicals or Syria. The next decade or so will see Russia, China and some lesser developing countries confront the West economically, through currency wars, commodity wars, and militarily through proxy wars in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, with all sides armed with nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

This phase of the Fourth Turning seems surreal. History seems to be moving in slow motion. It reminds me of the eight months between Hitler’s invasion of Poland and his invasion of Belgium and France in May of 1940, referred to as the Phony War. The Western allies had declared war on Germany, but no one did anything. Parisians and Londoners went about their business, eating at restaurants, going to plays, enjoying the spring sunshine, and blissfully unaware of the tragedy, bloodshed, and horror which was gathering like a swirling tempest just over the horizon.

Americans today are blissfully distracted by their iGadgets, plotting out their holiday shopping strategies, leasing new cars, eating out, and buying advance tickets to the new Star Wars movie. They don’t see the wicked winter squalls ahead which will try their souls. We are experiencing the lull before the storms, but the storms are surely coming. The potential for catastrophe is high and burying our heads in the sand is not a strategy.

“The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort – in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.” 
– Strauss & Howe, "The Fourth Turning"