Monday, March 29, 2010

Away until Thursday... Paco's Mystery

I'll be away and offline until Thursday, folks. Meanwhile, there are 7,976 posts here, hopefully something will be of interest. Commenting is turned off to stop those sly little spam linksters. Also, the "Favorites" bar on the side panel contains links to many great sites, please do check them out.

I leave you with a mystery: my friend Paco Ahlgren has written one of the most challenging and entertaining books I've read in a very long time, called "Discipline," skillfully melding a variety of concepts and philosophies into a top notch thriller that you won't be able to put down. A very, very "good read." (A link to his site ,"The Bottom Violation" is in the "Favorites" side bar.) At the end of the book are written three words, and they're the mystery. Can you figure out what they mean? Paco slyly replies, "No comment." Here they are, and good luck:


"How It Really Is"

Oh no we haven't...

Brenda Ueland

"In true courage there is always an element of choice, of an ethical choice,
and of anguish, and also of action and deed. There is always a flame of spirit in it,
a vision of some necessity higher than oneself."
- Brenda Ueland

"The Genius In Us All"

"The Genius In Us All"
By Joe McKendrick

"You can't expect to win unless you know why you lose."
- Benjamin Lipson

"That message that’s been pounded into your head relentlessly since your toddling days — “you can do anything you set your mind to” — seems to actually have a scientific basis in fact. Some experts and authors studying achievement are finding that mastery of any skill or subject be learned by anyone — anyone — who puts their mind to it and works hard to achieve it. The bottom line is that genius is the result of lots of hard work, and not just the fortune of having the right match-up of genes.

David Shenk, for one, says that everyone, regardless of genetic makeup or background, has the potential to excel at a chosen field. Annie Murphy Paul recently reviewed David Shenk’s new book, "The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong." Shenk argues that we have before us not a “talent scarcity” but a “latent talent abundance.” Shenk states that “the vast majority of us have not even come close to tapping what scientists call our ‘un actualized potential.’ ”

As Shenk reveals, science is revealing the attainment of “genius” to be the product of highly concentrated effort. In her review of his book, Annie Paul cites a passage that describes the work of the psychologist Anders Ericsson, who wondered if he could train an ordinary person to perform extraordinary feats of memory: "“When Ericsson began working with a young man identified as S.F., his subject could, like most of us, hold only seven numbers in his short-term memory. By the end of the study, S.F. could correctly recall an astonishing 80-plus digits. With the right kind of mental discipline, Ericsson and his co- investigator concluded, ‘there is seemingly no limit to memory performance.’” Shenk also cites some of history’s great achievers — Ted Williams and Michael Jordan, Mozart and Beethoven — as examples of individuals who worked hard day and night to master their chosen fields.

Is that the key to extraordinary success, then? Persistently, single-mindedly and doggedly working at something until mastery is achieved? Malcolm Gladwell also seems to agree, at least in part, with this notion. In his recent work, Outliers, Gladwell looked at people who rose above the rest and achieved incredible success in their respective endeavors.

Birth date — even the time of year you are born — seem to weigh in on your success prospects in a given field. But an interesting point Gladwell makes is that all people successful in their respective fields all have one thing in common: they have spent at least 10,000 hours learning and internalizing and perfecting their crafts. That applies to all the top artists, musicians, writers, and IT leaders. They all spent at least 10,000 hours or more doing what they do. That’s at least a solid five years or more of dedicated work.

Shenk concurs, saying the key to success is practice, practice, practice for years and years. “You have to want it, want it so bad you will never give up, so bad that you are ready to sacrifice time, money, sleep, friendships, even your reputation,” he writes. “You will have to adopt a particular lifestyle of ambition, not just for a few weeks or months but for years and years and years. You have to want it so bad that you are not only ready to fail, but you actually want to experience failure: revel in it, learn from it.”

What Shenk and Gladwell also say here is that failure is an important element of any success story. The years of relentless practice result in incredible learning and relearning of what works and doesn’t work. That, apparently gets you much farther in the world than a pair of good genes."

"Predicting the Date of Economic Collapse?"

"Predicting the Date of Economic Collapse?"
by Ray Elliott

"The event that many would like advance warning on is economic collapse. It is an event that most informed economists say is inevitable due to U.S. deficits that are too large to be paid back. Yet, those of us that must work and pay our bills cannot stop what we are doing and dig a hole to hide in every time a new event happens that appears to be the beginning of the Economic Collapse.

We must first make assumptions on what Economic Collapse is. History tells us. All paper money falls into one of two catagories, those that have failed and those that are going to fail. They failed in the past (including United States currency) in a spiral of constantly losing value. The federal government continually increases the obligations that it must pay for. Buyers of federal debt slowly back away from buying long term debt and later will not purchase even short term debt. The government begins buying its own debt by issuing new paper money. As more paper money is issued it loses more and more of its value. When the public becomes aware that the issuance of paper money is out of control, and that holding it weeks or days will result in a loss of value, they attempt to convert the paper money that they have into assets that retains some value. To do this, they have to remove any cash they have from banks and other institutions and convert it to something else. What ensues is a run on the banks.

When will this happen? We have some clues because of the process that will take place prior to the event. To understand this process, we must look at a recent event that changed the politics of the United States. Scott Brown, a Republican was elected to the Massachusetts senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy. Just thirty days prior to this, he was thirty points behind in the polls. The mainstream media (MSM) have more influence on the general public than any other source. Generally the MSM support the liberal and socialistic candidates and ideas. So why was Senator Brown elected thirty days after he was 30 points behind?

The last thirty days created a change in the MSM reporting. Brown ran against Obama's unpopular policies. MSM broadcast and print articles began appearing that supported Brown. Incidents showing his opponent (Coakley) in an unfavorable light began appearing. The MSM and the liberal majority changed their minds in the last few weeks and Brown was elected. Loss of confidence in the paper dollar will occur in a similar fashion. However; it can occur at a much faster pace such as days and weeks instead of months.

The MSM generally is in favor of big government spending and supports the socialistic policies of the Obama administration. The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money (Margaret Thatcher). At the point that MSM begins to see the hazards of the uncontrolled printing of money, the beginning of the end is near. Then the MSM will begin to report the REAL MONEY CRISIS. For those that ask, "When will the SHTF?" That is when.

The events that follow this are events that you will not want to be a part of. Long lines will appear at banks for those trying to get their money out while it still has some value. Paper money will be issued in greater and greater denominations. Food and other necessities of life will skyrocket in price. Soon a bank holiday will be declared while the government attempts to control the panic. Rules will be enforced that restrict how much money may be withdrawn at a time. Attempts will be made to "freeze" food prices. Payment for all good and services will be turned upside down. Everything will rapidly increase in price. Soon, the paper money you have will not buy the things that you need. At some point, $1,000 will not buy a pair of shoes.

The events that follow this are also predictable because they have happened before. Gold and silver become extremely valuable. Pre 1965 silver coins (they still have some silver in them) will become a known standard of value that is accepted by those that still have something to sell. The barter system for goods and services will return. People that want to eat will grow gardens. Most people who have had life savings in 401Ks will be poor again. The winners are the ones that have planned in advance and the ones that still have outstanding loans or mortgages. The mortgages will no longer have any value. Homeowners will be able to send a million dollar note to a mortgage holder and tell them to keep the change. The change will not buy a loaf of bread. Large cities will become dangerous places to be. Those that plan ahead can avoid the most severe aspects of this scenario. It is up to each individual to plan ahead early enough to survive."

Bottom line: There are far too many variables to be able to assign an absolute date to such an enormous process as a "collapse." What the specific tipping point may be is unclear, but once the process starts it will very rapidly evolve, with little or no warning to the average person. This is no joke, folks- imagine a major city where the supermarkets haven't been re-supplied for weeks, where the police force is essentially non-existent because they're home protecting their own families, people are hungry and frightened, and what little money you have is worthless. Add in the heavily armed predatory element to the mix.

I know, "Oh, that could never happen here!" Believe that at the risk of, literally, your life... - CP

Karl Denninger, "Where Did The Income Go?"

"Where Did The Income Go?"
by Karl Denninger

"It appears that the Federal Tit Pump is running out of power... Personal income increased $1.2 billion, or less than 0.1 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $1.6 billion, or less than 0.1 percent, in February, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $34.7 billion, or 0.3 percent.

Oh boy, now the $1.3 trillion in additional deficit spending is no longer contributing to personal income! That's not so positive - indeed, it's not positive at all.

Private wage and salary disbursements increased $2.0 billion in February, compared with an increase of $16.6 billion in January. Goods-producing industries' payrolls decreased $3.5 billion, in contrast to an increase of $5.2 billion; manufacturing payrolls decreased $1.4 billion, in contrast to an increase of $5.0 billion. Services-producing industries' payrolls increased $5.5 billion, compared with an increase of $11.4 billion.

Goods down.... uh, where's our so-called economic recovery?

Proprietors' income decreased $6.1 billion in February, the same decrease as in January. Farm proprietors' income decreased $7.1 billion, the same decrease as in January. Nonfarm proprietors' income increased $1.0 billion, the same increase as in January.

Very little change in proprietor's income ex farming, but farmer income is down significantly.

Rental income of persons increased $2.2 billion in February, compared with an increase of $1.9 billion in January. Personal income receipts on assets (personal interest income plus personal dividend income) decreased $16.5 billion, the same decrease as in January. Rents up a bit, but dividends are down huge, continuing a trend. This is not positive at all, and implies that assets are being sold to continue lifestyle choices. This leads to a question that has begun to gnaw at me: Have we begun to cross into where boomers start pulling funds out of asset classes to live on?

Personal current transfer receipts increased $16.6 billion in February, compared with an increase of $29.8 billion in January. The January change reflected the Making Work Pay Credit provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which boosted January receipts by $19.8 billion. The Act provides for a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for working individuals and up to $800 for married taxpayers. When an individual’s tax credit exceeds the taxes owed, the refundable tax credit payment is classified as “other” government social benefits to persons.

Government to the rescue! $45 billion worth in the last two months, to be specific. That's a direct $270 billion in handouts, or 2% of GDP - and that's only the direct handouts! So subtract that off GDP and..... (oh, and don't forget the rest of the $1.3 trillion too.) Nothing to see here folks, as in "no evidence of sustainability in the recovery." We have a government that continues to "prime the pump" but there's no water at the bottom of the well to generate self-sustaining economic growth."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"A Look to the Heavens- Why?"

"Distorted galaxy NGC 2442 can be found in the southern constellation of the flying fish, (Piscis) Volans. Located about 50 million light-years away, the galaxy's two spiral arms extending from a pronounced central bar give it a hook-shaped appearance. This deep color image also shows the arms' obscuring dust lanes, young blue star clusters and reddish star forming regions surrounding a core of yellowish light from an older population of stars.
But the star forming regions seem more concentrated along the drawn-out (right side) spiral arm. The distorted structure is likely the result of an ancient close encounter with the smaller galaxy seen near the top left of this field of view. The two interacting galaxies are separated by about 150,000 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 2442."

Why Do We Look to the Stars?

"The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation of a distant memory, as if we were falling from a great height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.

For as long as there has been humans we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Where are we? Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. This perspective is a courageous continuation of our penchant for constructing and testing mental models of the skies; the Sun as a red-hot stone, the stars as a celestial flame, the Galaxy as the backbone of night.

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky. Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere."
- Carl Sagan

David Foster Wallace

"As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

...That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."
- David Foster Wallace

"Pathetic Sheeple, Always Looking For A Shepherd"

"Pathetic Sheeple, Always Looking For A Shepherd"
by Bobbie Johnson

"The trouble started when Raj Patel appeared on American TV to plug his latest book, an analysis of the financial crisis called "The Value of Nothing." The London-born author, 37, thought his slot on comedy talkshow The Colbert Report went well enough: the host made a few jokes, Patel talked a little about his work and then, job done, he went back to his home in San Francisco. Shortly afterwards, however, things took a strange turn. Over the course of a couple of days, cryptic messages started filling his inbox. "I started getting emails saying 'have you heard of Benjamin Creme?' and 'are you the world teacher?'" he said. "Then all of a sudden it wasn't just random internet folk, but also friends saying, 'Have you seen this?'"

What he had written off as gobbledygook suddenly turned into something altogether more bizarre: he was being lauded by members of an obscure religious group who had decided that Patel - a food activist who grew up in a corner shop in Golders Green in north-west London - was, in fact, the messiah.

Their reasoning? Patel's background and work coincidentally matched a series of prophecies made by an 87-year-old Scottish mystic called Benjamin Creme, the leader of a little-known religious group known as Share International. Because he matched the profile, hundreds of people around the world believed that Patel was the living embodiment of a figure they called Maitreya, the Christ or "the world teacher". His job? To save the world, and everyone on it. "It was just really weird," he said. "Clearly a case of mistaken identity and clearly a case of people on the internet getting things wrong."

What started as an oddity kept snowballing until suddenly, in the middle of his book tour and awaiting the arrival of his first child, Patel was inundated by questions, messages of support and even threats. The influx was so heavy, in fact, that he put up a statement on his website referencing Monty Python's Life of Brian and categorically stating that he was not Maitreya. Instead of settling the issue, however, his denial merely fanned the flames for some believers. In a twist ripped straight from the script of the comedy classic, they said that this disavowal, too, had been prophesied. It seemed like there was nothing to convince them. "It's the kind of paradox that's inescapable," he said, with a grim humour. "There's very little chance or point trying to dig out of it."

There are many elements of his life that tick the prophetic checklist of his worshippers: a flight from India to the UK as a child, growing up in London, a slight stutter, and appearances on TV. But it is his work that puts him most directly in the frame and causes him the most anguish - the very things the followers of Share believe will indicate that their new messiah has arrived.

Patel's career - spent at Oxford, LSE, the World Bank and with thinktank Food First - has been spent trying to understand the inequalities and problems caused by free market economics, particularly as it relates to the developing world. His first book, "Stuffed and Starved," rips through the problems in global food production and examines how the free market has worked to keep millions hungry (Naomi Klein called it dazzling, while the Guardian's Felicity Lawrence said it was "an impassioned call to action"). The "Value of Nothing," meanwhile, draws on the economic collapse to look at how we might fix the system and improve life for billions of people around the globe.

While his goal appears to match Share's vision of worldwide harmony, he says the underlying assumptions it makes are wrong - and possibly even dangerous. "What I'm arguing in the book is precisely the opposite of the Maitreya: what we need is various kinds of rebellion and transformations about how private property works," he said. "I don't think a messiah figure is going to be a terribly good launching point for the kinds of politics I'm talking about - for someone who has very strong anarchist sympathies, this has some fairly deep contradictions in it."

To say Patel - with his academic air, stammer and grey-flecked hair - is a reluctant saviour is an understatement. In fact, he rejects the entire notion of saviours. If there is one thing he has learned from his work as an activist in countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa, it is that there are no easy answers. "People are very ready to abdicate responsibility and have it shovelled on to someone else's shoulders," he said. "You saw that with Obama most spectacularly, but whenever there's going to be someone who's just going to fix it for you, it's a very attractive story. It's in every mythological structure."

Unravelling exactly what it is that Share International's followers believe, however, is tricky. The group is an offshoot of the Victorian Theosophy movement founded by Madame Blavatsky that developed a belief system out of an amalgam of various religions, spiritualism and metaphysics. Creme - who joined a UFO cult in the 1950s before starting Share - has added a cosmic take to the whole concept: he says that Maitreya represents a group of beings from Venus called the Space Brothers. This 18m-year-old saviour, he says, has been resting somewhere in the Himalayas for 2,000 years and - as a figure who combines messianism for Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims alike - is due to return any time now, uniting humanity and making life better for everybody on earth.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that Creme refuses to categorically state whether or not he believes that Patel and Maitreya are one and the same. He suggests that it is not up to him to rule either way, instead blaming media coverage, rather than his own mystical predictions, for making people "hysterical". "It is not my place," Creme told the writer Scott James, a friend of Patel, recently. "People are looking to Mr Patel because they are looking for the fulfilment of a story which I've been making around the world for the last 35 years."

It is not the first time that Creme, an inscrutable guru with a mop of curly white hair, has courted publicity with his wild pronouncements of a messiah. In 1985 he made another prophecy: that Maitreya would reveal himself to the press in London. A gaggle of journalists gathered in a Brick Lane curry house for the main event. In the end, the promised saviour failed to materialise. (One candidate, "a man in old robes and a faraway look in his eye", turned out to be a tramp begging for cigarettes, our correspondent wrote at the time).

Patel's rejection of his status as a deity does not seem to have killed off interest from Share's members. Indeed, the situation has invaded his everyday life, such as when two devotees travelled from Detroit - some 2,400 miles away - just to hear him give a short public talk. "They were really nice people, not in your face, really straightforward - these people do not look like fanatics," he says. "I gave the talk, and they hung around at the end and we had a chat." It was only then that the pair revealed that they were followers of Creme's teachings. Patel said: "They said they thought I was the Maitreya ... they also said I had appeared in their dreams. I said: 'I'm really flattered that you came all the way here, but it breaks my heart that you came all this way and spent all this money to meet someone who isn't who you think he is.' "It made me really depressed, actually. That evening I was really down."

While he struggles to cope with this unwanted anointment, his friends and family are more tickled by the situation. "They think it's hilarious," he said. "My parents came to visit recently, and they brought clothes that said 'he's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy'. To them, it's just amusing." There have been similar cases in the past, including Steve Cooper, an unemployed man from Tooting, south London, who was identified by a Hindu sect as the reincarnation of a goddess and now lives in a temple in Gujurat with scores of followers. Unlike some who have the greatness thrust upon them, though, Patel's greatest hope is that Share will leave him alone so that he can get back to normal life."

"Life is A Journey- Don't Be Afraid"

"Life is A Journey- Don't Be Afraid"
Author Unknown

"Life is a journey filled with lessons, hardships, heartaches, joys, celebrations and special moments that will ultimately lead us to our destination, our purpose in life. The road will not always be smooth; in fact, throughout our travels, we will encounter many challenges. Some of these challenges will test our courage, strengths, weaknesses, and faith. Along the way, we may stumble upon obstacles that will come between the paths that we are destined to take. In order to follow the right path, we must overcome these obstacles. Sometimes these obstacles are really blessings in disguise, only we don't realize that at the time.

Along our journey we will be confronted with many situations, some will be filled with joy, and some will be filled with heartache. How we react to what we are faced will determine what kind of outcome the rest of our journey through life will be like. When things don't always go our way, we have two choices in dealing with the situations. We can focus on the fact that things didn't go how we had hoped they would and let life pass us by, or two, we can make the best out of the situation and know that these are only temporary setbacks and find the lessons that are to be learned.

Time stops for no one, and if we allow ourselves to focus on the negative we might miss out on some really amazing things that life has to offer. We can't go back to the past, we can only take the lessons that we have learned and the experiences that we have gained from it and move on. It is because of the heartaches, as well as the hardships, that in the end help to make us a stronger person.

The people that we meet on our journey, are people that we are destined to meet. Everybody comes into our lives for some reason or another and we don't always know their purpose until it is too late. They all play some kind of role. Some may stay for a lifetime; others may only stay for a short while. It is often the people who stay for only a short time that end up making a lasting impression not only in our lives, but in our hearts as well. Although we may not realize it at the time, they will make a difference and change our lives in a way we never could imagine. To think that one person can have such a profound effect on your life forever is truly a blessing. It is because of these encounters that we learn some of life's best lessons and sometimes we even learn a little bit about ourselves.

People will come and go into our lives quickly, but sometimes we are lucky to meet that one special person that will stay in our hearts forever no matter what. Even though we may not always end up being with that person and they may not always stay in our life for as long as we like, the lessons that we have learned from them and the experiences that we have gained from meeting that person, will stay with us forever.

It's these things that will give us strength to continue with our journey. We know that we can always look back on those times of our past and know that because of that one individual, we are who we are and we can remember the wonderful moments that we have shared with that person. Memories are priceless treasures that we can cherish forever in our hearts. They also enable us to go on with our journey for whatever life has in store for us. Sometimes all it takes is one special person to help us look inside ourselves and find a whole different person that we never knew existed. Our eyes are suddenly opened to a world we never knew existed- a world where time is so precious and moments never seem to last long enough.

Throughout this adventure, people will give you advice and insights on how to live your life but when it all comes down to it, you must always do what you feel is right. Always follow your heart, and most importantly never have any regrets. Don't hold anything back. Say what you want to say, and do what you want to do, because sometimes we don't get a second chance to say or do what we should have the first time around.

It is often said that what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. It all depends on how one defines the word "strong". It can have different meanings to different people. In this sense, "stronger" means looking back at the person you were and comparing it to the person you have become today. It also means looking deep into your soul and realizing that the person you are today couldn't exist if it weren't for the things that have happened in the past or for the people that you have met. Everything that happens in our life happens for a reason and sometimes that means we must face heartaches in order to experience joy."
- Author Unknown, found here:

"FEMA Detention Site Plans Exposed"

"FEMA Detention Site Plans Exposed"
by Mark Anderson

"If Americans are ever rounded up in large numbers during a natural or manmade disaster, where could they be detained? Well, perhaps look no further than the school building next door, the office building around the corner or the stadium downtown. And besides existing military installations, state fair grounds, horse stables, airports “and maybe even a hotel” also could be used as detention centers. That’s according to "Restore the Republic’s" Gary Franchi at Freedom Law School’s recent Health & Freedom Conference. Franchi was one of several speakers who gathered at the Airport Hilton in Ontario, Calif., March 12-15 to talk about cutting-edge developments in health and politics.

The Google Map of FEMA Camps above can be found here:

Many vigilant Americans have become aware of some apparently underutilized military facilities and other installations around the nation that seem designed to detain large numbers of people but are largely empty. Unsubstantiated rumors and urban legends have been circulated, and Franchi was careful not to overstate this issue. But he said there is cause for considerable concern in these post-9-11 days when the normal patriotic impulses of Americans are being relabeled as radical or even on par with terrorism by federal agencies.

Franchi told the conference audience that on April 1, 1979, under Executive Order 12127, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created but it unfortunately was “no joke” for April Fools Day. Just as FEMA was absorbed nearly 25 years later by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FEMA at its birth absorbed the Department of Defense civil-preparedness functions that designated schools, office buildings and other structures as atom bomb “fallout shelters” starting in the 1950s during the Cold War days with the Soviet Union.

DHS, created on the direct recommendation of the 9-11 Commission, that purported to deeply study what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, says, under its “Goals and Objectives” statement (Part VI), that its mission is to “protect our nation from dangerous people.” Now under the DHS umbrella, FEMA’s three basic objectives, according to its own policy, are: national emergency recovery, continuity of government and “to combat perceived threats to the social and political order,” Franchi emphasized. He showed an aerial picture of “FEMA City,” the drab barracks set up in Florida after Hurricane Charlie. These cookie-cutter mobile homes were “free housing with nosebleeds,” Franchi said, referring to the effects of chemical fumes emitted from the shoddy building materials. The area, courtesy of FEMA, became a crime haven. Any genuine public benefit was marginal at best.

Fast-forward to Highland Mall in Austin, Texas, claimed by FEMA in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as a place to put Louisiana refugees entering Texas. The New Orleans Superdome itself was “another private building used to house refugees,” Franchi added.

Given the ongoing “war on terror” and the threat to the people’s liberties that can arise from “anti-terror” measures, combined with steep economic decline and the procedures and policies that FEMA and DHS have developed or are still developing, Franchi says the situation looks grim unless Americans protest now and show they are informed of, and actively opposed to, potential plans to imprison large numbers of people, lest Americans bite the dust the way the USSR people did when they were sent to brutal labor camps amid political turmoil and the demonizing of “unlawful” political beliefs. Pointing to the World War II detention of thousands of Japanese-Americans, Franchi said the detaining of Americans has already happened. Recall that during Woodrow Wilson’s days, many notable war dissenters were imprisoned in a nation supposedly dedicated to free speech. So it’s only a question of circumstance, as Franchi sees it.

The FBI’s Project Megiddo in 1999, the Missouri Information Analysis Center “militia” report from February 2009 and the April 2009 DHS report "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," are among the reports that have tried to tie Americans’ concerns and beliefs to supposed violent tendencies, so these linkages can be transformed into the “truth” and used to arrest political dissidents, just like what happened in the early 20th century, said Franchi.

He added that the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has long tried to influence law enforcement and legislation, has issued yet another report that follows a similar tack. His research is in the documentary Camp FEMA. “We cannot let these people . . . intimidate us; we are sovereign U.S. citizens, and nothing is going to stop us from [resisting] this tyranny,” Franchi said, noting that public television stations may help."

The Daily "Near You?"

Kingsbury, Texas, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"The Bigger Your Smile, The Longer Your Life"

"The Bigger Your Smile, The Longer Your Life"
by AFP

"The broader your smile and the deeper the creases around your eyes when you grin, the longer you are likely to live, according to a study published in "Psychological Science" this week. Researchers led by Ernest Abel of Wayne State University in Michigan studied 230 photographs of US major league baseball players who started playing before 1950 and grouped them according to their smiles. The players were rated as "no smile" if they were just looking deadpan at the camera; as "partial smile" if only the muscles around the mouth were involved in their grin; or as "full smile" if the mouth and eyes were smiling and the cheeks were both raised. The players' pictures were taken from the 1952 Baseball Register, a listing of professionals that is packed with statistics such as year of birth, body mass index, marital status and career length, which reflects physical fitness. The wealth of statistics allowed the researchers to control for other factors that could affect lifespan.

Of the players who had died as of June 1 last year, those in the no-smile category lived for an average of 72.9 years, those with partial smiles - just the mouth involved - died at age 75, while the full-smile players lived to the ripe old age of 79.9 on average, the study showed. "To the extent that smile intensity reflects an underlying emotional disposition, the results of this study are congruent with those of other studies demonstrating that emotions have a positive relationship with mental health, physical health and longevity," the study says.

It was unclear, the authors said, if the baseball players had smiled spontaneously or if their grins were produced under orders from a photographer. But, in any case, far fewer individuals had full smiles - 23 - than partial or no smiles (64 and 63 respectively), which indicated to the researchers that even if smiles were produced on request, their intensity reflected the player's "general underlying disposition." So the conclusion could be, if you want to live a long, happy life: hit the books, hit the ball and grin in a way that gives you crow's feet."

"The Multiplying Mystery of Moonwater"

"The Multiplying Mystery of Moonwater"
by Dauna Coulter

"Moonwater. Look it up. You won't find it. It's not in the dictionary. That's because we thought, until recently, that the Moon was just about the driest place in the solar system. Then reports of moonwater started "pouring" in - starting with estimates of scant amounts on the lunar surface, then gallons in a single crater, and now 600 million metric tons distributed among 40 craters near the lunar north pole. "We thought we understood the Moon, but we don't," says Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute. "It's clear now that water exists up there in a variety of concentrations and geologic settings. And who'd have thought that today we'd be pondering the Moon's hydrosphere?"
Shown in false-color blue, a thin layer of water-rich minerals cover an expanse of terrain
around a young lunar crater. Credit: Chandrayaan-1/Moon Mineralogy Mapper.

Spudis is principal investigator of NASA's Mini-SAR team - the group with the latest and greatest moonwater "strike." Their instrument, a radar probe on India's Chandrayaan-1, found 40 craters each containing water ice at least 2 meters deep. "If you converted those craters' water into rocket fuel, you'd have enough fuel to launch the equivalent of one space shuttle per day for more than 2000 years. But our observations are just a part of an even more tantalizing story about what's going on up on the Moon."

It's the story of a lunar water cycle, and it's based on the seemingly disparate - but perhaps connectable - results from Mini-SAR and NASA's recent LCROSS mission and Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3 or "M-cubed") instrument also on Chandrayaan-1. "So far we've found three types of moonwater," says Spudis. "We have Mini-SAR's thick lenses of nearly pure crater ice, LCROSS's fluffy mix of ice crystals and dirt, and M-cube's thin layer that comes and goes all across the surface of the Moon."

On October 9, 2009, LCROSS, short for Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, struck water in a cold, permanently dark crater at the lunar south pole. Since then, the science team has been thoroughly mining their data. "It looks as though at least two different layers of our crater soil contain water, and they represent two different time epochs," explains Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator. "The first layer, ejected in the first 2 seconds from the crater after impact, contains water and hydroxyl bound up in the minerals, and even tiny pieces of pure ice mixed in. This layer is a thin film and may be relatively 'fresh,' perhaps recently replenished."

According to Colaprete, this brand of moonwater resembles the moonwater M3 discovered last year in scant but widespread amounts, bound to the rocks and dust in the very top millimeters of lunar soil. The second layer is different. "It contains even more water ice plus a treasure chest of other compounds we weren't even looking for," he says. "So far the tally includes sulfur dioxide (SO2), methanol (CH3OH), and the curious organic molecule diacetylene (H2C4). This layer seems to extend below at least 0.5 meters and is probably older than the ice we’re finding on the surface.”

They don't know why some craters contain loads of pure ice while others are dominated by an ice-soil mixture. It's probably a sign that the moonwater comes from more than one source. "Some of the water may be made right there on the Moon," says Spudis. "Protons in the solar wind can make small amounts of water continuously on the lunar surface by interacting with metal oxides in the rocks. But some of the water is probably deposited on the Moon from other places in the solar system."

The Moon is constantly bombarded by impactors that add to the lunar water budget. Asteroids contain hydrated minerals, and comet cores are nearly pure ice. The researchers also think that much of the crater water migrates to the poles from the Moon's warmer, lower latitudes. "All our findings are telling us there's an active water cycle on the Moon," marvels Colaprete. Think about it. The "driest place in the solar system" has a water cycle. "It's a different world up there," says Spudis, "and we've barely scratched the surface. Who knows what discoveries lie ahead?" Moonwater. Add it to the dictionary."
Source: Science@NASA, by Dauna Coulter

Stephen Hawking

"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet
of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe.
That makes us something very special."
- Stephen Hawking

"X-Woman Species Bred with Neanderthals, Humans?"

"X-Woman Species Bred with Neanderthals, Humans?"
by Casey Kazan

"Scientists say a third hominin group may have co-existed with early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. A DNA sample taken from an ancient pinky bone that belonged to a child who died between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago, suggests that a previously unknown group of human ancestors intermingled with Neanderthals and modern humans. The finding, published in this week's issue of the journal "Nature," emerged from a check of DNA samples from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia's Altai Mountains. Anthropologists know that the cave was occupied by human ancestors off and on for at least 125,000 years, based on the artifacts and bits of bone found there.

An unknown type of human, nicknamed "X-Woman," coexisted with Neanderthals and our own species between 30,000 to 50,000 years ago, according to a new study that suggests at least four, and possibly more, different forms of humans existed in Asia after Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa. The finding has been described, not from the structure of its fossilized bones, but from the sequence of its DNA. Researchers focused on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), genes passed down from mothers to their children, hence the X-Woman nickname. The child's mtDNA shows X-Woman shared a common ancestor with Neanderthals (skull left) and modern humans (right skull) one million years ago, so X-Woman and her species likely migrated out of Africa 500,000 years before the ancestors of Neanderthals left Africa. "So whoever carried this mtDNA out of Africa was a creature that was not on our radar screen before," co-author Svante Paabo, director of genetics at the renowned Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, told Discovery News.

Dr Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany said the DNA was different from the genetic code of Neanderthals and modern humans. Almost nothing is known about the appearance or lifestyle of the new human species. It walked upright on two legs and was probably similar in appearance to the other ancient humans living at the time. They lived at a time when our ancestors were fishing and hunting, wearing jewellery, painting caves and making animal carvings. Co-author Dr Johannes Krause said: 'We only have the little pinky bone and there are also isolated teeth found in the site but there is no other skeletal remains so far.'

The genetic sequence was then compared with those for 54 present-day modern humans, a Late Pleistocene early modern human from Russia, six complete Neanderthal mtDNA's, one bonobo and one chimpanzee. None of them matched with the new sequence, but they revealed the individual was a human that carried twice as many genetic differences as Neanderthals do with our species. Since Neanderthals and modern humans were also living less than around 62 miles away in Siberia at the time, Paabo said, "At least three different forms of humans may have coexisted 30,000 to 40,000 years ago," making human history "a lot more complex and interesting" than previously thought for this period.

Conditions were often cold then in Siberia, as they are now, so everyone probably wore heavy, protective clothing. Ornaments dating to the period, such as bracelets, were also found in the cave. Because the different humans appear to have lived within close proximity of each other, this "increases the potential for interaction," including inbreeding, Paabo said during a press conference yesterday in London with colleague Johannes Krause. The apparently peaceful coexistence may not have lasted long, however, since only our species survived into modern times. As a result, Paabo believes the extinction of the other human groups may have been "early genocide" or due to environmental factors or competition for resources."

Robert M. Pirsig

"I've wondered why it took us so long to catch on. We saw it and yet we didn't see it. Or rather we were trained not to see it. Conned, perhaps, into thinking that the real action was metropolitan and all this was just boring hinterland. It was a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth,'' and so it goes away. Puzzling..."
- Robert M. Pirsig

"How It Really Is"

"Social Security: All Aboard!"

"Social Security: All Aboard!"
by Joel Bowman

"For the better part of the last century, the United States led the industrialized nations through an unparalleled period of growth. These days, the only things in the developed world growing with any certainty are bureaucracies and the debts and deficits they invariably inflict upon those they were elected to serve. After fifty years of credit expansion, the era of first world dominance is drawing to its climactic finale. And, as the characters turn and the plot twists, it is those in the developing nations who have some of the best seats in the house.

Let’s peruse the program… According to a report from the Congressional Budget Office released this week, Social Security will pay out more in benefits this year than it receives in payroll taxes. Last year’s annual Social Security report projected revenue would more than cover payouts until at least 2016. The shortfall, this year, will be in the realm of $29 billion.

Unsurprisingly, economists expected a quicker, more robust recovery from the 2007-08 crisis, with unemployment to average just 8.2% last year, eventually rising to 8.8% in 2010. As one in ten working age Americans now know, those figures were far too optimistic. Official unemployment is now near 10% and, as we mentioned earlier in the week, the “U6” metric, which includes “discouraged” and “marginally attached” workers, is currently north of 17%. As always, it is difficult to overstate the magnitude of the feds’ forecasting ineptitude.

Nevertheless, Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, expects we’ll again see small surpluses in the safety net…but not until at least 2014…and only then on the provision that the economy recovers briskly from here on out. But even if such a recovery were to magically materialize, Social Security still faces some insurmountable problems. Over the long haul, the scheme is nothing short of a ticking time bomb, with more and more retirees coming to depend on fewer and fewer taxpayers entering the work force.

As The New York Times reports: “Demographic forces are expected to overtake the fund, as more and more baby boomers leave the work force, stop paying into the program and start collecting their benefits. At that point, outlays will exceed revenue every year, no matter how well the economy performs.” Taken alone, the impending implosion of the Social Security Ponzi scheme is bad enough. Coupled with a few other prevailing economic headwinds of the day, it makes for a rather large iceberg in a very narrow pass. Perusing the news just this week, we came across the following data points of interest:

Figures from the United States Department of Commerce showed that, during the month of February, new home sales decreased 2.2% to an annual pace of 308,000 – a record low. Still on the housing front, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency revealed Friday that more than half (51.5%) of delinquent borrowers who’ve received loan modifications defaulted again after nine months. Why are they defaulting, you ask?

Figures from that same department made official what any person living above ground for the past year already knew – that personal income in 42 US states fell in 2009. Nevada and Wyoming were the worst hit, down 4.8% and 3.9% respectively. The District of Columbia, of course, snared a nice little gain.

Ever on the case when it comes to spending other people’s money (after they’ve secured their own marbled cut), Washington proposed allowing borrowers who’ve lost their jobs to make substantially reduced repayments – or in some cases, no payments at all – for up to six months. TARP – read: you – will help cover those costs. Still trying to plug the gap between the government’s champagne taste and its malt liquor budget, the Treasury auctioned $74 billion in 5- and 7-year notes this week. Demand was flaccid, pushing the yield on the 10-year note up to 3.9%, it’s highest since June. Think that’s bad? Wait until they push another $1.6 trillion through this year…IN ADDITION to the debt that already needs to be rolled over.

Ah yes…we almost forgot: The Federal Government – the same Federal Government that carries around $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities for its existing welfare promises – pushed a $1 trillion healthcare bill through the House, adding the care of 35 million people to its books.

Slowly, the tides of economic fortune are turning. During the fifty-year post-war credit flood, developing nations got busy building ships. The developed world simply looked on, laughing as they filled their own vessels with junk they couldn’t afford. A lot of good it will be at the bottom of the ocean."

Karl Denninger, "On Deficits And Debt-Financed Government"

"On Deficits And Debt-Financed Government"
by Karl Denninger

"The latest estimate is now out from the CBO, and is the usual practice, the deficit number keeps getting bigger: President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget will generate nearly $10 trillion in cumulative budget deficits over the next 10 years, $1.2 trillion more than the administration projected, and raise the federal debt to 90 percent of the nation's economic output by 2020, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday. Note that the CBO also estimates that GDP will climb to $22.5 trillion (from $14 trillion today); a compound growth rate of 5%. This is approximately the rate at which GDP has grown from 2000 onward but ignores the trend, which has been downward since the 1950s.

From the 1950s onward the compound growth rate of GDP is 6.81%. But from 1990 onward it is only 5.39%, and from 2000 onward 5.19%. Why? The decreasing marginal productivity of new debt issuance. There is a good argument to be made that we are now in a place where we are getting negative GDP contribution from new debt issuance, as I have written on before.
IF this chart is accurate, then the gambit of politicians - that they will all be out of office before this blows sky-high (on the back of your children and grandchildren) will be proved inaccurate. It will, in fact, blow up in their face - that is, they will not escape the consequence of their actions.

Worse, those consequences will not be simply political defeat, because the outcome will be the inability of The Federal Government to finance its operations. You're free to extrapolate "what comes next"; I can assure you it will not simply be peaceful acquiescence by the roughly 100 million Americans who will suddenly find that the government tit has run dry - without warning. The warning shots on this were fired during Carter's administration. There was a crisis of confidence of sorts that forced rates much higher - Volcker followed with what he had to do, not what he wanted to do. Contrary to popular belief The Fed didn't "break the back of inflation"; the market demanded that the BS stop here and now, or what would stop was the government. This time around we do not have the luxury of "simply" accepting much higher government borrowing costs.

To put this in context you can look at the interest expense of The Federal Government. You will note that despite debt going up a lot in Fiscal 2009 the interest expense went down - a lot (about 15%.) But this year interest expense, if it tracks the five months thus far in the books, will rise from $383 billion to $434 billion, a 13% increase - almost erasing the "gains" from the zero interest-rate policy. On September 30th 2009 the outstanding debt was $11.909 trillion dollars. That is an average interest coupon across the entire float of the public debt of 3.22%.

Now consider what happens if short rates go back to the 5% range - a historical reasonable point, and long rates go into the 7% range. Assuming Treasury continues to try to shove toward the short end of the curve, a strategy that exposes it to extreme amounts of rollover risk, the average coupon would likely rise to about 5.5%. This would drive interest expense to $780 billion by September 2011. Note that if historical averages hold, Treasury would take in roughly $1.2 trillion in personal income taxes. Interest expense would rise to consume approximately 2/3rds of that amount.

Let's further consider that interest expense would be about 80% of the entire budget deficit of fiscal 2011. Two questions immediately arise from this data: Do our Congressfolk (and the Administration) really think they will expire of natural causes before the spiral that, on the present path, will come, appears and those 100 million angry and (more importantly) hungry Americans decide to issue them an invitation to dinner?

Why are we debt-financing our government in the first place? Adding up the interest paid from 1988 to 2009 we find that $7.34 trillion of the $11.909 trillion, or sixty one percent, of our "debt" exists as a consequence of paying interest to private parties and foreign governments. Consider the alternative. We have a $4.57 trillion "deficit" between interest and debt looking only at 1988 - 2009. But from 1988 - 2009 we produced (GDP) approximately $210 trillion in net output.

We currently finance our "excess spending" through debt issuance. What would happen if we instead decided to issue non-debt-backed currency from the Treasury directly into the economy? That is, instead of selling Treasuries, what instead Treasury was to simply print dollars (backed by nothing more than Treasury's ability to tax down the road) and thus paid zero interest?

Well, that's easy to figure out. Since issuing currency is the definition of monetary inflation we can trivially compute the inflationary impact of printing the required $4.57 trillion in money to close the gap - in other words, for Treasury to simply issue and spend in the economy the net $4.57 trillion the government has instead paid in interest from the years 1988 to 2009. The inflationary impact is 4.57 / 210 = or.... 2.18% - and not per year either. Rather, that's the total inflation as a consequence of this policy over the entire 22 year period of time!

Why is it that we are allowing debt merchants to "finance" our deficits? We can stop this idiocy now, before it spirals out of control - and spiral out of control it will. It is highly unlikely that the current path will be able to be maintained until our children and grandchildren get the bill - rather, odds are that it will detonate within the next five years, resulting in the destruction of our society, political system, and civil order. Or we can tell the debt merchants - that is, the banks - to get stuffed, and that we will not pay the so-called "existing debt." They will, in turn tell us they won't buy any future debt. We simply reply that we don't care, since we have another option - the spending of deficit dollars directly into the economy without issuing debt!

Yes, managed improperly such a path runs the risk of a hyperinflationary debacle similar to Weimar or Zimbabwe. But as you can see from the above even with the profligacy of the last 22 years, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the net total inflationary impact over that entire period, had we done this for the 22 years previous, would be slightly more than 2% - over the entire 22 year period, or less than 0.1% annually.

There are transition details that I will outline in future Tickers, and I assure you that the "debt merchants" (banks, including foreign central banks) will not like the implications of same. But this does not change the math or choice - our politicians can choose between this path forward or they can choose to take the risk of literally being dinner at the table of 100 million angry and hungry Americans. Choose wisely."

A Personal Comment: Poll Results, and the Future

Looking at some of the article titles lately reminded me of a horror show- all the negative events and circumstances make it seem a very depressing place to be. What else do we need to worry about? What's the next catastrophe waiting to devour us all? I was curious about your response, Good Reader, which is why I put up the poll about the type of article content you want to read. The results are in the graphic at the top of this article. Of those responding, the truth, however unpleasant, is what you want. That's always been my primary focus- we get far too much nonsensical propaganda, spin, and outright lies from traditional sources. The truth, however, is often depressing and alarmist.

While I obviously control what gets posted here, I can't change reality or facts. Nearly 2 years ago I wanted to know why my house was losing its value so rapidly. Being woefully ignorant, I turned to the housing blogs to learn why, and opened Pandora's box, leading into economics, finance, financial structure and the like. My ongoing interest in science, literature, and other subjects remained intact. I decided to share what I was learning, hoping to save others the learning curve involved. And this blog evolved into what it is now, nearly 8,000 posts of my discoveries. I never dreamed it would turn into this, and have always been very careful to remain anonymously in the background, except for occasional snarky remarks or comments, since the message was of primacy, not the messenger.

The truth we've uncovered so far is that the future is not going to be very pleasant, in fact, what's coming is our worst nightmare on steroids. Events will happen more rapidly, and the consequences will be devastating. What's been posted here so far has been to inform you, not shape your opinion. You alone must decide what version of "truth" you're willing to accept, and adjust your life accordingly. I, on the other hand, do not want to be a prophet of doom and gloom or a fear monger. This stuff wears me down, too.

I'm asking for your input about where we go from here. If it's truth you want, that's what you'll get, to the best of my ability to dig it out from the vast wasteland of lies and nonsense. There's nothing here you can't find elsewhere. I'm in no way ready to throw in the towel, the future is far too dangerous to simply run away and hide. I just want you to know that I'm very aware of the negative content we've had lately. It is what it is. Constructive criticisms and suggestions about format, article length and content are what I'm seeking from you, not flattery. If it should remain as it is please let me know that, too. Let's see where we go from here. Please send your comments to my email at, and, as always, thanks for stopping by folks.
- CP

Paul Krugman, "Dealing With The Debt: A Brief Note"

"Dealing With The Debt: A Brief Note"
by Paul Krugman

"I get a lot of worried mail along the lines of “how on earth will we ever be able to pay off our debt”? Look, there are real worries — but the math per se isn’t very hard. The Obama administration’s budget (pdf)* predicts that by 2020 we’ll have net federal debt of around 70% of GDP and a budget deficit of around 4 percent of GDP. Now, you don’t have to go to a zero budget deficit to make headway on the debt — a budget deficit of 2-3 percent of GDP would imply a steadily declining debt/GDP ratio. So if you believe the administration’s budget estimates, we’ll need to find another 1-2 percent of GDP in revenue or cost savings.

Many independent sources are moderately more pessimistic; they think that on current policies we’d be looking at a deficit of 5-6 percent of GDP. So that makes it more like a 3 or 4 percent of GDP adjustment. That’s not, in economic terms, a huge number. We could raise taxes that much and still be one of the lowest-tax nations in the advanced world. Or we could save a significant share of that total by not being totally prepared for the day when Soviet tanks sweep across the North German plain.

The only reason to doubt our ability to get things under control a decade from now is politics: if we’re still deadlocked, if sane Republicans are cowed by the Tea Party, then sure, we can have a fiscal crisis. And longer term, we’ll be in a mess unless we get health care costs under control — which is exactly what we’re trying to do, in the face of cries about death panels. The numbers aren’t that bad; if we go wrong, the fault will lie not in our debt, but in ourselves."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Joe Bageant, "The Ants of Gaia"

"The Ants of Gaia"
by Joe Bageant

"The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world."
- Thomas Malthus, 1798

"As a small boy, I once transferred most of an anthill population from its natural digs in our front yard to a gallon jar of fresh dirt, sprinkled it with a little sugar (in the cartoons, ants are always freaks for sugar, right?) and then left the ants on their own. Of course the day came when all I had was a jar full of dry earth, ant crap and the desolation of their parched little carcasses. I'd guess that it was the lack of water that finally got 'em. But the most interesting thing in retrospect - if a jar of dead bugs can be called interesting - is this: Up until the very end they seemed to be happily and obliviously busy. They constructed an ant society with all of its ant facilities, made more baby ants and did all those things ants do that the proverbial grasshopper is famous for not doing. Obviously Christian predestinationists to the last ant, they met the grasshopper's grim fate by another route, and did not look at all surprised in death.

Now you'd think that the lesson of the ants would be obvious as hell to any non-intoxicated individual with a grade school education. Never mind that many people since Malthus, as my sainted daddy would have put it, "Done drove the point in the ground and broke it clean off." Never mind that Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" was a best seller and remains a classic. Never mind that James Lovelock, the nerdish forward thinking Englishman who 99% of Americans never heard of, delivered unto us yet one more time the worst truth in human history, the "Gaia Hypothesis." Which is a fancy way of saying we cannot continue to devour our planet forever because it amounts to self-cannibalism. Lovelock also convincingly argued that, due to the side effects of this species expiration, now acknowledged as global warming, the equator will look like Mars at some point relatively soon, with the surviving 20% of humans now alive, or perhaps in the next generation, living near the North and South Poles.

Those pagans who allowed themselves to feel and not just intellectualize about the earth's condition, and those scientists who did not require computer modeling to do simple subtraction, recognized that these are the most challenging of times in human history, "challenging" being a polite term for the fact that that humanity is gonna die off big time, if not sooner, then later. Call it the secular version of The End Times. But not much later, in light of the brief span Homo sapiens hath frolicked, killed and exceeded their MasterCard limits upon the earth, which is less than a second in geological time. Already we are on the way out because we did not have the common sense of lizards, which lasted tens of millions of years longer without so much as a calculator, much less computerized eco models.

A bunch of DNA molecules gave us this aberrant evolution of brain and consciousness that enabled us to dominate everything else and get into the totally screwed situation in which we now find ourselves. The monkey got so smart he took over everything, ate most of it, drove over the rest, and after having threatened what was left around him, set out to destroy even that small remaining scrap of his ruined earthly turf. Is this God's cruelest joke?

Global warming as mange medicine:
If mankind were discovered on a dog's hide the owner would give the dog a mange dip. Or if the earth were a Petri dish, we would be called pathology. Problem is though, mama earth tends to shed pathogens off her skin, which for us pathogens, is the ultimate catastrophe.

When forced to look at catastrophe on this order of magnitude, we either go numb in shock or look in delusion to something bigger, or at least something with more grandeur than Mother Nature flushing humanity down the toilet. Otherwise, one must accept the both ugly and the weirdly beautiful prospect of oblivion. Meanwhile, we begin too late to "make better choices." Grim choices that do nothing but postpone the inevitable, which are called better ones and sold to us to make ourselves feel better about our toxicity. Burn corn in your gas tank. Go green, with the help of Monsanto. But not many can be concerned even with the matter of better choices. Few can truly grasp the fullness of the danger because there is no way they can get their minds around it, no way to see the world in its entirety. The tadpole cannot conceive of the banks of the pond, much less the wooded watershed that feeds it. But old frogs glimpse of it.

Still, there is choice available, even a superior choice - the moral one. Accept the truth and act upon it. Take direct action to eliminate human suffering, and likewise to eliminate our own comfort. We can say no to scorched babies in Iraq. We can refuse to drive at all and refuse to participate in a dead society gone shopping. We can quit being so addicted to the rationality and embrace the spirit. Rationality simply turns back on itself like a mobius strip. Too much thinking, too much cleverness on the monkey's part leads it to believe it can come up with rational solutions for what ration itself hath wrought.

All the green energy sources and eating right and voting right cannot fix what has been irretrievably ruined, but only make life amid the ruination slightly more bearable. Species gluttony is nearly over and we've eaten the earth and pissed upon its bones. Not because we are cruel by nature (though a case might be made for stupidity) but because the existence of consciousness necessarily implies each of us as its individual center, the individual point of all experience and thus all knowing. The accumulated personal and collective wounds fester and become fatal because there is no way to inform the world that we must surrender our assumptions, even if we wanted to. Which we do not because assumptions are the unseen cultural glue, the DNA of civilization. If we did so, the crash would be immediate.

So we postpone transformation through truth, and stick with what has always worked -- empire and consumption. And we twiddle our lives away thorough insignificant fretting about mortgages and health care and political parties and pretend the whole of American life is not a disconnect. Hell, all of Western culture has become a disconnect. Somebody needs to tell the Europeans too; progressive Americans give them entirely too much credit for the small positive variation in their cultures and ours. We both get away with it only so long as the oil and the entertainment last.

The front page of today's newspaper tells me that 41 million motorists will gas up and hit the road today. Another five million will sip drinks and read magazines while zipping through the stratosphere, in 747s that burn the day's oxygen production of a 44,000 acre rainforest in the first five minutes of flight just getting off the ground and gaining altitude, adding to the more than 110 million annual tons of atmosphere-altering chemtrail gasses, some of which will remain to hold heat in the upper atmosphere for almost 100 years.

Below it all are the spreading pox-like blotches of economic and ecological ruins of dead North American towns and city cores, such as downtown Gary Indiana, Camden, Newark, Detroit. Has anyone seen downtown Detroit lately? Of course not. No one goes there any more. Miles of cracked pavement, weeds and abandoned buildings that look like de Chirico's Melancholy and Mystery of a Street. Hell, for all practical purposes it is uninhabited, though a scattering of drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless insane people wander in the shadows of vacant rotting skyscrapers where water drips and vines crawl through the lobbies, including the Ford Motor Company's stainless steel former headquarters. (See the works of Chilean-born photographer Camilo José Vergara.) It is the first glimpse of a very near future, right here and now for all to see.

The hearts of even our most avowedly thriving cities are just as dead, reduced to nothing more than designated spending zones, collections of bars and banks and overpriced eateries lodged at the center of a massive tangle of overpasses and freeways designed for a nation of soft people hurtling themselves through the suburbs in petroleum powered exoskeletons in search of fried chicken, or into the city for the lonely monetized experience called urban nightlife. Which is no life at all, but rather posturing in lifelike poses amid simple drunkenness and engorgement.

We allow ourselves to imagine the worst is somewhere in yet another future so we can continue without owning decision. Love of comfort being the death of courage, we continue the familiar commoditized life, the only one we have known. Is it not true that our entire understanding of courage as we know it is about braving some unknown? About making the socially unaccepted and dangerous choice? Stepping forward in the face of the wars and evil mechanics of our own particular time?

Empire and its inevitable permanent state of warfare flourishes not because evil men are at the helm, but because the men at the helm are even weaker and more in denial than we are. (Look at Dick Cheney. The guy is a nervous wreck wrapped in arrogance and denial.) And so their uninformed and crude confidence is assuring to both them and us. We elect the worst among ourselves in increasing avoidance of ourselves and they are validated by our endorsement. Evil men seeking empire did not make us or the world this way. We made their existence possible through our denial, love of ease and non accountability.

The most dangerous question in the world: Yet, I dare say that comfort is not the most important thing in most American lives. It is just the only thing we are offered in exchange for our toil and the pain of ordinary existence in such an age. Consequently, it is all we know. Meaningless work, then meaningless comfort and distraction in the too-few hours between sleep and labor. But we settled for that and continue to do so. The day will never come when we stand around the office water cooler and ask one another: "Why in the hell are we even here today?" It's the most dangerous question in America and the Western world.

Some few of us are in a hellish limbo, simply waiting for total collapse because it is easier to rebuild from nothing than to change billions of minds not even remotely concerned with the looming catastrophe. A minority of the world, the six percent called America, suffers the mass self-delusion of endless plentitude. A much larger portion is less concerned with the moral aspects of consumption because they are brutally engaged in trying to find enough to eat and a drink of clean water. So plentitude on any terms looks damned good. Escape to America because those fools over there don't seem to be suffering at all.

Manifesto of the Damned: I thank the stars for younger men, writers such as Derrick Jensen and Charles Eisenstein. They say what we cannot yet say to ourselves and what the media will never say because media survives by the corporate numbers game. Consequently, the iron rules of being allowed to communicate with significant numbers of people within our empire tend to call for glibness, fake optimism, and the wide net of inclusion of even the silliest sorts of people. God only knows I've participated in the sham over the years. But the truth is never politically or socially correct.

What's left of my own aging hippie optimism dies hard. And as an older guy who has seen both interior and external horror in this life, I often assure those who will deal with this world after I am worm chow that "to have seen a specter is not everything." I've often repeated this theme because it is important to know that many more specters lie ahead of the next generation, the survivors of which will be the new "brave happy few," links in the chain of reason tempered with art. No one yet knows with absolute certainty the outcome of our terrible common plunge toward truth. But even in the worst of times, there is glory in the sheer electricity of life, the expression of its juiciness, those moments when the eternal fecundity of the flesh struts by in a tight skirt, or perhaps sporting the perfect unshaven jaw, offering everything and nothing. Life is never completely joyless.

Younger men and women will live to rule or rule the day. So seize it for god sake! And listen to the cellular wisdom of the flesh. I did and do and am damned glad of it. Despite what a police court Jehova, Yahweh or Allah may have told us, the only holy thing existent is this the flesh in which we now walk. It leads us toward both good and evil, but it leads, and most probably will bleed if we are on the right path. Yet, what could be better than a meaningful life during meaningless times? Which is everything, whether we be artistic, queer, altruistic, an unheralded ox in the fields of labor - or one of the invisible ones out there with a stone cold determination to kill the supposedly deathless machinery in which we are expected to supplicate daily and call that a life. I am not a wise man, but I dare say that's about all you can hope for. A splash of small glory, or perhaps even a canteen filled with meaningfulness in the desert. It is no small thing.

So here we are. You and me. Let us hang all our laundry out to dry in this tiny corner of cyberspace. I think it is entirely possible that we can be honest cybernetic bards in an unpromising age, possibly even noble amid the ruins."

Cherie Carter-Scotts

"Remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons.
Love yourself, trust your choices, and everything is possible."
- Cherie Carter-Scotts

Mark Twain, "Letters From the Earth" Excerpt

"Letters From the Earth"
by Mark Twain

"This is a strange place, an extraordinary place, and interesting. There is nothing resembling it at home. The people are all insane, the other animals are all insane, the earth is insane, Nature itself is insane. Man is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel; at is worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm. Yet he blandly and in all sincerity calls himself the "noblest work of God." This is the truth I am telling you. And this is not a new idea with him, he has talked it through all the ages, and believed it. Believed it, and found nobody among all his race to laugh at it.

Moreover - if I may put another strain upon you - he thinks he is the Creator's pet. He believes the Creator is proud of him; he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes, and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to Him, and thinks He listens. Isn't it a quaint idea? Fills his prayers with crude and bald and florid flatteries of Him, and thinks He sits and purrs over these extravagancies and enjoys them. He prays for help, and favor, and protection, every day; and does it with hopefulness and confidence, too, although no prayer of his has ever been answered. The daily affront, the daily defeat, do not discourage him, he goes on praying just the same. There is something almost fine about this perseverance. I must put one more strain upon you: he thinks he is going to heaven!"

Complete "Letters From the Earth" is here:

Mark Twain

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people
who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."
- Mark Twain

"A Look to the Heavens"

"One of the most identifiable nebulae in the sky, the Horsehead Nebula in Orion, is part of a large, dark, molecular cloud. Also known as Barnard 33, the unusual shape was first discovered on a photographic plate in the late 1800s. The red glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the nebula, ionized by the nearby bright star Sigma Orionis.
A blue reflection nebula dubbed NGC 2023 surrounds the bright star at the lower left. The darkness of the Horsehead is caused mostly by thick dust, although the lower part of the Horsehead's neck casts a shadow to the left. Streams of gas leaving the nebula are funneled by a strong magnetic field. Bright spots in the Horsehead Nebula's base are young stars just in the process of forming. Light takes about 1500 years to reach us from the Horsehead Nebula. The above image was taken earlier this month with a 0.6-meter telescope at the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter in Arizona, USA."