Thursday, August 26, 2010

Update: On the road again... I'll be back.

I'll be away until Wednesday, September 1, a mini-vacation of sorts. Meanwhile, there are 10,541 posts here, covering nearly everything imaginable, even I can't remember all of it. Commenting has been turned off to prevent those sly comment linksters from slipping advertising into their comments. As always, folks, be safe and be kind to each other, we're all we've got. See you soon. - CoyotePrime

'How It Really Is"

Lily Tomlin

"Ninety eight percent of the adults in this country are
decent, hardworking, honest Americans. It's the other lousy two
percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them."
- Lily Tomlin

The Economy: "Corporatocracy Has Replaced Capitalism"

"Corporatocracy Has Replaced Capitalism"
by D Sherman Okst

"Capitalism Fixes Problems & Preserves Democracy: Capitalism is what we should be relying on to fix our problems. Capitalism has it's own ecosystem, just like biology's ecosystem. An economic ecosystem that weeds out the weak, has parasites that eat the failures and new bacteria that evolves and grows replacements for that which failed. A system that keeps everything in balance.

The problem is we are no longer a capitalistic society. What we were taught in school is now utter and absolute nonsense. Capitalism is a thing of the past. As outlined in "It's Not A Financial Crisis - It's A Stupidity Crisis", we created two back to back bubbles. The air out of the Tech Bubble was sucked up for fuel by our next stupidity crisis: The Housing Bubble. Now, after the second Stupidity Crisis there isn't a third bubble to inflate. If we still lived in a capitalistic environment the banks and financial institutions that created loans for folks who should have remained renters and then sold those loans as investments to pensions and countries would have been cleansed by capitalism's ecosystem. But that isn't what happened.

In a very anti-capitalistic move the government decided that stupidity and criminal activity should be rewarded. I'd say they took our money, but it is worse, we didn't have that much money. So they borrowed the money in our name. The loan has a variable rate. They borrowed so much money that our kids cosigned the loan. In fact, our kid's future kid's signed on the dotted line. That is unequivocally immoral.

They gave that borrowed money to a bunch of morons as a reward for stupidity. Morons who created subprime loans, liar loans, no income no documentation loans and other fraudulent instruments. Morons bundled that trash, got it rated AAA and then sold these turds or weapons of mass destruction that they had the audacity to name complex financial instruments or derivatives to pension funds, countries and other "investors". Then it all blew up. Big surprise.

For blowing up the world's economy this Stupidity Crisis was falsely named an Economic Crisis by CNBS and 535 morons on a hill in DC (Ron Paul and a few other fiscally responsible adults excluded). The idiots who created the mess were rewarded with a 700 billion dollar "bailout". This "bailout" was anything but a bailout and had a price tag of anything but 700 billion. The actual price tag is closer to 11 trillion and puts us on the hook for another 13-17 trillion - not counting interest. Think about that for a second. This stupidity crisis is the equivalent of our Federal Debt which took a generations of politicians over a hundred years to wrack-up.

For anyone who still believes we live in a free country where capitalism reigns please show me one economic textbook which states that failure, and fraud get rewarded with borrowed taxpayer money. For anyone who believes we live in a democracy please show me a textbook that says the government will en-debt you and your kids and their kids to pay for a failed business. How is that democratic?

"Law of Morons": Years ago, while serving on a committee I came to a sad realization. Like gravity, there is the another invisible force which I dubbed "The Law of Morons". Put a group of very intelligent, well meaning people in a room together, put them on a committee or some governmental body that is devoid of guiding principles or merit based decision making and "The Law of Morons" will prevail. The collective IQ will drop to the smallest shoe size in the room. And hope for loafers, because collectively this body won't be able to tie anything together - not even a single shoelace.

Government Creates Problems: Basically our government is comprised of many well meaning intelligent people who for whatever reason, re-election, greed the "Law of Morons", corporate puppet strings (read: lobbyist), self interest, corporatocracy or whatever else, do nothing but create massive problems. Lack of regulation, too much regulation. And without any uncertainty - too much DEBT along with a deficit that will NEVER be paid. They have failed us. Terribly! With debt and a failed capitalistic society our democracy is now at risk. Serious risk.

"A democratic society requires a stable and effectively functioning economy. I trust that we and our successors at the Federal Reserve will be important contributors to that end." ~ Alan Greenspan

Serious irony there unless he was talking about the end of a democratic society. Greenspan was primarily responsible for muzzling Brooksley Born's attempt to regulate derivatives. Our deficit requires that we counterfeit "money" to service our debt payments.

Forget about GDP, it is a bogus measure cooked by the BEA (US Bureau of Economic Analysis) . GDP is so baked that it makes the folks who cooked Enron's books look like saints. Let's focus on what we take in and what we pay out. We take in about 2 trillion in taxes and other revenues. We borrow about 2 trillion of which about 1 trillion must be taken off for debt service, and we spend well over 4 trillion. To deal with the 1.6 trillion ++ shortfall we just print/counterfeit it. This debases the value of every dollar we hold, stealing wealth from every hard working American. It causes the need for more dollars to be injected into the system, which increases the amount of taxes that Americans pay. There are only two crimes listed in our Constitution: Treason and counterfeiting.

Corporatocracy: A government that serves the interest of, and may de facto be run by corporations. Some states have government workers who have powerful unions that influence the government's decisions. California has a massive pension mess, created in large part by government unions and elected officials who have catered to these unions. "Too Big To Fail" is living proof that capitalism is dead. These TBTF institutions that blew up the economy in 2008 with their stupidity crisis, at the very least deserved to fail. They blew it. That is the definition of capitalism. You do well you are rewarded, you screw up you close shop. You commit fraud and you do time.

But with a Corporatocracy you have Hank Paulson - a former Goldman Sachs CEO worth about 700 million dollars who winds up becoming our past Secretary of the Treasury. There is a serious distinction between a civil servant and someone who serves a corporation, especially the last corporation he worked for. His salary was only six figures, but his benefit was that he got to cash out of his stocks and pay no taxes. He gave the morons who blew up the economy 700 billion dollars. He had another former Goldman Sachs employee disperse the funds while the current CEO of Goldman Sachs professed to be "Doing God's work."

In Summary: Our debt and our inability to revive capitalism and cut the waste in government will be our demise. Sadly, the only glimmer of hope I see is that Corporatocracy will destroy itself. I say sadly because it will destroy the average American citizen like some parasite that kills it's host. Capitalism is dead and that is why we are totally screwed."

"Third World America: 'Fast-Tracking to Anarchy'"

"Third World America: 'Fast-Tracking to Anarchy'"
by Janet Tavakoli

"My last post about Arianna Huffington's new book, "Third World America: How Our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream" talked about the Great Recession, the Great Bailout, and the Great Cover-Up of financial crimes. Among the future consequences of not fixing our national problems will likely be an increase in social unrest and an increase in crime. A look at Chicago's problems may serve as a call to action for America's middle class. Chicago's city budget is in dire straits. That's also true of the state of Illinois, California, New York and other areas. In Chicago, the same mismanagement that deepened our fiscal crisis has caused a crisis in essential city services.

The police department provides just one example. Sunday's Chicago Tribune reported that in 31 days, there were 303 shot and 33 dead: "Crime has been holding steady in Chicago in recent years. Through July, there have been 1,089 shootings in the city, a 2.4 percent decrease over last year." According to the newspaper, it's a "typical" July. Yet there is nothing typical about it when you look beyond the numbers. The first problem is that the numbers are flat-out unacceptable in any year in any city in the U.S. It is inexplicable that citizens of Chicago have tolerated this situation in poorer neighborhoods for decades. The second problem is a new problem. Years of complacency by Chicago's middle and upper classes have brought the crisis to their doorstep.

In recent years, incompetent and ill-qualified people have been promoted to "leadership" positions. Hiring and exam giving has declined, and the police department is undermanned and demoralized. Even worse is the fragging officers take from politicians, unqualified people in police "administration," and from the local media.

Spiraling Out of Control: Open Season on Cops: The title of this post comes from "A City at War With Itself," a commentary written by Lt. John Andrews, a 25-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department: "Most horrific for Chicago is that in less than 60 days, Chicago has lost 3 of its police officers, killed by gunfire as victims of robberies. It seems no one is safe in our city anymore. Chicago's homicide rate this year currently stands toe-to-toe with the total number of military forces killed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Thugs, gangs and renegade groups run the streets and neighborhoods, intimidating and victimizing the decent citizens of this city. They go mostly unchallenged and unchecked by a totally demoralized police force that is dangerously understaffed and still out-gunned on the

Lt. Andrews describes in detail a police department demoralized by scandals and corruption. He names those who received promotions based on political pull rather than merit or suitability for responsibility. Moreover, police fear reprisals from political special interest groups when using necessary force: "When asked, most will freely tell you that they do not want to place themselves, their families and livelihoods at risk from a perceived Machiavellian police superintendent or other incompetent "bosses" that could lead them into legal trouble that would risk their liberty and freedom (jail)."

Even during televised speeches at the recent funerals of police officers, public officials speak out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they decry the apparent targeted shootings of police officers - one of whom, Michael Bailey, was wearing his uniform after just coming off duty from a night of guarding the mayor's house - and on the other hand, they say that of course, police must follow proper procedures and work within the law (and often pause for effect). Of course, everyone agrees the police must follow proper procedures, but the subtext of the message delivered at an officer's funeral is repellant. These thinly-disguised campaign speeches suggest the police force needs to be careful not to bring these tragedies upon themselves. Perhaps they think police should round up suspects and put them in Monty Python's comfy chair.

If the goal is to help police officers follow proper procedures at all times, then politicians and the police superintendent have to staff the force with well-qualified recruits (this means creating a reasonable qualification exam), remove corrupt "leaders" by reversing ridiculous promotions, and promote qualified officers based on merit. The police force desperately needs manpower and both physical and leadership back-up. Officers confident that their authority is respected, their judgment is trusted, and their tools are equal to a dangerous and difficult job will produce better results than people who have been left hanging out to dry, while their colleagues are massacred.

Media Strafing: Local media has lost the plot. A couple of days ago, an off-duty police officer shot and killed an armed home invader who had kicked in his door. The officer reportedly lives on a block with five or six other police officers. The intruder allegedly has a history of wrongdoing and invaded a suburban home with another man. He posed as a cable worker and bound and gagged his victims. Yet, some news reports described the intruder as a "victim" and said the off-duty officer was not charged, as if charges should have even been an issue. According to comments posted at Second City Cop, WGN's televised news unwisely showed the police officer's home, identified his neighborhood, and zoomed in on his home address.

Mug Mile: Formerly "safe" and "upscale" neighborhoods have become the targets of "wildings." James Carlini, an editor for Wisconsin Technology News, gave an eyewitness account of his experience of Chicago's "land sharks" at the premier shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile, or Mag Mile: Coming back to the John Hancock to pick up my car at around 9PM, I noticed several little bands of four to five juveniles walking around sizing up people as they walked down the streets. Luckily we were already in our car, but I could sense that these "gangsta wannabes" were up to no good.

There were some arrests made that night but very suspicious that there was no mention in the mainstream media. There have been incidences like this before but never a mention or a caution. Why? Afraid to report on the truth or were you told not to report on the truth? One of Carlini's readers noted that Mayor Richard Daley seems to live in a bubble: I think [Mayor Daley] should go out in the evening without his hit squad protecting him with the firearms he professes to hate so much. That would be six more highly-paid police officers who could patrol the downtown streets that you and I walk down - unarmed.

Buy Back America: If nothing else good comes out of our crisis, perhaps it will serve as a wake-up call for the entire nation. It's time to put our shoulders to the wheel to solve our problems. Doing nothing is not an option for America. Much of poor America, especially in our major cities, has been Third World America for decades. Soon the urban middle classes and even upper classes will become better acquainted with that world.

Washington's political corruption and mismanagement has the same roots as Chicago's. As Arianna points out, on a national level, we need "the mother of all reforms:" "That is why the first step toward stopping our relentless transformation into Third World America has to be breaking the choke hold that special interest money has on our politicians."

On a local level, Chicago will have to fix its own problems by breaking the choke hold of special interest groups. On a national level, it will take a Constitutional amendment requiring full public financing for political campaigns (for starters). Our politicians have shown us how willing they are to be owned by special interest groups that will buy votes, buy a campaign, or just buy them off. As Arianna explains: "If someone's going to own the politicians, it might as well be the American people."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Arthur C. Clarke

"Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future."
- Arthur C. Clarke

"A Look From the Heavens"

"This is what the Earth looks like at night. Can you find your favorite country or city? Surprisingly, city lights make this task quite possible. Human-made lights highlight particularly developed or populated areas of the Earth's surface, including the seaboards of Europe, the eastern United States, and Japan.
Click image for large size, click again for huge image.

Many large cities are located near rivers or oceans so that they can exchange goods cheaply by boat. Particularly dark areas include the central parts of South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The above image is actually a composite of hundreds of pictures made by the orbiting DMSP satellites."

Psychology: "A Weird Way of Thinking Has Prevailed Worldwide"

"A Weird Way of Thinking Has Prevailed Worldwide"
by Anand Giridharadas

Cortes, Canada - "Imagine a country whose inhabitants eat human flesh, wear only pink hats to sleep and banish children into the forest to raise themselves until adulthood. Now imagine that this country dominates the study of psychology worldwide. Its universities have the best facilities, which draw the best scholars, who write the best papers. Their research subjects are the flesh-eating, pink-hat-wearing, forest-reared locals. When these psychologists write about their own country, all is well. But things deteriorate when they generalize about human nature. They view behaviors that are globally commonplace - say, vegetarianism - as deviant. Human nature, as they define it, reflects little of the actual diversity of humankind. This scenario may sound preposterous. But if a provocative new study is to be believed, the world already lives in such a situation - except that it is American undergraduates, not flesh-eating forest dwellers, who monopolize our knowledge of human nature.

In the study, published last month in the journal "Behavioral and Brain Sciences," Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan - all psychologists at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver - condemn their field's quest for human universals. Psychologists claim to speak of human nature, the study argues, but they have mostly been telling us about a group of WEIRD outliers, as the study calls them - Westernized, educated people from industrialized, rich democracies. According to the study, 68 percent of research subjects in a sample of hundreds of studies in leading psychology journals came from the United States, and 96 percent from Western industrialized nations. Of the American subjects, 67 percent were undergraduates studying psychology - making a randomly selected American undergraduate 4,000 times likelier to be a subject than a random non-Westerner.

Western psychologists routinely generalize about "human" traits from data on this slender subpopulation, and psychologists elsewhere cite these papers as evidence. In itself, such extrapolation is hardly fatal. Freud built his account of human behavior from his work on patients in Vienna and generalized for the world. So many great analysts of human nature, from Aristotle to the Buddha, reached for transcendent human truths despite limited contact with the range of humanity.

The Canadian study's claim is not to invalidate all extrapolation so much as to suggest that American undergraduates may be especially unsuitable for it. The study's method was to analyze a mountain of published, peer-reviewed psychology papers. It found evidence both of a narrow research base and of the eccentricity of that base. Among the many peculiarities of the usual subjects who serve as "universal man" are these, the study found: American subjects disproportionately prize choice and individualism. In a survey of six Western societies, only Americans preferred a choice of 50 ice creams to 10. Studies have found that Americans are all but alone in giving newborns their own room.

Americans are also peculiar in the so-called Ultimatum Game, in which a subject receives money and must make an offer to share it. The second subject can accept or reject the offer, but if it is rejected, neither subject gets paid. Americans playing the game are fair in the extreme, making higher offers than most. But they are also outliers in another way. In various places, including Russia and China, psychologists observe the rejection of excessive generosity - a demurring when offered too much. This behavior is absent from American undergraduates. The study's list goes on and on. Westerners tend to define themselves by psychological traits, and non-Westerners by relationships. In some languages, including English, directions are built around the self ("Take a right after the church"), while in other languages, they refer to immovable objects ("It is behind the church"). Americans are worse than many at overcoming common optical illusions about the length of lines. But they are better than East Asians at recalling an object when the background changes, perhaps because the latter focus on context.

The data on these differences are patchy, the study's authors acknowledge. Not enough work has been done on human variation. The Canadian attempt was simply to synthesize the existing research and to establish with their synthesis that psychological sameness is an implausible assumption. Some critics of the study have suggested that there are universals underlying surface differences, and that the WEIRD variables may not be the right ones. But there has been little dispute about the premise that psychologists have extrapolated from an outlying few the ways of the global many.

It is an extrapolation with consequences. Democracy promoters tell us that all humans feel the same way about authority, despite evidence of diversity. Economists say that all humans are self-interested rational actors, though many succumb to selfless and irrational pursuits. Abstract rights are proclaimed for all humans, overlooking the fact that many prefer their ethics in more grounded, context-specific ways.

China, India and many other societies shy away from such universalizing. Their thinkers avoid proclaiming that all humans do this or do that simply because the Chinese or the Indians do. If they began to do so, how might things change? For now, those outside the West continue to feel a certain pressure from beyond to think in ways not their own. The television sitcoms they watch, the books they read, the superheroes they grow up with, the PowerPoint presentations they give - these were often designed with someone else's psychology foremost in mind, on the hope that they fit universally.

One response to the WEIRD study, by the psychologist Paul Rozin, is that extrapolating from Americans is acceptable because the world is Americanizing. "The U.S. is in the vanguard of the global world," he said, according to Science magazine, "and may provide a glimpse into the future." But it is also possible that people around the world are not simply in the process of becoming like American undergraduates, and relying on WEIRD subjects can make others feel alienated, with their ways of thinking framed as deviant, not different. Among the less-examined facets of globalization is its psychic pressure: a force that makes people feel that they are playing by others' rules, that makes their own home turf feel like an opponent's stadium. In this WEIRD people's world, so many only know away games."

Mary Hemingway

"Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years.
If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry.
Worry never fixes anything."
- Mary Hemingway

Secession? : "Separation Anxiety"

"Separation Anxiety"
- By Stephanie Mencimer

"Fed up with the feds? Good news—24 state legislatures have already passed laws declaring themselves sovereign (only 7 governors actually signed the bills into law). Meanwhile, lawmakers in 11 states have passed measures to nullify federal health care reform (3 of those are now law)."
"If At First You Don't Secede"
By Stephanie Mencimer

"This February, around 300 conservative activists and candidates gathered at the Atlanta airport Hilton to celebrate the Tenth Amendment, the oft-overlooked constitutional provision that's become the philosophical underpinning of opposition to everything—from bank bailouts to federal gun laws to the new health care bill. Among the speakers were the author of "The South Was Right;" a man who'd done time for evading taxes while running a gold and silver "bank"; and Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court justice who lost his robes after refusing to remove a giant Ten Commandments from his courthouse.

The odd man out was Michael Boldin, the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, a tiny California think tank that cosponsored the event. Unshaven and dressed in jeans, an untucked button-down shirt, and hipster glasses, Boldin stood out from the crowd, which included the obligatory Tea Partier in a tricornered hat. The 37-year-old Wisconsin native told me that the Moore who'd inspired his activism was Michael, not Roy. Boldin describes himself as a "recovering Catholic" and reads Mother Jones. He got into politics because of the invasion of Iraq and has come to believe "that most of what the federal government does, from foreign to domestic policy, is a constitutional violation."

In 2007, with some money from a customer service job (he prefers not to say where he works), Boldin launched the Tenth Amendment Center's website. Though the Constitution provided many tools for battling the Bush administration's overreach—the Eighth Amendment bans torture, for instance—Boldin saw the Tenth as the ultimate check on federal power, all in a single line: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people." In that terse passage, Boldin saw the legal and philosophical basis for challenging a raft of executive excesses.

The Tenth has also caught on with Tea Partiers and others seeking a one-size-fits-all way to snub federal authority. In April, House minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) commended Arizona's new anti-immigration law, citing Arizonans' "right under the Tenth Amendment to write their own laws." Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has said that under the Tenth, state governors could roll back health care reform. But in early 2009, Boldin was nearly alone in saying that states should nullify—essentially ignore—any future health care bill, which he sees as yet another example of federal thuggery (Boldin is uninsured). Now that 11 states have tried to do just that, Boldin has become the go-to guy for pithy quotes about nullification. "It seems like we have two Constitutions, Madison and Jefferson's and Obama and Biden's," he told a Christian magazine.

"How can a crazy guy from California be friends with conservative guys from Georgia?" Boldin asked as he took the stage in Atlanta after the president of the John Birch Society. The answer, he explained, is that he sees himself as a "'Ninety-eight' guy—as in 1798." That's the year in which Thomas Jefferson wrote that when the federal government exercises undelegated power, "nullification of the act is the rightful remedy."

Boldin then told a rollicking story about Roscoe Filburn, a Depression-era farmer who defied a federal order to cut wheat production by planting 12 acres for his personal use. The government ordered Filburn to destroy his crops and pay a fine; the Supreme Court upheld the decision, ruling that the feds were within their authority to regulate interstate commerce. He then spoke of a modern-day Filburn, Angel Raich, a California woman with a brain tumor whose private medicinal pot garden was destroyed by federal agents. The Supreme Court had ruled against her, invoking Filburn. "Whether it's marijuana, gay marriage, health care, the size of your toilet, this is beyond absurd," Boldin bellowed. "We demand adherence to the Constitution, every time, every issue, no excuses, no exceptions!" The crowd went wild.

Afterwards, Boldin was exuberant. "I was actually able to say the words 'gay marriage' in Georgia and no one booed," he remarked. A woman in a militia T-shirt came over to compliment him. After she walked away, he shook his head. "I don't even know how to touch that one."

Though Boldin is adamant that "nullification is not secession," his interpretation of the Tenth puts him in the same camp as those who have used states' rights to justify segregation and armed resistance. He's annoyed by that line of argument, which he says he often hears from liberals. "There's no more racist entity in the world than the federal government, which has killed millions of brown-skinned people around the world!" he exclaims. Boldin may not see eye to eye with his allies, but he still embraces them: "I'm a Tenth Amendment purist. I'd rather risk errors by people in local communities than give power to the federal government to force it on the entire country."

Guy McPherson, "When The Empire Falls"

"When The Empire Falls"
by Guy McPherson

"When American Empire completes its fall, we will not have the ability to sacrifice one big bank just to rescue an even larger corporate entity along with an ill-devised government program. Instead, we’ll be focused on the only economic system too big to fail: Earth. When American Empire completes its fall, it will take all the banks with it. So we won’t be worrying about cleaning up “toxic assets.” Instead, we’ll concern ourselves with storing the harvest and saving seeds.

When American Empire completes its fall, political parties will be unable to carry out desperate, ugly, and dangerous attacks on American voters. Instead, we’ll focus on helping our neighbors and building our communities.

As American Empire is completing its fall, the American government might find itself at war with its own people. As long as we have American Idol and high fructose corn syrup, I doubt the people are willing to rebel. But if they are, perhaps this time the people will win.

When American Empire completes its fall, we will leave behind arcane philosophers and their irrelevant, unworldly philosophy. Instead, we will return to a philosophy as rooted in the Earth as we are.

When American Empire completes its fall, we will not have agents of the federal government planning to invade and divide countries and sacrificing the lives of “we the people” for a few bucks (in this case, neocon leaders Feith, Wolfowitz, and Perle were discussing with the Turkish ambassador how to divide Iraq in the summer of 2001, four months before 9/11). Instead, we’ll honor the lives of humans and other animals in the region we occupy.

When American Empire completes its fall, humans will be unable to cause erosion comparable to the world’s largest rivers and glaciers. They — we — will be unable to cause destruction so severe it threatens our very existence. Instead, we’ll revere the ecosystems that provide us with water, food, clothing, protection from the elements, and all the philosophy we’ll ever need.

When American Empire completes its fall, the federal government will be unable to control what you eat, much less encourage you to eat materials that are toxic, or that make us fat, stupid, and lazy. We will not rely on two percent of our population, bound to cheap fossil fuels and corporate indenture, to feed the rest of us. Instead, we will harvest what we sow and eat what we harvest, paying careful attention to what we feed our children.

When American Empire completes its fall, the federal government will not trot out lies about medical care (while in truly Orwellian fashion, calling it “health care”). Instead, we will learn to care for the planet that sustains us all, and we will accept death as we celebrate life.

When American Empire completes its fall, governments around the world will not encourage their citizens to produce more consumers (i.e., babies) in the name of economic growth. Instead, we will cherish our (human) communities while relying on them for care, just as we will care for others. Instead of being slaves to the economy and its government, we will be partners with our neighbors and the landbase.

I used to think it took a child to raze a village, but now I know any effective politician can do it. When American Empire completes its fall, the federal government will be unable to bail out companies while ignoring the individuals who work for those companies. The governmental arsonists who started and stoked the fire will be unable to show up in fire trucks claiming they can extinguish the blaze. And then they’ll be unable to lie about it. When the empire completes its fall, neighbors will bail out each other, and expect the same in return.

When American Empire completes its fall, the myriad crises we have created will no longer outpace our ability to deal with them. The situation has become so dire, even mainstream scientists have noticed. And although these scientists admit nations and corporations cannot effectively deal with the messes we’ve generated, the solutions they propose all involve institutional reforms (i.e., government). When the empire completes its fall, communication between neighbors will account for all the reforms we need.

When American Empire completes its fall, globalization falls with it (perhaps it already has). Globalization has tricked us into ignoring matters important to our health, and to the health of other species, in the name of enriching a few wealthy (mostly) white men who serve corporations. We have abandoned work on extinction, child labor, working conditions, taxation, child labor, health, and pollution, while allowing a billion people to starve. We’ve done all this damage while allowing — and even encouraging — the few to loot the coffers of the many, even while the many are starving in numbers unimaginably large. When the empire completes its fall, localization comes back in style. We’ll know all the non-human neighbors by name, and we will nurture them as they take care of us.

When American Empire completes its fall, we will not focus on the politically lost cause of global climate change at the expense of the thousands of other insults we are visiting on the planet. We won’t need to focus on politically hopeless causes such as saving the planet and our non-human brethren. Instead, we will conduct the difficult and meaningful work associated with stewardship of the lands, waters, and communities that support us.

When American Empire completes its fall, the majority will not capitulate to the noisy minority in the echo chamber who claim that helping others is socialism, and therefore un-American. The notion that “all politics is local” will ring loudly as we all work toward governance that serves the people.

When American Empire completes its fall, we will not be forced to listen to the “patriotic” tune of the mainstream media as they continue to deny the roles of the governments of Israel and the United States in the events of September 11, 2001. And we won’t be praying for more oil from Iraq. Or Mexico. Or Canada. Or, for that matter, thinking natural gas will save western civilization. When the empire completes its fall, we’ll be concerned about legitimate wealth: food and water supplied by healthy landbases and the company of friends supplied by healthy communities.

When American Empire completes its fall, Congress will not spend your money propping up the world’s most powerful military force (although by simultaneously losing two wars, the U.S. military is rapidly exposing its declining influence). We will not continue to torture people without charging them. We will not use the world’s most lethal organization and weapons to continue killing citizens of Afghanistan in the name of our freedom. As a side effect, we’ll need not hide the pictures and bury the stories when our own children die in the process of killing Afghans. When the empire completes its fall, we will know the faces of those who threaten us and we will face reality regardless how tragic it is.

When American Empire completes its fall, we can thank our investment in military supremacy, at least in part.

When American Empire completes its fall, we’ll finally give up on the renewable-energy “savior” and, more importantly, we’ll witness the end of the seemingly endless wars for energy. We’ll live as part of the Earth, rather than apart from it.

When American Empire completes its fall, a few people will recall the warnings — dating as far back as Marcus Aurelius, and probably further — launched by a very few thoughtful voices and ignored by those in power. With respect to energy decline, they’ll recall M. King Hubbert and a few of the people listed here.

When American Empire completes its fall, people will once again wrest control of their individual and collective destinies and live in the world, thus causing superstition to fade.

If American Empire completes its fall soon enough, perhaps James Lovelock will be proven wrong: maybe, just maybe, we haven’t reached a global-climate-change tipping point. One thing is clear: There are no politically viable solutions to global climate change. But when the empire completes its fall, we will ignore the gods of economic growth who demand we destroy the planet in their name.

Why are we trying to sustain this empire?"

The Daily "Near You?"

Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"9/11 Planners Confess on National Television"

"9/11 Planners Confess on National Television"
by Gordon Duff, Veterans Today

"How can a nation like the United States be duped into two wars and total bankruptcy? It would be one thing if the "truth" about 9/11 was internet conspiracy theory. This isn't the case. It was all right there in everyone's living room. They fooled us once and then fooled us again and again. Yes, America has some tail to kick but this time, maybe we should make sure our boot goes up the right rear end for a change.

The real hole in the Pentagon, before construction equipment enlarged it was so small a man had to duck his head to enter. For 9 years, this photograph was captioned "Second Floor." This photograph has a firefighter in the foreground and, unless gravity was suspended on 9/11, he is standing on the Pentagon's lawn. Listen to CNN describe a crash site with no aircraft parts of any kind, seats, bodies, wings, engines, tail section....none of it. Can it be this simple? The CNN reporter at the Pentagon immediately after the "crash" found no aircraft debris. After closing off the site, the next morning, huge pieces of plane were hauled away, pieces that weren't in any of the photographs on 9/11. I hate it when media stooges scripted by the real terrorists don't check the time carefully enough.

Watch a BBC reporter talk about a building collapsing that was still standing, actually with very little damage, right behind her. Yes, Americans are that easy to lie to.

Watch Larry Silverstein tell network news that WTC 7, the same virtually undamaged building was "pulled" by firefighters. Since making this statement, no single individual, firefighter, 9/11 Commission member or anyone else has backed up this wild claim. Need we mention that setting demolition charges alone would require weeks?

Here, Dan Rather on CBS describes the collapse of Building 7 as "like films of controlled demolition we have seen, buildings deliberately destroyed by well placed dynamite..."

Some Americans are burning Korans to celebrate 9/11. Some are deeply disturbed about an Islamic community center being built nearby. If I might suggest, perhaps 9/11 might be better served as "hallowed ground" if it were a place of execution. A great nation could transplant it's mightiest oak to the site. That hallowed oak and a few lengths of hemp used with intelligence and consideration on our enemies at home and abroad would best honor our dead. Just a thought... There is currently no conclusive forensic evidence that the airliners indicated nor the hijackers accused were ever involved in 9/11 in any way.

Perhaps worst of all, Fox News itself released the following story indicating that 60 Israeli's were arrested after 9/11, some active duty military who had advance knowledge of 9/11. Later, the number exceeded 200, tied to espionage and suspected terrorism. Yes, the term "terrorism" is used. All investigations were eventually quashed. You can come to your own conclusions as to what is and isn't being said.

Yes, Americans are that dumb. You wonder why our banks are empty?"

A comment: Forget everything you've seen, heard or been told about the events of 9/11/2001. Simply look at the videos, and use your own common sense and judgement to decide what is true. Could a 757 airplane fit through a 16 foot hole in the Pentagon, leaving no debris anywhere? Does that make sense to you? Could they have "pulled" Building 7 without weeks of planning and placing the required explosives? Think about it, and if it doesn't make any sense, then it cannot be the "truth" the government told you. If they lied, what conclusions can you draw from that? Why would they do so? And if the 19 "terrorists" didn't actually do the deed, who did? Who helped them do it by standing down NORAD and our Air Force? Who had the authority to do so? Who were the actual "doers", those who planted the now scientifically proven thermite in the buildings? What was the goal of this operation, what did they hope to achieve? Questions, questions... but the answers are there, if you dare to look... - CP

Chris Floyd, "The Peacer's Prayer: War Without End, Amen"

"The Peacer's Prayer: War Without End, Amen"
by Chris Floyd

"The Peace Laureate and his apologists – along with all the well-wadded neoconmen and their strange bedfellows, the liberal interventionists – may like to proclaim that the Iraq War is over (and we won!), but those actually fighting the war know that – as Cab Calloway liked to say of the stories you’re liable to read in the Bible – it ain’t necessarily so.

From the "Army Times": "Combat brigades in Iraq under different name. As the final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., entered Kuwait early Thursday, a different Stryker brigade remained in Iraq. Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division are deployed in Iraq as members of an Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army’s designation for brigades selected to conduct security force assistance. So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades ... There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff."

The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009. This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary. That is to say, they can do what combat troops throughout history have always been able to do: ride herd on a conquered people when they're down (or "provide security force assistance," in our demure modern parlance), and lash out with heavy power when the natives get restless. Or to put it another way, what we have in Iraq now is 50,000+ combat troops doing what combat troops do. And forty tons of lipstick won't obscure the swinish nature of this continuing war crime.

In any case, the Peacer's war leader in the aggression-ravaged country says that we can always more amounts of combat troops back into Iraq to join the combat troops still there in the highly unlikely event that the "security forces" of the local client government should - perish the thought - prove to be inadequate to the task of making the country safe for Halliburton and Shell. As Jason Ditz reports (see original for links): "Though the Obama Administration’s claims that the war in Iraq is “over” is a myth to begin with, top US Commander in Iraq Gen. Ray Odierno today detailed the possibility of US forces “returning” to Iraq in larger numbers. Odierno insists this would “only” happen if Iraq’s security forces suffer a complete failure in the ability to provide security in Iraq. And while Odierno insists “we don’t see that happening,” the reality on the ground makes this all the more plausible."

Oh and of course, we will also keep our combat troops in Iraq if the client government we installed asks us too -- surely yet another astronomically unlikely scenario, but hey, you never know, do you? Odierno added that he was certain the US would consider staying in Iraq beyond 2011 if asked by the Iraqi government. But clearly as the situation worsens on the ground the question of spinning the drawdown as the “end” of the war will transition more into the question of “reinvading” Iraq.

The hell we have made in Iraq - "between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums... the killing of innocent people... part of daily life," as Adil Shamoo aptly puts it - is far from over. And if our militarist elites have their way, it will never end. To such people, one can only echo Tolstoy's damning words: "And do not say that you do what you do for the people: that is untrue. All the horrible things you do, you do for yourself, for your own mercenary, vainglorious, vengeful, personal reasons, so that you can live a bit longer in that state of corruption in which you live, and which seems to you a blessing."

"UFOs 'On The Record'"

"UFOs 'On The Record': Generals, Pilots
Government Officials Talk About
What They Know "

by the Huffington Post

"The subject of UFOs - of intense interest to the general public - is no longer something that reputable journalists will feel they need to avoid or dismiss as silly. Popular culture has distorted the facts about this compelling mystery, and a new book sets the record straight. "UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record" (Harmony Books / The Crown Publishing Group) by journalist Leslie Kean pulls back the curtain on the incredible occurrences of unexplained behavior by unknown objects over many decades.

"UFOs" includes a foreword by John Podesta and riveting, first-person accounts written by over a dozen military and aviation witnesses and official investigators from around the world. Contributors include a former governor of Arizona, the former head of the FAA's Accidents and Investigations Division, military generals from five countries, a retired senior research scientist from NASA, Air Force and commercial pilots, and government officials from agencies investigating UFOs in their respective countries.

Jean-Jacques Velasco was the director of the French government’s program to investigate and analyze unidentified aerospace phenomena (now called GEIPAN) from 1983-2004. He writes in "UFOs": “It is possible to show, using data from established cases officially listed throughout the world, that UFOs - material objects - exist and are distinct from any ordinary phenomena. These cases are few, but their extraordinary characteristics and physical effects demonstrate this fact without ambiguity. On the basis of well established cases, the existence of UFOs is without question.

UFOs seem to be ‘artificial and controlled objects,’ and their physical characteristics can be measured by our detection systems – particularly radar. They display a physics seemingly far different from that which we employ in our most technologically advanced countries. Ground and on-board radar show that their performances greatly exceed our best aeronautical and space capabilities. These capabilities include stationary and silent flights, accelerations and speeds defying the laws of inertia, effects on electronic navigation or transmission systems, and the apparent ability to induce electrical blackouts. When encountered by military aircraft, these objects seem able to anticipate and neutralize pilots’ defensive maneuvers. In such encounters the UFO phenomenon appears to behave as if it is under some kind of intelligent control.”
View a 16 picture slideshow here:

"How It Really Is"

"Why America's Economy Is on the Brink of Going Down the Tubes... for Good"

"Why America's Economy Is on the Brink of
Going Down the Tubes... for Good"
by Eric Haseltine

"Recessions, especially the deep downturn that started in 2008, always cause us to scramble. Companies routinely slash spending while governments do the opposite, trying to shock the country's economic heart into beating again through heroic measures such as the recent stimulus package. Concern about a possible "double dip" recession have the hands of corporate CFO's and Washington officials hovering over the panic button again, mere months after the last push. But our scramble to reduce the impact of the latest disaster distracts us from addressing the deep-seated problems that inexorably create the next disaster, and the one after that. Why waste energy on the distant future, we reason, when we'll never get to that future if we don't solve the problem staring us in the face?

We all focus on addressing here-and-now emergencies because we have no choice. What limits our options are not outside events, such as economic downturns, but internal events that go on inside our brains. As a neuroscientist, I've learned that our brains are hardwired to avoid near term threats and to ignore long term opportunities , because our brains are identical to those of our distant ancestors who faced a daily struggle for survival. When our brains evolved into their present form, about 50,000 years ago, the environment was incredibly harsh and risky, limiting life expectancies to 20-25 years. Diverting attention from day-today survival in those Paleolithic times would have invited disaster. Neuroscientists call this hard-wired preference for quick fixes over long range pursuits temporal myopia: everything past the immediate future looks fuzzy, or even invisible, and is therefore irrelevant. Unless we overcome our temporal myopia, we'll continue to put band-aids on this economy and it will continue to deteriorate: in other words, we'll continue to treat symptoms and never go for a complete cure.

And what would such a cure look like? Let's start by looking at disease that afflicts us. The fundamental problem with America's economy is a decline in the capabilities and motivation of our workforce. True economic growth - not the artificial kind spurred by fiscal policy - stems from innovations such as Google's search engine that create entirely new businesses and markets. Such innovations grow out of technological advances, which in turn emerge from earlier scientific discoveries.

Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, reinforced this idea when he said "Capitalism expands wealth primarily through creative destruction - the process by which the cash flow from obsolescent, low-return capital is invested in high-return, cutting-edge technologies." And where do cutting-edge technologies come from? Modern Economists such as Paul Romer, Robert Lucas and Robert Barro argue that technical innovations ultimately spring from the cognitive abilities of "human capital" (people) who attain these abilities through education and training.

But the National Academy of Science report, "Is America Falling off a Flat Earth?" points out that science, technology and math education of the American workforce has been in steep decline for decades, as students now choose careers in business, law or media over the high tech jobs that were so attractive in the post-Sputnik 60's and 70's. In stark contrast, workforces of countries such as China are becoming much more tech savvy, such that China now rivals the US and Europe in patents and technical publications. S. James Gates, a physicist who served on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology said, "If you look at U.S. performance on various international metrics, depending on which one you use, we come out something like 24th or 25th in the world."

In my own informal survey of middle school and high-school students, conducted during school speaking engagements to increase the allure of science, most kids tell me that they plan to steer clear of science because it's "way too hard." Other kids observe that "scientists are nerdy." As a result of these widespread attitudes - nurtured by Hollywood's portrayal of scientists as socially clueless eccentrics - innovation-fueled economic growth will increasingly take place outside America's borders, and our economy will spiral into relative decline for the foreseeable future. We can pull out of this dive, however, if we see through our temporal myopia to some hard facts: we will never motivate the majority of America's youth to give up "cool" careers that promise to make lot of money for "nerdy," un-cool science and technology careers that require hard work in school. We have simply grown too comfortable as a society and lost the fire in our belly.

During World War II, and right after Sputnik, did students, teachers and parents let the prospect of hard work learning science, math and engineering deter them? No, because we faced obvious crises. Harvard Business School Professor, John Kao, author of "Innovation Nation: How America is Losing Its Innovative Edge, Why It Matters and How We Can Get it Back" said, ""Fifty years ago the Soviet satellite Sputnik burst the nation's bubble of complacency and challenged America's sense of global leadership. But we rose to the challenge with massive funding for education, revamped school curricula in science and math, created NASA and put a man on the moon." Today we face a brain race vs. a space race that is every bit as problematic for America as the first Russian satellite, but this crisis amounts to a "silent Sputnik" that flies under America's radar. Out of sight, out of mind.

I believe that Americans are unlikely to notice, let alone react to such a stealth threat. The only answer is to reach out to motivated Americans, in places like China and India, who don't yet know they're going to be Americans. Let's gear up a recruiting system that combs secondary schools in China, India, Russia, Europe and South America for top science and technology talent, just as college football programs look for the best high school athletes. We'll offer these kids - who do have fire in their bellies because they've grown up in countries that haven't gotten complacent - full scholarships to American colleges and a fast track to US citizenship once they complete their studies. This will, in the long run, inject new vitality into our workforce and our economy and help cure our deep economic ills. Spending taxpayers' money on educating other countries' students will be a tough sell in Washington, but not a tough as getting taxpayers to swallow one trillion dollar stimulus package after another."

Dr. Haseltine, a neuroscientist and former Associate Director of National Intelligence for Science and Technology, is the author of "Long Fuse Big Bang: Achieving Long-Term Success Through Daily Victories"

"Why You Shouldn’t Worry About the Economic Recovery"

"Why You Shouldn’t Worry About the Economic Recovery"
by Bill Bonner

"The stock market is rolling over. The Dow went down 133 points yesterday. Gold gained $4. Stocks went down early in the summer. We thought that was the beginning of the big “second shock” we’ve been waiting for. But we were wrong. The stock market rebounded. But now it is back at its July lows…and appears ready to keep going down. Why? Because small investors are leaving the stock market. And large investors are beginning to realize that there is no real recovery taking place. “Worries about US recovery deepen,” says a headline in The Financial Times. Not here! Not at The Daily Reckoning headquarters. We’re not worried about the recovery. Because there is none.

None of the key components of recovery – housing, jobs, or consumer spending – suggest that the economy is returning to its pre-recession habits. This from Bloomberg: "Sales of existing houses plunged by a record 27 percent in July as the effects of a government tax credit waned, showing a lack of jobs threatens to undermine the US economic recovery. Purchases plummeted to a 3.83 million annual pace, the lowest in a decade of record keeping and worse than the most pessimistic forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. Demand for single-family houses dropped to a 15- year low and the number of homes on the market swelled."

“Today’s data do not bode well for home prices,” said Michelle Meyer, a senior economist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research in New York. “There is a decent chance we reach a new bottom for home prices. There’s going to be a prolonged, painful drop.”

The pace of existing home sales is the slowest since comparable records began in 1999. The agents’ group revised the June sales figure down to 5.26 million from a previously reported 5.37 million. Economists projected sales would fall 13 percent. Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of 74 economists ranged from 3.96 million to 5.3 million. Previously owned homes make up about 90 percent of the market. Purchases of single-family homes also dropped 27 percent, the biggest one-month decrease in data going back to 1968. July’s 3.37 million annual rate was the lowest since May 1995.

But fear not, dear reader, the feds are on the case. As usual, they are making things worse. The obvious problem in the housing market is that there are too many houses and too much mortgage debt. And the obvious solution is to clear the market by allowing prices to fall and let the debt wash itself out. Instead, the feds are trying to prevent the market from clearing. Bloomberg continues: "To help prop up the market, the Obama administration will offer $1 billion in zero-interest loans to help homeowners who’ve lost income avoid foreclosure as part of $3 billion in additional aid targeting economically distressed areas. The Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to make loans of as much as $50,000 for borrowers “in hard hit local areas” to make mortgage, tax and insurance payments for as long as two years, according to an Aug. 11 statement. The Treasury Department will also provide as much as $2 billion in aid under an existing program for 17 states and the District of Columbia, according to the statement."

That’s right. What a plan! Do you have too much mortgage debt? Heck, the feds will lend you more money!"

JR Nyquist, "Standing Up When It’s Too Late"

"Standing Up When It’s Too Late"
By JR Nyquist

"This article is a comparison between America and another great empire faced with rot in high office and a decline of the state—Rome. The writer, JR Nyquist, artfully points out it’s not the big events that sink an empire but many seemingly little ones. You could call what is happening to the U.S. “death by a thousand cuts.” Except in this story, people are not really aware how deep the cuts are and exactly who is doing the cutting. I loved this piece, and I hope you do as well." - Greg Hunter
"There is a letter by Marcus Tullius Cicero, dated 18 December 50 B.C. This letter was written to his friend Atticus on the eve of the Roman Civil War. He wrote as follows: “The political situation alarms me deeply, and so far I have found scarcely anybody who is not for giving Caesar what he demands rather than fighting it out.” To explain the situation in brief, G. Julius Caesar had demanded the right to circumvent the Roman constitution, to break laws with impunity, to extend his command over a large army by using that army to threaten the Senate of Rome. “And why should we start standing up to him now?” asked Cicero. The next day he wrote to Atticus: “We should have stood up to him [Caesar] when he was weak, and that would have been easy. Now we have to deal with eleven legions….” Though he hated the idea of civil war, the only course, said Cicero, was to follow “the honest men or whoever may be called such, even if they plunge.”

And who were these “honest men”? “I don’t know of any,” wrote Cicero in the same letter. “There are honest individuals, but [there are no honest groups].” Then he asked rhetorically if the Senate was honest, or the tax farmers, or the capitalists. None were frightened of living under an autocracy, he lamented. The capitalists, especially, “never have objected to that, so long as they were left in peace.” But civil war occurred nonetheless, because people are not free to be dishonest forever. They must admit to certain responsibilities, and oppose the advance of evil. The previous inclination to look away, to do nothing, to shrug off responsibility, proves in the end to be no more than a delaying tactic. They attempted to put off calamity, Cicero suggested, and made it all the more calamitous. That is all.

Why did the Roman Senate suddenly stand up to Caesar? What triggered their resistance? As with all free people, they began with policies of procrastination and appeasement. They hoped that the problem (i.e., Caesar) would go away. In the end, however, they discovered their mistake. Everyone still hoped for peace, though none believed it was possible. Everyone wanted to avoid war, but nobody saw a way out. Pompey stood before the Senate and gave voice to what everyone thought. “If we give Caesar the consulship, it will mean the subversion of the constitution.” In other words, it would mean the end of Rome, the end of the republic, the destruction of their country.

In a fitting preface to John Dickinson’s Death of a Republic, George L. Haskins wrote, “that the history of Rome is … the history of the world, that, as all roads lead to Rome, so all history ends or begins with Rome.” Why do free people fall into complacency? Why are threats ignored until the eleventh hour?

“Surely,” wrote Cicero at the end of Caesar’s dictatorship, “our present sufferings are all too well deserved. For had we not allowed outrages to go unpunished on all sides, it would never have been possible for a single individual to seize tyrannical power.” Caesar’s cause was not right, but evil, Cicero explained. “Mere confiscations of the property of individual citizens were far from enough to satisfy him. Whole provinces and countries succumbed to his onslaught, in one comprehensive universal catastrophe…” As for the city of Rome, Cicero lamented, “nothing is left — only the lifeless walls of houses. And even they look afraid that some further terrifying attack may be imminent. The real Rome is gone forever.”

Republics are slow to defend themselves against enemies that advance, like Caesar, under camouflage. But make no mistake, republics always defend. Groups and categories of men may not be honest or brave, but when they are finally confronted with the truth — as individuals — they see no other course. They stand up and fight. We should not be surprised, therefore, that Caesar was struck down in the Senate and killed by thrusting daggers.

It is all too true, of course. “We should have stood up to him when he was weak,” Cicero lamented. The problem with republican government is its tardiness; or rather, tardiness in the face of danger. As Machiavelli wrote, "The institutions normally used by republics are slow in functioning. No assembly or magistrate can do everything alone. In many cases, they have to consult with one another, and to reconcile their diverse views takes time. Where there is a question of remedying a situation that will not brook delay, such a procedure is dangerous."

Machiavelli concluded, therefore, “that republics in imminent danger, having no recourse to dictatorship … will always be ruined when some grave misfortune befalls them.” This is the weakness of republican government. Here is the ground on which it dies. An obvious threat, like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor is not the greatest danger. It is the subtle, camouflaged threat, that creeps up from behind. It is this camouflage that gives reluctant men a way out. “We need not fight. We need not make a fuss. There is nothing to fear.”

When this is the prevailing view, people who understand a given threat may ask: “What is to be done?” As long as we are isolated individuals, there is nothing to do. The individual may be honest with himself, but groups are not honest. What prevails overall is an optimistic dismissal. “The threat isn’t real.” This is how Hitler got so far. This is how Communism took over so many countries, and continues today under camouflage. There is nothing the individual can do that will sway the crowd. And as we are a republic, our political system operates according to the psychology of a crowd. The majority are caught up in the fads and media trends of the moment. Cynical and empty publicity characterizes much of our public discourse.

Are the Russians and Chinese arming themselves against us? Is Venezuela becoming a military bulwark for Communism in Latin America? Is Mexico being destabilized by the Russian mafia (via the Mexican mafia)? Has Canada been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence allied with Chinese organized crime? Are socialist revolutionaries inside the U.S. government subverting the nation’s nuclear deterrent, foreign policy, and border security? The crowd says “no” because that is what they want to believe. But one day the country will awaken. Then, and only then, Americans will stop going along as if nothing serious hangs over them. Will it be too late? Perhaps it will be too late to save the republic. But it will not be too late to save the country."

Ambrose Bierce

"All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher."
- Ambrose Bierce

Desperate Times: "Pay Up: Philadelphia Now Taxing Bloggers"

"Pay Up: Philadelphia Now Taxing Bloggers"
by Valerie Rubinsky

"For the past three years, Marilyn Bess has operated MS Philly Organic, a small, low-traffic blog that features occasional posts about green living, out of her Manayunk home. Between her blog and infrequent contributions to, over the last few years she says she's made about $50. To Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it's a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut. In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license. "The real kick in the pants is that I don't even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous," Bess says.

It would be one thing if Bess' website were, well, an actual business, or if the amount of money the city wanted didn't outpace her earnings six-fold. Sure, the city has its rules; and yes, cash-strapped cities can't very well ignore potential sources of income. But at the same time, there must be some room for discretion and common sense. When Bess pressed her case to officials with the city's now-closed tax amnesty program, she says, "I was told to hire an accountant."

She's not alone. After dutifully reporting even the smallest profits on their tax filings this year, a number — though no one knows exactly what that number is — of Philadelphia bloggers were dispatched letters informing them that they owe $300 for a privilege license, plus taxes on any profits they made. Even if, as with Sean Barry, that profit is $11 over two years. Barry's music-oriented blog, Circle of Fits, is hosted on Blogspot; as of this writing, its home page has two ads on it, but because he gets only a fraction of the already low ad revenue — the rest goes to Blogspot — it's far from lucrative. "Personally, I don't think Circle of Fits is a business," says Barry. "It might be someday if I start selling coffee mugs, key chains or locks of my hair to my fans. I don't think blogs should be taxed unless they are making an immense profit."

The city disagrees. Even though small-time bloggers aren't exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any "activity for profit," says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies "whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year," he adds. So even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there's the potential for it to be lucrative — and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising — the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business. The same rules apply to freelance writers. As former City Paper news editor Doron Taussig once lamented, the city considers freelancers — which both Bess and Barry are, in addition to their blog work — "businesses," and requires them to pay for a license and pay taxes on their profits, on top of their state and federal taxes.

Mannino says the city doesn't keep track of how many bloggers and small-website owners are affected. But bloggers aren't the only ones upset with the city's tax structure. In June, City Council members Bill Green and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez unveiled a proposal to reform the city's business privilege tax in an effort to make Philly a more attractive place for small businesses. If their bill passes, bloggers will still have to get a privilege license if their sites are designed to make money, but they would no longer have to pay taxes on their first $100,000 in profit. (If bloggers don't want to fork over $300 for a lifetime license, Green suggests they take the city's $50-a-year plan.) Their bill will be officially introduced in September. "There's a lot of support and interest in this idea," Green says.

Perhaps, but it doesn't change the fact that the city wants some people to pay more in taxes than they earn. "I definitely don't want to see people paying more in taxes and fees than what [we] earn," says Bess. "But I do think the city needs to establish a minimal amount of money that they won't tax, whether you're a bike messenger, microblogger or a freelance typist."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FREE Download": William Butler Yeats, 427 Poems

"The Second Coming"

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

- William Butler Yeats, January 1919

Biography: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, dramatist and prose writer, one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. Yeats received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. William Butler Yeats was born on June 13, 1865 in Dublin. His father was a lawyer turned Pre-Raphaelite painter. In 1867 the family followed him to London and settled in Bedford Park. In 1881 they returned to Dublin, where Yeats studied at the Metropolitan School of Art. Reincarnation, communication with the dead, mediums, supernatural systems and Oriental mysticism fascinated Yeats through his life. In 1886 Yeats formed the Dublin Lodge of the Hermetic Society.

As a writer Yeats made his debut in 1885, when he published his first poems in The Dublin University Review. In 1887 the family returned to Bedford Park, and Yeats devoted himself to writing. He visited Mme Blavatsky, the famous occultist, and joined the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society, but was later asked to resign. In 1889 Yeats met his great love, Maud Gonne (1866-1953), an actress and Irish revolutionary who became a major landmark in his life and imagination. However, she married in 1903 Major John MacBride, and this episode inspired Yeats's poem "No Second Troy".

Yeats was interested in folktales as a part of an exploration of national heritage and for the revival of Celtic identity. His study with George Russell and Douglas Hyde of Irish legends and tales was published in 1888 under the title "Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry." Yeats assembled for children a less detailed version, "Irish Fairy Tales," which appeared in 1892. "The Wanderings Of Oisin And Other Poems" (1889), took its subject from Irish mythology.

In 1896 Yeats returned to live permanently in his home country. He reformed the Irish Literary Society, and then the National Literary Society in Dublin, which aimed to promote the New Irish Library. In 1897 he met Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory, with whom he founded the Irish Literary Theatre. Yeats worked as a director of the theatre to the end of his life, writing several plays for it. His most famous dramas were "Cathleen Ni Houlihan" (1902) and "The Land Of Heart's Desire" (1894).

In early 1917 Yeats bought Thoor Ballyle, a derelict Norman stone tower near Coole Park. After restoring it, the tower became his summer home and a central symbol in his later poetry. In 1917 he married Georgie Hyde-Lee. During their honeymoon Yeats's wife demonstrated her gift for automatic writing. Their collaborative notebooks formed the basis of "A Vision" (1925), a book of marriage therapy spiced with occultism. In 1932 Yeats founded the Irish Academy of Letters and in 1933 he was briefly involved with the fascist Blueshirts in Dublin. In his final years Yeats worked on the last version of "A Vision," which attempted to present a theory of the variation of human personality, and published "The Oxford Book Of Verse" (1936) and "New Poems" (1938). Yeats died on January 28, 1939 at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour, in Menton, France."
FREE download, in PDF format, of 427 poems by William Butler Yeats is here:

"The Rules"

"The rules may be stupid, irritating and arbitrary,
but God help you if you break them."

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Far beyond the local group of galaxies lies NGC 3621, some 22 million light-years away. Found in the multi-headed southern constellation Hydra, the winding spiral arms of this gorgeous island universe are loaded with luminous young star clusters and dark dust lanes. Still, for earthbound astronomers NGC 3621 is not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy.

Click image for larger size.

Some of its brighter stars have been used as standard candles to establish important estimates of extragalactic distances and the scale of the Universe. This beautiful image of NGC 3621 traces the loose spiral arms far from the galaxy's brighter central regions that span some 100,000 light-years. Spiky foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy and even more distant background galaxies are scattered across the colorful skyscape."

Nutrition: "Berries May Activate Brain's 'Housekeeper' Mechanism"

"Berries May Activate Brain's 'Housekeeper' Mechanism"
by ScienceDaily

"Scientists have reported the first evidence that eating blueberries, strawberries, and acai berries may help the aging brain stay healthy in a crucial but previously unrecognized way. Their study, presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), concluded that berries, and possibly walnuts, activate the brain's natural "housekeeper" mechanism, which cleans up and recycles toxic proteins linked to age-related memory loss and other mental decline.

Shibu Poulose, Ph.D., who presented the report, said previous research suggested that one factor involved in aging is a steady decline in the body's ability to protect itself against inflammation and oxidative damage. This leaves people vulnerable to degenerative brain diseases, heart disease, cancer, and other age-related disorders. "The good news is that natural compounds called polyphenolics found in fruits, vegetables and nuts have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect that may protect against age-associated decline," said Poulose, who is with the U. S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston. Poulose did the research with James Joseph, Ph.D., who died June 1. Joseph, who headed the laboratory, pioneered research on the role of antioxidants in fruits and nuts in preventing age-related cognitive decline. Their past studies, for instance, showed that old laboratory rats fed for two months on diets containing 2 percent high-antioxidant strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry extract showed a reversal of age-related deficits in nerve function and behavior that involves learning and remembering.

In the new research, Poulose and Joseph focused on another reason why nerve function declines with aging. It involves a reduction in the brain's natural house-cleaning process. Cells called microglia are the housekeepers. In a process called autophagy, they remove and recycle biochemical debris that otherwise would interfere with brain function. "But in aging, microglia fail to do their work, and debris builds up," Poulose explained. "In addition, the microglia become over-activated and actually begin to damage healthy cells in the brain. Our research suggests that the polyphenolics in berries have a rescuing effect. They seem to restore the normal housekeeping function. These findings are the first to show these effects of berries."

The findings emerged from research in which Joseph and Poulose have tried to detail factors involved in the aging brain's loss of normal housekeeping activity. Using cultures of mouse brain cells, they found that extracts of berries inhibited the action of a protein that shuts down the autophagy process. Poulose said the study provides further evidence to eat foods rich in polyphenolics. Although berries and walnuts are rich sources, many other fruits and vegetables contain these chemicals ― especially those with deep red, orange, or blue colors. Those colors come from pigments termed anthocyanins that are good antioxidants. He emphasized the importance of consuming the whole fruit, which contains the full range of hundreds of healthful chemicals. Frozen berries, which are available year round, also are excellent sources of polyphenolics, he added."