Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Musical Interlude: Logos, “Cheminement”

Logos, “Cheminement”

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

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

"A Look to the Heavens"

“This wide, sharp telescopic view reveals galaxies scattered beyond the stars and faint dust nebulae of the Milky Way at the northern boundary of the high-flying constellation Pegasus. Prominent at the upper right is NGC 7331. 
Click image for larger size.
A mere 50 million light-years away, the large spiral is one of the brighter galaxies not included in Charles Messier's famous 18th century catalog. The disturbed looking group of galaxies at the lower left is well-known as Stephan's Quintet. About 300 million light-years distant, the quintet dramatically illustrates a multiple galaxy collision, its powerful, ongoing interactions posed for a brief cosmic snapshot. On the sky, the quintet and NGC 7331 are separated by about half a degree.”

Free Download: Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to a Young Poet”

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act,
 just once, with beauty and courage.
 Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, 
something helpless that wants our love.”

Freely download “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke here:

Chet Raymo, “The Restless Heart”

“The Restless Heart”
by Chet Raymo

“In ‘Letters to a Young Poet’, Rainer Maria Rilke writes: "We should try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue." To which I would add, let us trust the gifts that nature has given us- curiosity, attention, reason- and if our personal lives are destined for oblivion, then know that we have made of ordinary things something grander and more enduring. We are the transformers. We are bestowers of praise. "Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them," Rilke advises the restless young poet, echoing the great Catholic mystics: "And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." 

Is it enough? In the long history of humanity, no hope has been so enduring as personal immortality. At every time and in every place men and women have assumed they will live forever. It is our solace, our balm for the restless heart. Even Neanderthals, it seems, placed flowers in the graves of their dead, presumably to grace the afterlife.

But the lesson of modern biology is clear: Death is final. Do we lapse then into morbidity? Do we rage, rage against the dying of the light? We have art. We have science. Even a rhyme can thumb its nose at death, says Seamus Heaney. We can each of us try to live our lives as poetry, to add to the world an element of graciousness that is not strictly necessary, to leave behind a spoor of rhymes that marks our passage on the Earth. 

Yes, the spirit is flesh, but the spirit is more than flesh. The spirit is flesh in interaction with a universe of almost unimaginable grandeur and complexity. The windows of the flesh are thrown open to the world. The spirit is a wind of awareness, a pool stirred by angels."

Some part of the spirit will linger after the flesh is gone, as memories in other flesh, as words, music, science, rhymes- as a world nudged slightly in its pell-mell course towards good or bad. But the self is mortal: This is the existential fact that agitates the restless heart. "We are biological and our souls cannot fly free," writes Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, summarizing what science has taught us about ourselves. He adds: "This is the essential first hypothesis for any consideration of the human condition.”

The Daily "Near You?"

 Horton, Michigan, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"The Cry Of Their Mothers..."

"Humanity is the spirit of the Supreme Being on earth, and that humanity is standing amidst ruins, hiding its nakedness behind tattered rags, shedding tears upon hollow cheeks, and calling for its children with pitiful voice. But the children are busy singing their clan's anthem; they are busy sharpening the swords and cannot hear the cry of their mothers."
- Kahlil Gibran

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman HM1 Richard Barnett, assigned to the 1st Marine Division, holds an Iraqi child in central Iraq in this March 29, 2003 file photo. Confused front line crossfire ripped apart an Iraqi family after local soldiers appeared to force civilians towards positions held by U.S. Marines.

“My heart broke on its shame and sorrow. I suddenly knew how much crying there was in me, and how little love. I knew, at last, how lonely I was. But I couldn’t respond. My culture had taught me all the wrong things well. So I lay completely still, and gave no reaction at all. But the soul has no culture. The soul has no nations. The soul has no color or accent or way of life. The soul is forever. The soul is one. And when the heart has its moment of truth and sorrow, the soul can’t be stilled. I clenched my teeth against the stars. I closed my eyes. I surrendered to sleep. One of the reasons why we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you.”
- Gregory David Roberts, "Shantaram"

“A Middle East Holocaust”

“A Middle East Holocaust”
By Paul Craig Roberts

“I have been around for a long time and have experienced more than most. The current situation in my experience is the most dangerous time of all for humanity. Nuclear weapons are no longer restrained by the Cold War MAD doctrine. Washington has released them into pre-emptive first strike form. The targets of these pre-emptive strikes- Russia and China- know it, because Washington proudly proclaims its immorality in public documents describing its war doctrine. The result is to maximize the chance of nuclear war. If you were Russia and China, and you knew that Washington had a war doctrine that permits a surprise nuclear attack, would you sit there waiting while Washington cranks up its anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda machine, demonizing both countries as a threat to "freedom and democracy"?

The fools in Washington are playing with nuclear fire. Noam Chomsky points out that in a less dangerous time than currently exists, we came very close to nuclear war.

Harold Pinter, one of the last Western intellects, understood the danger in Western arrogance. He denounced the West's crimes and called for the crimes to be subject to established law before it is too late for humanity. In his 2005 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, he said, "We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East.' How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice." Also, an "Iraqi Holocaust" by Gideon Polya and "Genocide In Iraq" by Abdul-Haq Al-Ani and Tarik Al-Ani provide abundant evidence for convicting Bush and Blair.

Dr. Gideon Polya is a professor of science in one of Australia's leading universities. He has a moral conscience, something increasingly rare in the Western world. His articles are based largely on the just published by Clarity Press two-volume heavily documented Genocide in Iraq. Abdul-Haq Al-Ani is a British-educated lawyer with a Ph.D. in International Law and a Ph.D. in electronics engineering. Tarik Al-Ani, is an architect, translator, and researcher.

Currently I am reading the two-volume work and intend to review it. But Professor Polya's articles suffice as an introduction to Genocide in Iraq. Washington has committed a terrible crime in our name. Washington not only murdered Iraq, Washington has murdered the Middle East. Washington and its despicable vassals- "the Coalition of the Willing"- are responsible for a Middle East Holocaust.

For people in the Anglo-American world who have a moral conscience, the facts are soul-wrenching. The populations of the countries whose governments comprised "the Coalition of the Willing" are contaminated with war crimes committed by their governments in the Iraq Genocide. A progressive modern state was obliterated, and 2.7 million Iraqi people were murdered. The crime was covered up with propaganda that demonized Saddam Hussein and created fear of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqi genocide was based on a lie, and both Bush and Blair knew it. The two satanic leaders simply decided to destroy a people who they first demonized and marginalized. Dick Cheney and the neocons continue to justify the genocide and the illegal torture regime that they created in order to produce fake "terrorists" as a justification for their war crimes. The Western media, especially the New York Times, is also complicit in the Iraqi Genocide, as are the insouciant Western peoples themselves who stood by cheering while millions of people were destroyed on the basis of a blatant and transparent lie.

What does the West represent? Greed? Lies? War? Torture? War Crimes? Selfishness, Intolerance? Destruction of life on earth?

The "Christian" West is a master at propaganda and self-deception. Look at the evangelical churches. They support a criminal, inhumane regime while professing to be followers of Christ.

Look at American "conservatives." They support the militarized police state. They support the routine police murders of dark-skinned American citizens. They support every war Washington dreams up and even more. Indeed, there are not enough wars for the satisfaction of Congressional Republicans who now want war with Russia and with Iran.

Look at the Republicans in Congress and in state governments. They hate the environment. They love polluters. They worship Israel and Israel's destruction of the Palestinians and the ongoing theft of the Palestinians' country, a 60-year old activity. Just look at the map of shrinking Palestine. More is stolen each day. Washington has supported this theft of an entire country. Yet, Washington is able to masquerade as a great defender of human rights. Whose rights? Washington's and Israel's. No one else's rights count.

How does the world survive the American-Israeli aggression? Probably it will not. The evil is now directed at Iran, Russia, and China. These countries cannot be bombed year after year after year with no consequences to the bombers. Iran is limited in its destructive ability. But Iran could destroy Saudi Arabia and Israel. Russia and China can destroy the US and all of Washington's vassal states. The intensity of Washington's propaganda war is driving the world to destruction.

How can it be stopped when Putin himself says over and over that Washington continually ignores everything that the Russian government says. Putin is the peacemaker. Every peace proposal he brings is ignored by Washington whose response is to beat the drums of war louder.

Unless European governments recognize the danger in Washington's aggression and dissolve NATO, planet earth hasn't long to live.

The American public needs to understand the consequences of Washington's illegality and criminality. On the one hand it means that those subject to Washington's aggression have to endure war crimes, but on the other hand it means a growing hatred for America. As Washington's easy targets are used up, Washington engages countries that can reply to force with force.

Unless the neoconservatives are ejected from the Obama regime and banned from inclusion in any future American government, mushroom clouds will go up over Washington, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Cleveland, Chicago. The American mid-west, which hosts the ICBM silos, will become uninhabitable except by cockroaches.

Americans, and the populations of the American puppet states, desperately need to understand that Washington is incapable of speaking the truth about anything. Washington is an evil force. Washington is Sauron. Washington is Satan. Look at Iraq. Look at Afghanistan. Look at Libya. Look at Syria. Look at Somalia. Look at Ukraine. Nothing but destruction comes from Washington. Will life on earth be Washington's next victim?

"How It Really Is"

Business as usual. Nothing to see here, move along...

The Economy: “Why The Mania Is Getting Scary - Central Bankers Are Running A Doomsday Machine”

“Why The Mania Is Getting Scary- 
Central Bankers Are Running A Doomsday Machine”
by David Stockman

"I didn't say it would be easy. I just said it would be the truth."
- "Morpheus"

“If you need evidence that we are in the midst of a lunatic financial mania, just consider this summary from a Marketwatch commentator as to why markets are ripping higher this morning: “The dovish comments from both Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan are giving markets a big lift, and in the absence of negative data or news, I imagine this will continue to buoy the markets throughout the session,” Erlam said in emailed comments. Yellen said gradual hikes are likely this year, but that the central bank will move cautiously. The PBOC governor said he saw “more room” for China to ease policy if the economy stays soft and inflation continues to weaken.

Its just that frightfully simple. If any of the major central banks anywhere on the planet ease or even hint they might, the robo machines and day traders unleash an avalanche of buy orders and the stock averages jerk higher.

Indeed, Zero Hedge captured the motion succinctly this AM. In keeping with Bernanke’s inaugural blog revelation that 98% of monetary policy consists of “open mouth” operations, the markets leapt upwards on cue. That is, if central banker jaws are flapping, then buy!

What this means is that this third immense financial bubble of the current century will keep inflating until central bankers stop banging the “stimulus” lever or the bubble finally crashes under its own weight. The latter will surely happen, eventually- and the potential carnage can be readily approximated.

Last time, global equity market inflated to a peak of $60 trillion in aggregate value before they plunged to barely $25 trillion during the post-Lehman meltdown. Now they have been pumped back to the $80 trillion mark by the sheer recklessness of the world’s central bankers, but this time the underlying economic advance has been even more artificial and unsustainable; it amounts to little more than a temporary outgrowth of the explosion in public and private credit since late 2008. At the same time, the bubble has been spread to virtually the entirety of the world’s $200 trillion credit market owing to the nearly universal embrace of massive central bank bond-buying under QE.

Yet do the central bankers have even the foggiest clue that they are sitting on a potential $50-$100 trillion financial market implosion? That the mother of all meltdowns lurks around the corner? Not these boneheads. They have ripped all the stabilization circuitry out of financial markets, thereby completely disabling honest price discovery. That means they have destroyed the shorts, extinguished fear, obsoleted fundamental analysis, drastically cheapened the cost of hedging and offered speculators unlimited opportunities to shoot fish in a barrel by front-running their announced bond buying and currency manipulation campaigns. In short, they have showered speculators with stupendous windfalls, displacing self-correcting two-way financial markets with rigged gambling casinos in the process.

The immense damage visited upon the machinery of financial markets is sitting there in plain sight. The endless six-year buy-the-dips run of the S&P 500 since March 2009, for example, would be impossible in an honest free market. So why do they ignore the dangers, and stubbornly plow forward clutching to ZIRP, N-ZIRP, QE, forward guidance and all the other tools of central bank stimulus?

The utterances of the duo who kicked off today’s rip make absolutely clear why the central bankers will never stop stimulating. They have embraced a spurious “inflation deficiency” doctrine, and have thereby, in effect, lashed themselves to the wheel of a doomsday machine.

To wit, massive central bank financial repression is the actual cause of deflation. In the boom phase of the expansion it leads to unsustainable public and private borrowing which finances artificial spending by households and governments and excess investment in private mining, processing, manufacturing, transportation and distribution capacity, as well as public infrastructure. Then eventually comes the crack-up phase when the borrowing ends or diminishes, causing cascading reductions in output, prices, profits and incomes throughout the economic chain.

Thus, Governor Zhou Xiaochuan’s threat to unleash more stimulus owing to the specter of “deflation” in China borders on the comical. The very deflation about which he frets was caused by the runaway money printing campaigns of the PBOC over the last several decades- campaigns which produced monumental price and credit inflation in China, and which were then transmitted and amplified throughout the world economy, and especially China’s supply base in the EM

In the process, the latter caused massive overinvestment and malinvestment in private industry and public infrastructure alike. The “deflation” that Zhou professes to fear is thus the result of price cutting by companies battered by too much debt and too little business, and the inexorable cooling of artificial demand for the materials and services needed to build empty apartments, malls and cities and hideously redundant highways, airports, subways and bridges.

Indeed, the PBOC is threatening to chase its own tail. If China’s traditional high level of consumer inflation is abating, its because of the drastic cooling of the oil-energy complex and the iron ore-metals complex– trends which, in turn, originate in the sharp and unavoidable slowing of China’s construction and investment mania.

Iron Ore Spot Price (Any Origin) Chart

So there you have it. The People’s Printing Press of China has been running red hot for more than two decades, and has fueled the most fantastic credit bubble in human history. Total credit market debt outstanding in China at the turn of the century was $2 trillion; now its 14X higher at $28 trillion. Even more fantastically, China’s nominal GDP has barely doubled- from $5 trillion to $10 trillion since the 2007. Yet its credit market debt- public and private combined- has increased by $21 trillion, or by 4X the gain in money GDP.

This is downright monetary insanity, but in response to modest cooling of its construction frenzy, its chief central banker could think of only one thing: moar ease!  Apparently, a 7X increase in PBOC’s balance sheet since the turn of the century is not enough– even when it only adds fuel to the deflationary fires. Needless to say, during the past year the signs that China’s house of cards is tottering have become omnipresent. So this is where the doomsday machine comes front and center. China’s credit addicted financial system has just channeled the central bank’s liquidity injections to the stock market in response to Beijing’s attempts to administratively rein-in shadow banking system excesses, and particularly, the so-called “trust loans” to developers and commodity speculators.

Accordingly, the Shanghai A Shares index is up 81 % in the last nine months fueled by margin loans and an explosion of retail stock market speculation. Never has there been a more pathetic march of the lemmings toward their doom.

Janet Yellen’s pronouncements last Friday were no more sensible. Rhetorically waving her arms at the bogeyman of too little inflation, she proclaimed the following: "That said, we must be reasonably confident at the time of the first rate increase that inflation will move up over time to our 2 percent objective, and that such an action will not impede continued solid growth in employment and output."

That is sheer gibberish and rationalization. There is not an iota of evidence that 2% inflation will cause any more growth in output and employment than will 1.6% inflation– the actual rate of PCE deflator less food and energy increases since 2007. Worse still, there is absolutely no chance that “open mouth” policy at the Eccles Building will have any impact on what amount to downright trivial short-term wiggles in the measured CPI.

Indeed, the very idea that the US economy is suffering from insufficient inflation is a Keynesian canard that defies empirical reality and common sense. As we demonstrated last week, the rate of real GDP growth has slowed to 1.7% since the turn of the century and 1.1% since the pre-crisis peak. That is, to less than one-third of its historic growth rate. And that’s despite a 9X increase in the Fed’s balance sheet—-from $500 billion to $4.5 trillion during the last 15 years- and far more inflation than main street households could reasonably tolerate, given the tepid rate of wage growth during that period. And it doesn’t matter how you measure it. Inflation has been high on a cumulative basis, and the median household income has been going in the wrong direction.

CPI and PCE Ex Food and Energy Since 1987- Click to enlarge

In short, the US economy has not suffered from an “inflation deficiency”. As shown above, the price level has actually doubled since the era of monetary central planning incepted under Greenspan in 1987. Likewise, there is no shortage of “aggregate demand” that can be remedied by continued “monetary accommodation”. The welcome, modest abatement of consumer price inflation in recent months reflects the epochal deflation now underway around the planet- the inexorable correction of the monetary boom that has been fueled by central banks since the 1990s.

By insisting that monetary accommodation can fill-up an imaginary bathtub called the US economy until it reaches the brim of full employment and precisely 2.000% change in the PCE deflator over some arbitrary time frame that remains forever undefined, the Fed is engaging in an act of monumental folly. And one which is now being replicated even more egregiously by the rest of the world’s convoy of money printing central banks.

That’s the equivalent of a doomsday machine. The central banks will ease and talk of easing until the third great bubble of this century reaches brobdingnagian extremes. Then the carnage will commence. Again.”

The Economy: “Don’t Fall for the ‘Recovery’ Myth”

“Don’t Fall for the ‘Recovery’ Myth”
by Bill Bonner

Gualfin (“End of the Road”), Argentina - “An economy is like an ecosystem. It is not the result of central planning; it evolves in ways the planners cannot even imagine. What central planner would have imagined Instagram, Snapchat or Uber? And what planner would have put an exotic pink bird in the middle of a moon-like landscape… with only a strange tiny bug for food? (See below for more on that.) 

Yesterday, US stocks came back strong. Investors bought the dip… as they always do these days. The Dow shot up 263 points, or 1.5%. Gold tumbled $6 to $1,179 an ounce.  “Buying the dip” has been a very good investment approach for a very long time. It will continue to be a great way to invest, we predict, until it is a disaster. When that will be… we can’t say.

How to Grow Rich: In the meantime, we note that the US economy is still struggling. Never in the last 60 years have we had such a weak run of GDP figures. And it looks like this funk is here to stay. The US economy depends on consumer spending. And consumers ain’t spending. Here’s Bloomberg: "A booming job market (WHAT?!!!! - CP) and cheaper fill-ups at the gas pump should be giving millions of Americans more reasons to spend. Instead, they’re salting away the extra savings. The saving rate jumped in February to 5.8%, the highest since December 2012 and up from 4.4% just three months earlier, government data showed Monday." 

The rest of the Bloomberg report repeats the usual nonsense. Spending growth is “woefully weak as disposable incomes rise.” Woefully? You know better, dear reader: There’s nothing woeful about saving money. Spending doesn’t make you wealthier. Saving and investing do. Spending is not woefully weak; saving is gloriously, wonderfully, happily strong. Americans are saving more – despite the authorities’ efforts to stop them. The Fed evaporates interest payments on savings. It threatens higher levels of inflation. It offers the cheapest credit in history. And still consumers resist. 

Why? They know that solvency matters. Household finance is not just a matter of liquidity. Besides, they also know that the economy is not nearly as strong as the feds say it is. The first quarter, for example, showed the worst retail sales and corporate profits since 2009. Wall Street may be on a tear. But most people are struggling to make any forward progress at all. They sense, correctly, that they will need more than just the feds’ easy credit in the coming months; they will need real savings.

Stuck in the Sand: More about our trip to la puna – the high-altitude zone of northern Argentina near the border with Chile. Even with four-wheel drive, it is easy to get stuck in the sand. The wheels turn. You go lower until the body carriage rests on the sand and the tires spin. 

No signs of life anywhere high in the Andes. 

We carry a shovel in the back of the truck; you never know when you might need it. When the truck sank into a soft spot on Saturday, we thought we might have to spend a long time digging it out. Luckily, we were close enough to hard ground that we were able to get out fairly quickly and get back under way. Then we drove around on the valley floor admiring the many strange and striking things nature had prepared. 

A natural forest of stone pillars

There was no plant life, except in a few spots where it looked as though water had collected, perhaps temporarily. There were a few clumps of grass – like the pampas grasses you find at lower altitudes – mostly dried and yellowed.

Poisonous Waters: After lunch, we drove up toward the mountains. The landscape changed quickly. First, we passed over hills covered with small stones and a dried-out bush that looked as though it might come to life only once every few years after a freak rainstorm. Some of these bushes were black; others were white – about the size and shape of small rhododendrons but without leaves. Higher up, there were valleys with a tiny bit of yellow grass and herds of vicuña. 

These animals are a protected species in Argentina. They are the size of a small deer with long, narrow necks and small heads. Like guanaco and llamas, they are members of the camel family, with gaits more like camels than deer. “They have two layers of wool,” our guide, Luis, explained. “The inner layer is very fine. It keeps them warm. It gets down to minus 20 or minus 30 degrees Celsius here. The outer layer of hair protects the inner layer.” 

We kept going up, over rocky trails, for about two hours. Then we came to a series of lakes. The wind blew hard. There was not a blade of grass anywhere. Mountain peaks, some snow-covered, surrounded the lakes. Astonishingly, for the place was so inhospitable to life, the lakes were home to thousands of pink flamingos, standing in the shallow water. “Don’t touch the water,” Luis warned. “It has high levels of arsenic. The arsenic doesn’t bother the birds. They must be adapted to it.” 

What are they doing here? What do they eat? Why are they standing in this freezing, poisonous puddle hundreds of miles from anything that seems remotely appealing? we wondered. “This just goes to show what a remarkable level of adaptation and specialization natural selection can achieve,” Luis replied, sounding like a professor of natural history. “There is only one animal in the lake – a tiny form of algae. The flamingos have evolved to come here, wade in the water and eat it. When they get enough strength and fat on their bodies, they fly away for the winter. They go down to Córdoba in central Argentina. The old ones, though, can’t make the flight. They stay all year round.” 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Musical Interlude: 2002, “Sea of Dreams”

2002, “Sea of Dreams”
- https://www.youtube.com/

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Magnificent island universe NGC 2403 stands within the boundaries of the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis. Some 10 million light-years distant and about 50,000 light-years across, the spiral galaxy also seems to have more than its fair share of giant star forming HII regions, marked by the telltale reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas. The giant HII regions are energized by clusters of hot, massive stars that explode as bright supernovae at the end of their short and furious lives. 
Click image for larger size.
A member of the M81 group of galaxies, NGC 2403 closely resembles another galaxy with an abundance of star forming regions that lies within our own local galaxy group, M33 the Triangulum Galaxy. Spiky in appearance, bright stars in this colorful galaxy portrait of NGC 2403 lie in the foreground, within our own Milky Way.”

“At Home In An Infinite Universe”

“At Home In An Infinite Universe”
by Chet Raymo

“They are questions that bedeviled thinkers for thousands of years: Is the universe infinite or finite, eternal or of a finite age?  It is certainly hard to imagine a universe that extends without limit in every direction, or a universe without a beginning or end. It is equally difficult to imagine a finite universe; what is beyond the edge? Or a beginning or end in time; how can something come from nothing? how can what is cease to be?

The problems are so intractable philosophically that their resolution has generally been left to the theologians, which from a philosophical (or scientific) perspective offers no solution at all. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for proposing a philosophical resolution (an infinite universe) that offended theology.

An escape from befuddlement is provided by Einstein's theory of general relativity, which- for example- can describe a finite universe without a boundary, as the "two-dimensional" surface of a sphere is finite and without an edge. Unfortunately, multi-dimensional curved space-time is so counterintuitive that it is difficult to get one's head around it without mastery of the mathematics. Given a choice between the ancient myths of your local preacher and the obtuse mathematics of the physics professor, it's not hard to guess what most folks will opt for.

I have just received for review a new book by physics professor Chad Orzel called “How To Teach Relativity To Your Dog.” It's a fun romp, and clever pedagogy, but I can't imagine it making the best seller list, much less displacing "Heaven Is For Real." 

Meanwhile, I'm reading a meditation on infinity by physics professor Anthony Aguirre, in a collection of essays called Future Science. He discusses contemporary cosmological theories based on general relativity, and in particular the rehabilitation of the idea of an infinite and eternal universe, or, more precisely, that our universe might be just one of an infinity of infinite universes. He writes in conclusion: “What seems clear, however, is that infinity can no longer be safely ignored; beautifully constructed, empirically supported, self-consistent theories have brought infinity from idle curiosity to central player in contemporary cosmology. And if correct, the worldview these theories represent constitutes a perspective shift unlike any other: in comparison to the universe, we would be not just small but strictly zero. Well, I can't imagine many folks racing to embrace that conclusion.

Oh, but wait. Aguirre adds one final sentence: "Yet here we are, contemplating- if not quite understanding- it all.”

 Vangelis, “Cosmos: A Tour of the Universe”

"Just Where You Begin Again..."

"When we're headed toward an outcome that's too horrible to face, that's when we go looking for a second opinion. And sometimes, the answer we get just confirms our worst fears. But sometimes, it can shed new light on the problem, make you see it in a whole new way. After all the opinions have been heard and every point of view has been considered, you finally find what you're after - the truth. But the truth isn't where it ends, that's just where you begin again with a whole new set of questions."
 - "Meredith", "Grey's Anatomy" 

"How The Completely Demented Right Wingnuts Would Like It To Be"

"We Must Ask Ourselves..."

''As Americans, we must ask ourselves: Are we really so different? Must we stereotype those who disagree with us? Do we truly believe that ALL red-state residents are ignorant racist fascist knuckle-dragging NASCAR-obsessed cousin-marrying roadkill-eating tobacco juice-dribbling gun-fondling religious fanatic rednecks; or that ALL blue-state residents are godless unpatriotic pierced-nose Volvo-driving France-loving left-wing communist latte-sucking tofu-chomping holistic-wacko neurotic vegan weenie perverts?''
- Dave Barry

“How Much Time Do Americans Spend Plugged Into The Matrix Every Day?”

“How Much Time Do Americans Spend Plugged Into The Matrix Every Day?”
 By Michael Snyder

“The average American spends more than 10 hours a day using an electronic device.  And most of that activity is not even interactive. The vast majority of the time we are just passively absorbing content that someone else has created. This very much reminds me of the movie “the Matrix”, but with a twist. Instead of humans being forcefully connected to “the Matrix”, we are all willingly connecting ourselves to it. There is a giant system that defines our reality for us, and the length of time that the average American spends connected to it just continues to keep growing. In fact, there are millions upon millions of us that simply do not “feel right” unless there is at least something on in the background. Just think about it. How much time do you spend each day with all electronic devices completely turned off?  

Thanks to technology, we live at a time when more news, information and entertainment is at our fingertips than ever before, and we are consuming more of it than ever before. But this also gives a tremendous amount of power to those that create all of this news, information and entertainment. As I have written about previously, more than 90 percent of the “programming” that we absorb is created by just 6 enormously powerful media corporations. Our conversations, attitudes, opinions and belief systems are constantly being shaped by those entities. Unfortunately, most of us are content to just sit back and let it happen.

The following numbers regarding the media consumption habits of average Americans come directly from Nielsen’s most recent “Total Audience Report“. The amount of time per day that Americans spend using these devices is absolutely staggering…

• Watching live television: 4 hours, 32 minutes
• Watching time-shifted television: 30 minutes
• Listening to the radio: 2 hours, 44 minutes
• Using  a smartphone: 1 hour, 33 minutes
•Using Internet on a computer: 1 hour, 6 minutes

When you add it all up, the average American spends more than 10 hours a day plugged into the Matrix.

You have heard the old saying “you are what you eat”, right? Well, the same applies to what we put into our brains. When you put garbage in, you are going to get garbage out. In my recent article entitled “It’s Official: Americans R Stupid“, I discussed how the U.S. population is being systematically “dumbed down” and how we are now one of the least intelligent industrialized nations on the entire planet.

A big contributor to our intellectual and social demise is the Matrix that has been constructed all around us. Virtually every television show, movie, song, book, news broadcast and talk show is trying to shape how you view reality. Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly being bombarded with messages about what is true and what is not, about what is right and what is wrong, and about what really matters and what is unimportant. Even leaving something out or ignoring something completely can send an extremely powerful message.

In this day and age, it is absolutely imperative that we all learn to think for ourselves. But instead, most people seem more than content to let the Matrix do their thinking for them. If you listen carefully, you will notice that most of our conversations with one another are based on programming from the Matrix. We all love to talk about the movie that we just saw, or what happened on the latest reality show, or what some famous celebrity is doing, or what we saw on the news that morning.  The things that matter to us in life are the things that the Matrix tells us should matter. And if someone comes along with information that contradicts the Matrix, that can cause anger and confusion. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said something like the following to me… “If that was true I would have seen it on the news.”

To many people, the Matrix is the ultimate arbiter of truth in our society, and so anything that contradicts the Matrix cannot possibly be accurate. Fortunately, more people than ever are waking up enough to realize that they have a choice. It is kind of like that moment in the Matrix when Neo is being offered the red pill and the blue pill.

Admittedly, a lot of people that do begin to wake up choose to take the blue pill and go back to sleep. But there are so many others that are grabbing the red pill. That is why we have seen such an explosion in the popularity of the alternative media in recent years. Millions of people all over the planet now understand that they are not getting the truth from the Matrix and they are hungry for real information.

Yes, the Internet is being used for unspeakable evil, but it can also be used for great good. The Internet has allowed ordinary people like you and I to communicate on a mass scale like never before in history. The Internet has allowed us to reclaim at least some of the power that we have lost to the Matrix. I don’t know how long this period of history will last, so we should make full use out of this great tool while we still have it.

On my own website, I have felt called to mainly focus on economics in recent years. And I will continue to chronicle economic conditions as we descend into the greatest economic crisis in U.S. history. What is coming is going to be worse than 2008, it is going to be worse than the Great Depression, and it is ultimately going to be worse than most Americans would ever dare to imagine.

But I also want to take my readers on a journey down the rabbit hole. Our world is about to get really, really strange, and I would like to be a light in the chaos. Yes, I believe that great darkness is coming. But I also believe that a great awakening is coming. Personally, I believe that it is a great privilege to be alive at this time in human history. It is a time of great evil, but it is also a time of great opportunity. It is a time when everything that can be shaken will be shaken, but it will also be a time when those that stand for what is right will shine like the stars."

"Finding Our Way Back..."

“Biology says that we are who we are from birth. That our DNA is set in stone. Unchangeable. Our DNA doesn't account for all of us though, we're human. Life changes us. We develop new traits. Become less territorial. We start competing. We learn from our mistakes. We face our greatest fears. For better or worse, we find ways to become more than our biology. The risk of course is that we can change too much to the point where we don't recognize ourselves. Finding our way back can be difficult. There's no compass, no map. We just have to close our eyes, take a step, and hope to God we get there.”
- “Meredith”, “Grey’s Anatomy”

"Why We are Susceptible to Manipulation"

"Why We are Susceptible to Manipulation"
by George Washington

"Biologists and sociologists tell us that our brains evolved in small groups or tribes. As one example of how profoundly the small-group environment affected our brains, Daily Galaxy points out: Research shows that one of the most powerful ways to stimulate more buying is celebrity endorsement. Neurologists at Erasmus University in Rotterdam report that our ability to weigh desirability and value doesn’t function normally if an item is endorsed by a well-known face. This lights up the brain’s dorsal claudate nucleus, which is involved in trust and learning. Areas linked to longer-term memory storage also fire up. Our minds overidentify with celebrities because we evolved in small tribes. If you knew someone, then they knew you. If you didn’t attack each other, you were probably pals.

Our minds still work this way, giving us the idea that the celebs we keep seeing are our acquaintances. And we want to be like them, because we’ve evolved to hate being out of the in-crowd. Brain scans show that social rejection activates brain areas that generate physical pain, probably because in prehistory tribal exclusion was tantamount to a death sentence. And scans by the National Institute of Mental Health show that when we feel socially inferior, two brain regions become more active: the insula and the ventral striatum. The insula is involved with the gut-sinking sensation you get when you feel that small. The ventral striatum is linked to motivation and reward.

In small groups, we knew everyone extremely well. No one could really fool us about what type of person they were, because we had grown up interacting with them for our whole lives. If a tribe member dressed up and pretended he was from another tribe, we would see it in a heart-beat. It would be like seeing your father in a costume: you would recognize him pretty quickly, wouldn't you?

As the celebrity example shows, our brains can easily be fooled by people in our large modern society when we incorrectly ascribe to them the role of being someone we should trust. As the celebrity example shows, our brains can easily be fooled by people in our large modern society when we incorrectly ascribe to them the role of being someone we should trust. The opposite is true as well. The parts of our brain that are hard-wired to quickly recognize "outside enemies" can be fooled in our huge modern society, when it is really people we know dressed up like the "other team".

Because of this hard-wiring in our brains from the days we lived in tiny tribes, we are highly susceptible to false flag attacks. Specifically, if government agents dress up like the "other team" and stage an attack on their own country, most people's "defend the tribe" hardwiring kicks in, so they rally around their leaders and call for the heads of the "other team". Our brains assume that we can tell truth from fiction, because they evolved in very small groups where we knew everyone extremely well, and usually could see for ourselves what was true. On the other side of the coin, a tribal leader who talked a good game but constantly stole from and abused his group would immediately be kicked out or killed. No matter how nicely he talked, the members of the tribe would immediately see what he was doing.

But in a country of hundreds of millions of people, where the political class is shielded from the rest of the country, people don't really know what our leaders are doing with most of the time. We only see them for a couple of minutes when they are giving speeches, or appearing in photo ops, or being interviewed. It is therefore much easier for a wolf in sheep's clothing to succeed than in a small group setting. Indeed, sociopaths would have been discovered very quickly in a small group. But in huge societies like our's, they can rise to positions of power and influence.

As with the celebrity endorsement example, our brains are running programs which were developed for an environment (a small group) we no longer live in, and so lead us astray. Like the blind spot in our rear view mirror, we have to learn to compensate and adapt for our imperfections, or we may get clobbered.

The good news is that we can evolve. While our brains have many built-in hardwired ways of thinking and processing information, they are also amazingly "plastic". We can learn and evolve and overcome our hardwiring - or at least compensate for our blind spots. We are not condemned to being led astray by Madison Avenue advertisers and ruthless dictators and scientific frauds and fundamentalists. We can choose to grow up as a species and reclaim our power to decide our own future."

The Daily "Near You?"

Coppenbrügge, Niedersachsen, Germany.
Thanks for stopping by.

"There Comes A Time..."

"There comes a time in the life of us all when we must lay aside our books or put down our 
tools and leave our place of work and walk forth on the road to meet the enemy face-to-face. 
Once and for all and at last." 
- Edward Abbey

The Economy: "My Recent Trip to Mars"

"My Recent Trip to Mars"
by Bill Bonner

Gualfin (“End of the Road”), Argentina - “This weekend, we went to Mars. We’ll tell you more about that in a minute. First, catching up with the markets, we find that US stocks stabilized on Friday.  But as we’ve been warning, US stocks are vulnerable to a sharp correction. Valuations are stretched, to say the least. And the negative news is coming in like drone attacks.

Get Out While the Gittin’s Good: US GDP grew at an annual rate of just 2.2% in the fourth quarter. And after-tax corporate profits fell 1.6%. World trade relies heavily on China, which relies heavily on American shoppers. They might be willing to spend more, but they’re unable to do so without earning more. Gone are the days Americans could “take out” home equity. That leaves them just with wages – which are more or less flat – and their investment portfolios. 

Stocks and bonds are up substantially since the 2008 crisis. But only the top 10% of US households has benefited. The other 90% has flat or falling net worth.  Without the help of the giddy US consumer, China starts to look a little peaked and is nearing a crisis of its own. Shanghai stocks trade at 34 times their median price-to-earnings ratio versus 19.5 for the S&P 500.

Meanwhile, it looks as though a replay of the dot-com crash is coming in the US – this time centered on biotech stocks. Now, they are up to five times what they were at the last peak, just before the dot-com crash.  IPOs are running ahead of the last record – again, set just as the Nasdaq was melting down in 2000. As for earnings, you will have to find them yourself. Two-thirds of the companies in the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index lost money last year. In the broad market, 12-month trailing GAAP earnings put the NYSE on a price-to-earnings ratio of 22. That’s higher than it’s been in half-century – including 2000 and 2007. 

Best advice: Get out while the gittin’s good.
Hot as Venus… Cold as Neptune

Back at the ranch… The ranch is divided into two parts: one in Salta Province, the other in Catamarca Province. We have owned it for almost 10 years, but we have never seen the part that is in Catamarca. It is a three-day horse ride. And, we’ve been told, there is nothing there. Once, a couple of years ago, we showed the ranch foreman a photo taken by the Mars rover. “Looks just like our ranch,” said Jorge. “Over on the Catamarca side. In fact, it looks better than our ranch.” 

That part of the ranch is a high plain between one mountain range and another. It is bone dry and about 13,000 feet above sea level – an area known as la puna. Millions of years of volcanic eruptions, wind erosion and seismic shifts have given it a look that barely seems earthly. Huge mountains. Vast deserts. Snowcapped peaks surrounding gravel pits 30 miles wide. Sand dunes as big as shopping malls. Strange natural sculptures. Shallow lakes (with pink flamingos in them, no less). Hot as Venus during the day, as cold as Neptune at night. We had never seen anything like it. We had not even imagined that it could exist. Until this weekend... 

Rather than take the three days on horseback, we took three days by four-wheel-drive truck. 
It took one day to skirt around the mountain range immediately to our west in order to come up in the valley beyond it. It took another day to explore the area, or at least a tiny fraction of it. The third day, we drove home.

Hardly a Living Thing: There is only one road through this part of la puna. And only one hotel. It is a basic affair owned by the provincial government and operated by a friend of ours. It has no electricity during the day. And no heat in the rooms. Still, the staff serves a hearty meal (no selections available) in a convivial dining-hall atmosphere, with a fireplace centered on the main wall. Most of the guests are European, although we saw a recent visitor had come from Washington, D.C. 

The only paved road runs in front of the hotel. But there is so little traffic you could take a nap in the middle of it without fear of interruption. A police station sits next door. At 8 a.m., a policeman raises the Argentine national flag. Apart from that, we saw no other police activity. On our side of the road there were a few houses and a few lots planted in Lombardy poplars. (The variety seems to grow well in desert oases and is used here for building and firewood.) 

We couldn’t determine the source of the water; there must have been a spring dropping down through a series of canals to water every lot and pasture. Horses, goats, sheep and donkeys enjoyed the green grass. All were enclosed behind wire or mud fences… but we couldn’t imagine they would try to escape. No matter what direction they took, there was nothing to eat for hundreds of miles. The wasteland began on the other side of the road – across from the hotel. There was an area of thousands of square miles with hardly a living thing.

People Die Here: It is almost impossible to explore la puna on your own. You will get lost and never find what you are looking for. We hired Luis to help us find our way around. “What we have here is an area that was highly geologically active for a very long time,” Luis explained as we headed out, apparently to nowhere, toward the west. “The cordillera of the Andes is in front of us.” 

We studied the snowcapped peaks in the distance. “They are mostly volcanic. Over millions of years, they erupted. The ashes fell in this area – we’re talking about millions of years – and condensed into the pumice that covers the ground. And there you see the shapes made by the wind eroding these pumice rocks. They look like sculptures, don’t they?”  They did. Huge sculptures. As big as battleships. With massive bows grinded by the airborne sand. There were mountains of blue-gray pumice stones, too. But these sculptures were white. Nearby were gigantic piles of what looked like sugar but were white pumice sand. 

Coming around a hill to get a closer look, we suddenly sank into soft sand. Even with four-wheel drive, it looked as though we were going to be there for a long time… “People die out here,” said Luis. 

More to come…” 

“33 Strange Facts About America That Most Americans Would Be Shocked To Learn”

“33 Strange Facts About America That Most 
Americans Would Be Shocked To Learn”
by Michael Snyder

“Did you know that about one-fourth of the entire global prison population is in the United States?  Did you know that Apple has more money than the U.S. Treasury? Did you know that if you have no debt and also have 10 dollars in your wallet that you are wealthier than 25 percent of all Americans?  Did you know that by the time an American child reaches the age of 18, that child will have seen approximately 40,000 murders on television? There are some things that are great about the United States, and there are definitely some things that are not so great. 

Once upon a time we were the most loved and most respected nation on the entire planet, but those days are long gone. We have wrecked our economy, we have lost our values and we have fumbled away our future. But if you look close enough, you can still see many of the things that once made this country a shining beacon to the rest of the world. This article includes some weird facts, some fun facts, but also some very troubling facts. It has been said that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and hopefully as people enjoy reading the fun facts in this article they will also take note of the more serious facts. If we are ever going to change course as a nation, we need to come to grips with just how far we have fallen. The following are 33 strange facts about America that most Americans would be shocked to learn…

#1 The amount of cement that China used from 2011 to 2013 was greater than the total amount of cement that the United States used during the entire 20th century.

#2 In more than half of all U.S. states, the highest paid public employee in the state is a football coach.

#3 It costs the U.S. government 1.8 cents to mint a penny and 9.4 cents to mint a nickel.

#4 Almost half of all Americans (47 percent) do not put a single penny out of their paychecks into savings.

#5 In 2014, police in the United States killed 1,100 people. During that same year, police in Canada killed 14 people, police in China killed 12 people and police in Germany didn’t kill anyone at all.

#6 The state of Alaska is 429 times larger than the state of Rhode Island is. But Rhode Island has a significantly larger population than Alaska does.

#7 Alaska has a longer coastline than all of the other 49 U.S. states put together.

#8 The city of Juneau, Alaska is about 3,000 square miles in size. It is actually larger than the entire state of Delaware.

#9 When LBJ’s “War on Poverty” began, less than 10 percent of all U.S. children were growing up in single parent households. Today, that number has skyrocketed to 33 percent.

#10 In 1950, less than 5 percent of all babies in America were born to unmarried parents. Today, that number is over 40 percent.

#11 The poverty rate for households that are led by a married couple is 6.8 percent. For households that are led by a female single parent, the poverty rate is 37.1 percent.

#12 In 2013, women earned 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees that were awarded that year in the United States.

#13 According to the CDC, 34.6 percent of all men in the U.S. are obese at this point.

#14 The average supermarket in the United States wastes about 3,000 pounds of food each year.

#15 Right now, more than 200 million people around the planet are officially considered to be unemployed. Meanwhile, approximately 20 percent of the garbage that goes into our landfills is food.

#16 There is a city in Bangladesh called Dhaka where workers are paid just one dollar for every 1,000 bricks that they carry. Meanwhile, the “inactivity rate” for men in their prime working years in the United States is hovering near record high levels.

#17 According to one recent survey, 81 percent of Russians now have a negative view of the United States. That is much higher than at the end of the Cold War era.

#18 Montana has three times as many cows as it does people.

#19 The grizzly bear is the official state animal of California. But no grizzly bears have been seen there since 1922.

#20 One recent survey discovered that “a steady job” is the number one thing that American women are looking for in a husband, and another survey discovered that 75 percent of women would have a serious problem dating an unemployed man.

#21 According to a study conducted by economist Carl Benedikt Frey and engineer Michael Osborne, 47 percent of the jobs in the United States could soon be lost to computers, robots and other forms of technology.

#22 The only place in the United States where coffee is grown commercially is in Hawaii.

#23 The original name of the city of Atlanta was “Terminus“.

#24 The state with the most millionaires per capita is Maryland.

#25 There are more than 4 million adult websites on the Internet, and they get more traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.

#26 86 percent of men include “having children” in their definition of success. For women, that number is only 73 percent.

#27 One survey of 50-year-old men in the U.S. found that only 12 percent of them said that they were “very happy”.

#28 The United States has 845 motor vehicles for every 1,000 people. Japan only has 593 for every 1,000 people, and Germany only has 540 for every 1,000 people.

#29 The average American spends more than 10 hours a day using an electronic device.

#30 48 percent of all Americans do not have any emergency supplies in their homes whatsoever.

#31 There are three towns in the United States that have the name “Santa Claus“.

#32 There is actually a town in Michigan called “Hell“.

#33 There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body. If they were stretched out in a single line, they could go around the planet more than twice.
"I love America more than any other country in this world, and, 
exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."
 - James A. Baldwin

"I know my own nation best. That's why I despise it the most.
 And know and love my own people, too, the swine.
 I'm a patriot. A dangerous man."
 - Edward Abbey