Saturday, April 30, 2016

Musical Interlude: Liquid Mind, "Balance (Galaxies)"

Liquid Mind, "Balance (Galaxies)"

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Makemake, second brightest dwarf planet of the Kuiper belt, has a moon. Nicknamed MK2, Makemake's moon reflects sunlight with a charcoal-dark surface, about 1,300 times fainter than its parent body. Still, it was spotted in Hubble Space Telescope observations intended to search for faint companions with the same technique used to find the small satellites of Pluto. Just as for Pluto and its satellites, further observations of Makemake and orbiting moon will measure the system's mass and density and allow a broader understanding of the distant worlds. 
Click image for larger size.
About 160 kilometers (100 miles) across compared to Makemake's 1,400 kilometer diameter, MK2's relative size and contrast are shown in this artist's vision. An imagined scene of an unexplored frontier of the Solar System, it looks back from a spacecraft's vantage as the dim Sun shines along the Milky Way. Of course, the Sun is over 50 times farther from Makemake than it is from planet Earth.”

"Be Kind..."

"Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a hard battle."
 - Plato

“Embracing Life-Affirming Death Awareness: How to Transform Yourself and Possibly Save Human Civilization”

“Embracing Life-Affirming Death Awareness: 
How to Transform Yourself and Possibly Save Human Civilization”
By Fred Branfman

“I never want to forget the prospect of death. Because, if I am ever able to block out those emotions, I will lose the sense of purpose and focus that cancer has given my own life." —Hamilton Jordan, "No Such Thing as a Bad Day" 

"My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. The country (is) caught up in moral decay. (Our leaders) must speak to  this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul." —Lee Atwater, "Life" Magazine, 1991

When he was 55, a newspaper mistakenly printed an obituary of Alfred Nobel, condemning him for his invention of dynamite and stating "the merchant of death is dead." Nobel was so shocked that he created the Nobel Peace Prize.

When he was 41, Anthony Burgess, working unhappily in the British colonial service, was given a terminal diagnosis with one year to live. He quit, wrote five novels in the next year and 11 including “Clockwork Orange” by age 46.

After serving as Jimmy Carter's chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan contracted several cancers. He wrote in his memoir that cancer was "a strange blessing," and that "after my first cancer, even the smallest joys of life took on a special meaning." His Republican counterpart Lee Atwater, known for such dirty tricks as claiming off the record that a political opponent "had been hooked up to jumper cables," contracted cancer and then apologized to Michael Dukakis for his "naked cruelty" in running the Willy Horton ad, and repudiated the "Reagan Revolution" he had done so much to create. He wrote in a 1991 Life magazine article, "what power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth. My illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything."

Former CEO Eugene O'Kelley wrote in “Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life”, that "the present felt to me like a gift. Living in it now, maybe for the first time, I experienced more Perfect Moments and Perfect Days in two weeks than I had in the last five years. (When a CEO) I had barely even considered limiting my office schedule. I wished I'd known then how to be and stay in the present, the way I now knew it."

These people are not alone. Countless lives have been transformed for the better over the centuries by breaking through their denial about their own deaths, whether due to a terminal diagnosis, surviving a serious illness or suicide, engaging in combat, having a serious accident, being a crime victim, or experiencing the death of a loved one.

Many people find their lives enriched by facing death voluntarily, not because they were forced to. In his famous Stanford commencement speech Steve Jobs said that since he was 17, "remembering that I'll be dead soon (has been) the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life, don't be trapped by dogma, and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

Let It Come: In the summer of 1990, I was directing “Rebuild America”, a think tank whose advisors included Larry Summers, Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, and semiconductor inventor Robert Noyce, with Gov. Bill Clinton just having agreed to join as well. At 3am one night, I noticed a small fear of death arising, that I automatically pushed it away, and said to myself "Let it come!" I was plunged into the most painful experience of my life, as I felt I was disintegrating, followed by the most ecstatic moments I have ever known. The next morning I quit a sterile full-time politics that was burning me out, and embarked on a spiritual and psychological journey. After a time, I gradually returned to the world of social and political action, enriched and refreshed by my spiritual and psychological explorations.

One of my most moving experiences was spending several months with a psychologist named Jackie McEntee, after she had received a terminal diagnosis. She reported that the diagnosis was a wakeup call which led her to feel far more profoundly, deepened her relationship with her husband Bob, kids and community, and spend her time more purposefully and meaningfully. I asked whether she would rather have lived decades more as she had been living, or these few years as she was living now. She replied: "I call this my Year of Ecstasy. Sublime, incredible things have happened. That's why I wouldn't go back. Even though my previous life was good, it was not the bliss, the splendor, the ecstasy of how I live now."

I asked her what she felt her experience had to teach people who did not face a terminal diagnosis. "I think we need as a society to sustain death in our consciousness. Death is a reality by virtue of life. Our society has been in such a fog, evading death and dying, that I really think we don't live as fully because of that evasion. Well, I've learned to live fully now. And it's my deepest wish that everyone else will also—and without having to go through this kind of illness." That is a key question each of us faces. Do we want to wait for a terminal diagnosis, like Eugene O'Kelly or Jackie McEntee, before discovering that facing death could have transformed our lives for the better years earlier? Or do we wish to explore that question now?

There is no whitewashing the fact that feeling our sadness about our approaching deaths is more painful than defending against it. But, as adults, we can stand it. Doing so can release the enormous psychic energy we have been repressing, enriching our lives and leading to a far greater concern for those in need today and all who will follow us.

Feeling Our Sadness: The most important common feature of those whose lives have been enriched by facing their death is that they were willing to experience sadness and even intense pain about having to lose what they value in this life, and then used it as energy to transform their lives for the better.  One could hear that sadness pulsating through the voice of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as he faced his own pain at social injustice and living under a daily threat of death. Sadness is the opposite of the closed, contracted state we call depression. As in the case of Dr. King, it can energize and activate, connecting people on a far deeper level than anger or outrage.

As Hamilton Jordan suggests, it is possible to "block out" much of the emotional pain that can arise even from a terminal diagnosis. We can use antidepressants, entertainment, constant activity, exercise, and a variety of other means to maintain the denial of death we have practiced since early childhood. As Jordan put it, "Nobody thinks too much on Desolation Row," especially about their own deaths, as long as they keep busy and occupied with other matters. But as he also found, daring to feel one's pain at the prospect of death can transform one's life.

I discovered this truth, to my amazement, when my life was transformed by facing my own eventual death at age 48. When the death anxiety I had been repressing burst to the surface I discovered that facing it, though painful, released enormous energy, appreciation for the preciousness of life, deep reservoirs of feeling I never knew existed, and a deep desire to contribute to the wellbeing of those who would follow me. Indeed, the more emotional pain I was consciously willing to feel about my death, the more truly alive, loving, empathetic and appreciative I felt. It was almost mathematical: more pain, more life; more life, more pain.  

The key was to consciously bring my pain to the surface. We normally avoid doing so as much as possible, and only react with denial, anger, bargaining or depression when we must, which can make it much harder to handle. But when we choose to bring our sadness to the surface so as to release energy for life, as Hamilton Jordan and Lee Atwater found, it can enhance our experience of life in ways we never dreamed possible—and transform our attitudes toward political action as well.

Facing death openly does not necessarily, of course, lead to political action. The opposite is often true. Many people in their retirement years react to reminders of death by turning to meditation and other spiritual and religious practices. They feel they've done enough politically, and they pursue long-deferred creative projects, focus on their grandchildren, face health issues, care for their mates, or conserve their declining energy.

Much of this is healthy for the individual and society. Spiritually inclined, serene and peaceful elders who have moved beyond materialism and frenetic activity can serve as important role models for an America that badly needs to move beyond the "acquisition," frenetic activity and mindless materialism Lee Atwater so rightly decried. "Don't just do something, sit there," as Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein has written. If enough of us experienced “a touch of Enlightenment," the world would be a far better place.

Facing Our Deaths: Facing repressed death anxiety can benefit anyone at any age. In their book, "Beyond Death Anxiety: Achieving Life-Affirming Death Awareness", the psychotherapist Robert Firestone and Joyce Catlett explain how we first learn we will die between the ages of 3 and 8, and we automatically repress this frightening information. We continue this pattern as adults, rarely reexamining whether it make sense to continue this denial of our death, although we now have the tools to handle it.

They explain how our unconscious death anxiety influences every aspect of our adult lives, including our relationships and our sexuality. We often either unconsciously distance ourselves because true intimacy is so painful, or we violently turn against our partners when we realize they will not be the saviors we imagined. Our anxiety about death affects our child-rearing, as we often partly have children because we wish to live on through them, and then seek to control them so they will be the kind of "immortality vehicle" we seek. Death anxiety also lies at the heart of much of the midlife crisis many undergo, and explains many of our social behaviors as well. We identify with religious, ethnic or national "immortality vehicles" (USA! USA! USA!), because if the "other" triumphs, our own will fail. These processes are unconscious, which is why they have so much power.

The importance of Firestone and Catlett's work is that it is not based upon theory but the actual lived experience of a group of over 100 friends who have broken through much of the death-denial and openly discuss their death anxiety on a regular basis. This experience indicates, first of all, that people can bear it—while painful, surfacing repressed death anxiety does not destroy one's equilibrium, but enhances it. They have discovered that sharing their sadness together is a positive, life-enhancing experience. It also leads to greater empathy and compassion for each other and for the world as a whole.

Gifts of Death Awareness: Reports by people whose lives have been transformed by facing their own deaths reveal what might be called the gifts of death awareness. Examples of these gifts include:

• Increased aliveness and vitality: Feeling sadness about our mortality can release enormous reservoirs of psychic energy, aliveness and vitality that is otherwise wasted on repressing our death-feelings.
• A wider range of feeling: We cannot repress painful feelings without repressing joyful ones as well. Death awareness can widen and deepen our feelings. We find we can stand the painful feelings we have spent a lifetime avoiding. We open up new vistas of love, appreciation, tenderness, joy, compassion, and empathy.
• Deeper relationships: When we deny our pain about our own death and those of loved ones, we often unconsciously pull away from intimacy. Repressing feelings not only deadens us, but causes us to shrink from the pain that true closeness brings. Consciously facing death can lead to deeper intimacy and love for those closest to us. A friend recently wrote me about attending a funeral and sitting with the sister of the deceased, weeping side by side without saying anything for 15 minutes. It was their most intimate interaction in a decade, and it forged a lifelong bond between them.
• Increased life-purpose and passion: Like Hamilton Jordan, Steve Jobs and countless others, facing the shortness of time we have left often leads to a greater sense of purpose and focus. Our passion is increased, as we realize that with the time we have left we will create what we wish to create, and enjoy our most precious experiences.  
• Wider perspective: People facing death commonly report that they gain a greater sense of perspective, are less prone to petty fears, slights, jealousies, and anxieties, and have their sights raised to issues of meaning and the human condition. Facing our mortality broadens our perspective.
• Great lucidity and sanity: When one becomes exposed to death, often when parents die, many experience a painful but somehow liberating sense of clarity and sanity. As I was flying back to New York from Florida after my father's death, I found myself writing these words: "I have been living as if I will never die, which is a lie. And to live a lie is not really to live at all."
• Greater creativity: Increased passion often brings greater creativity. As Steve Jobs noted, death-awareness can lead us to commit to following our own path and not be trapped by the opinions of others.
• Greater compassion and empathy: Death awareness can lead us to focus on what we have in common with our fellow beings. It is not only that we are all going to die, but that we are all facing similar difficulties in dealing with this fact. As we become more feeling, our compassion can also deepen and extend to millions who suffer unnecessarily.
• The courage to be vulnerable: Though we tend to see courage as involving strength, decisiveness and risk-taking, the greater bravery is daring to feel and display our vulnerability. Facing death leads to a softer and more feeling appreciation of life and closer relationships with those around us.
• Gratitude, appreciation and awe:  Experiencing our vulnerability as creatures who will die can lead to the most precious possible experiences of appreciation and awe that life even exists, let alone that we have been privileged to participate in it. It is precisely because our time with loved ones, or our opportunity to experience life, is so limited that it is so precious. 
• Greater aesthetic appreciation: Death awareness opens us up to the beauty of life in space and in time. We become more aware of fleeting and infinitely precious moments of beauty.
• Spiritual openings and the experience of oneness with life: Death awareness can lead to unmediated, direct spiritual experiences in which the personal ego dissolves and we experience a sense of oneness with all life, including the countless humans who have preceded us and those who will follow us. 
• Greater concern for preserving civilization for future generations: Such death-influenced spiritual experiences can lead to a greater commitment to saving human civilization for our offspring and all who will follow us.

Exploring Life-Affirming Death Awareness: Words are cheap and only useful if they encourage us to experiment for ourselves whether they might be true. This is particularly true for an issue like whether to surface our sadness about death, which goes against the habits of a lifetime. The following exercises are meant to help us explore how we wish to respond to the fact of our eventual deaths. Many of us have never consciously considered this question as adults, continuing the denial of our feelings that we first learned as kids. But we may find now that exploring this issue can enrich and revitalize our lives, as well as all society.

These explorations are intended to help explore two basic issues: 1) feeling rather than denying painful feelings about our eventual death; 2) using these feelings as energy to live with more purpose and compassion. These exercise tend to yield the deepest results if they are preceded by some minutes of quiet reflection.

1. Focus on what unites us. Pick a time-period—a few hours, a day, longer—in which you focus on what you have in common with each person you see or interact with, whether you know them or not. They, like you, are going to one day die; they, like you, are confused and frightened by this knowledge, and tend to think or feel about it as little as possible; and they, like you, may have a dull look in their eyes, or rigid expression on their face, partly because they are using up precious psychic energy to repress their death anxiety.

Note what you are feeling as you engage in this exercise, particularly any feelings of compassion or empathy for yourself or others. How does this exercise make you feel? Does this exercise in any way change how you feel toward others? Perhaps extend this exercise by meeting with people you normally dislike or disagree with, and note whether any change in your normal feelings arise as a result.

2. Appreciate a last meal or walk. Set aside a time when you can eat a meal alone in a quiet place, and imagine it is the last meal you will ever eat. Eat slowly, noting each smell, how each component of the meal tastes, everything it took for this meal to reach you, from the life of the animal or plant involved to the apparatus—farmer, transport, supermarket, etc.—required to get this food to you. Note your feelings at the prospect that this will be the last meal you will ever eat in this lifetime.

Set a time to take a walk, imagining it is the last walk you will ever take on this earth. Walk extremely slowly, taking the time to smell every smell, hear every sound, see every sight. Note the feelings that arise, whether sadness that you will never have this experience again, or gratitude that you have been able to have this experience of life. As you return to daily life, reflect on whether these experiences change how you might want to eat or take walks from here on out.

3. Appreciate the preciousness of life. Reflect upon those experiences of life you most value at this point in your life, perhaps making a list of them in order, e.g. your experiences of loved ones, travel, learning, contributing, nature, art, and so on and so forth.

Now notice the feelings that emerge as you go through the list, and imagine never being able to have those experiences again. Note where the feelings of sadness, loss or worse, are most intense. Although you are likely to experience a range of feelings, including a distancing from feeling, focus on any feelings of sadness that arise as you understand dying as losing the experiences of life that you most value. Reflect on what your sadness tells you about the parts of your life you value most, your deepest regrets, your deepest desire for developing the qualities you desire, your relationship to the violence and injustice of the world, the unfinished business of your life, internal and external. 

4. Appreciate loved ones and friends. Pick a moment when you can gaze upon a loved one or close friend. Either with eyes closed or open, imagine her head as the skull it will be, her body as the skeleton it will become after she dies. Feel the sadness, the pain of it. Now return to the present, feel your love for her, your appreciation of the fact that you can have this experience of her. Note your feelings of appreciation for the fact that you can now experience her, the preciousness of this opportunity to know, interact with and love her.

5. Feel valued by society. Imagine that you had died today and were reading your obituary in the newspaper. Write out what you imagine it might say. Imagine you have another 10 years to live, and then write out your obituary as you would like it to appear then. Conclude by noting the key changes you need to make in your life so as to have your obituary read as you would like it to a decade from now.

6. Set priorities, inner and outer. Imagine that you are on your deathbed, looking back on your life. (This exercise is best conducted while lying on your back, in a dark room, in the actual position you are most likely to be in while facing your actual end.) Note the outer events—your accomplishments, impact on your kids, grandkids, community, America, the world—that are the most meaningful to you at this point. Note the inner events that are most meaningful—ways in which you developed internally, touching experiences with loved ones, friends, nature, the cosmos, moments of spiritual transcendence, etc. Note which kinds of experiences are the most meaningful, inner and outer, past and present, or the impact your life will have after you have gone. Note your feelings about the state of the world you are leaving behind.

Think of those people who have wronged you whom you wish to forgive, or those from whom you wish to ask forgiveness. Perhaps write letters to the most important ones. After conducting this exercise, reflect on whether the thoughts and feelings you had have any implications for how you want to lead your life from here on out. Did you note any enhanced experiences of aliveness and energy, compassion or love for yourself or others, the world, greater serenity, a greater sense of direction and life-purpose, a greater concern for the environment and the world you are leaving behind, a deeper sense of spirituality and connection to all things?

7. Looking backward, looking forward. Reflect on the next 10 years of your life— the people with whom you will interact, the places you will visit, the countless feelings you will experience, and so forth. Reflect upon how long these 10 years seem, how rich the many experiences you will have. Now reflect back on the last 10 years of your life, note how it all seems to have passed in an instant. Now imagine that you are on your deathbed, looking back on the time between now and when you die. Reflect on how it, too, will seem to have passed in an instant. Reflect on any implications this may have for how you want to live from here on out, whether it helps illuminate what is and isn't important to you, whether it seems to call for an increased commitment to any sort of activities or experiences, and so forth.

8. The precious shortness of life. Imagine your doctor has just told you that you have three years to live in full possession of your health, after which you will decline precipitously and die. Reflect on what you imagine your priorities, internal and external, would be if you knew you had but three more years to live. Would you change anything about your present life? Relationships? External projects? Inner development? Would you live with greater purpose and waste less time? Would you devote yourself to artistic creation, travel or political activity? How would your relationships with people change? Then imagine that your doctor tells you he was mistaken, and you can look forward to a normal lifespan. If you would have lived differently if you had only three years to live, does this have any implications for your future now?”

The Daily "Near You?"

Salinas, California, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

Chet Raymo, "In the Cave"

 "In the Cave"
by Chet Raymo

"I have mentioned here before the ospreys that patrol our beach - or "fish hawks," as they call them here - generally in the afternoon at about the time I take my long walk to the palm point. Magnificent birds with broad wings that glide seemingly effortlessly on the wind. And here's the thing: As often as not I am startled by a bird's shadow before I see the bird itself. That wide-winged shadow, sweeping across the white sand, sometimes across me. That flicker of chill as the osprey blocks the sun.

And generally when it happens I think of Plato's allegory of the cave. Prisoners in a cave are constrained to look only at a blank wall. Somewhere behind them there is a fire, and people come and go in front of the fire, casting shadows on the wall. The shadows are the only reality the prisoners know. They have no idea of the flesh-and-blood people behind them or the blazing fire. The prisoners know only what presents itself to their senses.

Forget for the moment Plato's point, which has to do with the duty of the philosopher to enlighten the benighted. There is a humbling moral to the story for all of us: We can only know what our senses - directly or indirectly - can perceive. Who, a century ago, could have imagined the universe of the galaxies, or the marvelous dance of the DNA in every cell of our bodies? By cleverly extending our senses - limited as they are - with technological enhancements a whole new universe has opened up to us. Who can imagine what we might know a century from now? Plato's "real" world is like a shadow compared to the universe we inhabit today. Our own universe may be a shadow of a reality vastly more wonderful than anything we have so far dreamed.

Never mind. We live in the world we have. Even the osprey's shadow is magnificent in its own way. I am privileged to lift my eyes and see the feathered bird. And I have an intuition that there is more - much more - yet to see.”

"The Most Important Of All The Lessons..."

 “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. That men do 
not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
-  Aldous Huxley

The Poet: Margaret Atwood, "The Moment"

"The Moment"

"The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. 
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.

It was always the other way round."

- Margaret Atwood
"Morning in the Burned House"

"How It Really Is"

"Morning Joe Mocks Hillary The 'Working Man Hero'"

"Morning Joe Mocks Hillary The 'Working Man Hero'"
"The Morning Joe panel mocks Hillary's attempt to position herself as the 'Working Man's Hero.' When Hillary says she has spent time with regular people, she must be referring to Secret Service agents, chauffeurs, and her friends on Wall Street."

Well, let's not be too hasty or harsh to judge this self-proclaimed champion of the common folks with whom she shares so much, the average Americans who work hard, pay their taxes, do the best they can under very difficult conditions. They, we, must the be "Us" in her slogan, right? 

OK, since I'm slow, someone please tell me who exactly she's "fighting for us" against? Evil space aliens hiding in the government? What battles has she won for "us"? I don't know, do you? Could it be she battled the evil banksters and corporations? Well, probably not...

Total: $153,669,691
Average: $210,795
Speeches: 729

Besides, a gal's gotta make a living, right, and these are hard times for most of us, including Hillary, who works very hard for her money. When challenged by The Guardian to explain her ability to speak on income inequality after making an avalanche of money in her post-White House years, Hillary tried to claim that she’s not rich-rich and besides, she’s worked hard. Unlike the rest of those who have wealth, apparently. “But they don’t see me as part of the problem,” she protests, “because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we’ve done it through dint of hard work,” she says, letting off another burst of laughter. If past form is any guide, she must be finding my question painful." Making $153 million is not being “truly well off,” you know.

Besides, we all have bills to pay, right? Mortgages are big bills, aren't they? But Hillary understands how tough it can be, and how much life experience we all share. Each of us has a house, or apartment, or a cardboard box in an alley if need be, and she has a house, too, so she understands...

$12 million house... wonder if she gets Section 8 assistance?

How rude of that naughty "Morning Joe" crew to mock one of "us"!
We have SO much in common, right? Yeah...
And since we're all equal under the law, are we not, I must ask...
Attorney General Lynch: where are the indictments?
- CP

"You Can’t Handle the Truth: How Confirmation Bias Distorts Your Opinions"

"You Can’t Handle the Truth: 
How Confirmation Bias Distorts Your Opinions"
by  Jake Van Der Borne

"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."
– Leo Tolstoy

"Your thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and worldviews are based on years and years of experience, reading, and rational, objective analysis. Right? Wrong. Your thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and worldviews are based on years and years of paying attention to information that confirmed what you already believed while ignoring information that challenged your preconceived notions.

"If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us, it’s that wishing doesn’t make it so."
– Lev Grossman

Like it or not, the truth is that all of us are susceptible to falling into a sneaky psychological trap called confirmation bias. One of the many cognitive biases that afflict humans, confirmation bias refers to our tendency to search for and favor information that confirms our beliefs while simultaneously ignoring or devaluing information that contradicts our beliefs. This phenomenon is also called confirmatory bias or myside bias. It is a normal human tendency, and even experienced scientists and researchers are not immune.

"Some things have to be believed to be seen." 
– Madeleine L’Engle

Here are two examples of confirmation bias in action, based on two commonly debated issues:

Climate change: Person A believes climate change is a serious issue and they only search out and read stories about environmental conservation, climate change, and renewable energy. As a result, Person A continues to confirm and support their current beliefs. Person B does not believe climate change is a serious issue, and they only search out and read stories that discuss how climate change is a myth, why scientists are incorrect, and how we are all being fooled. As a result, Person B continues to confirm and support their current beliefs.

Gun control: Person A is in support of gun control. They seek out news stories and opinion pieces that reaffirm the need for limitations on gun ownership. When they hear stories about shootings in the media, they interpret them in a way that supports their existing beliefs. Person B is adamantly opposed to gun control. They seek out news sources that are aligned with their position, and when they come across news stories about shootings, they interpret them in a way that supports their current point of view. (source)

Right now, as you are reading this – other examples of confirmation bias are probably starting to creep into your mind. After all, it is election season in the US, a time for which an apt nickname would be “Confirmation Bias Season.” In politics, confirmation bias explains, for example, why people with right-wing views read and view right-wing media and why people with left-wing views read and view left wing media. In general, people both:

• Want to be exposed to information and opinions that confirm what they already believe.
• Have a desire to ignore, or not be exposed to, information or opinions that challenge what they already believe.
• Even in cases where people do expose themselves to alternative points of view, it may be a form of confirmation bias; they want to confirm that the opposition is, indeed, wrong.

James Clear explains: "It is not natural for us to formulate a hypothesis and then test various ways to prove it false. Instead, it is far more likely that we will form one hypothesis, assume it is true, and only seek out and believe information that supports it. Most people don’t want new information, they want validating information. Confirmation bias permeates political discussions. It is so pervasive that it largely goes unnoticed. We are used to it. It explains why political debates usually end in gridlock."

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
 – Aldous Huxley

Think about it: Have you noticed that people don’t want to hear anything negative about a candidate they’ve chosen to support? In many cases, it doesn’t matter what the facts are. Followers will resort to mental gymnastics – complete with cognitive flips and contortions – to justify continued support for their candidate.

In fact, when our deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, we may experience the “backfire effect.” Coined by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, the term backfire effect describes how some individuals, when confronted with evidence that conflicts with their beliefs, come to hold their original position even more strongly. The more ideological and the more emotion-based a belief is, the more likely it is that contrary evidence will be ineffective.

In the article "The Backfire Effect," David McRaney explains that once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you will instinctively and unconsciously protect it from harm: "Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them."

This phenomenon is common during online debates, he says: "Most online battles follow a similar pattern, each side launching attacks and pulling evidence from deep inside the web to back up their positions until, out of frustration, one party resorts to an all-out ad hominem nuclear strike. If you are lucky, the comment thread will get derailed in time for you to keep your dignity, or a neighboring commenter will help initiate a text-based dogpile on your opponent.

What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are actually making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate. As they match your fervor, the same thing happens in your skull. The backfire effect pushes both of you deeper into your original beliefs."

Confirmation bias has become even more prevalent because just about any belief can be “supported” with information found online. Collecting evidence doesn’t always resolve confirmation bias: even when two individuals have the same information, the way they interpret it can be biased.

"There are two different types of people in the world, 
those who want to know, and those who want to believe." 
  – Friedrich Nietzsche

What happens when a person who holds a strong belief explores it and finds compelling evidence that it is incomplete or incorrect? Either they discard the false belief or they ignore the evidence that disproves it. If the person refuses to change his belief even though it has been proven wrong, they are experiencing belief perseverance. Belief perseverance is a psychological phenomenon that defines our tendency to maintain our original opinions in the face of overwhelming data that contradicts our beliefs. Everyone does it, but we are especially vulnerable when invalidated beliefs form a key part of how we narrate our lives, or when our beliefs define who we are.

Researchers have found that stereotypes, religious faiths, and even our self-concept are especially vulnerable to belief perseverance. A 2008 study in the "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology" found that people are more likely to continue believing incorrect information if it makes them look good (enhances self-image).

People face and dismiss contradictory evidence on a daily basis. For instance, if a man who believes that he is a good driver receives a ticket, he might reasonably feel that this single incident does not prove anything about his overall ability. If, however, a man who has caused three traffic accidents in a month believes that he is a good driver, it is safe to say that belief perseverance is at work.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re trying to change someone’s opinion about a social, scientific, or political issue, and you’re constantly met with failure because that person refuses to let go of his set views? Belief perseverance can be so strong that that even if you provide irrefutable evidence that proves his ideas are wrong, he will simply continue to believe what he always has.

"Faith: not wanting to know what the truth is." 
  – Friedrich Nietzsche

Confirmation bias drives willful ignorance, which is the state and practice of ignoring any sensory input that appears to contradict one’s inner model of reality. It differs from the standard definition of “ignorance” – which means that one is unintentionally unaware of something. Willfully ignorant people are fully aware of facts, resources, and sources, but intentionally refuse to acknowledge them. Willful ignorance is sometimes referred to as tactical stupidity.

RationalWiki elaborates: "Depending on the nature and strength of an individual’s pre-existing beliefs, willful ignorance can manifest itself in different ways. The practice can entail completely disregarding established facts, evidence and/or reasonable opinions if they fail to meet one’s expectations. Often excuses will be made, stating that the source is unreliable, that the experiment was flawed or the opinion is too biased. More often than not this is simple circular reasoning: “I cannot agree with that source because it is untrustworthy because it disagrees with me.”

In other slightly more extreme cases, willful ignorance can involve outright refusal to read, hear, or study, in any way, anything that does not conform to the person’s worldview. With regard to oneself, this can even extend to fake locked-in syndrome with complete unresponsiveness. Or with regard to others, to outright censorship of the material from others."

Motivated reasoning – our tendency to accept what we want to believe with much more ease and much less analysis than what we don’t want to believe – takes confirmation bias and belief perseverance to the next level. Motivated reasoning leads us to confirm what we already believe, while ignoring contrary data.

As NYU psychologist Gary Marcus once explained: "Whereas confirmation bias is an automatic tendency to notice data that fit with our beliefs, motivated reasoning is the complementary tendency to scrutinize ideas more carefully if we don’t like them than if we do." 

But motivated reasoning also drives us to develop elaborate rationalizations to justify holding beliefs that logic and evidence have shown to be wrong. It responds defensively to contrary evidence, actively discrediting such evidence or its source without logical or evidentiary justification. It is driven by emotion.

Social scientists believe that we employ motivated reasoning to help us avoid cognitive dissonance, which is an uncomfortable state that is experienced when we hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, perform an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or are confronted by new information that conflicts with our existing beliefs, ideas, or values.

In other words, self-delusion feels good, and truth often hurts. That’s what motivates people to vehemently defend obvious falsehoods.

"Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth 
because they don’t want their illusions destroyed." 
  – Friedrich Nietzsche

The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased searches, interpretation, and memories are invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance, the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early on), and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).

In the article "Psychology’s Treacherous Trio: Confirmation Bias, Cognitive Dissonance, and Motivated Reasoning," Sam McNerney ties all of these concepts together: "People don’t change their minds – just the opposite in fact. Brains are designed to filter the world so we don’t have to question it. While this helps us survive, it’s a subjective trap; by only seeing the world as we want to, our minds narrow and it becomes difficult to understand opposing opinions. When we only look for what confirms our beliefs (confirmation bias), only side with what is most comfortable (cognitive dissonance) and don’t scrutinize contrary ideas (motivated reasoning) we impede social, economic, and academic progress."

Confirmation bias, belief perseverance, and motivated reasoning can have serious, life-altering consequences. Poor decisions due to these biases have been found in political, legal, scientific, medical, and organizational contexts.

Juries can hear information about cases and form opinions before they’ve had a chance to objectively evaluate the facts. The risk of this occurring is especially great in highly-publicized, emotionally-charged cases. Police officers and prosecutors who think they’ve “got the right guy” can ignore evidence to the contrary, leading to wrongful convictions and the incarceration of (and sometimes, the execution of) innocent people. One prominent example is the case of Marvin Anderson, who was convicted of robbery, abduction, and rape in 1982.

Mark D. White, Ph.D., recounts Anderson’s ordeal in the article "Tunnel Vision in the Criminal Justice System": "…despite very weak evidence supporting the prosecution’s case, questionable eyewitness identification, and four alibi witnesses that testified to seeing him in the same place (nowhere near the crime). Twenty years later, DNA evidence conclusively proved that Anderson was innocent, and pointed to the true offender, Otis Lincoln; much evidence available during Anderson’s trial also indicated Lincoln was the likely attacker, but this was never investigated after Anderson was chosen as the main suspect. Even after Lincoln confessed, the judge who presided over Anderson’s trial refused to credit Lincoln’s confession (finding it false), and Anderson served out his prison term and parole until DNA testing conclusively identified Lincoln as the attacker."

White goes on to explain how this happened: "Confirmation bias led the various actors in the criminal justice system (from the investigating officers and detectives to the prosecutors to the trial judge), once they had focused on Anderson as the key suspect, to exaggerate the relevance of evidence supporting his guilt, and to downplay contradictory evidence supporting his innocence (namely, that which pointed away from Anderson and toward Lincoln).

So once a suspect like Anderson becomes the focus of an investigation, and evidence is gathered (and interpreted) to confirm that focus, in hindsight that decision will be regarded as inevitable and correct. Also, an eyewitness may only vaguely remember who she saw at the crime scene, but after her identification of a suspect like Anderson is confirmed, she’ll later think she remembered him better than she actually did at the time. Finally, the longer and more frequently that the authorities reaffirm Anderson’s guilt, the more confident they become in their original judgment, to the extent that even presented with DNA evidence and a confession by another suspect, Anderson’s judge was reluctant to set him free, since he’d been regarded as guilty for so long."

"In science, you move closer to the truth by seeking evidence to the contrary. 
Perhaps the same method should inform your opinions as well."
 – David McRaney

Last year, a study from the University of Iowa found that once people reach a conclusion, they aren’t likely to change their minds, even when new information shows their initial belief is likely wrong and clinging to that belief costs real money. The researchers found that equity analysts who issue written forecasts about stocks may be subject to this confirmation bias and do not let new data significantly revise their initial analyses. Phobias and hypochondria have also been shown to involve confirmation bias for threatening information.

Confirmation bias, belief perseverance, and motivated reasoning can impact foreign relations, leading to policy-making mistakes, and ultimately, in the most tragic cases, the death and destruction caused by unjust wars.

"There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; 
the other is to refuse to believe what is true."
 – Søren Kierkegaard

Two possible explanations for the these biases include wishful thinking and the limited human capacity to process information. Another explanation is that people show confirmation bias because they are weighing up the costs of being wrong, rather than investigating in a neutral, scientific way.

Now that we have identified these biases, how do we avoid letting them infiltrate our decision-making and belief systems? The following techniques may help:

• Be open to new information and other perspectives. Don’t be afraid to test or revise your beliefs.
• Even if you consider yourself an expert on a topic, approach new information as a beginner would.
• Ask someone you trust to play devil’s advocate. Ask them to challenge your assumptions.
• Don’t let a limited amount of past experience (particularly one negative experience) carry too much weight. Be sure to envision the future, not just replay the past.
• Remind yourself that your intuition is lazy (designed to make predictions quickly, but not always accurately) and does not want to be challenged. Seek and fully evaluate other alternatives before making decisions.
• When you believe something strongly, but don’t have recent and compelling evidence to support that belief, look for more information.
• Check your ego.  If you can’t stand to be wrong, you’re going to continue to fall victim to biases. 
• Learn to value truth rather than the need to be right.
• Look for disagreement. If you’re right, then disagreement will help highlight this and if you’re wrong – it will help you identify why.
• Ask insightful, open-ended questions. Direct them to people who are not afraid to be honest with you. Be quiet and listen to what they say.
• Examine conflicting data. Discuss it with people who disagree with you and evaluate the evidence they present.
• Consider all the viewpoints that you can find – not just the ones that support your current beliefs or ideas.

"If one were to attempt to identify a single problematic aspect of human reasoning that deserves attention above all others, the confirmation bias would have to be among the candidates for consideration. Many have written about this bias, and it appears to be sufficiently strong and pervasive that one is led to wonder whether the bias, by itself, might account for a significant fraction of the disputes, altercations, and misunderstandings that occur among individuals, groups, and nations."
– Raymond S. Nickerson

Fukushima Update: "Your Radiation This Week, April 23 to April 30, 2016"

"Your Radiation This Week, April 23 to April 30, 2016"
By Bob Nichols

  "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
- Shiva

(San Francisco) April 30, 2016 – "Good Day, this is “Your Radiation This Week.” These are the recorded Radiation Highs that affected people this week around the United States and in your neighborhood. There is no way to recover from these kinds of exposures. There is no medicine and there is no cure. Millions now possess a shortened life span due to their radiation exposures. Welcome to Casper, Wyoming, the newest addition to the list of the doomed. Casper entered the list at the surprising level of 1,361 CPM. What city or country will be next? Let’s get right to it. 

All Radiation Counts reported are partial Counts. Uncounted types of radiation include Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Neutron and X-Ray radiation. Uncounted radiation, if added, makes the actual Count higher and more dangerous. 

Normal Radiation is 5 to 20 CPM. 50 CPM is an alert level.

1,454 CPM,  290.8 Times Normal,  Colorado Springs, CO.  Beta, Gamma.
1,418 CPM,  283.6 Times Normal,  Little Rock, AR.  Beta, Gamma.
1,361 CPM,  272.2 Times Normal,  Casper, Wyoming  Beta, Gamma.
1,269 CPM,  251.8 Times Normal,  Idaho Falls, ID.  Beta, Gamma.
1,195 CPM,  239 Times Normal,  Champaign, IL.  Beta, Gamma.
1,167 CPM,  233.4 Times Normal,  Raleigh, NC.  Beta, Gamma.
1,150 CPM,  230 Times Normal,  Portland, ME.  Beta, Gamma.
1,143 CPM,  228.6 Times Normal,  Denver, CO.  Beta, Gamma.
1,125 CPM,  225 Times Normal,  San Diego, CA.  Beta, Gamma.
1,120 CPM,  221.4 Times Normal,  Harrisonburg, VA.  Beta, Gamma.
1,095 CPM,  219 Times Normal,  Spokane, WA.  Beta, Gamma.
1,063 CPM,  212.6 Times Normal,  Bakersfield, CA.  Beta, Gamma.
1,060 CPM,  212 Times Normal,  Worcester, MA.  Beta, Gamma.
1,054 CPM,  210.8 Times Normal,  Navajo Lake, NM.  Beta, Gamma.
1,053 CPM,  210.6 Times Normal,  Memphis, TN  Beta, Gamma.
1,041 CPM,  208.2 Times Normal,  Kansas City, KS.  Beta, Gamma.
1,037 CPM,  207.4 Times Normal,  Augusta, GA.  Beta, Gamma.
1,029 CPM,  205.8 Times Normal,  Pierre, SD.  Beta, Gamma.
1,028 CPM,  205.6 Times Normal,  Louisville, KY.  Beta, Gamma.
1,008 CPM,  201.6 Times Normal,  Grand Junction, CO.  Beta, Gamma.

Most Radioactive City in America: Colorado Springs, Colorado is in First place in the countdown to the end of time. Other cities have the radioactive “contagion,” just not as severe,  even though the listed cities all exceed 1000 CPM.

No, It is not OK now: The reduction in the count of over cities over 1000 CPM does not mean it is OK now; or, even that it is getting better. Often times when the Radiation goes down the associated Lethality of the Isotopes goes up. The two things are separate measures. It could mean that some of the Uranium 238 has gained a Neutron and changed to Plutonium 239, a more dangerous Isotope.

Isotope Count reporting: These CPM numbers do not represent the actual radiation counts in your radiation weather. It is higher [or worse] than these government certified partial reports say. Use these report numbers as your Starting Point in adding up your daily, monthly and annual exposure from your Rad Weather. Most radiation monitors report on the radioactive presence of Cesium 137 at the detector. YRTW will report on “the secrets the Pros use” in estimating the actual Total radiation counts. It is not a pretty picture. Squeamish readers may want to turn to other Veterans Today articles reporting on usual things like wars and people getting blown up by an actual named enemy you can see in pictures.

The Lethality goes up for 35 years; then declines slightly and hangs steady for millions of years, for that release. New releases start a new clock all over again. Regrettably for all normal Humans, that is a bunch of generations. The end result is extinction, of course.  Everybody is included; no one is left out. Truthfully, it is a bummer and I know of no variety of radiation-exempt Human Species.

Day One out of the reactor use a news reported Cesium multiplier of 150 Times. After 15 days outside the reactor the multiplier is still approximately 100 times the Cesium Twins. Take all appropriate Rad precautions. A second Multiplier is for Rad particles that have been outside the reactor for ten years or more. The Total radiation declines to approximately Five (5) Times the Cesium level. The Lethality is still increasing though. Here’s how you can calculate an estimate of your Total Rad today: Use a reported account of the Cesium 137/134 CPM in your area and Multiply Times 5. Another way to say it is:

Cs137/134 CPM X 5.0 = Total Radiation released in CPM

Radiation types commonly measured by radiation monitors include Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Neutron and X-Ray radiation. Only Beta and Gamma are reported by the EPA and here on YRTW. There are 1,944 other individual Rad elements, only a few are ever mentioned in articles. In short: The newer disaster’s Cesium 137/134 radiation CPM that is conveniently echoed by local and national news outlets, tells you right away by simple Multiplication how big the disaster really is, even if they are lying. At least it gets you closer than “There is no danger to the public.” That would be You. Think of it as the insider’s secret code. Multiply away! That’s it. No magic or VooDoo, just the facts as close as you can calculate it. Good Luck.

German Analysis of Certain Isotopes after Meltdown: Hold on to your hat. In 1992 Germany calculated that in reactor meltdowns like Fukushima Daiichi the radioactive isotope Strontium 90 would aggressively poison the environment for 109.2 years and then decline slowly over the next 273 years. Of course, we will ALL be long dead by then. Other deadly Rad isotopes put Strontium 90’s generous life span to shame. The German study is here for those brave enough to tackle it. Source: The IAEA: Dispersion of radionuclides and radiation exposure after leaching by groundwater of a solidified core-concrete melt by Bayer, A.; Tromm, W.; Al-Omari, I. (Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe (Germany)) from 8. International congress of the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA8)

Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, 100 miles offshore of Fukushima: "During that March 13 phone call, Cleveland wrote, Troy Mueller — the deputy administrator for naval reactors at the US Department of Energy — said the radiation was the equivalent of “about 30 times what you would detect just on a normal air sample out at sea.” “So it's much greater than what we had thought,” Mueller reportedly warned other American officials after taking samples on the Reagan. “We didn't think we would detect anything at 100 miles.” After Mueller made that remark, according to Cleveland’s transcript, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman asked him if those levels were “significantly higher than anything you would have expected.” He responded yes. When Poneman later asked Mueller, “how do the levels detected compare with what is permissible?” Mueller said those on the scene could suffer irreversible harm from the radiation within hours. “If it were a member of the general public, it would take- well, it would take about 10 hours to reach a limit,” he said. At that point, Mueller added, “it’s a thyroid dose issue.” If people are exposed to levels beyond the Protective Action Guideline threshold released by the Energy Department, Cleveland acknowledged in his report, radiation could have ravaged their thyroid glands."

"Fukushima Radiation Equals 6.45 Hiroshima Bombs Each and Every Day, 
More Tomorrow; There is No Place On Earth to Escape the Rad"  
by Bob Nichols, Veterans Today 

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

First thing, grasp the difficult concept that this is an ELE or Extinction Level Event. There is no escaping our fate, there are no solutions. We can extend our lives somewhat, though. These steps are personal. People can do them or not. You will die quicker, or later, your choice.

1. Take off your shoes and outer ware (coats) when you enter your place.
2. Stay under a protective Roof as much as possible.
3. Filter your water. 
Bonus: Eat foods as low on the food chain as possible that are thought to be less radioactive and eat electrically negatively charged foods each day.

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

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

Question: In basic math terms, in comparison to Hiroshima, how much worse is Fukushima and why? 
Answer: (Math updated April 30, 2016, 1,877 days since March 11, 2011- CP) Fukushima, now, equals the detonation of 12,106.65 Hiroshima bombs and it is still going strong, with no end in sight. That is equal to 6.45 Hiroshima Atomic Bombs a Day for 1,877 Days. There are only 336 cities on Earth with more than One Million people. That is the equivalent of 36.3 Hiroshima Atomic Bombs apiece.

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

Question: In basic math terms, in comparison to Chernobyl, how much worse is Fukushima and why?
Answer: At 1,877 days of growth Fukushima is 29.5 times bigger than the Chernobyl atomic disaster in 1986. The International Atomic Agency (IAEA) stated: The accident at Chernobyl was approximately 400 times more potent than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Fukushima so far is 29.5 times worse than Chernobyl and growing.

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

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

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

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

Question: What other questions must be asked when confronted with an Extinction Level Event, and why have any hope whatsoever? 
*Answer: Ask what is the published lethality of all of the released isotopes and do not let the Empire paid trolls fool you by using radioactivity numbers; it is the LETHALITY that counts. When you find the numbers for the two Cesium Twins multiply by 14 for the total radiation in a single release from an active reactor core. Multiply the combined Cesium137/134 radioactivity numbers by 5 for the total radioactivity in a single release for old fuel rods. Those will give you a rough idea of the radiation released for that instance. As for hope, that is fine, knock yourself out."
A Search of this blog will reveal many actively-linked source footnoted articles about Fukushima, 
covered since day one. You decide what to believe, as always...