Monday, August 21, 2017

“The Color Revolution Is Coming Home”

“The Color Revolution Is Coming Home”
by Rob Slane

“When I watched the following video for the first time, one word kept on flitting it’s way in and out of my mind: Demented. Judge for yourselves:

There they are shouting and spitting and kicking at a statue. A statue! As they do so, no doubt they’re congratulating themselves on their goodness, tolerance and liberal values, not to mention their enlightened views. Is this Monty Python? It’s almost comedic, until it hits you that the line between people doing this to a statue and doing it to a living person runs much closer than we might like to think.

“You want a vision of the future,” wrote Orwell, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.”

I could sort of understand how Jews, for instance, after being liberated from a concentration camp, and upon seeing a statue of Hitler, might tear it down and spit on it. There would be a sort of sense in that. But the people in these videos? What did that unknown confederate soldier ever do to them to make them so enraged? Did he torture them? Did he kill their families? Did he lock them in concentration camps or gulags and work them to exhaustion? As far as I can tell he did none of those things, but the deranged mob went for him anyway.

So what did he do to them to make them act in this deranged way? Simple. He made them feel really good about themselves. Because he represents the South, and because the mob think that the Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery (er, no), they get to feel morally superior to him. He is bad, and because they have the “right” opinion about him, they are automatically good. The more kicking and screaming and spitting and hollering they do towards this image of badness, the more their own innate goodness shines through. So goes the thinking, if you can call it that.

Perhaps you’re of the opinion that these statues should come down. Okay, that may well be a reasonable viewpoint. But the problem with this sort of thing is not whether statues come down, but how they come down. There are three ways it can happen, and only one of them bodes well. The first is that the central government decrees that all such statues be removed. The second is that the mob, latching on to the whiff of revolution in the air, takes it upon itself to remove it, and perhaps adds some kicking the living daylights out of it for good measure. And the third way is that the issue is decided on at a local level, with local people consulted and even given the chance to vote on whether a statue should stay or go.

One of these is practically guaranteed to produce resentment among many. Another of these is practically guaranteed to produce mob rule, and as you ought to be aware, once the mob gets the bit between its teeth, it is very hard to get it to put the brakes on. Statues today, books tomorrow, people and Presidents the day after. Orwell again: “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

And the third, whilst not guaranteed to produce peace, at least has the advantage of taking into account the views of local people and the rule of law. In other words, unlike the others it has a chance of producing peaceful resolution, rather than resentment and anarchy.

But what about the white supremacists? What about them? They are evil and stupid, and yet their numbers are (thankfully) such that you need a zero and then a lot more zeros after the decimal point in order to count their percentage. It’s the mob that you want to watch out for. They have been well trained in the art of hating anyone who disagrees with them and calling it love, and of believing that they are life’s perennial victims.

And now they are being emboldened, egged on by the Deep State and mainstream media who are more than happy to use these poor saps as pawns in their drive to topple the elected President. They’ve been slowly strangling him since his election victory last year, with their lunatic claims that he is somehow in the pocket of the Kremlin. But so far they’ve only succeeded in hamstringing the administration, especially in the foreign policy realm (Important Note: This is not me showing any sympathy with Mr Trump whatsoever. He has done more than enough to aid them in their aims, pouring gasoline on his own administration by his unhinged Tweets, his disloyalty to those who could have helped him, and his generally breath-taking ability to rub almost everyone up the wrong way).

But now they sniff their chance. Having now neutered Mr President, they’re now neutering his supporters. Yet it doesn’t stop there. What they’re doing is also neutering anyone who believes in the rule of law rather than anarchy. Object to statues being pulled down by the mob? You’re a fascist. Object to those balaclava-clad goons as they face down white supremacists? You’re practically a fully paid up member of the KKK. Object to people trying to destroy the legitimate President? Neo-Nazi sympathizer! Doesn’t matter if you are any of these things or not, nor whether you voted for Donald Trump, you all get lumped in the same bag of bad eggs.

People, have you not seen these tactics played out time and time and time again? The Deep State, George Soros handbook is written large for all to see, having been played out in color revolution after color revolution the world over. Divisive leader? Check. People with grievances? Check. Talk about democracy being threatened by divisive leader? Check. Affixing of derogatory labels to any who oppose the ousting of the divisive leader? Check. Airbrushing out the views and violence of the opponents of divisive leaders, be they neo-Nazis in Kiev, Wahhabis in Syria, or Soros-sponsored Antifa goonthugs in the US? Check. Excusing their throwing of Molotovs, or their terrorizing whole communities, or their smashing up university campuses, as the work of “freedom fighters” or “moderate rebels” or “champions of democracy/freedom/liberty.” Check.

And so the USA, home of the color revolution, is now moving inevitably and inexorably towards its own color revolution and very probably civil war. The extremists on the liberal-left side are emboldened, since they now know that even their violence will be portrayed with sympathy by the media and the Deep State. The ordinary citizen who believes in the rule of law and the constitution is now neutered, since any opposition they have to this color revolution will see them branded as racists, haters, white supremacists or terrorists - whatever the Soros handbook decides to throw at them. And the Deep State is rubbing its hand at the prospect of useful idiot KKK types providing fuel for the fire on the one side, liberal-left pawns unwittingly doing their bidding on the other, and neutered citizens in the middle wondering what on earth is going on.

All that is missing is John McCain egging on the mob with a speech encouraging them to “take control of their destiny” and Victoria Nuland to pass around the cookies.”

Consider the top graphic. Really? Who's in that video?
Something wicked this way comes... for them, and it will not be pretty.

"How It Really Is"

"Diminishing Returns"

"Diminishing Returns"
by James Howard Kunstler

"These two words are the hinge that is swinging American life - and the advanced techno-industrial world, for that matter - toward darkness. They represent an infection in the critical operations of daily life, like a metabolic disease, driving us into disorder and failure. And they are so omnipresent that we’ve failed to even notice the growing failure all around us.

Mostly, these diminishing returns are the results of our over-investments in making complex systems more complex, for instance the replacement of the 37-page Glass-Steagall Act that regulated American banking, with the 848 page Dodd-Frank Act, which was only an outline for over 22,000 pages of subsequent regulatory content - all of it cooked up by banking lobbyists, and none of which replaced the single most important rule in Glass-Steagall, which required the separation of commercial banking from trafficking in securities. Dodd-Frank was a colossal act of misdirection of the public’s attention, an impenetrable smokescreen of legal blather in the service of racketeering.

For Wall Street, Dodd-Frank aggravated the conditions that allow stock indexes to only move in one direction, up, for nine years. During the same period, the American economy of real people and real stuff only went steadily down, including the number of people out of the work force, the incomes of those who still had jobs, the number of people with full-time jobs, the number of people who were able to buy food without government help, or pay for a place to live, or send a kid to college.

When that morbid tension finally snaps, as it must, it won’t only be the Hedge Funders of the Hamptons who get hurt. It will be the entire global financial system, especially currencies (dollars, Euros, Yen, Pounds, Renminbi) that undergo a swift and dire re-pricing, and all the other things of this world priced in them. And when that happens, the world will awake to a new reality of steeply reduced possibilities for supporting 7-plus billion people.

The same over-investments in complexity have produced the racketeering colossus of so-called health care (formerly “medicine”), in case you’re wondering why the waiting room of your doctor’s office now looks exactly like the motor vehicle bureau. Meanwhile, it’s safe to say that the citizens of this land have never been so uniformly unhealthy, even as they’re being swindled and blackmailed by their “providers.” The eventual result will be a chaotic process of simplification, as giant hospital corporations, insurance companies, and overgrown doctors’ practices collapse, and the braver practitioners coalesce into something resembling Third World clinics.

We’re still struggling to even apprehend the damage being done to people by cell phones - and I’m not even referring to whatever microwaves actually do to brain cells. Many find it amusing to see whole streets and campus byways filled with young people staring into their phones. Whatever they’re gaining in endorphin hits from “being connected” is undermined by the immense losses they’re suffering in real social skills and the sinister effects of behavioral conditioning by the programmers of web-based social networks. These failures are being expressed in new social phenomena like flash mobs and the manipulation of college students into Maoist thought police - and these are only the most visible manifestations. A more insidious outcome will be a whole generation’s failure to develop a sense of personal agency in a long emergency of civilization that will require exactly that aptitude for survival.

Among the more popular and idiotic strains of diminishing returns is the crusade to replace gasoline-powered cars with electric-powered vehicles. And for what? To promote the illusion that we can continue to be car-dependent and live in suburbia. Neither of those wishful notions is supported by reality. Both of them will soon yield to the fundamental crisis of capital scarcity. In the meantime, hardly anyone is interested in the one thing that would produce a better outcome for Americans: a return to walkable communities scaled to economic reality.

The convulsions over President Trump’s vivid clowning are just a symptom of the concealed rot eating away at the foundations of American life. What they demonstrate most of all is the failure of this society’s sensory organs - the news media - to ascertain what is actually happening to us. And the recognition of that failure accounts for the current state of the media’s disrepute, even if its critics are doing a poor job of articulating it.”

"Never Give In, Never Give Up..."

"Failure is inevitable, unavoidable, but failure should never get the last word. You have to hold on to what you want. You have to not take no for an answer and take what’s coming to you. Never give in, never give up. Stand up. Stand up and take it."
- "Meredith Grey", "Gray's Anatomy"

"NASA Unveils Plan To Stop Yellowstone “Supervolcano” Eruption, There’s Just One Catch”

"NASA Unveils Plan To Stop Yellowstone “Supervolcano” Eruption, 
There’s Just One Catch”
by Tyler Durden

"A NASA plan to stop the Yellowstone supervolcano from erupting, could actually cause it to blow… triggering a nuclear winter that would wipe out humanity. As we have detailed recently, government officials have been closely monitoring the activity in the Yellowstone caldera. However, as’s Mac Slavo details, scientists at NASA have now come up with an incredibly risky plan to save the United States from the super volcano.

"A NASA scientist has spoken out about the true threat of super volcanoes and the risky methods that could be used to prevent a devastating eruption. Lying beneath the tranquil and beautiful settings of Yellowstone National Park in the US lies an enormous magma chamber, called a caldera. It’s responsible for the geysers and hot springs that define the area, but for scientists at NASA, it’s also one of the greatest natural threats to human civilization as we know it.

Brian Wilcox, a former member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense, shared a report on the natural hazard that hadn’t been seen outside of the agency until now. Following an article published by BBC about super volcanoes last month, a group of NASA researchers got in touch with the media to share a report previously unseen outside the space agency about the threat Yellowstone poses, and what they hypothesize could possibly be done about it.

“I was a member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense which studied ways for NASA to defend the planet from asteroids and comets,” explains Brian Wilcox of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology.  “I came to the conclusion during that study that the supervolcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat.”

Yellowstone currently leaks about 60 to 70 percent of its heat into the atmosphere through stream water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks, while the rest of the heat builds up as magma and dissolves into volatile gasses. The heat and pressure will reach the threshold, meaning an explosion is inevitable. When NASA scientists considered the fact that a super volcano’s eruption would plunge the earth into a volcanic winter, destroying most sources of food, starvation would then become a real possibility.  Food reserves would only last about 74 days, according to the UN, after an eruption of a super volcano, like that under Yellowstone.  And they have devised a risky plan that could end up blowing up in their faces.  Literally.

Wilcox hypothesized that if enough heat was removed, and the temperature of the super volcano dropped, it would never erupt. But he wants to see a 35% decrease in temperature, and how to achieve that, is incredibly risky. One possibility is to simply increase the amount of water in the supervolcano. As it turns to steam the water would release the heat into the atmosphere, making global warming alarmists tremble.

“Building a big aqueduct uphill into a mountainous region would be both costly and difficult, and people don’t want their water spent that way,” Wilcox says. “People are desperate for water all over the world and so a major infrastructure project, where the only way the water is used is to cool down a supervolcano, would be very controversial.”

So, NASA came up with an alternative plan. They believe the most viable solution could be to drill up to 10km down into the super volcano and pump down water at high pressure. The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 350C (662F), thus slowly day by day extracting heat from the volcano. And while such a project would come at an estimated cost of around $3.46 billion, it comes with an enticing catch which could convince politicians (taxpayers) to make the investment.

“Yellowstone currently leaks around 6GW in heat,” Wilcox says. “Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh. You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would, but you would pay back your initial investment, and get electricity which can power the surrounding area for a period of potentially tens of thousands of years. And the long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.”

Of course, drilling into a super volcano comes with its own risks, like the eruption that scientists are desperate to prevent. Triggering an eruption by drilling would be disastrous. “The most important thing with this is to do no harm,” Wilcox says. “If you drill into the top of the magma chamber and try and cool it from there, this would be very risky. This could make the cap over the magma chamber more brittle and prone to fracture. And you might trigger the release of harmful volatile gases in the magma at the top of the chamber which would otherwise not be released.” The cooling of Yellowstone in this manner would also take tens of thousands of years, but it is a plan that scientists at NASA are considering for every super volcano on earth.

“When people first considered the idea of defending the Earth from an asteroid impact, they reacted in a similar way to the supervolcano threat,” Wilcox says. “People thought, ‘As puny as we are, how can humans possibly prevent an asteroid from hitting the Earth.’ Well, it turns out if you engineer something which pushes very slightly for a very long time, you can make the asteroid miss the Earth. So the problem turns out to be easier than people think. In both cases it requires the scientific community to invest brain power and you have to start early. But Yellowstone explodes roughly every 600,000 years, and it is about 600,000 years since it last exploded, which should cause us to sit up and take notice.”
"What could possibly go wrong?"

"George Washington: What an Imbecile!"

"George Washington: What an Imbecile!"
by Bill Bonner

"George Washington: What an imbecile! He owned 317 slaves. Couldn’t he see that slavery was bad?Jefferson, too. And Madison. And Monroe. Jackson. Van Buren. Tyler. Harrison. Polk. Taylor. Johnson. And Ulysses S Grant. Didn’t they smell the squalor of the slave quarters and hear Simon Legree’s whip in the fields? Didn’t they see the gentle hearts yearning for liberty? What a bunch of blind idiots!

We interrupt the finale of our look at gods, heroes and statues only to note that the Dow dropped 274 points Friday. In a brief conversation with colleague David Stockman, a Wall Street veteran who watches the market more closely than we do, he told us he thought it was ‘ready to collapse at any moment’. We’ll check our ‘Doom Index’ on Monday. In the meantime…

The killing of ‘Little Nellie’: Even the slaves must have been numbskulls. Here’s what Robert E Lee’s wartime servant, William Mack Lee - who had been freed 10 years before the war started - said of his master: ‘I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than General Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment.’

William Lee accompanied General Lee - or ‘Marse Robert’, as he called him - throughout the entire war. He was with him at Cheat Mountain, the Seven Days, Manassas, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Deep Bottom, and finally the Appomattox Court House - practically all the blood-soaked disasters of the War Between the States. He cooked. He cleaned. He brought Marse Robert his horse. He served visiting Confederate generals. He was wounded in the head and in the hip and walked with a limp the rest of his life.

In his memoirs, he recalled only one incident in which General Lee was angry with him - on 3 July 1863. A group of generals was coming for a meeting. They had to be fed. But there was no food other than Lee’s favorite laying hen. Seeing no alternative, the cook put the hen in the pot. A 19th-century scribe recorded a tear in William Lee’s eye as he recounted the incident 30 years later: ‘I jes’ had to go out and cotch little Nellie. I picked her good; and stuffed her with breod stuffin’, mixed wid butter. Nellie had be gwine wid us two years, and I hated fer to lose her. We had been gettin’ all our eggs from Nellie.

Well, sir, when I brung Nellie inter de commissary tent and set her fo’ Marse Robert he turned to me right fo’ all dem gimmin and he says: “William, now you have killed Nellie. What are we going to do for eggs?” ‘“I jes’ had ter do it, Marse Robert,” says I. ‘“No, you didn’t, William; I’m going to write Miss Mary about you. I’m going to tell her you have killed Nellie.”’

Cranes and dynamite: What did William Lee know of Robert E Lee? He worked for him closely throughout the four years of the bloodiest war in America’s history. They lived in tents through bitter cold winters, muddy springs, and stifling summers. They saw men die, thousands of them, with no medicines to save them and no morphine to ease the pain.

William Lee saw his master up close and under pressure. He knew him well, but only as a man, not a god. But like all the people who lived before us, William Lee must have been a fool. We are all so much wiser, so much smarter, so much better now. We know now that his master deserved no honors, no praise, and no fond remembrance. All the statues of Robert E Lee will have to come down. So will practically all those of America’s antebellum presidents.

And while we are rooting out symbols of slavery, let’s take the cranes and dynamite to those slave-built monuments in Europe and North Africa, too. The pyramids in Egypt. The Parthenon and the Acropolis in Greece. The Colosseum in Italy.

And why stop there? What about the Kaaba in Mecca, the Taj Mahal in India, the Mayan pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and Angkor Wat? And what about the works of Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, Marcus Aurelius, Sun Tzu, Dante, and Virgil?

Who brought them tea? Who cleaned their houses? Surely their books - monuments to these dumbbells (didn’t they know better?) - should be burned. All vestiges of the evil past should be razed to the ground. Yes, that’s it. We will rid the world of every trace of slavery once and for all,and finally live in the perfection that we - practically gods ourselves, all-knowing, never erring - deserve.

Gods and devils: We began the week bowing to our gods but bending to our bricks. We end with our head hanging low…looking at our feet - there, the ground on which we stand, is the hell into which we have fallen. Donald Trump - for all his balderdash and flimflam - is right: The news is fake. But that is the way it always is.

William Lee knew his master as a mason knows a granite rock - as a real man. We know him only as a cartoon character, a fake man, a god or a devil, depending on which way the media winds are blowing. And today blows a gale of self-congratulation. For now, finally, after so many centuries, we have reached some peak of moral and intellectual superiority. We know the Truth.

Now we know that yesterday’s heroes were traitors and terrorists. Yesterday’s gods were mere devils. And yesterday’s great thinkers were morons. But wait… What will tomorrow’s saints and geniuses think of us?

What will they think of the 2.2 million people in our prisons? That’s more than anywhere else on Earth; only the Soviet-era gulags and Nazi concentration camps had more. 

What will they think of our murderous wars - more than two million dead in the Middle East in America’s ‘War on Terror’? ‘What was that all about?’ they will ask.

What will they think of our phony-baloney money system - leading to the biggest debt bubble in world history, sure to be followed by the biggest blow-up ever?

What will they think of robbing our middle-class producers to make Wall Street and Deep State insiders richer?

And what will they think of the hubris…the intolerance…the gall…of people who judge their fathers and grandfathers so harshly and earnestly believe they are smarter and better than the 10,000 generations that preceded them?

As always…more to come…"

"I've Learned That..."

"The Long Lost Thrill of Doing Nothing“

"The Long Lost Thrill of Doing Nothing“
by David Cain

"Many text messages between my friends and me take roughly this form: “Are you busy tomorrow? We should do something.” That something often isn’t defined at the time. But when we arrive in each other’s physical presence, after we’ve caught up, eventually one of us has to ask: “So… what do you wanna do?” Then we have to decide. We could for a walk, go eat, play a board game, check out what’s happening in the city, just chat, or something else.

One of my friends - and only one - sometimes throws me a curveball here, and suggests that we don’t do anything, at least not yet. We can just lounge here in the living room. Or not quite lounge, but just relax and do nothing. I’m struggling to pick a verb for it. “Laze” and “lounge” both have moral connotations, as do “chill” or “veg.” “Hang out” is too general, and could mean switching on the TV, opening a bottle of something, or catching up.

I’m talking about just being in the room and not doing anything in particular, usually while reclining your body in some way, with no regard for the time and no idea of what to do next. Real idleness.  You might absently study the joins in the drywall, bathe in the sounds of the neighborhood, put your feet up on something, or get down on the floor and put your legs up the wall. Or none of those things.

The first time I agreed with this suggestion, I expected it to feel contrived. I was worried that I might worry about how well I’m doing at not worrying about what to do. This apprehension quickly gave way though, as the feeling of doing nothing in particular began to feel extremely familiar. I had forgotten that I’m fairly experienced at exactly this kind of idleness. As a kid and then a teenager, before I started to think of time as a scarce resource, I did a lot of this.

Back then, I had much less awareness of the passage of time, or at least of the numbers on clocks. Time was something you referred to occasionally, when you needed to meet someone, or see a particular movie. There was so much less emotion tied up in what the clock said. I certainly hadn’t yet linked it to any kind of self-evaluation.

It seems like the introduction of adult responsibilities destroys the freedom to be only occasionally aware of how you’re using your time. After all, much of adult life concerns striving to make certain numbers work - having your income exceed your expenses, and spending enough (but not too much) time on physical fitness, paid labor, creative work, and leisure.

Doing nothing in particular, for however long it was that first time (maybe 15 or 20 minutes - but I don’t want to know), gave me a glimpse of what it was like when time wasn’t so predominant in my thinking. It was wonderful to discover that just by stepping away, briefly, from the stream of serial decision making, it was still possible to experience life with at least some of that freedom.

My friend has since convinced me to be idle by myself on a regular basis. I have been. When I’m finished with one thing and don’t immediately move on to another, I’ll tip myself back on the couch, and let the planlessness of the moment take over. I stop deciding altogether - even about what time I’ll start deciding again.

I should be clear that this kind of doing nothing is entirely different from meditation, which I do a lot of. Even though meditation is all about abiding in present moment experience, and refraining from entertaining thoughts about past and future, it does require a specific intention, and enough self-oversight to keep yourself on track. True idleness is intentionless time, and it fulfills something that meditation doesn’t.

I also don’t want to confuse true idleness with leisure. Parties, vacations, walks in the park and flea-market excursions do return us to the moment from our planning and striving. But these activities are themselves planned and budgeted for. We can even have a certain anxiety about them not going as planned - a vacation not feeling carefree enough, for example.

Spontaneous idleness challenges an urge that’s deeply ingrained in many of us, especially in modern, secular societies: the persistent need to feel like we’re making something of our time. This urge has many names and styles - the Protestant work ethic; the American Dream; the Bucket List; the Examined Life; any form of “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Each of these ideas can drive some pretty incredible lives, however, and create a lot of enriching experiences. There’s a reason we so often think of time as an investment. The way you spent your time in the past is largely what created your present, and that mechanism is always operating.

Completely ignoring efficiency probably doesn’t lead to a fulfilling life. But letting that efficiency urge drop occasionally, by punctuating our doing with idleness, challenges that faint but persistent sense that the moment we stop doing, our precious lives begin slipping away. That belief, which has largely motivated my adult life, is starting to seem completely backwards. Maybe life is slipping away in every moment we’re afraid to stop doing stuff. After all, nothing detracts from the enjoyment of your life like a creeping fear that you’re doing it wrong.

I don’t want to think of idleness as another investment—time exchanged for more wellness. So instead of thinking of it as an activity, we can think of it as an insight worth remembering: the end of one activity doesn’t need to be the start of another. You can simply remain where you are for a bit, without setting a course. If you’re a compulsive planner like me, going idle feels something like letting go of the side of the pool. It’s not disorienting for long, and the confidence rushes in once you realize you’re not going to drown.”

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Musical Interlude: Deuter, “Loving Touch”

Deuter, “Loving Touch”

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Sometimes, the sky mimics the ground. Taken in 2017 May from the Atacama Desert in Chile, the foreground of the featured image encompasses the dipping edge of the caldera of an extinct volcano. Poetically echoing the dip below is the arch of our Milky Way Galaxy above. 
Click image for larger size.
Many famous icons dot this southern nighttime vista, including the center of our Milky Way Galaxy on the far left, the bright orange star Antares also on the left, the constellation of the Southern Cross near the top of the arch, and the red-glowing Gum Nebula on the far right. Just above the horizon and splitting two distant volcanic peaks near the image center is the Large Magellanic Cloud - the largest satellite galaxy of the Milky Way."

Chet Raymo, “Quiet Desperation”

“Quiet Desperation”
by Chet Raymo

"As I type this, I am sipping a cup of Green Mountain Vermont Country Blend Decaf and nibbling an Entenmann's Ultimate Cinnamon Pastry Twister. Just thought you'd want to know. Do you also want know where I am? What I'm wearing? I would tell you, but by the time you read this I will surely be somewhere else, and wearing something different. And you want to know the circumstances of my life in real time, don't you?

Of course you do. What I need is a wi-fi enabled coffee cup that will post what I'm drinking on Twitter or Facebook, even as I drink. I need clothing that will keep you apprised minute-by-minute exactly what I'm wearing, with built-in GPS so you will know where I am- without me having to key in the info. I know you want to know these things. I mean, doesn't everyone?

And, by the way, a report in a recent issue of Science suggests that folks with the largest social networks have more gray matter in the temporal cortex of the brain. Cause or effect? In the same issue, an experiment with monkeys kept in different size groups suggests that greater social interaction leads to more gray matter (although the experiment sounds less than convincing to me). Can Twittering and Facebook grow the brain? (I highly doubt that! Remember your elementary math: Any number X 0 is still... 0. - CP)

Just after I posted a musing on the connected generation, I read an article in the "New York Times" about Google's secret research lab where they are envisioning our future, and apparently they are working on products like those I imagined above. If Google has their way, we will not only be instantly connected to each other all the time, but we will also be networked with our appliances, our furniture, even our light bulbs. My spouse will remember the days when we'd set off to visit family members in other states, and invariably wondered when we were fifty miles from home whether we shut off the oven. Well, not to worry. Soon the oven will be in touch, asking if it should turn itself off.

Yes, yes, I appreciate the irony of using Google Blogger to rant about Google. The ironies abound. I'm almost finished reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, and enjoying every minute of it, even as I play here a crotchety electronic Luddite. I take my pocket Walden for a walk in the woods, sans phone or iPod, smugly reveling in disconnected solitude, all the while harboring a secret lust for a MacBook Air.

The hermit of Walden was no hermit, but neither did he pine for constant intercourse with his neighbors. He had three chairs in his cabin, he said; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. That sounds about right to me, gray matter be damned."

"Life Is About..."

"Life is about discovering things that do matter in the end."
- Robert Brault

The Poet: Anne Sexton, "Courage"


"It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out."

~ Anne Sexton

The Daily "Near You?"

Perugia, Umbria, Italy. Thanks for stopping by!

X22 Report, “Two Sides Fight For Control, We Are Coming Down To The Wire”

X22 Report, “Two Sides Fight For Control, We Are Coming Down To The Wire”
Related followup report:
X22 Report, “Beware Of The Red Swan And Negative Interest Rates”

"On Your Own Terms..."

"If the sun is shining, stand in it- yes, yes, yes. Happy times are great, but happy times pass- they have to- because time passes. The pursuit of happiness is more elusive; it is life-long, and it is not goal-centered. What you are pursuing is meaning- a meaningful life... There are times when it will go so wrong that you will be barely alive, and times when you realize that being barely alive, on your own terms, is better than living a bloated half-life on someone else's terms."
- Jeanette Winterson

“Think Like a Corleone”

“Think Like a Corleone”
Leave fools’ paradise to the fools.
by Robert Gore

"If you are offered a choice between having your tuition and expenses paid at a top of the line business school, or buying with your own money Mario Puzo’s "The Godfather" (the book and the movies, Parts One and Two) choose the latter. You’ll find them far more useful than the MBA.

Americans are frequently condemned for obliviousness to the lies and depredations of the people who rule them. Much of the condemnation is merited, but the obliviousness is also a vestige of a better time. The best gauge of a society is truth: its prevalence and how it’s treated.

You go to a store and buy a product. Your transaction rests on implicit assumptions that everyone in the supply chain is telling the truth and acting honorably. The product was manufactured to the manufacturer’s advertised standard. It was delivered by a transportation company in good order, and marketed by the store in good faith. Every step of the way you could have been ripped off and not known it. The product could be a counterfeit. The delivery truck could have been hijacked and the product resold to the vendor at a cut-rate price. The product might be defective, but the manufacturer and vendor continue to sell it. A paranoid could drive himself crazy imagining all the possibilities, most of which cannot be dismissed out of hand.

When exchange is voluntary, a producer’s reputation for integrity is an invaluable asset and an consumer’s trust is both rational and productive. A producer’s reputation rests on millions or billions of transactions in which consumers receive the value they expect, with any problems quickly addressed and remedied to the consumer’s satisfaction. One reason John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil did as well as it did was because its refining and distribution processes delivered oil that was of a uniformly high standard. Many of the company’s competitors did not. One batch might be acceptable, but other batches had impurities or varying chemical compositions. Those who think it’s easy to manufacturer millions of items or refine millions of barrels of oil to a uniform standard over a span of years or decades only betray their ignorance of manufacturing and refining.

The companies that reach the top of the heap in a voluntary exchange system save their customers immeasurable time and effort. Imagine if you had to inspect and test every item you bought before you used it. That would be a dump truck full of sand in the gears of your life; you’d get nothing else done.

Voluntary exchange rewards both integrity and trust. That was once the American milieu, and is still a significant part of it. We trust Apple to deliver great phones, ExxonMobil to deliver top grade gasoline, Whole Foods to deliver quality food, and so on. Unfortunately, another class of interactions has overshadowed the realm of voluntary exchange, interactions based on fear, force, fraud and theft. Nefarious means to nefarious ends are the province of governments.

Expanding government power and domination are the deadly enemies of integrity and trust. As a government uses violence to subjugate, the subjugated quickly learn that honesty and honorable behavior are persecuted; to survive they must resort to deception and covert resistance. The subjugators invariably regard the subjugated as an inferior class and disparage their tactics as dishonorable.

History is replete with such instances. Sicily has been ruled by a long line of outside powers. Starting in the late 1800s, the Mafia became the embodiment of the inverted morality that takes hold among tyrannized and brutalized peoples. That morality does nothing to advance the general welfare; it doesn’t promote prosperity or progress. It only allows the subjugated to survive.

In this antique garden, Michael Corleone learned about the roots from which his father grew. That the word “mafia” had originally meant place of refuge. Then it became the name for the secret organization that sprang up to fight against the rulers who had crushed the country and its people for centuries. Sicily was a land that had been more cruelly raped than any other in history. The Inquisition had tortured rich and poor alike. The landowning barons and the prices of the Catholic Church exercised absolute power over the shepherds and farmers. The police were the instruments of their power and so identified with them that to be called a policeman is the foulest insult one Sicilian can hurl at another.

Faced with the savagery of this absolute power, the suffering people learned never to betray their anger and their hatred for fear of being crushed. They learned never to make themselves vulnerable by uttering any sort of threat since giving such a warning insured a quick reprisal. They learned that society was their enemy and so when they sought redress they went to the rebel underground, the Mafia. And the Mafia cemented its power by originating the law of silence, the omerta. In the countryside of Sicily a stranger asking directions to the nearest town will not even receive the courtesy of an answer. And the greatest crime any member of the Mafia could commit would be to tell the police the name of the man who had just shot him or done him any kind of injury. Omerta became the religion of the people. A woman whose husband has been murdered would not tell the police the name of her husband’s murderer, not even of her child’s murderer, her daughter’s raper.

Probably 20 percent of Americans will tell you their life stories in a grocery store checkout line, and 50 percent over a cup of coffee. Many trade information about themselves as freely as they trade their money for groceries or coffee. Ask those who have escaped life in a totalitarian regime about it and they will marvel at the foolishness.

The oppressed learn to trust no one other than those who have demonstrated they deserve to be trusted, usually family or long-time friends. In response to disclosures that the government is monitoring them 24/7 and knows virtually everything they do and say, many Americans breezily assert that they’re not worried; they have nothing to hide. Behind omerta was the Sicilian peasant’s reality that any information, no matter how trivial or innocuous, was a weapon that could be used against him by the hostile and corrupt regime. American openness and trusting insouciance is quaintly naive - anachronisms from a better time - and pitiably foolish.

If you think the government, its friends, and those who pull its strings have your best interests at heart, that they tell the truth, that they can be trusted, you are living in a fool’s paradise and deserve whatever you get from your “benevolent” masters. For the rest of us, it’s time to go Sicilian, to start thinking like a Corleone. The dangers will intensify as things get much worse, before collapse offers the prospect of rebuilding something better.

The times demand caution, skepticism, less talking, more listening, alertness, wariness, hiding one’s strengths, remedying one’s weaknesses, self-sufficiency, cunning, and drawing closer to those few people in your life you know you can trust. Your survival is at stake and there are no guarantees. All you can do is better your odds. Indiscriminate trust and hoping for the best - without thinking about and preparing for the worse - will dramatically lower those odds.”
“Never hate your enemies. It clouds your judgment.”
- "Michael Corleone"

But never forget their names...

"How It Really Should Be"

Musical Interlude: The Who, “Love, Reign O'er Me”

The Who, “Love, Reign O'er Me”
Hey, it's my blog, and I always liked The Who, lol

Musical Interlude: The Who, “Overture” (From "Tommy")

The Who, “Overture” (From "Tommy")

"The Holstee Manifesto"

"The Science of Stress and How Our Emotions Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease"

"The Science of Stress and How Our Emotions
 Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease"
by Maria Popova 

"I had lived thirty good years before enduring my first food poisoning - odds quite fortunate in the grand scheme of things, but miserably unfortunate in the immediate experience of it. I found myself completely incapacitated to erect the pillars of my daily life - too cognitively foggy to read and write, too physically weak to work out or even meditate. The temporary disability soon elevated the assault on my mind and body to a new height of anguish: an intense experience of stress. Even as I consoled myself with Nabokov’s exceptionally florid account of food poisoning, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming malaise that had engulfed me - somehow, a physical illness had completely colored my psychoemotional reality.

This experience, of course, is far from uncommon. Long before scientists began shedding light on how our minds and bodies actually affect one another, an intuitive understanding of this dialogue between the body and the emotions, or feelings, emerged and permeated our very language: We use “feeling sick” as a grab-bag term for both the sensory symptoms - fever, fatigue, nausea - and the psychological malaise, woven of emotions like sadness and apathy.

Pre-modern medicine, in fact, has recognized this link between disease and emotion for millennia. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Indian Ayurvedic physicians all enlisted the theory of the four humors - blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm - in their healing practices, believing that imbalances in these four visible secretions of the body caused disease and were themselves often caused by the emotions. These beliefs are fossilized in our present language - melancholy comes from the Latin words for “black” (melan) and “bitter bile” (choler), and we think of a melancholic person as gloomy or embittered; a phlegmatic person is languid and impassive, for phlegm makes one lethargic.

Click image for larger size.
Chart of the four humors from a 1495 medical textbook by Johannes de Ketham.

And then French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes came along in the seventeenth century, taking it upon himself to eradicate the superstitions that fueled the religious wars of the era by planting the seed of rationalism. But the very tenets that laid the foundation of modern science - the idea that truth comes only from what can be visibly ascertained and proven beyond doubt - severed this link between the physical body and the emotions; those mysterious and fleeting forces, the biological basis of which the tools of modern neuroscience are only just beginning to understand, seemed to exist entirely outside the realm of what could be examined with the tools of rationalism.

For nearly three centuries, the idea that our emotions could impact our physical health remained scientific taboo - setting out to fight one type of dogma, Descartes had inadvertently created another, which we’re only just beginning to shake off. It was only in the 1950s that Austrian-Canadian physician and physiologist Hans Selye pioneered the notion of stress as we now know it today, drawing the scientific community’s attention to the effects of stress on physical health and popularizing the concept around the world. (In addition to his scientific dedication, Selye also understood the branding component of any successful movement and worked tirelessly to include the word itself in dictionaries around the world; today, “stress” is perhaps the word pronounced most similarly in the greatest number of major languages.)

But no researcher has done more to illuminate the invisible threads that weave mind and body together than Dr. Esther Sternberg. Her groundbreaking work on the link between the central nervous system and the immune system, exploring how immune molecules made in the blood can trigger brain function that profoundly affects our emotions, has revolutionized our understanding of the integrated being we call a human self. In the immeasurably revelatory "The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions" (public library), Sternberg examines the interplay of our emotions and our physical health, mediated by that seemingly nebulous yet, it turns out, remarkably concrete experience called stress.

With an eye to modern medicine’s advances in cellular and molecular biology, which have made it possible to measure how our nervous system and our hormones affect our susceptibility to diseases as varied as depression, arthritis, AIDS, and chronic fatigue syndrome, Sternberg writes: "By parsing these chemical intermediaries, we can begin to understand the biological underpinnings of how emotions affect diseases.

The same parts of the brain that control the stress response play an important role in susceptibility and resistance to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. And since it is these parts of the brain that also play a role in depression, we can begin to understand why it is that many patients with inflammatory diseases may also experience depression at different times in their lives. Rather than seeing the psyche as the source of such illnesses, we are discovering that while feelings don’t directly cause or cure disease, the biological mechanisms underlying them may cause or contribute to disease. Thus, many of the nerve pathways and molecules underlying both psychological responses and inflammatory disease are the same, making predisposition to one set of illnesses likely to go along with predisposition to the other. The questions need to be rephrased, therefore, to ask which of the many components that work together to create emotions also affect that other constellation of biological events, immune responses, which come together to fight or to cause disease. Rather than asking if depressing thoughts can cause an illness of the body, we need to ask what the molecules and nerve pathways are that cause depressing thoughts. And then we need to ask whether these affect the cells and molecules that cause disease.

We are even beginning to sort out how emotional memories reach the parts of the brain that control the hormonal stress response, and how such emotions can ultimately affect the workings of the immune system and thus affect illnesses as disparate as arthritis and cancer. We are also beginning to piece together how signals from the immune system can affect the brain and the emotional and physical responses it controls: the molecular basis of feeling sick. In all this, the boundaries between mind and body are beginning to blur."

Indeed, the relationship between memory, emotion, and stress is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Sternberg’s work. She considers how we deal with the constant swirl of inputs and outputs as we move through the world, barraged by a stream of stimuli and sensations:

"Every minute of the day and night we feel thousands of sensations that might trigger a positive emotion such as happiness, or a negative emotion such as sadness, or no emotion at all: a trace of perfume, a light touch, a fleeting shadow, a strain of music. And there are thousands of physiological responses, such as palpitations or sweating, that can equally accompany positive emotions such as love, or negative emotions such as fear, or can happen without any emotional tinge at all. What makes these sensory inputs and physiological outputs emotions is the charge that gets added to them somehow, somewhere in our brains. Emotions in their fullest sense comprise all of these components. Each can lead into the black box and produce an emotional experience, or something in the black box can lead out to an emotional response that seems to come from nowhere."

Memory, it turns out, is one of the major factors mediating the dialogue between sensation and emotional experience. Our memories of past experience become encoded into triggers that act as switchers on the rail of psychoemotional response, directing the incoming train of present experience in the direction of one emotional destination or another.

Sternberg writes: "Mood is not homogeneous like cream soup. It is more like Swiss cheese, filled with holes. The triggers are highly specific, tripped by sudden trails of memory: a faint fragrance, a few bars of a tune, a vague silhouette that tapped into a sad memory buried deep, but not completely erased. These sensory inputs from the moment float through layers of time in the parts of the brain that control memory, and they pull out with them not only reminders of sense but also trails of the emotions that were first connected to the memory. These memories become connected to emotions, which are processed in other parts of the brain: the amygdala for fear, the nucleus accumbens for pleasure - those same parts that the anatomists had named for their shapes. And these emotional brain centers are linked by nerve pathways to the sensory parts of the brain and to the frontal lobe and hippocampus - the coordinating centers of thought and memory. The same sensory input can trigger a negative emotion or a positive one, depending on the memories associated with it."

This is where stress comes in - much like memory mediates how we interpret and respond to various experiences, a complex set of biological and psychological factors determine how we respond to stress. Some types of stress can be stimulating and invigorating, mobilizing us into action and creative potency; others can be draining and incapacitating, leaving us frustrated and hopeless. This dichotomy of good vs. bad stress, Sternberg notes, is determined by the biology undergirding our feelings - by the dose and duration of the stress hormones secreted by the body in response to the stressful stimulus. She explains the neurobiological machinery behind this response:

"As soon as the stressful event occurs, it triggers the release of the cascade of hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal hormones - the brain’s stress response. It also triggers the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, or adrenaline, and the sympathetic nerves to squirt out the adrenaline-like chemical norepinephrine all over the body: nerves that wire the heart, and gut, and skin. So, the heart is driven to beat faster, the fine hairs of your skin stand up, you sweat, you may feel nausea or the urge to defecate. But your attention is focused, your vision becomes crystal clear, a surge of power helps you run - these same chemicals released from nerves make blood flow to your muscles, preparing you to sprint.

All this occurs quickly. If you were to measure the stress hormones in your blood or saliva, they would already be increased within three minutes of the event. In experimental psychology tests, playing a fast-paced video game will make salivary cortisol increase and norepinephrine spill over into venous blood almost as soon as the virtual battle begins. But if you prolong the stress, by being unable to control it or by making it too potent or long-lived, and these hormones and chemicals still continue to pump out from nerves and glands, then the same molecules that mobilized you for the short haul now debilitate you."

These effects of stress exist on a bell curve - that is, some is good, but too much becomes bad: As the nervous system secretes more and more stress hormones, performance increases, but up to a point; after that tipping point, performance begins to suffer as the hormones continue to flow. What makes stress “bad” - that is, what makes it render us more pervious to disease — is the disparity between the nervous system and immune system’s respective pace. Sternberg explains:

"The nervous system and the hormonal stress response react to a stimulus in milliseconds, seconds, or minutes. The immune system takes parts of hours or days. It takes much longer than two minutes for immune cells to mobilize and respond to an invader, so it is unlikely that a single, even powerful, short-lived stress on the order of moments could have much of an effect on immune responses. However, when the stress turns chronic, immune defenses begin to be impaired. As the stressful stimulus hammers on, stress hormones and chemicals continue to pump out. Immune cells floating in this milieu in blood, or passing through the spleen, or growing up in thymic nurseries never have a chance to recover from the unabated rush of cortisol. Since cortisol shuts down immune cells’ responses, shifting them to a muted form, less able to react to foreign triggers, in the context of continued stress we are less able to defend and fight when faced with new invaders. And so, if you are exposed to, say, a flu or common cold virus when you are chronically stressed out, your immune system is less able to react and you become more susceptible to that infection."

Extended exposure to stress, especially to a variety of stressors at the same time - any combination from the vast existential menu of life-events like moving, divorce, a demanding job, the loss of a loved one, and even ongoing childcare - adds up a state of extreme exhaustion that leads to what we call burnout.

Sternberg writes: "Members of certain professions are more prone to burnout than others - nurses and teachers, for example, are among those at highest risk. These professionals are faced daily with caregiving situations in their work lives, often with inadequate pay, inadequate help in their jobs, and with too many patients or students in their charge. Some studies are beginning to show that burnt-out patients may have not only psychological burnout, but also physiological burnout: a flattened cortisol response and inability to respond to any stress with even a slight burst of cortisol. In other words, chronic unrelenting stress can change the stress response itself. And it can change other hormone systems in the body as well."

One of the most profound such changes affects the reproductive system - extended periods of stress can shut down the secretion of reproductive hormones in both men and women, resulting in lower fertility. But the effects are especially perilous for women - recurring and extended episodes of depression result in permanent changes in bone structure, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. In other words, we register stress literally in our bones.

But stress isn’t a direct causal function of the circumstances we’re in - what either amplifies or ameliorates our experience of stress is, once again, memory. Sternberg writes: "Our perception of stress, and therefore our response to it, is an ever-changing thing that depends a great deal on the circumstances and settings in which we find ourselves. It depends on previous experience and knowledge, as well as on the actual event that has occurred. And it depends on memory, too."

The most acute manifestation of how memory modulates stress is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. For striking evidence of how memory encodes past experience into triggers, which then catalyze present experience, Sternberg points to research by psychologist Rachel Yehuda, who found both Holocaust survivors and their first-degree relatives - that is, children and siblings - exhibited a similar hormonal stress response.

This, Sternberg points out, could be a combination of nature and nurture - the survivors, as young parents for whom the trauma was still fresh, may well have subconsciously taught their children a common style of stress-responsiveness; but it’s also possible that these automatic hormonal stress responses permanently changed the parents’ biology and were transmitted via DNA to their children. Once again, memory encodes stress into our very bodies. Sternberg considers the broader implications:

"Stress need not be on the order of war, rape, or the Holocaust to trigger at least some elements of PTSD. Common stresses that we all experience can trigger the emotional memory of a stressful circumstance - and all its accompanying physiological responses. Prolonged stress - such as divorce, a hostile workplace, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one - can all trigger elements of PTSD."

Among the major stressors - which include life-events expected to be on the list, such as divorce and the death of a loved one - is also one somewhat unexpected situation, at least to those who haven’t undergone it: moving. Sternberg considers the commonalities between something as devastating as death and something as mundane as moving: "One is certainly loss - the loss of someone or something familiar. Another is novelty - finding oneself in a new and unfamiliar place because of the loss. Together these amount to change: moving away from something one knows and toward something one doesn’t. An unfamiliar environment is a universal stressor to nearly all species, no matter how developed or undeveloped."

In the remainder of the thoroughly illuminating "The Balance Within", Sternberg goes on to explore the role of interpersonal relationships in both contributing to stress and shielding us from it, how the immune system changes our moods, and what we can do to harness these neurobiological insights in alleviating our experience of the stressors with which every human life is strewn."