Sunday, April 30, 2017

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Is this what will become of our Sun? Quite possibly. The bubble of expanding gas pictured below is the planetary nebula PK 164 +31.1, the remnants of the atmosphere of a Sun-like star expelled as its supply of fusion-able core hydrogen became depleted. Visible near the center of the nebula is what remains of the core itself- a blue-hot white dwarf star. This particularly photogenic planetary nebula shows intricate shells of gas likely expelled at different times toward the end the star's demise, and whose structure is not fully understood. 
Click image for larger size.
This deep image of PK 164 +31.1 from the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain shows many other stars from our own Milky Way Galaxy as well as several galaxies far in the distance. PK 164 +31, also known as Jones-Emberson 1, lies about 1,600 light years away toward the constellation of the Wildcat (Lynx). Due to its faintness (magnitude 17) and low surface brightness, the object is only visible with a good-sized telescope. Although the expanding nebula will fade away over the next few thousand years, the central white dwarf may well survive for billions of years- to when our universe may be a very different place.”

Chet Raymo, “The Universe Becomes Conscious of Itself”

“The Universe Becomes Conscious of Itself” 
by Chet Raymo

"By now most of us will have seen this spectacular photograph of a dusty star-birthing region of the Carina Nebula, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. I offer a slightly different cropping from what you may have seen in the media or on APOD. Please click the image to see it it all of its glory.


Let me add some context. The image shows an area of the sky that you could cover with the intersection of two crossed sewing pins held at arms length. Think about that for a minute. Hold two imaginary crossed pins up against the sky and think of the area covered by their intersection, what a tiny part of the visible universe you are looking at. The photo shows a nebulosity that is invisible to the naked eye, in the midst of the southern-hemisphere Milky Way. Where is this object? Our Sun is on the inside edge of an arm of our spiral galaxy, about two-thirds of the way - 30,000 light-years - out from the center. The Carina Nebula is in the same spiral arm, trailing along 7500 light-years behind us as we make our languorous 200-million-year rotation about the galactic axis. There are hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, including the ones you see aborning here. And the Milky Way Galaxy is just one of tens of billions of galaxies we could potentially see with present telescopes.

Now, in my usual mischievous way, let me juxtapose two images of the heavens (please click to fill your screen). On the left is Gustave Dore's rendering of Dante and Beatrice looking upon the heavenly realm, the choirs of angels attendant upon the Diety, the anthropomorphic Empyrean Fields where the souls of the Blessed find everlasting life, just up there beyond the spheres of air and aether. And on the right, the new image from the Hubble.


I'm confident that anyone who visits here, and probably most educated people, will agree that the image on the right, and my description above, is the truer representation of the universe we live in. But which universe do we psychologically inhabit? I would maintain that the great majority of educated people today have not yet assimilated the picture on the right, and continue to live as if they were contemporaries of Dante. I know I have a hard time grasping the scale of the universe as revealed by modern astronomy - and I have been studying and teaching this stuff for a lifetime. Coming to terms with the vast size and apparent indifference of the universe is not easy when the tug of culture continually pulls us back into the cozy human-centered cosmos of our ancestors.

Where is our contemporary Beatrice who will take us by the hand and lead us into the swirling star-birthing vortex of the Carina Nebula, and say to us, "See, all this is the gift of the human intellect - human ingenuity and human daring - all this is contained in those convolutions of mortal flesh that sit at the top of your spine"?

"Just What Suits Our Purpose..."

 "No experience is a cause of success or failure. 
We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences, 
so-called trauma- but we make out of them just what suits our purposes."
- Alfred Adler

Psychology: "How the Brain Stops Time"

"How the Brain Stops Time"
by Jeff Wise

"One of the strangest side-effects of intense fear is time dilation, the apparent slowing-down of time. It's a common trope in movies and TV shows, like the memorable scene from "The Matrix" in which time slows down so dramatically that bullets fired at the hero seem to move at a walking pace. In real life, our perceptions aren't keyed up quite that dramatically, but survivors of life-and-death situations often report that things seem to take longer to happen, objects fall more slowly, and they're capable of complex thoughts in what would normally be the blink of an eye.

Now a research team from Israel reports that not only does time slow down, but that it slows down more for some than for others. Anxious people, they found, experience greater time dilation in response to the same threat stimuli. An intriguing result, and one that raises a more fundamental question: how, exactly, does the brain carry out this remarkable feat?

Researcher David Eagleman has tackled his very issue in a very clever way. He reasoned that when time seems to slow down in real life, our senses and cognition must somehow speed up-either that, or time dilation is merely an illusion. This is the riddle he set out to solve. "Does the experience of slow motion really happen," Eagleman says, "or does it only seem to have happened in retrospect?" To find out, he first needed a way to generate fear of sufficient intensity in his experimental subjects. Instead of skydiving, he found a thrill ride near the university campus called Suspended Catch Air Device, an open-air tower from which participants are dropped, upside down, into a net 150 feet below. There are no harnesses, no safety lines. Subject plummet in free fall for three seconds, then hit the net at 70 miles per hour.

Was it scary enough to generate a sense of time dilation? To see, Eagleman asked subjects who'd already taken the plunge to estimate how long it took them to fall, using a stopwatch to tick off what they felt to be an equivalent amount of time. Then he asked them to watch someone else fall and then estimate the elapsed time for their plunge in the same way. On average, participants felt that their own experience had taken 36 percent longer. Time dilation was in effect.

Next, Eagleman outfitted his test subjects with a special device that he and his students had constructed. They called it the perceptual chronometer. It's a simple numeric display that straps to a user's wrist, with a knob on the side let the researchers adjust the rate at which the numbers flash. The idea was to dial up the speed of the flashing until it was just a bit too quick for the subject to read while looking at it in a non-stressed mental state. Eagleman reasoned that, if fear really does speed up our rate of perception, then once his subjects were in the terror of freefall, they should be able to make out the numbers on the display. As it turned out, they couldn't. That means that fear does not actually speed up our rate of perception or mental processing. Instead, it allows us to remember what we do experience in greater detail. Since our perception of time is based on the number of things we remember, fearful experiences thus seem to unfold more slowly.

Eagleman's findings are important not just for understanding the experience of fear, but for the very nature of consciousness. After all, the test subjects who fell from the SCAD tower certainly believed, as they accelerated through freefall, that they knew what the experience was like at that very moment. They thought that it seemed to be moving slowly. Yet Eaglemen's findings suggest that that sensation could only have been superimposed after the fact. The implication is that we don't really have a direct experience of what we're feeling ‘right now,' but only a memory - an unreliable memory - of what we thought it felt like some seconds or milliseconds ago. The vivid present tense we all think we inhabit might itself be a retroactive illusion."

The Daily "Near You?"

León, Castilla y Leon, Spain. Thanks for stopping by!

"Do You Remember?"

 "Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes - do you recall?
And we did make so many! 
For there were countless numbers of stars: 
each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

Musical Interlude: Ludovico Einaudi, “Divenire”

Ludovico Einaudi, “Divenire”

"Predictive Linguistics: Huge Crisis Headed Our Way, Credit Freeze, Bank Runs & Riots"

Clif High, "Predictive Linguistics: Huge Crisis Headed Our Way,
 Credit Freeze, Bank Runs & Riots"

"About Predictive Linguistics And Our Methods"

"Predictive Linguistics is the process of using computer software to aggregate vast amounts of written text from the internet by categories delineated by emotional content of the words and using the result to make forecasts based on the emotional 'tone' changes within the larger population. A form of 'collective sub-conscious expression' is a good way to think of it. Predictive linguistics can be used to forecast trends at many different levels, from the detail of sales to individuals, all the way up to forecasts about emerging global population trends. It is this last that concerns us here at halfpasthuman.com

We invented the 'emotive reduction algorithm(s)' employed in 1997, as well as much of the emerging science behind deep data mining for emotional content over these past decades. Predictive Linguistics uses emotional qualifiers and quantifiers, expressed as numeric values, for each and all words/phrases discovered/filtered in the aggregation process. Over 80 % of all the words gathered will be discarded for one or more reasons.

Predictive Linguistics works as NO conscious expressions are processed through the software. Rather the contexts discussed within the report in the form of entities and linguistic structures are read up in the various intake software programs, and the emotional sums of the language found at that time are retrieved. Words that are identified within my system as 'descriptors' are passed through the processing as well. These descriptor words, in the main, are those words and phrases that provide us with the detail sets within the larger context sets.

As an example, the word 'prophecy' may be read up by our software at a sports oriented forum. In that case, perhaps, due to the emotional sums around the context, and the emotional values of the word itself within the lexicon, it would be put into the contextual 'bin' within the database as a 'detail word'. Note that the context of the use of the word in the sports forum is lost in the process and is of no use to us in these circumstances. What occurs is that the word is picked up as being atypical in its context, therefore of high potential 'leakage of future' value. The way this works is that most sports forum language about future events would be statistically more likely to use words such as 'bet' as in 'I bet this XXX will be outcome', or 'I predict', or 'I think that XXX will happen'. So it is the context plus emotional values plus rarity of use within the context that flags words for inclusion in the detail level of the data base. Further, it is worth noting that most detail level words are encountered in our processing mere days before their appearance. Within the IM data primarily, and then within ST data next. But a preponderance are discovered within the IM time period. Perhaps an artifact of our processing, if so, one not explored due to lack of time (cosmic joke noted).

Words are linked by their array values back to the lexicon using our set theory model, and the language used within the interpretation (detail words excepted) derives from the lexicon and its links to the changing nature of contexts as they are represented within our model.

Predictive Linguistics is a field that I pioneered in 1993. The software and lexicon has been in continual change/update mode since. This is due to the constantly changing nature of language and human expression. Predictive Linguistics works to predict future language about (perhaps) future events, due to the nature of humans. It is my operating assumption that all humans are psychic, though the vast majority do nothing to cultivate it as a skill, and are likely unaware of it within themselves. In spite of this, universe and human nature has it that they 'leak' prescient information out continuously in their choice of language. My software processing collects these leaks and aggregates them against a model of a timeline and that information is provided in this report.

The ALTA report is an interpretation of the asymmetric trends that are occurring even this instant as millions of humans are typing billions of words on the internet. The trends are provided in the form of a discussion of the larger collections of data (dubbed entities) down to the smallest aspect/attribute swept up from daily discussions within that context. Within the ALTA report format, detail words are provided as noted below. Phrases and idiomatic expressions are also provided as details. In the main, geographic references are merely summed, and if deemed pertinent, the largest bag in the collection is discussed as a 'probable', or 'possible' location to the events being referenced within the details. In our discussions, the interpretation is provided in a nested, set theory (fuzzy logic) pattern.

Definitions:
• Aspects/Attributes are: collections of data that are within our broader linguistic structures and are the 'supporting' sets that provide our insight into future developments. The Aspect/Attribute sets can be considered as the 'brought along' serendipitous future forecasts by way of links between words in these sets and the lexicon.
• Entities are: the 'master sets' at the 'top' of our nested linguistic structures and contain all reference that center around the very broad labels that identify the entity: Markets, and GlobalPop as examples.
• Lexicon is: at its core level, the lexicon is a digital dictionary of words in multiple languages/alphabets stripped of definitions other than such technical elements as 'parts of speech' identifiers. The lexicon is quite large and is housed in a SQL database heavily populated with triggers and other executable code for maintenance and growth (human language expands continuously, so the lexicon must as well). Conceptually, at the Prolog software engine processing level, the lexicon is a predicate assignment of a complex, multidimensional array of integers to 'labels', each of which is a word within the lexicon. The integers within the 8x8x10 level array structure are composed of emotional qualifiers which are assigned numeric representations of the intensity, duration, impact and other values of the emotional components given by humans to that word and also contain emotional quantifiers which are assigned numeric representations of the degree of each of the 'cells' level of 'emotional assignment'.
• Spyders are: Software programs, that once executed are self directing, within programmed limits, thus are called 'bots', and within these constraints are allowed to make choices as to linguistic trails to explore on the internet. The job of the spyders is to search, retrieve and pre-process (part of the exclusions process that will see 90% of all returned data eliminated from consideration in our model) the 'linguistic bytes' (2048 words/phrases in multibyte character format) which are aggregated into our modelspace when processing is complete."

"Waking Up to Propaganda and Unplugging From the Matrix"

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."
- Morpheus

"Waking Up to Propaganda and Unplugging From the Matrix"
by Paul Craig Roberts

"When did things begin going wrong in America? "From the beginning," answer some. English colonists, themselves under the thumb of a king, exterminated American Indians and stole their lands, as did late 18th and 19th century Americans. Over the course of three centuries the native inhabitants of America were dispossessed, just as Israelis have been driving Palestinians off their lands since 1948.

Demonization always plays a role. The Indians were savages and the Palestinians are terrorists. Any country that can control the explanation can get away with evil. I agree that there is a lot of evil in every country and civilization. In the struggle between good and evil, religion has at times been on the side of evil. However, the notion of moral progress cannot so easily be thrown out.

Consider, for example, slavery. In the 1800s, slavery still existed in countries that proclaimed equal rights. Even free women did not have equal rights. Today no Western country would openly tolerate the ownership of humans or the transfer of a woman's property upon her marriage to her husband. It is true that Western governments have ownership rights in the labor of their citizens through the income tax. This remains as a mitigated form of serfdom. So far, however, no government has claimed the right of ownership over the person himself. Sometimes I hear from readers that my efforts are pointless, that elites are always dominant and that the only solution is to find one's way into the small, connected clique of elites either through marriage or service to their interests. This might sound like cynical advice, but it is not devoid of some truth. Indeed, it is the way Washington and New York work, and increasingly the way the entire country operates.

Washington serves powerful private interests, not the public interest. University faculties in their research increasingly serve private interests and decreasingly serve truth. In the US the media is no longer a voice and protection for the people. It is becoming increasingly impossible in America to get a good job without being connected to the system that serves the elites. 

The problem I have with this "give up" attitude is that over the course of my life, and more broadly over the course of the 20th century, many positive changes occurred through reforms. It is impossible to have reforms without good will, so even the elites who accepted reforms that limited their powers were part of the moral progress. Labor unions became a countervailing power to corporate management and Wall Street. Working conditions were reformed. Civil rights were extended. People excluded by the system were brought into it. Anyone who grew up in the 20th century can add his own examples. Progress was slow - unduly so from a reformer's standpoint - and mistakes were made. Nevertheless, whether done properly or improperly there was a commitment to the expansion of civil liberty.

This commitment ended suddenly on September 11, 2001. The Bush/Obama Regime repealed 800 years of human achievements that established law as a shield of the people and, instead, converted law into a weapon in the hands of the government. Today Americans and citizens of other countries can, on the will of the US executive branch alone, be confined to torture dungeons for the duration of their lives with no due process or evidence presented to any court, or they can be shot down in the streets or exterminated by drone missiles.

The power that the US government asserts over its subjects and also over the citizens of other countries is unlimited. Lenin described unlimited power as power "resting directly on force, not limited by anything, not restricted by any laws, nor any absolute rules." Washington claims that it is the indispensable government representing the exceptional people and thereby has the right to impose its will and "justice" on the rest of the world and that resistance to Washington constitutes terrorism to be exterminated by any possible means. Thus, the American neoconservatives speak of nuking Iran for insisting on its independence from American hegemony and exercising its rights to nuclear energy under the non-proliferation treaty to which Iran is a signatory.

In other words, Washington's will prevails over international treaties that have the force of law, treaties which Washington itself imposed on the world. According to the neoconservatives and Washington, Iran is not protected by the legal contract that Iran made with Washington when Iran signed the non-proliferation treaty. Iran finds itself as just another 17th or 18th century American Indian tribe to be deprived of its rights and to be exterminated by the forces of evil that dominate Washington, D.C.

The vast majority of "superpower" Americans plugged into the Matrix, where they are happy with the disinformation pumped into their brains by Washington and its presstitute media, would demur rather than face my facts. This raises the question: how does one become unplugged and unplug others from the Matrix? Readers have asked, and I do not have a complete answer.

It seems to happen in a number of ways. Being fired and forced to train your H-1B foreign replacement who works for lower pay, being convicted of a crime that you did not commit, having your children stolen from you by Child Protective Services because bruises from sports activities were alleged to be signs of child abuse, your home stolen from you because a mortgage based on fraud was given the force of law, laid off by "free market capitalism" as your age advanced and the premium of your employer-provided medical insurance increased, being harassed by Homeland Security on your re-entry to the US because you are a non-embedded journalist who reports truthfully on US behavior abroad. There are many instances of Americans being jolted into reality by the "freedom and democracy" scales falling away from their eyes.

It is possible that becoming unplugged from the Matrix is a gradual lifelong experience for the few who pay attention. The longer they live, the more they notice that reality contradicts the government's and media's explanations. The few who can remember important stuff after watching reality shows and their favorite sports teams and fantasy movies gradually realize that there is no "new economy" to take the place of the manufacturing economy that was given away to foreign countries. Once unemployed from their "dirty fingernail jobs," they learn that there is no "new economy" to employ them.

Still seething from the loss of the Vietnam War and anger at war protesters, some flag-waving patriots are slowly realizing the consequences of criminalizing dissent and the exercise of First Amendment rights. "You are with us or against us" is taking on threatening instead of reassuring connotations, implying that anyone who opens his or her mouth in any dissent is thereby transformed into an "enemy of the state."

More Americans, but far from enough, are coming to the realization that the extermination of the Branch Davidians at Waco in 1993 was a test run to confirm that the public and Congress would accept the murder of civilians who had been demonized with false charges of child abuse and gun-running.

The next test was the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. Whose explanation would prevail: the government's or that of experts? Air Force General Partin, a top expert on explosives, proved conclusively in a heavily documented report given to every member of Congress that the Murruh Federal Office Building blew up from the inside out, not from the outside in from the fertilizer car bomb. But General Partin's facts lost out to the government's propaganda and to Congress' avoidance of cognitive dissonance.

Once the "national security" government learned that its pronouncements and those of the presstitute media carried more weight than the facts presented by experts, conspiracies such as Operation Northwoods could be put into play. A 9/11 became possible.

The Pentagon, CIA, and military/security complex were desperate for a new enemy to replace the "Soviet threat," which had ceased to exist. The military/security complex and its servants in Congress were determined to replace the profits made from the cold war and to preserve and increase the powers accumulated in the Pentagon and CIA. The only possible replacement for the Soviet threat was "Muslim terrorists." Thus, the creation of the "al Qaeda threat" and the conflation of this new threat with secular Arab governments, such as Iraq's and Syria's, which were the real targets of Islamists. Despite the evidence provided by experts that secular Arab governments, such as Saddam Hussein's, were allies against Islamic extremism, the US government used propaganda to link the secular Iraq government with Iraq's enemies among Islamic revolutionaries.

Once Washington confirmed that the American public was both too ignorant and too inattentive to pay any attention to events that would alter their lives and jeopardize their existence, every thing else followed: the PATRIOT Act, the suspension of the Constitution and destruction of civil liberty, Homeland Security which has quickly extended its gestapo reach from airports to train stations, bus terminals and highway road blocks, the criminalization of dissent, the equating of critics of the government with supporters of terrorism, the home invasions of antiwar protesters and their arraignment before a grand jury, the prosecution of whistleblowers who reveal government crimes, the equating of journalism organizations such as WikiLeaks with spies. The list goes on.

The collapse of truth in the US and in its puppet states is a major challenge to my view that truth and good will are powers that can prevail over evil. It is possible that my perception that moral progress has occurred in various periods of Western civilization reflects a progressive unplugging from the Matrix. What I remember as reforms might be events experienced through the rose colored glasses of the Matrix. But I think not. Reason is an important part of human existence. Some are capable of it. Imagination and creativity can escape chains. Good can withstand evil. The extraordinary film, The Matrix, affirmed that people could be unplugged. I believe that even Americans can be unplugged. If I give up this belief, I will cease writing."
- http://www.sott.net/
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. www.paulcraigroberts.org

"Let It Roll Off Our Back: Dodging and Deflecting"

"Let It Roll Off Our Back: Dodging and Deflecting"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"When we are criticized or attacked it is important to not take it into our heart space. One of the most difficult challenges in life is learning not to take things to heart and hold on to it. Especially when we’re younger, or if we’re very sensitive, we take so much of what comes our way to heart. This can be overwhelming and unproductive if it throws us off balance on a regular basis. When we are feeling criticized or attacked from all directions, it becomes very difficult for us to recover ourselves so that we can continue to speak and act our truth. This is when we would do well to remember the old saying about letting certain things roll off us, like water off a duck’s back.

Most of the time, the attacks and criticisms of others have much more to do with them and how they are feeling than with us. If we get caught up in trying to adjust ourselves to other people’s negative energy, we lose touch with our core. In fact, in a positive light, these slings and arrows offer us the opportunity to strengthen our core sense of self, and to learn to dodge and deflect other people’s misdirected negativity. The more we do this, the more we are able to discern what belongs to us and what belongs to other people. With practice, we become masters of our energetic integrity, refusing to serve as targets for the disowned anger and frustration of the people around us.

Eventually, we will be able to hear the feedback that others have to offer, taking in anything that might actually be constructive, and releasing that which has nothing to do with us. First, though, we tend ourselves compassionately by recognizing when we can’t take something in from the outside without hurting ourselves. This is when we make like a duck, shaking it off and letting it roll off our back as we continue our way in the world."

"Get Up And Do Something..."

"If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.
 It's the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep."
- Dale Carnegie

Oh, it's the lack of sleep, too, lol. Trust me...

"The Corporatocracy"

"The Corporatocracy"
by Robert Gore 

"The interests of Washington and large corporations have merged so completely they are now inseparable. Or was it an acquisition? If the latter, who acquired whom? Unfortunately, the labels affixed to purely corporate combinations lose their analytical usefulness here. While the two retain their own distinct legal structures and managements, so to speak, such a close community of interest has evolved that it’s no longer possible to separate them or delineate their individual contours. Political labels are no help; the ones most often used have become hopelessly imprecise. The Wikipedia definition of “fascism” is over 8,000 words, with 43 notes and 16 references.

However, the conjoined blob is so big, rapacious, and intrusive that akin to Justice Potter Stewart’s famous non-definition of obscenity, everybody knows it when they see or otherwise come into contact with it. This article will use the term “corporatocracy.” It’s less letters, dashes, and words to type than “the corporate-government-combination.” No serviceable understanding of either US history or current events is possible without close study of the corporatocracy. Unfortunately, such study, like entomology or cleaning septic tanks, requires a stout constitution. But take heart, entomologists grow to love their creepy crawly things, and septic tank cleaners say that after a few minutes you don’t even notice the smell.

A cherished delusion of naive liberals holds that big government is a counterweight, not a partner, to big business. Such a rationale is touted when the righteous demand new regulation, the public and media endorse it, the legislators pass it, and the president signs it into law. However, there are always unpaved stretches on the road to hell - once regulation is law, the righteous, public, media, legislators, and president, and their ostensibly good intentions, are on to the next cause.

In the quiet obscurity they relish, regulators and regulated get down to doing what they do best: bending the law to their joint benefit. Business, whose P&L’s can be powerfully affected by regulations, hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers in a never ending effort to tilt the playing field in their direction, and improve bottom lines, stock prices, and executive bonuses. The return on such investment is far higher than on old fashioned expenditures like research and development, plant and equipment, and job-creating expansion.

Not-so-naive liberals, professed conservatives, and apolitical opportunists work both sides of the street. The revolving door ensures that all concerned do well. Playing this game isn’t cheap, which serves as a barrier to entry to scrappy competitors who compete those old fashioned ways: innovation, hustle, and better products and services at lower prices. Regulation cartelizes industries; look, for instance, at banking and medicine. No surprise that regulatory barriers are one of Warren Buffett’s favorite “moats”: deep and hard-to-cross waterways that protect durable commercial advantages.

Washington doesn’t just fortify favored corporations’ business plans. A $4-plus-trillion-a-year enterprise, the government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services. Procuring those contracts employs more armies of lobbyists and lawyers, and has a powerful effect on policy. The shoddy premises supporting the welfare and warfare states, and their epic waste, are obvious to many of the taxpayers forced to underwrite them. They’ve decried them for decades, and voted for candidates promising to cut welfare, waste, war, and taxes. However, beyond voting, taxpayers can devote little time to stopping or slowing the gravy train. Their resources are infinitesimal compared to the resources its passengers expend to keep it running.

The modus operandi for Washington and big business have converged. Debt, its issuance and marketing, is the pillar of the financial nexus and revolving door between Washington and Wall Street. The government and its central bank artificially pump up the economy and hide its deterioration with debt and machinations: ultra low interest rates, quantitative easing, and debt monetization. Big businesses lever their balance sheets to pump up their stock prices or make acquisitions, machinations that do nothing to improve core businesses but often hide ongoing deterioration.

The history of any long-running government program is a catalogue of failures and expanding budgets. Washington cherishes failure, the fountainhead of larger appropriations and more power. Success would put bureaucrats out of work and give politicians less influence to peddle. Likewise in business, failure has become much more acceptable than it was during those bad old days of cutthroat capitalism. Marissa Mayer’s undistinguished five-year tenure at Yahoo, while perhaps not a complete failure, certainly can’t be termed a success. Nevertheless, she’s walking away from the company with at least $186 million for her middling endeavors. Given all that discrimination out there against women, one can only imagine what she would have made if she were a man.

Silicon Valley puts billions into companies like Uber, AirBnb, Snapchat, and Lyft that lose those billions and will continue to do so for the foreseeable - and probably the unforeseeable - future. Private equity shops load up companies with debt that gets paid out as special dividends to the private equity shops, leaving the indebted and enfeebled companies unable to compete and the rest of us wondering how such rape is legal in our rape-conscious age. This recipe for inevitable failure is now playing out in the beleaguered retail sector, which would be nowhere near as beleaguered if it wasn’t so beset with debt.

Tesla, a stock market darling and the quintessence of companies in which failure is the business plan, milks Wall Street for financing and Washington (and a bunch of state and local jurisdictions) for subsidies. It has lost billions during its ten years of existence, but its many admirers sing the praises of CEO Elon Musk, always using the term “consummate salesman” - perhaps it’s on his business card. Musk and fan club dream of “the next big thing” and engage in mutual masturbatory fantasies of transforming the world…and Mars. All this is harmless enough as fodder for dazzling audiovisual presentations and slick speeches, but downright dangerous when real billions, private and public, gets sucked in.

Meanwhile, the corporatocracy crucifies an old-line, profitable corporation, Volkswagen, that cheated on one of its hundreds of thousands of regulations. It undoubtedly wasn’t the cheating that got VW in trouble. Regulations are made to be cheated - it’s impossible to run a business without doing so - but the proper offerings must be made to the corporatocracy. If that were not the case, there would be Wall Street, Pharma, and Defense Contractor wings at federal penitentiaries. VW didn’t kowtow low enough or pay high enough to the bureaucrats and politicians, who retaliated, probably “nudged” by a VW competitor.

As a successful businessman, President Trump knows many of the corporatocracy’s skims, scams, and schemes. Perhaps that will enable him to keep his pledge and drain the swamp. However, it’s extensive, fetid, and teems with loathsome creatures, so a bet he’ll succeed involves exceedingly long odds. You’re probably better off buying Tesla stock.”

"11 Reasons Why U.S. Economic Growth Is The Worst That It Has Been In 3 Years"

"11 Reasons Why U.S. Economic Growth Is 
The Worst That It Has Been In 3 Years"
by Michael Snyder

"Those that were predicting that the U.S. economy would be flying high by now have been proven wrong.  U.S. GDP grew at the worst rate in three years during the first quarter of 2017, and many are wondering if this is the beginning of a major economic slowdown. Of course when we are dealing with the official numbers that the federal government puts out, it is important to acknowledge that they are highly manipulated. There are many that have correctly pointed out to me that if the numbers were not being doctored that they would show that we are still in a recession. In fact, John Williams of shadowstats.com has shown that if honest numbers were being used that U.S. GDP growth would have been consistently negative going all the way back to 2005. So I definitely don’t have any argument with those that claim that we are actually in a recession right now. But even if we take the official numbers that the federal government puts out at face value, they are definitely very ugly:

"Economic growth slowed in the first quarter to its slowest pace in three years as sluggish consumer spending and business stockpiling offset solid business investment. Many economists write off the weak performance as a byproduct of temporary blips and expect healthy growth in 2017.

The nation’s gross domestic product - the value of all goods and services produced in the USA - increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.7%, the Commerce Department said Friday, below the tepid 2.1% pace clocked both in the fourth quarter and as an average throughout the nearly 8-year-old recovery. Economists expected a 1% increase in output, according to a Bloomberg survey. Even if you want to assume that it is a legitimate number, 0.7 percent economic growth is essentially stall speed, and this follows a year when the U.S. economy grew at a rate of just 1.6 percent."

So why is this happening? Of course the “experts” in the mainstream media are blaming all sorts of temporary factors: "Economists blamed the weather. It was too warm this time around, rather than too cold, which is the usual explanation for Q1 debacles. And they blamed the IRS refund checks that had been delayed due to last year’s spectacular identity theft problem. Everyone blamed everything on these delayed refund checks, including the auto industry and the restaurant industry. But by mid-February, a veritable tsunami of checks went out, and by the end of February, the IRS was pretty much caught up. So March should have been awash in consumer spending. But no. So we’ll patiently wait for that miracle to happen in second quarter."

They always want us to think that “boom times” for the U.S. economy are right around the corner, but those “boom times” have never materialized since the end of the last financial crisis. Instead, we have had year after year of economic malaise and stagnation, and it looks like 2017 is going to continue that trend. The following are 11 reasons why U.S. economic growth is the worst that it has been in 3 years:

#1 The weak economic growth in the first quarter was the continuation of a long-term trend. Barack Obama was the only president in history not to have a single year when the U.S. economy grew by at least 3 percent, and this is now the fourth time in the last six quarters when economic growth has been less than 2 percent on an annualized basis. So essentially this latest number signals that our long-term economic decline is continuing.

#2 Consumer spending drives the U.S. economy more than anything else, and at this point most U.S. consumers are tapped out. In fact, CBS News has reported that three-fourths of all U.S. consumers have to “scramble to cover their living costs” each month.

#3 The job market appears to be slowing. The U.S. economy only added about 98,000 jobs in March, and that was approximately half of what most analysts were expecting.

#4 The flow of credit appears to be slowing as well. In fact, this is the first time since the last recession when there has been no growth for commercial and industrial lending for at least six months.

#5 Last month, U.S. factory output dropped at the fastest pace that we have witnessed in more than two years.

#6 We are in the midst of the worst “retail apocalypse” in U.S. history.  The number of retailers that has filed for bankruptcy has already surpassed the total for the entire year of 2016, and at the current rate we will smash the previous all-time record for store closings in a year by nearly 2,000.

#7 The auto industry is also experiencing a great deal of stress.  This has been the worst year for U.S. automakers since the last recession, and seven out of the eight largest fell short of their sales projections in March.

#8 Used vehicle prices are falling “dramatically”, and Morgan Stanley is now projecting that used vehicle prices “could crash by up to 50%” over the next several years.

#9 Commercial bankruptcies are rising at the fastest pace since the last recession.

#10 Consumer bankruptcies are rising at the fastest pace since the last recession.

#11 The student loan bubble is starting to burst. It is being reported that 27 percent of all student loans are already in default, and some analysts expect that number to go much higher.

And of course some areas of the country are being harder hit than others. The following comes from CNBC: "Four states have not yet fully recovered from the Great Recession. As of the third quarter of last year, the latest data available, the economies of Louisiana, Wyoming, Connecticut and Alaska were still smaller than when the recession ended in June 2009. Other states that have recovered have seen their economic recoveries stall out. Those include Minnesota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and West Virginia."

We should be thankful that we are not experiencing a full-blown economic meltdown just yet, but it is undeniable that our long-term economic decline continues to roll along. And without a doubt the storm clouds are building on the horizon, and many believe that the next major economic downturn will begin in the not too distant future.”

Border Walls: "How It Really Should Have Been"

The Poet: Fernando Pessoa, "Follow Your Destiny"

 
"Follow Your Destiny"

"Follow your destiny,
Water your plants,
Love your roses.
The rest is shadow
Of unknown trees.

Reality is always
More or less
Than what we want.
Only we are always
Equal to ourselves.

It’s good to live alone,
And noble and great
Always to live simply.
Leave pain on the altar
As an offering to the gods.

See life from a distance.
Never question it.
There’s nothing it can
Tell you. The answer
Lies beyond the Gods.

But quietly imitate
Olympus in your heart.
The gods are gods
Because they don’t think
About what they are."

- Fernando Pessoa

"Why the Wars Can't Be Won"

"Why the Wars Can't Be Won"
By John Kozy

"Edmund Burke's statement, "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it" is frequently cited, but in truth, even history's obvious lessons are unrecognized by many who know history very well. There was a time when every school child could recite the Gettysburg Address from memory, especially its famous peroration: “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." But that resolution has largely gone unfulfilled. So exactly what did the Civil War accomplish?

Most certainly, it preserved the union territorially and abolished slavery- two noteworthy things. But the slaves who were freed, rather than being benefited by their freedom, were left in the lurch, and the prejudicial attitudes of Confederate whites were most likely hardened; they certainly were not softened. So although the war united the nation territorially, it failed to unite its peoples, and that division is still evident today.

For a century after the Civil War, the south voted Democratic, but not because the people shared any values in common with the rest of the nation’s Democrats. (Southerners even distinguished themselves from other Democrats by calling themselves “Dixiecrats.”) These people were Democrats merely because the political party of the war and reconstruction was Republican. And when, in the mid-twentieth century, the Democratic Party championed an end to racial discrimination, these life-long Democrats quickly became Republicans, because the Republican party had in the intervening years become reactionary. What motivates these people even today, though most likely they don’t recognize it, is an unwillingness to accept the results of the Civil War and change the attitudes held before it. When a society inculcates beliefs over a long period of time, those beliefs cannot be changed by a forceful imposition of others. The beliefs once practiced overtly continue to be held covertly. Force is never an effective instrument of conversion. Martyrdom is preferable to surrender, and even promises of a better future are ineffective.

So what did the Civil War really accomplish? It united a nation without uniting its people. The United States of America became one nation indivisible made up of two disunited peoples; it became a nation divided, and the division has spread. Therein lies a lesson all nations should have learned. By the force of arms, you can compel outward conformity to political institutions and their laws, but you cannot change the antagonistic attitudes of people, that can remain unchanged for decades and longer waiting for opportunities to reassert themselves.

Any astute reader can apply this lesson to the present day’s activities in the Middle East and elsewhere. Neither force nor promises of a future better than the past can win the hearts and minds of people. And soldiers who die in an attempt to change another people’s values always die in vain. All wars, even when carried on by the strongest of nations against weak opponents, are chancy, and their costs, in every respect, are always much more than anticipated, even putting aside the physical destruction and the lives lost.

Nations that have started wars with the psychological certainty of winning rarely have, and when they have, the results were rarely lasting or those sought. As Gandhi once observed, “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” The Crusaders, fighting under the banner of Christ, could not make Palestine a part of Christendom. France, under Napoleon, conquered most of Europe but lost it all and Napoleon ended up a broken man. Prussian militarism prevailed in the Franco-Prussian War, but in less than a century Germany had lost all. The Austrians in 1914 could not only not subdue the Serbs, the empire and its monarchial form of government were lost. The Germans and Japanese after 1939 and astounding initial successes were reduced to ruin.

But even the winners are losers. Americans won the Mexican War and acquired the southwestern United States, but that conquest brought with it unfathomable and persistent problems- racial prejudice, discrimination, and an irresolvable problem of immigration and border insecurity. Americans likewise won the falsely justified Spanish American war and acquired a number of colonial states but were unable to hold most of them. The allies won the Second World War, but France and England lost the colonies they were fighting to preserve, and these two powers, which were great before the war, were reduced to minor status (although both still refuse to admit it). Israel has won five wars against various Arab states since 1948, but its welfare and security have not been enhanced, and Arab hatred and intransigence has grown more common. People need to realize that after a war, things are never the same as they were before, and that even the winners rarely get what they fight for. War is a fool's errand in pursuit of ephemera.

At the end of World War II, American leaders wrongly assumed that America's superpower status gave it the means to impose its view of what the world should be like on others everywhere. Then came Korea and the assumption proved false. Despite all of the destruction and death inflicted on the North Koreans, their attitudes went unchanged. The lesson went unlearned. It went unlearned again in Viet Nam, after which Henry Kissinger is reported to have naively said, "I could not believe that a primitive people had no breaking point." The Vietnamese never broke. Now again Americans are foolishly assuming that the peoples of the Middle East will change their attitudes if enough force is imposed for a long enough time and enough promises of a better future are made. History belies this assumption.

Unfortunately, history teaches its lessons to only those willing to learn, and the American oligarchy shows no signs of having such willingness. So let's start singing bye-bye, Miss American Pie. Warring is nothing but a bad way to die!"
Related:

"Forgiveness..."

"It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would’ve annihilated itself in endless retributions. Without forgiveness, there would be no history. Without that hope, there would be no art, for every work of art is in some way an act of forgiveness. Without that dream, there would be no love, for every act of love is in some way a promise to forgive. We live on because we can love, and we love because we can forgive."
- Gregory David Roberts, "Shantaram"

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Wars and Rumors of Wars: “The Charge of the Light Brigade"

“The Charge of the Light Brigade"
 Compiled By CP

All the talk about war, with N. Korea, with Russia, with China, with Iran... "operations" in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, seemingly everywhere, and endless. Perhaps Mankind does indeed have a death wish- a certain segment of it certainly appears to- and all of history has been mere preparation for some final nuclear-war apocalyptic event. I don't know, but it made me think of this event in history, among others, and I thought I'd share it with you. Food for thought, at least... - CP

“All the talk of history is of nothing almost but fighting and killing, and the honor and renown which are bestowed on conquerors, who, for the most part, are mere butchers of mankind, mislead growing youth, who, by these means, come to think slaughter the most laudable business of mankind, and the most heroic of virtue.” - John Locke

“The Charge of the Light Brigade was a charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. The charge was the result of a miscommunication in such a way that the brigade attempted a much more difficult objective than intended by the overall commander Lord Raglan. Blame for the miscommunication has remained controversial, as the original order itself was vague. The charge produced no decisive gains and resulted in very high casualties, and is best remembered as the subject of the poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose lines emphasize the valor of the cavalry in carrying out their orders, even "tho' the soldier knew/Some one had blunder'd".

The charge was made by the Light Brigade of the British cavalry, consisting of the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the 8th and 11th Hussars, under the command of Major General the Earl of Cardigan. Together with the Heavy Brigade comprising the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and the Scots Greys, commanded by Major General James Yorke Scarlett, himself a past Commanding Officer of the 5th Dragoon Guards, the two units were the main British cavalry force at the battle. Overall command of the cavalry resided with Lieutenant General the Earl of Lucan. Cardigan and Lucan were brothers-in-law who disliked each other intensely.

Lucan received an order from the army commander Lord Raglan stating that "Lord Raglan wishes the Cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop Horse Artillery may accompany. French Cavalry is on your left. Immediate." Raglan in fact wished the cavalry to prevent the Russians taking away the naval guns from the redoubts that they had captured on the reverse side of the Causeway Heights, the hill forming the south side of the valley. Raglan could see what was happening from his high vantage-point on the west of the valley, but Lucan and the cavalry were unaware of what was going on owing to the lie of the land where they were drawn up. The order was drafted by Brigadier Richard Airey and was carried by Captain Louis Edward Nolan, who carried the further oral instruction that the cavalry was to attack immediately. When Lucan asked what guns were referred to, Nolan is said to have indicated, by a wide sweep of his arm, not the Causeway redoubts but the mass of Russian guns in a redoubt at the end of the valley, around a mile away. His reasons for the misdirection are unclear, as he was killed in the ensuing battle.

In response to the order, Lucan instructed Cardigan to lead 673 (some sources state 661; another 607) cavalrymen straight into the valley between the Fedyukhin Heights and the Causeway Heights, famously dubbed the "Valley of Death" by the poet Tennyson. The opposing Russian forces were commanded by Pavel Liprandi and included approximately 20 battalions of infantry supported by over fifty artillery pieces. These forces were deployed on both sides and at the opposite end of the valley. Lucan himself was to follow with the Heavy Brigade.

The Light Brigade set off down the valley with Cardigan out in front leading the charge. Almost at once Nolan was seen to rush across the front, passing in front of Cardigan. It may be that he then realized the charge was aimed at the wrong target and was attempting to stop or turn the brigade, but he was killed by an artillery shell and the cavalry continued on its course. Despite withering fire from three sides that devastated their force on the ride, the Light Brigade was able to engage the Russian forces at the end of the valley and force them back from the redoubt, but it suffered heavy casualties and was soon forced to retire. The surviving Russian artillerymen returned to their guns and opened fire once again, with grape and canister, indiscriminately at the mêlée of friend and foe before them. Lucan failed to provide any support for Cardigan, and it was speculated that he was motivated by an enmity for his brother-in-law that had lasted some 30 years and had been intensified during the campaign up to that point. 

The troops of the Heavy Brigade entered the mouth of the valley but did not advance further. Lucan's subsequent explanation was that he saw no point in having a second brigade mown down and that he was best positioned where he was to render assistance to Light Brigade survivors returning from the charge. The French light cavalry, the Chasseurs d'Afrique, was more effective in that it cleared the Fedyukhin Heights of the two half batteries of guns, two infantry battalions and Cossacks to ensure the Light Brigade would not be hit by fire from that flank and later provided cover for the remaining elements of the Light Brigade as they withdrew. War correspondent William Russell, who witnessed the battle, declared "our Light Brigade was annihilated by their own rashness, and by the brutality of a ferocious enemy.”
As heroically popularized by Hollywood...

"The Charge of The Light Brigade" (1936), starring Errol Flynn.
Balaclava, Crimean War period 1853-1856.
Apologies for poor quality.

As immortalized by the poet...
"The Charge of the Light Brigade"
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.”

The Truth:
"They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for ones country. 
But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. 
You will die like a dog for no good reason."
- Ernest Hemingway

"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." 
"Sweet and glorious it is to die for our country." 
- Horace in Odes