Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Something You Already Know..."

"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that!"
- "Rocky Balboa"

"The Unspeakable..."

“When we reach questions of your nature I bring out my quote. You ask a very profound question. So this is my quote from a member of the Kennedy and Johnson administration and I interviewed him. I don’t think I’ll say his name right now. He had a real deep insight into things at the same time as he was denying the obvious evidence in the Kennedy assassination. I was presenting him with the conflict between what the doctors in Dallas saw at Parkland Hospital and the official photos and x-rays of President Kennedy which don’t correspond at all. The doctors saw a man whose wounds indicated easily that he was being shot from the front and the x-rays and the photos don’t show that at all. He said there was no question in his mind that the photos and x-rays were genuine. They had to be. And then he admitted just a little scintilla of doubt. 

This is what he said – and to me, this sums up the nature of the problem we’re talking about. It’s not unique to the media. It is common to us all. He said, ‘‘But if these official photos and x-rays of President Kennedy are not authentic then you have something of a magnitude beyond common experience that would reflect so devastatingly on our society as a whole and its corruptibility that you don’t know how to deal with it. The Unspeakable. The Unspeakable.”
- Jim Douglass at Elliot Bay Books, Seattle, May 6, 2008
Cui bono: who stands, or stood, to gain from a crime, 
and so might have been responsible for it?
"Why was Kennedy killed? Who benefited? Who has the power to cover it up?" 
Look again at the picture above...

"JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters"

"JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters"
by Edward Curtin

"Despite a treasure-trove of new information having emerged over the last forty-eight years, there are many people who still think who killed President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and why are unanswerable questions. There are others who cling to the Lee Harvey Oswald "lone-nut" explanation proffered by the Warren Commission. Both groups agree, however, that whatever the truth, it has no contemporary relevance but is old-hat, history, stuff for conspiracy-obsessed people with nothing better to do. The general thinking is that the assassination occurred almost a half-century ago, so let's move on. Nothing could be further from the truth, as James Douglass shows in his extraordinary book, "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters" (Orbis Books, 2008). It is clearly one of the best books ever written on the Kennedy assassination and deserves a vast readership. It is bound to roil the waters of complacency that have submerged the truth of this key event in modern American history.

Douglass presents a very compelling argument that Kennedy was killed by "unspeakable" (the Trappist monk Thomas Merton's term) forces within the U.S. national security state because of his conversion from a cold warrior into a man of peace. He argues, using a wealth of newly uncovered information, that JFK had become a major threat to the burgeoning military-industrial complex and had to be eliminated through a conspiracy planned by the CIA - "the CIA's fingerprints are all over the crime and the events leading up to it" - not by a crazed individual, the Mafia, or disgruntled anti-Castro Cubans, though some of these may have been used in the execution of the plot.

Why and by whom? These are the key questions. If it can be shown that Kennedy did, in fact, turn emphatically away from war as a solution to political conflict; did, in fact, as he was being urged by his military and intelligence advisers to up the ante and use violence, rejected such advice and turned toward peaceful solutions, then, a motive for his elimination is established. If, furthermore, it can be clearly shown that Oswald was a dupe in a deadly game and that forces within the military/intelligence apparatus were involved with him from start to finish, then the crime is solved, not by fingering an individual who may have given the order for the murder or pulled the trigger, but by showing that the coordination of the assassination had to involve U.S. intelligence agencies, most notably the CIA . Douglass does both, providing highly detailed and intricately linked evidence based on his own research and a vast array of the best scholarship.

We are then faced with the contemporary relevance, and since we know that every president since JFK has refused to confront the growth of the national security state and its call for violence, one can logically assume a message was sent and heeded. In this regard, it is not incidental that former twenty-seven year CIA analyst Raymond McGovern, in a recent interview, warned of the "two CIAs," one the analytic arm providing straight scoop to presidents, the other the covert action arm which operates according to its own rules. "Let me leave you with this thought," he told his interviewer, "and that is that I think Panetta (current CIA Director), and to a degree Obama, are afraid - I never thought I'd hear myself saying this - I think they are afraid of the CIA." He then recommended Douglass' book, "It's very well-researched and his conclusion is very alarming."

Let's look at the history marshaled by Douglass to support his thesis. First, Kennedy, who took office in January 1961 as somewhat of a Cold Warrior, was quickly set up by the CIA to take the blame for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961. The CIA and generals wanted to oust Castro, and in pursuit of that goal, trained a force of Cuban exiles to invade Cuba. Kennedy refused to go along and the invasion was roundly defeated. The CIA, military, and Cuban exiles bitterly blamed Kennedy. But it was all a sham.

Though Douglass doesn't mention it, and few Americans know it, classified documents uncovered in 2000 revealed that the CIA had discovered that the Soviets had learned of the date of the invasion more than a week in advance, had informed Castro, but - and here is a startling fact that should make people's hair stand on end - never told the President. The CIA knew the invasion was doomed before the fact but went ahead with it anyway. Why? So they could and did afterwards blame JFK for the failure.

This treachery set the stage for events to come. For his part, sensing but not knowing the full extent of the set-up, Kennedy fired CIA Director Allen Dulles (as in a bad joke, later to be named to the Warren Commission) and his assistant General Charles Cabell (whose brother Earle Cabell, to make a bad joke absurd, was the mayor of Dallas on the day Kennedy was killed) and said he wanted "to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds." Not the sentiments to endear him to a secretive government within a government whose power was growing exponentially.

The stage was now set for events to follow as JFK, in opposition to nearly all his advisers, consistently opposed the use of force in U.S. foreign policy. In 1961, despite the Joint Chief's demand to put troops into Laos, Kennedy bluntly insisted otherwise as he ordered Averell Harriman, his representative at the Geneva Conference, "Did you understand? I want a negotiated settlement in Laos. I don't want to put troops in." Also in 1961, he refused to concede to the insistence of his top generals to give them permission to use nuclear weapons in Berlin and Southeast Asia. Walking out of a meeting with top military advisors, Kennedy threw his hands in the air and said, "These people are crazy."

He refused to bomb and invade Cuba as the military wished during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Afterwards he told his friend John Kenneth Galbraith that "I never had the slightest intention of doing so." Then in June 1963 he gave an incredible speech at American University in which he called for the total abolishment of nuclear weapons, the end of the Cold War and the "Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war," and movement toward "general and complete disarmament." A few months later he signed a Limited Test Ban Treaty with Nikita Khrushchev. In October 1963 he signed National Security Action Memorandum 263 calling for the withdrawal of 1,000 U. S. military troops from Vietnam by the end of the year and a total withdrawal by the end of 1965.

All this he did while secretly engaging in negotiations with Khrushchev via the KGB , Norman Cousins, and Pope John XXIII , and with Castro through various intermediaries, one of whom was French Journalist Jean Daniel. In an interview with Daniel on October 24, 1963 Kennedy said, "I approved the proclamation Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will go even further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we will have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear." Such sentiments were anathema, shall we say treasonous, to the CIA and top generals.

These clear refusals to go to war and his decision to engage in private, back-channel communications with Cold War enemies marked Kennedy as an enemy of the national security state. They were on a collision course. As Douglass and others have pointed out, every move Kennedy made was anti-war. This, Douglass argues, was because JFK, a war hero, had been deeply affected by the horror of war and was severely shaken by how close the world had come to destruction during the Cuban missile crisis. Throughout his life he had been touched by death and had come to appreciate the fragility of life. Once in the Presidency, Kennedy underwent a deep metanoia, a spiritual transformation, from Cold Warrior to peace maker. He came to see the generals who advised him as devoid of the tragic sense of life and as hell-bent on war. And he was well aware that his growing resistance to war had put him on a dangerous collision course with those generals and the CIA. On numerous occasions he spoke of the possibility of a military coup d'etat against him. On the night before his trip to Dallas, he told his wife, "But, Jackie, if somebody wants to shoot me from a window with a rifle, nobody can stop it, so why worry about it." And we know that nobody did try to stop it because they had planned it.

But who killed him? Douglass presents a formidable amount of evidence, some old and some new, against the CIA and covert action agencies within the national security state, and does so in such a logical and persuasive way that any fair-minded reader cannot help but be taken aback; stunned, really. And he links this evidence directly to JFK's actions on behalf of peace.

He knows, however, that to truly convince he must break a "conspiracy of silence that would envelop our government, our media, our academic institutions, and virtually our entire society from November 22, 1963, to the present." This "unspeakable," this hypnotic "collective denial of the obvious," is sustained by a mass-media whose repeated message is that the truth about such significant events is beyond our grasp, that we will have to drink the waters of uncertainty forever. As for those who don't, they are relegated to the status of conspiracy nuts.

Fear and uncertainty block a true appraisal of the assassination - that plus the thought that it no longer matters. It matters. For we know that no president since JFK has dared to buck the military-intelligence-industrial complex. We know a Pax Americana has spread its tentacles across the globe with U.S. military in over 130 countries on 750 plus bases. We know that the amount of blood and money spent on wars and war preparations has risen astronomically. There is a great deal we know and even more that we don't want to know, or at the very least, investigate.

If Lee Harvey Oswald was connected to the intelligence community, the FBI and the CIA, then we can logically conclude that he was not "a lone-nut" assassin. Douglass marshals a wealth of evidence to show how from the very start Oswald was moved around the globe like a pawn in a game, and when the game was done, the pawn was eliminated in the Dallas police headquarters.

As he begins to trace Oswald's path, Douglass asks this question: "Why was Lee Harvey Oswald so tolerated and supported by the government he betrayed?" After serving as a U.S. Marine at the CIA's U-2 spy plane operating base in Japan with a Crypto clearance (higher than top secret but a fact suppressed by the Warren Commission), Oswald left the Marines and defected to the Soviet Union. After denouncing the U.S., working at a Soviet factory in Minsk , and taking a Russian wife - during which time Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane is shot down over the Soviet Union - he returned to the U.S. with a loan from the American Embassy in Moscow, only to be met at the dock in Hoboken, New Jersey by a man, Spas T. Raikin, a prominent anti-communist with extensive intelligence connections, recommended by the State Department. He passed through immigration with no trouble, was not prosecuted, moved to Fort Worth, Texas where , at the suggestion of the Dallas CIA Domestic Contacts Service chief, he was met and befriended by George de Mohrenschildt, an anti-communist Russian, who was a CIA asset. De Mohrenschildt got him a job four days later at a graphic arts company that worked on maps for the U.S. Army Map Service related to U-2 spy missions over Cuba.

Oswald was then shepherded around the Dallas area by de Mohrenschildt who, in 1977, on the day he revealed he had contacted Oswald for the CIA and was to meet with the House Select Committee on Assasinations' Gaeton Fonzi, allegedly committed suicide. Oswald then moved to New Orleans in April 1963 where got a job at the Reilly Coffee Company owned by CIA-affiliated William Reilly. The Reilly Coffee Company was located in close vicinity to the FBI,CIA, Secret Service, and Office of Naval Intelligence offices and a stone's throw from the office of Guy Bannister, a former FBI agent, who worked as a covert action coordinator for the intelligence services, supplying and training anti-Castro paramilitaries meant to ensnare Kennedy. Oswald then went to work with Bannister and the CIA paramilitaries.

During this time up until the assassination Oswald was on the FBI payroll, receiving $200 per month. This startling fact was covered up by the Warren Commission even though it was stated by the Commission's own general counsel J. Lee Rankin at a closed door meeting on January 27, 1964. The meeting had been declared "top secret" and its content only uncovered ten years later after a lengthy legal battle by researcher Harold Weisberg. Douglass claims Oswald "seems to have been working with both the CIA and FBI," as a provocateur for the former and an informant for the latter. Jim and Elsie Wilcott, who worked at the CIA Tokyo Station from 1960-64, in a 1978 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, said, "It was common knowledge in the Tokyo CIA station that Oswald worked for the agency."

When Oswald moved to New Orleans in April 1963, de Mohrenschildt exited the picture, having asked the CIA for and been indirectly given a $285,000 contract to do a geological survey for Haitian dictator "Papa Doc" Duvalier, which he never did , but for which he was paid. Ruth and Michael Paine then entered the picture on cue. Douglass illuminatingly traces in their intelligence connections. Ruth later was the Warren Commission's chief witness. She had been introduced to Oswald by de Mohrenschildt. In September 1963 Ruth Paine drove from her sister's house in Virginia to New Orleans to pick up Marina Oswald and bring her to her house in Dallas to live with her. Thirty years after the assassination a document was declassified showing Paine's sister Sylvia worked for the CIA. Her father traveled throughout Latin America on an Agency for International Development (notorious for CIA front activities) contract and filed reports that went to the CIA. Her husband Michael's step-father, Arthur Young, was the inventor of the Bell helicopter and Michael's job there gave him a security clearance. Her mother was related to the Forbes family of Boston and her lifelong friend, Mary Bancroft, worked as a WW II spy with Allen Dulles and was his mistress. Afterwards, Dulles questioned the Paines in front of the Warren Commission, studiously avoiding any revealing questions. Back in Dallas, Ruth Paine conveniently got Oswald a job in the Texas Book Depository where he began work on October 16, 1963.

From late September until November 22, various Oswalds are later reported to have simultaneously been seen from Dallas to Mexico City. Two Oswalds were arrested in the Texas Theatre, the real one taken out the front door and an impostor out the back. As Douglas says, "There were more Oswalds providing evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald than the Warren Report could use or even explain." Even J. Edgar Hoover knew that Oswald impostors were used, as he told LBJ concerning Oswald's alleged visit to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. He later called this CIA ploy, "the false story re Oswald's trip to Mexico...their ( CIA's) double-dealing," something that he couldn't forget. It was apparent that a very intricate and deadly game was being played out at high levels in the shadows.

We know Oswald was blamed for the President's murder. But if one fairly follows the trail of the crime it becomes blatantly obvious that government forces were at work. Douglass adds layer upon layer of evidence to show how this had to be so. Oswald, the mafia, anti-Castro Cubans could not have withdrawn most of the security that day. The Sheriff Bill Decker withdrew all police protection. The Secret Service withdrew the police motorcycle escorts from beside the president's car where they had been the day before in Houston; took agents off the back of the car where they were normally stationed to obstruct gunfire. They approved the fateful, dogleg turn (on a dry run on November 18) where the car came, almost to a halt, a clear security violation. The House Select Committee on Assasinations concluded this, not some conspiracy nut.

Who could have squelched the testimony of all the doctors and medical personnel who claimed the president had been shot from the front in his neck and head, testimony contradicting the official story? Who could have prosecuted and imprisoned Abraham Bolden, the first African-American Secret Service agent personally brought on to the White House detail by JFK, who warned that he feared the president was going to be assassinated? (Douglass interviewed Bolden seven times and his evidence on the aborted plot to kill JFK in Chicago on November 2 - a story little known but extraordinary in its implications - is riveting.) The list of all the people who turned up dead, the evidence and events manipulated, the inquiry squelched, distorted, and twisted in an ex post facto cover-up - clearly point to forces within the government, not rogue actors without institutional support.

The evidence for a conspiracy organized at the deepest levels of the intelligence apparatus is overwhelming. James Douglass presents it in such depth and so logically that only one hardened to the truth would not be deeply moved and affected by his book. He says it best: "The extent to which our national security state was systematically marshaled for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy remains incomprehensible to us. When we live in a system, we absorb and think in a system. We lack the independence needed to judge the system around us. Yet the evidence we have seen points toward our national security state, the systemic bubble in which we all live, as the source of Kennedy's murder and immediate cover-up."

Speaking to his friends Dave Powers and Ken O'Donnell about those who planned the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, JFK said, "They couldn't believe that a new president like me wouldn't panic and try to save his own face. Well, they had me figured all wrong." Let's hope for another president like that, but one that meets a different end."

"The Limit Of Our Sight..."

"Life is eternal and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon,
And a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight."
- Rossiter W. Raymond

"The Danger of Convenience"

"The Danger of Convenience"
by David Cain

"The other day I saw an ad for Google Home which, even five years ago, could have passed for their annual April Fool’s joke. (You can see it here.) A woman is getting comfortable on a couch, as a friendly voiceover relates a supposedly-common dilemma: “You know when you’ve got Chinese takeout on your chest, and the blanket around your feet, and then you realize the remote is on the other side of the couch? Just say ‘Hey Google, play Stranger Things!’”

I appreciate ease and convenience (and Stranger Things) as much as anyone else. We should be grateful to have access to ingenious devices that relieve us from having to do laundry in a stream, heat water by the pot load over a fire, and other laborious, dangerous, and time-consuming tasks. But when we’re also employing futuristic devices to do the easiest imaginable things, we’re probably making our lives worse. How convenient do we want things to be, really? Would we eliminate all bodily movement if it were possible?

If a remote control sitting on the far arm of the couch has become a dilemma we want technology to solve for us, we may be heading straight into the realm of Wall-E, or a similar dystopia. Convenience tech has a way of giving ourselves a fish, so to speak, at any cost. The more we rely on technologies to stand in for our own abilities, for what our brains and bodies know how to do, the worse we get at using those brains and bodies on their own. 

We should be familiar with this idea already. We saw the rise of the automobile sap our willingness, and eventually our ability, to walk anywhere, especially after we started designing cities that don’t work without cars. The global food system, as efficient as it is, helped billions of people forget how to produce and even cook our own food. Today human beings are rapidly losing the ability to navigate a city without the aid of GPS satellites, which is to say we need a network of spaceships to do what once only required a paper map.

To be clear, these kinds of tradeoffs can be worth it. If we’re saving a huge workload, such as with laundry machines, the inevitable loss of washboard skills throughout a society might not be so terrible. But the cost of a new convenience can be much higher than that, and the rewards smaller. We should certainly be wary of what it will cost us to become unaccustomed to reaching for objects more than three feet away.

It’s easy to forget that the remote control, the same device taunting the lady in the ad from two couch-cushions distant, was a dangerously convenient invention in its own right. In the 1980s, it allowed us, quite suddenly, to consume hours of television across multiple channels without having to resort to bipedality - a much, much older development, but also a much more valuable one.

The remote made it fifty times easier to change the channel, and simultaneously fifty times harder not to watch too much TV. A whole new mode of sedentary, passive living became not only possible, but pervasive. It made the simple act of standing up and doing something else into a much more psychologically demanding feat than ever before. Convenient or not, it’s hard to say the rise of the remote control has been a wholly positive development for our species.

Now the convenience level is reaching new heights of absurdity, and it will make possible new levels of sedentariness and tech dependency. This isn’t matter of moral judgment - everyone wants a different lifestyle, and I don’t begrudge anyone theirs. But I think it’s easy to overlook the downsides of the conveniences we adopt. I can’t be the only one who wants it to be less easy to plug my mind into a screen for three hours. Bring back the clunky old knobs!

It never quite seems like it, but a new convenience device is always a tradeoff between personal ability and technological ability. As the technology makes one thing easier, the personal skills and qualities required for the old, manual way start to dull and die off. Those qualities - which include things like initiative, patience, awareness, problem-solving, and the simple willingness to use one’s body - didn’t become obsolete along with the channel knob or the written letter, they just became less well developed across the whole population.

We are certainly worse at simply getting through our day without being entertained, and nobody could argue that’s a good thing. In 1988, the notion of watching a movie while waiting for a bus would have been unthinkable. Today, it’s becoming increasingly unthinkable to spend any time waiting without electronic entertainment.

It’s not all or nothing, but to the extent that we use a device to circumvent the need for patience, or any other human quality, the less we develop that quality, and the more we need the device. Between those two capabilities - watching movies almost anywhere you like, and waiting patiently almost anywhere you like - which one would you rather lose? The internal one or the external one?

We can assume that behind almost every new technologically-endowed superpower we accept, at least one unpurchaseable skill or attribute is slowly withering, and it isn’t necessarily a quality we no longer need.

For example, new technologies have greatly reduced the need to use our bodies at work, in both blue and white collar sectors. This change has many worthwhile upsides of course, but depending on the type of work, it can leave our bodies so underused that it’s common to go right from a workplace to a gymnasium, just to add another hour of economically unproductive work - running in place on treadmills and lifting dead pieces of iron. We’re making up for a known deficiency created by otherwise helpful technologies, even though staying strong and active never lost any value - it just became easier and easier to neglect.

New inventions never simply add ease to what we’re already doing. They provide ease in one area, usually a very specific one, at the cost of slowly starving any personal skills—often broadly-applicable ones - that the old way used to keep sharp. The easier the tasks we’re sparing ourselves, the higher we’re holding convenience over self-reliance, and the more helpless we become without our tech. Using a chainsaw to replace hours of axe work is probably a sensible tradeoff, but using voice-activated software to spare us from moving our arms is probably not.

I don’t know what I want for Christmas, but it would be great if it made me better at some fundamental human quality instead of worse. But that would make me impossible to shop for."

"Evaluating Authority"

"Evaluating Authority"
by EmotionalCompetency

“Rather than examining evidence first hand, we often rely on secondary information sources. These include gossip, rumor, hearsay, conversation, the Internet, and information provided by various luminaries and authorities available as publications, speeches, presentations, advertisements, endorsements, radio and TV programs, and news items.

The English language use of the word “authority” has two very different meanings. One meaning describes positional power - such as the right to control, command, or determine - and the other describes expertise - an accepted source of information. Evidence obtained from an authority has to be carefully evaluated based on the expertise of the authority, while respectfully disregarding the power, influence, fame, charisma, attachment, or appeal of the authority. Trust and verify. Exercise critical thinking. A common and seductive fallacy is an appeal to authority. We are often mislead because of a natural tendency to trust some people and distrust others.

An authority often presents only a single point-of-view, and too often this point-of-view advances a vested interest. One example of this is an Internet site claiming to provide expert information on sleep problems as a public service. However, the web site is created, paid for, and edited entirely by the manufacturer of a particular prescription drug sleep aid. This is a manipulative marketing tool, disguised as a source of objective information. It uses factual statements to present a false message. Examine a variety of view points and apply critical thinking to help evaluate information provided by an authority, or even by an aligned group of authorities.

Take particular care to evaluate the reliability of claims of divine or religious experience, pronouncements by authorities, appeals to common sense, the obvious, and other situations where information or conclusions are claimed to be self-evident, beyond question, or beyond our comprehension. When a person in power responds with a preemptive dismissal - refusing to seriously consider an inquiry, or replying without responding by using power, humiliation, ridicule, insult, intimidation, distraction, obfuscation, condescension, or humor - it is often because the evidence is unsubstantiated. Arrogance, belligerence, shouting, sneering, and repetition do not validate evidence, instead these distractions should raise suspicions. Confident experts typically welcome critical examination and discussion of their findings. Charlatans do not. Retain a healthy skepticism. Challenge authority as needed to understand and evaluate their claims and assess evidence. Challenge claims with a respectful and tactful request to “show me” and “help me understand”.”

Musical Interlude: Justin Hayward, "Celtic Heart"

Justin Hayward, "Celtic Heart"

"Despair and Survival"

"Despair and Survival"
by Sam Smith


"Ever since I read Thoreau in high school and adopted as my own his declaration that he would rather sit alone on a pumpkin than be crowded on a velvet stool, I have made the pursuit of individual freedom a part of my daily business. I follow it like others follow football. I know the game, the players, and the rules. And one of the most important things I have discovered is how few people are able to help you much. The psychiatrist with his elegant degree, the minister with an eye on the vestry's budget, the philosophy professor just short of tenure, and, yes, even the author of this book are likely to fail because their work has become partly the suppression of their own free will.

This compromise may in the end represent a better balance of desire and action than that of which you dream, but it will not necessarily guide you well. It will not teach you how to do something even though you are afraid; even though no one else is suggesting that you do it let alone making you do it; it will not tell you when to take the risk of doing the right thing or trying something that no one has done before.

Which may be why one of the wisest observations on this subject came to me from a former LA narcotics detective. This detective, investigating corruption and involvement by intelligence agencies in the drug trade, has repeatedly put his life at risk to get to the bottom of an extremely dirty business. He has two bullet holes in his left arm and one in his left ear. While describing his efforts to a small group, someone asked how he managed to stick at it year after year despite having been shot at and threatened. He said he had borrowed a trick another cop had taught him; when in danger he simply considered himself already dead. Then he was able to move without fear.

Such an ability to confront and transcend - rather than deny, adjust to, replace, recover from, or succumb to - the universe in which you find yourself is among the things that permits freedom. This man, with Buddhist-like deconstruction and Christian-like rebirth, had taken apart the pieces of his fear and dumped them on the ground - a mercy killing of dreams and nightmares on behalf of survival.

Yet imagine the health column in your local paper suggesting that you cure your phobia by going about pretending you are dead. Or phoning your psychiatrist in the middle of the night and having her tell you, "Just do the drop-dead thing I told you about and call me in the morning." There is something almost perverse and subversive about the idea; like playing Russian roulette with your brain. One of the rules of our culture is not to let our minds come too close to death.

Albert Camus, on the other hand, claimed that the only serious philosophical question is suicide. Of this provocation, Christopher Scott Wyatt has written: "According to Camus, suicide was a sign that one lacked the strength to face "nothing." Life is an adventure without final meaning, but still worth experiencing. Since there is nothing else, life should be lived to its fullest and derive meaning from human existence."

Kierkegaard said that "the more consciousness, the more intense the despair," and that the torment of despair is not being able to die. But lurking in this death wish, paradoxically, is a passion for life. If one survives this perilous proximity of death, one consciously chooses life.

But just what has been chosen? Certainly not a pristine and puerile Pleasantville of the soul. Perhaps it is what one of Camus' characters says: "I have surrendered myself to the magnificent indifference of the universe." Or perhaps we make Kierkegaard's "leap of faith," of which Donald Palmer wrote: "The negative is present in all consciousness. Doubt accentuates the negative. Belief chooses to cancel the negative. Every mortal act is composed of doubt and belief. It is belief that sustains thought and holds the world together. Nevertheless, belief understands itself as uncertain, as not justified by any objective fact."

It is, in the end, your choice. Take a leap of faith and end up at the local church hoping someone can explain all this better to your kids in Sunday school than you can, or ride bareback across the philosophical and theological plains. In either case, as long as you fully engage with life, doubt will not be far away."
- Sam Smith, "Despair and Survival", from the book “Why Bother?”
- http://prorev.com/wbdespair.htm

"All Man Can Do..."

 “All man can do is lose one life, but also keep in mind that all we have is one life, so that the longest life and the shortest life amount to the same thing. Our only loss is the passing minute which is every man's equal possession for he cannot lose what is already passed nor what he does not possess in the future. Only the present can be lost for this is all that is man's. Also remember that the cycles of the world exhibit the same recurring pattern, so it makes no difference how long you watch them repeat.”
- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

"The Human Condition"

"The Human Condition"
by Meanings of Life

"Man remains largely unknown of himself. What are we, in our innermost recesses, behind our names and our conventional opinions? What are we behind the things we do in our lives, behind what we see in others and what others see in us, or even behind things science says we are? Is man the crazy being about whom Carl Gustav Jung spoke ironically, when he demanded a man to treat? Is man the Dr. Jerkyll that contains in himself a criminal Mister Hyde, and more than a personality, and contradictory feelings?

Are we the result of our dreams, as Prospero, in the Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” asked? Are we able to raise our nature and become the dignified beings evoked by Pico de la Mirandola (It’s the seeds a man cultivates that "will mature and bear fruit in him. If vegetative, he will become a plant; if sensual, he will become brutish; if rational, he will reveal himself a heavenly being; if intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God")?

Almost two centuries ago, Spencer characterized the contradictory features of natives from the African east coast: "He has at the same time good character and hard heart; he is a fighter, conscientious, good in a precise moment, and cruel, pitiless and violent in the other; superstitious and rudely irreligious; brave and pusillanimous, servile and dominator, stubborn and at the same time fickle, relied to honour views, but without signs of honesty, niggard and economical, but careless and improvident".

It’s probably a good definition of a certain primitive man, to whom we are undoubtedly connected. But we are also cultural and ethic beings. We are able to change our values and behaviours. As William James says, human beings can change their lives through their mental attitudes. We can grow ethically. We can dominate part of our own instincts. And that’s why we can be different from the indigenous African described by Spencer. More: our thought dignifies us ("All the dignity of man consists in thought", says Blaise Pascal). We are, in many senses, the conscience of the Universe, and its utmost elaborated product. As Edgar Morin says, "in the core of our singularity, we carry not only all the humanity, all the life, but also all the cosmos, including its mystery, present in the heart of our beings".

We are creators, creator beings, and, in a sense, we can create, or recreate ourselves. All goes through our mind. It is our mind that constructs our truths and errors, and also the most sublime things in the Universe. And yet evil and stupidity exist in us. Sometimes we fall, we are stroked, and life reveals its cruelty, and we may think as Mark Twain, and say that it was a pity that Noah had arrived late to the ark. In our innermost recesses, there is also the cruelty and the inhumanity of life. Charles Darwin showed that we are descendants of inferior life forms: we have been long ago a "bush and a bird, and a fish silently swimming in the waters", to use the poetic terms used by Empedocles in its "Purifications."

From a genetic and evolutionist point of view, we contain in us the survival reflexes and the aggressiveness of the life forms that preceded us: "All that threatened the cave man - dangers, darkness, famine, thirst, ghosts, demons – all has passed to the interior of our souls, all troubles us, grieves us, threatens us from inside." (Morin). Besides, we are also beings that can differ significantly from each other. We are equal, but also different. "The awake involve a common world, but dreams deviate each one to its own world," Heraclites rather enigmatically declares. He thought we can’t help sleeping and living in illusory worlds, even when awake.

For all these reasons, Blaise Pascal’s celebrated definition of the human being, despite the hard language, not exactly agreeable to our ears, is undoubtedly one of the most powerful that can be applied to the rather unknown being that we can’t help being to ourselves: "What a chimera then is man! What a novelty, what a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depositary of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the pride and refuse of the universe! Who will unravel this tangle?"

"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."

Musical Interlude: Liquid Mind, "My Orchid Spirit (Extragalactic)"

Liquid Mind, "My Orchid Spirit (Extragalactic)"
- https://www.youtube.com/

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Massive stars, abrasive winds, mountains of dust, and energetic light sculpt one of the largest and most picturesque regions of star formation in the Local Group of Galaxies. Known as N11, the region is visible on the upper right of many images of its home galaxy, the Milky Way neighbor known as the Large Magellanic Clouds (LMC). 
Click image for larger size.
The above image was taken for scientific purposes by the Hubble Space Telescope and reprocessed for artistry by an amateur to win the Hubble's Hidden Treasures competition. Although the section imaged above is known as NGC 1763, the entire N11 emission nebula is second in LMC size only to 30 Doradus. Studying the stars in N11 has shown that it actually houses three successive generations of star formation. Compact globules of dark dust housing emerging young stars are also visible around the image.”

"If You're Busy, You're Doing Something Wrong: The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers"

"If You're Busy, You're Doing Something Wrong:
The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers"
by Cal Newport

"The Berlin Study: In the early 1990s, a trio of psychologists descended on the Universität der Künste, a historic arts academy in the heart of West Berlin. They came to study the violinists. As described in their subsequent publication in Psychological Review, the researchers asked the academy's music professors to help them identify a set of stand out violin players - the students who the professors believed would go onto careers as professional performers. We'll call this group the elite players.

For a point of comparison, they also selected a group of students from the school's education department. These were students who were on track to become music teachers. They were serious about violin, but as their professors explained, their ability was not in the same league as the first group. We'll call this group the average players.

The three researchers subjected their subjects to a series of in-depth interviews. They then gave them diaries which divided each 24-hour period into 50 minute chunks, and sent them home to keep a careful log of how they spent their time. Flush with data, the researchers went to work trying to answer a fundamental question: Why are the elite players better than the average players? The obvious guess is that the elite players are more dedicated to their craft. That is, they're willing to put in the long,Tiger Mom-style hours required to get good, while the average players are off goofing around and enjoying life. The data, as it turns out, had a different story to tell...

Decoding the Patterns of the Elite: We can start by disproving the assumption that the elite players dedicate more hours to music. The time diaries revealed that both groups spent, on average, the same number of hours on music per week (around 50). The difference was in how they spent this time. The elite players were spending almost three times more hours than the average players on deliberate practice - the uncomfortable, methodical work of stretching your ability. This might not be surprising, as the importance of deliberate practice had been replicated and reported many times (c.f., Gladwell). But the researchers weren't done.

They also studied how the students scheduled their work. The average players, they discovered, spread their work throughout the day. A graph included in the paper, which shows the average time spent working versus the waking hours of the day, is essentially flat. The elite players, by contrast, consolidated their work into two well-defined periods. When you plot the average time spent working versus the hours of the day for these players, there are two prominent peaks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In fact, the more elite the player, the more pronounced the peaks. For the best of the best - the subset of the elites who the professors thought would go on to play in one of Germany's two best professional orchestras - there was essentially no deviation from a rigid two-sessions a day schedule. This isolation of work from leisure had pronounced effects in other areas of the players' lives.

Consider, for example, sleep: the elite players slept an hour more per night than the average players. Also consider relaxation. The researchers asked the players to estimate how much time they dedicated each week to leisure activities - an important indicator of their subjective feeling of relaxation. By this metric, the elite players were significantly more relaxed than the average players, and the best of the best were the most relaxed of all.

Hard Work is Different than Hard to Do Work: To summarize these results: The average players are working just as many hours as the elite players (around 50 hours a week spent on music), but they're not dedicating these hours to the right type of work (spending almost 3 times less hours than the elites on crucial deliberate practice), and furthermore, they spread this work haphazardly throughout the day. So even though they're not doing more work than the elite players, they end up sleeping less and feeling more stressed. Not to mention that they remain worse at the violin.

I've seen this same phenomenon time and again in my study of high achievers. It came up so often in my study of top students, for example, that I even coined a name for it: the paradox of the relaxed Rhodes Scholar. This study sheds some light on this paradox. It provides empirical evidence that there's a difference between hard work and hard to do work: Hard work is deliberate practice. It's not fun while you're doing it, but you don't have to do too much of it in any one day (the elite players spent, on average, 3.5 hours per day engaged in deliberate practice, broken into two sessions). It also provides you measurable progress in a skill, which generates a strong sense of contentment and motivation. Therefore, although hard work is hard, it's not draining and it can fit nicely into a relaxed and enjoyable day. Hard to do work, by contrast, is draining. It has you running around all day in a state of false busyness that leaves you, like the average players from the Berlin study, feeling tired and stressed. It also, as we just learned, has very little to do with real accomplishment.

This analysis leads to an important conclusion. Whether you're a student or well along in your career, if your goal is to build a remarkable life, then busyness and exhaustion should be your enemy. If you're chronically stressed and up late working, you're doing something wrong. You're the average players from the Universität der Künste - not the elite. You've built a life around hard to do work, not hard work. The solution suggested by this research, as well as my own, is as simple as it is startling: Do less. But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you're done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day."
- http://www.sott.net/

Chet Raymo, “Work Of The Heart”

“Work Of The Heart”
by Chet Raymo

“In 1914, at age 39, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke had a substantial body of published work behind him. "Work of sight is achieved," he wrote; "now for some heart work." That's more or less what I have been doing on this site for the past three years: heart work. For seventy years it was sight work: looking, reading, teaching, writing books. Now I'm more interested in trying to discern the contours of the journey, the shape of the landscape I have traversed. How did the things seen fit together? How did the fit determine what things were seen? Heart work.

It's a pleasant task, and these daily posts are part of it. It is, as you have suggested, the sort of work that takes place on the porch of life. I imagine a broad summer verandah, perhaps in the south, with cicadas singing and constellations of fireflies mimicking the stars. A pink moon rising in the east. From afar off, the flicker of heat lightnin'.

In “Letters To A Young Poet,” Rilke advises: "Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." Good advice, and I would like to think that now is that time far in the future when whatever answers might be found will reveal themselves. But they will come, I am sure - if they come at all - in solitude and silence and love. A meteor streaks the mirroring sky. An alignment of planets in the west. Listen! A whisper. A calling into the thick of things.”

The Poet: Jeanne Lohmann, "Questions Before Dark"

"Questions Before Dark"

"Day ends, and before sleep
when the sky dies down, consider
your altered state: has this day
changed you? Are the corners
sharper or rounded off? Did you
live with death? Make decisions
that quieted? Find one clear word
that fit? At the sun's midpoint
did you notice a pitch of absence,
bewilderment that invites
the possible? What did you learn
from things you dropped and picked up
and dropped again? Did you set a straw
parallel to the river, let the flow
carry you downstream?"

- Jeanne Lohmann
from "The Light of Invisible Bodies"

The Daily "Near You?"

San Luis Obispo, California, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"Making Your Best Guess"

"Making Your Best Guess"
by Arthur Silber

“We are not gods, and we are not omniscient. We cannot foretell the future with certainty. Most often, cultural and political changes are terribly complex. It can be notoriously difficult to predict exactly where a trend will take us, and we can be mistaken. We do the best we can: if we wish to address certain issues seriously, we study history, and we read everything that might shed light on our concerns. We consult what the best thinkers of our time and of earlier times have said and written. We challenge everyone's assumptions, including most especially our own. That last is often very difficult. If we care enough, we do our best to disprove our own case. In that way, we find out how strong our case is, and where its weaknesses may lie.

Barring extraordinary circumstances, we cannot be certain that a particular development represents a critical turning point at the time it occurs. If we dare to say, "This is the moment the battle was lost," only future events will prove whether we were correct. We do the best we can, based on our understanding of how similar events have unfolded in the past, and in light of our understanding of the underlying principles in play. We can be wrong.”

X22 Report, “Is There A Stock Flash Crash & A Bond Bubble Implosion Coming In 2018?”

X22 Report, “Is There A Stock Flash Crash & A Bond Bubble Implosion Coming In 2018?”
Related followup report:
X22 Report, “Time Is Running Out For The Cabal, Tick-Tock”

"How It Really Should Have Been"

"Bank Of America Analyst: A ‘Flash Crash’ In Early 2018 ‘Seems Quite Likely’"

"Bank Of America Analyst: 
A ‘Flash Crash’ In Early 2018 ‘Seems Quite Likely’"
by Michael Snyder

“Is the stock market bubble about to burst? I know that I have been touching on this theme over and over and over again in recent weeks, but I can’t help it. Red flags are popping up all over the place, and the last time so many respected experts were warning about an imminent stock market crash was just before the last major financial crisis. Of course nobody can guarantee that global central banks won’t find a way to prolong this bubble just a little bit longer, but at this point they are all removing the artificial support from the markets in coordinated fashion. Without that artificial support, it is inevitable that financial markets will experience a correction, and the only real question is what the exact timing will be.

For example, Bank of America’s Michael Hartnett originally thought that the coming correction would come a bit sooner, but now he is warning of a “flash crash” during the first half of 2018: "Having predicted back in July that the “most dangerous moment for markets will come in 3 or 4 months“, i.e., now, BofA’s Michael Hartnett was – in retrospect – wrong (unless of course the S&P plunges in the next few days). However, having stuck to his underlying logic – which was as sound then as it is now – Hartnett has not given up on his “bad cop” forecast (not to be mistaken with the S&P target to be unveiled shortly by BofA’s equity team and which will probably be around 2,800), and in a note released overnight, the Chief Investment Strategist not only once again dares to time his market peak forecast, which he now thinks will take place in the first half of 2018, but goes so far as to predict that there will be a flash crash “a la 1987/1994/1998” in just a few months."

That certainly sounds quite ominous. Just so that there is no confusion, let me give you his exact quote“A flash crash (à la ’87/’94/’98) in H1 2018 seems quite likely, in our view, as the major sedative of volatility, the central banks, start to withdraw liquidity.” Hartnett is making the same point that I have made repeatedly in recent weeks. As the central banks withdraw the artificial support that has been propping up the markets ever since the last financial crisis, we will see if the markets can really maintain these absolutely ridiculous price levels on their own.

And we are not just talking about stock prices either.  In fact, Bill Blain believes that the coming crash will actually originate in the bond market: "The 2008 crisis, which was about consumer debt, was triggered by mortgages. We still have consumer debt crisis problems ahead, warns Blain, adding the next financial crisis is likely to be in corporate debt. “More immediately, the realization a crisis is coming feels very similar to June 2007 when the first mortgage-backed funds in the US started to wobble.” He said it explains why “we’re seeing the highly levered sector of the junk bond markets struggle, and companies correlated to struggling highly levered consumers (such as health and telecoms) also in trouble.” Stock markets don’t matter, according to the strategist. “The truth is in bond markets. And that’s where I’m looking for the dam to break. The great crash of 2018 is going to start in the deeper, darker depths of the credit market,” he said.

Asset prices of all classes have been pushed to absolutely absurd levels by the central banks. If it wasn’t for central bank manipulation, stock prices would have never gotten this high, and the bond market would have never been pushed to such irrational extremes. And it isn’t just the Federal Reserve that has been intervening directly in U.S. markets.

For example, did you know that the Swiss National Bank is now the eighth largest public holder of U.S. stocks in the entire world? According to John Mauldin, the Swiss central bank has poured 17 billion dollars into our stock market so far this year, and overall they now own approximately 80 billion dollars worth of our stocks: "The SNB owns about $80 billion in US stocks today (June, 2017) and a guesstimated $20 billion or so in European stocks (this guess comes from my friend Grant Williams, so I will go with it). They have bought roughly $17 billion worth of US stocks so far this year. And they have no formula; they are just trying to manage their currency.

Think about this for a moment: They have about $10,000 in US stocks on their books for every man, woman, and child in Switzerland, not to mention who knows how much in other assorted assets, all in the effort to keep a lid on what is still one of the most expensive currencies in the world. Switzerland is now the eighth-largest public holder of US stocks. And apparently they are concentrating on the largest of the large-cap stocks. The own 19 million shares of Apple (as of March 31). They have made these purchases with money that they have literally created out of thin air."

If that sounds like “cheating” to you, that is because that is exactly what it is. How in the world can stock prices possibly fall when global central banks are creating colossal mountains of money out of thin air and are using that money to buy stocks? The central banks created this ridiculous stock market bubble, and they can also burst the bubble by pulling back on the level of artificial support, and that is precisely what we see happening right now.

So don’t buy into the hype. All that really matters is what the central banks choose to do, and if they wanted to continue to pump enormous amounts of money into the financial markets they could continue to pump up this absurd financial bubble that we are currently witnessing. But at the moment they appear to be pulling back, and that makes a very “interesting” 2018 for the financial markets much more likely.”
http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/
Related:
“The Economy Is One Big Scam And This Is Why: Craig Hemke”