Saturday, May 27, 2017

"War In A Nutshell"

"War In A Nutshell"
by Eugene Debs

"Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles (whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine) concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war.

The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another's throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose - especially their lives.

They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people. And here let me emphasize the fact- and it cannot be repeated too often- that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace."

Memorial Day: “For the Fallen”

“For the Fallen”
by Laurence Binyon

"Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labor of the day-time;
They sleep beyond their country’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.”

- Laurence Binyon,
“For the Fallen” (adapted)
We honor their sacrifice and service.

"Is Your Cost Of Living Rising? Why The Elites Aren't Worried About Inflation”

"Is Your Cost Of Living Rising? 
Why The Elites Aren't Worried About Inflation”
by Charles Hugh Smith

"If you want to understand why we're fragmenting as a society, start by looking at the asymmetric burdens imposed by inflation. In our household, we measure real-world inflation with the Burrito Index: How much has the cost of a regular burrito at our favorite taco truck gone up? The cost of a regular burrito from our local taco truck has gone up from $2.50 in 2001 to $5 in 2010 to $6.50 in 2016. That’s a $160% increase since 2001: 15 years in which the official inflation rate reports that what $1 bought in 2001 can supposedly be bought with $1.35 today.

My Burrito Index is a rough-and-ready index of real-world inflation. To insure its measure isn’t an outlying aberration, we also need to track the real-world costs of big-ticket items such as college tuition and healthcare insurance. When we do, we observe results of similar magnitude.

Our money is losing its purchasing power much faster than the government would like us to believe. According to official statistics, inflation has reduced the purchasing power of the dollar by a mere 6% since 2011: barely above 1% a year. We’ve supposedly seen our purchasing power decline by 27% in the 12 years since 2004 - an average rate of 2.25% per year. But our real-world experience tells us the official inflation rate doesn’t reflect the actual cost increases of everything from burritos to healthcare.

The cost of a regular taco was $1.25 in 2010. By official standards, it should cost a dime more. Oops—it’s now $2 each, a 60% increase, six times the official rate. The cost of a Vietnamese-style sandwich (banh mi) at our favorite Chinatown deli has jumped from $1.50 in 2001 to $2 in 2004 to $3.50 in 2016. That $1.50 increase since 2004 is a 75% jump, roughly triple the official 27% reduction in purchasing power. So let’s play Devil’s Advocate and suggest that these extraordinary increases are limited to “food purchased away from home,” to use the official jargon for meals purchased at fast-food joints, delis, cafes, microbreweries and restaurants.

Well, how about public university tuition? That’s not something you buy every week like a burrito. Getting out our calculator, we find that the cost for four years of tuition and fees at a public university will set you back about 8,600 burritos. Throw in books (assume the student lives at home, so no on-campus dorm room or food expenses) and other college expenses and you’re up to 10,000 burritos, or $65,000 for the four years at a public university.

University of California at Davis:
2004 in-state tuition $5,684
2015 in state tuition $13,951

That’s an increase of 145% in a time span in which official inflation says tuition in 2015 should have cost 25% more than it did in 2004, i.e. $7,105. Oops - the real world costs are basically double official inflation - a difference of about $30,000 per four-year bachelor’s degree per student.

Here’s my alma mater (and no, you can’t get a degree in surfing, sorry):

University of Hawaii at Manoa:
2004 in-state tuition: $4,487
2016 in-state tuition: $10,872

Sure, some public and private universities offer tuition waivers and financial aid to needy or talented students, but the majority of households/students are on the hook for a big chunk of these costs. And remember that many students are paying living expenses, which doubles the cost of the diploma. If you think I cherry-picked these two public universities, check out this article.

So the divergence between real-world costs and official inflation isn’t limited to burritos; it’s just as bad in items that cost tens of thousands of dollars. As for healthcare: feast your eyes on this chart of medical expenses.
Click image for larger size.
According to official inflation calculations, the $12,214 annual medical costs for a family of four in 2005 "should cost" around $15,000 today. Oops - the actual cost is $25,826, $10,826 higher than official inflation, which adds over $100,000 in cash outlays above and beyond official inflation in the course of a decade. So let’s add the $30,000 per university student above and beyond inflation for two college students over a decade and the $100,000 in healthcare costs that are above and beyond inflation over that decade, and we get $160,000.

Since deductions for education and healthcare don’t completely wipe out income taxes, the household has to earn close to $200,000 more over the decade to net out the $160,000 to pay typical college and healthcare costs above and beyond what education and healthcare “should cost” if inflation in big-ticket items had actually tracked official inflation.

$100,000 here, $100,000 there and pretty soon you’re talking real money in a nation in which median household income is around $57,000 annually.

So if a household’s income kept up with official inflation over a decade, that household would have to earn at least $20,000 more per year just to keep pace with real-world, big-ticket cost increases. That’s the problem, isn’t it? If the household’s wages only kept up with inflation, there isn’t another $20,000 a year in additional income needed to pay these soaring big-ticket costs. So the shortfall has to be borrowed, burdening the household with debt and interest payments for decades to come, or the kids don’t attend college and the household goes without healthcare insurance.

Once again, real-world costs have soared at a rate that is almost six times higher than the official rate of inflation. The reality is real-world inflation in big-ticket essentials is crushing every household that doesn’t qualify for government subsidies of higher education, rent and healthcare.
Click image for larger size.
No wonder the political and financial Elites don't care about inflation: their incomes have soared far above mere inflation. When you're skimming millions, who cares about a mere $150,000 for a university education, or $25,000 for healthcare insurance?

Do you reckon the lobbyists for Big Pharma and the rest of the healthcare racket are spending millions lobbying politicians to slash the soaring costs of healthcare? Do you think all the universities collecting billions in government-guaranteed student loans are lobbying politicos to reduce loans to debt-serf students? Sorry, but that's not how pay-to-play "democracy" works. In pay-to-play "democracy," the goal is to raise prices without improving service, and have the federal government enforce this racket on powerless debt-serfs.

If you want to understand why we're fragmenting as a society, start by looking at the asymmetric burdens imposed by inflation. The Elites aren't worried about inflation because they don't even feel it. And since they rule to benefit the top 5%, they don't really care what the bottom 95% are experiencing. In other words, "Let them eat cake."

Friday, May 26, 2017

"If You Knew..."

"If you knew your ending, how would you live your beginning?"
-  J Nell Brown

"Chromaradio: Choose Your Own Musical Interlude"

"Our purpose is to offer a wide range of music selections that fit any style. Ranging between Greek and international mainstream hits, New Age, the sounds of nature, smooth jazz, Soul and Christmas. You just click on the icon representing the stream you want to listen. We’ve added 6 new music channels: 80’s, Ambient, Lounge, Opera, Piano & Spa so now you can enjoy more music. 

A pop-up window with flash player will appear to your screen. Music will play automatically. If not you can click on the icons below. A file will be downloaded to your Windows, MacOS or linux based PC. Double click the downloaded file (for example playlist-1.asx.asf) and your player will start play the stream.

For mobile devices click on the mobile icon. Popular compatible players: iTunes, Real Player, Vlc, WinAmp, WMP. Chromaradio offers you high quality, remastered audio streams at 128Kbps MP3 or 32Kbs AAC+. Enjoy!"

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“No Exit”

“No Exit”
by Jim Kunstler

“A most curious feature in the current low state of American politics is the delusional thinking at both ends of the political spectrum. Both factions have gone off the rails mentally, and the parties they represent race toward oblivion like Thelma and Louise in their beater car. More ominously, there are no new factions with a grip on reality even beginning to form anywhere in the background - as in the 1850s when the Whigs foundered and the party of Lincoln segued into power.

To see the Democrats go on about “Russian collusion” you would think we were watching a rerun of the John Birch Society in its heyday. Americans who have done business in Russia as private citizens are being persecuted as though they were trading with the enemy in wartime. Newsflash: we are not at war with Russia, which, by the way, is no longer the Soviet Union. It is one of many European countries that Americans are entitled to do business in - even in the case of General Mike Flynn accepting a $20,000 speaking fee from the RT news company. Has anyone noticed that Ben Bernanke routinely takes $200,000-plus speaking fees in many foreign countries whose interests are not identical to ours and no one is persecuting him.

Likewise, the insane idea that it is malfeasant for high public officials to speak to Russian officials, or for the president to share sensitive strategic information with them, especially about genuine mutual enemies such the various Islamic jihad armies. Since when is that beyond the pale? Well, since January of this year when the Democrat Party ordained that members of the Trump transition team were forbidden to speak to Russian diplomats at the highest level. Do you suppose that in the hothouse of Washington incoming foreign policy officers of Obama’s government had no conversations with foreign diplomats between the election of 2008 and Obama’s inauguration? The idea is laughable.

Even more disturbing to me personally, as someone who registered as a Democrat back in 1972, are the disgraceful and dangerous ideas emanating from the university world, which is universally dominated by the Left. For example, the recent movement on several campus to re-segregate student housing by race - in the name of “diversity and inclusion.” This is a species of doublethink that would make George Orwell gasp, and I have yet to hear of a college president or dean who dares to object. The sanctioning of this deranged hypocrisy is shaping a generation that could easily turn into political monsters when they eventually come into power - and that coming-to-power may coincide with much more desperate economic conditions on the road ahead.

Not long ago, the Dem-Prog’s mouthpiece The New York Times ran a front-page story (a video, actually, on their Web edition) titled "A Gender Fluid Mother’s Day," featuring a man pretending to be a woman reading to children. Notice that The Times’ official link actually says “mothers-day-gender-drag-queen-story-hour.” I didn’t make this up. It’s part of the newspaper’s long campaign to erase the boundary between the sordid and the normative, and to ram it down the public’s throat as good medicine. Doesn’t the newspaper of record have better things to devote its front page to? Are there not other issues of public life more urgent than valorizing drag queens? And to what end are they campaigning for this? A utopian extinction of sexual categories?

The party of the right, the Republicans, have made themselves hostages to the marginal personality of Donald Trump, who prevailed over a cast of Republican empty suits in the pathetic and appalling primary contests of last spring. The Republican party has not demonstrated that it has the dimmest idea what is going on “out there” in the very flyover districts its minions and flunkies pretend to represent, or that they believe in anything not cynically calculated to bamboozle the economically immiserated classes left behind by their deliberate asset-stripping approach to the public interest. Since the very get-go of Trumptopia, it appears that the Golden Golem of Greatness will finally sink the Republican Party - or perhaps just drown it in Grover Norquist’s famous bathtub.

My own guess is that in last-ditch desperation, the Republicans will not just abandon the president but actively join his adversaries on the other side to drive him out of the White House. And then, rightly, wrongly, or foolishly, you will see the immiserated former working class actually take up arms against the government for toppling their hero, and that will be the end of the fake faux-financialized economy that ought to be the real news you’re not reading about in The New York Times.”

X22 Report, “The Push Is On, Free Money For Everyone As The System Breaks Down”

X22 Report, “The Push Is On, Free Money For Everyone As The System Breaks Down”

Musical Interlude: 2002, “Return to Freedom”

2002, “Return to Freedom”

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Big, beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 6744 is nearly 175,000 light-years across, larger than our own Milky Way. It lies some 30 million light-years distant in the southern constellation Pavo appearing as a faint, extended object in small telescopes. We see the disk of the nearby island universe tilted towards our line of sight. 
Click image for larger size.
This remarkably distinct and detailed galaxy portrait covers an area about the angular size of the full moon. In it, the giant galaxy's yellowish core is dominated by the light from old, cool stars. Beyond the core, spiral arms filled with young blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions sweep past a smaller satellite galaxy at the lower left, reminiscent of the Milky Way's satellite galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud.”

Chet Raymo, "As Time Goes By"

 "As Time Goes By"
by Chet Raymo

"Is time something that is defined by the ticking of a cosmic clock, God's wristwatch say? Time doesn't exist except for the current tick. The past is irretrievably gone. The future does not yet exist. Consciousness is awareness of a moment. Or is time a dimension like space? We move through time as we move through space. The past is still there; we're just not there anymore. The future exists; we'll get there. We experience time as we experience space, say, by looking out the window of a moving train. Or is time…


Physicists and philosophers have been debating these questions since the pre-Socratics. Plato. Newton. Einstein. Most recently, Lee Smolin. Without resolution. What makes the question so difficult, it seems to me, is that time is inextricably tied up with consciousness. We won't understand time until we understand consciousness, and vice versa. So far, consciousness is a mystery, in spite of books with titles like "Consciousness Explained". Will consciousness be explained? Can consciousness be explained? If so, will it require a conceptual breakthrough of revolutionary proportions? Or is the Darwinian/material paradigm enough? Are we in for an insight, or for a surprise?

As I sit here at my desk under the hill, looking out at a vast panorama of earth, sea and sky, filled, it would seem, infinitely full of detail, so full that my awareness can only skim the surface, I have that uneasy sense that it's going to be damnably difficult to extract consciousness, as a thing, from the universe in its totality. I think of that word "entanglement," from quantum theory, and I wonder to what extent consciousness is entangled, perhaps even with past and future.

Who knows? Perhaps consciousness, or what I think of as my consciousness, is just a slice of cosmic consciousness, in the same way that the present is a slice of cosmic time. As a good Ockhamist, I am loathe to needlessly multiply hypotheses. But time will tell. Or consciousness will tell. Or something.”

"Giving..."

"You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving." The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and nights is worthy of all else from you. And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life - while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness."
- Kahlil Gibran

"I guess I so desperately want to see us put this planet right. It's so horrifying to me that 
a fifth of us are starving every night, and that forty thousand children die every single day."
- Ann Druyan

Scott Adams, "Thought Experiment: Going After the Families of Terrorists”

Going After the Families of Terrorists”
by Scott Adams

“During the presidential campaign, President Trump famously suggested going after the families of terrorists. That would be strong persuasion. The downside is that it is also a war crime. So Trump backed off on “going after the families.” Or did he?

On his overseas trip, Trump demanded that the Palestinians stop paying the families of dead terrorists. The president is literally “going after the families” without firing a shot. President Trump is also “going after the families” by branding ISIS as Evil Losers. You might be proud of your son for being a Jihadist, but the Evil Loser brand isn’t bringing anything good to the family name.

Let me give you a little thought experiment. Suppose our military found a terrorist bomb-maker who supplied bombs and training to terrorists but never did a terrorist act himself. Would we be within our military, legal, and ethical boundaries to kill that bomb-maker with a drone attack?

I think all of you just said yes.

In the context of a suicide bomber, the “bomb” is two parts. One part is the human being, and the other is the mechanical/chemical bomb. The bomb-maker made the mechanical/chemical part. But the family of the terrorist might have created the rest of the bomb, at least in some cases.

So here’s the thought experiment. In the specific case where a family radicalized their own kid, and also accepted payment after the suicide attack, is that really different from being a “bomb-maker”? After all, the kid is an important part of the bomb. In some cases, if not most, the family has no real control over the actions of an adult child radicalized on his own. If you attack that family, you are committing a war crime for sure. That would be evil. And it would be hard to determine how much the family did to radicalize the kid.

Realistically, there is no practical way to go after the “bomb-maker” families without accidentally killing some innocent people who were minding their own business. To avoid that situation, you would need some clear, objective standard for deciding which families are “bomb-makers.” One such standard might included the family accepting the money AND making a public statement supporting their terrorist kid’s actions. 

You probably don’t want to attack a family simply because they accepted free money when offered. In a poor region, people don’t say no to free money. But if the family also makes a public statement in favor of terrorism, they are literally attempting to create more (human) bombs by popularizing the concept. 

I’m not in favor of Americans committing war crimes. But I’m okay with killing bomb-makers. Apparently I can’t have both.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Guatemala City, Guatemala. Thanks for stopping by!

"Leaving the Earth a Better Place: A Legacy of Love"

"Leaving the Earth a Better Place: A Legacy of Love"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"It is a great act of love to leave the earth a better place when we leave than which we found her. We inherit this great planet from our parents and from the generations that came before. Then, in concert with the surrounding culture, our elders teach us how to care for the land and the sea, ourselves and each other. They model ways of being in relationship with every other expression of life on earth. But whether they act with care or carelessness, compassion or cruelty, generosity or greed, we have the ability to choose our own individual way of relating with the planet and her inhabitants. From our first breath here to our very last, we will find infinite opportunities to influence our environment for the better. We can decide now to act with intention in order to leave this amazing planet brighter and more beautiful than when we arrived.

If we enjoy environmental activism, we might feel moved to clean up beaches or to plant trees. But, we need not feel limited in our ability to contribute positively. There are many ways to leave a legacy of love. We might begin by radiating affirmative thoughts and feelings about how magnificent the earth truly is. We might create and tend a special garden, one that provides an abundance of food and herbs for ourselves and our loved ones. Or we might create a garden filled with sweet smelling flowers to uplift our hearts. We might even honor the earth simply by trying to be the best person we can be while we are here. Such good will can have a domino effect, inspiring others to contribute in their own way as well.

We spend our lifetimes being nourished and enlivened by the rain, sun, soil and wind. Our experience is blessed by other living beings, from plants to insects to birds and humans. We receive so much; giving back just naturally feels good. When we live our lives with intention of leaving this temporary home a better place for generations to come, we are perhaps leaving behind the best gift of all."

"We Would Rather..."

 "We would rather be ruined than changed; we would rather die in our dread
than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die."
~ W.H. Auden

“Manipulating the Mass Mind & Attention”

“Manipulating the Mass Mind & Attention”
by Fred Dodson

“In my 30 years as a self-improvement coach, the most important insight is that where you put your attention is where your energy goes. If you find that hard to believe, try this: Walk through a crowd. Put your attention on the people. Then walk through the same crowd again and put your attention on the gaps between the people. More of them will now make way. Try it. It never fails. Here’s another experiment: Stand at the corner of any city street and look upwards for a while. You will notice people around you also look upwards. They want to know what you are looking at, and for that brief period you determined the direction of their attention.

If I tell a group of people to think of a red car, there is a great likelihood that all of them will do it. And if I tell them not to think of a red car… they will also think of a red car! They could have chosen to think of a blue mountain instead. From that you realize how easy it is to steer mass attention.

Rarely will anyone form their own thought or choose different than what they are told. In fact, if you do not make decisions and intentions, someone else will do it for you. You know this from your own life: If your spouse asks you where you want to go for dinner and you don’t really have any specific preference, then they will decide where to go. The same applies on a mass-scale.

Due to a general weakness of will and awareness, most people have their reality decided for them, with merely the illusion of choice given – such as being able to choose whether you will pay your taxes by credit card or bank wire.

In school, children do not learn how to think but what to think. They do not learn how to steer attention but instead various things they are supposed to steer attention to.

It is humbling to realize that most people on the planet do not practice focusing, guiding, re-directing, shifting, retrieving and un-sticking their own attention. Thus the life-experience of most of us is determined by external agendas as given by mass media, schools, our parents and countless other sources that have very little to do with our innermost heart’s truth.

We are lucky that at least some of the direction we get from outside is benign. We are lucky if we have parents who say, “You are highly talented, intelligent and beautiful,” thus directing our attention in the right direction. Have you ever heard a newscaster tell you, “You are safe, talented, intelligent, beautiful, empowered and able”? Not hardly. You’ll hear you are the victim of horrible circumstances that you can do nothing about.

Through directing attention, you become a mini-reality-creator. But the mass media is the grand sorcerer of reality manipulation as it directs the attention of millions. It’s not generally understood to what bizarre extent the news media actively participate in the creation of our reality. It is thought they only “report” what is “happening,” but that’s not the case.

The following are different levels of mass-reality-creation by the news media, sorted by the degree of manipulation:

Level 1: Filtering: When I create a movie for my work, I usually choose an outdoor location. I make sure to set up the camera in nature so the scenery looks really good. By choosing what to point the camera at, I am excluding everything I don’t want viewers to see, anything that does not fit my agenda.

I recently filmed breathtaking natural scenery… or at least that’s what it looked like in the final result. I excluded an adjacent parking place, trashcans, roaming dogs, public signs, ugly houses and anything else that disturbed the illusion of me being in paradise. Any filmmaker understands to which extent the filmmaker distorts reality.

From the millions of events that happen every day, the reporter filters which ones to report. This is a normal process. I do it for my own website by presenting only information relevant to its overall topic. People do it on Facebook by presenting themselves in a certain way and excluding pictures that might put them in a bad light.

News media, however, tend to apply several filters. The first one is the filter of negative bias. Why? Because at Earth’s current level of consciousness, fear, drama and hatred still capture more interest than peace, prosperity and harmony. Desperate to sell ad slots on their news program and their declining newspapers, most reports are filtered by how much upheaval and action they contain. In addition, televised news media follows the creed, “if there is no footage (video), it doesn’t matter.” When I was younger I worked for a well-known news station where I was told exactly that. I tried to get the editor to cover important angles of a story, but if there was no footage of it, it was as if it didn’t exist.

If they were to portray life on a day on Earth accurately, as it is for most people most of the time, it might appear “boring.” So the camera zooms in on places of the most mayhem and tragedy. This extreme filtering gives the audience the false impression that the whole world is mostly in a state of chaos, coupled with the implication there is absolutely nothing you can personally do about it. The sensationalist journalist never adds words of advice on improving your life, moving to peaceful surroundings or words of encouragement. He only cares about the sheer terror of explosions, debris, blood and destruction. If any of your relatives talked like a news anchor, you’d consider them mentally unstable.

A recent movie The Nightcrawler (starring Jake Gyllenhaal) exposes the juvenile and sadistic mindset of some sections of modern “journalism.” No doubt, the last decade has seen a rise in terrorist attacks all over the world. And while these are horrific, they are still actually just localised events, pinpointed at certain buildings with a limited amount of people. They are not nearly as bad as the nation-to-nation all-out-wars we’ve had in decades before that.

I happened to be in the city of Munich on the day of a terrorist attack at the end of July 2016. The shooting of 9 people at the hands of a 19-year-old kid named Ali went around the world. And yet, I learned it from the news, not from being in Munich at the time. On that day I was riding my bike along the river and went for a swim. I received numerous text messages asking whether I’m still alive and sending blessings to me and my family. You see my point…. things are bad, but rarely as bad as the news says they are.

On an odd note: The same journalist who happened to be at the Nice (France) terror attack only a week before, shooting live footage of it, also “coincidentally” happened to be pre-positioned at Munich on location and filming. His name is Richard Gutjahr and he is either magnetically attracted to such events for the sake of “terrortainment” or there is something more sinister going on.

When, if I may ask, is the last time you saw windsurfers in the Palestinian Gaza Territory or a happy family having a barbecue in their Jerusalem garden in the news? These events happen every day, by the hundreds, but they do not automatically come to your mind when I say “Gaza!” or “Israel!” I have been to both Palestine and Israel on numerous visits, both privately and for business, and I’ve always had a great time. Yet when I tell people I am traveling there, they tell me “be careful! That’s dangerous!” They associate these places with the blood and gore the news showed them. They know virtually nothing about the realities of these places than what they have been shown.

I mean no disrespect to the suffering of people in the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter. I am merely using these extreme examples to make the point of filtered-realities. They cause a lack of balance in our perception of the world as well as desensitizing us toward violence.

Ideally, news media would have to not only show a nice segment at the end of their show, but more positive and interesting segments throughout. Then we learn that the world is a balance of light and darkness. Where are the news reports of hope, inspiration, everyday-heroes and human accomplishment? They are far and few between. If a proper balance of dark and light were given, the audience would become more involved in the healing of darkness rather than apathetic to it.

Level 2: Distortion: The next level of reality-manipulation is deliberate distortion by the journalists themselves because they wish to see something in a certain manner or are partial to some political, religious or philosophical ideology.

Of course, nobody is completely neutral and unbiased, nor is that expected. But one of the problems of our times is there is virtually no mass media outlet that is not widely known as being affiliated with some political, governmental, anti-governmental or philosophical “side” and a far shot from “neutral.” Latest statistics from my country (USA) show that the Top Ten most successful “news” outlets on the Internet are either “right-wing” or “left-wing” affiliated. The fact that we are able to determine whether an outlet is “left” or “right” is in itself problematic. It is disheartening how almost every story “top news outlets” carry is filtered through political bias. In other words, these are not “news” outlets and their employees are not “journalists,” they are unabashed propaganda outlets for one of the two political parties in the US.

Another form of distortion occurs when a journalist makes something better or worse than it is. He knows the editor will only accept a story if its interesting enough so he adds a few details here and there, knowing nobody will likely ever examine them more closely. From writing my own blog to a fairly large audience, I am somewhat familiar with the problem, but have always resisted the urge to exaggerate reports. I’d rather have some of my reports be understated (“boring”) than to report things that did not happen. Needless to say, I am not only blaming the mass media, as they only reflect the desires of the populace, who favor entertainment and excitement over reason and truth. When that audience goes to the cinema, they rarely pay to see peace, love and harmony, they usually pay to see death and suffering.

Another form of distortion is that most news stories are reported without wrapping them into a wider context. Most things that happen are part of a greater pattern, part of a history, part of a mindset. Yet, the way stories are reported is as separate pieces that have little or no relation to each other.

When I report on my blog, I frequently like to put what I wrote into context and comparison with other things I wrote in order to give a congruent overall big-picture. This is not the case in conventional news media where people think that the presidential elections in the US, the hurricane that happened just before, the resignation of the CIA-boss and the resurgent Israel-Palestine conflict (all having happened within a few weeks a couple of years ago) have nothing whatsoever to do with each other and are separate bits of information. But they are interconnected, not only metaphysically but geopolitically. Because the news reports too much and journalists write too quickly, ignoring context and connections, they breed ignorance of the depth and meaning of things.

Level 3: Deliberate Fabrication: This is the most intense form of reality-manipulation which hopefully does not occur too often. I recently spoke to someone who used to work for the British “Ministry of Defense.” He shared the following story: Some decades ago a group of reporters went to Northern Ireland to capture footage of the conflict. When they arrived everything was peaceful, so they went ahead and created some chaos, just so they could return home with footage. They bribed a local to make and throw molotov cocktails (amateur bombs) off rooftops into the streets, setting cars and trashcans ablaze. In this instance, the journalists literally created the news. They refused to go home saying “the streets of Belfast are peaceful at this time.” The guy who told me the story lamented that this scandal of sorts was never revealed or reported on to this day. It was covered up by the BBC to avoid embarrassment.

For a mature human being it is important to at least be aware of how news media manipulates reality. Mere awareness immunizes you. You can then read and watch the news without being dragged down to victim-mentality or desensitized apathy, and if you are interested in a story you can then read different news outlets to view the different viewpoints and versions of it and gain a birds-eye-view.

It’s better not to rely on only one news outlet. In my view, most of these stories are just the world-mind processing garbage, like in some kind of bad dream. None of it needs to have anything to do with you, your reality and the reality of those around you. You experience only what you attract through the contents of your own consciousness and subsequent decisions. In some cases you will have a friend or relative who gets way too caught up in news media, exaggerating the importance of various events.

Back in the 80s some believed AIDS would completely wipe out the entire planet by the year 2000. It didn’t happen. Then they thought “Swine-Flu” would “wipe out civilization as we know it”: It didn’t happen. Then they thought 2012 would enlighten humanity to a golden era of peace and bliss. Didn’t happen. And they thought 9/11 would mark the beginning of World War III. Didn’t happen. I dare say that for most of us, life went on like it did the 10 years before and progressed or regressed in accordance with our personal level of consciousness.

Those who take the news way too seriously very rarely do anything actively to help the situation. They’d prefer being worried and indignant to taking positive action. For them, daily preoccupation with the news is like an escape from their own lives which may lack movement or excitement. But when the time comes that their own lives pick up, their interest in daily news recedes. This means they have chosen to focus their precious attention to places that really matter in the development of their own spirit.

Attention is the currency of the 21st century and I recommend you use yours wisely. Be conscious of what you give your eyes to see, your ears to hear, your mind to think and your heart to feel."

"How It Really Is"

“Too Much Rain Will Kill Ya”

“Too Much Rain Will Kill Ya”
by Bruce Krasting

"My first week on Wall Street was in August of 1973. I was newbie to NYC. My office was on the south side of 100 Wall, on the second floor, looking out over Front Street. There was a tremendous thunderstorm one afternoon. I looked out the window as the street filled with water. The flood poured into a street gutter and overwhelmed it. With the gutter flooded, the rats were drowning. They came out of every hole. In twenty minutes, 500 came out of the one gutter I was watching. The rain stopped and the flooding abated. The rats on the street followed the receding water back into their holes. A memorable first impression of life in the financial district."

The Poet: Aldous Huxley, "Lightly"

"Lightly"

 "It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.
No rhetoric, no tremolos,
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.

So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.
Lightly my darling,
on tiptoes and no luggage,
not even a sponge bag,
completely unencumbered."

~ Aldous Huxley, "Island"

"Transcripts of Defeat: The Soviets in Afghanistan"

"Transcripts of Defeat: The Soviets in Afghanistan"
By Victor Sebestyen

"The highly decorated general sat opposite his commander in chief and explained the problems his army faced fighting in the hills around Kabul: “There is no piece of land in Afghanistan that has not been occupied by one of our soldiers at some time or another,” he said. “Nevertheless much of the territory stays in the hands of the terrorists. We control the provincial centers, but we cannot maintain political control over the territory we seize. Our soldiers are not to blame. They’ve fought incredibly bravely in adverse conditions. But to occupy towns and villages temporarily has little value in such a vast land where the insurgents can just disappear into the hills.” He went on to request extra troops and equipment. “Without them, without a lot more men, this war will continue for a very, very long time,” he said.

These sound as if they could be the words of Gen. John W. Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan, given to Congress in February. In fact, they were spoken by Sergei Akhromeyev, the commander of the Soviet armed forces, to the Soviet Union’s Politburo on Nov. 13, 1986. Soviet forces were then in the seventh year of their nine-year-long Afghan conflict, and Marshal Akhromeyev, a hero of the Leningrad siege in World War II, was trying to explain why a force of nearly 110,000 well-equipped soldiers from one of the world’s two superpowers was appearing to be humiliated by bands of “terrorists,” as the Soviets often called the mujahideen.

The minutes of Akhromeyev’s meeting with the Politburo were recently unearthed by American and Russian scholars of the cold war - these and other materials substantially expand our knowledge of the Soviet Union’s disastrous campaign. As President Trump contemplates America’s own future in Afghanistan, he would be well advised to read some of these revealing Politburo papers; he might also pick up a few riveting memoirs of Soviet generals who fought there. These sources show as many similarities between the two wars as differences - and may provide the administration with some valuable counsel.

Much of the fighting during the Soviet war in Afghanistan was in places that have grown familiar to us now, like Kandahar and Helmand Provinces. The Soviets’ main base of operations was Bagram, which is now the United States Army headquarters. Over the years, the Soviets changed their tactics frequently, but much of the time they were trying and failing to pacify the country’s problematic south and east, often conducting armed sweeps along the border with Pakistan, through which many of the guerrillas moved, as the Taliban do now.

That war was characterized by disputes between soldiers and politicians. As Russian documents show, the politicians ordered the invasion against the advice of the armed forces. The chief of the Soviet Defense Staff, Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, raised doubts shortly before Soviet forces were dispatched on Christmas Day 1979. He told Dmitri Ustinov - the long-serving defense minister who had been a favorite of Stalin - that experience from the British and czarist armies in the 19th century should encourage caution. Ustinov replied: “Are the generals now making policy in the Soviet Union? Your job is to plan specific operations and carry them out. Shut up and obey orders.”

Ogarkov went further up the chain of command to the Communist Party boss, Leonid Brezhnev. He warned that an invasion “could mire us in unfamiliar, difficult conditions and would align the entire Islamic East against us.” He was cut off mid-sentence: “Focus on military matters,” Brezhnev ordered. “Leave the policymaking to us.”

The Soviet leaders realized they had blundered soon after the invasion. Originally, the mission was simply to support the Communist government - the result of a coup Moscow had initially tried to prevent, and then had no choice but to back - and then get out within a few months. But the mujahideen’s jihad against the godless Communists had enormous popular support within the country, and from outside. Money and sophisticated weapons poured in from America and Saudi Arabia, through Pakistan.

The Soviets saw withdrawal as potentially fatal to their prestige in the cold war, so they became mired deeper and deeper in their failed occupation. For years, the Soviets heavily bombarded towns and villages, killing thousands of civilians and making themselves even more loathed by Afghans. Whatever tactics the Soviets adopted the result was the same: renewed aggression from their opponents. The mujahideen, for example, laid down thousands of anti-tank mines to attack Russian troop convoys, much as the Taliban are now using homemade bombs to strike at American soldiers on patrol, as well as Afghan civilians.

“About 99 percent of the battles and skirmishes that we fought in Afghanistan were won by our side,” Marshal Akhromeyev told his superiors in November 1986. “The problem is that the next morning there is the same situation as if there had been no battle. The terrorists are again in the village where they were - or we thought they were - destroyed a day or so before.” Listen to a coalition spokesman now explaining the difficulties its forces are facing in tough terrain, and it would be hard to hear a difference.

There are some in Washington now calling on President Trump to cut his losses and find an exit strategy from Afghanistan. Even if he agreed, it may not be an easy business. When Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet leader in March 1985 he called Afghanistan “our bleeding wound.” He declared that ending the war was his top priority. But he could not do it without losing face.

The Soviet leadership fatally prevaricated. Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze wanted to pull out of Afghanistan immediately and blame Kremlin predecessors for the unpopular war. So too did Mr. Gorbachev’s most important adviser, the godfather of the perestroika and glasnost reforms, Aleksandr Yakovlev. But Mr. Gorbachev dithered, searching for something he could call victory, or at least that other elusive prize for armies in trouble: peace with honor. “How to get out racks one’s brains,” Mr. Gorbachev complained in the spring of 1986, according to Politburo minutes. “We have been fighting there for six years. If we don’t start changing our approach we’ll be there another 20 or 30 years. We have not learned how to wage war there.”

Mr. Gorbachev was also haunted by the image of the last Americans leaving Saigon in panic: “We cannot leave in our underpants, or without any,” he told his chief foreign policy aide, Anatoly Chernyayev, whose diaries have recently become available to scholars. Chernyayev himself called Afghanistan “our Vietnam. But worse.”

Withdrawal was a long, drawn-out agony. By the time the last troops left in February 1989, around 15,000 Soviet soldiers and 800,000 Afghans had died. “We must say that our people have not given their lives in vain,” Mr. Gorbachev told the Politburo. But even his masterful public relations skills could not mask the humiliation of defeat. Indeed, it marked the beginning of the end for the Soviet empire in Europe, as revolution swept through Eastern Europe in 1989, and of the Soviet Union itself two years later.

In 1988, Robert Gates, then the deputy director of the C.I.A., made a wager with Michael Armacost, then undersecretary of state. He bet $25 that the Soviet Army wouldn’t leave Afghanistan. The Soviets retreated in humiliation soon after. Mr. Gates, we can assume, paid up. But is there a gambling man out there who would lay money on the United States withdrawing in similarly humbling fashion? And would the defense secretary accept the bet?"
Victor Sebestyen is the author of “Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire.”
- http://www.nytimes.com/

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