Friday, September 13, 2013

The Petro-Scam--The Road to World War III

I like this guy.  He's a bigger information hound even than I am, and he puts together a really good, really understandable video.  Ever wonder what the "petro-dollar" is all about?  Ever wonder why there's always so much trouble in the Middle East?  It's not about "ancient rivalries" or "savage Muslims," or any of the propaganda we've been fed.  This isn't a conspiracy theory.  Check out his research.  Most is projected right on the screen. Watch and see what current world events are really about.  For the record, I'm not big on his option 3 at the end.  Let's get on the stick.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Here's an interesting video of Ron Paul addressing Congress in 2002.  You should watch, even if you're not a fan.

A real "nutcase," isn't he?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Problem with Money

I've been thinking on a problem and it's got my head in a knot.  Read on and you can join me.

A long time ago, people worked to get stuff for themselves.  They worked to gather fruits and nuts or to hunt or to prepare a field and plant some crops--to get food for themselves.  They cared for animals--to get milk or meat or leather or wool, for themselves.   They built a hut, tepee or house--for shelter for themselves. They cut wood or gathered it--to get heat for themselves.  They carried buckets or skins to fill with water, to have water for themselves.  They spun flax or cotton or wool, and wove it, to have clothing for themselves.    But whatever they did, mostly their work resulted in something that they got to use or keep.  And since everybody had the same number of hours, most people got about the same amount of somethings. 

Then people started to live in communities where they might help each other.  One helped to build a barn for the other, and then the other helped to build a shed for the one.  One worked to raise chickens for eggs and traded the eggs to another for some cabbages that the other had worked to grow and harvest.  There might have been a change of benefits, but still work equalled things, for the most part.

Later still, most people began to work for money.  And at one time,  money still represented trade of one type of work for another, most of which involved some kind of a thing.  Back when money represented or included precious metals, someone worked (a lot of work, because they're rare) to get the gold or silver out of the earth, and someone worked to mint it into coins.  Even paper money, back then, represented gold or silver--it was a certificate that said that you owned some tiny bit of gold or silver or copper, stored in a vault somewhere.  It was just easier to carry around than all that metal.  It wasn't a direct exchange of benefit of work (the folks who created the money-the bankers--took a cut, and got richer and richer doing it), but it was still work for stuff, mostly.   And, importantly, there was, in a vault somewhere, a pile of assets (gold and silver) that backed the money issued.  No more assets, no more money.  This remained the case throughout history, until just the past few decades. 

But since a few decades ago, money is not made of precious metal.  Coins are made of junk metal--plentiful metals that require little work to get and have little monetary value.  And paper money requires even less work to make.  You can make thousands of dollar-papers from cutting down one tree and adding a little cotton and ink and stuff.  In fact, you don't even need the paper dollars to make "money."  You can just put some numbers in a computer and presto(!), somebody's bank account has a million "dollars" in it.  Of course it's illegal for anyone except the Federal Reserve to do that, but they do it quite enough for everyone.

The point is that much of our money doesn't represent ANY gold or silver, or any corn, or any tables and chairs, or any tangible goods at all, held anywhere.  The money isn't backed by gold or silver deposits:  It's backed only by the "full faith and credit" of the "United States." 

Now the United States isn't actually a thing.  It's merely an idea--an idea that represents a conglomeration of people who agree to operate as a group.  Us.   The "United States" can't do anything, produce anything, have an army, or even tax anything, without us.   So the "full faith and credit" of the United States is merely a way of saying--"don't worry, our PEOPLE will give you a certain amount of work for this piece of paper."  Full faith and credit is just the promise that the people of the United States will work to pay the "work-debt" represented by that dollar. 

Ok, now--some of us, when we work,  make something.  Some people work as farmers and make food or fiber or another product when they work.  Some make machines, like cars or computers, or parts of them.  Some make furniture, or cloth, or paper, or lumber out of the raw materials that someone else's work made.  Some create art, or music, or poetry, or books.  Some, like engineers and designers and architects, make a plan for a thing that someone else adds their work to, and together they make a building or a power plant or a car.   Whatever people make, the work that is "stored" in that thing that was made is represented by the dollar bill that paid for it--a tangible asset. 

But a lot of us-- me included for much of my life, don't make anything.  I was a lawyer.  I made nothing that myself or anyone else could use.  All anyone ever got out of my work was a piece of paper that said someone owed someone else some money for something they did or even didn't do.  What I "made" was just imaginary.  Just ask anyone who's ever gotten a judgment against someone who didn't have any money to pay the judgment with.

Other people make nothing too--insurance people sell an idea, not a thing, and it will never become a thing.  Just a promise that if X happens, we'll pay you some money.  Health workers treat people's diseases, but they don't make anything.   Bankers and people who work in banks--all they do is move around the money that represents the stuff that someone else made.  They don't make anything new.  Finance people like stockbrokers and traders and so on--they make nothing.  Their "work" is only in trading back and forth pieces of paper (or computer data) that represent someone else's work that made something (like the profit of a Walmart store, or the corn some farmer grew).   And yet, those of us who didn't make any thing with our work still get paid.  In money that represents nothing except people's promise to work a certain amount for that dollar.  And of course, the more "advanced" our society gets, the fewer people work in things that actually make anything.  For example, we all heard recently and ad nauseum how we're approaching the point where 20 percent of our economy goes to healthcare, one of those huge industries that produce almost nothing.  And even counting the supposed "value" (in GDP) of all the industries like healthcare and finance and law that don't make any things, we're still going in the hole--with a national debt of over $16.7 trillion and climbing. 

So here's the rub.  First, the government and the bankers make up the money.  The treasury department and the "member banks" who own the Federal Reserve decide how much to make--based on some idea that none of us is privy to.  They can decide to "expand" or "contract" the money supply.  They can eliminate money, or they can issue trillions of dollars' worth more by simple keystrokes on a computer, like they have with the recent "quantitative easing."  But as we've seen, the money doesn't mean anything except a promise by the PEOPLE of the United States to work a certain amount in return for it.   Now, I for one don't much like the idea of Ben Bernanke and a bunch of bankers at the Fed deciding how much work I and everyone else needs to do to pay for all those dollars, but that's only the start of the problem.

The next part of the problem is those many people who don't make any thing when they work.    This is an increasing percentage of the American people.  At one time, there were many more American farmers and factory workers and machinists and other folks whose jobs it was to make stuff.  That number has been dwindling since the 1960s.    You might notice that many of the jobs that don't make anything (doctors and lawyers and bankers and insurance people and stockbrokers and financial traders and so on) tend to be the same jobs that "earn" a lot more money than the people who do make something, like farmers and factory workers and builders.  And, since no tangible assets are created by those many of us whose occupations don't make things, the pile of tangible stuff that's represented by the money we issue keeps getting smaller and smaller. 

So we have a lot more "dollars" representing a shrinking pile of tangible assets owned by the people who make up the "United States."  As a result, more and more of those dollars are bare naked dollars--nothing to show for them except the future work of the people who "promised" (through their good friends the bankers and Treasury Department )to pay for them.  They are pure debt--a mere promise that someone will work to make good on them.

But most of the "money" and most of the tangible assets that exist in the United States are in the hands of a few people.  Estimates are that the wealthiest 1% of people own 40%  of the "wealth" (that is, the assets and the money/debt) in the United States.  The next 19 % own another 45% of the wealth.   That's 20% of people owning 85% of the assets and money/debt. The next 20%--the second wealthiest fifth--own another 11%, approximately.  So the rest--6 out of every 10--own only about 4% all together.  A substantial majority of Americans own almost no wealth. 

That's bad enough when you think about "wealth" as just that nebulous "money" word.  But when you think about it as I have been, and now you are--well, that means that 1 person out of a hundred "owns" the past and future work of 40% of Americans--about 124 MILLION people.  Four people in every ten own the work of 96% of their countrymen. 

We used to have a legal system in this country where people owned the work of other people.  They supposedly outlawed it in 1864.  But here we are. 

So, now you see why I'm having a problem with this.  To be frank, I'm certainly one of those top twenty percent.  I'm not even near the bottom of that quintile--so perpetuating this system of slavery is in my own self-interest, at least as compared to a system that's actually fair.  And yet, I don't like the idea of owning another person's labor any more than I like the idea of owning the person outright.   Seems like it might be time to fix some stuff in this country--dontcha think?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Still Paying Attention?

Today, I watched a video that confirmed a suspicion I've had for a while, and made short work of the connections that obviously exist between various aspects of what's going on in the world lately.  It's not glitzy, but see if you can keep your attention on it for ten minutes.  You'll understand a lot more when you're done.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paying Attention

I guess my block continues, and I've got not much of my own to say.  But someone else (smart guy--I like him) has tons to say, with which I wholeheartedly agree.  Watch this.   This is the real story we should be following--NOT gay marriage; NOT abortion; NOT the execution of some woman in Texas; and NOT the Trayvon Martin gig.  Have YOU been paying attention?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rounding the Corners

Today, after a long stretch of having nothing particularly worthwhile to say, which is still ongoing, I'm sending you to someone else for wisdom.    This essay is by Clif High, a master of what he calls the woo-woo (that is, very weird) arts.  Sometimes I love reading Clif, and sometimes I hate it.  Today is one of the love times--it's like he wrote it just for me.  I hope you like this one as much as I do--it's long, but worth it, IMO.

An honorable failure

by clif high, Sun, Jun 23, 2013 08:00
As with most humans, i have failed at most things in my life.

What seems to set me apart from others, besides a curious lack of attachment to my 'identity', is that i count each failure as a personal badge of honor. Many of these badges are worn for all the world to see as scars and disfigurements. i would not have it otherwise; absent ego driven pride, satisfaction is the deepest of the core emotional states, just above love and fear. i am satisfied with my failures.
In a life longer than i had any right to expect, i have learned to fail very well indeed. i had thought to catalog my failures in a very impressive list, but i even fail at that. There is not enough ego pressure to even try to impress itself (prelude to trying to impress others) with its long list of failures. Suffice it to say, that if it was expected of a man, in our western society, over these last 60/sixty years, i have failed at it. Every challenge expected of a man in our society, i stood to meet, only to be knocked down by universe.

Perhaps i agreed in my soul contract, to come as exemplar of failure; perhaps i chose the way of failure as it was something i understood from a previous life, it did not matter, as somehow, whenever i tried on the clothing of success, the fit made me feel uncomfortable, constrained, and strangely, nearer to non-death.

Perhaps it was early exposure to the 'elites', to those who had 'achieved success', or been born into its more favored location in this matrix; perhaps it was some universe planted flaw in my genetics; perhaps space aliens mucked about with my dna; it seems not to be knowable, only evident that i fail to know why i am a failure. However, i do know that 'success' that i have seen, scares me into satisfaction with my life of failure.

i have met those humans who have achieved success, and without variant, i have felt pity for them in their presence. These humans have 'achieved', and from that point on, the were stuck with their 'success'. Mostly i think it may have 'made' their lives, but it ruined their souls. To my failure accustomed eyes, the 'successful' always evoked feelings of the same flavor as i had when viewing the ancient Pharohic Eqyptian relics: here was a civilization that worshipped, and devoted all of its efforts toward a single goal, the 'unchanging state of success'. If you read their surviving literature, a single overarching thematic impression comes across, that life was nothing but a pursuit for perfect, successful stasis. That success could be defined as 'ever unchanging'.

i shudder to consider it, and the skin on my back wants to craw off my spine at the thought of suffering such 'success'. Rather give me my life of wanton failure in infinite reincarnations over a single life of perpetual, eternal, immortal success.

Now lest you think my attitude some twisted conspiracy theorist apologectic sop toward reconciling my personal narrative to my life ending as a failure, let me point out that it is manifesting universe that reinforces my view every time i am presented with 'news' of the successful humans of this planet. i am repelled by the slick, non (or trans?) human images presented as success. One looks at their smooth, unaffected faces (no honor badges there, no scars saying this face has lived, tried, failed and suffered), and nearly weep at the horror of it all. What are these beings presented as 'success' models by the media? What species is being held up as our collective goal? It sure as fuck is not a a human.
At least as a failure, while i always had to pay for my mistakes, i was never forced to live with them, unlike the 'successful' who suffer the reverse, never paying for anything, and yet, preversely having to live with all of it, ever after. Just consider the personality 'clif' and its long string of failures...what may come to mind are those rare occurances of 'near success' as in "eyup, he's a squirrely bastard who usually gets this shit wrong, but you remember that time he had the Max Keiser look-out thing a month before the space aliens buzzed them?"

Live a life of failure, and those few instances one fails to perform to standard stand out. Yet, contrast this with ANY successful personality held up to our society by any authority, media, gov'mint, or religion. Seriously, think of a successful person, in any category of life, and do you remember their long string of successes that got them to that pinnacle? Doubtful; but quite certain you DO remember their instances of 'wardrobe failures', and 'lapses in judgement', and 'run-ins with the law', and 'excessive reaction to stress', and all of the other instances manifest in achieving their 'success'.
Again, consider just what is presented to society by any of the authorities promoting it discussions of the latest greatest song by so-and-so? her last enlightment experience? her fabulous relationship with mother/father/siblings/spouse/children/society? nope, it is her recent DUI/bitch_slip/nip_slip/tongue_slip or other negatively focused, mean-spirited and dare we say it? jealous jibe at her 'success' by focusing on everything but.

Scary stuff. And i have seen, up close, and personal, how being a success affects the people involved. It is truly a terrible thing to observe. These people become so rigidly encased in success, that they become 'denser' on the planet than ordinary humans. This phenomenon has been noticed and commented upon by many writers/failures throughout history in observing their 'betters', the 'successful ones'.

Denser is not good for humans. As the successful person accummulates the 'trappings of success' (please note what we reveal not so subtly in our language), their manifestation of their flesh actually becomes 'thicker' and 'denser' within this matrix. It is not an accident that we refer to the 'gravitas' of such people.

Once cursed with success, ever after living out the payment. Made rigid in demands by ego for yet more success, or if not more, at least NO diminishing of what once was...again, the idea of the unchanging, and perpetual state that success demands. These people afflicted with success, seeming having avoided many of the sufferings of life available to the failure class, and what do they do? They force themselves, in their quest for perpetual success, to replicate the suffering their success supposedly allows them to avoid. It is rampant in their lives, and you are forced to participate in it daily if you injest mainstream media. Examples abound. Just look at the successful person who has 'made it', and need not suffer body damage through daily labor amidst bad enviroment. So what does the successful person do? They subject themselves to 'cosmetic surgery' and in an endless quest for their past body image, bizarre diets, and their resulting impact on mental health. Look at the irony, they are inducing forms of the very suffering their success supposedly avoids.

Yes, i am a failure. i am satisfied as such, as each and every instance of failure is proof of effort, of attempt, of movement and life. And these are all good. i am satisfied in managing to dodge success all these years, and wear my scars as honorable badges of the battles engaged, and proof of passion, if not ability to 'achieve'.

Yes, i am a failure, an old failure, and i have learned over a long life of failure that success is scary. As a linguist, i see it in our common language: success is described always as bringing 'baggage', and "weighty concerns". It is no wonder then, that when the inevitability of change occurs to the 'successful' person, how is it described? As 'falling flat', or a 'face-plant', or a 'fatal fall'...all too true, and too sad.

And the failures? How do we describe them when they fail yet again? Well, first, it is never noticed, and never remembered, so one may contentedly, repetiously fail as much as they wish. And the really cool thing about failure is that universe so supports it as to continually supply a never ending stream of challenges to which one can respond with failure.

Oh, that's right, one thing i failed to note about has a tendency to make humans a bit smarter, those who survive it, that is.. you see, even a dumb human, seeing that life will continually knock them down, will learn to roll. Of course, universe cooperates by knocking off all the square edges, and hard corners in the many falls that the human takes in coming to that conclusion, thus making it easier for them to roll.

The poor bastards who 'achieve success' (or are 'born to it') early in life are doomed. They never stand a chance. Without failure, how are they to learn to roll?

Yes, if one if forced by life to live long, then learn by the wise experience of others, as i have done, and chose failure as the better path, and learn to roll early in life. The ukemi (falling/rolling) arts will serve you well.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Teeny Bit of Blowing My Own Horn

Recently, I saw the video embedded below, from the TED Talks series.  It's well worth a watch when you can spare 20 minutes.  Until then, I'll tell you that, in it, a brain scientist describes how an experiment proved that magnetic pulses can "temporarily" change the operation of the part of our brains that processes and evaluates other people's feelings or motivations. 

She presents it like it's just another conclusion.  But I put it in bold because I found it very highly significant.   You see, taken to the absolute extreme, people who cannot read or appreciate other people's feelings are called "sociopaths."

The World Health Organization's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, tenth edition (ICD-10), the international version of the diagnostic manual for health problems lists the first marker of "anti-social personality disorder," the fancy name for sociopathy, as "callous unconcern for the feelings of others."  The current American version of this kind of manual, the DSM IV, makes it a little less plain, but still visible in the seventh marker for the disorder, "lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another."    In other words, people who don't feel bad for making other people feel bad.  Other people's feelings don't register with these folks.

So, here's the deal:

1) People who lack the ability to perceive and appreciate others feelings move closer to being sociopaths;

2) Magnetic pulses or waves, applied to the brain, can make people "temporarily" less able to appreciate the feelings and motivations of another person;

and the big finish,

3) ALL electrical current causes magnetic waves, in the form of electromagnetism.  All of it.   Like the cages of electrical current we all live in called our houses; like the bleed off from televisions, IPods, cellphones, refrigerators.

And, when you watch the video, you will see that the part of the brain they affected in the experiment is darn close to your right ear--right where you would  hold a cell phone, or stick in an ear-bud.

Kind of makes you want to re-read my posts about electronics and how they affect relationships, doesn't it?  Watch the video, too.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Another Lunatic Conspiracy Theorist Wishes a Word With You

March Against Monsanto

Some of you may be tired of hearing me tell you all the stuff that concerns me, especially since so many things concern me. So today, we have a visiting lunatic conspiracy theorist, world renowned geneticist David Suzuki,  explaining why he's also concerned about one of the same things I am:  genetically modified foods. 

After you've watched, think about going to the March Against Monsanto Saturday, May 25.  There's likely a gathering in your area.  You can see when and where here.  I know, it's a Saturday, and it's downtown, or wherever, and it's Saturday(!) but is it worth losing your Saturday to try to stop the phenomenon where you pay people to feed you poison?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Next Weekend

March Against Monsanto
On May 25, 2013, there will be a worldwide "March Against Monsanto."  For those of you who haven't paid attention, Monsanto is a huge megalithic chemical and agriculture products company that owns patents on some of the most widely used (and in my opinion, dangerous) chemicals that are sprayed on your food.  They're also one of the largest proponents of genetically modifying food so that it produces its own pesticide, right in the plant, as it grows.  You get to eat it in every bite.  Yum.

Our government (which of course is always competent and correct, and totally free of graft, payoff, favor-doing, one-hand-washing-the-other, etc.) says that it's perfectly ok to eat these pesticides every day, day in, day out, in 90 percent of the food we eat, for many decades.  Monsanto and it's counterparts say it's not only safe, but also very profitable

Some other people, mostly scientists who work for research universities, who get their research funding in a very political, highly subjective way, also say that it's ok to eat these pesticides.  Often, either before or after these scientists say this, Monsanto or another huge megalithic chemical or agriculture company who puts pesticides in and on our food, gives large "donations" to said research universities.   I'm sure there's no connection.

Yet other people, some of whom are also scientists, say that eating pesticides isn't good for you and might cause all kinds of nasty diseases, like cancer and maybe MS and other neurological problems.  Some of them have done studies that show evidence of that, which have been roundly criticized by the scientists who work for those research universities who have auditoriums and scholarships and stuff named after chemical and ag companies. 

I'm not a scientist.  But I do distinctly remember that people have always told me it's a bad idea to eat pesticide, so I side with the people who say we really shouldn't.  It just makes sense to me.

Recently, Monsanto and some of its friends and lobbyists prevailed upon Congress to pass something that's been dubbed "the Monsanto Protection Act."  It was stuffed into a bigger ag bill called H.R. 933, and it basically says that the courts (yes, all of them) have no power (none at all) to stop Monsanto or others from planting genetically modified crops, EVEN IF THERE IS EVIDENCE THAT IT HURTS PEOPLE.    They basically over-rode the whole legal system that is supposed to govern in the U.S., and gave the exclusive authority to decide whether it's a good idea to eat pesticides to the United States Government--the one that is always competent and correct and totally free of graft, payoff, favor-doing, one-hand-washing-the-other, etc. 

I'm not happy about this, because there are lots of countries that have totally banned these GM crops because their scientists (who probably don't have auditoriums and stuff named after these chemical companies) say that either the GM crops are dangerous, or at least that they might be and they haven't yet been sufficiently tested to prove they're not.

Well, as a thank you to Congress for bastardizing the entire United States legal system on behalf of the chemical and big-ag companies, some people are doing the March on Monsanto, where people intend to think and talk about whether it's a good idea to eat pesticides, and also to think and talk about whether it's a good idea to make laws specifically designed to make sure that courts can't stop companies from doing things if they are shown to be killing people.   Groups will be gathering at places all over the world.  I'll be going to one in my city.

See if you can find one near you.  Here's where you can do that.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Great Bank Heist of 2013

Well, watching all the machinations and scandals (the never-ending and never-effective Benghazi inquiry, the IRS targeting conservative groups, and the AP phone records seizure by DOJ) for the last week or so, I was suddenly struck with a thought:  this is just all too easy.  It's like there's a set up of stuff for us to watch and talk about while they're picking our pockets.  The old game of government Three-Card-Monty I've talked about in the past.

And I've just found at least one thing that we've been distracted from:  the House passing H.R. 807, the so-called  "Full Faith and Credit Act,"  which passed the House on May 9.  This piece of crap legislation sets up priority in payment of debt in the event of a debt ceiling event to holders of "public debt" and the Social Security Trust Fund.  How?  By exempting from the debt ceiling the issuance of "new debt" (which we still get to pay back with interest) to pay that old debt.  How's that for financial hocus pocus? 

Now, if the Senate passes this crap bill, the effect is:  Holders of US treasury debt get paid before everyone else--before people doing actual work for government agencies, before soldiers, before food stamp benefits, before unemployment (which those people paid for out of their pay when they were employed), before people who sold copy paper to the local IRS office to print out all those seized phone records--before everyone.  So who are the lucky recipients of this favored status?  I bet you aren't going to be surprised.

Over 30% of the debt is held by "US Individuals and Institutions,"  which includes "regular' Americans (well, those who still have enough money to hold Treasuries), BANKS, INSURANCE COMPANIES, and other government entities, like state governments.

Another 10.8 percent, and growing with every "quantitative easing," is held by our buddies the BANKS who own the Federal Reserve.

And another  34.1 percent is held by FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS (mostly their central BANKS--their equivalents of the Federal Reserve). 

My numbers are current through FY 2012 and come from here.

So, there you go.  We're supposed to watch their little comedy (tragedy?) of errors while the banks are setting up the legal framework to steal what little of our money they don't already have.   As I said before, when the side show is heating up,  keep your eye on the main ring.  You'll almost always see something interesting going on.

Don't forget to send a thank you card to Mr. Boehner, even if you can't afford to match the $2.47 million in campaign contributions he got from the insurance, banking, investment and financial services industries in the last election.  I'm sure he'll appreciate just the thought.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Badge of Honor

Lately, my thinking has been hard to string together into a blog post, or a philosophy, or even a set of coherent ideas.  But recently, I've run across something that helped pull together some of those thoughts.  Here is my thesis statement:

Right now, today, if you feel despair, lack of hope, discord, hatred, frustration, annoyance, or similar feelings, you are wearing a badge of honor, and you should feel joy in your pain.

Let's begin to explore that thesis with this notion.  Lots of people right now are feeling nothing.  I live among them.  I see them every day.  They have the benefit of fortune to have nice homes in an affluent suburb, to have enough to eat (and often way more than enough), to drive a nice car, to have the freedom to go where they believe they want to go and do what they believe they want to do.  They are "lucky."  And their luck has served for them as a form of emotional and spiritual anesthetic that has obliviated their notice of anything contrary.

These people go to work every day, pull their paychecks, buy their groceries, take their clothes to the dry cleaner, pay their nannies and housekeepers and landscapers, drive home in their luxury cars, park their heineys in a comfortable chair inside their comfortable homes, turn on the TV or computer, and proceed to avoid, deny, justify, or ignore everything that causes them a moment's thought or discomfort.

They believe everything that's told them by their preferred source of lies and disinformation, and parrot it diligently and angrily to anyone who might have noticed a problem in their narrative.   They're not concerned about pollution, or people starving or being genocided, or our bombing babies in Pakistan, or that we imprison more people than any totalitarian regime.  They don't think for a moment that someone arrested by cops might not be guilty, or even that a trial  is necessary--just kill them now.  If any hole appears in their logic, they angrily attack the person who points it out, calling them "conspiracy theorists," "crazies," or other colorful epithets, but never, ever do they spend the mental energy to really address the holes in their logic.

They won't ever change, because they are fat and happy, and wallowing contentedly in their little mud hole, oblivious to the fact that the truck from the rendering plant is just down the road, coming for them.  You can think of them as people who have antennae who only pick up broadcast channels on their tuners--no HBO, no Showtime, no ESPN.  They still only receive the few broadcast channels, transmitting the tragic comedy of what's going on today in the "popular consciousness."  They are the ones Jesus referred to as the dead who will bury their own dead. 

On the other hand is you, if you are one of the ones who feels as if "regular people" are stark raving mad to keep bombing each other, shooting each other, hating each other, judging each other, all while quoting a "savior" who preached about loving your neighbor.  You are one who is now watching with baited breath the outcome of trials and elections and disputes and protests and uprisings--watching and mourning each one that doesn't finally and once and for all end the pain and suffering of some people you never met, and some you did. Often, you are disappointed, as the juggernaut of an illusion that this mess of a world is  the "only" way, hurtles on down a straight track--straight toward a brick wall, despite you, anxiously leaning into the curve of change.  

Once in a while, you are buoyed by a glimpse of something different, something real, that sneaks past the life-censors, and then you may watch in horror as that something gets clobbered by the mallet of the system, like a giant game of whack-a-mole. You may have actually reached a place where you realize that your life-tuner is set to a different frequency than the one everyone else is watching, and maybe that makes you feel crazy.   And maybe you've been told that you are.   But I think that's wrong.

I think you're something else.  In the TV metaphor, I think your tuner is connected to the full cable package, and most of the programming is pretty bad, so it's not unreasonable for you to feel the way you do.   The fact that some peoples' tuners only get the broadcast doesn't mean that cable doesn't exist.  You've just got premium programming.  Now, before you call to cancel your subscription, let me explain why being tuned to the cosmic cable network is a good thing, even though it hurts

To explain, I must digress for a moment into my addict's past, which some of you have read about previously. I spent fifteen years as a drunk.  From the summer after my sophomore year in high school through the age of thirty, I'd be surprised if my blood alcohol ever reached zero.   Many times it reached close to dead.   My drunk-ness facilitated a lot of lying, a lot of self-degradation, a lot of crying jags and stupid recklessness, a very bad first marriage, a boatload of self-pity, and finally, a recovery that changed everything.  

The very first thing that you hear when you go to a twelve-step meeting is Step One.  It goes something like this:

I admit that I am powerless over my addiction--that my life has become unmanageable.

It is the proverbial "admitting that there's a problem" that even non-addicts acknowledge is the first step to recovery.  And it is.  The people who never take that step of seeing the problem continue to drink or drug, always convinced that with the proper "thought," the right amount of "will power," a rule here, or a tweak there, they can handle their life and their substance with some degree of "success."   In short, they continue to be ruled by their addiction.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have arrived there too broken, sick, or weak to keep fighting, hiding, controlling, and managing our addiction--we cowards who give up and take that first step are the ones who say, "screw it,"  fall completely apart, and then accept the help of other forces to pick up the pieces, sort through them to separate the ones that will keep us doing the same thing from the ones that might actually be useful in life, and move on.  We are the ones who had the fortune of feeling like there was nothing left to lose.  We had the benefit of feeling that the pain of doing the same thing again outweighed the pain of changing everything. 

So we began to recover.  To do that, we had to re-learn everything--from who we should have as friends, to how to deal with stress,  to how to relate to people, to how to make decisions--in a healthier way.     We had to do every single thing differently, because, as they're fond of saying in those meetings, "Your best thinking up til now is what got you here."  But as soon as we truly became willing to let go our old ideas and habits and do things differently, life began to change.   What appeared to be "falling apart" actually turned out to be "falling together."  And not a bit of it would have happened if I'd been a little less miserable, sick, and tired when I went there.  I had to be all out of fight to keep the old way, or I never would have found the new one.  Pain Equals Change.

So, as I said early on:  if you are one of those who today is suffering vicious discomfort, despair, sadness, and hopelessness, wear it as a badge of honor--you have the latest in spiritual technology.

The feeling you have is the knowledge, deep down inside, that what is happening in our society is wrong--that it must change or come to a pathetic end.  It is what I refer to as a cosmic 2x4 to the head--a whack that's supposed to wake us from our sleepwalk as anesthetized sheep and turn us instead into the folks who realize that the pain of continuing our current path outweighs the pain of changing everything.  It's the agony and anguish of that necessary falling apart.  It's the trauma and promise of falling together.  It's what will make us the ones to change the world.

Start with your own.

I'm working on mine.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Start

Here is an amazing video about what's happened to the U.S. economy and lifestyle and one thing we can do to start changing it.  Post it and link to it everywhere.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Answer Me This...

Ok, so a couple of days ago, I saw this day-of-the-bombing interview with cowboy-hat-clad-hero, Carlos Arredondo. 

In the interview, Mr. Arredondo describes how he rushed in to aid victims of the bombing and applied tourniquets to the rankly amputated legs of the most famous victim of the Boston Marathon Bombing, Mr. Jeff Bauman.

He shows his Red Cross disaster team ID.  Very moving account.

So, now, can you all answer something for me?

How is it that, at a bloody scene with at least one victim who has had both legs blown off by a bomb, Carlos Arredondo can render aid, up close and personal--so close that he's able to put on tourniquets to staunch presumably arterial bleeding (because arteries are severed when your legs are blown off, and because even the most basic first aid training teaches you to never use tourniquets except for severe arterial bleeding)--and yet, in the "iconic" photo of Mr. Arredondo rushing Mr. Bauman to an ambulance in a wheelchair, as the story is told holding Mr. Bauman's artery closed with his bare hands...

Carlos Arredondo

 he comes away with no blood on his light-colored, long-sleeved shirt? 

Seems to be a thing or two wrong with this picture.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Funny Things Happened On Our Way from the Bombing

While the media and most of the American public has been engrossed watching looped coverage of pressure-cooker-and-BB bombs going off and the oh-so-sensitive-and-touching film of people with gross amputations of limbs, some interesting little items have been largely unnoticed.   So I thought I'd help you all notice them.

1) The President and Congress Returned Some Insider-Trading-Gained Feathers to Their Nests

From The Hill's On The Money blog:
President Obama quietly signed legislation Monday that rolled back a provision of the STOCK Act that required high-ranking federal employees to disclose their financial information online.

The White House announced Monday that the president had signed S. 716, which repealed a requirement of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act requiring the disclosure, which had previously been delayed several times by Congress.
That provision, added to the bipartisan bill aimed at halting insider trading by members of Congress, would have required roughly 28,000 senior government officials to post their financial information online, and had come under harsh criticism from federal government employee unions.

Both chambers of Congress quickly — and near silently — approved the repeal legislation at the end of last week by unanimous consent, just before heading home to their districts.
The long and short of it is that S.716 delays for another year the creation of a publicly accessible database that would disclose any insider trading by Congress or the President. 

Interestingly, just a year or so ago, this very same President and Congress made a great show of passing this legislation to begin with, in order to restore confidence in Congress.  I'm feeling really confident; how about you?  Read more here.

2)  The Warhawks in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Pledged the US' Undying Love, Affection, What Little Money We Have Left, and the Lives of our Children, to Israel In the Event They Decide to Annhililate Iran For Not Making a Nuclear Bomb

Per Yitzhak Benhorin of YNet News:
Members of the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee have adopted "Senate Resolution 65," according to which the US will support Israel in case it is compelled to take military action and actualize its right to self defense in the face of an Iranian threat.
The resolution stipules that Israel will enjoy Washington's diplomatic, economic and military aid.
More on this here.

3) The US House of Representatives Is Resurrecting the Domestic Digital Spying Act, Also Known as "CISPA" to Ensure that the Government Is Legally Entitled to Knowledge of Our Every Online Move (Hi FBI!) Without Any of Those Pesky Warrants or Legal Protections, Which No One Needs Anyway (pffft)

Having had previous attempts at big brother internet surveillance thwarted, our pals in the House are at it again.  They've defeated all amendments designed to protect people's privacy, and are ready to vote again today, while everyone's looking at the suspect/no suspect drama of the bombing.  Read about it.

4)  The Criminal Banking Cartel Known as the Federal Reserve May Have Crashed Gold Prices to Initiate Pre-Set Stop-Loss Trades and Thereby Shore Up the Value of the Obviously Failing Monopoly Money US Dollar.

According to Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Treasury Secretary:
This is an orchestration (the smash in gold).  It’s been going on now from the beginning of April.  Brokerage houses told their individual clients the word was out that hedge funds and institutional investors were going to be dumping gold and that they should get out in advance.   Then, a couple of days ago, Goldman Sachs announced there would be further departures from gold.  So what they are trying to do is scare the individual investor out of bullion.  Clearly there is something desperate going on….
The Federal Reserve began its April Fool’s assault on gold by sending the word to brokerage houses, which quickly went out to clients, that hedge funds and other large investors were going to unload their gold positions and that clients should get out of the precious metal market prior to these sales. As this inside information was the government’s own strategy, individuals cannot be prosecuted for acting on it. By this operation, the Federal Reserve, a totally corrupt entity, was able to combine individual flight with institutional flight. Bullion prices took a big hit, and bullishness departed from the gold and silver markets. The flow of dollars into bullion, which threatened to become a torrent, was stopped.
Now, I'm not a gold bug--don't own an ounce, and I think that in the event of a financial collapse, or other catastrophe, a case of canned applesauce will be worth more than gold.  And if you're not a gold bug either, you might be asking, "why would this matter?"   Well, here's a way to look at it.  If there's a pack of man-eating wolves running toward your village, is the guy who falsely tells you they aren't there doing you a favor?

Try to understand it, a little, here.

5.  A Non-Profit, Bipartisan Commission, The Constitution Project, Released a 577-Page Report Proving that the US Government, Under Obama and GW Bush, Illegally and Systematically Tortured Prisoners, and (Based on International Standards, Treaties, Laws, and What We've Said About Other Governments) Thereby Committed War Crimes

It's long.  It's disgusting.  And I've only read part of it.  But it should be the biggest story going.  It's so far been pretty much crickets from the mainstream media except the NY Times.   It's worth at least a thorough scanning.

The lesson?  This is like a game of three-card monty.  While you're looking "over here" at the spectacle, a "plant" in the crowd is stealing your wallet (or your rights.)  Keep your eyes open.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombing: Rodents' Edition

Okay, I know.  I'm a nutter, a conspiracy theorist, a tin-foil mad hatter.  But once again, I've noticed some odd stuff about the latest thing to scare our pants off.   There's some stuff that just doesn't jive.  Look.

Here's a screenshot of a paused video you've all probably seen a dozen times, when a camera mounted on a runner in the marathon captures the first explosion.  This particular location is at the UK's Guardian website, but the same runner-cam video is all over the place, like at Business Insider, and others.

On this particular version, the announcer is just saying, "...with the finishing line in sight, this footage, shot by one of the Boston Marathon runners, captures the moment of the first explosion...."   You see the cloud of the explosion on the left.  When you watch the video, you'll see that the runner is about two buildings down from where the explosion occurs, and you can see all the way down to the building where the explosion happens.

In the same Guardian video, immediately after this scene, we see this, another screenshot of a different video--a stationary one this time, paused:

See the cloud of the explosion on the right?  As this video runs, the announcer is saying, "that moment again, as a steady flow of runners cross the line.  There's confusion and panic.  Ten seconds later, a second explosion...."  You don't need to trust my transcription skills.  Watch the video for yourself at the link above.

Another video, very familiar to all, shows the "moment of the explosion"  from a higher perspective, as if from a building.  You know it.  It's the one where you see the older man who falls, but later we're told he gets up and finishes the race.  Touching.  That video's here, as well as lots of other places.  And here's the still from that video:

In all three videos, we're supposed to be watching the same exact moment--the instant of the first explosion at the Marathon.  It's first from one direction, then from the other, as you can tell by the way the runners are moving.  Now, here's the rub.   In the first pic and video (the runner-cam), look to the side of the street where the explosion is occurring (the left of the frame).    We see the curb, with metal gate-like structures and spectators crowding up to them. 

In the second  and third views, look at the side where the explosion occurs (now the right of the frames).   See all the blue banners on the gates?  See all the brightly colored, very visible flags lining the side of the street?   Now wait just a cotton-pickin' minute!  How the hell did those get there?   

These are clearly two different events.  The same street at the same moment can't have plain metal gates and people AND brightly bedecked, corporate sponsored banner covered gates and dozens of international flags.  It just can't be.  So why do you suppose we're being told (from the left, right and center) that these are all footage of the "Boston Marathon Bombing?"  And if one IS genuine footage, and one is NOT, then just when did another explosion occur in a very similar looking building as a whole bunch of runners went by it? And why would someone make video of it and say it's the infamous bombing?  Why, indeed. 

I smell a number of rats.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Heal Thyself

There's a phrase attributed to Jesus in the Bible, "physician, heal thyself."  It's usually thought to be a proverb meaning that you should take care of your own business before anyone should have confidence that you can take care of theirs.  I'm using it today literally, because it's become all too clear that people need to hear it.   Here's why.

It may surprise some of you that there is a segment of the population, not insubstantial in number, who believes that somebody is on his/her/its way to save us from all the degradation we've made for ourselves on good old planet Earth.  Some of these folks think its ETs, or extra-terrestrials, who are on the way.  Some say it's EDs (extra-dimensionals) or what one might think of as angels or spirits, who are our cavalry.  Some say it's "positive military"  or veterans who will, in one fell swoop, take out the corrupted institutions we currently live with, in a lovely coup, and hand us back a perfect world--a golden age.

Of course, religions tell us of external saviors too, whether it's the second coming of Jesus, or the conquest of Kalki the Destroyer, or the arrival of the Red and Blue Kachinas.  And there's some pretty interesting groups of folks who claim to BE the saviors-- one says it's going to foreclose on the banking system and the government and give us each a big pot of money for past abuses (yes, there is such a group, and they do say that's what they're doing).

Now, I can't say that Jesus isn't on his way, or that Kalki won't ride in on his horse and destroy everything, or even that foreclosing on the Federal Reserve wouldn't be a dandy idea.  Moreover, I'm one of those who would have no trouble accepting finding a space ship on my lawn, or an angel in my hall closet, since I think it's utterly ludicrous to think that the entire Universe (and all the other Universes we might not even know about) is all here to house just us.  But I have a feeling--just a hunch--that if any of these folks are around, it isn't to save our sorry behinds with no input by us.  That would be the cosmic equivalent of the wealthy parent who bails their kid out of jail and buys them a great lawyer to get off charges of stealing cars, and is then surprised when the kid does it again.  I'm guessing the Universe isn't quite that stupid, no matter how convenient it would be if it were.  Instead, what seems to be occurring is that the truth of the corruption, fraud and abuses of various systems is being disclosed, and we're supposed to get the message and DO something about it.

In the last year, we've seen many scandals come to light.   We've seen officials in the Catholic Church be tried and jailed for their roles in covering up sexual abuse of children.  We've seen creepy old guys get outed for being sexual predators. We've seen that the banking and financial system is rigged with rate fixing and rife with fraud on those of us regular folks who are referred to as the "Muppets" for being dumb enough to trust known thieves with our money.  We've seen people who blew the whistle on government abuses and corruption getting jailed, slandered, fired, or worse.  We've seen the political discourse devolved to the place where we're actually going to debate about whether someone who works full time doing jobs that we acknowledge must be done for society to run "deserves" to be able to raise their children slightly above the poverty line, or well below it.

We're seeing a debate over whether it's "ok" or even desirable for the big, powerful military to murder Americans who it claims are "terrorists" if it's inconvenient to capture, charge and try them in a court.  We're seeing evidence that our "foreign policy" of bombing people who may have an intention to harm us, but who haven't done so yet, is killing lots of innocent people--even babies and children--along with the supposed "bad guys."

We've seen payola scandals, campaign finance scandals, and a Supreme Court decision that basically places the stamp of approval on huge, multinational corporations being able to buy the government under the pretense that bribery through campaign donations is "free speech."  So we have the information we need.  We know what the trouble is.  And yet we sit and wait.  We keep working and paying taxes to the government who's tossing it at unwinnable wars, while its representatives get rich, somehow, to the tune of tens of times what they make in Congress, and we're not even supposed to wonder what it is they do to "earn" all that extra money.  We keep buying the cheap crap that's made Walmart the size of most small world economies.  We keep reading the news and shaking our heads and tsk-tsk-ing how terrible it all is.  And then we go back and keep putting one foot in front of the other, plodding along like a broken old nag with blinders on.  We keep waiting for the savior to arrive.

But for a long time now I've been convinced that, whatever saviors are lurking out there (and I don't presume to know which, if any, that might be), the truth is that the things wrong with our systems, our culture, and our world are merely a larger reflection of the things wrong inside us as a people.

For example, we hear that near slave labor with people locked inside compounds for 36-hour shifts is what's required for us to get our $5 t-shirt, but we say, well, yes it's terrible, but they wouldn't have any job at all if it weren't for the sweatshop, so buy away.  We see the continual unrest, thievery and corruption that it takes to keep the middle east holding the oil straw to our greedy lips, but we complain bitterly that we simply must keep using more oil than the whole rest of the world; we couldn't possibly make our cars get better mileage, ride the bus, or walk a little more.  We read the articles about pesticides killing off the bees, sickening people, and causing the security of our food system to be in doubt, but the pull of the three-dollar frozen "pizza" is just too strong and we just can't bring ourselves to say that these chemicals must be eliminated, even if in the short term it causes some problems--like a pizza that costs three and a quarter.   And we know that our defense of this "way of life" has caused millions of deaths, countless wars, and the degradation of everything we touch, but we've got our big screens and our SUVs and so we give it a big "whatever" and keep right on going.   We want everything to change, without changing anything.  

But lately as we see all the scum rising to the surface of the pond, it's becoming astonishingly clear that all the eggs we've been busily stashing away in our western cultural "baskets"--the economic and political systems that are equal parts smoke, mirrors, and BS, the idea of government "looking out" for people, the notion of "safety" being achieved through militarism,  and the delusion that the piper will wait forever to be paid--are rotten and beginning to stink.    And there's a basic truth that I learned a long time ago:  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.  So here's my best advice:

You can't really expect people to treat you better than you treat them, or better than you treat yourself.

You can't really think that anything's going to change when you don't demand that it be different, and you keep rewarding the bad behavior with your vote, your loyalty, or your dollars.

You can't really figure that other people are going to make a difference if you won't.

You can't really expect people to be measured and respectful in their dialog if you aren't.

You can't really expect to have rights when you rush to give them away, for supposed "protection," every time a threat comes round the corner.

You can't really expect a ceasefire to hold if you won't even unload your gun.

You can't expect to take a grand journey if you won't even take the first step.

So, the real question shouldn't be whether it's Jesus or ETs or Kalki who's coming to save us.  The real question is when we're planning on getting off the couch to save ourselves.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Some Slightly Different Rules

Today, I found some words to live by.  It might be an omen.

Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M. Keith (

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;

It was never between you and them anyway.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Road

Today, we're going to pretend.  Let's say we're on a road, driving along, in the dark.  Our headlights illuminate the way ahead. We see a road, straight and narrow, lined with ditches on both sides.  Outside those ditches, only trees--an impenetrable barrier.   There's nothing up ahead we want to go to--we can see that pretty clearly.  In fact on the map, the road pretty much stretches off the page; no towns, no attractions.  Just an endless road for far longer than we've got fuel to go.   That can't be right--roads don't go nowhere, do they?  But that's what the map shows, and so far as we can see, it seems to be true.  We've driven down this road for an awful long way, and nothing.  We'd like to find something, go somewhere, but this road doesn't seem to be leading anywhere.

But there's no choice.  We know what's behind us.  Nothing we want to go back to.  We're running from what's back there--no way we're going to turn around and go back to that!  And so we drive on ahead.  We turn on the high beams.  More road, more ditches, more trees.  No way but straight ahead.  And so we drive.

This road represents "the way things are."  It's a world of violence and corruption and fear and hate and lack and deprivation.  A world where, if we're smart at all, we see nothing good coming.  We know that we've always been told the road will change--once we kill enough people and install the right governments, we'll have licked that "commie threat" and we can live in peace.  But then there's the oil crisis, and pollution, and the recession, and the Muslims and the terrorists.  And after them (if there is an "after them"), there will be someone or something else to fear. 

We're told that if we work hard, we'll get ahead and we can lie back and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  But we never actually get ahead.  We work, and we get a bigger house, a nicer car, a bank account.  But we never actually get to stop paying for it.  There's taxes and insurance  on the house, even if we "own" it thirty years and three or four times its value later.  There's hundreds of dollars of utilities to be paid each month to keep it warm or cool and to be able to wash ourselves and flush the toilet.  There's compulsory insurance on the car, even when it's paid off.  Inflation keeps eating the bank account, so it's never as "enough" as it was when we put it there. 

We know that years ago, people worked long days, every day and got paid in scrip for the company store, and we're told we're better off, and yet, even though we've got paid "vacation," we've got to check the email, answer the cell phone, and worry about what's waiting when we get back on Monday.  And God help you--if you don't, well there's a lot of people out there who want your job.  We're only a minute away from having nothing.  We know that, just like yesterday, when we turn on the TV, radio, or computer, the news will tell us that someone's been shot, stabbed, beaten, or raped; that there's a war here, an insurgency there, and someone who hates us for no reason that anyone wants to tell us.  We know that it will be the same tomorrow too.  We've all lived on this road long enough to know that the scenery never changes--maybe the names do, but the road is the same, endlessly.  And we keep driving, and the road, straight and narrow and unchanging, keeps rising up to meet us. 

Somewhere along the road, the revolutionary idea pops into our heads that our "road" isn't all there is.  Outside of those ditches and trees is something, and there's a way over there that maybe we're not seeing, because it's dark and our headlights only light up the little patch of road right in front of us, but logic says that the earth doesn't cease to exist just past those trees--it's got to be there.    But, we tell ourselves, it's too hard to get over there.  This car won't go through those ditches.  We can't just drive through the trees.  And what if there's nothing over there either?  So we drive.  And every time that nagging thought pops into our heads, and we try to rubberneck and watch for a way to the other side of the trees, we risk running off the road.  So we keep driving.

Eventually, the car begins to run low on gas.  It's becoming clear that we can't just keep driving, or we're going to get stuck out here.   And that nagging idea reappears in our minds that there's something on the other side of those trees, something that we can't see in the headlights.  Something there seems to be no convenient way to get to.  Something that we can't even take the time to crane our necks to see as we hurtle down the road, because we might have a wreck while we're looking.    And then suddenly, it occurs to us to pull over.  And as soon as we take our foot off the accelerator and begin to slow, the light of dawn starts to come over the sky.  As we slow further, it becomes apparent that there are breaks in those trees, small barely used tracks off the road.  There are lots of them.  Why did we never see them?  Well, we couldn't really look, because we were driving so fast down the road. 

Now, barely creeping along,  we see, there are lots of exits from the road.  None of them are as wide or well-defined; some are hardly wide enough to fit through, and they're rough and crude from non-use, but there they are.  And they lead...where?   Well, if we stop our car and get out and peer down some of them, we can see a bit.   The light dawning.  A slower pace, because the road is so unused.  Hints of rolling hills and peace down some.  Hints that fear diminishes down others.  A teeny sliver of a view of happiness and contentment over there on a hill with the first ray of sun lighting it up.  When we turn back toward the road and look where our car is pointing, it's still dark, the pavement stretching endlessly in the weak beam of our headlights and the barriers along the sides still shading out all the light that's dawning over on the side roads.   And we wonder, should we turn and take the risk that there's really nothing better to the right or the left?  Or should we just keep driving.  It's hard to know, since there's only tantalizing tidbits to be seen of what lies beyond the trees.

 The fact is, we can't find out what's out there until we get off the road and start in a different direction.   But whatever is outside those ditches and groves, the real point is this:  while we were driving, we lived in the illusion that there was only the road.  We thought we knew the truth--the road goes only forward to nowhere or back to where we left.  We believed we had no choice.  But we were wrong.  We always had the choice.   We always will.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Rube Goldberg Machine

Most of you have probably heard about something called a Rube Goldberg machine. But just in case some of you haven't, it's a device that employs an insanely complicated series of devices and reactions to accomplish a really simple task. The concept is named after cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg.

A cartoon depicting one of the devices, "Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin" is featured on the Wikipedia article about Rube Goldberg machines. The self-operating napkin works like this: when you raise the soup spoon to your mouth, it pulls a string, which jerks a ladle, throwing a cracker in front of a parrot, who jumps after the cracker, tilting his perch and dropping his seeds into a pail. The weight in the pail pulls a cord, which lights a lighter, setting off a rocket with a sickle attached to it, cutting a string, which frees a clock pendulum with its attached napkin to swing in and wipe your mouth.  And I thought I could make things complicated!

Rube Goldberg machines came into my mind after I read something my younger daughter wrote a while back:
Every person becomes a lighter poised at the beginning of a stream of oil that leads to a series of events or a chain reaction.  Every person is a trigger.  Even if your fire is only lit by someone else's, you are the trigger in a great circle of triggers, to carry on the flame until eventually, it becomes something great. 

It seems as if the earth, and everything in and on it is a giant Rube Goldberg machine--an enormously complicated system of actions, reactions, devices, manipulations, and ideas--designed for one very simple purpose: to teach people that we are all interconnected parts of one very gargantuan whole.   If this theory is correct, then ironically, everything matters, and at the same time, nothing matters.

On the one hand, everything matters because each and every action we take is a trigger for something.  Every kindness can improve someone's day.  Every insult can fuel a fire of fear, hatred, or anger in someone's heart.  Every time we mistreat ourselves, we face the consequences.  When we're overly critical of ourselves, we face paralyzing fear and uncertainty and self-fulfilling prophecies of failure.  When we abuse our bodies, we reap what we've sown, in disease and ill health.  Every time we mistreat someone else, we not only hurt them, but we pollute the atmosphere around ourselves, too. 

So, if everything matters, why are so many of us not doing the right thing?  Nearly every person I've ever known in my life knows what's right.  If they opened their front door, and saw a sick, dirty, hungry child, 99 percent of them would know that the right thing would be to bring the child in, give them some food, and try to help them.   Most people know that you shouldn't lie or steal, that you should hold the door for the person behind you, and that most other people are doing the best they can. So why then, are so few people concerned that "foreign policy" is used as an excuse for murder and mayhem and baby killing?  Why are so many people who are "pro life," so ready to execute a "criminal," even though it's been shown time and time again that the justice system is severely flawed?  Why are so many people playing the role of the jury in the book To Kill a Mockingbird, and so few playing Atticus Finch?

I think the answer to the question why so few people do the right thing is that our culture makes it so damn easy not to.  We're fed fear and loathing in a continuous stream from morning til night.  We call this "news," but what it is, really, is personal insecurity and insignificance wrapped up in a convenient, serving-size box.   We're told that the world is a dangerous place, that people are bad, that everyone is out to get us, that we're not good enough in any of a variety of ways, that you can't trust anybody, and that you must live in constant fear.  Then, we're told that there's not thing-one we can do about all of that except to batten down the hatches, install an extra lock on the door, a home security system, and a "safe-room," put a stash of gold in a box in our linen closets, and wait for the end.  No wonder people are paralyzed.  No wonder most people's answer to life, the universe, and everything is to sit in stunned silence in front of this week's episodes of meaningless TV drivel and hope that no one notices them.

As I noted above, the irony of the Rube Goldberg Theory of Life is that while every action we take matters, in the big picture of things we are like a single cell in a body, and so nothing matters.  All the infinite minutia that we twist and turn and lose sleep over, is all like one of our skin cells.  It comes and goes, and leads to little of significance, most of the time.  Of course, there's that odd time, when one skin cell goes cancerous, and leads to a really big problem.  But 99.9% of the time, whatever it is that I'm worrying about today isn't going to matter a hoot 30 or 40 years from now, as I lie on my deathbed.   So why are we constantly worrying about something or other?  Why do we think that getting a new car, or a particular wardrobe, or a bigger house, or more money in our retirement account will somehow "change things."  And if we don't believe that, then why do we seek those things in the first place?    How many of you have ever heard that someone had died and said to yourself, "Poor thing, she never did get that Mercedes?"  We're conditioned to ruminate, worry, and stew over the stuff that 99.9% of the time makes no difference at all, while ignoring religiously the opportunities we have to really matter--by being a trigger.  And every single one of us can be that trigger, on a small scale or a large one.  I must pause to tell a story to illustrate this point.

I was a bit of a problem child.  My kindergarten teacher found me to be so disruptive that she actually asked my parents to remove me from the school.  They refused, probably because they didn't know what else to do with me, and I guess the school didn't have enough on me to justify expelling a 5-year-old, so I spent the rest of the year torturing that teacher.  She retired at the end of the year.

Then I was in first grade, and I went to a tiny, two-classroom "primary school" right around the corner from my home.  It had only first and second grades in it, and so everything there was geared to those grades.  It didn't take long for my teacher to notice that I finished my work faster than the other kids, that I was bored silly by the books that were available in our "library," and perhaps more importantly, that I was only a disciplinary problem when I was unchallenged.  So she took it upon herself to make the arrangements and get the permissions to send me to second grade in the other classroom half of the time.  Much of the remaining time I spent in the first-grade class, she had me help the other kids who needed it with reading or making a good "R" or whatever.   I felt very important, which was not usual for me at that time in my life.   She also got permission to take me, every Friday after school, to the middle school a mile away and let me check out books to read and work on the following week.  She'd load me up, each week, in her big, beat up pearl blue Chevy pickup with a huge camper on the back, and, in essence, drive me to a higher grade.   I thrived academically, and besides thinking that it was infinitely cool to go someplace with my beloved Mrs. Mahoney every week, I was kept occupied enough with my part-time middle school curriculum to stay out of her hair the rest of the time.  I became a model student.

Mrs. Mahoney had a couple of choices when she found me as one of her students.  She could have decided to maintain the status quo--try to make me conform, punish my misbehavior, and treat me like "one of those children"-- or she could have done what she did.   She chose to be a trigger.  I went on to skip from Mrs. Mahoney's class to third grade.  I graduated high school at 16 and college at 19,  as an honors student both times.  After a few years working, I went on to law school and finished high in my class.  And it all could have been very different if it weren't for Mrs. Mahoney.  She was my "trigger."

If it weren't for her, every student I tutored in college might not have gotten my help, and every person I represented as a lawyer might not have found someone to take their case.  Had I been in a different place in my life, I wouldn't have met my husband, had my kids, or done any of the good stuff I've done in my life.  It all could have been very different, had I been labeled as a troublemaker, instead of a smart kid, when I was 6.  Who knows where that chain-reaction ended, or even if it has yet.  Who knows what each of those graduates I tutored have done with their lives, or what bringing their case meant to each of my clients and their families?   At the very least, Mrs. Mahoney changed everything for me.  

I tell this story because we need to realize that what we do matters--it's what we fear that doesn't.  We're not pathetic schmoes, stuck in a world of degradation beyond our control--we're infinitely powerful.  A single teacher in a ratty blue pickup can change a kid's life, and who knows how many others.  A single blog post or YouTube video can reach millions of people.  A single person can inspire others--maybe a few, maybe a million.  Every one of us could become the first gadget in the Rube Goldberg machine that once and for all proves to everyone that we're all connected and all necessary to each other, and starts the chain reaction that fixes all that is wrong in our world.

The alternative, of course, is to sit and do nothing and wait in fear, hoping that someone else will find the answers and fix everything for us--waiting and waiting, fearing and fearing, while the world crashes in on itself.  And who knows, if you're a good little member of the herd,  maybe you'll get your Mercedes. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Battle of Good vs. Evil

We have this notion in Western culture (Judeo-Christian, especially), that there is a qualitative difference between good and evil.  Stuff that "hurts" us is evil.  Stuff that keeps us in our cushy-squooshy comfort zone is good.  

Today, in opening a series of posts that I think are the "point" of everything I've been learning and doing for the last decade or so, I'd like to challenge that notion.  The ultimate idea, I'll telegraph here, is that the real difference between good and evil isn't qualitative (a difference in kind)--it's quantitative (a difference in amount).  And of course, now is the time for a story about me to help illustrate that point.

Those of you who have read my writings for a while know that I am an alcoholic.  I got clean first in 1994, and then after a relapse, again in 1996.  Being an alcoholic is a self-medication.  It is the refuge of someone who cannot face their own problems, or their own potential, without an anesthetic to take the "edge" off.   Staying drunk a good share of the time is a very handy tool for self-pacification.   When we've done something stupid, or when we've been the victim of a harsh, unfair or wrongful action by someone else, booze serves to dull the sense of need for action, whether that action is change in ourselves or standing up to our oppressor.  Basically, it allows us to easily put off thinking about it as we "drown our sorrow" at the bottom of the bottle. 

Likewise, when we've done something productive, booze allows us to easily withdraw, congratulate ourselves, celebrate with a few belts,  kill a few brain cells, and go back to sleep, instead of recognizing our new heights as a challenge to even greater things.   It is this very anesthetic effect that makes drunkenness, in the Judeo-Christian vernacular, "evil."   It allows us to accept anything without feeling the effects of that experience to their real and proper degree.

The whole point of being here on Earth, in my opinion, is the experience of being human.   Experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, changes us.  The more we experience, the more we change.  And the more consciously we experience it, the more we are able to consciously direct that change, rather than just allowing it to take us, willy-nilly, wherever the wind blows.

I've been thinking a lot about this concept of conscious change--of deciding how we will be affected by our surroundings and our peers, and how we will use our interactions with the world not to just "change," but to  grow.   Conscious evolution, one might call it.

So, over the next few posts, I will be thinking aloud, exploring how we can more fully engage with our lives, our experiences, and our fellow humans in order to change for the better.  In the meantime, I was struck by a phrase that popped into my head the other day, that seems to buttress the idea that the real evil in the world is that which allows us to stay right where we are and stagnate, unevolving, in a kind of thoughtless, changeless, cesspit.  Where exactly this phrase leads, I guess we'll have to see.  But here it is:

It doesn't nearly so much matter what you do--what really matters is that you do. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Search for Radical Simplicity

A little more than a decade ago, my family was a standard suburban family. I was a lawyer in a big city. My husband had a good office job too. We went to work everyday and acted mostly like everyone else. We paid someone to look after our children, clean our house, mow our lawn, and wash our windows. Evenings and weekends we ran from place to place, activity to activity, store to store. Several nights a week, I'd be too 'tired' to figure out something to cook, so we'd eat out, or get takeout or heat up some kind of frozen 'food.' We rarely stayed still, but it seemed normal, whatever that is. In fact, we seemed to be a bit less preoccupied and over-busy than most of our compatriots.

I always tried to make sure we weren't shallow, artificial people. I worked from home a lot. I always tried to get my kids "healthy" frozen entrees. I insisted that the processed child kibble my kids ate and called cereal didn't have too much sugar or too little fiber. We watched a lot of PBS and read books aloud, and went for walks and made homemade play-dough, and did embroidery together, and baked and decorated our own Christmas cookies.

People would sometimes comment that they didn't know how I could do it all. I would beam with pride about being the quintessential modern woman. I could go to work and disembowel an opponent in a legal case and come home and make life-sized papier mache sets of a Babylonian temple for the church play.

But I remember at one point starting to feel like it wasn't working. I didn't know why, but I knew it was growing more and more difficult to pretend like I belonged in my own skin. I remember longing for something, and I didn't know what it was. One time, the series 'Frontier House' came on PBS. It was a show where families went and lived for a summer as if they were in the 1880s frontier. They had to prepare as though they were trying to survive a winter, and got graded at the end. I watched it religiously. I felt a strange pull to that life--the chopping wood and carrying water and growing food and cooking over a fire.

My restlessness grew, and I longed to move away from the city, to stop practicing law, and to live more simply. Eventually we did. We sold our house and I closed my practice and we moved to a tiny rural town sandwiched between corn and soybean fields. We ran a couple of businesses, and got to know just about everyone in town. My girls went to a school where K-12 had about half as many kids as my high school graduating class. I remember going around for a couple of years on Cloud 9 about how much simpler everything was there. People seriously didn't lock their doors; merchants opened accounts for you and would bill you for the merchandise you bought. When someone's house burned down or someone got cancer, people held fundraisers to help them and donated furniture for them to get back on their feet.  Everyone knew you and expected you to act right. It had the effect, mostly, of making people live up to that expectation.  Phase One of the Radical Simplicity Experiment complete:  You can be happy with less, and people can take care of each other.

Then it became clear we would have to leave. Four years after moving to Iowa, my husband got a job offer that was too good to pass up in another city, and we were headed off to become suburbanites again. I worried that the burbs would suck us back in to the harried and hurried lifestyle. But we've changed. If anything, coming back to the suburbs has made us cling together even more. Our family sits down at the table and has a home-cooked supper nearly every night. We get up early so my husband and I can do yoga and I still have time to make everyone a good breakfast every morning before I drive my girls to school.  I'm "wasting my education and earning power" by staying home and taking care of my family.   I pick up fresh milk from a farmer who names his cows and goats.  I grow an organic garden year round with the help of a homemade greenhouse that drives the homeowners' association types absolutely nuts.  :-)

I make yogurt and cheese.  I'm learning to cook Indian food with the help of You Tube videos and a couple of my kids' friends, who are from there.  Last fall, when my youngest needed a suit for debate competitions, but was too small for juniors' sizes, we ordered fabric and a vintage pattern and  for about $60, we made it--together.  This spring, the fabric and pattern has been purchased for a 1950s style retro prom dress--$50.  The 10 or 12 hours we'll spend sewing and pinning and fitting (and tearing out mistakes) will be priceless. 

Back in Burb-land, there are more malls and restaurants close by, but oddly there's little there we feel like we need. We like our home-made food and our weird little homespun life. In fact, this year for school shopping, I introduced my kids to a hip little consignment store that specializes in young-person clothes, and they did 90% of their clothes-buying there, and got twice as many clothes for half as much money as if we'd hit the mall. As a bonus, we didn't contribute an extra dime to mass-manufacturer exploitation of twelve-year-old third world sweatshop workers.  My elder daughter is probably the only young person in our city who works in a fast food place but takes homemade organic vegetarian meals with her and refuses to eat what she serves to the eager masses.   Phase Two of the Radical Simplicity Experiment complete:  You can be in a world, but not of it; you can resist the temptations of what "everyone" does and be happy.

We're strange people, by modern standards, and all of that is well and good. But lately, I've been feeling the pull again to simplify some more. We had always thought that when this gig ends, we'd go back to our little Iowa town--and we still might. But I keep looking at rural real estate--really rural.   I keep imagining having a tiny, cozy house with a very small contingent of nice, multi-purpose things, and some land to grow a big garden and a small orchard for fruits and vegetables, some chickens for eggs, and a couple of goats for milk and cheese. And dogs, just because dogs seem to make me a better person.

In my mind's eye, my life would be much like those old episodes of Frontier House--growing a garden, canning the surplus, buying only what we can't make or grow ourselves.  I realize that it won't be nearly as much fun on a cold winter's morning to feed animals and gather eggs as it looked on TV in a nice temperate summer day--but I also know that I'll connect with that "hardship,"  just as I have with being the tie-dyed, organic weirdo in a community where having a Lexus, a Hummer, and a 6,000 square foot house is the ultimate way to say you're a more worthwhile human being that everyone around you.  Somehow, I view the "hardship" of not being like that as something that's not all that "hard."

So, I'm watching and waiting--checking out cabins and little old farmhouses on 10 or 20 acres, somewhere where you can grow a garden, but they don't do much commercial agriculture (too many chemicals).   I've got a catalog of chickens, so that I'll be ready to pick some when my time comes.  And I'm going to help a small-scale organic farmer this spring and summer, to learn some more tricks of the trade. 

And I know that soon, the chance to put it all to use will be here.  And my experiment in radical  simplicity will begin Phase Three. I've got to go--I must find some old episodes of Green Acres to watch.  At least I make better coffee than Lisa.