Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The ISIS Mystery

When I did some searches for information on ISIS about 1.5 months ago what turned up was very contradictory and incomplete. 

  1. CNN paints a picture of using oil revenues from captured oil fields and extracting money from local people. I find both of these hard to believe. Locals have to be tapped out after all this time. And, how does ISIS have the necessary infrastructure to run an oil extraction process and transportation system to provide $1-2M per day as the article says?  http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/06/world/meast/isis-funding/
  2. NBC tries to put the source as wealthy Qatarians. This also does not seem very credible to me. Qatar is wealthy but unless they have been flying way under the radar for 30 years have always stayed out of mideast politics. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/whos-funding-isis-wealthy-gulf-angel-investors-officials-say-n208006
  3. This article says it is Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. I find it more than plausible that the Saudis are involved and would think them the kingmakers. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/whos-funding-isis-wealthy-gulf-angel-investors-officials-say-n208006
  4. There were several reports that ISIS robbed $420M from a central bank in Mosul and then other reports that said that was false. It is hard to believe a bank would actually hold that much cash in actual bills. http://www.businessinsider.com/isis-never-stole-430-million-from-banks-2014-7
  5. Newsweek says that ISIS is mainly supported by Kuwaiti donors, through smuggling routes established during Saddam's regime and taxing the local population. The article, while seemingly containing lots of details does not really add up.  It takes millions per day to run a war of the proportions ISIS is operating at right now. Think about just the amount of gas it takes to move all the equipment. Where do all the armaments come from? Running a war at multiple fronts at the scale ISIS is operating requires an operation like the US was running in Iraq or Afghanistan. ISIS must be getting funding and arms support from a big and rich country(ies) that have access to vast munitions stores.
Then there is this NY TImes report that ISIS is executing hundreds of Iraqi Sunnis. This makes zero sense.  ISIS is supposed to be Sunni based, supported by Sunnis, and helping Sunnis.

The amount of conflicting information in the news media makes me believe that the real story is not something the general public is supposed to know or understand. A veil of misinformation is being created to confuse everyone so when the real story comes out, there is enough confusion to provide political cover.

Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (huh?) in Washington, has shown up all over the place and I bet his background could be interesting reading. So, here is a story of the biggest barbarians loose in the world today and a question as simple as where does all the money come from to fund them cannot be answered. And, it takes lots of money for bullets, gas for equipment, food for soldiers, payments to soldiers, etc even if they got most of the guns and heavy equipment for free when the US withdrew from Iraq.

Is there a diplomatic Solution? -  I found this interview with Phyllis Bennis (fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of Before & After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis) which provided a counterpoint to mainstream media.:
PHYLLIS BENNIS:"Yeah. Well, I think, unfortunately, much of this is politically driven. There were moments of crisis in Iraq, as there had been moments of crisis in Syria, where there was the question of would the U.S. intervene militarily. One of the big problems is we don’t hear options. We hear the choice that George Bush gave the nation on September 12th, after the September 11th attacks back in 2001, when we were told the choice is either we go to war or we let them get away with it. Presented with those two options, the support for going to war was 88 percent, and that’s not so surprising: If the only alternative is do nothing, people will support war. The problem is, all of the options that have to do with diplomacy, with disarmament, with arms embargoes, none of that was on the table.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Absolutely. You know, Saudi Arabia is the source of the largest amount of money, from what all the reports are indicating, that is going to ISIS as well as a host of other Islamist and other organizations, the al-Nusra Front, the official franchise of al-Qaeda, and others. Some of it probably comes from the government, although that’s never been confirmed. But this is a very tightly controlled society, where if there was an interest by the government in stopping its own citizens, whether they are Saudi princes or ordinary citizens, who are the source of a huge amount of the money funding these organizations, including ISIS, it could be contained. The Saudi government has been very eager to keep ISIS out of Saudi Arabia. The fact that the U.S. has an enormous base in the region makes it very vulnerable for those who see the U.S. role as something to be challenged, something to be opposed. The Saudis don’t want to talk about that alliance with the United States. But there is $60 billion worth of arms that they’ve been engaged in buying from the United States over this last two years. Many of those arms are the ones ending up in the hands of ISIS. It’s U.S. arms and it’s Saudi arms that are ending up there. Whether it’s individuals or whether it’s part of the government, that money is coming to a large degree from Saudi Arabia, from other parts of the region, as well—from Qatar, from Kuwait, from UAE, from a number of countries—but Saudi Arabia is very much at the center of this. And the U.S.-Saudi alliance is such that if the U.S. chose to challenge the arms sellers in this country, who are making a killing on this new war, this Iraq War 3.0, we might say—if they were to prepared to challenge those arms suppliers, and thus challenge the Saudi government, there could be a real effort to put a stop to the funding and arming of these terrible organizations like ISIS.

Jeremy Scahill is always provocative and can provide analysis outside the norm. His complete transcript is at this link.  He talks about the Orwellian nature of the fight in the Mideast which is how I have personally felt since the Iraq War and the lies and deception regarding WMD's.
You know, the Obama administration, in engaging in this policy, is continuing a Bush administration outcome of the decision to invade Iraq. And that is, they’re empowering the very threat that they claim to be fighting. Who is ISIS? What is this group made up of? Is it just people that are radical Islamists that want to behead American journalists? No. One of the top—and this almost is never mentioned in corporate media coverage of this—one of the top military commanders of ISIS is a man named Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri al-Takriti. Who is Izzat Ibrahim? Izzat Ibrahim is the leading Baathist, who was on the deck of cards, that the United States has not captured. He was one of Saddam Hussein’s top military commanders. He was not just some ragamuffin Baathist. He actually was a hardcore general in the Iraqi military during the Iran-Iraq War, and he was a secular Baathist.
Why is he fighting with ISIS? Well, when Bush decided to invade Iraq, and then he put Paul Bremer, who was a radical neocon ideologue who had cut his teeth working for Henry Kissinger—when Paul Bremer was put in charge of the occupation of Iraq, one of the first things he did was to fire 250,000 Iraqi soldiers simply because they were members of the Baath Party. As one senior U.S. official at the time said, it was the day we made a quarter of a million enemies in Iraq. All of these Baathists have been jerked around by the United States, and the Sunnis in western Iraq, jerked around by the United States for a very long time.
Here it is a month and a half after I started to put together this post and nothing has become clearer to me so I decided to publish what I have gathered so far. The deliberate obfuscation by governments and media continues. Comment if you can provide some clarity on who ISIS actually is, where they are getting money, and whose armaments they are using. 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Modern Day Roosevelts and US Hegemony (What Makes a World Successful?)

http://sojkascall.blogspot.com/2014/10/modern-day-roosevelts-and-us-hegemony.html

After watching the Ken Burns series on Teddy, Eleanor, and Franklin Roosevelt it is easy to wonder where the bigger than life visionary leaders have gone in the last 30 years. Are they really gone or have circumstances not provided the need for those kind of people? 

Teddy was a complicated person that on one hand was a social progressive who was the first to prosecute anti-trust cases, expanded the national park system, regulated industry, supported striking coal miners, and took on the party bosses who controlled legislation and maintained a corrupt political system. The other side of Teddy was an almost neanderthal guy who believed men had to fight in wars to be men, started wars for almost the express purpose of being able to fight, and expanded executive powers in a way that changed the presidency forever. 

FDR did not start out as a dynamic personality but when circumstances like his polio and WWII dominated him, he rose to those challenges and made this a different world. He was also a social progressive like his wife, Eleanor, who changed our country forever with the introduction of social security, reduced workweek, child labor laws, and many other progressive social changes that no one hardly questions anymore as basic rights of being human.

The result of the Roosevelt era is what is referred to today by many as Pax Americana. Is Empire inherently evil or is there a need and place for it in the world today? While the US has certainly had its excesses, the overriding answer is that far more good has come from the US playing world policeman than harm from US overreaching. David Brin summarized the current and previous Pax eras very well.
"Pax" referred originally to Pax Romana or the Roman Peace that kept the Mediterranean placid and open to commerce for 600 years. Pax Sinica refers to similar epochs across China and east Asia. Pax Hispania was the greatest empire the world has ever known, in which Columbus's discoveries -- then Magellan's -- led to a "peace" that preached its own absolute goodness while it spread deliberate genocide for 400 bloody years. But at least there was no hypocrisy.

Here is the crux. With the likely exception of Pax Hispania, almost every pax era has been better for average people on planet Earth than almost every era without a pax empire, when competing kingdoms would send armies slashing and burning and looting across each others’ territories. The Chinese, for example, admit that the First Emperor Chi'in, who unified the five warring states, was something of a murderous madman. But he also made it safe to travel and trade and paved the way for the Han Dynasty renaissance. He was hell on scholars and dissenters, but made things better for average folk who just wanted to live out their lives, pay taxes, practice a trade and be left alone.
The amount the US spends on playing the Pax Americana role is staggering outspending the nearest country (China) by 3 - 5x in total dollars depending on whose numbers you use. The long and short of it is that the world has overall enjoyed an unprecedented degree of peace and prosperity during Pax Americana.

Many Americans want the world to respect their country more and be more grateful for all the resources spent on maintaining relative peace. They cannot understand how our largesse could go so unappreciated. Many other countries only see the hegemonic side of the equation feeling dominated by US military power and economically by US corporations. Both sides are correct. Finding and maintaining a balance is always the difficult part. 

So, Dems rail about the military excesses of George W Bush which is legitimate. And, Pubs are upset about relinquishing any military power that would create a vacuum only to be filled by chaos and barbarians. And, we wonder where the leaders like Teddy and FDR went. Maybe they are not around because we don't need them.

We live in difficult times, but, thankfully less difficult than other times in history. Have a wonderful day, hopefully enjoying a war-free life like 95+% of the planet.

Links:
David Brin on Pax Americana
Military Spending on Wiki
Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bulletproof Coffee

When I first heard someone say "bulletproof coffee" it was like fingernails on a chalkboard or hearing that song you hate for the 2 millionth time which for me is Freebird. I liked the song the first hundred times but now cannot stand it.

Famous Paleo Athlete Hunter Pence - BP coffee effect?
And, so for about a year I just made fun of the stupid name "bulletproof" and read a little mostly about people who hated it because they agreed with my position. Once in a while a positive note would slip past my negative net and I would read about how much someone liked the effect.

But, I am probably considered a coffee snob by most people because I buy fresh roasted beans, have an expensive grinder and espresso machine and know how to make cappuccinos and lattes and stuff. To me, that does not make you a snob, but I can understand the label. And, the idea of adulterating my fine coffee in this non-traditional manner that would offend almost all Swiss, Italians and French just seemed very wrong.

Then one day someone's link took me to the bulletproof site and I read some of the info there. It mostly seems OK but I question the mark-ups on basic items. And, when investigating pieces of the info and talking with my coffee roaster friend I discovered things that were claimed about the coffee sold there that just did not make sense. So, that made me think maybe it was all a sales job to get you buying bulletproof store items.

So, I went back to Mark Sissons site and read about his take on bulletproof coffee. I tried the egg thing since I can source eggs from friends who have chickens and made the mistake of microwaving my cup of coffee once after adding the egg which sort of cooked it in my mug. That was gross so don't make that mistake. And, I tried it for a few days because I can get local organic eggs from friends who have chickens and liked the little extra buzz, did not miss the frothed milk of my cappuccino like I thought I would though my cat missed getting her spoonful of frothed milk. But, for some reason I kept thinking I should add nutmeg to my coffee because it reminded me of eggnog which is not surprising really.

So, I went back to the bulletproof guys website and read his recipe again and again.  I almost ordered the MCT oil but then remembered the misinformation there about the coffee beans they sell and decided to just buy MCT oil at my local health food store. And, while there I bought some grass-fed, organic ghee which was nothing like the ghee I normally get at the Indian grocery store. The ghee made in India has a strong smell and flavor while the grass-fed organic kind had almost no smell and consequently a very mild flavor.

So, I made the bulletproof coffee using a triple espresso pull and one tablespoon each of ghee and MCT oil and swirled using a Aerolatte Milk FrotherAnd, geez, this actually was pretty good.

I like the more coffee flavor experience because my drink was not diluted with the frothed milk. And, my stomach actually felt better after drinking my coffee because the frothed milk about half the time seems to be almost like a laxative. And, there is a kind of buzz from the bulletproof coffee. It is more pronounced the first few times but even after about a month of being about 90% bulletproof I still notice it.

So, what more can I say? If you resisted trying bulletproof because it seemed too cliched or mysterious or stupid, now you don't have those reasons if you read this far. The only reason now is you don't want to spend $7 for 7.5oz of organic grass-fed ghee, $16 on MCT Oilor buy organic coffee. I can understand that because I didn't either. I spend more money on other things that turn out stupid and since I drink coffee everyday I finally convinced myself to try it. And, sourcing those items locally only ended up costing me $23 because I already had a frothing wand and already bought organic coffee beans. Or, if you believe the claims on the bulletproof site about upgraded this and that, you can order a kit there for lots more bucks and get everything that way and not have to make more decisions on what to buy and where.

And, that ghee and MCT oil are going to make months of bulletproof coffee at one cup per day. I will have to buy maybe four 7.5oz containers of ghee to each 32oz of MCT oil so the cost is really minimal.

There are other claimed benefits of drinking bulletproof coffee. For me, the most important items were taste and how I feel right after drinking it. Who knows about the increased metabolism and weight loss claims. That is hard to know. Mark Sisson is not convinced about MCT oil and sort of pooh pahs it but while I agree with Mark's stance probably 90% of the time, his tone is a bit off on this one - almost like since he did not discover it then it is not that great. I don't know. I could be reading something else into his writing on it, but that was my take.

What do you think? Have you tried bulletproof coffee? Is it just a stupid trend that will disappear or will Starbucks and Peets be selling it in a year?



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Paleo Inspired Lemon Meringue Cake

This is not really paleo because real paleo folks will not eat anything remotely sweet or even something similar to a grain-based dish because it weakens the resolve of a person to be 100% paleo. I have given up on being totally paleo and just don't want to be a food nazi and worry about being completely grain-free.


The idea has been floating around in my head for a few weeks now and came together today. The basics are 1) a Meyer lemon based curd with 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp xylitol, 2 tbsp butter, 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, tbsp half&half, and dashes of vanilla extract and salt; 2) meringue with 2 egg whites, 2 tbsp sugar, and dashes cream of tartar and vanilla extract; 3) pancakes made of coconut flour, almond meal, eggs, and milk. Then I assembled the cake in a 9" springform pan with pancake, lemon curd, pancake, and meringue. This was then baked for 20 minutes at 325 degrees. With a cup of cappucchino, it was a great brunch dish. The remainder will be dessert tonight.

Cooking the curd is easy: 1) whisk sugar/xylitol with eggs and yolks. 2) heat lemon juice and add to egg/sugar. 3) heat mixture until it thickens 4) add butter, vanilla, half/half, salt.

Each pancake was made with 2 tbsp of almond flour and coconut flour each mixed with 2 eggs and enough milk to create a thick enough consistency for a 9 inch crepe pan. I used butter to oil the pan.










Just use an electric hand mixer to make the meringue.  


Regarding xylitol, I read about it on the bulletproof website, bought some at the health food store, and am using it sparingly at this time. There is nothing magic about it regarding taste or in this recipe. Sugar is fine to use and you could experiment with other sweeteners. 









These are fairly standard recipes you can find almost anywhere in standard cookbooks or on the internet. Any variation of these would work. Just trial and error this for yourself. For instance, next time, I will probably make a little more curd and meringue even though this tasted very good as is. Lime juice or regular lemon juice could be substituted in the curd.


Let me know what you think and how any variations worked out. Thanks!



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lone Survivor Movie Review

I went to see Lone Survivor yesterday. If you have been living under a rock the last couple weeks or unplugged from the media world and don't know, this is a movie about a Navy Seal operation in Afghanistan that goes badly.

A small group of Seals are vastly outnumbered by a group of Taliban fighters and try to fight their way out of the mess. This true story is about honor, courage, toughness, teamwork, and decision-making on a personal level. On the macro scale this a movie about the horrors of war, tribal society mentality,  and living in a culture still in the middle-ages.

This is a powerful movie that left me physically shaken. I literally felt wobbly leaving the theater and the ground did not feel solid for quite a few minutes. Lone Survivor will shake your body, mind, and emotions.

Highly recommended movie that makes Zero Dark Thirty look a bit tame in comparison though the stories are very different. I would not bring children or those with heart conditions to this show. Seriously, this is an impactful story that in a modern theater puts you on the battlefield. Though a modern big-screen television and high-end audio system could get close, this is really a movie to see at your local cinema.







Link to the book by Marcus Luttrel





Friday, December 6, 2013

Best of 2013

Here is my Best of 2013 list. Maybe it is too early to publish but I doubt anything will change for me in the next 3 weeks and thought this may be more interesting for people to read now.
  1. Best beer: Firestone XVII Anniversary. This is a blend of several Firestone beers and at $23 from the brewery is pricey but definitely worth the money. Nothing else was even close though the Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout was my second place pick. 
  2. Wine of the year - all of them! I was really struck this year by the amazing quality of most wines. You almost have to try to find bad wine these days. Of course, there is the very low quality bulk wines that are one dimensional and will give you a headache, but, almost anything in the $15+ range is of very high quality.
  3. Best music album: Classixx's Hanging Garden. This is like 80's dance music with the updated 21st century sound. Great beats and hooks. The Disclosure Settle album was a solid #2. This was maybe the best year ever for dance music with many other solid albums in this genre. I could easily list 5 more excellent releases.
  4. Bike race of the year: The Vuelta Espana was so much fun to watch. Amazing climbs, many lead changes, and watching Chris Horner take the GC at the age of 41 was incredible. 
  5. Personal Bike Ride: Rode the inaugural Castle Crags metric century in Siskiyou County. Low traffic roads, unbelievable views of the Trinity Mountains and Castle Crags State Park, and well-stocked and fun rest stops. Funny anecdote that exemplifies this ride was a guy from the Bay Area who I was riding with exclaimed at about mile 30 that he was worried because he had only seen 3 cars since leaving the start line and had become complacent and was using the whole road on the descent into Castle Crags.
  6. Drink of the year is the simple Margarita: 1 part Reposado Tequila; 1 part Orange Liqueur, 1 part lime juice poured over ice. You can shake it first and a half teaspoon of agave syrup can be added if you want the drink a bit sweet though the syrup does tone down the flavors of the components. The Corralejo and Trader Joes Reposado's make a nice drink. For orange liqueur, use the standard and expensive Cointreau or try some of the lesser known like Gran Gala.
  7. Home cooked Meal of the Year and my lifetime was goat chops with a simple oil, herb and lemon marinade seared medium-rare like a lamb chop.
  8. Restaurant meal of the year was at Lone Eagle Grille in Incline Village on Lake Tahoe. Impeccable service, view, ambiance and food along with the fact I had ridden my bicycle from Truckee over to the Hyatt conspired to make this a fantastic dining experience. The group of fellow bike riders also helped make this a fun evening.
  9. Most read Sojkascall post written this year was US Health Care Costs Explained.  The second most hits went to The Real Story About The Washington DC Shutdown.
  10. Book of the year went to A History of the World in Six Glasses.This was human history told through the lens of beverage-making technology focusing on beer, wine, rum, tea, coffee and Coca-Cola. 
  11. Homemade recipe creation of the year was taking the tried and true chile relleno recipe from Hot & Spicy & Meatless and just adding ground chorizo sausage to the filling. We have been getting Don Juan chorizo at our local Winco supermarket for $3 a lb which has been fantastic. The same company also makes a very good hot Italian sausage. I know this sounds very simple and you might think how can this be recipe of the year, but, usually simple is the best! Try it yourself.
  12. Movie of the year goes to Silver Lining Playbook which was released in December 2012 that I watched in 2013. Though I found Bradley Cooper annoyingly cutesy, Jennifer Lawrence was riveting as a fellow functioning bipolar trying to cope in the real world. Excellent screenplay and supporting cast make for an enjoyable and ultimately uplifting movie that transcends my criticism of BC.  
  13. Documentary Movie of the year goes to Dirty Wars by and starring Jeremy Scahill about America's secret covert wars around the world currently with operations in 70+ countries. The description death squads was never used in the movie though my take-away was the US now has the most sophisticated death squad apparatus ever assembled with the President and his advisers making life and death decisions daily for thousands of people around the world completely outside the justice system. Gut-wrenching and eye-opening expose of the secretive and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
  14. Personal accomplishment of the year was learning how to grow lettuce greens. We did not buy any lettuce or greens in the grocery market from about the first of July until Thanksgiving when the first hard freeze finally took its toll. The difference this year was using raised beds and keeping the rows covered all year with agribon.
  15. Blogs of the Year. Politics and Society goes to Contrary Brin due to his consistent thoughtful posts using logic and brilliant analysis. Personal Growth blog of the year is The Altucher Confidential. James Altucher hits the mark over and over with seemingly simple insights and advice on improving your life. Economic Blog of the Year is First Trust Economics written by Brian Wesbury. Brian coined the term Plough Horse Economy to describe our current circumstances and has been right on the money for more than a couple years now - worth following his insights.
What were your "best of" moments and winners in the categories I listed? I am always interested in how the year treated others and what they learned. Thanks for reading!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

When Government is Evil


This blog brings up many economic and political issues that are easy to construe as evil. And, figuring out what we can do in the face of seemingly insurmountable oppression and power that negatively affects our lives is why many of us continue to wrestle with understanding what is going on in the government and economy.

What if the answer to these problems was already answered hundreds of years ago? How could anyone know what we would be dealing with now? The Chinese civilization is possibly the oldest surviving civilization on earth. They have been dealing with the issues of oppression by a ruling elite for a long time. So, while the specifics may be different now, the issue is the same.

In an article posted on IMOS, a modern-day recluse summarizes the philosophical differences of Confucianism and Taoism. I like his analogy of viewing the two as the yin and yang of historical China.
The genius of historical China rests in the oscillation between Confucian and Taoism, between yang and yin. Confucianism is concerned with politics, ritual, education, hierarchy -- all yang elements. Taoism is concerned with art, poetry, nature, seasons -- all yin elements. Within ancient China, these elements function like forces of energy, sometimes predominating, sometimes not. To find unique conceptions and insights is to identify ideas within both schools of thought. One such idea and practice is reclusion. Reclusion is the conscious disengagement from relations with authority figures and structures. In ancient China, reclusion was considered an expression of deep philosophy based on an ethical premise as much as a practical action based on empirical observation about survival and well-being. An ancient Chinese saying ascribed to Confucius is aptly summarized: “When the emperor is good, serve; when the emperor is evil, recluse.
The article talks about the dilemma people face on how to respond and what evolved in China hundreds and even a thousand plus years ago. The question is are these responses valid today? The Confucians believed that in certain circumstances it was acceptable to serve the government.
Two premises of the saying are clear. First, the saying assumes the inevitability of emperorship, and second, takes into account the vagaries of personality as the cause of stability or chaos. So-called good times legitimize not so much the emperor as the structure of empire. The saying promotes service in the state bureaucracy by the literate and intelligent of the day, often called scholars, usually scions of noble and mercantile families. Because the ancient Chinese state controlled all major enterprises, no other employment was deemed worthy of the educated man. On the other hand, if the emperor was tyrannical and authoritarian, as in the violence-ridden Warring States era (471-221 BCE), resignation from government service and avoidance of summons to service was considered ethical and necessary, regardless of hardship. But Confucian theory could not reconcile imperial wars and military conscription in its advice, however, because scholars were easily exempted.
 The Taoists, on the other hand believed it was never ethical to engage with authority. Sounds like some people I know today. Ha ha!
Taoists of the Former Han period (post-200s BCE) went further than Confucians. Taoists of this era maintained that the emperor and the empire were intrinsically evil. No service could be ethically justified, regardless of the personality of the emperor. To Taoists, Confucian recluses were mere retirees, not true recluses. The real issue was only the form of life that reclusion should take. The recluse must craft a life promoting the pursuits of virtue, which did not intersect with the goals of empire.
When thinking this through about my own personal response, I realized that my disengagement from emotionally involving myself in the political divisions is in a way a Taoist approach. The Taoists had three different ways of disengaging.
1)Reclusion in the city, or, becoming a “hermit of the marketplace,” a hermit in the crowd.” This life-style aimed at inconspicuousness, a low profile in the heart of the busy imperial capital or other cities, and in the midst of the thriving neighborhoods.
2)Reclusion to a farm or village affirmed the Taoist principles of simplicity and naturalness while providing greater anonymity than in a city and a more favorable setting for reflection and solitude. The recluse venturing to the land often worked side by side with simple folk of modest interests. Thus the intellectual Song Sheng-zhai quit the city to become a shepherd, take up the zither, become adept at calligraphy, and live in obscurity while practicing his virtue.
3)Reclusion to obscure natural places by those called by tradition “scholars of mountains and forests” and “men of cliffs and caves.” These were the classic hermits of ancient China who disengaged not only from the empire but from society itself, including to some degree rural society, living in virtual isolation.
I opted for #2 not knowing consciously at the time what some other part of me needed. The decision has turned out to be a good one for many reasons.

The IMOS article is not that long and I urge everyone to read the whole thing. Check it out at this link.

The Hermitary blog is also very interesting. There is a section with many links to films about hermits that you can watch on Youtube or Vimeo. Decide for yourself if any of these strategies work for you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Clarifying to See Better

A stupid analogy because I cannot think of a better one right now is that when you first heat butter it is milky looking and then starts to bubble and until the bubbling stops you cannot see the bottom of the pan. This morning I saw the bottom of a couple pans.

The first one was thanks to a post over on Naked Capitalism where Yves Smith writes about one of the Right's favorite boobs and the left's Economic policy leader, Paul Krugman. The really interesting part of this post was the distinction between fiscal and monetary policy. Basically, Krugman and Summers argue in a NY Times article, for a couple things: First that since it is impossible to balance government spending we must inflate our way out of the budgetary mess we are in, and; Second, since there is no Real economic growth at this time, it makes sense to create economic bubbles. You should read the NY Times article Secular Stagnation, Coalmines, Bubbles, and Larry Summers so you know I did not make this up.

Back to fiscal vs monetary policy, once I understood how fiscal policy like running government deficits is the real culprit because it is trying to create economic growth through debt creation, which seems to be the only tool in the bag of policy-makers, then the current economic conditions around the world make more sense. Every government in the world seems to be creating debt though deficit spending (fiscal policy) and debasing their currency through central bank low interest rates (monetary policy). Makes me want to see if there is one western-style government not embarking on that path. Even the Swiss are debasing their currency now! The result of generating inflation is that individuals are the ones paying for this in reduced purchasing power. From Yves Smith.....
If you want to put it in more technical terms, what is happening is a large and sustained fall in what Keynes called the marginal efficiency of capital. Companies are not reinvesting at a sufficient rate to sustain growth, let alone reduce unemployment. Rob Parenteau and I discussed the drivers of this phenomenon in a New York Times op-ed on the corporate savings glut last year: that managers and investors have short term incentives, and financial reform has done nothing to reverse them. Add to that that in a balance sheet recession, the private sector (both households and businesses) want to reduce debt, which is tantamount to saving. Lowering interest rates is not going to change that behavior. And if you try to generate inflation in this scenario, when individuals and companies are feeling stresses, all you do is reduce their real spending (and savings power) and further reduce demand (and hence economic activity).
Steve Blumenthal came to the same conclusion in his weekly update. This sounds like the totally discredited trickle-down economic theory in different clothes. If you cannot do it politically with even lower taxes on the rich, then do it a different way with monetary policy.
“As shown in the charts below, the marginal effects of wealth increases on economic activity have been declining significantly. The Fed’s dilemma is that its policy is creating a financial market bubble that is large relative to the pickup in the economy that it is producing. If it were targeting asset prices, it would tighten monetary policy to curtail the emerging bubble, whereas if it were targeting economic conditions, it would have a slight easing bias. In other words, 1) the Fed is faced with a difficult choice, and 2) it is losing its effectiveness.
11.15 Chart 1

The basic issue is that quantitative easing is a much less effective tool when asset prices are high and thus have low expected returns than it is for managing financial crises.  That’s because QE stimulates the economy by (1) offsetting a panic by providing cash to the financial system when there’s a need for cash, and (2) by raising asset prices, and driving money from the assets they buy into demand and investment, creating a higher level of future economic activity.  So, the policy was particularly wise and most effective (in the sense of impact per dollar) at the height of the financial crisis when there was both a desperate need for cash and when extremely depressed asset prices were heavily weighing on demand and investment.
And, John Maudlin in a promotional article of his new book writes about this in a similar vein. John writes:
This concept is key to understanding current economic thinking. The belief is that it is demand that is the issue and that lower rates will stimulate increased demand (consumption), presumably by making loans cheaper for businesses and consumers. More leverage is needed! But current policy apparently fails to grasp that the problem is not the lack of consumption: it is the lack of income. Income is produced by productivity. When leverage increases productivity, that is good; but when it is used simply to purchase goods for current consumption, it merely brings future consumption forward. Debt incurred and spent today is future consumption denied.
So the Fed policy of loose money comes around at this point to destroy demand from consumers. While TARP may have been necessary at one point, clearly it is not helping now except to kick the can down the road through once again trying to increase debt in all sectors: individual, corporate and government. That seems to be the only economic tool policy makers will use.
Simply put, ultra-low interest rates mean that those who have saved money in whatever form will be getting less return on that money from safe, fixed-income investments. We're talking about rather large sums of money, as we will see. Ironically, this translates into a loss of consumption power when the Federal Reserve is supposedly concerned about consumption and requires increased savings at a time when the Fed is trying to boost demand. This is robbing Peter to favor an already well-off Paul.
Hope readers got the distinction between fiscal and monetary policy and why it is so important to understand the differences. If we only use monetary policy the result will be the loss of consumption and less demand. The only ones who win are financial institutions and already wealthy individuals. The rest lose because they are getting less return on safe fixed-income investments and inflation and the resultant decreased purchasing power hurts demand and makes most people poorer. And, the large sums of money Maudlin talks about - Pension Plans! Got one? Be concerned.

The other distinction is Nation and State. And, why this is important became clear today when trying to understand why governments will not reign in deficit spending for one thing. The concept can be applied to many other government policies that do nothing for the common person except make their lives worse. Over at Golem XIV in an article by David Malone he helps us understand the difference between Nation and State.
Our problem and their advantage is that it is deeply ingrained in us to see the State and the Nation as almost interchangeable. The very name, ‘The Nation State’ inclines us to believe that the State and Nation are one and therefore that any action taken by the State, no matter how harsh or unfair it might seem to us, must necessarily be for our good. It allows those who control the State to hide their narrow selfish interests behind a smokescreen of talk about the Nation.
David uses the example of the EU-US Trade talks portrayed in the media as a battle ground for governments to advance the interests of their citizenry. Who does it really help?
They, with the help of a largely supine and grovelling media, will claim to be there for you.  They will be decked out in flags and called by the names of our nations or national groupings, such as the EU. But the truth will be otherwise. Behind the national name plate a largely unseen machinery will be almost entirely corporate. Both sides will be there to seek advantage, not for you the people, not for the nations whose flags they use as camouflage , but for the corporations who pay them. The US delegation will seek advantage for US based global corporations and the EU delegation will seek advantage for EU based global corporations. Both sides will be hailed victorious.  The real question – very carefully never ever raised by the compliant media will be - who lost? And the answer, studiously unreported, will be the ordinary people of both sides.
Then he argues who does the NSA (US) and GCHQ (British) really work for? Is it The Nation as we are led to believe? Using Snowden's disclosures as an example.
But is it really National Security Mr Snowden compromised or State Security? When someone appeals to ‘National Security’ the unspoken assumption is that they are talking about your security and mine.  We, after all, are ‘the Nation’.  But I wonder if Mr Snowden might be more accurately described as having compromised the State’s security rather than the Nation’s. Which doesn’t sound nearly as good, does it? State security has a ring of the Stasi about it. And for good reason. Protecting the interests and security of the State is quite different from protecting the interests of the people who make up the Nation. One is about protecting you and me. The other is more about protecting the position, power and wealth of those who make up the State and its various organs of power. State security is about the security of the jobs and social postion of those who are ‘the State’. It is about the security of a particuar arrangement of power and those who benefit from that arrangement.  Which one does the NSA or GCHQ serve? Which did Mr Snowden really compromise by revealing the extent of the NSA’s and GCHQ’s indiscriminate and unlawful spying upon ordinary and innocent citizens?
Mr Malone challenges us to prove that the persecution of Snowden really helps the Nation. Our elected representatives are almost completely divorced from the internal running of the NSA and GCHQ. So, who do the NSA and GCHQ work for?
If we wish to hold on to the fiction that the NSA and GCHQ work for their respective Nations then how do we explain that the people we elect, even very senior members of the State, even within the government of the day, had NO idea what the NSA or GCHQ were doing? Certainly the NSA and GCHQ were financed by us, and draw their original legitimacy from us, but they no longer answer to those who we elect. So who do they answer to? To what are they loyal and to whom do they report?
And, here is why I have been thinking, writing, and communicating that the divisions between Pubs and Dems, liberals and conservatives, and Left vs Right are all artificial divisions to keep the voting public angry at the wrong supposed enemy and completely in the dark about the reality of the situation. This situation has been clear to me for sometime. I really like the way Mr Malone lays it out in the next section.
The old order was laid out from left to right: Communist to Libertarian. From those who felt the State was there to guarantee certain protections and provide a minimum of welfare and service, over to those who felt any intervention from the State was no more than an abuse of power by a group of self serving insiders. Largely this is still the range of thought and opinion. Those on the Left see the Free Market as the greatest danger to liberty, welfare, justice and fairness, and regard the State as our best protection against it. While on the Right the fears are exactly the same but the State is now the great danger and the market the best protection. Each side regards the other as hopelessly, even criminally, misguided. Each side sees the other advocating that which will bring disaster.
Into this sterile and suffocating tweedledumness a new ideology and power has grown. It is neither Libertarian nor Left, but has been called both. The Libertarians have seen how eagerly and constantly this new politics intervenes in and distorts the market and cries “Socialism”. Which, it has to be said, makes anyone who knows anything about Socialism gasp with amazement. Nevertheless you can read this ‘it’s socialism’ opinion in most of the right wing press and on most blogs where Libertarians comment, such as ZeroHedge or The Ticker.
On the other hand the Left sees the way the new politics intervenes on behalf of and protects the interests of the wealthy (The financial class and global corporations) doing nothing about tax avoidance, nothing to regulate the banks, insisting instead that the only answer is more free market, less regulation and austerity to be borne by those least able to bear it – and sees clear evidence that this new politics is right wing and libertarian.
Both sides seems only able to see things in terms of the labels and world view they are used to and as a consequence see nearly nothing at all. The truth, I suggest, is that we are at a moment when an entire cultural form is ending. At such times it is not one part or another, government or market, which corrupts and breaks, which betrays the values it was meant to embody and ceases to do the job for which it was created, it is all parts at once. All parts of our society have become corrupted.
We must move beyond the politics of the last century, seeking to blame all ills on a corrupt and captured State or alternatively on a corrupt, captured and rigged market. BOTH are true. Both are corrupt. Neither is working for us. A new elite exists in every nation, has control over every State but which has no loyalty to the Nation of people in which it exists any more than a tape worm is loyal to the creature in whose body it feeds and grows.
Nation vs State and Fiscal vs Monetary Policy. Understand how these distinctly different concepts are affecting us in very real ways. The general media, political and economic pundits, and politicians confuse the differences and keep us mad at artificial divisions like Pub/Dem, Left/Right, Conservative/Liberal instead of the real culprits who create and continue the problems the average person face.





Monday, November 4, 2013

Whose Fault Is It?

This past weekend while bicycle riding along in what most people would call a very aggressive paceline at around 28 mph two guys right in front of me got tangled up and crashed. It looked like one of those peloton crashes you would see in a pro bicycle race when bikes go flying into the air, people are sliding across the road, and then there is the sickening silence of someone not moving. And, as soon as people know that everyone is going to live the blame game starts. Why?

We had just left a regroup point at a local gas station, market and bathroom. There were three tandems and a group of about six riders on regular bikes who were pushing the pace. First everything is nice at around 21 mph and people are relaxed. Then it gets a bit more serous at 23 mph. The third tandem in line threw a chain and had to stop. That turned out to be the precursor of the crash - or was it really?

A gap opened up and the group behind the third tandem now had about 50 yards to close. The front six bikes and two tandems were really moving. It was taking a major effort of around 28 mph to see the gap start to close. I was on the front for a minute and then maxed out. A couple guys go by and then a few more. I bridge to them for about a minute and then realize it ain't happening for me so I start to back off. My unwillingness to go anaerobic for a longer time turns out fortuitous because a 15 foot gap to the small chase group in front of me has opened providing precious time for what comes next.

Then I hear that horrible sound of bikes on pavement, people yelling, and see the mayhem a half second away. While slamming my brakes on and skidding through the off-pavement gravel in-between the two guys and bikes on the ground with both wheels locked up the strangest thing happens. My right elbow seems to twitch ever so slightly and I get this message it does not want to be scraped up. Very weird.....

That forgotten, I slide to a stop and survey around me. One guy is laying on his back holding his wrist and people are asking if he is OK. It is obvious he is not and he has already immobilized himself. He is talking about what happened and that people were in that pace line that should not have been and answering questions about his well-being. One guy who acts like a medical professional is attending to him and asking him not to move until a better assessment can be made of his condition.

The other guy is walking around a bit dazed with blood coming out of his chin and elbow. All of sudden there is a loud bang. His front tire had rolled off the rim and the tube blows while we stand around trying to figure out what happened. That is when the blame game starts.

And, I am just as guilty as anyone saying something or silently thinking it. It seems obvious that someone was sort of maxed out physically trying to keep the acceleration. A little thing at 21 mph that would have been adjusted for and no one would have given a second thought to, now conspires at 28 mph to cause an accident because reaction times were slowed just that wee fraction of a second due to exhaustion and a faster speed necessitating even faster reactions.

If only the lead folks had not surged. Why did everyone have to push it just a couple miles out of the rest stop? Why didn't the lead group slow down? How come people obviously over their head did not pull out of the chase group? On and on and on.........

Only a few hours later when replaying the whole scene again did I realize my own compulsion to affix blame. And, it made me sad to think maybe someone accepted blame and then was feeling guilty. One guy ended up with scrapes and bruises. The other guy has a separated shoulder and a fractured wrist and supposedly will need surgery on the wrist. So, everyone lived but one has semi-serious injuries that he might bounce back from in a few months or could be dealing with for a longer time. Everyone on this big club ride of around 45 people was at least in their 30's with the majority in the 50 - 60 range. The guy that broke his wrist was probably in his late 50's around my age and I felt badly for him and part of me wanted to find someone to blame, like that would help him. Now I feel so stupid.

Is there a correct way to deal with these kinds of events? Do we accept it as fate? Should we figure out who to blame and then either educate them or ostracize them from club rides? Is it OK to just accept it happened and not think about it anymore? Why did my elbow talk to me while both brakes are locked up and I am thinking I am going to crash? Do we handle the next club ride differently by maybe setting up three groups to ride at different paces? Why are we taking bike riding so seriously?

Bike riding is supposed to be fun and this makes you question that. In the end, while eating my Italian dinner and enjoying the endorphin high of a 88 mile ride I felt guilty for not feeling guilty. What kind of mind game am I playing with myself? I don't have any answers right now.


Monday, October 7, 2013

iGoogle Reader Shut Down


If you are reading this post it is probably because you used iGoogle for aggregating your news feeds and the various blogs and websites you regularly visited. It is/was quite handy for putting all the new posts and news from those sources onto a single page that was easy to scan and then pick which stories you wanted to read. Today (10.7.2013) iGoogle said 25 days to shutdown. I am assuming that you have exported you current iGoogle settings in a XML file and now are looking for a site to upload them to. Sounds easy, but this has been a few months for me of trying different solutions.

Google stated that usage had declined and that was the reason they were pulling the plug. I really liked the ease of use and how it saved me time gathering updates from multiple sources. So, I looked at many, many blogs and websites that recommended various substitutes.

After trying many of them and getting pretty frustrated by multiple issues like: 1) Google exports your iGoogle page as a XML file and most of the replacement sites want OPML files to import your current settings 2) XML to OPML converters don't work 3) renaming a XML to OPML and trying to use it does not work 4) the replacement site did not update my feeds or 5) Replacement sites did not support uploading a list (XML or OPML) at all, I settled on uStart.org.

uStart was able to easily upload my iGoogle XML file. It was fairly easy to modify columns and look/feel, though not the best. And, well, it just worked.

Ighome had looked like the winner for a while but then stopped updating the feeds even though I had configured to update every 10 minutes. It also seems to be overloaded with slow web page loading problems. It could be a viable alternative down the road but did not accept my XML file either and forced me to load the feeds one at a time - I was part way through that when the performance and reliability issues started.

I tried ighome, netvibes, and myYahoo in earnest. I looked at several others and did not even try because they did not allow for importing your current settings or provided a daily list and did not use containers for segregating feeds which I like visually. I did not want to start all over setting up around 75 different feeds. For me, the simplicity of uStart.org made it the winner so far. The other nice thing about it was I could import my iGoogle XML file with all my feeds without even registering an account - that was nice!!! I could see right away that everything was there and then registered for an account.

If you want to check out various sources for ideas here are some.  Good luck and hope you don't start pulling your hair out and wanting to rip your own face off like I felt a few days working through this Google induced pain.

Edit 10.9.2013 - one of my friends found info that said uStart.org had been involved in some kind of browser home redirect issues back in May 2013. And, there are some virus detection software sites that warn people about uStart. I have been using it several days now and have had no issues. Apparently it is a French-based company and several French software companies have been involved in this kind of thing in the past. Whether this was guilt by association or uStart was actually involved I don't know. I can only vouch that at this time everything is fine. I will post an update if any issues develop. Right now, performance is good, I have not been asked to download any browser extensions or any other files, and everything is fine. I have not experienced any increase in SPAM that might be related to uStart having my email address.
Edit 10.14.2013 - still no issues with uStart.com hijacking my browser, requesting me to download extensions, or causing any computer mayhem.A couple of kind readers made suggestions that I checked out but did not switch to for the same reasons mentioned in this post.
Edit 11.20.2013 - uStart has not done anything to me yet and I consider it a decent alternative to iGoogle. It was certainly the easiest one for transferring my feeds to from iGoogle. I have gotten used to it and don't think about iGoogle anymore except when I see this post.
  1. 10 Google Reader Alternatives That Will Ease Your RSS Pain

    gizmodo.com/10-google-reader-alternatives-that-will-ease-your-rss-p-59...
    Jul 1, 2013 - All things you want from your Google Reader replacement. There's nothing too new here, but it's not busted either, and i'll come with a full suite ...

  2. Ask Engadget: best Google Reader replacement?

    www.engadget.com/2013/07/13/ae-google-reader-replacement/
    Jul 13, 2013 - We know you've got questions, and if you're brave enough to ask the world for answers, then here's the outlet to do so. This week's Ask ...

  3. R.I.P. Google Reader, Hello Four Best RSS-Reader Replacements ...

    techland.time.com/.../r-i-p-google-reader-hello-four-best-rss-rea...
    Jul 1, 2013 - Here are four ways to cure the Google Reader blues. ... Shutdown · A Cautiously Optimistic Slow Clap for Digg's Google Reader Replacement.

  4. ReplaceReader

    www.replacereader.com/
    Google Reader may be powering down as of July 1st, but that doesn't mean you ... We've been building a replacement that will be ready in a couple months.

  5. Google Reader Is Shutting Down; Here Are the Best Alternatives

    lifehacker.com/google-reader-is-shutting-down-here-are-the-best-alter-5...
    Jun 25, 2013 - Google is closing Google Reader's doors on July 1st, meaning you'll ... that you're already using a pretty good Google Reader replacement.

  6. 10 Great Google Reader Replacements | News & Opinion | PCMag ...

    www.pcmag.com › Product GuidesSoftwareInternetRSS Tools
    Aug 20, 2013 - These nine RSS feed readers all offer something different, whether it's speed, simplicity, social interaction, or DIY-level customization.

  7. Feedspot Offers A Solid Google Reader Replacement With Built-In ...

    techcrunch.com/.../feedspot-offers-a-solid-google-reader-replac...
    Jul 8, 2013 - Feedspot, the online RSS reader which jumped into action last summer following the removal of social features from Google Reader, is again ...



Saturday, October 5, 2013

How the shut-down will likely end

The latest from Brin and surprise - he is quoting a Fox News article and not to bash it! These are strange times. From Fox....  
"'Compromise,' to these demagogues, is to mandate that Democrats scrap President Obama’s signature domestic legislative accomplishment, which was passed by Congress, signed into law by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court and ratified by voters who returned its architect to the White House last November."

"Senate Democrats, of course, had been begging for a budget compromise for months – ever since the Senate passed its budget last spring. But Republicans rejected this attempt at compromise 18 times, refusing to allow the Senate and House of Representatives to go to a budget conference to hammer out a deal that would have put an end to this cycle of continuing resolutions," writes Julie Roginsky.
If you watch the news the last couple days and listen to the Pubs complain about the unwillingness of the Senate to have a budget conference, and have not really followed the story before, you could be forgiven for thinking the Pubs are the only ones wanting to compromise. In the end though, the Tea Party and those who have signed the Norquist Pledge have one thing on their mind and that is "....the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Anything else said contrary to that is political maneuvering. They are not kidding when they say their goal is to get rid of the government completely by drowning it. If you want to return to feudal times with warlords, princes, kings and such and have your AK-47 ready to defend yourself 24/7, then these are your folks. Am I exaggerating for effect with that statement? Make up your own mind. Listen carefully to what these people are saying. They are extremely emotional, not willing to listen to reason or science, and believe their righteousness justifies any means - that is a dangerous mindset to me.

I hope Brin's predictions on breaking the stalemate come through. We need Congress making changes that fix problems instead of just sitting on their hands like little kids taking their ball and going home. And, all this total BS about the shutdown saving money. In the last shutdowns, Congress voted to provide back pay for all federal workers so the shutdown turned into extra vacation time for federal workers. Tell me how that is a good thing except if you are a federal employee. So all Federal workers, have a nice paid vacation thanks to the Tea Party and radical Pubs! In the meantime, we taxpayers get less work out of the people paid to run the system for us.

CONTRARY BRIN: How the shut-down will likely end: Before I get to my forecast of how the Great Big US Government Shut-Down of 2013 will end... let's start with this surprising commentary...

Link to SojkasCall.......... http://sojkascall.blogspot.com/2013/10/how-shut-down-will-likely-end.html

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Real Story About The Washington DC Shutdown

This is incendiary talk from David Brin:
Despite all the pundit-ravings about a "civil war within the GOP," The 21st Century Republican Party remains (for now at least) the most tightly disciplined political force we have seen in American political life since the "solid south" of the old Dixiecrats, seventy years ago. Pundits tell us that discipline and the Hastert Rule are maintained by fear of Tea Party insurrections in next spring's GOP primary. Don't you believe the pundits. In fact, nothing happens in the Tea Party without say-so from Fox News. Fox is co-owned by Rupert Murdoch and several Saudi princes who have made their agenda clear. The government of the United States of America, which has functioned -- overall -- far better than anything else the world ever saw , helping to lead a consortium of other free nations and peoples to transform civilization for the better... that government and even the concept of "government" must be undermined, discredited and ultimately destroyed. It is the core, consistent narrative and one that a third of U.S. citizens now swallow as eagerly as babes do mother's milk. And hence, amid this re-ignited civil war, it is only proper to evoke Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, one more time. Recite it to your neighbors enthralled by the Murdochians. Watch them wince. So. Do not let the appearance of internal GOP strife fool you. All -- (or nearly all, so long as the Hastert Rule applies) -- is choreographed. Were these sane days, it would take just twenty House GOP members to break off and form a Grownup Conservative Caucus -- taking their chances with the inevitable Tea Party vengeance in their district primaries, next spring -- in order to negotiate with moderate democrats, as used to happen all the time, back in the 20th Century. They would do this for the sake of the nation, out of courage and love of country… and love for a version of conservatism that Barry Goldwater might recognize. (A deal to make entitlements more efficient, in exchange of elimination of some fat-cat tax breaks, has been on the table for two years. Those twenty are all it would take.) Alas, Rupert Murdoch and his partners have made clear their agenda to destroy Goldwater Conservatism in America… and thereupon all meaningful discourse.
For those not familiar with the Hastert Rule read this op-ed piece from CNN that explains it very clearly.  Read Brin's entire 10.1.2013 blog as he is on fire today and not taking any prisoners. Watch the linked video clips to get the full perspective.

Brin has done a masterful job of pulling together many stories that are in the news today. I have been trying to get more information on how and why the Saudis tried so hard to pull the US into conflict in Syria and have been largely unsuccessful. Brin provided a missing piece of the puzzle regarding Fox, The Tea Party, and the current promotion of taking the government apart with the Saudi ownership at Fox info. Maybe some other day I will figure out a little more about how Saudi Arabia influences US foreign policy decisions.

This has been a very interesting day that out of the ashes of my negativity regarding the government shutdown has come a wealth of understanding about how things really work. Read and watch all this a couple times if you are not familiar with the perspective. Cross-check the info and make up your own mind. Stop listening to the pundits and listen to your own analysis and see if you can push away any fear creeping in long enough to make your own decision.

On the positive side is the info Brin provided from his friend and one of the  investment advisers I follow and had read his writeup last week regarding an American economy emerging into a new upswing. Maudlin is not the only one saying this. Look at the data on that too. You might hate fracking and the ecological damage it has wrought in certain areas. There is no denying it is helping our economy.

Link to read this post at SojkasCall and comment.

Is Drifting Bad?

While looking for something else on a website, I came across this video and thought  it might make a good analogy for what is going in Washington DC yesterday and today. Being "adrift" seemingly was a bad state of affairs in my mind.

After watching the video I realized that being adrift can be a good thing. This took me back to the time in the late 70's when my wife and I first moved to the Bay Area and we saw islands floating in the sky when riding along Skyline Blvd and looking back over the foothills towards the ocean around the Page Mill intersection. It was one of the things that made that time in my life so magical.

Adrift can be a peaceful place and full of joy. Let's enjoy adrift and let the fools continue on their time and not ours.


Adrift from Simon Christen on Vimeo.


Government Of The People

Today there was a post over on David Brin's blog asking people to reread the Gettysburg Address and ponder the last sentence. Here is the last sentence: It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

For most of us, the part resonating today is ...government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Has it perished here in the USA? 

When our politicians in Washington DC behave like they did yesterday it makes one wonder.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

US Health Care Costs Explained

This seven minute video does a good job explaining why US healthcare costs are higher than all other countries in the world and busts some of the myths surrounding reasons and benefits of those high costs.