Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Three Nights in Philly"

"Three Nights in Philly"
By Joe Bageant

"A fellow expatriate told me recently when I left Belize, Central America, which I now consider my home: "America is a sticky place, Joe, hard to get out of again, even from a short visit. The everyday money and business stuff alone will trap you like flypaper." And that keeps ringing in my head during this current return to sell my house and fulfill my promotional obligations for the book I just published here. Which could take months.

But it's sticky in other ways too, some of them rooted in the hearts of its working class people. Last week I found myself in Philadelphia, a working class town if ever there was one. In this sprawl-and-mall age, it's surprising for non-metro people like me to run into whole neighborhoods of folks who are not full of suburban self-important horseshit and three-car garages, and when you do they always seem to be immigrant or working class neighborhoods. But then, maybe I was just around too many bland American "sluburbs" for too long before I skipped the country.

Old men see a lot of phantoms when they revisit the scenes of their youth. Philly is like that for me. I was stationed at the now-defunct South Philly Naval Base in 1965. And it was in roaming that city during off-duty hours that city I experienced my first intellectual awakening, or at least the first one that had other human participants. I hung out at places like the Artist's Hut or the Guilded Cage off Rittenhouse Square, learned of the folk music and peace protest movements and heard poetry read live by real poets for the first time.

The people introducing me to those things had a strange similarity, one I couldn't quite put my finger on. So one night during a very stoned conversation with Rachel, my newly acquired girlfriend, I asked just what the hell that similarity our circle of friends had was. "We're all Jewish, silly!" she replied. Until then, I'd thought Jews were some extinct people from the Bible. And so an intellectual life and scene was opened up for a country boy who was used to reading and thinking alone in a musty small town library, wondering if people like Marcuse and Genet were for real. But in 1965 America still offered my generation a world full of promise and growth. We drank cheap Chianti by candle light, then stuck candles in the empty bottles and talked of Bertrand Russell and world peace and played Odetta and Charlie Parker records. There was no telling just what might happen, even to a fundamentalist Christian raised redneck kid in 1965, in a sensual world so full of art, belief and promise.

Anyway, it was early April in Philly and I am copping a smoke in Philly's Italian Market with 66-year-old Fredo "Freddy" Vento. Freddy, like about half the older menfolk of the Italian Market, resembles Danny Aiello, but in work clothes. A butcher, Freddy sells everything from veal to "turkey parts" and whole skinned goats with the eyeballs still in the sockets. "The Latins like it that way and the tourists always stop to stare at 'em," he laughs as he spits the stub of his filterless Camel onto the sidewalk. We are talking about the fight game because in places like Philly and Kansas City you can still do that with no PC police to jump your ass. Philly is a real fight town. I've always liked boxing (though I watch the Latin American lightweights these days on Belizean TV, fighters with real moves, combinations and artfulness, none of the heavyweight tanks crashing together stuff) partly because I learned to like it from my dad, partly because it was the only athletic thing in the U.S. Navy I seemed to be good at - I'd watched a lot of combinations, footwork and moves with my dad, and practiced in the coal shed behind our rented dump in Winchester, Virginia. But also because it distills the most primal human struggle, skill under pressure, and sheer graveyard will. Boxing is life in the raw, and yeah, yeah, I know it causes brain damage. But so does nearly everything else I've enjoyed in my life, drugs being one, but divorce being the worst.

It's never a good idea for a writer or reporter to open conversation with a serious question. So I bait Freddy for conversation with the most cliche question I can come up with. "OK, who's the best fighter to come out of Philly?" "Well, no matta whatcha think of the guy, Sonny Liston was right up there, until he took that dive for the mob in the Clay rematch. Made a lotta mob bookies big dough. But Smokin' Joe was the best this town ever saw. Frazier took on Clay three times, beat him in the first bout and woulda beat him a second time if they'da let the fight go on. Even Ali said Frazier near killed him in that fight, and Ali didn't give nobody credit fer nothing. But now we got Chazz Witherspoon over in Sout' Philly. So look out!"

The Ventos have been living upstairs in the row houses over their shops or pushing carts on Ninth Street since the turn of the last century, when Tony Palumbo first brought Italian immigrants to what was then the outskirts of a city of brotherly love, which much preferred Quakers to wops. Freddy still lives in a condo a few blocks from where he was raised and went to St. Paul's school, and claims he has no beefs about the way America has treated him. He can remember when South Philly vocal recording groups practiced in the tile bathroom of the rec center for their appearances on American Bandstand, and even sang on one that never made Dick Clark's cut. "We came outta St. Paul's and went to work makin' maybe $55 bucks a week. On Friday you paid your bills, and then took your girl out for a date. It was a good enough life. Nobody was complaining about not getting a contract."

And today? "It's just about the same except that it's more expensive and I don't get laid as much. But who does? I got two kids through college; I sold my house and moved into a condo. So what the hell?" Guys like Freddy don't festoon the American marketplace with moral pieties about "ethical" capitalism and such crap. He says, "This country's been good to my family." He figures the war in Iraq is just a war in Iraq. "If they blew up Penn Center I'd'a felt the same way as New Yorkers." He was all for the war until we started losing. Now he has his doubts. "We got Soddom Hoosane. So let's just pull out and let 'em kill each other off."

He considers himself and his family among America's hard working small businessmen who helped, and continue to help, build this country, and he is right about that part (but then, so did slaves and so do Mexican ditch diggers.) But he is also an important prop for the Republicans' tax cuts for the rich and the elimination of the estate tax for wealthy elites. Freddy doesn't want to see the government take away the family business for taxes after he dies. Which was never likely anyway because even if his meat business were worth a million bucks, which it ain't, the tax would only have been on anything above that million and he would have 14 years to pay it off anyway. Nintey-eight percent of small businesses were exempt from inheritance taxes even before the tax was repealed, and you can guess who the non-exempt two percent were and still are. In fact, if I am reading the chart right, the two top brackets are now effectively eliminated from estate taxes. Freddy understands none of this; he just wants to pass the family business on and so, remains a staunch member of the Republican base on a "better safe than sorry" basis. The truth is that Freddy's business is the same as it was when his grandfather was whacking up veal cutlets on the same street: modestly profitable and unstable as hell during many years. But pure Italian Catholic guts and survivability (and I'd guess no few under the table dealings) along with the DNA of the immigrant dream of owning one's own business, keep vendors like Freddy getting up at 4 AM to work like dogs to keep the Italian pork roasts moving along Ninth Street on a cold morning such as this one.

Conservative as Freddy is though, he figures global warming is real: "Fish are expensive because they must be getting scarce," and he's "pretty sure it ain't because we ate 'em all. There's a lotta fish in the ocean." Then too, his daughter is a marine biologist. And on morality and capitalism, "Hey, you make money, you spend money. The big guys get first cut. What's left you get a little piece of after the crooks are done counting. Same as ever. But there's still plenty of oppatoonity for anybody who wants to work. Look at the Vietnamese and the Dominicans around here. They ain't hurtin' none."

Brokedown Moon Over the Nelson Algren Hotel: After a cold day at the Ninth Street market, I called and asked one of the town's literati to suggest an old hotel with some character. On her advice, I ended up at the Lowe's, a gorgeously restored art deco period place - at $200 dollars a night, plus $10 a day for a wireless connection. How much money do such people think writers make, for Christ sake? Anyway, it was too late to be probing Philly by cab for a different hotel. So, with the idea of knocking down a stiff belt before bedtime, I hit the lounge at Lowe's, where a bunch of the Empire's manicured Hugo Boss drones were buying $12 martinis and seducing perky blonde corporate bean counters on their expense accounts to the accompaniment of a fake jazz ensemble, whose every song sounded like Guantanamera, either speeded up or slowed down. Oh yes, now I remember why I left this country - unstomachable blind affluence.

Next day my luck changed. While freezing my cod off in Love Park trying to find a wireless connection on my laptop, I asked a Nation of Islam brother just where a poor writer might stay for under a hundred bucks, under fifty if possible, preferably close to downtown. He sends me to a hotel on Spruce Street, a mostly black place, a real Nelson Algren wet dream. Forty-five a night for the best room in the place, check out time is officially noon but as long as you don't stay into the next night no one cares. And if you do nobody will probably notice because they only clean the rooms after you've signed in and paid up front. A couple of old jazz men share a room here permanently; they played with Philly's own Trane and have the record jackets and clippings to prove it. Hookers run in and out day and night. A big mama cooks pigs' feet and red beans on a hot plate, and a sad-eyed fortyish white woman is stuffed into a crummy little room with her two kids, piles of blankets and toys and pizza boxes and a TV that actually works. She's dressed nicely in that cheap way of a working class woman either looking for a job or trying to pass for middle class at some workplace with no idea of her story, which, whatever it is, can't be very damned pretty. Then there is the gay couple living on the top floor jointly writing a romance novel, and whose wireless connection runs my laptop for free. Despite the crackheads screaming at each other outside on the street all night - I saw two of them kicking the living hell out of a guy just before I crapped out for the night, but he managed to get up and run before they finished the job - the hotel is completely safe inside, thanks to a 300-pound black dude in the lobby who keeps order, patrolling the halls all night with a baseball bat and a cell phone. Too bad there is no heat in my room.

So now it is 3:30 AM during my second night at the Algren, after more than a few drinks at the Pen and Pencil Club, Philly's oldest and only real press club. The old school kind of club that's open until 5 AM, where Danny, the P&P's bartender, doesn't get that concerned look when you knock back your ninth shot of vodka and your voice raises a dozen decibel points. "Hell," he says, if you're still around at 4 AM you'll see everybody here turn into werewolves." Nevertheless he has a guy stationed at the front door to see that you get a cab home if you need it, which I did. But until then I experienced more journalistic camaraderie than I've had since I was a reporter in the 1970s. Unfulfilling as our low carb, meatless media is today, there are plenty of real reporters and photogs, both old and young, who agree with you and me and the rest of the world about what is happening to America. They just can't get the truth into print these days and the only reason they still have jobs at all is because of their unions. As in: "I shot all day, froze my nuts off and got some really good local stuff, just so my 30-something boss could dump it and buy a generic photo from the AP for fifteen hundred bucks!"

Which is exactly why I got out of the newspaper business - because of its phantom objectivity, the digitized and telephonic ghost coverage (almost no newspaper reporters get out of their desk chairs nowadays), all those cloned photos of real events digitized into empty holographic commodities, then sold to the public as the truth about society and the world. Is it any wonder the American public doesn't have a clue about reality? Given the sheer crushing density of the mass hallucination assaulting our brains twenty-four hours a day, we're lucky we can even tie our own damned shoes in the morning.

But I did manage to do so, and when I checked out of the Algren I rode down the elevator with the guy who got the hell kicked out of him by the crackheads. He was dressed in what appeared to be a neatly pressed hotel doorman's uniform, or maybe a chauffeur's, and really didn't look too bad, considering what I'd seen happen to him the night before. "How ya doing, my brother?" I asked. "Fine. Happy to be alive on this great day our Lord has given us!" And I'll bet he was. But still, it ain't no way to live in what is supposed to be the richest, safest country in the world, the one that Freddy says has plenty of opportunity for a guy willing to go to work every day.

Providence and Prostitutes: Now I look in the mirror and see myself for what I am in this declining age where the virtual passes for the vital and Oprah is the national arbiter of American literature and morality. I'm a screwed up old guy from a generation caught between the Beats and the hippies. So I over-romanticize the gritty side of life. But Algren is dead, Bukowski is dead, Kerouac didn't hold up as real literature, and providence doesn't smile on America or Philadelphia like it did in 1965 when a lonely hillbilly sailor was introduced to live, fire-breathing poets in Rittenhouse Square and shared cheap wine and Trotsky's vision with an artistic Jewess on a June night. I never loved my country more than I did in those times of utter belief that change was possible, inevitable even. And I still I love my country and the very soil presently beneath my feet that hold the bones of my Virginia ancestors, who came here believing in an agrarian based liberty that would eventually become my inheritance as artistic freedom.

But I'll tell ya right now and I'll tell you straight up. If I could get a divorce from this country I would. And I've tried. But an American will always be an American, even if he or she escapes what is proving to be our terrible undoing, learns to be an honest citizen of this crumbling world which we alone did not destroy, and even learns to care with all his heart for the rest of humanity, starting with our own people. It's like loving the most cutthroat whore on the planet, one whose tits are bunker buster bombs and whose heart is in the Chase Manhattan bank vault. Her high crimes may have driven me to a foreign shore, but even from the grave I expect to be scanning God's black canopy for the ghosts of dead poets and Jefferson's dream of peaceful oat crops.”

"What's the Significance of Life? Who Are We?"

"What's the Significance of Life? Who Are We?" 
 by Meanings of Life

"Is human life just a dream, from which we never really awake, as some great thinkers claim? Are we submerged by our feelings, by our loves and hates, by our ideas of good, bad, beautiful, awful? Are we incapable of knowing beyond those ideas and feelings? Listen to Shakespeare and Joseph Conrad:
 ‧
"We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep…"

William Shakespeare, "The Tempest"

"A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea."
Joseph Conrad, "Lord Jim"

Is the reality we know a reality imposed to us by nature? Is the reality and the meaning of life a creation of men, such as music, or love or colors (science tells us that there isn't such things as music, harmony or colors in the physic world. Just traveling molecules: "There is not, external to us, hot or cold, but only different velocities of molecules; there aren’t sounds, callings, harmonies, but just variations in the pressure of the air; there aren’t colors, or light, just electro-magnetic waves," said H. Von Foerster.

Are we- and all living beings- just "survival machines, blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes", as Richard Dawkins states? Are we incapable of knowing beyond the frames imposed to us by nature? Is there any significance for life in a Universe of billions of stars that ignore us? Is there any significance for life in an Universe whose dimensions and nature overcome our understanding?

Listen to the words of Pascal, in the seventeenth century: "When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity that lies before and after it, when I consider the little space I fill and I see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I rest frightened, and astonished, for there is no reason why I should be here rather than there. Why now rather than then? Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time have been ascribed to me?"
We can’t avoid thinking of our existential condition, of the shortness of our lives, of the transitory nature of everything. We do it all the time we exist, in all societies. The brevity of life torments the human spirit. The proximity of death is "a source of grief during all our life," - Edgar Morin.

Let us meditate on the superior way with which Homer expressed our condition as human beings: "Insignificant mortals, who are as leaves are, and now flourish and grow warm with life, and feed on what the ground gives, but soon fade away and are dead."

Let us list the sad music springing out of the words of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor, who was also a philosopher, reflecting on the shortness of our lives: "Life is a campaign, a brief stay in a strange region." "Time is a violent torrent; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by, and another takes its place, before this too will be swept away."

These thoughts reach beyond epochs and frontiers, they plunge into the depths of our soul; they are imbued with a serene controlled sadness, associated with the awareness of our inability to overcome the brutal force of an unjust reality that crushes. In them lives the dignity of our conscience, our capacity of seeing beyond the present, of overcoming our humble origins, of assuming ourselves as the conscience of the living universe.

In them is also consubstantiated the strength of human art, of poetry, of beauty. They are a way of nullifying the smallness and insignificance of human beings, of raising us to a much higher level. They are well above the world that condemns human beings to death. In them we claim against the injustice present in the heart of life. In their way, they immortalize us."

From the astonishingly good "Meanings of Life" site:

"Meanwhile, On Mars..."

Click image for larger size.
“This is image of the Red Planet, snapped by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows blue sand dunes covering part of the Rabe crater, a 100-kilometre-diameter impact site in the planet's southern highlands. The dunes are an accumulation of basalt sands from the crater's floor, sculpted by Martian winds. This granular image reveals the thumbprint-like texture of the ridges, troughs and ripples formed there.”

Blue sand dunes? Looks like water to me... what do you see?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Musical Interlude: Deuter, “Black Velvet Flirt”

Deuter, “Black Velvet Flirt”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“A conjunction of comets is captured in this pretty star field from the morning of September 17. Discovered in July by a robotic sky survey searching for supernovae, comet C/2017 O1 ASASSN is at the lower left. The visible greenish glow of its coma is produced by the fluorescence of diatomic carbon molecules in sunlight. Nearing its closest approach to the Sun, the binocular comet was only about 7.2 light-minutes from Earth. 
Click image for larger size.
In the same telescopic field of view is the long-tailed, outbound comet C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS at the upper right, almost 14 light-minutes away. Many light-years distant, the starry background includes faint, dusty nebulae of the Milky Way. The well-known Pleiades star cluster lies just off the top right of the frame.”

Edward Abbey, "Benedicto"

"Benedicto"

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you - beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”
- Edward Abbey

The Poet: Matthew Arnold, "Growing Old"

"Growing Old"

"What is it to grow old?
Is it to lose the glory of the form,
The lustre of the eye?
Is it for beauty to forego her wreath?
Yes, but not for this alone.

Is it to feel our strength -
Not our bloom only, but our strength - decay?
Is it to feel each limb
Grow stiffer, every function less exact,
Each nerve more weakly strung?

Yes, this, and more! but not,
Ah, 'tis not what in youth we dreamed 'twould be!
'Tis not to have our life
Mellowed and softened as with sunset-glow,
A golden day's decline!

'Tis not to see the world
As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,
And heart profoundly stirred;
And weep, and feel the fulness of the past,
The years that are no more!

It is to spend long days
And not once feel that we were ever young.
It is to add, immured
In the hot prison of the present, month
To month with weary pain.

It is to suffer this,
And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel:
Deep in our hidden heart
Festers the dull remembrance of a change,
But no emotion- none.

It is - last stage of all -
When we are frozen up within, and quite
The phantom of ourselves,
To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost
Which blamed the living man."

- Matthew Arnold

Chet Raymo, “The Radiance Of What Is”

“The Radiance Of What Is”
by Chet Raymo

“In the summer of 1936, as I nestled snug in my mother's womb, Fortune magazine sent the young writer James Agee and the photographer Walker Evans to rural Alabama to report on how the Great Depression was affecting the poorest of the poor. For eight weeks they lived with three impoverished sharecropper families. (Pictured below is the family of Bud Fields. Click to enlarge.)


Their combined work never appeared in Fortune, but it was published as a book- “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”- in 1941. The book was not an immediate success, but decades later, after Agee won a posthumous Pulitzer for "A Death in the Family", it found a new audience and eventually a place in the American canon of literary and photographic masterpieces.

The book has a strange, difficult and self-lacerating Preamble in which Agee tries to understand what it is that he and Evans have done. Does art report or create? Have the two artists exploited the families they reported on? How do we discern the truth when we are burdened with so many limitations, preconceptions and personal agendas? How do we make ourselves neutral channels for what is and not for what we wish it to be? Is it possible to be "neutral"? Is it desirable?

These are questions that science and art struggle with perennially, each in its own way. These are questions that each of us should ask about our own constructions of reality. Agee writes:
For in the immediate world, everything is to be discerned, for him who can discern it, and centrally and simply, without dissection into science or digestion into art, but with the whole of consciousness, seeking to perceive it as it stands: so that the aspect of a street in sunlight can roar in the heart of itself like a symphony, perhaps as no symphony can: and all of consciousness is shifted from the imagined, the revised, to the effort to perceive simply the cruel radiance of what is.

Agee professes his desire to suspend imagination, so that "there opens before consciousness, and within it, a universe luminous, spacious, incalculably rich and wonderful in each detail, as relaxed and natural to the human swimmer, and as full of glory, as his breathing."

A marvelous aspiration. But impossible, of course. Science strives mightily for "objectivity." The artist too wants to reveal something real and wonderful, a cruel radiance. And always there, between our eyes and the world, is the imagination. And why not? It is the imagination that defines our humanity, the channel by which the world becomes conscious of itself. We read “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” or look at Evans' photographs, and we see what is and what should be, creation roaring in the heart of itself and in our hearts too.”

"The Essential Thing..."

"The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. 
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
- Pierre de Courbertin

The Daily "Near You?"

Longview, Texas, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"O Brave New World..."

"How many goodly creatures are there here! 
How beauteous mankind is!
 O brave new world, That has such people in't."
- William Shakespeare, "The Tempest"

And then reality sets in...

“The ‘Social Contract’ Is a Fraud”

 
“The ‘Social Contract’ Is a Fraud”
by Bill Bonner

“There are many theories to explain government. Most are nothing but scams, justifications and puffery. One tries to put something over on the common man, the other claims it was for his own good, and the third pretends that he'd be lost without it. Most are not really "theories" at all but prescriptions, blueprints for creating the kind of government the "theorist" would like to have. Not surprisingly, the blueprints flatter his intellect and engage his imagination.

The "social contract," for example, is a fraud. You can't have a contract unless you have two willing and able parties. They must come together in a meeting of the minds - a real agreement about what they are going to do together. But what is the "social contract" with government? There was never a meeting of the minds. The deal was forced on the public. And now, imagine that you want out. Can you simply "break the contract"? You refuse to pay your taxes and refuse to be bossed around by TSA agents and other government employees. How long would it be before you got put in jail?

What kind of contract is it that you don't agree to and can't get out of? They can dress it up, print out a piece of paper, have a solemn ceremony in which everyone pretends it is a real contract. But it's not worth the paper it's not written on. Also, what kind of a contract allows for one party to unilaterally change the terms of the deal? Congress passes new laws almost every day. The bureaucracy issues new edicts. The tax system is changed. The pound of flesh they got already wasn't enough; now they want a pound and a half!

Here are the critical questions: Why do we let other people tell us what to do; are we not all equal? What is the purpose of government? What does it cost, and what benefits does it confer?

A theory should explain something without reference to something else. That is, a metaphor doesn't work. It's just a description. If you say that government is a kind of "social contract," you are merely describing how it seems to you or what you think it might be comparable to.

Let's try a simpler insight: Government is a natural phenomenon, an expression of power relationships, in which some people seek to dominate others by force. These dominators gather "insiders" together so that they can take money, power and status away from other people, the "outsiders." Many people think that government provides some service. That is true, but it is incidental. Governments often deliver the mail. But they don't have to. They would still be governments even if they didn't control the Post Office.

And what if they didn't have a department of inland fisheries, or a program to teach retarded Democrats to count to 20? They would still be in the government business, and still have their helicopters, chauffeurs and expense accounts. But if they lost control of the police or the army, it would be an entirely different matter. Force is the essence of government, not a decorative detail. Without armies and police, they would no longer be governments, but voluntary associations like the Kiwanis Club or the Teamsters Union.

In 2016, the US faced a major presidential election. Several people came forward offering to take charge of the US government. What exactly were they going to take charge of? Government is a fact. It exists. It is as common as stomach gas. It is as ubiquitous as lice and as inescapable as vanity. But what is it? Why is it? And what has it become?

We know very little about the actual origins of government. All we know, and this from the archeological records, is that one group often conquered another. There are skeletons more than 100,000 years old, showing the kind of head wounds that you get from fighting. We presume this meant that "government" changed. Whoever had been in charge was chased out or murdered. Then, someone else was in charge. Tribal groups, or even family groups for that matter, probably had "chiefs." They could have been little more than bullies or perhaps respected elders.

Over the millennia, there were probably as many different examples of primitive "government" as there were tribes. Some elected their leaders. Some may have chosen them randomly, for all we know. Many probably simply conferred leadership by consensus. Some probably had no identifiable leaders at all. But it seems to be a characteristic of the human race that some people want to be in charge, and many people want someone to be in charge of them.

In adversity, there was probably an advantage to having a leader. Hunts were often collective enterprises. There were also group decisions to be made, about how food was stored up or rationed out, for example, that would affect the survival of the whole group. Under attack from another group, a strong, able leader could make the difference between life and death.

We can guess that people enter into leader/follower roles today because they are programmed for it by evolution. Those who can't or won't, well, perhaps they died out many millennia ago.

We don't have to look back to the last glacial period to see what happens in small political units. We can see them today. They are all around us. Every church has its governing board. Every community has some form of government. Every corporation, group, club, every place where humans get together seems to develop rules and power relationships. Leaders arise. Informal groups typically yield to the strong personality. Juries try to control it. Families resist it. Dinner parties try to avoid it. But that's just the way it is. Some people seek to dominate. Others like being dominated.

Trouble is, there is usually more than one person or one group that wants to do the dominating. This leads to conflict. Treachery. Murder. Rivalry. And elections. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We're talking about the origins of government and trying to guess what they were like. On a small scale, we conclude, governments are both extremely variable in form and extremely limited in scope. That is, how much governing can you get away with in a small group? Not much. You can boss people around, but they won't take too much bossing. And there is always a rival bosser who is ready to topple the big boss if he should lose his popular support.

In a tribal setting, we imagine that the strongest, fiercest warrior might have been able to set himself up as the governing authority. But he could be stabbed in the back as he slept, or even shot with an arrow in a "hunting accident." Even in the best of circumstances, his reign wouldn't last much longer than his own strength. In a small town, government proceeds tolerably well. There is not much distance between governors and the governed. The latter know where the former live, and how they live, and how little difference there is between them. If the governors overreach, they are likely to find themselves beaten in the next election, or in the middle of the street.

But as the scale increases, as the distance between the governed and the governors increases, and as the institutional setting grows and ages, government becomes a bigger deal. More formal. More powerful. It can begin governing more grandly.

The first large scale, long-term government we know about was in Egypt. After the unification of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms in about 3,150 BC, the dynastic period began. It continued for two millennia, not ending until the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 BC. We don't know exactly how government worked during those many centuries, but we know that a theory of government arose out of them. At the time, it was not considered a theory at all, but a fact. The ruler was divine. A god.

As a theory, it is a good one. It answers the question: Why should you take orders from another human being? In Ancient Egypt, the question didn't arise. Because Pharaoh was not another human being. He was something else. Precisely what he was, or what people thought he was, is not clear. But the archeological record shows that he was treated as though he was at least a step or two higher up on the ladder than the rest of us. If not a full god, he was at least a demi-god, on the mezzanine between Earth and heaven.”

"The Sandcastle"

"The Sandcastle"
By Jeff Thomas

"The decline from democracy to tyranny is both a natural and inevitable one. That’s not a pleasant thought to have to consider, but it’s a fact, nonetheless. In every case, a democracy will deteriorate as the result of the electorate accepting the loss of freedom in trade for largesse from their government. This process may be fascism, socialism, communism or a basket of “isms,” but tyranny is the inevitable endgame of democracy. Like the destruction of a sandcastle by the incoming tide, it requires time to transpire, but in time, the democracy, like the sandcastle, will be washed away in its entirety.

Why should this be so? Well, as I commented some years ago, “The concept of government is that the people grant to a small group of individuals the ability to establish and maintain controls over them. The inherent flaw in such a concept is that any government will invariably and continually expand upon its controls, resulting in the ever-diminishing freedom of those who granted them the power.” 

Unfortunately, there will always be those who wish to rule and there will always be a majority of voters who are complacent enough and naïve enough to allow their freedoms to be slowly removed. This adverb “slowly” is the key by which the removal of freedoms is achieved. The old adage of “boiling a frog” is that the frog will jump out of the pot if it’s filled with hot water, but if the water is lukewarm and the temperature is slowly raised, he’ll grow accustomed to the temperature change and will inadvertently allow himself to be boiled.

Let’s have a look at Thomas Jefferson’s assessment of this technique. “Even under the best forms of Government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” Mister Jefferson was a true visionary. He knew, even as he was penning the Declaration of Independence and portions of the Constitution, that his proclamations, even if they were accepted by his fellow founding fathers, would not last. He recommended repeated revolutions to counter the inevitable tendency by political leaders to continually vie for the removal of the freedoms from their constituents.

Around the same time that Mister Jefferson made the above comment, Alexander Tytler, a Scottish economist and historian commented on the new American experiment in democracy. He’s credited as saying, “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.” 

So, was each of the above gentlemen throwing a dart at a board, or did they each have some kind of crystal ball? Well, actually, neither. Each was a keen student of history. Each knew that the pattern, by the end of the 18th century, had already repeated itself time and time again. In fact, as early as the fourth century BC, Plato had quoted Socrates as having stated to Adeimantus, “Tyranny naturally rises out of democracy and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery comes out of the most extreme form of liberty.” 

Today, much of what was called the “free world” only half a century ago has deteriorated into a combination of residual capitalism, which has been largely and  increasingly buried by socialism and fascism. (It should be mentioned that the oft-misinterpreted definition of “fascism” is the joint rule by corporate and state – a condition that’s now manifestly in place in much of the former “free” world.)

Today, many people perceive fascism as a tyrannical condition that’s suddenly imposed by a dictator, but this is rarely the case. Fascism is in fact a logical step. Just as voters succumb over time to the promises of socialism, so a parallel decline occurs as fascism slowly replaces capitalism. Fascism may appear to be capitalism, but it’s the antithesis of a free-market. As Vladimir Lenin rightly stated, “Fascism is capitalism in decline.”

Comrade Lenin understood the value of fascism for political leaders. Whilst he retained a close relationship with New York and London bankers and a healthy capitalist market was tapped into for Soviet-era imports, he was aware that his power base depended largely on denying capitalism to his minions.

So, from the above quotations, we may see that there’s been a fairly erudite group of folks out there who have commented on this topic over the last 2500 years. They agree that democracies, like sandcastles, never last. They generally begin promisingly, but, given enough time, any government will erode democracy as quickly as the political leaders can get away with it and the progression always ends in tyranny.

We’re presently at a major historical juncture – a time in which much of the former free world is in the final stages of decay and approaching the tyranny stage. At this point, the process tends to speed up. We can observe this as we see an increase in the laws being passed to control the population – increased taxation, increased regulation and increased promises of largesse from the government that they don’t have the funding to deliver.

When any government reaches this stage, it knows only too well that it will not deliver and that, when the lie is exposed, the populace will be hopping mad. Therefore, just before the endgame, any government can be expected to ramp up its police state. The demonstrations by governments that they’re doing so are now seen regularly – raids by SWAT teams in situations where just a small number of authorities could handle the situation just as well. Displays of armed forces in the street, including armoured vehicles, in instances of disruption.

In London, Ferguson, Paris, Boston, etc., the authoritarian displays have become ever-more frequent. All that’s now necessary is a series of events (whether staged or real) to suggest domestic terrorism in several locations at roughly the same time. A state of national emergency may then be declared “for the safety of the people.” It’s this justification that will assure the success of tyranny. Historically, the majority of people in any county, in any era, choose the illusion of safety over freedom. As John Adams was fond of saying,“Those who would trade freedom for safety will have neither.”

From this point on, it would be wise for anyone who lives in the EU, US, UK, etc. to watch events closely. If a rash of “domestic terrorism” appears suddenly, it could well be the harbinger that the government has reached the tipping point – when tyranny under the guise of “protecting the safety of the people” is inaugurated.

The most essential take-away here is that, although some may object (even violently), the majority of the people will trade their freedom for the promise of safety.”

"How It Really Is"

"Uncle Sam vs. Russia in Eastern Syria: the Nightmare Scenario"

"Uncle Sam vs. Russia in Eastern Syria:
 the Nightmare Scenario" 
By Mike Whitney

"The impending collapse of ISIS has touched off a race for territory in the oil-rich eastern part of Syria pitting US-backed forces against the Russian-led coalition of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. This is the nightmare scenario that everyone wanted to avoid. Washington and Moscow’s armies are now converging on the same area at the same time greatly increasing the probability of a conflagration between the two nuclear-armed superpowers. The only way a clash can be avoided is if one party backs down, which seems increasingly unlikely.

The situation can be easily explained. The vast swath of territory captured by ISIS is steadily shrinking due to the dogged perseverance of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) which has liberated most of the countryside west of the Euphrates River including the former ISIS stronghold at Deir Ezzor, a critical garrison at the center of the fighting. ISIS is also getting pressure from the north where the US-backed SDF is pounding their capital at Raqqa while deploying troops and tanks southward to the oil fields in Deir Ezzor province.

Washington has made it clear that it wants its proxy-army to control the area east of the Euphrates establishing a soft partition between east and west. The US also wants to control Deir Ezzor’s vast oil resources in order to provide a reliable revenue stream for the emergent Kurdish statelet.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad has said many times that he will never agree to the partitioning of the country. But the decision will not be made by Assad alone. His coalition partners in Moscow, Beirut and Tehran will also help shape the final settlement. As far as Putin is concerned, it seems extremely unlikely that he’d risk a protracted and bloody war with the United States simply to recapture every square inch of Syrian territory. The Russian president will probably allow the US to keep its bases in the northeast provided that critical areas are conceded to the regime. But where will the line be drawn, that’s the question?

The US wants to control the area east of the Euphrates including the lucrative oil fields. This is why they deployed troops from the SDF southward even though they’re still needed in Raqqa. Earlier in the week, it looked like the Syrian Army had a leg up on the SDF as troops and armored vehicles crossed the Euphrates headed east to the oil fields. But reports that appeared late Thursday indicate that the SDF has beaten them to the punch. This is from South Front: “On Thursday, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured Tabiyeh and al-Isba oil fields in the northwestern Deir Ezzor countryside, according to pro-Kurdish sources. If these reports are confirmed, the SDF will be in control over a half of Syria’s oil reserve. Moreover, that will mean that the SDF at least partly blocked the SAA way on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river.” (“Syrian Democratic Forces Capture Key Oil Fields In Deir Ezzor”, South Front)

This is a major setback for the Russian coalition. It means that the SAA backed by the Russian Airforce will have to fight a group which, up to this point, has been an ally in the war against ISIS. Now it’s clear that the mainly-Kurdish SDF is no ally, it’s an enemy that wants to steal Syria’s resources and carve a state out of its eastern flank.

The news about the SDF’s arrival at the oil fields came just hours after the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov issued a terse warning to the US and SDF that Russia would retaliate if  SAA positions were attacked again by SDF mortar or rocket fire. Quote: “Russia unequivocally told the commanders of US forces in Al Udeid Airbase (Qatar) that it will not tolerate any shelling from the areas where the SDF are stationed. Fire from positions in regions [controlled by the SDF] will be suppressed by all means necessary.”

In retrospect, it looks like the SDF had already decided to make a clean break with the government leaving no doubt of where they stood. Washington is using the SDF to seize the oil fields and to claim to the entire east side of the Euphrates for its own. There’s no doubt that these combat units of the SDF are accompanied by US Special Forces who are providing critical communications, logistic and tactical support. This operation has Washington’s fingerprints all over it.

On Friday morning, loyalist forces led by the 5th Assault Corps ISIS Hunters, established full control over Khusham village on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River near Deir Ezzor city. The strategically-located village blocks a key road linking the area held by the SDF to the Omar oil fields.

Get the picture? US-backed forces and Russian coalition members are now operating cheek-to-jowl in the same theatre trying to seize the same oil-rich scrap of land. This has all the makings of a major head-on collision.

Putin is a cautious and reasonable man, but he’s not going to hand over Syria’s oil fields without a fight. Besides, Assad needs the oil receipts to finance the rebuilding of his decimated country. Equally important, he needs the territory east of Deir Ezzor to for an overland route connecting Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Tehran, the so-called Arab Superhighway. Putin’s job is to glue as much of the country together as needed to create a viable state. So while he may allow the SDF and US military to occupy parts of the northeast, he’s not going to surrender crucial resources or strategically-located territory.

So what does it all mean? Does it mean that Russia will support Assad’s attempts to liberate the oil fields even if it could trigger a broader war with the United States? Yes, that’s exactly what it means. Putin doesn’t want a slugfest with Uncle Sam, but he’s not going to abandon an ally either. So there’s going to be a confrontation because neither party is willing to give up what they feel they need to achieve success.

So there you have it. As the standoff begins to take shape in east Syria, the two rival superpowers are preparing themselves for the worst. Clearly, we have reached the most dangerous moment in the six year-long war.”

"Fukushima Update: 15,325.2 Hiroshima Bombs Today, More Tomorrow"

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
- Shiva

Updated September 23, 2017: Fukushima Equals 15,325.2 Hiroshima Bombs Today, More Tomorrow; There is No Place On Earth to Escape the Rad: The 3 melted-through cores of the destroyed reactors, now melted together into a single "corium" totaling over 600 tons, at Fukushima daily release the radioactive equivalent of 6.45 Hiroshima bombs directly into the atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean. As of September 23, 2017 - 2,376 days since the disaster began - this equals the detonation of 15,325.2 Hiroshima atomic bombs and it is still going strong, with no end in sight, considering that the half-life of uranium-238 is about 4.47 billion years and that of uranium-235 is 704 million years. There is no technology on this planet to deal with this situation. There are only 336 cities on Earth with more than one million people. That is the equivalent of 45.61 Hiroshima atomic bombs apiece. Now add a minimum of 600 tons per day of highly radioactive ground and "coolant" water flowing directly into the Pacific Ocean, as it has for the last 2,376 days. Do your own research, consider and see with your own eyes the many mass die-off videos on YouTube. Verify all the information, and, as always, draw your own informed conclusions as to the consequences. - CP

"Your Radiation This Week, September 23, 2017"
by Bob Nichols

"YRTW ELE is published every two weeks on Saturday. 
The next publication date is October 7, 2017 on the Road to Extinction."

"First thing, grasp the difficult concept that this is an ELE or Extinction Level Event. The deadly meltdown and dispersion of radioactive fuel throughout the world is on-going to this day. There is no escaping our fate, there are no solutions. No one is exempt. The radioactive particles are all over the world now. The Rad lethality will continue to increase because that is what Rad lethality does. The simple reason is some of the uranium decays to plutonium. When that happens the Rad count increases. Once set free, the change cannot be altered or stopped by anyone or anything. The Rad is the ultimate power and its mission is to kill You.

Lethality: There are 1,946 radioactive isotopes according to the Oak Ridge Nuclear Weapons Lab. In the Earth’s atmosphere all are produced by nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. There are no other sources. Lethality is the power to kill and injure. It exists and is measured by humans in deaths and in calculations. The perfectly odd thing about radiation is the Lethality goes up while the radioactivity goes down. That has killed many a person who only counted the radioactivity. This is perfectly logical when you recognize radioactive Isotopes change from one Isotope to another for billions of years. The Isotope Uranium changes to Plutonium and many others. Plutonium is the ultimate killing machine, so bad that the Medical Director of the Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab, Dr. John Gofman, said “Plutonium 239 is the most dangerous substance in the universe.”

All of life on Earth is radioactive by now and it only took about 70 years. This is a planetary Death Sentence for all. Everyone is included. There is no way out. There is nothing we can do to stop it. The Rad will take us all out. Yeah, that includes all of us; plus the life driving around in our air, lakes, rivers and oceans. The Rad also nails the long lived remnants of the dinosaurs; y’know, the birds. They don’t have a prayer. All of us are included; none are left out. That is reality, anything else is just wishful thinking or a purposeful lie. The amount of Rad in the air now dooms Humanity to a relatively quick extinction. Done in by our own war toys, how moronic is that?! I can’t say it any plainer than that." 
When posted, Bob Nichols' current “Your Radiation This Week”
 report can be viewed here:

Total Gamma Radiation 2017.3 Year to Date USA - 
WITH USA ANNUAL RAD TOTALS SINCE 2016
Normal Radiation is 5 to 20 CPM. 50 CPM is an alert level.
"2017 Year-To-Date Gamma Radiation Numbers For 98 Cities"
by Bob Nichols
"I added a new measurement that will help residents understand the Rad. The Rad is with us all 24/7 constantly. It never goes away. It is better to know what the Rad level is than to not know. Be prepared for a shock, these Year to Date totals are really big radiation numbers. Colorado Springs, Colorado is number one in the US right now having endured 46,136,977 Gamma CPM, or Counts per Minute, since January 1, 2017." Table of Poisoned American Cities, Total Gamma Radiation Year to Date, CPM and nanoSieverts by City and State can be viewed here:
"Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, 100 miles offshore of Fukushima: "During that March 13 phone call, Cleveland wrote, Troy Mueller - the deputy administrator for naval reactors at the US Department of Energy - said the radiation was the equivalent of “about 30 times what you would detect just on a normal air sample out at sea.” “So it's much greater than what we had thought,” Mueller reportedly warned other American officials after taking samples on the Reagan. “We didn't think we would detect anything at 100 miles.” After Mueller made that remark, according to Cleveland’s transcript, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman asked him if those levels were “significantly higher than anything you would have expected.” He responded yes. When Poneman later asked Mueller, “How do the levels detected compare with what is permissible?” Mueller said those on the scene could suffer irreversible harm from the radiation within hours. “If it were a member of the general public, it would take- well, it would take about 10 hours to reach a limit,” he said. At that point, Mueller added, “It’s a thyroid dose issue.” If people are exposed to levels beyond the Protective Action Guideline threshold released by the Energy Department, Cleveland acknowledged in his report, radiation could have ravaged their thyroid glands."

"German Analysis of Certain Isotopes after Meltdown: Hold on to your hat. In 1992 Germany calculated that in reactor meltdowns like Fukushima Daiichi the radioactive isotope Strontium 90 would aggressively poison the environment for 109.2 years and then decline slowly over the next 273 years. Of course, we will ALL be long dead by then. Other deadly Rad isotopes put Strontium 90’s generous life span to shame. The German study is here for those brave enough to tackle it. Source: The IAEA: Dispersion of radionuclides and radiation exposure after leaching by groundwater of a solidified core-concrete melt by Bayer, A.; Tromm, W.; Al-Omari, I. (Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe (Germany)) from 8. International congress of the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA8)"
"What We Know Now about Fukushima" 
by Bob Nichols

"Here is what was known 75 days after reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactor Plant started a disastrous and lethal nuclear meltdown on March 11, 2011:

• March 11, 14:46, a One Million Kiloton Earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter Scale hammered Japan off-shore near the six Japanese reactors. The reactors attempted to shut down automatically when electronic sensors detected the earthquake. The huge earthquake dropped the reactors three feet, moved Japan 8 inches to the West and altered the tilt of the Axis of planet Earth.

• March 11, about 15:30, the giant Earthquake caused a tsunami up to 30 meters (98.4 Ft) high washed away all the fuel tanks for the reactors Emergency Generators and all the reactors’ outside electrical feeds. This was the Death Blow to the reactors. The six Fukushima Daiichi reactors were dead in the water and their fate sealed. Without an external source of electricity for the water pumps and hot reactors, they are just so much radioactive scrap iron – good for nothing. The internal temperature of the reactors started climbing immediately.

• March 11, about 18:00, only two and a half hours later, multiple reactor cores started melting down as the reactors internal temperatures skyrocketed to the melting point of uranium and beyond – a measured 1,718 Deg C (3,124.4 Deg F) past the melting point.

Uranium melts at 1,132.2 Deg C (2,069.9 Deg F.) The internal reactor temperatures reached at least 2,850 Deg C, (5,162 Deg F.) The millions of 1 mm Uranium fuel pellets in the reactors and in the core pools had no defense at all without the powerful water pumps and millions of gallons of cooling water against those temperatures.

The Uranium pellets simply melted forming a white hot lava-like radioactive uranium isotope blob that then burned through the high temperature steel around the graphite seals of the General Electric Mark 1 Reactor Control Rods at the bottom of the American submarine-based reactor design of US Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover, now deceased. (General Electric copied the US Government financed Navy nuclear reactor design for many commercial nuclear reactors.) The radioactive blobs trickled together to form a huge, highly radioactive, burning lava blob like that of Chernobyl, called a "corium".

The corium is releasing as much as a TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) measured 10 Quadrillion (10,000 Trillion Bq) radioactive counts per second of deadly radioactive smoke particles into the Earth’s atmosphere. The invisible, killing radioactive smoke is already all over the Northern Hemisphere and everyone in it – each and every one – is radiologically contaminated. Note that the lethality of radioactive reactor cores goes up the first 250,000 years they are out of the reactor – not down.

This much is known. All radioactive exposures are cumulative for each human, animal and plant. What’s more, mutated genetic codes are passed on to offspring forever. This means all Japanese and all Northern Hemisphere inhabitants are suffering internal radioactive contamination from Fukushima Daiichi reactors already."

Fukushima Equals 3,000 Billion Lethal Doses: Dr Paolo Scampa, a widely know EU Physicist, single handedly popularized the easily understood Lethal Doses concept. “Lethal Doses” is a world wide, well understood idea that strips Physics bare and offers a brilliant, understandable explanation for all the physics gobbledygook Intelligence agencies and their respective governments use to disguise the brutal truths of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster. Three thousand billion (3,000,000,000,000) (3 Trillion) Lethal Doses of Radiation means there are 429 Lethal Doses chasing each and every one of us on the planet, to put it in a nutshell."

A Search of this blog will reveal many posts about Fukushima, covered since day one.