Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Higher Intelligence Quiz

Aleister Crowley's Fool Tarot Card

Mythic themes with enduring young charms are made sometimes deliberately ambiguous, and why? "To force our contemporary domesticated primates into performing a most unmammalian task: learning to think for themselves." -- Robert Anton Wilson

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The Higher Intelligence Quiz

By Robert Anton Wilson

1. Do you believe the concept of Higher Intelligence is a useful concept?

Emphatically. According to Koestler's The Case of the Midwife Toad, mathematical information theory has demonstrated what many of us long suspected intuitively: 3% billion years is too short a time for pure chance to have produced the amount of negative entropy (organization) found in the evolutionary script. Even death-by-senescece (normal "aging") no longer seems stochastic or random, according to U C Berkeley biologist Paul Segal and others, but rather appears, like adolescence, a pre-programmed part of the DNA script. I can hypnotize myself into believing that Spaceship Earth is just a lucky accident, but when I come out of the hypnosis I am again struck by the incredible details of intelligent design everywhere, which has historically "justified" every religion. A search, minus religion and superstition, for the designers of this planetary drama seems to me a most profitable scientific venture. "Materialism" so-called is just one possible theory about matter, and not the most plausible theory by any means. Gurdjieff and the pioneer 19th Century Spiritualists were "materialists" without limiting themselves to the most dismal mechanistic theories about matter. Einstein's matter-energy equations, Reich's orgonomic functionalism, the direct experience (as distinguished from the dogma) of 30,000 years of shamanic-yogic investigators, LSD research, plant-human telepathy in the wake of Backster's Effect (The Secret Life of Plants, Bird, Tompkins), etc., all converge around something close to pantheism (or, at minimum, Transcendental Materialism) rather than the clockwork mechanism of 19th Century dogma.

2. How would you define Higher Intelligence?

As in mathematics, "higher" must imply higher order, i.e. more inclusivity and complexity. Structure being multi-ordinal, Higher Intelligence would be revealed by relating to, involving oneself with, communicating to, levels of structure (in space-time) still invisible (unpredictable) to lower intelligence.

3. How would you define intelligence?

Intelligence is manifested by the reception, accurate decoding and transmission of. energy. Consciousness is manifested by mere reception of energy. Expansion of consciousness (psychedelic or metaprogramming experience) is dilation of neural reception to ingest more energy; escalation of intelligence is accurate decoding of the new energies so received. Aleister Crowley's formula for the traditional Illuminati goal of "Perfect Wisdom and True Happiness" was "! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ?," an endless series of expansions (symbolized by ! ) in alteration with integrations (symbolized by ? ). Pure consciousness, Oriental Samadhi, is pure expansion ( ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ), and might be called the highest or most benign form of stupidity.

4. It has been said that the human brain is an instrument which humanity does not understand how to use. Comment.

The human brain, like Spaceship Earth, came without an operating manual. The designers evidently intended us to write our own manuals.

5. Do you believe that the wide variations in human intelligence are due to differences in neural wiring (i.e. genetic) or due to social-educational differences? Or both?

This remains to be discovered. Temperamentally, as a non-dualist, I tend to suspect that the answer will be "both," but the evidence to date is silly-putty and can be molded to fit anybody's racist or behaviorist theory. The historically dreadful consequences of racist theory should not prevent us from thinking objectively about the matter, however. See below.

6. Do you think that neural differences among individuals or racial groups define different sub-species?

Only if one wants to use that semantics. Evolution seems to proceed by variation and self- selection, not by uniformity; therefore, every difference makes a difference, i.e. has a function. The most idiotic form of racism (or sexism) is the attempt to abolish differences. The Hermetic maxim, "God hath need of every human soul," can be translated into modern language as "Evolution hath need of every deviation."

7. Do you think that the very concept of intelligence or differences in intelligence is elitist or anti-democratic?

No way. Despite my rejection of Pure Chance as a panchreston (an attempt to explain everything), I recognize that hazard exists. The DNA script provides for variation (deviation, ever "perversion" if you feel that way about it) in order to provide for contingency. The great teachers who wrote the fairy tales arrange for the Fool or the "inferior" third brother to marry the Princess at the end; they were teaching a lesson that racists and fanatic eugenicists still haven't learned. Penalizing differences (as in institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, casteism, etc.) and attempting to abolish differences (as in anthill socialism) miss the whole point of evolutionary variation. Genes are passed on one by one at random; therefore, Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

Or, as Blake said, "One law for the Lion and the Ox is Tyranny."

8. The average IQ. (however measured) is assigned the index of 100. This means half of the population is below IQ 100, i.e. just barely literate. What are the implications of these statistics?

Authoritarian society (class-caste games) has been a fact for several milleniums. This discourages the intelligence of those assigned the serf or slave positions. Anything they see, hear, smell, taste, guess, intuit, reason out, etc., is irrelevant and immaterial to the ruling elite. The rulers therefore bear a burden of omniscience as they attempt to do all the seeing, hearing, smelling, thinking, etc., for the whole society; and the proles bear an equal and opposite burden of nescience as they are conditioned to ignore their own seeings, hearings, thinkings, etc., and act only on orders from above. Communication is only possible between equals, and thus both rulers and serfs gradually develop a progressive group disorientation. Unwelcome information usually results in burning at the stake, the rack, the Iron Boot, confinement in a cage, or whatever form of torture is locally known as "enlightened modern penology" in the given society. The ruling elite thus being armed and dangerous, they only hear what suits their previous beliefs. SNAFU is the norm in any authoritarian pyramid, not just in the Army. (For more on the burden of nescience, see Dumb Blondes, Uncle Tomism among blacks, Good Soldier Schweikism, etc. For burden of omniscience, see Nixon, Richard, career of.)

9. Do you think that a level of intelligence exists that is as to the human as the human is to the ape's?

I feel sure that many such levels exist.

10. If so, in what form does it exist?

Many forms. Every unusual perception (expansion of consciousness to ingest new energy structures) is apt to be classified as "hallucination" by skeptics, including the investigator him/her/self if he/she retains intelligent skepticism. Nonetheless, after twelve years of experiment with shamanic, yogic, Sufic, and more recent techniques, I believe some of my contacts with Higher Intelligences, roughly corresponding to the "angels" and "archangels" of Cabalistic-Sufic tradition. Like Dr. John Lilly, I have wondered if They are time-travelers from the future, very advanced human adepts now on earth helping other students along the Path, extraterrestrials, or something else. Like Dr. Leary, I tend strongly to suspect They are extraterrestrials. Like Dr. Jacques Vallee, I conjecture that They might be beyond any thought-form or category we have yet invented. On my own, I have fantasized that They might be the giant whales or dolphins, whose enormous brains must be doing something non-mechanical, since they lack hands for human-style technology.

11. Do you think Higher Intelligence exists on other star systems in the galaxy?

Intuitively, yes. My experience of the life-mind or genetic uncon­scious seems to correlate with the theory that life is omnipresent, rather than with the theory that life is accidental and rare. If omni-present, it must statistically exist in many higher forms throughout space-time, as well as in many lower forms.

12. What are the chances of our contacting Higher Intelligence in your lifetime?

Excellent. It seems increasingly plausible to me that certain specially-trained individuals have been making such contacts for 30,000 years now, and that this underlies the "allies," "gods," "angels," "fairy folk," "devas," etc., of the various occult traditions. That is, "hallu­cination" explains many, but not all, of such contacts.

13. Do you consider DNA as an intelligent entity? Why?

Yes. Because the data of psychedelic research, Jungian psychology and history of religion and magick all make sense with this assump­tion, and don't make sense otherwise. For instance, it is easier for me to believe that Socrates' "daemon" and Jesus' "Father" were real experiences than to assume that Socrates and Jesus were half-crazy. The experience of Higher Intelligence within is as common among investigators of consciousness as the experience of Higher Intelli­gence without.

14. Do you consider the nucleus of the atom as an intelligent entity?

Yes. Because it increasingly makes sense to me to assume that life and intelligence are omni-present and multi-ordinal.

15. Do you believe humanity will evolve to a higher level of intel­ligence?

It always has. I assume it always will. More specifically, the intersec­tion of Greek logic-and-dialectic, from the monkish class, and craft technique-and-empiricism, from the medieval guilds, produced mod­ern science, or logical empiricism, the most revolutionary force in history, which has (in 300 years) transformed the planet more than all previous evolution. The intersection of modern science and tradi­tional shamanic-yogic arts, via the psychedelic revolution and the blossoming of parapsychology, will produce a higher synergetic prod­uct, even more revolutionary.

16. If so what form will this take?

We are graduating from miserable terrestrial mortality into ecstatic cosmic immortality; from robots into self-aware entities; from earth to the stars. The "wild talents" of saints and shamans will become subject to conscious control. Brain-change, immortality, and Space Migration will change our philosophies more radically than the im­pacts of Copernicus, Darwin, or Freud.

17. Do you think intelligence can be raised?

Sure. Americans being less paranoid about machines than about chemicals, it will happen chiefly through bio-feedback, not through LSD, at least in this part of the world. But it will happen.

18. Do you believe that the raising of intelligence levels should be defined as a national priority project comparable to raising the level of energy resources?

Yea, verily! Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; as Buckminster Fuller quite correctly insists, there is never a real energy shortage, but only a technique shortage, i.e. an intelligence shortage. Indeed, authoritarian society, the Coercive State, wedded to an omniscience-burdened ruling elite and a nescience-burdened slave-serf class, represents a perpetual intelligence shortage, or as I elsewhere call it, a Snafu Principle.

A sane world would get logic, semantics, scientific METHOD, and bio-feedback into the grade schools; retire every worker who can possibly be replaced by a machine; start retooling to replace all the other workers by machines (since UNEMPLOYMENT SHOULD NOT BE CURED, NOT BEING A DISEASE: it IS the cure); establish a guaranteed annual income to replace the idiot Welfare system; stop persecuting original thinking; end the dinosaur arms race, putting the credit-energy into Space Migration, Immortality research, and Neurologic. It is time we stopped operating like Permian reptiles and synergetically combine for Extraterrestrial Immortality. What other game is worth our time? -- ###

"The Higher Intelligence Quiz" from Spit in the Ocean #3, 1977 (Ken Kesey's irregularly published journal; #3 is a special 'Communicating With Higher Intelligence' issue guest-edited by Timothy Leary)

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"Do what thou wilt--then do nothing else." -- Alister Crowley

Erasing Fear Memories

Erasing Fear Memories

A drug free, non-invasive method for semi-permanently blocking the return of fear memories in humans is reported in this week's Nature. The finding may have important implications for the clinical treatment of fear-related disorders.

Preventing the return of fear in humans using reconsolidation update mechanisms

Excerpt from research paper by Daniela Schiller, Marie-H. Monfils, Candace M. Raio, David C. Johnson, Joseph E. LeDoux1 & Elizabeth A. Phelps via Nature

Recent research on changing fears has examined targeting reconsolidation. During reconsolidation, stored information is rendered labile after being retrieved. Pharmacological manipulations at this stage result in an inability to retrieve the memories at later times, suggesting that they are erased or persistently inhibited. Unfortunately, the use of these pharmacological manipulations in humans can be problematic.

Here we introduce a non-invasive technique to target the reconsolidation of fear memories in humans. We provide evidence that old fear memories can be updated with non-fearful information provided during the reconsolidation window. As a consequence, fear responses are no longer expressed, an effect that lasted at least a year and was selective only to reactivated memories without affecting others.

These findings demonstrate the adaptive role of reconsolidation as a window of opportunity to rewrite emotional memories, and suggest a non-invasive technique that can be used safely in humans to prevent the return of fear.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Official Trailer

The Human Brain: How We Decide

Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate, or we blink and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the mind's black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they're discovering that this is not how the mind works. Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason and the precise mix depends on the situation. When buying a house, for example, it's best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables. But when we're picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray. The trick is to determine when to use the different parts of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think. --

The Human Brain: How We Decide

A Q&A with Jonah Lehrer, Author of How We Decide

Q: Why did you want to write a book about decision-making?

A: It all began with Cheerios. I'm an incredibly indecisive person. There I was, aimlessly wandering the cereal aisle of the supermarket, trying to choose between the apple-cinnamon and honey-nut varieties. It was an embarrassing waste of time and yet it happened to me all the time. Eventually, I decided that enough was enough: I needed to understand what was happening inside my brain as I contemplated my breakfast options. I soon realized, of course, that this new science of decision making had implications far grander than Cheerios.

Q: What are some of those implications?

A: Life is ultimately just a series of decisions, from the mundane (what should I eat for breakfast?) to the profound (what should I do with my life?). Until recently, though, we had no idea how our brain actually made these decisions. As a result, we relied on untested assumptions, such as the assumption that people were rational creatures. (This assumption goes all the way back to Plato and the ancient Greeks.) But now, for the first time in human history, we can look inside our mind and see how we actually think. It turns out that we weren't designed to be rational or logical or even particularly deliberate. Instead, our mind holds a messy network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. Whenever we make a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when we try to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence our judgment. Of course, by understanding how the human mind makes decisions--and by learning about the decision-making mistakes that we're all vulnerable to--we can learn to make better decisions.

Q: Can neuroscience really teach us how to make better decisions?

A: My answer is a qualified yes. Despite the claims of many self-help books, there is no secret recipe for decision-making, no single strategy that can work in every situation. The real world is just too complex. The thought process that excels in the supermarket won't pass muster in the Oval Office. Therefore natural selection endowed us with a brain that is enthusiastically pluralist. Sometimes we need to reason through our options and carefully analyze the possibilities. And sometimes we need to listen to our emotions and gut instinct. The secret, of course, is knowing when to use different styles of thought--when to trust feelings and when to exercise reason. In my book, I devoted a chapter to looking at the world through the prism of the game of poker and found that, in poker as in life, two broad categories of decisions exist: math problems and mysteries. The first step to making the right decision, then, is accurately diagnosing the problem and figuring out which brain system to rely on. Should we trust our intuition or calculate the probabilities? We always need to be thinking about how we think.

Q: Are you a good poker player?

A: When I was in Vegas, hanging out with some of best poker players in the world, I convinced myself that I'd absorbed the tricks of the trade, that I could use their advice to win some money. So I went to a low-stakes table at the Rio, put $300 on the line, and waited for the chips to accumulate. Instead, I lost all my money in less than an hour. It was an expensive but valuable lesson: there's a big difference between understanding how experts think and being able to think like an expert.

Q: Why write this book now?

A: Neuroscience can seem abstract, a science preoccupied with questions about the cellular details of perception and the memory of fruit flies. In recent years, however, the field has been invaded by some practical thinkers. These scientists want to use the nifty experimental tools of modern neuroscience to explore some of the mysteries of everyday life. How should we choose a cereal? What areas of the brain are triggered in the shopping mall? Why do smart people accumulate credit card debt and take out subprime mortgages? How can you use the brain to explain financial bubbles? For the first time, these incredibly relevant questions have rigorously scientific answers. It all goes back to that classical Greek aphorism: Know thyself. I'd argue that the discoveries of modern neuroscience allow us to know ourselves (and our decisions!) in an entirely new way.

Q: How We Decidedraws from the latest research in neuroscience yet also analyzes some crucial moments in the lives of a variety of "deciders," from the football star Tom Brady to a soap opera director. Why did you take this approach?

A: Herbert Simon, the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, famously compared our mind to a pair of scissors. One blade, he said, represented the brain. The other blade was the specific environment in which our brain was operating. If you want to understand the function of scissors, Simon said, then you have to look at both blades simultaneously. What I wanted to do in How We Decide was venture out of the lab and into the real world so that I could see the scissors at work. I discuss some ingenious experiments in this book, but let's face it: the science lab is a startlingly artificial place. And so, wherever possible, I tried to explore these scientific theories in the context of everyday life. Instead of just writing about hyperbolic discounting and the feebleness of the prefrontal cortex, I spent time with a debt counselor in the Bronx. When I became interested in the anatomy of insight (where do our good ideas come from?) I interviewed a pilot whose epiphany in the cockpit saved hundreds of lives. That's when you really begin to appreciate the power of this new science--when you can use its ideas to explain all sorts of important phenomena, such as the risky behavior of teenagers, the amorality of psychopaths, and the tendency of some athletes to choke under pressure.

Q: What do you do in the cereal aisle now?

A: I was about halfway through writing the book when I got some great advice from a scientist. I was telling him about my Cheerios dilemma when he abruptly interrupted me: "The secret to happiness," he said, "is not wasting time on irrelevant decisions." Of course, this sage advice didn't help me figure out what kind of cereal I actually wanted to eat for breakfast. So I did the only logical thing: I bought my three favorite Cheerios varieties and combined them all in my cereal bowl. Problem solved.

Make your own single point rifle sling

Make your own single point rifle sling

Here we show how you can make your own single point tactical sling with the option to make it a 2 point as well on the cheap. Hope this saves someone some money and gets them trying new things.

Eric Sprott: Preserving Wealth with Gold

"Gold bull markets are unique in that buying becomes driven by both fear and greed. Gold is quickly moving into the hands of those who are unwilling to gamble on fiat currencies or bonds as a store a value. The new owners of gold are unconcerned with its lack of yield but instead are focused on its historic ability to preserve wealth and its unquestionable value. Given the difficulty we have valuing paper money, it becomes extremely difficult to come up with a reasoned price target for gold. Today’s gold market is significantly different from the gold market of the 1970s for two reasons: 1) Central Banks are more likely to be buyers of gold today and 2) They clearly have little ability to dramatically raise interest rates with the massive increases in government issued debt. Thus, it is easy to envision a similar twenty-five fold increase in the gold price that was seen between 1970 and 1980, which would result in a gold price today above $6,000 per ounce. We expect the often quoted “1980 inflation adjusted high” of approximately $2,200 to be achieved in short order. These targets may well prove to be irrelevant, however, as the quality of our lives will be more greatly impacted by the continued evolution of our money and how the general public chooses to value it, or not." - Eric Sprott

To read click "Fullscreen" (top center) then "Zoom +" (lower left).

And when you are done, here is another just released note [PDF] from Sprott's John Embry, in which he expects gold to go up by 30% in the near-term.

h/t: Zero Hedge

Did Russia try to destroy the U.S. economy?

Russia’s Wealth: Weapon of Economic Destruction?

By Ashby Monk via Oxford SWF Project, h/t: Foreign Policy

Bloomberg has an astounding article out today that, if true, suggests that Russia was plotting “economic disruptions” against the US in 2008. According to the article, which I have to admit is a bit confusing, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson discovered a plot by the Russian government to convince the Chinese to sell US agency debt en masse to force a major US government bailout. The plot was discovered by Paulson during his trip to the 2008 Olympics:

Says Bloomberg:

“Russia urged China to dump its Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds in 2008 in a bid to force a bailout of the largest U.S. mortgage-finance companies…The Russians made a ‘top-level approach’ to the Chinese ‘that together they might sell big chunks of their GSE [government sponsored entities] holdings to force the U.S. to use its emergency authorities to prop up these companies’…”

The Chinese rejected the idea, and the Russians are, obviously, denying that any of this occurred. Still, Paulson’s report is pretty amazing. If true, it would appear that Russia was plotting economic warfare against the US during the summer of 2008; I don’t really know what else to call it. Their intention was to use their sovereign wealth to purposely weaken and damage the US economy. The fact that all this apparently occurred around the same time that Russia was engaged in a traditional war with Georgia, a US ally, lends some credibility to the idea.

This revelation–while unconfirmed–will not comfort those in the West that fear SWFs; it doesn’t help anybody if these funds are seen to be potential weapons of economic destruction… -- ###

Hank Paulson's memoir, On the Brink, will be available February 1.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Healthy Cookware

Healthy Cookware

By Rebecca Wood via Be Nourished with Rebecca Wood [Reprinted with kind permission.]

One taste of hot tea in a Styrofoam cup and you know you're drinking more than tea. Even though the cup looks stable, it's not. And have you noticed how dried foods stored in plastic bags start to taste like plastic? It’s because food ions react with synthetic or metallic ions.

Avoid adding toxins to your foods. Here are guidelines for choosing—and using—healthy cookware. Quality cookware helps you maintain good health and, in some cases, even enhances flavor. It's also useful to know which foods most quickly react to plastic storage containers and to aluminum and cast-iron cookware.

There’s good reason why glass and ceramic beakers are used in a chemistry lab where it’s critical that containers don’t taint the experiment. Glass and ceramic are inert or non-reactive.

Before making your next kitchen purchase, consider the reactivity of various tools and cookware and, whenever possible, favor inert or non-reactive. Or, as second choice, use moderately reactive pots and utensils. As possible, avoid more reactive cookware.

Inert, Non-Reactive Cookware -- A Superior Choice

Enamel is actually a fused glass surface. Le Creuset and Chantal are two quality enamel brands. With proper care, a fine enamel pot lasts a lifetime, whereas inexpensive enamel cookware from variety stores has such a thin enamel layer that it chips easily and is not worth its purchase price. Once chipped, discard enamel kitchenware or enamel fragments will find their way into your food and the underlying metal will react with food. If it’s affordable, favor enamel pots.

Titanium is nonreactive and lightweight but a poor heat conductor. So typically what is labeled titanium cookware is actually aluminum cookware that has a fused ceramic-titanium, nonstick coating. This cookware is expensive, but durable and a healthful, nonreactive choice.

Glass coffee pots and casserole dishes are inert and affordable. Favor glass containers for storing food.

Bamboo steamers and paddles as well as wooden spoons, chopsticks and crockery are non-reactive and modestly priced.

Earthenware and ceramic are inert. Additionally, they emit a far-infrared heat, the most effective and beneficial heat for cooking, which enables a full range of subtle flavors to emerge. Primarily used for lengthy simmering or baking, these beautiful but breakable items require special handling. Examples of terra cotta earthenware include Spanish cazuelas and Romertopf casseroles. Ceramic casseroles and pie pans are available from your local potter. (Note: antique ceramic or earthenware pots may contain lead; do not use without testing. To test for lead, purchase a lead test kit for $10 at a hardware store.)

Paper Goods are, in some applications, effective. Line reactive aluminum cookie sheets or muffin tins with parchment paper or paper muffin cups. And for food storage, as is practical, favor waxed or butcher paper over plastic wrap or bags.

Silicone cookware is inert, FDA approved and safe up to 428 degrees F. If heated above its safe range, silicone melts but doesn’t outgas toxic vapors. Silicone is a synthetic rubber now made into baking pans, baking sheets, muffin tins, spatulas, ice cube trays, molds, rolling pins and more. It is the only non-reactive, non-stick material. The advantages of silicone include heat resistance (below 428 degrees), flexibility, the fact that it can go directly from the oven or microwave into the refrigerator or freezer and that it is generally easy to clean.

Moderately Reactive Cookware -- A Good Choice

Stainless steel is the least reactive metal, and for many people, the most versatile and healthful cookware option. Of the various weights, heavy-gauge stainless or surgical steel is superior. It makes an acceptable set of basic pots, pans and bake ware. Remove food from metal as soon as it is cooked to minimize the food from developing a metallic taste. Once stainless steel has been scratched, through normal scouring, the leaching of metallic ions is more noticeable. Better yet, don't scour stainless cookware. When you've burned something onto the pot, cover the damage with baking soda or a strong detergent and let it rest for a day. The soda will "lift" off the scoarched food.

Carbon steel is inexpensive and is ideal for a wok or sauté pan because it rapidly conveys heat. To prevent rusting, carbon steel must be thoroughly dry when not in use.

Cast iron pots are good for quick breads, pancakes and crêpes and for sautéing vegetables. Do not, however, cook soups, liquids or acid foods in cast iron, as these foods leach harsh-tasting iron from the pot. Although a soup cooked in cast iron becomes iron-enriched, it’s not a bioavailable form of iron, and is therefore undesirable.

Reactive Cookware -- Not Recommended

Nonstick cookware contains plastic polymers (silicon is the one exception). The surface of the original nonstick cookware, Teflon, was coated with the synthetic resin. In newer nonstick pans (such as ScanPan, Caphalon, Swiss Diamond and Circulon) the polymer commingles with the anodized metal surface. If heated to 500 degrees F., the polymers emit noxious fumes that are lethal to parakeets and certainly not healthy for humans.

Even though I never intend to boil a pot dry, I did so just last week. Had that pot been nonstick, its temperatures would have exceeded the safety limit. Nonstick surfaces first appeared in 1944. Prior to that, cooks minimized sticking by using lower temperatures and/or more fat or liquid. It’s doable today. And should something stick, elbow grease removes it. Please avoid all synthetic non-stick pans and utensils.

Aluminum enriches your food with aluminum to the detriment of your health. Cast aluminum is more stable and preferable to thin aluminum pans. Rather than wrapping a baked potato in aluminum foil, consider baking it directly on the oven rack or placing it in a covered casserole dish.

A new anodized aluminum pot is non-reactive and fairly durable. However, once the surface chips, peels or is scratched, it becomes reactive. I, therefore, do not recommend anodized cookware.

Plastic it's easy to assess the reactivity of plastic in terms of its structure. The more flexible a plastic, the more it is reactive. Thus plastic wrap more quickly exchanges synthetic ions with food than does a flexible milk jug; and the latter is more reactive than a sturdy plastic container. Do not store foods in plastic containers that once contained chemicals. And, it's not advisable to microwave food in plastic.

Incidentally, the poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) typically found in plastic wrap leaches a hormone-disrupting toxin, DEAH, into the surface layers of food. Additionally, PVC contains phthalates which accumulate in body tissues and damage the liver and lungs. Phthalates damage the reproductive organs of test animals. Note that phthalate migration from plastic wrap is increased by mechanical stress (bending, pressure, chewing), solvents such as fats, oils, saliva, and temperatures over 85° F.

To avoid ingesting the toxic bisphenol-a (BPAs), see the April 2 2007 Newsletter.

Foods Vary in their Reactivity

Do keep in mind that temperature affects reactivity. When hot, a food reacts more quickly than when it is cold. Thus, refrigeration deters uptake of metal or plastic ions.

Additionally, some foods are more reactive than others. Fat, acidic ingredients and water are more efficient absorbs than are protein and carbohydrates. Thus chicken fat more quickly sops up plastic polymers than does chicken flesh. While raw rice is a slow absorber, when cooked with water, oil, tomatoes and/or vinegar it more speedily uptakes foreign ions. This explains why quality oils, vinegar and wine are sold exclusively in non-reactive glass.

It’s not necessary or expedient to ban all plastic from your kitchen. However, you might explore creative ways to decrease your use of reactive products. An informed consumer is an empowered consumer. May this information serve you in skillfully upgrading and maintaining a healthy kitchen.

Accompanying recipe: White Bean and Herb Dip

May you be well nourished,

Rebecca Wood

Rebecca Wood has taught and written about healing with a sustainable diet since 1970.

Her book, The Splendid Grain, won both a James Beard Award and a Julia Child/IACP Award. Her book, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, has been in continuous print for over 25 years. A fully revised edition will be available May 2010.

NASA Response to Crazy 2012 Claims

NASA Response to Crazy 2012 Claims

NASA JPL "Reality Check" on all those wacky ideas surrounding the upcoming shift in the ancient Mayan calendar. Our favorite is the planet "Nibiru" that's said to be hurtling into the solar system on its way to Earth.

Asteroid Watch

Ancient Tsunamis

Ancient Tsunamis by Nature Video

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was not the first of its kind, according to research in Nature. Two groups of scientists have found sedimentary evidence for possible predecessors to the 2004 event in Thailand and Sumatra. They discuss their findings and the implications for a potential similar tsunami to occur in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Related: Mega-quake building off Indonesia: study

Optimist? Or pessimist? Test your 2010 strategy!

Marvel Comics supervillain, genius inventor and sorceror, Dr. Doom

12 'Dr. Dooms' warn Wall Street's optimism misleads, will trigger new crash

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch, h/t: 1913Intel

Test time: A neuroeconomic peek inside your brain's new strategy as we enter the "Doomsday Decade" and leave behind the "Lost Decade" ("lost" because the Dow dropped from 11,497 to 10,428 in 10 years, while Wall Street got rich wiping out almost 10% of your retirement funds). Test your 2010 strategy. Are you an ...

1. Optimist? As the new decade starts, are you an optimist who trusts Wall Street's advice that 2010 will be a great time to buy stocks. Wall Street says the "Lost Decade" (what a great title) is now behind us. So you believe that the 60% market rally since the March 2009 bottom will continue, with at least 20% gains in 2010.

2. Pessimist? Or, you're distrustful, cynical and pessimistic about all predictions made by Wall Street's bosses and pundits. You're particularly skeptical of any and all forecasts by the "too-greedy-to-fail" bankers who stole trillions from taxpayers, the Fed and Treasury, then failed to stimulate the economy and now pocket mega-bailout bucks as record bonuses, just one year after we saved Wall Street from near bankruptcy.

This is a simple test of your mindset. Betting odds say most of you will pick answer "1." Why? America was founded by optimists. You believe that a "happy conspiracy" binds politicians, CEOs and Wall Street, making capitalism work and America a powerful nation: So you accept Wall Street's greed, lies and thievery as the price of "free-market capitalism," and part of America's DNA. You embrace "capitalism-without-morals."

Unfortunately, optimism also blinds us to our individual and national faults: Hidden saboteurs tell us we know more than we do, have amazing skills we don't, and are protected by divine forces against dark enemies and even our own irrational stupidity. Yes, optimism is our inner enemy that periodically triggers trillion-dollar meltdowns.

New strategy: 'Getting back to even' means new risks, more debt

True optimists are gung-ho about the future, expecting to recover losses and, as CNBC television host Jim Cramer preaches, "get back to even" in 2010. But the problem is no one has a clue if the market will ever "get back to even."

Quite the opposite, since Fed chief Ben Bernanke is pushing the same optimistic cheap-money fantasies that his predecessor Alan Greenspan used to create the dot-com and the subprime crashes. We can expect to see the next bubble fizzle and pop, pushing us deep into the dreaded Great Depression 2 that the Fed and Treasury are trying to avoid by downstreaming today's problems onto future generations.

But soon future generations will start screaming: "The buck stops here" and revolt when the buck isn't worth much, and they've lost faith in the dollar (just like China). Then the game of musical chairs will end, tragically, sadly, stupidly, unfortunately. Why? Because we failed to stop short of total disaster, failed to prepare, and it's too late.

So to all you optimists who plan to actively invest in 2010 because you accept that America's "capitalism-without-morals" is working in spite of Wall Street's quasi-criminal behavior: Here's some dark-side input to factor into your investment equation for 2010 and beyond.

Listen closely to the words of our 12 "Dr. Dooms." For a moment, take off your rose-colored glasses, step out of your denial, see the Great Depression 2 dead ahead, really look at the future our "Dr. Dooms" see in their "Doomsday Scenarios:"

1. Faber: The 'American Empire' has peaked, is on a decline

Hong Kong economist Marc Faber says "the average life span of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years ... Once a society becomes successful it becomes arrogant, righteous, overconfident, corrupt, and decadent ... overspends ... costly wars ... wealth inequity and social tensions increase; and society enters a secular decline."

2. Grantham: Learned nothing, doomed to repeat past, only bigger

Money manager Jeremy Grantham warns that our irrational nightmare will repeat. A year ago we came dangerously close to the "Great Depression 2." Unfortunately, we've "learned nothing ... condemning ourselves to another serious financial crisis in the not too-distant future."

We had our bear-market rally. Next, historical cycles plus our irrational behavior guarantees another, bigger global meltdown. We "learned nothing."

3. Stiglitz: Wall Street creating short respite before next crash

Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz recently warned: Unless Wall Street's incentive system is drastically reformed, "the financial sector will only try to circumvent whatever new regulations we put in place. We will simply have a short respite before the next crisis." Warning, nothing's changed, it's worse: Lobbyists run Obama, Congress and the Fed.

4. Johnson: Running out of time before Great Depression 2

Yes, "we're running out of time ... to prevent a true depression," warns former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson. The "financial industry has effectively captured our government" and is "blocking essential reform," and unless we break Wall Street's "stranglehold" we will be unable prevent the Great Depression 2.

5. Ferguson: Fed's easy money fuels new bubbles, meltdowns

In the 400-year history of the stock market "there has been a long succession of financial bubbles," says financial historian Niall Ferguson. Who's the culprit? The Fed: "Without easy credit creation a true bubble cannot occur. That is why so many bubbles have their origins in the sins of omission and commission of central banks."

Another bubble (and crash) is virtually certain, thanks to Washington's $23.7 trillion explosion in debt, the Fed's support for the $670 trillion shadow banking system and Wall Street lobbyists getting superrich thanks to Wall Street's insatiable greed.

6. Taleb: Fed haunted by ghost of Greenspan's failed Reaganomics

When Obama reappointed Bernanke, Nassim Taleb, risk-management professor and author of "The Black Swan," warned of a new disaster: "The world has never, never been as fragile," yet Obama reappoints an economist who "doesn't even know he doesn't understand how things work." New proof? At last week's American Economic Association, Bernanke was still shifting the blame: "The best response to the housing bubble would have been regulatory, not monetary."

Wrong: He conveniently forgets he was advising Bush earlier, did nothing. Now Obama's stuck with a Greenspan clone and an insane ideology focused solely on saving a failed banking system by flooding the world with inflated dollars guaranteed to trigger another meltdown.

7. Soros: Dollar dead as a reserve currency, nest eggs dying

Billionaire investor George Soros' "New Paradigm:" America's 25-year "superboom ... led to massive deregulation ... blindly chasing free markets ... unleashed excessive greed ... created the dot-com and credit meltdowns" and a "shadow banking system" of derivatives.

"The system is broken. The current crisis marks the end of an era of credit expansion based on the dollar as the international reserve currency," warns Soros. "We're now in a period of wealth destruction. It is going to be very hard to preserve your wealth in these circumstances."

8. Hedgers: make billions shorting stupid politicians, bankers

Soros isn't alone. Lots of hedge fund buddies made hundreds of millions and billions betting on the stupidity of Washington with the Fed's cheap-money policies. Alpha magazine reports that four hedgers made more than $1 billion each in 2008. The top-25 "managers made $464 million each on average last year ... a kingly sum, especially during a year of global recession, stock market wipeouts and vanishing wealth."

9. Shiller: Dot-com, subprime meltdowns, 'third episode' next

Economist Robert Shiller a "Dr. Doom?" Remember a decade ago with "Irrational Exuberance?" Now he's warning: "Bubbles are primarily social phenomena. Until we understand and address the psychology that fuels them, they're going to keep forming. We recently lived through two epidemics of excessive financial optimism, we are close to a third episode, only this one will spread irrational pessimism and distrust -- not exuberance."

10. Kaufman: Irrationality replaced reason, science, technology

Henry Kaufman was Salomon's chief economist and "Dr. Doom" for 24 years: "Why are we so poor at managing our key economic institutions while at the same time so accomplished in medicine, engineering and telecommunications? Why can we land men on the moon with pinpoint accuracy, yet fail to steer our economy away from the rocks? Why do our computers work so well, except when we use them to manage derivatives and hedge funds?"

Kaufman warns: "The computations were correct, but far too often the conclusions drawn from them were not." Why? Selfish, myopic politicians and bankers.

11. Biggs: Sell everything, buy guns, food, head for the hills

In his 2008 bestseller "Wealth, War and Wisdom" former Morgan Stanley research guru Barton Biggs warns us to prepare for a "breakdown of civilization ... Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food ... It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc ... A few rounds over the approaching brigands' heads would probably be a compelling persuader that there are easier farms to pillage." Biggs sounds like an anarchist militiaman.

12. Diamond: Nations ignore obvious till it's too late, then collapse

The end will be swift. In our age of short-term consumerism and instant gratification, few hear the warnings of our favorite evolutionary biologist, Jared Diamond. Societies fail because they're unprepared, will be in denial till it's too late: "Civilizations share a sharp curve of decline. Indeed, a society's demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power."

The warnings were everywhere in 2008, but Greenspan, Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson were in denial: It will happen again with Obama. Downstreaming problems will fail. Future bubbles get too big, crashes more deadly.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Consciousness of the Universe

The Consciousness of the Universe

Prominent researchers from various disciplines discuss the nature of reality from a quantum physics perspective... Is ours a holographic universe?

Featuring: David Lynch, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, David Wilcock, David Icke, Michael Talbot, Gregg Braden, James J Traitz, Robert Anton Wilson, Neil Kramer, Grant Morrison, and Bill Hicks.

Related: Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything

~ ~ ~

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." -- Carl Sagan

Bud Light: "Clothing Drive" Commercial

Bud Light: "Clothing Drive" Commercial

See the commercial you can't see on TV.

h/t: Ike

Growing Up Bin Laden

Omar bin Laden appears at age 6, the year the family moved to Medina and Omar started school. All photos from the Omar Bin Laden family photo collection.

Growing Up bin Laden: Osama's Son Speaks

By Andrew Lee Butters, TIME

For Omar bin Laden, the fourth eldest of Osama bin Laden's 20 known children, the awful realization that his father was a terrorist mastermind who was plotting a global conspiracy that would destroy the lives of thousands of innocent people and even his own family came gradually. Of course, there were warning signs: Omar's childhood was marked by regular beatings and survivalist training; the growing army of ruffians and retainers who called his father "Prince"; and that Afghan mullah who had given his father an entire mountain in Tora Bora.

But as he recounts in a book co-written with his mother, Omar — now 28 years old — found it hard to give up hope that a man who had killed so many people might one day turn his back on violence and become a normal father. The younger bin Laden fled Afghanistan only when it become clear that Osama was planning a massive attack on the U.S., but he still couldn't accept that his father was responsible for 9/11 until months later, when he heard the familiar voice on audiotape claiming credit for the attacks. "That was the moment to set aside the dream I had indulged, feverishly hoping the world was wrong and it was not my father who brought about that horrible day," he writes. "This knowledge drives me into the blackest hole."

Osama bin Laden - The future terrorist posed for this portrait in 1973 at age 16, a year before he married his cousin Najwa.

As the first book written about Osama bin Laden with help from anyone in the bin Laden family, Growing Up bin Laden: Osama's Wife and Son Take Us Inside Their Secret Worldis a valuable — if limited — glimpse into the personal life of the world's most wanted man. In recollections from Omar and his mother Najwa bin Laden (the first of Osama's five known wives), and with the assistance of American author Jean Sasson, the book paints a picture of Osama as a towering figure whose noble demeanor inspired fierce loyalty, but also an absolute authoritarian who wanted as many wives and children as possible in order to have foot soldiers for Islamic jihad. "My sons, your limbs must react to my thinking as though my brain was in your head," he told his children when they complained about their life in al-Qaeda camps.

However, Osama the father remains almost as elusive to his son (and the reader) as he is to the FBI — too consumed by jihad to care much for his children, too distant to seem like a full person. But Omar's memoir — which forms the core of the book — presents a strange and fascinating coming-of-age-story about a young boy who was groomed by his father to take over a worldwide terrorist enterprise but who instead chooses to get a job, start a family and play with animals. If the book suffers somewhat from the limitations of translation and overly formal prose, the thrill of being a fly on the wall of the bin Laden family drama quickly takes over.

Omar performs for the camera during the time his family lived in Khartoum, Sudan, 1994.

Omar's early childhood is both charmed and abusive. Though the family inhabited a mansion in the Saudi city of Jeddah and owned horse ranches in the desert, their father refused to let them have toys, take modern medicine or use almost any modern conveniences except for lightbulbs, automobiles and firearms. Though Osama would punish his boys for laughing or smiling and send them on forced marches in the desert without water, Omar and his brothers could at least console themselves with the honor of being sons of the man who helped defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, a hero in both the Muslim world and the West. "When I was a young boy, I worshipped my father, whom I believed to be not only the most brilliant, but also the tallest man in the world," Omar writes. "I would have to go to Afghanistan to meet a man taller than my father. In truth, I would have to go to Afghanistan to truly come to know my father."

The nightmare began in earnest after the Saudi government banished Osama from the kingdom for railing against Riyadh's decision to allow American soldiers on Saudi soil to repel Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. From the new family home in Sudan, while Osama plotted to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and the American government, Omar noticed some dangerous new arrivals in their Khartoum neighborhood, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of an Egyptian Islamist movement who would become al-Qaeda's second-in-command. When members of another extremist group raped one of Omar's male friends, al-Zawahiri took justice into his own hands — by executing the victim.

Bin Laden in Afghanistan, 1984 - When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up its Marxist government, Osama bin Laden joined the Islamist resistance movement.

Step by step, Omar found himself stuck on the violent path of his father's choosing. Forced by American pressure to leave Sudan for Afghanistan, Osama settled his family in stone huts high on a mountain in Tora Bora, despite the fact that Najwa was pregnant with her 10th child. Osama sent his sons to al-Qaeda training camps, to the front lines of the Afghan civil war and to attend hours of mind-numbing jihadist indoctrination. Omar and his father narrowly survived a U.S. cruise-missile strike that was launched in retaliation for the al-Qaeda bomb attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa. All the while Osama expected Omar to become his second-in-command. The young man had somehow managed to develop into a serious, capable young adult even as many of his siblings appeared to have suffered from one kind or another of personality disorder related to their extreme upbringing. One day while sitting together on the bin Laden mountain, Osama revealed to Omar his plan to destroy the U.S. from within by making it bleed through constant war until Muslims ruled the world. But Omar wasn't interested. "I sat mute, feeling not one jolt of passion for my father's life," he writes. "I only wanted him to be like other fathers, concerned with his work and his family."

Still, ever the dutiful Saudi son, Omar couldn't bring himself to break with his family until the day that his father asked his sons to volunteer for suicide missions. When Omar protested, Osama replied, "You hold no more a place in my heart than any man or boy in the entire country. This is true for all my sons." Omar writes, "I finally knew exactly where I stood. My father hated his enemies more than he loved his sons." With rumors of a massive attack on bin Laden's enemies on the way, Omar finally managed to leave Afghanistan, with his father's permission.

Fatima, Sa'ad, Omar, Mohammed, Osman and Abdul Rahman - Osama arranged for his first daughter, Fatima, to be married to a Saudi fighter at age 12. Her husband died in the American attacks on Afghanistan two years later. Abdul Rahman found it difficult to regain Saudi nationality after it was revoked and now lives quietly in Syria.

After the carnage of 9/11, there was no going back. Many of Omar's siblings who stayed behind are probably dead, and his father is the most famous mass murderer alive today. "During these years of loss and sorrow, I have had to reconcile myself to the truth about my father," writes Omar. "I know now that since the first day of the first battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan, my father has been killing other humans. I often wonder if my father has killed so many times that the act of killing no longer brings him pleasure or pain. I am nothing like my father. While he prays for war, I pray for peace."

In an interview with TIME, Omar said that as a private citizen working for the construction company owned by his father's estranged family, he had little insight on how the U.S. should fight al-Qaeda. He turned down a U.S. government offer of asylum for cooperation in finding his father. "I said you — the CIA and the FBI — you should know where he is, but I can't help you because I don't," Omar said by phone from a Middle Eastern country he refused to name either for fear of his safety or residency status. He has technically been reinstated as a Saudi subject.

The Next Generation - Omar holds his son Ahmed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 2005.

Intelligence agencies and scholars of extremist movements might do well to pay attention to Omar's al-Qaeda childhood for clues about how to inoculate young people against radicalism. His remarkable achievement — to have maintained humane beliefs despite being pulled from school at the age of 12 and exposed to a near constant deluge of hateful propaganda, isolation and family pressure — seems to have been helped by a love of animals. A constant collector of pets — against his father's wishes — and an avid horseman, Omar's awareness of the madness of al-Qaeda was fueled in part by several acts of animal cruelty by his father's men. When they lived in Sudan, one of the family guards killed Omar's pet monkey by running it over with a truck, explaining that the creature was in fact a Jew turned into a monkey by the hand of God. Later, Omar learned that it was his father who taught the guard that monkeys were Jews.

Omar appears with his beloved horse in Saudi Arabia, 2007.

Now an adult and free from his father, Omar talks about starting a worldwide peace movement. But having spent much of his life in the wilds of Afghanistan, his ideas about how the world works are hazy. The U.S. government is unlikely to start a dialogue with Osama bin Laden, as he suggests. Another idea, a horse race across North Africa, seems more appropriate. Perhaps a world where people are kinder to animals will be one where they are kinder to one another.

~ ~ ~

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." -- Anatole France

Seed starting: germination

By Susan Reimer, The Baltimore Sun, h/t: theediblegarden

When you start your vegetable garden indoors from seed, the first leaves you see aren't actually leaves. They are a food source for the seedling.

True leaves will come next, and when they do, it is your cue to start fertilizing the seedlings once a week with a half dose for three or four weeks. (It is best to use an organic fertilizer. And seaweed- and kelp-based fertilizers seem to have a wonderful effect on seedlings.)

During this time, your seedlings will need a lot of attention: Water them regularly and evenly, but don't allow the germination mix to get soggy. The humidity underneath the plastic wrap or plastic dome has to be just right -- and there needs to be air circulation -- or mildews and molds and fungus will develop. You might need a small fan.

You will want to transplant your seedlings into larger pots, with a mix of potting soil and perhaps a little garden soil, when they have three or four sets of leaves. Don't wait too long, or you might damage the seedling in the process.

Peat pots or CowPots or newspaper pots are ideal for the transplanted seedling because you plant the whole business in the garden when it is time, protecting the delicate roots.

Two or three weeks before it is time to transplant the seedlings to the garden, expose them to the sun, wind and cold of the outdoors a little more each day.

When it is time to put your plants in the garden, choose a mild and overcast day with little wind. You might consider one more pampering move: a row cover to protect these tender plants for a few more weeks.

Above all, rely on the advice and directions on the seed packets. They are the best source of information for starting your vegetable garden from seed.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How to wrap a cat

A Happy Tale: Very early one morning, around 4:30, a present appeared on my doorstep. Fending off a raccoon four times her size in a bid for the remains of the previous night's fish dinner which I had set outside instead of walking it to the compost pile, was a scrappy little kitty. Though Kitty Kitty (yes, that's her name) was not gift wrapped, I knew that she was meant for me. Yesterday she received a clean bill of health from the vet and a head lick from Puter (my other kitty.) We're all living happily ever after. The end.- c

America's Forgotten War

"Decatur Boarding the Tripolitan Gunboat". Painting by Dennis Malone Carter.

With the end of America's Revolutionary War with England in 1783, the U.S. became solely responsible for the safety of its own commerce and citizens. Without the means or the authority to field a naval force necessary to protect their ships in the Mediterranean, the nascent U.S. government took a pragmatic, but ultimately self-destructive route. In 1784, the United States Congress allocated money for payment of tribute to the Barbary pirates and instructed her British and French ambassadors (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively) to look for opportunities to negotiate peace treaties with the Barbary nations. Unfortunately, the price demanded for these treaties far exceeded the amount that Congress had budgeted.

In March 1785, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to negotiate with Tripoli's envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman (or Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja). Upon inquiring "concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury", the ambassador replied:

It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.

Jefferson reported the conversation to Secretary of State John Jay, who submitted the Ambassador's comments and offer to Congress. Jefferson argued that paying tribute would encourage more attacks. Although John Adams agreed with Jefferson, he believed that circumstances forced the U.S. to pay tribute until an adequate navy could be built. The U.S. had just fought an exhausting war, which put the nation deep in debt. Federalist and anti-federalist forces argued over the needs of the country and the burden of taxation. Jefferson's own Democratic-Republicans and anti-navalists believed that the future of the country lay in westward expansion, with Atlantic trade threatening to siphon money and energy away from the new nation on useless wars in the Old World. The U.S. paid Algiers the ransom, and continued to pay up to $1 million per year over the next 15 years for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. Payments in ransom and tribute to the privateering states amounted to 20 percent of United States government annual revenues in 1800. -- Wikipedia

Soon followed the Barbary Wars (or Tripolitan Wars): two wars between the United States of America and the Barbary States of North Africa in the early 19th century. At issue was the Barbary pirates' demand of tribute from American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. American naval power attacked the pirate cities and extracted concessions of fair passage from their rulers. The Barbary Wars are sometimes called "America's Forgotten War", although they share that name with several other conflicts. The wars largely passed out of popular memory within a generation.

The punitive actions against the Barbary States were launched by the administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. When they proved successful, partisans of the Democratic-Republicans contrasted their administrations' refusal to buy off the pirates with the failure of the preceding federalist administration to live up to the rhetorical flight, "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute," attributed to Charles C. Pinckney in the course of the XYZ Affair, though actually said by Sen. Robert Goodloe Harper.

The Marines Hymn contains a reference to this conflict in the opening line: "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli..." -- Wikipedia

Related: Ode to the Captain of the Enterprise

Thomas Jefferson's Koran

"Barbary Pirates" by John Bentham-Dinsdale.


By Rudyard Kipling (A.D. 980-1016)

IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
To call upon a neighbour and to say:—
“We invaded you last night—we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:—
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to says:—

“We never pay any one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost,
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”

~ ~ ~

It's embarrassing to think there are neither historians nor liberal arts graduates in the State Department.

Plan considered to buy off Taliban

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Barefoot Boy

"Barefoot Boy" by Becky Rogers

The Barefoot Boy

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1855)

Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee’s morning chase,
Of the wild-flower’s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp’s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!

Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O’er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!

Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt’s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!

~ ~ ~

Relive the feeling. Shed your shoes. Your feet will thank you.

The Barefoot Professor

Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman has ditched his trainers and started running barefoot. His research shows that barefoot runners, who tend to land on their fore-foot, generate less impact shock than runners in sports shoes who land heel first. This makes barefoot running comfortable and could minimize running-related injuries. Read more here and find the original research here:

Hypnotic Language Patterns (NLP)

Hypnotic Language Patterns (Neuro-linguistic Programming) are a double-edged sword. Employed, they can be used to elicit specific patterns of behavior in others. Ignored, they can leave one wondering... What did I just agree to?

Maybe after reading you'll learn new ways to say things. ;)

To read click "Fullscreen" (top center) then "Zoom +" (lower left).

Hypnotic language selling

[Previous Scribd document entitled "Embedded Commands" removed due to copyright claim. Beware what you embed from Scribd.]

Escaping Amerika

Escaping Amerika

The only way for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to sever all ties with the United States is to expatriate. That is, you give up your citizenship and passport, or, in the case of a permanent resident, your green card, and live as a foreigner outside the United States.

The “official” number of people who take this admittedly radical step is tiny—only a few hundred annually. Their names are published in the Federal Register each quarter. But the real numbers are probably much higher.

My own firm helped six people expatriate in 2009, and we have several more in the pipeline for 2010. There’s nearly a one-year wait to make an appointment to expatriate at the U.S. consulate in London. Waiting times are almost as long at numerous other consulates worldwide…

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Why would anyone want to expatriate? There are numerous reasons.

  • To permanently disconnect from U.S. tax obligations, a U.S. citizen must not only become a non-resident, but also give up U.S. citizenship and passport. If you’re wealthy, giving up U.S. citizenship and residence can save millions or even billions of dollars in future taxes.
  • Expatriation also eliminates the increasing difficulties U.S. citizens face investing or doing business outside the USA. As a consequence of the U.S. government’s intensifying crackdown against anything “offshore,” most offshore banks now prohibit anyone with any connection to the United States from opening an account. Giving up U.S. citizenship and passport eliminates this problem.
  • Finally, expatriation frees you from the possibility of your non-U.S. assets becoming subject to any future exchange or currency controls the U.S. government might impose to protect the value of the dollar or to shore up its shaky finances.

Fortunately, you can make nearly all of the preparations for a possible future expatriation without leaving the United States.

This is a four-step process. Once you’ve accomplished the first three steps, the final step—expatriation—is much easier than if you’re starting from scratch…

Step 1. Move Your Assets to Safer Havens Where There is Enhanced Protection for Wealth

Some of the most popular wealth havens include:

  • Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Austria in Europe
  • Panama and Uruguay in Central and South America
  • Hong Kong and Singapore in Asia
  • Dubai in the Middle East [highly debatable these days]

Visit the country where you’re thinking about placing your wealth. Talk to bankers, insurance agents, etc. Increasingly, you’ll be required to make a personal visit before you can open a foreign bank account. You may also find that the bank requires that you invest through an offshore structure, not in your own name.

Step 2. Find Another Country to Live in that Offers Greater Personal Freedom

These are the countries that you may wish to relocate to in the future. Or buy property there, “just in case.” Popular countries for U.S. expats to live in and/or buy property include:

  • Canada
  • Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Uruguay in central and South America
  • The Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and the Dutch islands in the Caribbean
  • Belgium, Malta, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom in Europe
  • Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Singapore in Asia

What else should you consider in choosing a freedom haven?

One obvious consideration is the availability of residence rights. What do you have to do to gain residence? You may only have to demonstrate some minimal level of income in some countries to obtain a residence visa. Others require a guaranteed pension. In others you may have to make a substantial investment in the country. In others you may need to qualify on a points system. Some countries have multiple programs you can consider.

You should also consider security and enforcement of legal rights for foreign investors; infrastructure (especially if you need specialized medical attention); language; prejudice against Americans; and taxes.

Finally: will that country award you a passport after you’ve lived there a certain number of years? Can the passport function as an acceptable alternative to your U.S. passport?

Step 3. Get Another Passport

For U.S. citizens, the most important reason to obtain a second passport is that it’s a necessary prerequisite for Step 4, which is to relinquish all legal obligations to the USA by giving up U.S. citizenship. A second passport also:

  • Provides expanded travel possibilities to “forbidden countries” like Cuba, North Korea, etc.
  • Protects your identity, should you ever need to keep your nationality a secret
  • Gives you the right to reside in other countries
  • Gives you a way to cross international borders if your primary passport is lost or stolen

One way to get a second passport is to live in another country for a certain number of years, ranging from two to 10, sometimes even more. But in some countries, it’s not possible to obtain a passport if you enter under certain visa categories, and sometimes not at all. And, it’s almost never possible to obtain a passport unless you first obtained an official residence visa to live there. Other permits may also be required.

If you don’t want to leave the United States, you might be able to get a passport based on your ancestry or marriage to a national of that country. Your religion may also result in eligibility for citizenship and passport in another country. For instance, if you’re Jewish, you may be able to move to Israel and claim an Israeli passports for you and your family. In certain circumstances, Thailand grants passports to individuals who become Buddhist monks. However, if you choose this option, you must make a lifelong commitment to poverty and sexual abstinence.

You can also opt for economic citizenship and passport. There are two countries where this is possible: the Commonwealth of Dominica and the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis. The costs, including all fees, start about $100,000 for a single applicant, $125,000 for a family of four.

In almost every country, if you do something of great benefit to the government, you can be awarded a passport. Austria is one country where there is a formal legislative framework established for this process. But it is very expensive and politically controversial.

There are also numerous places where you can purchase fraudulent or stolen passports. These are popular with intelligence agencies and terrorists, because you can get the passport in a fake name. But if you get caught you face very heavy criminal penalties. Obviously, I can’t recommend them.

Step 4. Expatriate from the United States

You can accomplish all of three previous steps while still residing in the United States. At this point, you face a choice: to expatriate or not?

Expatriation is a radical step. There are many complications, beginning with the possibility of paying an “exit tax” for the privilege of permanently severing your national ties. And what does your wife—or husband—think about living in Belize?

Will you be leaving family members behind? If so, will you able to visit them? The answer is usually yes, although you may need to obtain a visa to re-enter the United States.

There’s also the possibility—remote in 2010, but increasing in future years—that Congress will eventually make expatriation much more difficult. In another decade, perhaps less, the price of expatriation may be to present a balance sheet to the IRS, and give half of the number appearing on the bottom line to the U.S. Treasury.

Is expatriation for you?

The decision to give up U.S. citizenship is a serious one. It’s a step you should take only after consulting with your family and professional advisors. But it’s the only way that U.S. citizens and long-term residents can eliminate U.S. tax liability on their non-U.S. income, wherever they live. And it’s a tax avoidance option that Congress may eventually make much more onerous.

Mark Nestmann, The Sovereign Society

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Costa Rica Expat Interviews w/ Wayne

Wayne came to Costa Rica to start a business from the ground up. That means lawyers, architects, laborers etc. See what he has to say about Gringo Pricing and Tico Time as well as what he would do, or not do OVER.

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More Americans Sever U.S. Ties as IRS Gets Tougher: WSJ