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Is Hollywood the Enemy?

Ven, 20/01/2017 - 07:01

Hollywood simply cannot conceal its massive butthurt over Donald Trump winning the election. With awards season in full swing, expect a slew of Meryl Streep moments from now through the Oscars. Showbiz types are a uniquely repulsive species, and I say that having mixed with them for the better part of my life. Hollywood is filled with attention-starved egotists who take any success, large or small, as confirmation of what they already knew, which is that they’re better than you. The Trump butthurt comes not so much from politics, although politics certainly plays a role, but from the knowledge that people like you did not follow orders from your superiors. You were told to vote Hillary, just as you were told to vote Obama in 2008. But this time you didn’t listen. Every star-studded instructional video, every rock star or comedian who interrupted a show to lecture people on the proper way to vote, was ignored, unheeded, and ultimately rejected.

Can’t you bastards see what you’ve done? You’ve hurt the feelings of those noble souls who seek nothing more in life than to entertain us as they push for progressive tax increases and free health care even though they belong to a union in which dues don’t increase for high earners and medical benefits are a privilege withheld from low earners. These are America’s finest, and you’ve made them feel impotent and unloved. As they cry themselves to sleep on pillows filled with money and oxycodone, just know, Trump voters, that the next OD is on you.

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Okay, I’ll admit it: Celebrities are easy targets, and I’m far from the first guy to point out their flaws. But because I actually know a few of these repulsive Hollywood types personally, perhaps I can expand a bit on why these precious flowers are so up in arms over Trump’s victory.

I’ll begin with a brief anecdote from my past.

Cathy Ladman is your standard-issue unexceptional New Yawk Jewish comedienne. She’s been around for a long time, and she’s done a lot of stuff, but you’ve probably never heard of her unless you follow stand-up on a regular basis. These days, like every other uninspired comedian in the U.S., she’s on the warpath against Trump and the racist anti-Semite Nazis who voted for him. Back in 1998, a mutual friend dragged me to Ladman’s one-woman show at a theater in L.A.’s pricey Miracle Mile district. I dreaded going because I detest stand-up comedy, but I’d been invited, so, the proper gent that I am, I went. The entire show was one gigantic kvetch fest. “Oy vey, woe is me. My life is such dreck.” But by the way, her self-indulgent, unending monolog was structured, it was clear that she was building to something. She was working her way backward in time, toward the moment in her youth—that one horrific, traumatic moment—that scarred her mentally and emotionally for life. Sitting there in the dark, I couldn’t help but wonder what the big reveal would be. A rape? A parent’s gruesome death? A childhood brush with brain cancer? What turned Cathy Ladman into such a dysfunctional basket case?

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Don’t Worry. Be Happy

Ven, 20/01/2017 - 07:01

Life isn’t always easy, and it may seem like it is, in fact, difficult more often than not. Yet both ups and downs are a natural part of life, and we’ve all had our fair share of both. But when you do find yourself in a funk, why not, rather than dwell on it, which often just makes things worse, try to pull yourself out of it, and not let it ruin your day or week?

Sometimes when you’re in one of these moods it can feel impossible to break free, and sometimes it feels easier to just sit in it and brood instead of actively trying to get yourself out of it. Yet truthfully, there are some things you can do RIGHT NOW to instantly lift that extra weight off your shoulders and turn that frown upside down.

1. Get Up and Go for a Walk — Right Now (Finish Reading This Later)

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I don’t care if it’s snowing or raining, too windy, too cold, or too hot, I guarantee this will make you feel better, especially if you can walk somewhere green, which has been scientifically proven to make you feel better. Just getting active and breathing in some fresh air can almost instantly lift your spirits. When you are down in the dumps it can be hard to find the energy to even get up to do this, but once you do, you will be glad you did!

2. Vent Your Frustrations Into a Journal

Get a notebook and a pen and just start to write. Write whatever comes to your head, and no matter what it is, just keep writing. Even if it’s just, “This is stupid. Why am I doing this? I hate this,” just keep going. Keep on going and eventually, your frustrations will start to pour out through your hands and onto the paper. Sometimes, being able to vent out your frustrations to yourself can really take away some of their power. It’s as if, once they are out of your head and onto the paper, your brain is free to move on and think about something else.

3. Call a Friend or Family Member

Even though you may feel like you don’t want to burden anyone else with your bad mood, sometimes a friend or family member is just what you need to lift your spirits. At the very least, it can help take your mind off of whatever is stressing you out or bringing you down. You never know, maybe they’ll have a great story to tell you that will make you laugh. Either way, sharing your feelings can often make your problems seem less severe than you first thought, and knowing that there are people out there who care for you can really help shift your perspective.

4. Practice Gratitude

A surefire way to stop feeling sorry for yourself and dwelling on everything that is going wrong in your life is to spend some energy focusing on what is going right. Write down three things in your life that you are grateful for. If you tend to be in a bad mood because of your circumstances often, practice this on a daily basis, each day writing down three things that you were grateful for on that specific day. I have found it really helpful to enlist a buddy in this practice of gratitude. Each day you text each other three things that you are grateful for. It may seem tough at first, but the more you practice gratitude, the more you experience it and find more and more to be grateful for.

5. Laugh Out Loud in Front of a Mirror

Now, I know this sounds particularly stupid, but trust me, as someone who has had my fair share of bad hair days and straight up emotional turmoil — this works. And yes, it is just as dumb as it sounds. But have you ever heard the phrase fake it ‘till you make it? This is a perfect example of how that works. Stand in front of the mirror, starting with just a smile, and then move on to a giggle, and then a chuckle — this will eventually lead to a full-blown belly laugh. It is just as ridiculous as it sounds, but I think that’s why it’s so effective; it’s so silly that you can’t help but laugh for real, and that will inevitably lift your mood. Sometimes, just looking at the scowl on your face in the mirror can get you going, but all it takes is one little smile to get the ball rolling.

These are just simple things that anyone can do at any time. They have worked tremendously for me in past, but if you are struggling with more than just a bad day and you feel you’ve been stuck in a depressed state for some time, more may be required to get yourself un-stuck. Check out the following articles for some more advice, tips, and tricks to assist you on your journey toward happiness and joy.

Reprinted with permission from Collective Evolution.

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Not Buying Any Government Today, Thanks

Ven, 20/01/2017 - 07:01

I want to be as fair-minded as I can in what I am about to say. Now, the media acts like the government has been running better than a Swiss watch for the last eight years. And I don’t want to sit here and act like it ran like a Swiss watch the eight years before that, either. Nor will it run like one going forward. Why? Because it is still the government we are talking about. One man isn’t wholly responsible for this train wreck we see before us. But what’s more, one man will not be fully responsible for future messes, as much as the media would have us believe.

I will save time and refer to our federal government as Guv from here on. Look here, Guv, the population of homeless people has been increasing every year. Now, how is it that you’re able to run around and blather this nonsense about us being “the greatest nation on Earth” when every city park looks like a refugee camp? And why do they look like refugee camps? Because they are! They’re economic refugees! You clowns have collectively spent the prosperity of three or four generations now! And for what? The Vietnam War? The Iraq War? This horrifying nightmare you brought to us trying to bring Dumbocracy to Syria? I see the homeless every day. More than half are seriously mentally ill. No, let local police handle it, right?

Speaking of the homeless, there are flyers and handbills everywhere telling homeless veterans where they can try and get help. No, not from the VA. I’m talking hot meals, showers, a place to sleep. Some of them are so recently discharged, you can hear their dogtags still jangling under their shirts as they walk. See, these are the results of your trying to bring “democracy” to people who will fight tooth and nail to keep your version of that out of their countries. But you’re done with them, right? Again, let the local police handle it. We’ve got a war to start with Russia, after all.

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I’m tired of hearing this nonsense about how great Guv has been for the last eight years. Sorry, but this is the same Guv that has been in control for over a couple hundred years now and they’ve done nothing but pauperize huge swathes of the nation that used to have economic stability. Tax this, tax that, pass this law, sign BS trade treaties over here, jail people for smoking weed, and on and on it goes. We have more people per capita in prison than the Soviets had socked away in gulags and you jokers want to tell me we’re so great? Flush out your headgear, dummies. You jail people over smoking some flowers while you people commit multiple felonies, torture human beings, start illegal wars, and kill people all over the planet and not one of you—not one!—sees a day of jail time for it. No, jail is also the relocation camp for the economic refugees your insane policies have created. And the mentally ill, too, by the way.

The poor, yeah, you’re all so keen on us, aren’t you? As if we’re cute little waifs in a Norman Rockwell painting that you condescend to flip a dime to on the street corner. Excuse me, but the fundraisers you all attend cost $25,000 a plate. That’s more than we earn in a year! And, what, Guv? You think you KNOW us and what our needs are? Many of us haven’t even heard of the crap you serve at these shindigs and you want to act like you’re in solidarity with us? Here’s a news flash for you: I don’t trust any of you and I don’t even like any of you. I’ve seen too many broken promises. Too many people that went to jail for weed while you people, again, committed multiple felonies and flippin’ walked.

You do these stupid things like provoking the Russians—the Russians!—and act like we’re all behind you on this? Yeah? We’re the one that will be incinerated. If we’re lucky. You’ll all be hiding in those bunkers you built for yourselves with that 100 year supply of Xanax and heaven alone knows what other drugs you stashed away down there. Right, no jail terms for you! Let some poor soul have a bottle of Xanax without a prescription, he goes to jail. You guys stash a century’s worth of it for a couple thousand people to party like it’s Doomsday (because it is) and they probably high-fived throughout the Pentagon and put in a few purchase requisitions for Quaaludes.

Look here, Guv, what makes you think you’re so dang smart? Smart people don’t get into wars they can’t win because they don’t get into wars. Look at the Swiss. They make nice watches. They make lots of nice stuff besides that. Why? Because they’re not flushing away their prosperity down the commode on senseless wars that drain the economy. You run around with this BS meme that “war is good for the economy” and the only “economy” it’s good for is the offshore one the CIA has through black markets, shell corporations, and bogus bank accounts. Man, the German SS had nothing on these guys! Those bush league buffoons in black uniforms wouldn’t make it through Day One at Langley. Not crooked enough. Great team you’ve got there, Guv. CIA means Crooks In America.

You created a humanitarian disaster in Syria and a war of epic proportions. That war will not be truly be over for a decade, I’ll bet. And the terrorist attacks coming from it will plague Europe and the United States for two decades, at least. And for what?! Democracy?! My word, do any of you realize what you have done?! Almost 300,000 people dead and more to die and you think they care about voting for some charlatan with a pass key to the bathroom at Langley? If this goes on, in order to have elections in Syria, you’ll need to hold a mass séance. You spent how many hundreds of millions of dollars on this insane war and vets from the last one are sleeping on the streets. Bravo, Guv! Outstanding performance! Those Hollywood celebrity policy parrots will be glad to play you in the next movie to glorify this endless slaughter. Then you can invite them up to the White House and give them the ear you have long refused to give to the real people who aren’t playing real people on TV.

You see, Guv, I am not fooled by this. I know that it doesn’t matter who is president, the United States military, probably on orders from the CIA, will continue to provoke the Russian military until someone gets nervous and shoots. Bravo! The border skirmish we’ve all been waiting for! Now we can jump right in and lose another war. Notify local police departments across America that the homeless population will soon be increasing rather rapidly. Well, those who live anyway. Right, let’s park American troops in Poland. Because that’s right where the last world war we had began in earnest. Might as well keep using a winning combination, right? Those poor, duped Poles. Waving American flags as American tanks and Humvees roll in. And none of them know they’re expendable and we can’t beat the Russians in a conventional war. Meaning Krakow will be a smoking, radioactive crater within 48 hours of a border skirmish escalating into a full-scale launch-on-warning. Let’s see you wave American flags then.

And how does a war with Russia help us, exactly? Oh, I know! Then we can pass more wartime measures, more laws that will probably govern and dictate when a red flag needs to pop up on a Homeland Security because someone checked out a “flagged” book at a public library in Twin Falls, Idaho. “Patriotic Americans will not read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, or any such Russky propaganda! We have instructed public libraries to remove these books from their shelves and give us a list of names of who has checked them out over the last twenty years! If any librarian refuses to do so, he or she will be subject to arrest as a person-of-interest! And anyone found in possession of music by Shostakovich is subject to arrest! Let no one even think of cooking Beef Stroganoff! After all, if it saves just one life…” That’s how you think, isn’t it, Guv? Everyone is a suspect, everyone is guilty. Except you, Guv. And you’re the one actually committing the crimes! Brilliant! Perfect alibi! “How can I be the crook? I wrote the laws!”

So don’t hand me this crap that the government has been rolling along, slick as you please, for the past eight years. The government has rolled the world into a humanitarian disaster. The government is rolling the world into another world war. And the most fascinating thing about it is that most of Europe, who will be the nuclear battlefield as far as the first salvos of tactical nukes go, thinks that Guv has not been behind it! And practically begs Guv to provoke the Russians even more! Ukraine changed hands between Russia and Poland for hundreds of years and, what, now we’re concerned about it? Gosh, how did they ever manage to bicker over this piece of territory while the United States was busy shooting its indigenous population in the name of Manifest Destiny? Right, Guv, you’ve got the proven track record on what can and cannot be done with lands and populations one side deems up for grabs, right? As long as you apologize for shooting them later, it’s all good. What? Give the land back? No, Guv has moved on. Now Guv tells other countries to give back land or enforces no-fly zones. And Europe seems to forget what their cities looked like the last time the Russians came through. And Guv, too, for that matter.

Right, everything has been just peaches and cream for the last eight years. Gosh, I know I’m impressed. Russia is conducting mass civil defense drills for the first time since the end of the Cold War. They’ve fielded another 100 thermonuclear warheads with dozens of new ICBMs. Gee, Guv, sure is a smart move to put troops into places where the possibility of a border clash is certain. Or, perhaps, some trigger-happy Polish soldier decides to “get even” and takes a shot at the Russians and hides behind an American tank. Or some Estonian. Or some U.S. naval vessel fires on a passing Russian warplane. “We can’t let the Russians embarrass us!” Indeed. It’s certainly worth the deaths of several billions of people to ensure we are never embarrassed.

It sure is swell to see everyone feel that the CIA is now telling us the truth. At least the news media does. Why not? Many of them probably get press releases from some press agency funded by In-Q-Tel. Look that one up. Right, CIA venture capital firm. Gee, Guv, exactly what companies do they fund anyway? Or do you even know? Of course they must be telling us the truth. Like they told us the truth about Iraq. And Syria. Now, we know the CIA tortured people. So if the news media affords this organization impeccable truthiness, it would be like the news telling us in 1939, “Oh, yes, we know the Soviets tampered with our elections. The Gestapo told us so!” Why not? Guv brought over several Nazi war criminals here during Operation Paperclip and afforded credibility to them, too. Must be where Guv learned it.

Nazi war criminals helped us win the Space Race, too. The one liberals think was so peaceful and not about proving who had the most accurate ballistic missiles. “If we can put a man on the moon, we can drop a warhead right into Leonid Brezhnev’s vodka tumbler!” Later, they padlocked psychiatric hospitals, shook them all out on to the streets, and built the Space Shuttle. Yay! The Guv-lovers all want more money spent on NASA. Well, in order to do that, we need to order local governments to build more city parks. That way, there will be a place for the burgeoning population of homeless to be sequestered. Then we can afford to send a mission to Mars to prove that planet is less viable than Death Valley. But, hey, we’ll beat the Russians to another orbiting sphere of lifeless rock! I understand Guv entertains notions of building a “base” on Mars. More likely, a secret prison for “unlawful enemy combatants” and other non-people who no longer exist. “It’s not on Earth! So no laws regarding the treatment of human beings apply! On Mars, we don’t even have to think of them as human beings!” But, no worries. They won’t be able to afford to cart the homeless up there.

Sell this government to someone else. I’m not buying it.

The post Not Buying Any Government Today, Thanks appeared first on LewRockwell.

The Greeks Called It a Treasure

Ven, 20/01/2017 - 07:01

Writers often turn to a thesaurus to diversify their vocabulary and add nuance to their prose. But looking up synonyms and antonyms in a thesaurus can help anyone —writer or not—find the most vivid, incisive words to communicate thoughts and ideas. Since today is Thesaurus Day, we’re celebrating with these 10 fascinating facts about your thesaurus.


Most logophiles consider the thesaurus to be a treasure trove of diction, but the word thesaurus really does mean treasure! It derives from the Greek word thésauros, which means a storehouse of precious items, or a treasure.

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How do you refer to more than one octopus? People say everything from octopuses, octopi, and octopodes. Similarly, many people have trouble figuring out the correct plural form of the word thesaurus. Though thesauri is technically correct—it attaches a Latin suffix to the Latin word thēsaurus—both thesauri and thesauruses are commonly used and accepted today.


Ask a French scholar in the 16th century to see his thesaurus, and he’d gladly give you a copy of his dictionary. In the early 1530s, a French printer named Robert Estienne published Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a comprehensive Latin dictionary listing words that appeared in Latin texts throughout an enormous span of history. And in 1572, Estienne’s son Henri published Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a dictionary of Greek words. Although the Estiennes’ books were called thesauruses, they were really dictionaries comprised of alphabetical listings of words with their definitions.


Philo of Byblos, a Greek historian and grammarian, wrote On Synonyms, a dictionary of synonyms that scholars consider to be the first ancient thesaurus. Dating to the late 1st century or early 2nd century CE, the book lists Greek words that are similar in meaning to each another. Sadly, we don’t know much more about On Synonyms because copies of the work haven’t survived over the centuries.


In the 4th century CE, an Indian poet and grammarian named Amara Sinha wrote The Amarakosha, a thesaurus of Sanskrit words. Rather than compile a boring list of similar words, Amara Sinha turned his thesaurus into a long poem. Divided into three sections—words relating to the divine, the earth, and everyday life—The Amarakosha contains verses so readers could memorize words easily. This thesaurus is the oldest book of its kind that still exists.

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Forget French Reds

Ven, 20/01/2017 - 07:01

When it comes to wine, there are a few countries we know we can rely on for producing top quality bottles of plonk – namely France and Italy.

But now bottles from regions rarely associated with wine are being stocked in supermarkets and off-licences.

From far-flung China and India to little-known Slovenia, we reveal the countries producing high-quality wines that are fast gaining the world’s attention – and most of the bottles are under £10.


It’s a little-known fact, but China recently became the second biggest producer of grapes for wine production in the world after France.

And for the first time, a UK supermarket has begun stocking a Chinese wine just in time for Chinese New Year on January 28.

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Changyu Noble Dragon Cabernet Gernisht is now sold in Sainsbury’s for just £8 until February 15, and after that for £10.

It’s a smoky red, with notes of blackberries and cassis and a smooth finish. Said to pair excellently with beef and lamb,

The Noble Dragon brand is the best-selling Chinese wine in the world and more than 450 million bottles were sold in 2015.

Sainsbury’s are expecting it to be so popular that they are bringing out a second Chinese wine, a Riesling, in February.

Georgina Haughton, Sainsbury’s wine buyer for China says: ‘For anyone who usually enjoys traditional Cabernet Sauvignon blends from Bordeaux, then this is a good option to broaden your horizons.

‘It will go brilliantly with both Asian meat-based dishes as well as a traditional English roast.’


It’s perhaps surprising, but India has been producing wine for hundreds of years, according to Laithwaite’s wine buyer Beth Willard.

It was the influence of British colonizers in the 19th century who drove this wine-making spirit and now, a few hours drive from Mumbai, you’ll find the Sula vineyard.

It’s one of India’s leading wine producers, combining Indian roots and international influences to produce award-winning wines.

Laithwaite’s sell the vineyard’s Sula Nasika Sauvignon Blanc, a medium-bodied dry white which is crisp and fresh on the tongue, with gooseberry and tropical fruit flavours.

It’s currently sold out but you can pick up a bottle of its 2015 vintage from Wine Direct for £10.50.

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Worms, Parasites, Fungi

Ven, 20/01/2017 - 07:01

Bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites—there are many types of harmful organisms and nearly everyone is affected at some point in their life.[1] Different types of harmful organisms affect the body differently. Here, we’ll look at harmful organisms that affect well-being by targeting and disrupting gut health.

This is a good time to mention that you probably shouldn’t eat while reading this article. Just trust me.

What Are Harmful Organisms?

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Harmful organisms are organisms that live off another organism by living on or in them. Essentially, the harmful organism takes up residence in the host organism. In this relationship, harmful organisms steal nutrients and release waste to negatively affect the overall health of the host organism. Harmful organisms are present everywhere, from developing nations to those considered first-world, and have plagued humans since the beginning of time; references even appear in some of our oldest written records.[2, 3]

What Is “The Gut?”

The human digestive tract is a complex system comprised of many parts that, together, function as a single unit. Organs, enzymes, bacteria (commonly referred to as the gut microbiota), and other components collectively make up what we know as “the gut.” In many ways, it is a model ecosystem.

One truth I’ve observed again and again is that gut health is closely tied to overall health. When your gut is vibrant, so are you. When it’s not, neither are you. In fact, when gut function is disrupted, every part of the body is negatively affected. It’s a reality that makes gut-targeting harmful organisms especially devastating.[4]

Which Harmful Organisms Affect the Gut?

The gut is home to many organisms. Most, like probiotics, are absolutely essential to your health, others are detrimental. The two most common organisms that prey on the gut are protozoa and helminth worms.

Protozoa are microscopic, one-celled organisms and there are about 70 species that can affect humans.[2] Some protozoa can form protective “shells” called cysts that allow them to lay dormant for years before striking. Cysts even enable protozoa to survive externally, which means they can transfer and infect new hosts.[5]

Helminth worms are a bigger threat in terms of both species (nearly 300 types can affect humans) and size (adult helminths range in size from under a millimeter to over a meter in length).[6] That’s not a misprint—over a meter, in your body.

Until recently, it was believed that there are two major varieties of helminth worms—roundworms (nematodes) and flatworms (platyhelminths). Flatworms include tapeworms (cestodes) and flukes (trematodes).[7, 8] Researchers have also discovered an entirely new type of helminth called ropeworms.[9] Ropeworms can grow to a meter long and have a lumpy, rope-like shape. They are often mistaken for feces or mucus and go undetected.

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Here’s How Google Tracks You

Ven, 20/01/2017 - 07:01

Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?

It’s because you are – and, as Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins details, for a rough proxy of this, use the browser extension Ghostery to see how many tracking scripts are watching you on a typical media site. (It doesn’t work for everything, but a large media site like has 50+ trackers, with 40 of them focused on advertising).

Capturing this user data helps sites sell their inventory to advertisers, but a select few companies operate in this capacity at a whole different level. Google and Facebook are the best of examples of this, as nearly $0.60 of every dollar spent on digital advertising goes to them. They both have the sophistication and ubiquity to capture incredible amounts of information about you.


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Today’s infographic, which comes to us from Mylio, focuses in on Google in particular.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

The search giant is massive in size, and there is a good chance you tap into Googleverse in some way:

  • Global market penetration for Android is 61-81%.
  • Google has a 78.8% market share for online search.
  • The company generates $67.4 billion in annual ad revenue.
  • Google processes two trillion searches annually.
  • 30-50 million websites use Google Analytics to for tracking.
  • There are 700,000 apps available in the Google Play store.
  • 82% of videos watched online come from YouTube.
  • In total, Google has at least 79 products and services.

According to Google’s documentation, it uses these services to pull out information on the “things you do”, “things you create”, and the things that make you unique.


All in all, Google tracks your activity history, location history, audio history, and device history. It also builds a profile for you for serving ads – age, gender, location, income, and other demographic data.

You can view and actually download this history by using a tool called Google Takeout.

Many people understand that their data helps support advertising revenues on websites they enjoy. Others are rightly concerned about their privacy, and how their information is used. Regardless of which category you fit in, becoming informed about how privacy on the internet works will help you craft an experience that best fits your preferences.

Reprinted with permission from Zero Hedge.

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America First

Ven, 20/01/2017 - 07:01

Donald Trump delivered a populist rallying call to Americans who felt left behind enough to send a non-politician to do the most powerful job on earth, after he was sworn in Friday as America’s 45th president.

‘I will fight for you with every breath in my body,’ he pledged. ‘And I will never, ever let you down.’

Trump promised ‘America first’ would become the central organizing principle around which his government is organized.

‘We will follow two simple rules. Buy American and hire American,’ Trump declared.

At 1,453 words, his inaugural address was the shortest since Jimmy Carter’s in 1977. His slogans were just as tight.

‘America first,’ a mantra that he put into common use as he campaigned for the White House, found some flesh on its bone Friday.

’Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration on foreign affairs, will be made to protect American workers and American families,’ he said.

Trump’s oath of office – which he called ‘an oath of allegiance to all Americans’ – was marred by a protester blowing a whistle and another handful shouting muffled slogans in the distance.

But the moment passed. Trump spoke his vows. And America had a new leader.

What Trump left out of his teleprompter-aided remarks was just as obvious as what he kept in.

There was no act of reconciliation with journalists, who have become his ink-armed foils and a new enemy as vexing to Trump as the Democratic Party.

Absent, too, was a spoken olive-branch to women who felt alienated after evidence of his ‘locker room talk’ and past coarseness around the fairer sex became part of his political epic.

Asked if Trump hit the right tones of contrition, Senator John McCain of Arizona told ‘I just think it was a continuation of his campaign.’

Asked if that was as it should be, McCain shrugged: ‘It’s his choice; he’s the president-elect.’

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Great Car Engines, RIP

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

Several of the most successful car (and engine) designs were successful because they were around for a long time. The original VW Beetle is an example and so is the small block Chevrolet V8.

Both were in continuous production for decades.

For generations.

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Beetles were still being produced (in Mexico) until the early 2000s in largely the same basic form and layout as when the first one was paraded before Der Fuhrer in the mid 1930s. And Chevy’s small block V8 outlasted Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush senior. The same basic engine that was installed in ’55 Chevys was still being installed in new Chevys as recently as just a few years ago (and the current GM “LS” V8 shares many of the same design features, even though parts do not interchange).

Cars – and engines – used to stay in production without major changes for much longer, generally. For example, my ’76 Pontiac Trans-Am is pretty much the same car as a 1970 Trans Am and also a 1981 Trans-Am. The production run lasted 11 years.

This was good for the car companies and for us, the people buying the cars.

The car companies were better able to amortize the costs of designing a new car (or a new engine), including tooling costs – which can be huge. Knowing that a new engine might be in production for 20 or even 30 years encouraged investment in new/radical technologies – because the car company stood a very good chance not only of making back whatever it had invested but also a lot of “gravy” after that.

The small block Chevy, for example, was a wild design back in 1955. It was light and compact; it had an innovative valvetrain that allowed it to rev freely, reliably – and it made a lot of power for its size (it was one  of the very first engines to achieve the magical 1 horsepower for every cubic inch of displacement).

It was such a good engine that – beyond relatively superficial changes such as increases in displacement and the replacement (eventually, after decades in production) of carburetors with electronic fuel injection – it wasn’t retired from front line service until the early 2000s.

Millions of them were made.

Similarly, the Beetle. It got tweaked here and there, but a late ’70s Beetle (or even an early 2000s Mexican Beetle) was fundamentally the same car as a 1930s example.

Because so many were made over such a long time, parts (new and used) were and still are readily available. And cheap. You can buy a brand-new crated replacement small block V8 from GM today, over the counter, for less than $1,500.

That is for an entire engine.

This makes it economically feasible to keep even a fairly ancient (by modern car standards) Chevy in service. Not as a hobby car – as a daily driver. It’s why you still see Beetles – which were last sold new in the United States back in 1979 – still being driven, and not just to car shows.

Rust aside, these cars and cars like them can be kept economically operable for 40 or 50 years.

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The One Stopped Clock Not Right Twice a Day

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

The ground shifted in Washington and elsewhere with the news that Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence had been commuted in the outgoing president’s spasmodic burst of compassion.

The head of an entrenched foreign policy characterized by equal parts force, arrogance and ignorance commuted the sentence of a lowly private who, in frustration upon witnessing the lies told by his employer to hide the nature of that foreign policy, provided raw material to Wikileaks.

The feds tried to show that severe (or indeed any) damage had been done by the release of these documents and video.  Instead, we have discovered only that the US government is cruel and frequently violates the domestic and international law. We noted that our diplomats are two-faced and government employees at all levels can be petty and peevish.

Private Manning was probably pretty upset by this.  She, like many people in my generation and hers and those in between, joined the military out of a desire to be above all that pettiness and narcissism, in service to the country, in defense of the Constitution and rule of law.

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Manning’s incarceration has been particularly unpleasant.  The US government was extremely embarrassed by the leaks and angered by the subsequent global popularity of Wikileaks itself as a valuable service for news organizations, governments and people around the world who want to see what is really going on.  Wikileaks gets no credit for improving both national intelligence quality and procedure, but it has done more than any IG or congressional study toward that end.

Our modern kingdom does not feature nor protect court jesters.  Kings of previous eras were not nearly as arrogant as the modern bureaucratic state.  Our jesters will be incarcerated, tortured, and silenced, because as Orwell observed, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Manning has been living a life of an Orwellian character.  His tortured existence is, however, not entertainment, not simply informative.  His transgenderism created for him a new kind of sympathy, new condemnation, and contempt, but his life experience indicts our statism and our Republic far more deeply.

Americans wonder about Chelsea’s true identity and shake their heads, while visions of their fantasy Republic still resonate.  Our collective ability to assess facts and rationally examine our own government, to recognize the immense yet superficial bureaucratic state and sense the spine and sinew of the far more murderous deep state, remains infantile, emotional and reactive.

If the jesters are to be tortured and ridiculed, the jokers are not.  Obama’s simultaneous pardon – full wipe – of Marine General Jim Cartwright is a good example.  Cartwright was vice chairman of the JCS, and he gave at least two reporters classified nuclear-related information and later lied about this during the investigation.  Not charged at all with releasing classified to the media, Cartwright pled guilty to lying to investigators about what he did, and faced, but had not yet begun to serve, jail time for lying, not leaking.

In an era marked by whistleblowing and truthtellers and the nonstop disregard of classification protections by Washington insiders for political purposes, these seem to be the only pardons or commutations in this category on the list of 209 commutations and 64 pardons.   The bomb-dropping peace prize-winner has himself been a reliable character in an Orwellian dystopia, playing his part well.  There is no reflective angst, no deliberation on right and wrong.  Chelsea Manning is transgender and suddenly her torture by the state is politically unseemly.  General Cartwright is a high priest of the state, and must not be punished for promoting the state’s agenda, as he certainly did in his particular violation of security policy.   On the other hand, Machinist Mate Christian Saucier, a sailor who sent a selfie to his wife from a submarine, is going to serve his time.  He’s not on anyone’s list.

Many have petitioned Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, who shared a massive trove of information regarding NSA’s active and pervasive wrongdoing, waste, and violation of Constitution and domestic activities.

Revealing his own character, in a style that should be emulated widely, Snowden appealed to Obama through twitter to do the right thing in the Manning case.

Two purposeful leakers of classified data. A commutation for a Private after years of incarceration and arguably torture, and a pardon for a General long before his sentencing.  One motivated to do the right thing, the other motivated to make sure he pushed a policy and looked good in a journalist’s book.  They say even a broken clock is right twice a day, but I’m going to have to think about that.

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The Horrific Molasses Flood of 1919

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

On January 15, 1919, Boston suffered one of the history’s strangest disasters: a devastating flood of molasses. The “Great Molasses Flood” tore through the city’s North End and deposited so much gooey residue that locals claimed they could still smell the molasses on warm days decades later. Let’s take a look at this odd, tragic story.

While most of us probably think of molasses as a tasty ingredient in treats like gingerbread, the sticky stuff has quite a few other uses. With a little know-how, one can turn molasses into rumor industrial alcohol fairly easily, and the Purity Distilling Company had built the gigantic tank in Boston’s North End in 1915 to supply its booze-making operations. The steel tank was enormous: 50 feet tall, 90 feet across, and capable of holding 2.5 million gallons of molasses. (Although Prohibition kicked in with Nebraska’s ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment the very next day after the 1919 disaster, the United States Industrial Alcohol Company, Purity Distilling’s parent company, still had a license to distil alcohol for industrial applications.)

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By Unknown – Anthony Mitchell Sammarco. Boston’s North End. Arcadia Publishing, 2004, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The massive tank was nearly full on January 15 thanks to a recent infusion of 2.3 million gallons of Puerto Rican molasses. Just afternoon, something went horribly wrong. Witnesses later recalled hearing a noise like gunfire as the tank’s rivets popped and the steel sides ripped open. Suddenly, 26 million pounds of molasses were tearing down Commercial Street in a 15-foot wave.


A giant wave of a sticky foodstuff sounds like something from a cartoon, but the surging molasses was a shockingly destructive force. The wave moved at upwards of 35 miles per hour, and the power was sufficient to rip buildings off of their foundations. The molasses snapped the support girders from an elevated train track and smashed multiple houses. The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities’ website says the property damage alone totaled around $100 million in today’s dollars.

The human cost of the disaster was even grimmer. The wave of molasses moved so quickly and so forcefully that anyone who was unlucky enough to be in its way didn’t stand much of a chance. They were either knocked over and crushed or drowned in the goo. The flood claimed 21 lives, and another 150 people suffered injuries. Any flood would have been disastrous, but the viscous nature of molasses made rescue attempts even trickier. Medics and police officers arrived on the scene quickly but had to slog through waist-deep goo to reach victims.

Boston Post, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Even after the victims had been pulled from the muck, cleanup crews quickly learned that getting rid of two million gallons of molasses is no small task. Stephen Puleo writes about one of the chief obstacles to the cleanup in his book Dark Tide: firefighters couldn’t just use their hoses to blast the molasses off of building and streets with fresh water. Eventually, they realized that saltwater would cut the hardened molasses and enable them to hose it down the streets into gutters. Thanks to all the foot traffic of rescue workers, cleanup crews, and rubberneckers, the sticky mess quickly moved around the city via peoples’ shoes. In all, the cleanup effort required over 80,000 man hours.

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Fake News, Fake Politics, Fake Policy

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

Fake news has been a hot topic recently. All sides of the political sound and fury surrounding the recent presidential election have leveled charges and counter-charges against their opponents in this regard. Democrats, embracing a newfound, touchingly naive faith in the CIA and the other agencies of the so-called intelligence community, have claimed that the Russians hacked the Democratic strategists’ electronic files, released the information gained thereby, and hence influenced the election in Trump’s favor, costing Clinton the victory she so amply deserved. Republicans have responded that such claims at best evince sour grapes and an attempt to shift the public’s attention from the substance of the revealed messages to the identity of the messengers who allegedly made them public. At the same time, libertarians and others have called attention to the fact that the government itself is and long has been a leading, if not the leading, propagator of fake news—sometimes called simply propaganda—in its various attempts to sway public opinion and diminish resistance to its schemes for aggrandizing its own power and enriching the crony capitalists on whom it relies for its principal financial support, especially during the electioneering season.

Fake news is as old as the news itself. Political reporting, in particular, has always served as a tool of those who hold or seek to gain a grip on power. Respectable news sources, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, are not and never have been strangers to the distribution of false, twisted, or selectively partial and slanted reports. Less prestigious news outlets have also played the game. Perhaps the only new development on this front recently is the use of the Internet to spread fake news quicker and farther than the old media could. The news cycle revolves constantly now, and hence news, true and false, is placed before the public on an instant, worldwide scale as never before.

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A little-noticed aspect of this ongoing activity relates to the matter of “failed policies.” Government’s critics constantly harp on allegations of such failures in an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of throwing the (current) rascals out and replacing them with the critics’ preferred rascals. Revelations of “scandals,” whether personal or managerial, provide especially useful allegations in the world of fake news. Thus, for example, critics of the government’s so-called drug war(s) constantly allege that these efforts have failed to stem the use and trafficking in such forbidden fruits and therefore ought to be modified or abandoned. Such criticism, whether well founded or not, however, falls victim to the assumption that the policy has failed merely because it has not halted or even reduced drug use and trafficking. But the policy, at least at the federal level of government, has not been altered substantially or abandoned in response to such criticism, and the reason it has proved so durable is that it has decidedly not failed insofar as its principal warriors are concerned. The drug war has brought tremendous infusions of money and power into the hands of its conductors, who would be crestfallen indeed if their effort had succeeded in reducing the use and trafficking they purport to be targeting. Such success would remove the foundation that supports their hold on money and power and hence would prove personally devastating to them, however, desirable it might seem to be in the abstract.

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Trump vs. the CIA

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

When I read Trump’s defenders, such as Daniel Lazare, having to balance their defense with denunciations of Trump, I think the CIA’s propaganda is working. In his article, Lazare asks the rhetorical question, “Is a military coup in the works?” He then goes on to describe the CIA and presstitute coup against Trump unfolding before our eyes.

Having described the unprecedented frame-up of the president-elect of the United States by the CIA and the Western media, Lazare has to square himself with those doing the frame-up:“This is not to say that the so-called President-elect’s legitimacy is not open to question. . . . Trump is a rightwing blowhard whose absurd babblings about Saudi Arabia, Iran and Yemen reveal a man who is dangerously ignorant about how the world works.”

Note that Lazare goes beyond the CIA and the presstitutes by elevating Trump from someone not sufficiently suspicious of Vladimir Putin to “dangerously ignorant.” I suppose Lazare means dangerously ignorant like Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. If this is what Lazare means, why is Trump any less qualified to be president than his three most recent predecessors and his opponent in the election?

Of course, Lazare has no idea what he means. He is simply afraid he will be called a “Trump deplorable,” and he stuck in some denunciatory words to ward off his dismissal as just another Russian agent.

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At other times I conclude that the CIA is discrediting itself with its fierce and transparently false attack on the president-elect. The attack on Trump from the CIA and its media agents at the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, the network TV channels, the BBC, the Guardian, and every other Western print and TV source with the exception of Fox News, is based on no evidence whatsoever. None of the US 16 intelligence agencies can produce a tiny scrap of evidence. The evidence consists of nothing but constant repetitions of blatant lies fed into the presstitute media by the CIA.

We have witnessed this so many times before: “Tonkin Gulf,” “Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction,” “Iranian nukes,” “Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” “Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in the history of the US military said that he and the US Marines spent their lives defending the interests of the United Fruit Company and some lousy investment of the banks in Latin America. That’s all the attack on Trump is about. Trump is saying that “America first” doesn’t mean a license for America to rape and plunder other countries.

Normalized relations with Russia removes the orchestrated “Russian threat” justification for the $1,000 billion taxpayer dollars taken annually from ordinary Americans and given to the military/security complex via the federal budget.

Trump’s question about the relevance of NATO 25 years after the collapse of NATO’s purpose—the Soviet Union—threatens the power and position not only of the US military/security complex but also of Washington’s European vassals who live high in money and prestige as Washington’s servants. All European governments consist of Washington’s vassals. They are accustomed to supporting Washington’s foreign policy, not having had a policy of their own since World War II.

Trump is taking on a policy world long under the influence of the CIA. Little wonder WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and a number of other clued-in people say that the CIA will assassinate Trump if he cannot be brought into line with a Western alliance organized for the power and profit of the few.

So what is Trump to do?

There are various alternatives. Trump could fire CIA director John Brennan, have the Attorney General indict him for treason, have the FBI locate all participants in the intelligence agencies and presstitute media who aided and abetted the attempted frame-up of the president-elect of the United States and put them all on trial. This would be the best and surest way for Trump to clean out the snakepit that is Washington, D.C. To call a snakepit a “swamp” is to use a euphemism.

Another alternative is for Trump to make the obvious point that despite the allegations of the CIA and the presstitutes, any hacking that occurred was not the fault of Trump and Russia, but the fault of the US intelligence agencies who were too incompetent to prevent it. Trump’s trump question to the CIA, NSA, FBI is: So, you know the Russians hacked us and you did not prevent it? If you repeat your incompetence, I am going to fire every one of you incompetents.

The same goes for terror attacks. Trump should ask the intelligence agencies: “How were you so totally incompetent that a handful of Saudi Arabians who could not fly airplanes brought down three WTC skyscrapers and destroyed part of the Pentagon, humiliating the world’s sole superpower in the eyes of the world?”

Trump should make the point that the huge amount of money spent on security does not produce security. The massive security budget cannot prevent hacking of an American election and it cannot prevent humiliating attacks on the SuperPower by a handful of Saudi Arabians operating independently of any intelligence service.

Trump should raise the obvious question: Has the Saudi’s oil trillions purchased the CIA and the presstitutes so that the CIA and the corrupt Western media now serve foreign interests against the United States? The story is being established that the Saudis are responsible or 9/11 and nothing is done about it. Instead, the Saudis are supplied with more weapons with which to murder women and children in Yemen.

All of the CIA’s propaganda can be turned against the agency. 9/11 was due to CIA failure, and to nothing else. Putin’s theft of the US presidential election was due to CIA failure, and to nothing else. All the bombings in France, UK, and Germany are due to intelligence failings, and to nothing else, as is the Boston Marathon bombing and every other alleged “terror event.”

I mean, really, the CIA is a sitting duck for Trump. He has every reason to abolish the agency that has traditionally operated in behalf of narrow interests. In his book, The Brothers, Stephen Kinzer documents the use of the CIA and State Department in behalf of the clients of the Dulles brothers’ law firm’s clients. The CIA serves no American purpose, only the private purposes of the ruling elites, who are the real deplorables who have used corrupt Western governments to solidify all income and wealth in a few greedy hands.

There is no reason for Trump to tolerate spurious charges against him by the CIA. At best the CIA is incompetent. At worst the agency is complicit in, or organizer of, terrorist events.

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Stay Out of the Hospital

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

Especially when we’re sick and vulnerable, we rely on health-care providers to treat us. We depend on their knowledge, training, skills, and compassion. We expect them to help us to heal so that we can return to our duties and responsibilities as employers or employees, spouses, parents, neighbors, and friends.

We certainly don’t expect to get worse as a result of being hospitalized. However, there’s a chance that, in fact, we will get worse as there are 10 ways a hospital stay can make us sicker.

10 Post-Hospital Syndrome

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Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Yale School of Medicine has coined the term “post-hospital syndrome” to identify a temporary period during which patients are susceptible to an illness following a hospital stay. This requires their readmission within 30 days of their initial discharge.

The cause of readmission ranges from a hospital-acquired infection (HAI), stress experienced during hospitalization, sleep deprivation during the hospital stay, a lack of nutrition or exercise, lowered immune system functioning, and depression. Research conducted in 2009 shows that, among Medicare patients, 2.6 million discharged patients (20 percent) were readmitted to the hospital within a month of their discharge.

9 Hospital Food Errors

A Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority study found that, between January 2009 and June 2014, hospital staff committed 285 errors related to patients’ meals—181 of which were related to allergies—due to charting errors and communication mistakes.

Eight caused “serious harm to patients.” In one case, a patient with a seafood allergy was given fish and had to be “injected with epinephrine, given several intravenous drugs,” and relocated to an intensive-care unit for observation.

Other patients who were supposed to fast were given food or food that did not accord with their prescribed diets. The errors occurred throughout the “dietary process,” from the ordering to the delivery of meals.

8 Food Denial

In an article in the online journal BMJ Quality and Safety, several Johns Hopkins Hospital doctors contend that the practice of withholding patients’ food for eight hours prior to surgery is unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Even worse, in some cases, patients may have to wait days before hospitals allow them to eat in case they need to be anesthetized for surgery.

Patients’ immune systems could be compromised by denying them sleep and nutrition. Inadequate nutrition, suffered by half of hospital patients, could lead to “inflammation, muscle breakdown, and organ damage.”

Dr. Martin Makary, one of the authors of the article, called the need for an eight-hour fasting period before surgery a “myth.” He and his colleagues observed that it’s safe for patients to consume a high-carbohydrate beverage two hours before surgery. He also recommends that patients be allowed to eat food other than hospital meals during their hospital stays.

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Gold and Banking

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

My grandson had quite a day at school.  He had learned that the economy had been suffering from things called Panics, capital P, during the 19th century and had another big one in the early 20th century.  He had been told that responsible, public-spirited men like J. P. Morgan had organized a central bank to prevent those Panics.  He and other bankers finally got the government to go along with their idea and pass it into law in late 1913.  And wouldn’t you know it — we’ve had no more Panics since then.

He looked doubtful, though.  He didn’t understand what a central bank did, exactly.  And wasn’t the Depression and the recent Financial Crisis kind of like a Panic, only called a different name?  And if those calamities were like Panics, then why didn’t the federal reserve prevent them?

His teacher said that this country and most countries of the western world were on a gold standard during the days of Panics.  Economists and other people decided that the real culprit behind the turmoil was the gold we used as money.  So we got rid of gold for the stuff we use today . . . which doesn’t come out of the ground . . . which comes from the government but is regulated by the people in charge of the federal reserve, which is not really part of the government, though they’re close friends.

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“Ok,” he said, “so we have gold causing us and other countries all those Panics and we got rid of it.  But we didn’t get rid of it.”  He said his teacher told the class about the vault at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which houses gold for other countries.  The vault is 80 feet below street level and 50 feet below sea level.  He found that astounding.  The vault is protected by armed guards, CCTV, and electronic surveillance.  And the guards are trained marksmen.

Then his teacher pulled out his tablet and read this to the class, which my grandson read to me from his smartphone:

There are no doors into the gold vault. Entry is through a narrow ten-foot passageway cut in a delicately balanced, nine-feet-tall, 90-ton steel cylinder that revolves vertically in a 140-ton, steel-and-concrete frame. The vault is opened and closed by rotating the cylinder 90 degrees. An airtight and watertight seal is achieved by lowering the slightly tapered cylinder three-eighths of an inch into the frame, which is similar to pushing a cork down into a bottle. The cylinder is secured in place when two levers insert large bolts, four recessed in each side of the frame, into the cylinder. By unlocking a series of time and combination locks, Bank personnel can open the vault the next business day. The locks are under “multiple control” no one individual has all the combinations necessary to open the vault.

He found this even more astounding.  “Why?” he wanted to know, “Why all the protection for something that’s worthless?  Why even keep it around, except maybe for rings and other jewelry?”

As I started to answer he interrupted me.

“That bank stores the gold of other countries.  Fort Knox vaults the gold Americans once had.  And it’s a piece of work, too.”

He told me the depository was on an army base, and the building that housed the vault was made of North Carolina granite.  When the government ordered Americans to turn in their gold coins they melted it down into bars and shipped them by rail to the depository under heavy guard.

“But it’s not just gold stored there,” he said.  The place is so secure the government stored the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution there during World War II — the original documents.  It also held four exemplified copies of the Magna Carta, which had been on display during the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.  

“And get this,” he added, again reading from his smartphone:

During World War II and into the Cold War, until the invention of different types of synthetic painkillers, a supply of processed morphine and opium was kept in the Depository as a hedge against the US being isolated from the sources of raw opium.

“What’s going on?” he wanted to know.  “Drugs are bad, gold is bad, right? They’re against the law.  But we protect them like our very lives depended on them.”

“You want an answer.”

“Yeah.  Why didn’t government just dump the gold into the ocean or drop it down a volcano?

“For that matter, why did the government order people to turn it in?  If they didn’t want people using it for money, why not just say it was no longer legal.

“I checked the Constitution during study hall.  It says no state shall coin money.  It also says no state shall make anything but gold or silver coins a tender in the payment of debts.  Since the federal government is prohibited from doing anything not explicitly authorized by the Constitution, that would mean private mints would coin money.  Right?”

I told him I couldn’t answer his questions on the constitution, other than to say it’s become a dead letter, meaning that men in power have used tortured arguments to interpret it to suit their purposes or have ignored it altogether in the name of “national security.”

I told him when “national security” is used to justify any government action we’re either at or headed for a dictatorship.  He agreed.  Then I attempted to fill in some other blanks he left.

Explaining why we went from gold to fiat paper money

A central bank, I explained, is a bank only to its member banks, not to people like you or me.  It holds its members’ deposits as reserves on which the commercial banks can issue loans.

At the time of the Fed’s creation in 1913 gold and to some extent silver were still legal money in the United States.  Holders of gold or silver coins could walk into stores and buy things with them, or deposit them in banks.  In some cases they could get banks to exchange notes for coins, though that became uncommon after 1917 when commercial banks began shipping their gold off to regional federal reserve banks where they were added to the banks’s reserves.

People, thereby, lost the use of gold coins and became acclimated to paper.  They were confident, though, that if they really wanted the gold the paper money promised to pay, they could get it.

That confidence crashed and burned in 1933 when FDR ordered Americans to turn in their gold coins — or else.  They were given assurances of the necessity of the heist — which has also been called a “gold recall,” as if the gold itself were defective.  It was a national emergency, and Americans knew the government took away their rights in a national emergency.

Many of them recalled the social environment of World War I where people could get arrested for reading the Bill of Rights publicly.  And during the American Civil War Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and ordered the arrest and imprisonment of anyone challenging his policies.  Even the Constitutional Convention amounts to a violation of rights inasmuch as the delegates created a new government rather than revise the charter of the existing one, as they were empowered to do.  I suppose they would have said ‘national security’ required the ditching of the old government.

When Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural address he referred to the depression as an emergency comparable to war, thus setting up his listeners for some drastic measures.  Later, when he ordered people to turn in their gold, he told them not to worry.  The paper they would be using was good stuff, guaranteed.  Gold was preventing a recovery — somehow — even though the classical gold standard had been ditched almost two decades earlier.  If that doesn’t make sense rest assured monetary issues were complicated, and only the best and brightest could untangle them.  And Roosevelt had those kind advising him.  Besides, one of the best and brightest had said the gold standard was a barbarous relic, and it was obvious prices were too low, and the only way to bring them up was to manufacture more money.   But how are you going to do that with a scarce commodity like gold?

“In a sense, though not the right one, gold did cause the Panics you mentioned.”  I said banks had been engaging in fractional reserve lending, where they would promise to redeem in gold coin all the banknotes and deposits for which they were liable.  But they expanded the banknotes and deposits beyond the amount of gold they had, a form of embezzlement, though bankers and their friends don’t see it that way.  Banks were creating multiple receipts to the same weight of gold, and those receipts circulated as money.  In that way they were inflating the money supply.  They got away with it until depositors got nervous about the bank’s ability to pay out in gold or until some other bank attempted to clear payments and discovered the inflating bank couldn’t do it.

The public’s discovery of an over-inflating bank led to distrust of other banks, and soon there was chaos known as a Panic.  Bankers and most economists see nothing wrong with expanding credit beyond the money in the vault.  They consider it a sound practice that only becomes unethical and disruptive when the banks expand too much.

Instead of ceasing the practice of fractional-reserve lending they directed their wrath on gold.  If they didn’t have to redeem their notes in gold they could inflate to a much greater degree.  Get rid of gold, establish an institution that can provide funds during an emergency — in other words, a central bank — and the chaos would end.

Only it didn’t.  Gold acts as a brake on inflation, and without it the monetary unit we call the dollar starts to proliferate and lose value.   With economists focused on prices instead of the money supply they missed the inflation of the 1920s.  They said inflation was a rise in prices, and there was very little of that in the 1920s, except on the stock market.   When the Crash hit it came as a big shock — though not to Ludwig von Mises, an economist of the Austrian school.

Did they see their mistake and rethink their theories?  No.  Once again they seethed over gold’s role as true money.  President Roosevelt seized it from the public, but the Depression continued long after that event.

Why the government protects gold to such an extent is a mystery to me.   Gold has always been a highly valued commodity, even now when it’s not used as a general medium of exchange.   So it would make sense for the government to safe-keep it.  But that only pushes the question back further.  Why is it such a highly valued commodity?

Not every government has kept it.  Gordon Brown, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, sold roughly half of the UK’s gold reserves between 1999-2002.

“We should be free to decide what to use for money,” I told him.  “I would prefer something the supply of which can’t be increased easily, such as gold.  And banking should be subject to the laws of the market, instead of granted privileges protecting it from the market.”

He asked me to tell him again the name of the economist who predicted the Crash.  I was pleased to do so.

Announcement:  I have new books up on Amazon:

The Jolly Roger Dollar and the pirates who made it (paperback andKindle)

Write like they’re your last words (paperback & Kindle)

Publish on Amazon Without Breaking a Sweat (paperback and Kindle)


The New York Federal Reserve Vault: Guardian of the Gold,

United States Bullion Depository, Wikipedia

“Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”: FDR’s First Inaugural Address,

Mises: The Man Who Predicted the Depression, by Mark Spitznagel,, re-posted by Jeff Harding,

Sale of UK gold reserves, 1999–2002, Wikipedia

Reprinted with permission from Barbarous Relic.

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Nothing Is Real

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

“There are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may be shriveled. In the first—the Orwellian—culture becomes a prison. In the second—the Huxleyan—culture becomes a burlesque. No one needs to be reminded that our world is now marred by many prison-cultures…. it makes little difference if our wardens are inspired by right- or left-wing ideologies. The gates of the prison are equally impenetrable, surveillance equally rigorous, icon-worship pervasive…. Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours…. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”— Professor Neil Postman

Donald Trump no longer needs to launch Trump TV.

He’s already the star of his own political reality show.

Americans have a voracious appetite for TV entertainment, and the Trump reality show—guest starring outraged Democrats with a newly awakened conscience for immigrants and the poor, power-hungry Republicans eager to take advantage of their return to power, and a hodgepodge of other special interest groups with dubious motives—feeds that appetite for titillating, soap opera drama.

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After all, who needs the insults, narcissism, and power plays that are hallmarks of reality shows such as Celebrity Apprentice or Keeping Up with the Kardashians when you can have all that and more delivered up by the likes of Donald Trump and his cohorts?

Yet as John Lennon reminds us, “nothing is real,” especially not in the world of politics.

Much like the fabricated universe in Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show, in which a man’s life is the basis for an elaborately staged television show aimed at selling products and procuring ratings, the political scene in the United States has devolved over the years into a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population.

Indeed, Donald Trump may be the smartest move yet by the powers-that-be to keep the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats, because as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form.

This is the magic of the reality TV programming that passes for politics today.

It allows us to be distracted, entertained, occasionally a little bit outraged but overall largely uninvolved, content to remain in the viewer’s seat.

The more that is beamed at us, the more inclined we are to settle back in our comfy recliners and become passive viewers rather than active participants as unsettling, frightening events unfold.

Reality and fiction merge as everything around us becomes entertainment fodder.

We don’t even have to change the channel when the subject matter becomes too monotonous. That’s taken care of for us by the programmers (the corporate media).

For instance, before we could get too worked up over government surveillance, the programmers changed the channels on us and switched us over to breaking news about militarized police. Before our outrage could be transformed into action over police misconduct, they changed the channel once again to reports of ISIS beheadings and terrorist shootings. Before we had a chance to challenge what was staged or real, the programming switched to the 2016 presidential election.

“Living is easy with eyes closed,” says Lennon, and that’s exactly what reality TV that masquerades as American politics programs the citizenry to do: navigate the world with their eyes shut.

As long as we’re viewers, we’ll never be doers.

Studies suggest that the more reality TV people watch—and I would posit that it’s all reality TV—the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between what is real and what is carefully crafted farce.

“We the people” are watching a lot of TV.

On average, Americans spend five hours a day watching television. By the time we reach age 65, we’re watching more than 50 hours of television a week, and that number increases as we get older. And reality TV programming consistently captures the largest percentage of TV watchers every season by an almost 2-1 ratio.

This doesn’t bode well for a citizenry able to sift through masterfully-produced propaganda in order to think critically about the issues of the day, whether it’s fake news peddled by government agencies or foreign entities.

Those who watch reality shows tend to view what they see as the “norm.” Thus, those who watch shows characterized by lying, aggression and meanness not only come to see such behavior as acceptable and entertaining but also mimic the medium.

This holds true whether the reality programming is about the antics of celebrities in the White House, in the board room, or in the bedroom.

It’s a phenomenon called “humilitainment.”

A term coined by media scholars Brad Waite and Sara Booker, “humilitainment” refers to the tendency for viewers to take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation, suffering, and pain.

Humilitainment” largely explains not only why American TV watchers are so fixated on reality TV programming but how American citizens, largely insulated from what is really happening in the world around them by layers of technology, entertainment, and other distractions, are being programmed to accept the brutality, surveillance and dehumanizing treatment of the American police state as things happening to other people.

The ramifications for the future of civic engagement, political discourse, and self-government are incredibly depressing and demoralizing.

This not only explains how a candidate like Donald Trump with a reputation for being rude, egotistical and narcissistic could get elected, but it also says a lot about how a politician like Barack Obama—whose tenure in the White House was characterized by drone killings, a weakening of the Constitution at the expense of Americans’ civil liberties, and an expansion of the police state—could be hailed as “one of the greatest presidents of all times.”

This is what happens when an entire nation—bombarded by reality TV programming, government propaganda, and entertainment news—becomes systematically desensitized and acclimated to the trappings of a government that operates by fiat and speaks in a language of force.

Ultimately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality shows, the entertainment news, the surveillance society, the militarized police, and the political spectacles have one common objective: to keep us divided, distracted, imprisoned, and incapable of taking an active role in the business of self-government.

If “we the people” feel powerless and apathetic, it is only because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that the duties of citizenship begin and end at the ballot box.

Marching and protests have certainly been used with great success by past movements to foment real change, but if those marches and protests are merely outpourings of discontent because a particular politician won or lost with no solid plan of action or follow-through, then what’s the point?

Martin Luther King Jr. understood that politics could never be the answer to what ailed the country. That’s why he spearheaded a movement of mass-action strategy that employed boycotts, sit-ins, and marches. Yet King didn’t march against a particular politician or merely to express discontent. He marched against injustice, government corruption, war, and inequality, and he leveraged discontent with the status quo into an activist movement that transformed the face of America.

When all is said and done, it won’t matter who you voted for in the presidential election. What will matter is where you stand in the face of the injustices that continue to ravage our nation: the endless wars, the police shootings, the overcriminalization, the corruption, the graft, the roadside strip searches, the private prisons, the surveillance state, etc.

Will you tune out the reality TV show and join with your fellow citizens to push back against the real menace of the police state, or will you merely sit back and lose yourself in the political programming aimed at keeping you imprisoned in the police state?

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The Evil Loretta Lynch

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

On Jan. 3, outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch secretly signed an order directing the National Security Agency — America’s 60,000-person-strong domestic spying apparatus — to make available raw spying data to all other federal intelligence agencies, which then can pass it on to their counterparts in foreign countries and in the 50 states upon request. She did so, she claimed, for administrative convenience. Yet in doing this, she violated basic constitutional principles that were erected centuries ago to prevent just what she did.

Here is the back story.

In the aftermath of former President Richard Nixon’s abusive utilization of the FBI and CIA to spy on his domestic political opponents in the 1960s and ’70s — and after Nixon had resigned from office in the wake of all that — Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which created a secret court that was charged with being the sole authority in America that can authorize domestic spying for non-law enforcement purposes.

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The standard for a FISA court authorization was that the subject of the spying needed to be a foreign person in the United States who was an agent of a foreign power. It could be a foreign janitor in a foreign embassy, a foreign spy masquerading as a diplomat, even a foreign journalist working for a media outlet owned by a foreign government.

The American spies needed a search warrant from the FISA court. Contrary to the Constitution, the search warrant was given based not on the probable cause of crime but rather on probable cause of the status of the person as an agent of a foreign power. This slight change from “probable cause of crime” to “probable cause of foreign agency” began the slippery slope that brought us to Lynch’s terrible order of Jan. 3.

After the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, numerous other statutes were enacted that made spying easier and that continued to erode the right to be left alone guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. The Patriot Act permitted FBI agents to write their own search warrants for business records (including medical, legal, postal and banking records), and amendments to FISA itself changed the wording from probable cause “of foreign agency” to probable cause of being “a foreign person” to all Americans who may “communicate with a foreign person.”

As if Americans were children, Congress made those sleight-of-hand changes with no hoopla and little serious debate. Our very elected representatives — who took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution — instead perverted it.

It gets worse.

The recent USA Freedom Act permits the NSA to ask the FISA court for a search warrant for any person — named or unnamed — based on the standard of “governmental need.” One FISA court-issued warrant I saw authorized the surveillance of all 115 million domestic customers of Verizon. The governmental need standard is no standard at all, as the government will always claim that what it wants, it needs.

All these statutes and unauthorized spying practices have brought us to where we were on Jan. 2 — namely, with the NSA having a standard operating procedure of capturing every keystroke on every computer and mobile device, every telephone conversation on every landline and cellphone, and all domestic electronic traffic — including medical, legal and banking records — of every person in America 24/7, without knowing of or showing any wrongdoing on the part of those spied upon.

The NSA can use data from your cell phone to learn where you are, and it can utilize your cell phone as a listening device to hear your in-person conversations, even if you have turned it off — that is if you still have one of the older phones that can be turned off.

Notwithstanding all of the above gross violations of personal liberty and constitutional norms, the NSA traditionally kept its data — if printed, enough to fill the Library of Congress every year — to itself. So if an agency such as the FBI or the DEA or the New Jersey State Police, for example, wanted any of the data acquired by the NSA for law enforcement purposes, it needed to get a search warrant from a federal judge based on the constitutional standard of “probable cause of crime.”

Until now.

Now, because of the Lynch secret order, revealed by The New York Times late last week, the NSA may share any of its data with any other intelligence agency or law enforcement agency that has an intelligence arm based on — you guessed it — the non-standard of governmental need.

So President Barack Obama, in the death throes of his time in the White House, has delivered perhaps his harshest blow to constitutional freedom by permitting his attorney general to circumvent the Fourth Amendment, thereby enabling people in law enforcement to get whatever they want about whomever they wish without a showing of probable cause of crime as the Fourth Amendment requires. That amendment expressly forbids the use of general warrants — search where you wish and seize what you find — and they had never been a lawful tool of law enforcement until Lynch’s order.

Down the slope we have come, with the destruction of liberty in the name of safety by elected and appointed government officials. At a time when the constitutionally recognized right to privacy was in its infancy, Justice Louis Brandeis warned all who love freedom about its slow demise. He wrote: “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

Someday we will learn why Obama did this. I hope that when we do, it is at a time when we still have personal liberty in a free society.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.

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They’re Scared to Death of Populism

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

As we scoffed overnight, who better than a handful of semi, and not so semi, billionaires – perplexed by the populist backlash of the past year – to sit down and discuss among each other how a “squeezed and Angry” middle-class should be fixed. And so it was this morning as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan and Founder, Chairman and Co-CIO of Bridgewater Associates, Ray Dalio, espoused on what’s needed to restore growth in the middle class and confidence in the future.

The conclusions of the discussion are as farcical as the entire Davos debacle, as three people completely disconnected from the real world, sat down and provided these “answers”…

As Bloomberg reports, while International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde urged a list of policies from programs to retrain workers to more social spending...

Lagarde said policy makers “really have to think it through and see what can be done” given the feedback from voters who say “No.” Among measures that could be implemented are fiscal and structural reforms, she added.

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“But it needs to be granular, it needs to be regional, it needs to be focused on what will people get out of it and it probably means more redistribution than we have in place at the moment,” Lagarde told the panel.

The establishment academics also had plenty of textbook declarations and jabs to make…

“We need to go to a system where we are protecting workers, not jobs, and society will help people retrain or reorient,” Richard Baldwin, professor of international economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, said in an interview in Davos. “There may just be a need to man up. We have to pay for the social cohesion that we need to keep our societies advancing, and accept that this may be a higher tax burden on people.”

The panel saw former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers attacking Donald Trump saying populism is “invariably counter-productive” for those it claims to help.

“Our President-elect has made four or five phone calls to four or five companies, largely suspending the rule of law, and extorting them into relocating dozens or perhaps even a few hundred jobs into plants in the United States,” Summers said.

Summers’s recipe for dealing with populism twisted Trump’s campaign slogan. “Our broad objective should be to make America greater than ever before,” Summers said. “That’s very different from making it great again.”

He suggested three major steps. First, “public investment on an adequate scale starting from infrastructure” also embracing technology and education; second, “making global integration work for ordinary people” and third, “enabling the dreams of every young American” including education, finding work and home purchasing.

And ironically, the wealthiest of all the panel members was perhaps the clearest…

Hedge Fund billionaire Ray Dalio warned on a panel chaired by Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua that “we may be at a point where globalization is ending, and provincialization and nationalization is taking hold.”

“I want to be loud and clear: populism scares me,” Dalio said. “The No. 1 issue economically as a market participant is how populism manifests itself over the next year or two.”

So, to sum up – a bunch of rich, disconnected elites in Switzerland believe the world’s “middle class” will be better off if policy-makers “man-up” and increase taxes on the “wealthy” in order to redistribute wealth to the masses to “pay for social cohesion.” Yeah, that will work… we suspect echoes of “Four more years” will be heard in 2020 if they follow that path.

Reprinted with permission from Zero Hedge.

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10 Most Commonly Misused Words

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

Last year an expert said that English was evolving at a faster rate than it has at any other time in history, with researchers at Instagram also noting that emoji are replacing acronyms to form more of a picture-based language used on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

In his book The Sense of Style, Harvard cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker explored the most common words and phrases that people tend to trip up on.

As there is no definitive body that governs the rules of the English language (as there is for French), matters of style and grammar are generally able to be debated.

Pinker’s rules are no different, but the 58 words and phrases he picked out are the ones that are agreed upon, and knowing the correct versions can help improve your writing and understanding of the English language.

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Here are 10 of the most commonly misused, along with meanings and explanations from the author of the word origins guide Haggard Hawks & Paltry Poltroons, Paul Anthony Jones:

1) Bemused means bewildered and does not mean amused.

Correct: The unnecessarily complex plot left me bemused. / The silly comedy amused me.

PAJ — Bemuse and amuse both derive from ‘muse’, meaning ‘to ponder’ or ‘to be lost in thought’. But the be– of bemused essentially means ‘extremely’ or ‘to excess’, as it does in words like bewitched, bedazzled, and befuddled. So if you’re ‘extremely lost in thought’ then you’re utterly confused.

2) Disinterested means unbiased and does not mean uninterested.

Correct: “The dispute should be resolved by a disinterested judge.” / Why are you so uninterested in my story?

PAJ —The trick to remembering this one is that disinterest is a word on its own, while ‘uninterest’ isn’t. If you ‘disinterest’  yourself, you remove your ‘interest’ or concern in something, whereas if you’re just not interested in it, then you’re uninterested.

3) Hone means to sharpen and does not mean to home in on or to converge upon.

Correct: She honed her writing skills. / We’re homing in on a solution.

PAJ — The best way to remember this one is that ‘hone’ is also another word for a whetstone (a stone used to sharpen razors and knives), and the verb ‘hone’ derives from the image of things being ‘sharpened’ on it.

4) Appraise means to ascertain the value of and does not mean to apprise or to inform.

Correct: “I appraised the jewels.” / “I apprised him of the situation.”

PAJ — Appraise and appraisal come from the same root as price, and so refer to cost or money. Apprise comes from the same root as apprentice, and so refers to knowledge or information.

5) Enervate means to sap or to weaken and does not mean to energize.

Correct: That was an enervating rush hour commute. / That was an energizing cappuccino.

PAJ — Whereas energize derives from energy, enervate derives from a Greek word literally means ‘to cut the nerves’, and so is used to mean ‘to weaken’.

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A Rogue Faction in the Deep State

Gio, 19/01/2017 - 07:01

Rather than being the bad guys, as per the usual Liberal world-view, the Armed Forces may well play a key role in reducing the utterly toxic influence of neocon-neoliberals within the Deep State.

Suddenly everybody is referring to the Deep State, typically without offering much of a definition.

The general definition is the unelected government that continues making and implementing policy regardless of who is in elected office.

I have been writing about this structure for 10 years and studying it from the outside for 40 years. Back in 2007, I called it the Elite Maintaining and Extending Global Dominance, which is a more concise description of the structure than Deep State. Going to War with the Political Elite You Have (May 14, 2007).

I’ve used this simplified chart to explain the basic structure of the Deep State, which is the complex network of state-funded and/or controlled institutions, agencies, foundations, university research projects, media ties, etc.

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The key point here is you can’t separate these network nodes: you cannot separate DARPA, the national labs (nukes, energy, etc.), the National Science Foundation, DoD (Department of Defense), the National Security State (alphabet soup of intelligence/black budget agencies: CIA, NSA, DIA, etc.), Silicon Valley and the research universities: they are all tied together by funding, information flows, personnel and a thousand other connections.

For the past few years, I have been suggesting there is a profound split in the Deep State that is not just about power or ideology, but about the nature and future of National Security: in other words, what policies and priorities are actually weakening or threatening the long-term security of the United States?

I have proposed that there are progressive elements within the sprawling Deep State that view the dominant neocon-neoliberal agenda of the past 24 years as a disaster for the long-term security of the U.S. and its global interests (a.k.a. the Imperial Project).

There are also elements within the Deep State that view Wall Street’s dominance as a threat to America’s security and global interests. (This is not to say that American-based banks and corporations aren’t essential parts of the Imperial Project; it’s more about the question of who is controlling whom.)

So let’s dig in by noting that the warmongers in the Deep State are civilians, not military. It’s popular among so-called Liberals (the vast majority of whom did not serve nor do they have offspring in uniform–that’s fallen to the disenfranchised and the working class) to see the military as a permanent source of warmongering.

(It’s remarkably easy to send other people’s children off to war, while your own little darlings have cush jobs in Wall Street, foundations, think tanks, academia, government agencies, etc.)

These misguided souls are ignoring that it’s civilians who order the military to go into harm’s way, not the other way around. The neocons who have waged permanent war as policy are virtually all civilians, few of whom served in the U.S. armed forces and none of whom (to my knowledge) have actual combat experience.

These civilian neocons were busily sacking and/or discrediting critics of their warmongering within the U.S. military all through the Iraqi debacle. now that we got that straightened out–active-duty service personnel have borne the brunt of civilian planned, ordered and executed warmongering–let’s move on to the split between the civilian Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the DoD (Department of Defense) intelligence and special ops agencies: DIA, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, etc.

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