Sunday, May 27, 2018

"The Inevitability of Snollygosters"

"The Inevitability of Snollygosters"
by Jeff Thomas

"Snollygoster is an archaic term for, “A fellow who wants office, regardless of party, platform or principles, and who, whenever he wins, gets there by the sheer force monumental talknophical assumnancy.” All right, that’s a rather antiquated definition, but then, “snollygoster” is a very antiquated term. It hasn’t been in use since the mid-1800’s. Another definition is, “A shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician.”

So, of what interest is this bygone nomenclature to us today? Well, the definitions are exactly in keeping with our present-day politicians. When we look at our senators, parliamentarians, presidents and prime ministers, we see that, even with the passage of considerable time, the term snollygoster is applicable today.

And, we, the constituents, could be referred to as “grumbletonians,” a word common in England in the 1600’s for those who are angry or unhappy with their government.

And we’re just as likely to be so exasperated with our political leaders that we resort to a “whipmegmorum” – a Scottish word from the 1700’s for a noisy quarrel about politics.

These ancient and forgotten terms may be entertaining, but they may additionally raise a question in modern minds. We may ask ourselves, “Do you mean that it isn’t just that our present leaders are virtual cartoons – and destructive ones at that? Do you mean that (gulp) it’s always been this way?

…’Fraid so. But, how is this possible? How is it that, regardless of the times we’re in, and regardless of whether we have literally hundreds of millions of citizens to choose from (in the larger countries), we end up with literal cartoon characters as leaders? Is it that we’re so bad at making a selection that we always choose the worst person?

Well, actually, there, the answer would be, “No.” Voters don’t actively seek out the worst. The problem is that they’re presented with the worst. In the UK, we can complain about how useless Theresa May is; that she continually drops the ball and repeatedly acts with foolhardy overconfidence. But, if asked, “Would you rather have Jeremy Corbin?” those of us who grumble are likely to respond vehemently in the negative. (We don’t wish to jump from the pan into the fire.)

Similarly, across the pond in the US, Americans, including republicans, cannot help but laugh at their president as being an arrogant and petulant buffoon. (For the record, those of us outside the US also regard him as a source of perverse entertainment). Still, I expect that most of those same people, if asked whether they think Hillary Clinton would be closer to their ideal of the perfect leader, they’d emphatically say, “No.”

So, the problem is not that the voters “get the leader they deserve.” The problem is that the game is rigged – that there are no good choices. In a small country, it’s easy to introduce a candidate whom the electorate actually believe in, then to push him forward to victory. But, the larger the country, the more impossible it is for anyone who deserves a leadership position, to actually achieve it. (The system promotes its own kind.) But, this notion presupposes that the majority of people within the political structure are already “contaminated,” that they, too are, for all practical purposes, undesirable. Can this actually be the case?

Again… ‘fraid so… But how is this possible? Well, as long as we’re discussing definitions, there are two more that we might want to investigate. Let’s look at this one: “A long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others’ feelings. People affected by it often spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power or success.”

Well, that certainly fits virtually all political leaders and political hopefuls. This definition is used to describe “narcissistic personality disorder.” A fuller description is: “Persistent grandiosity, excessive need for admiration, and a personal disdain for, and lack of empathy for other people…  Arrogance, a sense of superiority… actively seeks to establish abusive power and control over other people… openly disregards the feelings and wishes of others, and expects to be treated as superior, regardless of their actual status or achievements... usually exhibits a fragile ego, an inability to tolerate criticism, and a tendency to belittle others in order to validate their own superiority.”

Take a moment and ask yourself whether the above describes a leader near you.

And, here’s another interesting definition: “A pervasive and persistent disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others. Individuals with this personality disorder will typically have no compunction in exploiting others in harmful ways for their own gain or pleasure and frequently manipulate and deceive other people, achieving this through wit and a facade of superficial charm.”

This is a definition for sociopathy, or “antisocial personality disorder.” To expand, sociopaths demonstrate a “Disregard for right and wrong, persistent lying or deceit to exploit others, callous, cynical and disrespectful of others, using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or personal pleasure, arrogance, a sense of superiority and being extremely opinionated… repeatedly violating the rights of others through intimidation and dishonesty, impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead, hostility, significant irritability, agitation… lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others, unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behavior with no regard for the safety of self or others… failure to consider the negative consequences of behavior or learn from them.”

Initially, we may be tempted to say to ourselves, “Surely, it’s not as bad as all that.” But, if we really want to get an accurate picture, a useful exercise might be to picture a specific leader whose behavior we’ve witnessed repeatedly and then read the above descriptions once again, whilst picturing his face.

The surprising truth is that many political leaders and political hopefuls display these characteristics exactly. Many are clearly narcissists, sociopaths, or both.

But, why should this be? Well, the easy answer is “obsessive behavior.” Those who have the above disorders will literally do anything to achieve superiority over others and will have no remorse or regret whatever. Therefore, it’s perfectly predictable that, over time, any government will become populated by pathological individuals.

This is not a new occurrence. ‘Twas ever thus. The snollygosters have been a chronic dominant presence in governments for millennia. And they’ll continue to be dominant.

However, there is a positive takeaway here. If we recognize that this syndrome is in fact the norm, in any age, in any country, we can stop hoping for a hero to arise and save us from the parasitical dominance of governments. We can accept that, if we’re to thrive, this may only be accomplished through our own independence of mind and action, not through the empty promises of pathological leaders.”

"$21 Trillion Missing From The Pentagon - Remember 911 And The Missing $2.3 Trillion?"

"$21 Trillion Missing From The Pentagon - 
Remember 911 And The Missing $2.3 Trillion?"
by Lee Camp

"The day before 911 Donald Rumsfeld announced that the Pentagon could not account for $2.3 Trillion! The very next day the General Accounting Office at the Pentagon was hit by a "plane” and everyone therein was killed! These sums of money are beyond imagination. What is the Pentagon doing with amounts like this? How can these monies be unaccounted for?

Twenty-one trillion dollars.

The Pentagon’s own numbers show that it can’t account for $21 trillion. Yes, I mean trillion with a “T.” And this could change everything. But I’ll get back to that in a moment.

There are certain things the human mind is not meant to do. Our complex brains cannot view the world in infrared, cannot spell words backward during orgasm and cannot really grasp numbers over a few thousand. A few thousand, we can feel and conceptualize. We’ve all been in stadiums with several thousand people. We have an idea of what that looks like (and how sticky the floor gets).

But when we get into the millions, we lose it. It becomes a fog of nonsense. Visualizing it feels like trying to hug a memory. We may know what $1 million can buy (and we may want that thing), but you probably don’t know how tall a stack of a million $1 bills is. You probably don’t know how long it takes a minimum-wage employee to make $1 million.

That’s why trying to understand - truly understand - that the Pentagon spent 21 trillion unaccounted-for dollars between 1998 and 2015 washes over us like your mother telling you that your third cousin you met twice is getting divorced. It seems vaguely upsetting, but you forget about it 15 seconds later because… what else is there to do?

Twenty-one trillion.

But let’s get back to the beginning. A couple of years ago, Mark Skidmore, an economics professor, heard Catherine Austin Fitts, former assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, say that the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General had found $6.5 trillion worth of unaccounted-for spending in 2015. Skidmore, being an economics professor, thought something like, “She means $6.5 billion. Not trillion. Because trillion would mean the Pentagon couldn’t account for more money than the gross domestic product of the whole United Kingdom. But still, $6.5 billion of unaccounted-for money is a crazy amount.”

So he went and looked at the inspector general’s report, and he found something interesting: It was trillion! It was f *****g $6.5 trillion in 2015 of unaccounted-for spending! And I’m sorry for the cursing, but the word “trillion” is legally obligated to be prefaced with “f*****g.” It is indeed way more than the U.K.’s GDP.

Skidmore did a little more digging. As Forbes reported in December 2017, “He and Catherine Austin Fitts conducted a search of government websites and found similar reports dating back to 1998. While the documents are incomplete, original government sources indicate $21 trillion in unsupported adjustments have been reported for the Department of Defense and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the years 1998-2015.”

Let’s stop and take a second to conceive how much $21 trillion is (which you can’t because our brains short-circuit, but we’ll try anyway).

1. The amount of money supposedly in the stock market is $30 trillion.

2. The GDP of the United States is $18.6 trillion.

3. Picture a stack of money. Now imagine that that stack of dollars is all $1,000 bills. Each bill says “$1,000” on it. How high do you imagine that stack of dollars would be if it were $1 trillion. It would be 63 miles high.

4. Imagine you make $40,000 a year. How long would it take you to make $1 trillion? Well, don’t sign up for this task, because it would take you 25 million years (which sounds like a long time, but I hear that the last 10 million really fly by because you already know your way around the office, where the coffee machine is, etc.).

The human brain is not meant to think about a trillion dollars. And it’s definitely not meant to think about the $21 trillion our Department of Defense can’t account for. These numbers sound bananas. They sound like something Alex Jones found tattooed on his backside by extraterrestrials.

But the 21 trillion number comes from the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General - the OIG. Although, as Forbes pointed out, “after Mark Skidmore began inquiring about OIG-reported unsubstantiated adjustments, the OIG’s webpage, which documented, albeit in a highly incomplete manner, these unsupported “accounting adjustments,” was mysteriously taken down.”

Luckily, people had already grabbed copies of the report, which - for now - you can view here.

Here’s something else important from that Forbes article - which is one of the only mainstream media articles you can find on the largest theft in American history: “Given that the entire Army budget in fiscal year 2015 was $120 billion, unsupported adjustments were 54 times the level of spending authorized by Congress.”

That’s right. The expenses with no explanation were 54 times the actual budget allotted by Congress. Well, it’s good to see Congress is doing 1/54th of its job of overseeing military spending (that’s actually more than I thought Congress was doing). This would seem to mean that 98 percent of every dollar spent by the Army in 2015 was unconstitutional.

So, pray tell, what did the OIG say caused all this unaccounted-for spending that makes Jeff Bezos’ net worth look like that of a guy jingling a tin can on the street corner? “The July 2016 inspector general report indicates that unsupported adjustments are the result of the Defense Department’s ‘failure to correct system deficiencies." They blame trillions of dollars of mysterious spending on a “failure to correct system deficiencies”? That’s like me saying I had sex with 100,000 wild hairless aardvarks because I wasn’t looking where I was walking.

Twenty-one trillion.

Say it slowly to yourself.

At the end of the day, there are no justifiable explanations for this amount of unaccounted-for, unconstitutional spending. Right now, the Pentagon is being audited for the first time ever, and it’s taking 2,400 auditors to do it. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll actually be allowed to get to the bottom of this.

But if the American people truly understood this number, it would change both the country and the world. It means that the dollar is sprinting down a path toward worthless. If the Pentagon is hiding spending that dwarfs the amount of tax dollars coming in to the federal government, then it’s clear the government is printing however much it wants and thinking there are no consequences. Once these trillions are considered, our fiat currency has even less meaning than it already does, and it’s only a matter of time before inflation runs wild.

It also means that any time our government says it “doesn’t have money” for a project, it’s laughable. It can clearly “create” as much as it wants for bombing and death. This would explain how Donald Trump’s military can drop well over 100 bombs a day that cost well north of $1 million each.

So why can’t our government also “create” endless money for health care, education, the homeless, veterans benefits and the elderly, to make all parking free and to pay the Rolling Stones to play stoop-front shows in my neighborhood? (I’m sure the Rolling Stones are expensive, but surely a trillion dollars could cover a couple of songs.)

Obviously, our government could do those things, but it chooses not to. Earlier this month, Louisiana sent eviction notices to 30,000 elderly people on Medicaid to kick them out of their nursing homes. Yes, a country that can vomit trillions of dollars down a black hole marked “Military” can’t find the money to take care of our poor elderly. It’s a repulsive joke.

Twenty-one trillion.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke about how no one knows where the money is flying in the Pentagon. In a barely reported speech in 2011, he said, “My staff and I learned that it was nearly impossible to get accurate information and answers to questions such as, ‘How much money did you spend?’ and ‘How many people do you have?’ ” They can’t even find out how many people work for a specific department? Note for anyone looking for a job: Just show up at the Pentagon and tell them you work there. It doesn’t seem like they’d have much luck proving you don’t.

For more on this story, check out David DeGraw’s excellent reporting at ChangeMaker.media, because the mainstream corporate media are mouthpieces for the weapons industry. They are friends with benefits of the military-industrial complex. I have seen basically nothing from the mainstream corporate media concerning this mysterious $21 trillion. I missed the time when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said that the money we dump into war and death - either the accounted-for money or the secretive trillions - could end world hunger and poverty many times over. There’s no reason anybody needs to be starving or hungry or unsheltered on this planet, but our government seems hellbent on proving that it stands for nothing but profiting off death and misery. And our media desperately want to show they stand for nothing but propping up our morally bankrupt empire.

When the media aren’t actively promoting war, they’re filling the airwaves with shit, so the entire country can’t even hear itself think. Our whole mindscape is filled to the brim with nonsense and vacant celebrity idiocy. Then, while no one is looking, the largest theft humankind has ever seen is going on behind our backs - covered up under the guise of “national security.”

Twenty-one trillion.

Don’t forget."

"That One..."

“Man gives every reason for his conduct save one, every 
excuse for his crimes save one, every plea for his safety save one;
and that one is his cowardice.”
- George Bernard Shaw

The Daily "Near You?"

Villars-sur-glane, Fribourg, Switzerland. Thanks for stopping by!

"Humanity Hanging From A Cross Of Iron..."

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. Is this, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking? This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. Is there no other way the world may live?"

“When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Sullivan Ballou’s Letter Home, 1861”

“Sullivan Ballou’s Letter Home, 1861”
From Ken Burns’ PBS Documentary “The Civil War”

"Remembering the Dead"

 
"Remembering the Dead"
by Bill Bonner

"Monday is the day set aside by the US federal government for us to remember our war dead. Here at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, we always do as we are told. So, today, we will turn our thoughts back to Vicksburg, Mississippi... which gave the country enough corpses to remember... and from where we've just returned.

We were born south of the Mason-Dixon line. More importantly, we were born south of Pratt Street in Baltimore, giving us Southern tendencies from the start. Even as a child, we felt a sentimental attachment to the Old South and a romantic softness for the underdog. We rooted for General Lee at Gettysburg and General Jackson at the Wilderness. We wanted to sign up for Jeb Stuart's cavalry, but we were a century too late.

The Mason-Dixon line is the official boundary separating North from South. It runs between Maryland and Pennsylvania. But the real dividing line- in terms of attitudes, culture and topography- runs right through the heart of Baltimore. North of Pratt Street, the land rises under hills of granite. It was settled by Germans, mainly- farmers who raised cattle and wheat, traders who used their Baltimore clippers to move goods all over the world and entrepreneurs who built factories on the upland rivers. South of Pratt Street, the land immediately flattens into tidewater. There... stretching all the way from the sidewalk to Florida in the south and to the Appalachians in the west... the land is rich, mostly level and good for tobacco and cotton. It is also warmer... and more suitable for slave labor. The English and Scotch-Irish settlers who built their houses in Maryland in the late 17th century (my ancestors included) were used to slavery. They knew they would have to give it up some day, but they didn't want the Yankees to tell them when.

We wondered: Does Memorial Day apply south of Pratt Street... that is, to the people the Union Army tried to kill? To be more precise, does it apply to those who fought for the Confederacy against the United States of America? If not, we will have to stop remembering half of our ancestors- those who fought under Lee and Jackson.

We consulted the Wikipedia for guidance: "Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end."

There you have it. As we try to grill our hamburgers to perfection, we can remember all our ancestors- even those from south of Pratt Street. Years ago, our grandmother recalled: "Yes... Uncles Rufus and Zacharia McCeney used to live here. My grandmother told me about them. She raised me. I never knew my mother; she died when I was still a baby. Rufus and Zacharia were her uncles. I never met them. My grandmother, Mary Agnes McCeney, told me they left the farm and never came back. They rode with Jeb Stuart's cavalry in the Army of Virginia. Presumed dead. But who knows?"

And now, with the permission of the federales, we wonder if Rufus or Zacharia made his way to join poor General John Pemberton in the defense of Vicksburg. It was a lost cause from the get-go. By March 1863, "Fighting Joe" Johnston, commander of the Southern forces in the West, had already given it up for lost. Vicksburg couldn't be resupplied. The Yankees controlled the river... and the overland routes. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, he recommended to Pemberton that he take his army and skedaddle. Vicksburg would be lost. But at least the army would be saved. But Pemberton was either stubborn or stupid. He stayed put with his army. He gave the worms plenty of meat; nearly 10,000 of his soldiers were planted there.

Many Southerners remember the Siege of Vicksburg as heroic. It is said the city didn't forget what had been done to it until 1910- when it first permitted public festivities for the Fourth of July. And now, 155 years later, it flies the Stars and Stripes every day of the year.

One of the features of a successful empire is it is able to build on its successes and turn its victims into loyal supporters. The Romans brought in soldiers from all over the Empire. The English followed the same program. First, they conquered Scotland- making the Scots the backbone of the British Army. Later, the Irish- another conquered people- were easily enlisted, partly because they had so few other career options. (The British prevented Irish Catholics from owning land.) Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Indians, Malaysians- all served the British cause.

The Yankees did the same thing. After the Southern states were conquered, their young men became the most enthusiastic soldiers in the Union Army. Later, the Union signed up Hispanics from Texas and Navajos from the reservations in Arizona. Today, New Yorkers may have doubts about signing up for military service, but among middle-class Southerners, it is a family tradition. They have served their conquerors for generations.

We remember the dead. What do we think of them? We wonder. We remember both sides of the War Between the States equally. But if both sides were equal, what was the point? You may as well have died for one side as for the other. It seems hardly worth dying for a cause that didn't matter. One side wanted to tell the other side how to run its affairs. But the other side was running its affairs in an abominable way. One side held black people in slavery. The other side wanted to boss around white people. We're all going to die, but neither cause seems worth advancing the schedule.

And what do the dead think of us? Those 10,000 boys at Vicksburg. Uncle Rufus and Uncle Zacharia. What would they think of their descendants? At least they were fighting in a real war. At least they had a cause that they thought was worth fighting for... and at least they died at the hands of the enemy or from disease while waiting for the enemy to kill them.

Today's soldiers are more likely to die by suicide than to be felled by disease or by an enemy. Our soldiers' most lethal enemies are themselves.

Our ancestors. They must pity us."

"Time Passes..."

"Time passes in moments. Moments which, rushing past, define the path of a life, just as surely as they lead towards its end. How rarely do we stop to examine that path, to see the reasons why all things happen? To consider whether the path we take in life is our own making, or simply one into which we drift with eyes closed? But what if we could stop, pause to take stock of each precious moment before it passes? Might we then see the endless forks in the road that have shaped a life? And, seeing those choices, choose another path?"
- Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, "The X-Files"

"How It Really Is For Far, Far Too Many"


"'Car Sleepers' the New US Homeless “
By Rajesh Mirchandani

“Santa Barbara boasts a classic laidback California lifestyle, with uncongested beaches, wholesome cafes and charming Spanish-style architecture. Of course there's a hefty price tag: nestled between the gentle Santa Ynez mountains and the inviting Pacific Ocean are multi-million dollar homes. But in this sun-washed haven of wealth, many live far from the American dream.


In a car park across the street from luxury mansions, the evening brings a strange sight. A few cars arrive and take up spaces in different corners. In each car, a woman, perhaps a few pets, bags of possessions and bedding. Across the street from homes with bedrooms to spare, these are Santa Barbara's car sleepers. Homeless within the last year, they are a direct consequence of America's economic collapse.

In this woman-only parking lot, Bonnee, who gives only her first name, wears a smart blue dress and has a business-like demeanour. A year ago, she was making a healthy living as, ironically, a real estate agent. But when people stopped buying houses, her commission-based income dried up, and, like many clients, she too was unable to pay her mortgage. Car sleeper Bonnee still works in the real estate business. Soon she found herself with nowhere to live but her 4x4. Piles of blankets are in the back of the vehicle. Personal documents are stuffed into seat pockets. Books litter the back seat. A make-up bag and gym membership card (she washes at the gym) are in the front. With her constantly, are photos of her former life. She can't quite believe her situation. "My God, America's heart is bleeding," she tells me. Tears fill her eyes. "I know it'll get better. But it feels sad. I really fought hard."

A medium-sized 4x4 pulls into the parking lot and 66-year-old Barbara Harvey gets out. She opens the back door and two large Golden Retrievers jump out. Barbara begins her nightly routine. She moves a few bags from the boot to the front seat and takes out pyjamas and a carton of yoghurt (her dinner). She then arranges blankets in the back of the car. Barbara used to work in housing finance - this is the double whammy of the housing collapse where many who worked in the sector lost their jobs and their homes. But since April, she and her dogs, Ranger and Phoebe, have spent every night in her car. It's cramped, but she says if they sleep diagonally they can all fit.

The car park lets the car sleepers enter from 7pm, local public toilets close at dusk. As a result, Barbara says she doesn't drink any liquids after she arrives. In the mornings, she showers at a friend's house. Dressed in clean, comfortable clothes and wearing sunglasses, she is far removed from the stereotypical image of homelessness. "I don't think I fit into anybody's image," she says. "There's going to be lots of homeless individuals who are middle-class, there can't be anything but. We're in an awful mess economically. I don't think we've seen half of what's going to happen in this country."

This new phenomenon of middle-class homelessness is hard to quantify, but New Beginnings, an organisation that runs the car park sleeping scheme in Santa Barbara, says they accommodate some 55 people in a dozen parking lots. Outreach worker Nancy Kapp, once homeless herself, says there is a waiting list for car park spaces and she is getting more and more calls each day from people about to lose their homes. She identifies it as a new breed of homeless emerging in America.

"Being poor is like this cancer, and now this cancer is filtering up to the middle-class," she says. "I don't care how strong you are, it's a breakdown of the human psyche when you start to lose everything you have. These people have worked their whole lives to have a house and now it's crumbling and it's in ashes and how devastating is that?" she says. "It's not an American dream, it's an American nightmare."

In another car park in Santa Barbara, Craig Miller, his wife Paige and their two children say they feel cramped in the small mobile home where they have been living for several months. "It's hard to keep things clean," says Paige. "It's hard to feel complete and whole." Originally from Florida, the family used to own a four-bedroom house with a pool. But when Craig's business failed, they lost it. Undeterred, the family embarked on a dream to drive across America and make a new start in California. But unable to find full-time work, and unable to afford rent, as Craig puts it "we got stuck". He says it was like a holiday at first but now it is much harder. "Getting money for food, it's not something we've had to think about before," says Craig. "We're definitely looking forward to getting out and getting a place. And we're working hard at getting there. This is just the journey, it's not the destination.'

As darkness falls on Santa Barbara, the car sleepers settle in for the night. They'll have to be up early: they are not allowed to stay in the car parks beyond 7am. Some work, others spend their days driving from one spot to another. When evening comes around again, they return to their car park homes. In comparison to other countries, and indeed America's own long-term homeless, they are still fortunate. But as America's economic crisis deepens, could there soon be more of them?"
"According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were roughly 554,000 homeless people living somewhere in the United States on a given night last year. A total of 193,000 of those people were "unsheltered," meaning that they were living on the streets and had no access to emergency shelters, transitional housing, or Safe Havens. Despite a booming stock market, a large swathe of America is still struggling to make ends meet."
"Land of the free, and the home of the brave..." Really?

Free Download: Jiddu Krishnamurti, “The Book of Life”

"You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. 
That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, 
that is why you must sing and dance, 
and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life."
- Jiddu Krishnamurti

Freely download “The Book of Life” by Jiddu Krishnamurti, here:

"'Singularity': Poet Marie Howe’s Beautiful Tribute to Stephen Hawking and Our Belonging to the Universe"

"'Singularity': Poet Marie Howe’s Beautiful Tribute to 
Stephen Hawking and Our Belonging to the Universe"
“Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity we once were?”
by Maria Popova

"When Stephen Hawking (January 8, 1942–March 14, 2018) was a young man, having already outlived the prognosis he had been given with ALS, he built on earlier theories about what happens to a dying star as it collapses to form a singularity - that tiny point of zero radius, infinite density, and infinite curvature of spacetime at the heart of a black hole. But then Hawking did something radical - he took this final death-stage and flipped the arrow of time to consider what would happen if that singularity exploded outward and began expanding. He theorized that perhaps that is how the universe was born. So began his half-century intellectual adventure that shaped the course of modern physics and changed our common understanding of why everything that is is.
A crowning moment of the 2018 Universe in Verse was a tribute to Hawking’s legacy by one of the great poets of our time: Marie Howe. Because Howe is an artist extremely considered in what she releases into the world, often devoting a decade to a single poem, it was a tremendous honor to have her premiere a new poem composed for the occasion in a blink of cosmic time and inspired by her young daughter’s love of physics. Howe’s prefatory meditations are as magnificent and full of wisdom as the poem itself - please enjoy both:
"Singularity"
by Marie Howe
          (after Stephen Hawking)

"Do you too sometimes want to wake up 
to the singularity we once were?
So compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money -
Nobody hiding in the school bathroom,
or home alone
pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you. Remember?
There was no Nature. 
No themNo tests
to determine if the elephant grieves her calf, 
or if the coral reef feels pain.    

Trashed oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;
would that we could wake up to what we were -
when we were ocean, and before that
to when earth was sky, and animal was energy, 
and rock was liquid and stars were space and space was not
at all - nothing,
before we came to believe humans were so important,
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules remember it?
What once was? Before anything happened?
Can our molecules remember?
No I, no We, no one,  No was,
No verb, no noun,
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with
is is is is is.

All...  everything...  home."

For more highlights from The Universe in Verse, savor Janna Levin reading Maya Angelou’s cosmic clarion call to humanity inspired by Carl Sagan, Jane Hirshfield’s poem “Optimism” in a lovely papercraft stop-motion animation by Kelli Anderson, and America Ferrera reading Denise Levertov’s poem about our conflicted relationship with nature, then revisit Hawking on the meaning of the universe."
 "Do You Remember?"

"Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes - do you recall?
And we did make so many! 
For there were countless numbers of stars: 
each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall."

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Musical Interlude: Kevin Kern, “Above the Clouds”

Kevin Kern, “Above the Clouds”

"Knowing..."

"Knowing can be a curse on a person's life. I'd traded in a pack of lies for a pack of truth, and I didn't know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth, you can't ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now."
- Sue Monk Kidd