His preamble speaks of how much the news media look to outperform their other in their "showings of concern" for the unemployed. He quotes the official unemployment rate at 9.4%, but notes that it's probably nearer to 17%. He says that the stock markets and the country's corporate profit margins have largely weathered the storm of the recession, but that "unless jobs can be found, we wave goodbye to America the Beautiful." He continues:
Not being an economist and never having been at ease in the company of flow charts, I don't question the expert testimony, but I notice that it doesn't have much to do with human beings, much less with the understanding of a man's work as the meaning of his life or the freedom of his mind. Purse-lipped and solemn, the commentators for the Financial Times and MSNBC mention deficits, discuss the cutting back of pensions and public services. From the tone of the conversation, I can imagine myself at a lawn party somewhere in Fairfield County, Connecticut, listening to the lady in the flowered hat talk about the difficulty of finding decent help.
The framing of the country's unemployment trouble as an unfortunate metastasis of the servant problem should come as no surprise. The country is in the hands of an affluent oligarchy content with Voltaire's reading of its rights. During Ronald Reagan's terms as president, the income that individual American families received from rents, dividends, and interest surpassed the income earned in wages. Over the last thirty years, the wealth of the emergent rentier class has been sustained by an increasingly unequal sharing of the gross domestic product; the percentage of GDP accounted for by manufacturing fell from 21 to 14 percent, and the percentage accounted for by finance rose from 14 to 21 percent. The imbalances become greater over time; as between compensations awarded to the high-end baskers in the sunshine and those provided to the low-end squatters in the shade, the differential at last count in 2009 stood at 263 to 1. With wealth comes power in Washington, so it's also no surprise that the government, whether graspingly Republican or scavengingly Democratic, adopts the attitudes and prejudices of the monied sultanate. So do most of the nation's news media, their showings of concern expressed in the lawn-party voices of the caterers distributing the strawberries.
Anyway, the reason for my post here is actually to draw some attention to this provocative article he posted in that newsletter that describes the disparity in wealth in the US right now. I sent the link to my favourite lefty comedian Jimmy Dore in the hopes he might quote from it in a future episode of his political radio show on KPFK.
Some of my favourite highlights from that article are:
• 400 people have as much wealth as half the US population;
• the top 5% of US families saw their incomes rise by 73% between 1979 and 2008, while the lowest 20% saw a decrease of 4% and the remainder stayed mostly stagnant; and
• in 2007, the richest 1% of US households owned more than 33% of the nation's private wealth, which is more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent.
My great friend and erstwhile physical fitness mentor vyus has been writing some great posts recently about economics, and it strikes me that he might take some issue with this article, or maybe its sources. Anyway, I'm interested in hearing what his or anybody's take on it is. Even if the statistics in this article were inflated by 100%, they'd still be freaking scary to me.
PS: I have a few family members whom I'd consider wealthy or at least extremely comfortable: an successful entrepreneurial uncle by marriage worth probably $15M+ and a few other retirees with holdings probably in excess of $3M. But that's not the level of wealth I'm talking about here. It's the extremely high-income families earning tens or hundreds of millions each year where I think the problem lies. If there were a million multi-millionaires of the former ilk in the US (e.g. with $10M or less in the bank), I believe that trickle-down economics might actually work -- there'd be lots of liquidity and investment and entrepreneurship happening. But I can't imagine that dozens of billionaires are of much constructive use to the economy at all. At least, not for the little guy. Or the middle class worker. Just my $0.02.
More background with some transcripts are available here:
It's a truly shocking story that I haven't heard told in the regular media aside from this show. Essentially, an electrical engineer who was successfully rescued from the rig described how, in the days leading up to the disaster, the BOP was damaged significantly through a simple human error (some pipe was thrust through it or something, breaking the rubber seal and sending many pieces of rubber up the pipes to the rig).
However, while SOP would normally completely see the rig's operations completely shut down while that mission-critical piece of equipment was repaired, it was decided by the rig's managers (but ultimately by BP, I surmise) that operations would continue due to the staggering deadlines that had been missed by that rig thus far. Then when the fateful accident occurred, the BOP was out of commission and we arrived where we are today.
If you have some time to listen to the whole segment in that podcast, it's really shocking and moving at the same time. I hope that a suitable investigation gets to the bottom of this and that the right heads will roll as a result. I have a certain amount of confidence in the safety practices of deep water drilling operations such that they would normally not operate when such an important piece of equipment was out of commission, but I'm relying on the rig managers to make the right decisions in that circumstance. If this survivor's story is correct, then there wasn't some mysterious malfunction with the BOP -- it was just fucking broken in the days leading up to the accident!
Also, FYI, here's a link to a live feed from BP's remote-operated vehicles at the well head:
The film brought to the surface many important themes related to the displacement of the Louisiana National Guard to Iraq and the fighting of the so-called War On Terror when there was so much of a greater need for domestic help on US soil, and the egregious mistreatment and lack of disaster support both during and after the storm of the residents who hadn't the means to evacuate the city. I find it impossible to believe that if the worst-affected areas from the broken levees were affluent, white neighbourhoods, that those areas would have been left so sorely neglected for so long. In short, I was deeply moved by the racist undertones (nay, overtones!) of this reality.
One of the take-home messages from the film is clearly to become more involved in your own community. I took this to heart, and it made me think once again of the impoverished black communities just minutes from me of Cherry Brook, North Preston, and the like. In the 1960s, when the City of Halifax built a second toll-bridge to span the harbour between Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, they forcibly displaced the black residents of the Halifax harbourside community of "Africville" to these other communities far east of Dartmouth, probably 30 km away and well out of sight of the city of Halifax proper. When I drove through these communities out of interest a couple years ago, it nearly broke my heart to see how run-down the houses and infrastructure were there, and how little awareness there is about the condition of those properties in the general population of Halifax. You can call it White Man's Guilt, but I felt compelled to try to do something, anything, to try to alleviate the suffering and poverty out there.
I still haven't figured out anything meaningful to do other than make some cash donations to a couple of the local community associations in that area. Viewing Trouble The Water made me reconsider that arms-length involvement though, and made me wonder if there wasn't something more hands-on that I could do, if possible. I'll think about it some more.
Grants to Universities ($ Thousands)
2009-2010 Estimate: 455,802
2009-2010 Forecast: 449,647
2010-2011 Estimate: 60,643
Page 7.3 outlines the details. Most of those cuts go to Operating; and Non-Space, Alterations, and Renovations.
Wowwww. It's a nearly 87% cut to university funding. $389M.
I'm totally shocked by this. I don't understand how exactly that level of cut could be considered sustainable, or even remotely feasible, to universities. I thought it was a typo or something when I first read it. How on Earth can they justify this? How can the universities possibly react to such deep cuts?
Edit: No proper context was provided for this in the budget documentation, but a friend of mine who's a VP at a local university told me that this is a shell game sort of budgeting, in that the operational grants for this year were simply disbursed earlier in the previous fiscal year, so there's not really a cut that severe to universities, it's just a way to take a few hundred million off the books in this current new budget.
Da Free John was the first exposure I ever had to contemporary nonduality. I was introduced to him by Jerry Katz in 1997, who was at that time a fellow telephone interviewer at a local marketing research company in Halifax. Je became and the closest and longest-standing friend I've made in Halifax since my wife and I arrived here in 1996. Jerry gave me a copy of Da Free John's mid-1970s book, The Knee of Listening, and he played several videos of his talks for me.
Like many gurus, Adi Da was at times surrounded by controversy about his use of drugs and alcohol and his sexual encounters with devotees and members of his ashram. He has also been criticized for a seemingly egotistical approach in his teaching. I never knew the man personally, so I have only experienced the benefit and insights of his teachings through printed and other media. That gives me the advantage of not having to worry about whether or not he was a sexually manipulative asshole in real life, or to what degree that might have been the case. His teachings, or those that I've read and heard, are first-rate. His experiences and deep ongoing spiritual questioning (indeed, his sadhana) can be great signposts for the early student.`
I've heard that Satriani's bringing suit against them. On the surface, it would seem logical: the two melodies and their underlying harmony are eerily similar.
It's another thing entirely to define a clear causative relationship, though. If Coldplay could reasonably prove that they hadn't heard that song previously, I'd be willing to believe them. The timing of release between Satriani's version and any substantive earlier recordings from Coldplay would be critical to evaluate, too.
I'd also expect a certain amount of musical integrity to come from Coldplay, too. If Chris Martin or whoever had heard that album prior to composing the song, I think it would be reasonable to offer some form of financial tribute to Satriani to account for the likelihood of that song having imprinted itself sonically (even if subconsciously) into Martin's brain.
I'd also like to hear about Satriani's genesis for his own composition. Is it not possible that both of them had heard a traditional Spanish melody somewhere and each interpreted it separately, but also quite similarly?
This is A Truly Great Moment In History, even though it feels totally natural as I watch it unfold. As recently as two years ago, it would have been ridiculous to accept as reality the notion that there would be a black man in the Oval Office. And yet in the past two weeks, it has become obvious that this would become the case. And here we are, watching it happen. How remarkable!
I most love watching peoples' reactions. One of the talking heads on CBC Radio last night was in tears. Oprah's happy, stunned silence at Obama's acceptance speech. The expression on McCain's face during his concession speech (Is it possible that even McCain was happy with the outcome? He looked it...) It's so great to see people moved in a happy direction about the president instead of the opposite.
I have trouble feeling anything but optimism over the possibilities that lie before this new president. In particular, I can't help thinking that America now has a chance to change its role in the world significantly, and that its reception worldwide will be much different now that Bush will be replaced by Obama instead of McCain. True, Obama is taking the helm at the outset of what looks to be a bloody awful storm [economically], but he might just have the charisma and concensus-building abilities to put the right pieces into place, domestically and abroad. Hopefully he does, anyway!
God bless the USA.
(And how nice that I get to retire this userpic forever, too? It is no longer needed!!!)
I'm trying to keep it simple in my mind how this works. Treasury Secretary Paulson, himself a former Goldman Sachs exec, is telling us that the sky's gonna fall. Isn't it possible that he sees his own sky about to fall, along with that of most of his closest friends, because of the egregiously greedy financial practices that have been undertaken by the major banks and investment houses? I mean really, not to put too fine a point on it, this stuff reeks to high heaven. In this week's Sunday New York Times, I read about these complex credit derivatives that allow asset-rich insurance giants like AIG to leverage their credit rating to insure loans purchased by banks and other corporations, which in turn are resold to other banks as attractive debt packages that are supposed to be comprised of "blue-chip" loans and debts that would never default... Then in due course, they find out that these "blue-chip" loans really contain a whole bunch of those sub-prime mortgages that are already in default or will be within the next 2 years due to their built-in rising interest rates, and when the analysts start looking at everyone's balance sheets to see who has the actual cash to cover off these loans, insurance policies, and other credit derivatives, they figure out that this is just a very big house of cards.
In that light, doesn't it just seem like this is a bubble that's meant to burst? The Treasury didn't step up when Silicon Valley went up in flames in 1999, and in that one, thousands of Main Street investors lost millions. When any given sector of the market, even the investment banking sector, starts playing too fast and loose (in this case, by creating spectacularly complex investment instruments to make seemingly endless gobs of money), I don't see any case that supports a government bailout more than any other.
Furthermore, I'm not convinced that the amount is even all that significant. It's the same as what's been spent on the Iraq war so far, and the US economy hasn't choked yet.. Why can't the financial sector absorb the same amount from within itself? And -- let's face it, honestly -- why can't we be seriously discussing employee compensation within the financial services sector? If this system is in the crisis we're told it is, then the belt-tightening by definition must begin with the executives. Any annual compensation packages of over a million dollars in any form (i.e. salary, bonuses, stock options, whatever) need to be stayed, if not overturned, if the taxpayer is about to bail out this entire industry. I could not stomach a whit less than that.
My ignorance of the finer points of economics is clear. But at the macro level, that's how I see this.
I'd also have a lot less objection to this package if, instead of bailing out the banks, it went towards the people who are losing their homes due to foreclosure, etc. I know that many of these folks were sold mortgages for which they never should have been approved, but why are they less deserving for federal financial aid than these enormous banks which are run by extremely wealthy people who, no matter how much they've lost on paper in the past week, are sure to weather these financial storms just fine themselves?
Furthermore, I'm not really all that averse to bad things happening to the banks, anyway. Despite how painful it might be in the short term, I'd support in principle anything that would catalyze a paradigm shift in the way our economy is structured worldwide; in other words, anything that would topple systems that unfairly benefit the small groups of rich and powerful people over the larger groups of poor and powerless people. In some ways, the banking sector might as well be as good a place to start those kinds of reforms than anywhere.
On a seemingly unrelated note, I heard something about how Obama wants to increase taxes for families whose income exceeds $250K per year, and decrease taxes for middle-class Americans. Despite McCain's insistent whining that this would bring about the worst recession in history by supposedly choking off economic growth, I really can't see any huge downside to this plan. I've always thought in principle that there must be a way to realign the tax burden in the West, such that families with significantly higher incomes than the norm (ironically, I also used the $250K income level as my cutoff) could take on a higher portion of the taxes. Honestly, once you start making that much money (and forget about people making more and significantly more than $1 million each year), it's not a huge deal to carve off larger portions of it for tax purposes. I know it's against a lot of people's core values, but the Canadian in me finds the concept admirable.
When Sarah Palin was announced as the Republican VP candidate pick in the US presidential election, I found myself aghast at the lack of background checking that had apparently been done once the extent of her background was eventually revealed over the days following her selection. I thought to myself, "What are these GOP organizers doing, putting in someone with so little experience," etc. and so on...
The same thoughts apply to this case, except substitute NDP for GOP. My stomach churns in sympathy for those working in Jack Layton's office this morning. Lotta weird feelings must be swirling around today as they push past this (ahem, unfortunate) event and move on.
(Incidentally, in the former case involving Palin, I'm no longer convinced that it was incompetence on the background checker's part that allowed Palin to slip into the VP candidate slot; I pretty much think that picking her was 110% on purpose, and that the GOP felt that her huge attraction from the conservative right in that party would at least outweigh these nitpicking little details about her past. Undoubtedly, this should turn out to be true.)
That article contains some interesting background on the last 24 hours of Li's life before he attacked Tim McLean on that fated bus. Also provides an interesting, macabre twist at the end re an ad campaign by Greyhound that was recently pulled as a result of these attacks. From the article:
Greyhound has scrapped an ad campaign that extolled the peaceful, worry-free upside of bus travel after the beheading of a passenger near Winnipeg.
The punch line of the ad was: "There's a reason you've never heard of 'bus rage.' "
No doubt, that should have been pulled. Youch.
I suspect that googling "greyhound" right now only brings up this story of a man who was beheaded on a Greyhound bus in Western Canada this week. After reading the story and being reminded me of what terribly sick freaks there are out there, I saw that the police had the killer cornered on the bus for three hours, until they finally grabbed him when he broke a window and tried to escape.
Okay, like of all the damn times it would be okay to use a bloody Taser, wouldn't this be the time? Two passengers tried to get back on the bus with crowbars to stop the guy, but he was flailing his blade around wildly and they couldn't. A Taser, however, could make quick work of that situation, couldn't it? For chrissakes, they Tase that poor Polish guy to DEATH in a Vancouver airport after he got lost and disoriented; why wouldn't they subdue someone who had just cut someone's head off?
I was trying to imagine what I'd do if I were that witness from the row in front of the killer. The only thing hard enough I'd have to hit him with would be my laptop, probably, and I'd like to think that I'd swing it as hard as I could like the proverbial iron frying pan in an attempt to knock him unconscious. The first look that the witness saw of the victim was after he'd been stabbed upwards of 40 times -- obviously that killer needed to be stopped ASAP, but even then, it was probably too late. Poor guy.
And now, Eckhart Tolle's explanation:
We can see, for example, what's happening in the Middle East with the eternal insane conflict between Israel and Palestine. We can see how each faction is totally convinced that their mental position is the correct one. Each faction sees itself as the victim of the other. There was a writer I read last year who said each side cannot recognize any narrative other than their own; that's also true. Narrative means the story through which you interpret reality.
People have collective stories which are mental perspectives and mental positions. Of course, when they explain it to you, it sounds absolutely right. Then you go to the other story, and they explain it to you, and that sounds absolutely right. Both are so entrenched in their narrative, their mental positions and their identifications with mental positions that they cannot see anything else. That really symbolizes the very thing that lies at the core of human dysfunction.
There you see it expressed collectively. An inability to hold truth in your consciousness. To rise above polarities, and say, here's this perspective which is ours, and I can also see the other perspective which is yours. If both could do that---even if one party could do that---there would be an end to the madness. It only gets perpetuated by two. You can see the same in personal relationships, you can see the same in marriages that exist in a state of warfare. Both are entrenched. There is this ongoing need to be right. What that really ultimately means is they are identified with the thinking. They have not stepped out of the structure of thought---their mental position, their thought position. The way out of the madness is to recognize thought as just thought. To see your own stream of thinking, to see that no thought can encapsulate the entire truth in any situation. You have to step out of thought to see that. To become the awareness outside of thought. Some people are driven out of thought out of suffering, others can step out of thought because they see that thought is dysfunctional. So we see then that terrorists that inflict suffering on innocent people, kills thousands, blows himself up---how is it that he cannot see what he is doing?
He cannot see because he has reduced other human beings around him to a mental concept. He puts a mental label on other human beings or groups of humans or whatever he calls them---infidels, evil. Once you have conceptualized another human being, covering up their essential aliveness, you also do it to yourself. You become identified with your own self concepts of who you are, because you are right, you are the believer, you are in possession of the truth. You can then inflict acts of violence on other humans without feeling anymore because you've already desensitized yourself, you've deadened their aliveness. So violence becomes very easy when you only operate from the level of thought. Thought plus very destructive emotion that accompanies those destructive thought patterns. That's what drives the terrorist. He truly, as Jesus puts it on the cross, "They know not what they do."
In spiritual terms, they are completely unconscious. Unconscious means identified totally with thought. You reduce reality to a conceptual reality. A lot of violence arises in that way.
Terrorists are not the only ones who are unconscious. The United States manufactures an enormous amount of totally senseless weaponry. Biological, chemical. They manufacture the most fiendish weapons---if they ever used them it would be hell on earth. Why are they working on this? They are intelligent scientists, thousands of them, the Government sponsors itself sponsors it. What is the purpose in creating such weapons if the use of such weapons would create hell on earth? Haven't they got enough weapons already? So it applies; "they know not what they do." You can see human unconsciousness in so many forms. You can see it very clearly in the terrorists. Sometimes it's easier to see the madness in others---but we also have to see it in ourselves.
(x-posted to nonduality)
On a more uplifting note, the following article is taken in full from Issue #3027 of the Nonduality Highlights. I think it speaks quite directly to the points raised in this recent post by turil and its ensuing discussion. In particular, Ramana's technical description of the Mind and of The Three States is lucid, if not cutting. It provides a useful reminder for the source of all mind activity and a subtle description of the nondual nature of the universe.
Ramana's profound teaching was transmitted in silence
Ramana Maharishi was a silent Teacher, if there was one. It would be more appropriate to call him the Silent One, for teaching denotes duality, the teacher and taught, while Ramana was, as a devotee wrote, "the Pure Non-dual Essence." His most direct and profound teaching was transmitted in silence.
Devotees and visitors asked questions and out of his boundless compassion Bhagavan answered them in his own inimitable way, as the following excerpts will show.
All beings desire happiness always, happiness without a tinge of sorrow. At the same time everybody loves himself best. The cause for this love is only happiness. So, that happiness must lie in one self. Further, that happiness is daily experienced by everyone in sleep, when there is no mind. To attain that natural happiness one must know oneself. For that, Self-Enquiry 'Who am I?' is the chief means.
Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it.
Mind is a wonderful force inherent in the Self. That which arises in this body as 'I' is the mind. When the subtle mind emerges through the brain and the senses, the gross names and forms are cognized. When it remains in the Heart, names and forms disappear.
If the mind remains in the Heart, the 'I' or the ego which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self, the Real, Eternal 'I' alone will shine. Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, there is the Self.
Who Am I? Enquiry
For all thoughts the source is the 'I' thought. The mind will merge only by Self-enquiry 'Who am I?' The thought 'Who am l?' will destroy all other thoughts and finally kill itself also. If other thoughts arise, without trying to complete them, one must enquire to whom did this thought arise. What does it matter how many thoughts arise? As each thought arises one must be watchful and ask to whom is this thought occurring. The answer will be 'to me'. If you enquire 'Who am I?' the mind will return to its source (or where it issued from). The thought which arose will also submerge. As you practise like this more and more, the power of the mind to remain as its source is increased.
There are two ways of achieving surrender. One is looking into the source of the 'I' and merging into that source. The other is feeling 'I am helpless myself, God alone is all powerful, and except by throwing myself completely on Him, there is no other means of safety for me', and thus gradually developing the conviction that God alone exists and the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana or liberation.
The Three States:
Waking, Dream and Deep Sleep
There is no difference between the dream and the waking states except that the dream is short and the waking long. Both are the result of the mind. Our real state, called turiya (fourth), is beyond the waking, dream and sleep states.
Grace and Guru
I have not said that a Guru is not necessary. But a Guru need not always be in human form. First a person thinks that he is an inferior and that there is a superior, all-knowing, all powerful God who controls his own and the world's destiny and worships him or does Bhakti. When he reaches a certain stage and becomes fit for enlightenment, the same God whom he was worshipping comes as Guru and leads him on. That Guru comes only to tell him that 'God is within yourself. Dive within and realize.' God, Guru and the Self are the same.
Self - Realization
The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, he is that which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course, we loosely talk of Self-realization for want of a better term.
(x-posted in nonduality)