The Smartest Man on the Planet

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Nick Hanauer is possibly the smartest man on the planet. Not because he was one of the first investors in Amazon, not because he has billions of dollars and his own plane, not because he has given TED talks and been in documentaries, but because he wrote THIS:

Republicans and Democrats in Congress can’t shrink government with wishful thinking. The only way to slash government for real is to go back to basic economic principles: You have to reduce the demand for government.

I’ve read Nick’s article at topinfopost three times now.  And I’m going to read it again.  Because I’ve been listening for years now as my fellow humans devour one another over partisan politics, obfuscate core issues with symptomatic issues, and generally miss the forest for the trees. You don’t have to be a billionaire to see the wisdom and beauty of Nick’s treatise (and of course he didn’t intend you to have to be); while his letter is addressed to the “filthy rich” like him, it’s truly a letter for all of us. Because there are solutions to the sprawling, systemic problems we face in America. And they start with logic.

Many of our fellow citizens are starting to believe that capitalism itself is the problem. I disagree, and I’m sure you do too. Capitalism, when well managed, is the greatest social technology ever invented to create prosperity in human societies. But capitalism left unchecked tends toward concentration and collapse. It can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter.

Yes, Nick. Yes, yes, and yes.

Sadly, though, there is still part of me that doubts this message will be as clear to certain others. Namely, people that abuse capitalism so that it serves their baser selves; greed and the hunger for power; the restless pursuit of immortality in the face of indomitable mortality. People that hide behind a perverted idea that capitalism needs an unrestrained, unregulated, laissez-faire monetary system in order to work. People too blind or too in denial to see that the very practice of this unbridled capitalism has fomented the bloated government invading and micromanaging our everyday lives. The kind of capitalism that makes corporations people, that insulates the wealthy from empathy and compassion, that puts *stuff* above human lives.

But, it’s worth a shot, dammit. So preach it, Nick. And Happy Fourth.

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Michael Ruppert Dies at 63

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I first learned who Michael C. Ruppert was, probably like most people, through the 2009 documentary film, Collapse.

In that film, Ruppert covers a range of topics, from fiat currency and fractional reserve banking to climate change and alternative energy. The cohesion of Ruppert’s knowledge is impressive; the discovery of oil led to the population boom – the unfettered, exponential explosion we have experienced in the last century – and is an unsustainable phenomenon at the root of our myriad issues on Earth. Ruppert asserts that in the natural world, such population explosions are followed by a devastating collapse.

mike_ruppertSome people could, and probably do hoot Ruppert down as a nut job. He began as a narcotics cop in Los Angeles, whose discovery and challenge of the CIA bringing drugs into the country put him on the world stage as a whistleblower in the 1990s. He later wrote books and traveled and gave speeches. Most recently, he left his home in Northern California and joined a group in the San Luis Valley who share Lakota traditions and pray for humankind and the well-being of the Earth.

It’s a logical trajectory, when you think about it. The very unfortunate part is that it ends with Ruppert taking his life.

Perhaps he had reached the point where he felt he had said all that he could.  Or, that his last days were spent in Calistoga, away from the San Luis community, could suggest some painful parting of ways.  Regardless of any interpretation, the self-described “faithful scout” says in the 2013 documentary Apocalypse, Man (bottom of page) that the scout’s blade is sharp on both edges.  And that the scout walks alone.  For me, his work and efforts can be summed up in his passionate belief that the world is in such great need of an evolution of consciousness, and that he saw this consciousness rising, catalyzed by movements like Occupy.

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In his San Luis days, the Scout was most concerned with climate collapse and Fukushima as the two paramount issues sure to foment global human extinction.  But there’s no point in my condensing or distilling any more of Ruppert’s contributions. I view Michael Ruppert as something of a doorkeeper, and I walked through in 2009 and have never looked back.  I would invite any others, who have not yet, to do the same.

While I feel I have tempered my life to the extent that it is possible to live with the knowledge I have and still retain joy and hope, some, like Ruppert, may struggle with finding balance.  Or, it’s possible his ending was something he entered into with the belief that he had accomplished what he had set out to do and now wanted to join the “spirit world.”  But now I’m just conjecturing again.

Perhaps the best way to honor Ruppert and his contributions is to see him as the empathic man that he was.  To stay focused and articulate in our own journeys.  To keep sane in an insane world.

There are many so-called “revolutionary” groups on the planet today, challenging the money-market system, the plutocracy, and hoping to turn around the destruction of the natural world. I think we can brace ourselves for the coming years without resorting to too much extremism; e.g. I don’t believe the Illuminati is responsible for anything.

We can embrace historical knowledge, such as what we find in the wisdom of the Kali Yuga, and we can see the forecasts of this time in the New Testament of the Bible. We’re smart, collectively; we have a divinity that transcends time and space and so we contain the knowledge innately – and we had great and unimpeded access to this wisdom before times so rife with industry and technology. But we should be wary to spout conspiracy theories, to call out the monopoly media as creating false flag events or talk about “mind control” with vehement language.  That kind of stuff just turns people off who might otherwise listen.

Ruppert had facts. He had data. He was passionate and could be emotional, but he was rational and reasonable, too. Well-spoken, blessed with a great vocabulary, an ability to contain so much information, decipher it and relay it topically and articulately. He was gifted, and he will be missed.

 

(The following documentary, in 10 parts on YouTube from VICE, is really Ruppert’s crown jewel. Raw, terrifying, and filled with Ruppert’s encyclopedic knowledge, no-nonsense attitude, emotion, expletives, and astonishing insights every person on the planet should hear.)

 

SeaWorld: Animal Prison or Nature Conservatory?

blackfishposterThere’s been a bit of hoopla lately about the amusement park SeaWorld, particularly since Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film, Blackfish, arrived on Netflix.  Blackfish is a documentary that assembles decades of captive killer whale attacks along with tearful testimonies from former trainers about the money and bureaucracy behind the park.

Without a doubt, SeaWorld pours millions of dollars into their state-of-the-art fish tanks, with skilled trainers who genuinely love the animals, and choreographed shows.   In various statements intended to defend its reputation, SeaWorld cites the positives of their aquatic endeavors – they claim that the existence of their park benefits the research and conservation of killer whales, and that they have rescued “ill, orphaned, and injured” animals in the wild.

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This is probably all true.  And there are doubtless hundreds of trainers and employees of SeaWorld who earnestly love what they do, believing that they are increasing awareness of the animal kingdom and the need to protect species like killer whales.  Moreover, there are scores of people who visit the park, come away enchanted, warmed, perhaps even educated.

But this is not SeaWorld’s main objective.  This may be the objective of certain individuals who work within the company and subscribe to an ideology about man’s place to help the animals of the planet, to provide enlightening entertainment to the masses, and so on, but for the company itself, the goal is to make money.

SeaWorld is a business.  It is not a non-profit research foundation or grant-funded group of marine biologists.  SeaWorld is incorporated, has shareholders, and is required by law to make money for those shareholders.  Formerly Busch Entertainment, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch (they make beer, among other things), SeaWorld Entertainment is now owned by the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest multinational, investment banking and private equity firms.  In December of 2012, SeaWorld filed for an initial public offering of stock, with a lion’s share of the proceeds going to the Blackstone, which retains a controlling interest.   (Trading on the New York Stock Exchange began in April, 2013.)

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Still, spotlighting the corporate interest behind the scenes doesn’t hold much water as an indictment of  SeaWorld; there are surely people who will say that capitalism is how things work – without it there would be no incentive.

So, calling attention to the money aspect of the controversy may seem immaterial, but perhaps it raises some important questions:  If there was no money being made, would SeaWorld exist?  Are animals like the killer whales truly better off in captivity?  Do the purported benefits of research and conservation outweigh any negative impacts?  Or, is it sort of six of one, half a dozen of the other?

Blackfish provides some statistical information, including the drastically shortened life span of captive whales.  However, SeaWorld maintains that the whales live a lifespan comparable to that in the wild.  Blackfish demonstrates some deplorable living conditions for many of the whales, but SeaWorld asserts that the animals are treated like royalty.  Like the animals in the pool, the argument goes around and around.

Fortunately, I can answer for myself, without needing an abundance of trivial data:  My thought is that in no way, shape, or form are animals better off in captivity.  Period.  Even if the water in the tank is filled with Goldschlager and sprinkled with cocaine purer than the driven snow, even if getting masturbated by a trainer feels twice as good as natural in-the-sea hootenanny, even if a captured whale is sick, or injured, or orphaned, it is never the case that an animal is better off in captivity – it is never better for the ecosystem; that is, the animals, their natural habitat, their relationship to one another and to all the other species they interact with.   This is just my unprofessional, armchair-scientist’s opinion.

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But let me better explain.  I may or may not be a “conservationist,” but I think the term that suits my thinking better might be “naturalist.”  Man has no dominion over the animals of the world.  I don’t feel it is our place to manage them or manipulate them for profit (animal husbandry) or for science (testing on animals for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, etc.) or for entertainment (zoos, amusement parks).  I’m even skeptical of efforts to re-stabilize populations thwarted by industry and man’s overpopulation; I feel like we need to retract our meddling, busy-body hands and stop molesting the animal kingdom all together.

Woah, right?

Look, many well-meaning people with big hearts seem to get caught up in this idea that we can “make a difference” by removing an animal out of the bliss of its natural environment and putting it in a tank with other animals in order to study it, or provide some sort of educational entertainment for the masses.

But the argument that animals in captivity benefit marine biology research is tenuous.  On a purely biological level, scientists can poke around in the guts of the fish and learn better what goes where and how it all fits together.  But examining captive animals provides zero insight into the ways they exist in the wild.

Still of killer whales from the documentary Blackfish

The most compelling aspect about the documentary Blackfish, for me, was not about the trainer attacks, but when a marine biologist spoke about the complex language of killer whales in the wild, and the developing neuroscience that killer whales have a highly developed region of the brain thought to administer emotion – deep, profound emotion, beyond even human capacity.

These animals live in families.  They are matriarchal, with the mothers and their children remaining together throughout the duration of the mother’s life – which may be as much as eighty or a hundred years.  Each family is thought to have its own specific language, like a tribe.  They move through the ocean like nomads, or hunter-gathers.  They are sacred.  Not just because they are big animals, or whether they are endangered or not, but because they are of a design and realm of being far beyond our ability to fully grasp.

Let’s say that killer whales in the wild remain in what David Abram’s called “The Spell of the Sensuous.”  This realm is a place of instinct, emotion, bountiful sensory input; an unconscious romp through a perpetual present, a life in balance with nature.  Our own spell of the sensuous is probably beyond our reach now, shrunken in the rear view mirror to a homo heidelbergenis waving in the distance.  Perhaps this is something the eager, earnest, whale-loving trainers, the droves of amusement park visitors, are trying to recover, whether they know it or not.  Perhaps SeaWorld is an attempt to once again be a part of something, to be close to something that we lost along the way.

We all recognize the way in which a child is compelled to touch something, and how that touch can inadvertently lead to breakage.  There is a tendency within us to destroy what we love.  We are hardly different from children when we allow our compulsions to override a conscientious understanding – that we change what we observe.

Surely, the way to communion with nature is not to put it behind bars, or in a tank, to ogle at it when it is stripped of its natural context and institutionalized by its surrounding.  Even if it is “healthy” and appears to be functioning normally under the conditions of captivity, to witness such creatures in this environment is to experience a mere fraction of their complexity and grandeur, because we are missing the bigger picture.

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I may sound like a curmudgeon, telling my fellow humans to stop tapping on the glass like children.  I recognize and can understand the desire in other people to explore the world around them, to see something they would never get to see.  But there are less invasive ways to do this.  And, perhaps more importantly, there is a major missing component to the experience of animals when they are in captivity – or, if the component is there, it doesn’t mix well with the experience.  Empathy.

Empathy is not just a condition, or an emotion.  Empathy and compassion are tools with which we can explore the world around us.  Compassion, and perhaps a sense of romance, can extend us beyond our trappings to consider the depth of sensual experience in the wild life of a killer whale, and all other species.  We can observe, in a minimally invasive way, by bringing ourselves into the experience of animals.  Rather than shape the animals to our bidding, we can reach out, we can glimpse the glacial waters, we can hear the intricate language of a killer whale family, we can see them coursing through all of that darkness.

Recently I was invited to join “Boycott SeaWorld” on Facebook.  I didn’t join, because I don’t need to; I’ve never been to SeaWorld, and I never will.  And this is not because I have an agenda, as some detractors claim is behind the Blackfish film.  The reason I don’t go to SeaWorld because I feel I have no right to – I don’t feel the slightest bit entitled to watch an animal taken from the wild or born in captivity perform tricks for me.

I’d rather watch the movie Blackfish and then be an old stinkpot and write a blog like this.

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New Study Shows that Afterlife Exists, but Only for Atheists

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A study that was conducted recently cites the relationship of the Higgs-Boson particle to The Field of Dark Matter, along with other scientific mumbo jumbo, in proving the existence of the Afterlife, a place that only admits atheists into its eternal bliss, however.

“It seems that God is not without a sense of irony,” said Pastor Jim Taylor.

“We’re closing down the synagogue,” said Rabbi Benjamin Seidenstein, “and going to Starbucks next Saturday instead of Temple.”

For millennia, people of Earth have believed in some form of god – Yaweh, Allah, Zoroaster, The Moon, Obama, and others.  In most cases, the religion ascribed to that god has involved a type of afterlife – a place human souls depart to upon mortal death (and usually only upon some form of spiritual expiation) that is paved with golden streets overrun with solicitous virgins working the corners.

The study, conducted by scientists around the globe, in part at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, as well as on the Russian Space Station, Mir, and at the Hubble Space Telescope, represents the largest coordinated scientific effort to date, and a lot of things to say in one sentence.

Using the Hubble telescope, researchers peered deep into Space, while scientists at CERN smashed atoms together in the Hadron Collider; they were looking in the other direction – into the inner space of the tiniest observable particulate matter – the neutrino.

“The neutrino tells us quite a story,” said Swiss scientist Werner Mathis in a silly Swiss-German accent which made him hard to understand.  “Trillions of these tiny particles are passing through you, me, that chair over there, right this very instant.  So, we ask ourselves the question: where do they go?  And so, we followed them.”

Coordinating with Mir and the Hubble Telescope was no easy feat.  Astronomer Guy Wannaker said, “We were texting constantly.  My phone was totally blowing up.”

The location of a group of 3.3 trillion neutrinos was tracked by a mathematician named Orgo Maddox.  Electromagnetically “tagged” by Maddox, Mir Space station did the initial tracking of the herd of neutrinos as they left the atmosphere while feeding the coordinates to Wannaker.

“Though I don’t know that ‘herd,’ is the right term for this group of neutrinos,” Wannaker said.  “I like that you can call a group of crows a ‘murder’ of crows.  And then there’s an ‘unkindness’ of ravens – that’s really cool.  In Australia they have kangaroos, right?  And they say, a ‘mob of kangaroos.’  That’s kind of great; it makes the kangaroos seem like they might be carrying weapons, like bats or tommy guns.  Can you imagine that? Kangaroos with bats and tommy guns.”

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Wannaker was able to effectively “watch” the neutrinos as they traveled 42 light years into Outer Space, passing the beautiful horsehead nebulae, and making a left turn at the farthest observable extrasolar planet, and continuing on from there.

“And that’s where I found the afterlife, and that’s where I saw them.”

Wannaker became emotional telling the story.  “T.H. Huxley, Nietzsche, Max Stirner, uhm, other noteworthy dead atheists – they were all right there.  It was wild; it was like 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I felt like that guy in the space helmet with all those colors coming at him.  Man, he looked really fucking freaked out, didn’t he?”

afterlife choicesThe discovery of the afterlife in the deep cosmos did not turn up any believers, Wannaker said.  “You know, you expect to see Mother Theresa there.  Martin Luther King, Jr. …I just couldn’t make sense of it.”

“When you look that far back into Space,” explained Wannaker after he had settled himself down with a few cocktails, “You’re looking back in time.  We essentially looked into the beginning of the universe – that’s where the neutrinos had returned.”

Baffled by his findings, and half-drunk from tee many martoonies, Wannaker made a phone call.

He called Pastor Jim Taylor.

Taylor explained that the afterlife has no time; that it is the beginning and the end of all life.

“It’s weird, you know?  We’ve got proof that the afterlife exists, but you can’t believe in it if you want to get there.  It’s like one of those Chinese finger torture things.  Well, no, I guess it’s not like that.  But it shows us that God is even more mysterious than we first thought.”

Asked whether he would continue his practice as a pastor, Taylor said, “I would stop believing in a heartbeat and become an atheist, but, I just can’t.  I make $28,000 a year as a pastor, and my family needs the money.  Anyway, this cosmic geography where the afterlife was discovered is arbitrary.  I bet science will show us next that rank-and-file believers, you know, Christmas Eve Christians and people with one foot out the door, they’ll show up as having a place in the afterlife, too.  And it will go on from there.  That’s the thing with science, it’s like watching House of Cards or something – you just got to stick around to find out what happens next.”

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Having A Blog Is Sort Of Like Praying

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Not long ago I was sharing with my wife about how a business partner and I were quibbling about differences over our start-up media company.  In a moment of clarity, I analogized the experience to a couple of kids in a tree fort, arguing about what to do when the dinosaurs came.

There’s a big difference between having real shit to deal with and having imaginary shit to deal with.  At the same time, there’s something to be said for acting “as if” and sort of playing house as things start up.  It can be a way to work out the kinks.

Having a blog is like this, too.  Without an effective marketing strategy, with SEO and all of that, or without having a platform to begin with (readers that know you from something else), you’re posting stuff on the edge of the abyss.  You are, as my one friend put it, “farting into the wind.”

But recently I started to look at it in another way.

You’re praying.

There’s been a lot of talk over the past decade or more about the “Law of Attraction” and Drawing What You Want to Yourself Out of the Universe and all of that.  Regardless of what you want to call it, and regardless of whether or not the science of quantum mechanics and the theological practices of religion ever finally reconcile and merge or stay instead on discrete, parallel paths, there’s something to all of this metaphysical mumbo jumbo.  “Praying” is a shorthand way of describing this attempt at steering one’s life.

Prayer is also about thanks, of course, and communion.  A blog can be that, too.

This all just popped up in my head today when I saw that one of my blogs was coming up for its annual dues.  I boggled at the fact that I’ve had the blog for almost a year already.  My plan had been, after creating it, to work on it for a while, show it to a few select people, and then, when the time was right, “launch it” to the world.

I guess I never did.

So here it is, the other blog, the other hat I wear when I’m not on here over-analyzing movies, philosophizing, coming down on the money-market system in what I hope are blistering tirades, or gushing over my children.

BREARTONBOOKS.COM

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recent highlights:

Total Pump-Fake: How My Publishing Deal Became My NOT-Publishing Deal

and

In the Wake of the Total Pump-Fake

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