Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Expect blessings

Lately, I've been trying to practice gratitude and the sense of having enough, instead of resentment, envy and desire. I have a bad habit of looking around and seeing what I don't have and feel I deserve, rather than enjoying and being thankful for what I do have. I don't like this particular characteristic.

I also realized recently that I still have the fears of a 10-year-old in my dreams. When I sleep at night, I often have dreams that have an edge of fear, oppression, entrappment, themes of trying to escape someone or something scary but not being able to. I feel both of these emotions are linked to some part of my psyche or soul that is stuck and needs a kick in the pants to move beyond it, not just for growth, but for cultivating abundance (see, it's still about wanting!).

Here's what came to my email today, an excerpt from Rob Breszny's book "Pronia."


With the authority vested in me by the little voice in my head, I'm pleased
to give you permission to add another job title to your résumé: prophet.

Am I being ironic? Only partially. The truth is, you generate numerous
predictions every day. The source is your imagination, which tirelessly
churns out visions of what you'll be doing in the future. The featured
oracle of the moment may be as simple as a psychic impression of
yourself devouring a fudge brownie in an hour or as monumental as a
fantasy of building your dream home in Hawaii.

Your imagination is a treasure when it spins out scenarios that are aligned
with your deepest desires. Indeed, it's an indispensable tool in creating
the life you want; it's what you use to form images of the conditions
you'd like to inhabit and the objects you hope to wield. Nothing manifests
on the material plane unless it first exists as a mental picture.

But for most of us, the imagination is as much a curse as a blessing.
You're just as likely to use it to conjure up premonitions that are at odds
with your conscious values. Fearful fantasies regularly pop up, many
disguising themselves as rational thoughts and genuine intuitions. They
may hijack your psychic energy, directing it to exhaust itself in dead-end

Meanwhile, ill-suited longings are also lurking in your unconscious mind,
impelling you to want things that aren't good for you and that you don't
really need. Anytime you surrender to their allure, your imagination is
practicing a form of black magic.

These are the imagination's unsavory aspects, which Zen Buddhists
describe as the chatter of the "monkey mind." If you can stop locating
your sense of self in the endless surge of its slapdash fantasies, only then
might you be able to be here now and want what you actually have.

But whether your imagination is in service to your noble desires or in the
thrall of compulsive fears and inappropriate yearnings, there is one
commonality: Its prophecies can be pretty accurate. Many of your visions
of the future do come to pass. The situations you expect to occur and
the experiences you rehearse and dwell on are often reflected back to you
as events that confirm your expectations.

Does that mean our mental projections create the future? Let's consider
that possibility. What if it's at least partially true that what we expect will
happen does tend to materialize? Here's the logical conclusion: It's
downright stupid and self-destructive to keep infecting our imaginations
with pictures of loss and failure, doom and gloom, fear and loathing. The
far more sensible approach is to expect blessings.

I hope I learn this lesson soon.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

USSR Posters

This is a Soviet poster for a book exhibition from 1924. There are many, many more beautiful and intriguing such posters on a website I was lead to from the City Pages, called USSR Posters.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The black hole where tax dollars go

    This isn't new, but this article details some what was to be paid for with the lost funds.

A new report says the Pentagon's finances are in disarray

By Drew Brown
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - The Defense Department's accounting practices are in such disarray that defense officials can't track how much equipment the military owns, where it all is or exactly how they spend defense dollars every year, according to a report Thursday by a nongovernmental group. . .
In reports to Congress in recent years, the GAO found:
  • 94 percent of Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers experienced pay problems in 2004.
  • $100 million that could be collected annually from defense contractors who underpaid federal taxes. The federal government had collected less than 1 percent of that - less than $700,000.
  • $1.2 billion in Army supplies shipped to Iraq that couldn't be accounted for. As a result, military units ended up short on "tires, tank tracks, helicopter spare parts, radio batteries and other basic items."
  • $35 billion worth of excess supplies and equipment, plus an inability to track the movement of supplies.
  • $100 million in airline tickets that were never used.

And the hits just keep on coming!

It's not surprising that the NSA spying scandal is growing, with revelations of broader spying programs bobbing to the surface. Attorney General Gonzales was questioned about the wiretapping of international calls of suspected Al Qaeda operatives during his confirmation hearing in January. Feingold's comments suggest to me that he believed (as I did) there was likely more to the story, more the program beyond what was leaked in the memo about warrantless wiretaps.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Finally, will you commit to notify Congress if the president makes this type of decision and not wait two years until a memo is leaked about it?

MR. GONZALES: I will to advise the Congress as soon as I reasonably can, yes, sir.

Of course, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! has been covering news about spying on activists. before the USA Today article came out. Last week she had a journalist on her show who says he was the target of an FBI surveillance operation. And yesterday she had another show about the USA Today revelation. We know also that Halliburton has been building detention centers to hold "illegal immigrants," and that news was commented on and on several sites, including ZNet and Now we find out that Telecos are helping the government collect call and email data on Americans (interesting that these are the same business interests that have their sticky paws all over the attempt to regulate Internet use to their benefit. Coincidence? You decide). Law makers are standing there with their jaws dropped like this is a big suprise, but apparently some of them, both Dems and Repubs, were aware of it. They are even threatening to make General Hayden, the newly nominated head of the CIA, who was head of the NSA when the wiretapping was authorized, answer some questions about the program during his confirmation hearing next week. Boy, that's reassuring.

But, this may be the one that finally opens the eyes of the sleeping masses. On today I found an article that begins this way:

A former intelligence officer for the National Security Agency said he plans to tell Senate staffers next week that unlawful activity occurred at the agency under the supervision of Gen. Michael Hayden beyond what has been publicly reported, while hinting that it might have involved the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens.

Russell Tice, who worked on what are known as "special access programs," has wanted to meet in a closed session with members of Congress and their staff since President Bush announced in December that he had secretly authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens without a court order. In an interview late Thursday, Tice said the Senate Armed Services Committee finally asked him to meet next week in a secure facility on Capitol Hill.

Tice was fired from the NSA last May. He said he plans to tell the committee staffers the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens while he was there with the knowledge of Hayden, who has been nominated to become director of the CIA. Tice said one of his co-workers personally informed Hayden that illegal and unconstitutional activity was occurring.

The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to hold Hayden's confirmation hearing next week. "I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It's pretty hard to believe," Tice said. "I hope that they'll clean up the abuses and have some oversight into these programs, which doesn't exist right now."

The investigation that was started on the program had been shut down, but maybe this testimony can get the ball rolling again.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Politicians, guns and money

It is ironic that the big corporations, who are most often decrying loudest the intervention of regulation, are now bringing out the big guns (read: money) to bring more regulation to the Internet. It is self-serving regulation, to be sure, meant to benefit the big guys and their friends, but hypocritical. If you have been living under a rock, you may not have heard the buzz of the season: Net Neutrality. Major telecom companies and others who stand to gain are lobbying heavily to have control over what they charge various users of the Information Super Highway. "The telco and cable giants want to fence off the Internet: one area for the haves — who will pay a premium to enjoy life in the fast lane — and the other for the have-nots." Robert McChesney, who runs the Free Press website and emails me the news articles that affect the free press everyday, was on Democracy Now! a couple days ago, and put it this way:

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Their lobbying money, which is an extraordinary amount. And they can't spend too much, because the future is they can control the internet. And what they want to do desperately is be in a situation where they can rank order websites. And websites that come through the fastest to us, to the users of the internet, are the ones that pay them money or the ones they own. And websites that don't pay them come through slower, much harder to get, or in some cases, they’ll have the power to take them off the internet altogether.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I mean, right now, the user pays per month for use of the internet, and that’s how these companies get their money. So they’d be both charging the user and the content provider, the one who makes the website?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: And there’s no technological justification for this. There’s no economic justification. It's pure corrupt crony capitalism. They're basically using their political leverage to change this so they get a huge new revenue stream, and it gives them an inordinate amount of power over the internet. I mean, I think what people have to remember is that I think what’s excited us all about the internet was the idea that anyone could start a website at a fairly nominal fee and be competing equally then with General Motors, with General Electric, with Rupert Murdoch. We all had a shot at it. Democracy Now! had a shot right next to FOX News.

What this will do is change that, because that genius was built on policy, not technology. It was a common carrier requirement of the Telecom Act, which required the phone companies to give all websites equal access. They want to get rid of that, because they see enormous amounts of money if they can decide which website gets the inside lane and which website is on the dirt path.

But, he also said, with public outcry reaching a fever pitch, congress is showing signs of resistance to the bill being lobbied by these media oligopolies. Among the unlikely but less hypocritical opposition to the bill are the Gun Owners of America. "The concept of Network Neutrality has unfortunately been misunderstood by many conservatives, libertarians, and other champions of the free market. That’s too bad, because the free market essence of the Internet is exactly what would be lost without Network Neutrality," says the director of their Internet operations.

So, is it hypocritical of me, a socialist, to also be a champion of Net Neutrality? No, because Net Neutrality, as the first amendment of the Internet, means the Internet is accessible to and useable by everyone, not just fat cats who want to get rich off the spoils of the market, but don't want to share it with the country whose infrastructure made it possible.