Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Makes Us Happy

from freeacre

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness….”
From the Declaration of Independence

Happiness. Our founding fathers considered it very important - important enough to start a revolution. The declaration goes on to state, “ that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government laying its foundations upon such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” If he had not been the author of the Constitution, he might have become the father of the run on sentence. Anyway, happiness has long been held to be crucial to our well-being both individually and collectively.

Murph and I recently watched a documentary film entitled, “Happy.” I recommended it in one of my comments to the previous post. In it, several people all over the world were interviewed regarding how happy they were and what it was that made them happy. They found that once the basic needs of a roof over one’s head, food, access to medical care, and physical safety are met, say, $50,000 to an American, more money does not correlate to more happiness. So, making $250,000 is not going to insure that you will be five times happier. Nuts. There goes my fantasy of making a lot of people happy with my winnings from the Publishers Clearing House.

On the other hand, if I did win the Publishers Clearing House prize pf $5,000 each week for life, and if I DID give much of it to my friends, my happiness is almost guaranteed to increase, as giving seems to be one characteristic that does improve one’s happiness. I guess, that is, unless you are a sociopath, and don’t care about anyone but yourself, but I digress.

On a happiness index, a rickshaw driver In an Asian country, who pulled a rickshaw loaded with people through clogged streets in the hot summer sun and the rainy season as well, came home to a shack from work to his wife and children, and felt happy and blessed to live as he does. His happiness derived from the same elements that most of us need to be happy: family, friends, place/nature, and a sense of community.

I think we know that our values have become distorted. Every moment, it seems, we are bombarded with messages that tell us that more and more things will make us happy – more and more money, products, growth, investments, power, prestige, whatever. Just more. There seems to be never enough. Planned obsolescence insures that we will never have to stop buying stuff.

I know I have written about this before. Cultivating a sense of “enough” is a revolutionary act, along with cooking from scratch, and growing one’s own food.
But, being happy despite the horrors of the times, is also a revolutionary act. I’m not talking about the clueless ones who are untroubled because they are unaware and mostly numb. I don’t think they are really very happy. Heck, maybe they are. Are stupid people happier than smart people? I don’t know. The documentary did not address that question. At any rate, I am not talking about them.

I am talking about people who feel alive and loved and secure within their family and neighbors. People who spend a lot of time together face to face, helping each other with projects, co-operating, sharing, eating together, playing, and enjoying things together. It seems we are social beings, and we don’t do well when these natural needs are displaced with chasing the All Mighty Dollar. Money has become the cultural God. The mall is our tabernacle. On the television set - the idols we turn to for direction. It is a sad state of affairs. We are stalked at every turn by advertisements to purchase things to make us attractive, potent, cool, hip, in control, yada, yada.

But it’s more than that now. Now the problems go beyond shallowness, neuroticism, and bad taste. We have become so disconnected from each other that the police have become an occupying army of thugs. They have been armed as a paramilitary force by our own government with implements used for torture and death. The government has become corrupt and tyrannical. I could put in links, but you know what I am talking about. The collapse of the world as we have known it to be, is happening all around us. Fukushima could blow at any moment. And, we could also be on the brink of natural disasters as our planet enters the galactic plane and we encounter energy “fluff” and many more space rocks that react energetically within the vast pool of plasma that makes up the Universe. Everything is more intense. It could lead to the take down of the electrical grid, and that would lead to our demise. Or, the methane could melt in our oceans and perma-frost, and that would also lead to our demise. Oh, yeah, and we are also on the brink of nuclear war if the Israelis and their minions in our congress have anything to say about it. One of the few things that Obama has done right so far is he’s kept us out of war with Iran. But, who knows if that will last.

It is the Kali Yuga. Hindus and Buddhist have differing takes on it, but they both define it as the Dark Age of strife, contention, and materialism. It is the collapse that eventually leads into the next Golden Age. From Wikepedia:

Prophesied events during a Kali Yuga

A discourse by Markandeya in the Mahabharata identifies some of the attributes of Kali Yuga. In relation to rulers, it lists:
  • Rulers will become unreasonable: they will levy taxes unfairly.
  • Rulers will no longer see it as their duty to promote spirituality, or to protect their subjects: they will become a danger to the world.
  • People will start migrating, seeking countries where wheat and barley form the staple food source.
  • "At the end of Kali-yuga, when there exist no topics on the subject of God, even at the residences of so-called saints and respectable gentlemen of the three higher varnas [guna or temperament] and when nothing is known of the techniques of sacrifice, even by word, at that time the Lord will appear as the supreme chastiser." (Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.7)
With regard to human relationships, Markandeya's discourse says:
  • Avarice and wrath will be common. Humans will openly display animosity towards each other. Ignorance of dharma will occur.
  • People will have thoughts of murder with no justification and will see nothing wrong in that.
  • Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable and sexual intercourse will be seen as the central requirement of life.
  • Sin will increase exponentially, whilst virtue will fade and cease to flourish.
  • People will take vows and break them soon after.
  • People will become addicted to intoxicating drinks and drugs.
  • Gurus will no longer be respected and their students will attempt to injure them. Their teachings will be insulted, and followers of Kama will wrest control of the mind from all human beings.
  • Brahmans will not be learned or honored, Kshatriyas will not be brave, Vaishyas will not be just in their dealings.
So, in the oft-quoted lament of our dear Montana Freeman, “What is a motherfucker to do?”

After taking care of the basics of keeping a roof over our heads, preparing as well as we can with food and survival tactics, and being aware of what is going on enough to maybe not be blind-sided with damage and/or atrocities, I think the next step is to cultivate happiness. I know that many of us have come to the same conclusion. In fact, I may be among the last. Self-expression is one of the elements that were found to add to happiness. Many of you play musical instruments. That makes you happy. I don’t. But, I write and have started to paint things. When I first moved here and retired, I thought I would work with clay. But, I got involved in politics and gardening and things, so that didn’t happen. Much of my time has seemed to be determined by more and more duties and projects. The fire hasn’t helped. I need to get outside more. I need to go fishing. I spend too much time at the computer and not enough time socializing with people. I need to remember how important they are to me. I already know how important you are to me. I go to bed every night grateful for my life and those with whom I share it.

It’s going to take ethical people to resist the dark dynamics of the Kali Yuga and plant the seeds for a better world. It’s going to take courage and co-operation, imagination, energy, love, beauty, humor, song, dance, laughter, celebrations, and festivals. All those qualities that sustained tribal and aboriginal cultures for so long. It’s going to take happiness.

Does that mean we should be happy all the time? Of course not. Horrible things are occurring. People are suffering and dying and it will probably get worse. It may be as simple as losing a job, getting an illness, or it may be widespread devastation like what is happening now in the Philippines. Anger and horror will be felt. Compassion will be needed. Pain will be shared. But, when it’s all said and done, extending empathy and compassion and helping a situation are the things that lead to feeling happy. If not happy, then at least whole.

I also think that Liberty is a fundamental element of being happy. But, that’s another post.

http://www.thehappymovie.com/ This site is almost nauseatingly cheerful, but it has a lot of good information on what makes human beings happy, if you can get beyond the happy face and hopium.

On the other end of the spectrum, Carolyn Bakers, Speaking Truth to Power. She has several articles and books on how to deal with the emotions of despair and loss brought on by collapse.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Progress on the home front.

 from Murph

Anyone that spends a reasonable amount of time reading data, opinions, commentaries and news releases can't help but be a bit confused about what the real story is about. Some event takes place and immediately the MSM comes out with editorials and explanations of what actually happened and what it means., and often enough what you should believe about it. Soon after, the alternative media (chiefly through the internet) comes out with a different analysis and different facts/data which if not outright contradicts the original narrative, at least casts doubt on its facts and conclusions.

Lets take a look at some of what seems to be noncontroversial facts;

1. The MSM is very highly controlled by interests which have skin in the game to keep the current operative paradigm circulating and business as usual and the population's perceptions controlled.

2. The government and its bloated bureaucracies flat out lie to us and have been for a very long time. The evidence concerning this is overwhelming.

3. Enough documented evidence has been presented over my entire life that show unequivocally that grand conspiracies by the elites of this world are a fact, not just theories. We may argue about specific facts, validity and consequences on specific data but grand conspiracies do exist. Read the agenda 21 papers, or the NWO papers that started in 1954 with the first Bildaburg meetings or the Cheney white papers, or the “silent war” papers, or.......

4. The academic field that we title “science” has become, to a large extent, untrustworthy when it is used to determine public policy and perceptions. Way too much research results are questionable or outright falsified, funded by self interest groups (too a large extent in the corporate world) and most noticeably in government funded research that is released to the public that is the result of political expediency and agenda. Read the research put out by Monsanto and Dow Corps on their products or the original research that went into the prohibition on tobacco or the use of Fluoride as a health issue.

5. It is true that the 1%-5% of the worlds population that we call the “the elites” the “PTB” that are in charge of most of the influential decisions being made are obsessed with having control and have from the first of recorded history sought to extend their control and make it absolute. It is also true from documented writings, memos, articles and recordings that these elites have only contempt for the non elites. Those in power positions have (with only rare exceptions) always held to this position of contempt and disrespect. Most of the folks that drafted our constitution we in that group that expressed contempt and disrespect for the “common man”.

I'm sure that we could make some more generalized statements concerning what appears as a factual narrative about what is true.

So, when we take these 5 points into consideration on highly charged controversial subjects such as;

Climate change
Geo engineering
Nations in armed conflict (wars)
Freedom of individuals in a population
Taxing and all other governmental policies
Honesty of those in charge (the politicians)
The dramatic escalation of concentration of power, money and influence
The educational system
The medical cartels (health/sickness industry)
The military industrial complex
The “scientific research industry”

And a host of other issues that are in our face on a constant basis, as individuals, we pick and choose what we prefer to believe is true according to what we are deliberately or accidentally exposed to. Our decisions in this regard are controlled by our cultural conditioning, our preconceived information, our preconceived ideas on morality, ethics and a host of other variables. This is not necessarily a bad thing to happen. Probably a result of being human. What does happen that is not such a good thing is when we find out that what we believed is true turns out to not be true and what we do about it. We have all met other folks that no matter what information/facts are presented, will cling to a perception that appears to us as unfounded or flat out not true. Our blind side is when we personally do that.

Much of this choosing what to believe is a result of our education, how well disciplined our mental organization is, how objective we can be, how well we are able to organize data and be critical of that data and how well we are able to look at our preconceptions and discard the ones that simply are not consistent with reality.

Take a short example. How long have humans existed on this planet? If we take Bishop Ussher's calculations as fact, it is around 6000 years based on his calculations of the Bible family linage. Our current science says much much longer. Which to believe? I have met folks lately that believe the 6000 yr narrative absolutely and completely discount any science to the contrary. These folks accept the absolute authority of a collection of writings that date about 4000 or so yrs ago. So, these folks reject one set of science but not others. They also drive cars, use electricity, travel on airplanes, watch TV, have computers, think Ronald Ray-gun was the greatest president and all Muslims present an emanate danger to their way of life and the only way to a good life is in the service to Jesus. If consistency of thinking has value, are these folks dealing with reality? They vote too.

I have come to the conclusion that unless you spend a great deal of time in top top tiers of society, or in the scientific community, you have to accept data and opinions from those folks that supposedly are in the know. We may chose to accept bad or corrupted data. We may chose to accept data that is the result of political or control agendas. Any one of the issues I listed above are subject to corrupted or bad data, misdirection, misinformation, and outright lies.

Take the first one listed, climate change. The scientific papers I have read indicate that weather trends have changed and seem to cyclical over long periods of time. Some folks deny that man can influence what the weather does. I would take very serious issue with that position. But personally, I consider the argument to be superfluous. In my lifetime, weather patterns have changed, in some localities rather drastically, in other locations, not so much. If we are in a cyclic cooling or heating changes on earth, what is important is how this will affect living on this planet. We have ample evidence that this planet has gone through some really violent and drastic changes in the weather in the past and have fairly conclusive evidence what the effects on populations. For me, the important question is how we are going to deal with these changes, not the argument about whether they are caused in part or whole by mans activities, which obviously is not going to change. The PTB have for a whole lot of years (since the end of WWII) attempted to control the weather (geoengeneering) by various means, and to a large degree, seemingly failed. We are dealing with a system that is so complex that our present concept of science simply cannot control it on a wholesale basis. Not so sure it would be a good idea to do so. With the elites controlling the weather you can be it would be used for social control and utilized as a weapon anyway.

For me, I try to steer away from absolutist statements about much of anything. There are some areas that I will indulge in absolutist positions, but keep in mind they may not be consistent with reality, particularly in dealing with human behavior and its consequences. The scientific community has its renegades who propose that nearly everything we think we know is simply not true. Hell, we have evidence that most of the “constants” we have accepted as being absolute, aren't. One of the more recent ones is the decay rate of of particular radioactive materials, and the “red shift” being an indication of receding or advancing distances.

If our species can manage to stay alive long enough, we will experience many more cosmic surprises.

For those that follow the archdruid's writing, he has been examining belief systems and how hey work and what causes them. He insists that the relatively new belief system that permeates our society revolves around the religion of “progress” that has taken on the same characteristic as what we normally call religion. I find it interesting that humans generally seem to need to believe in some far reaching future scenario, especially in regard to their own existence. For those that buy into the belief system of “progress” and “technology” that will save the day for human existence, I say, that it does not seem to be consistent with our reality. Whatever “progress” and “technology” has contributed to human life has benefited a only very small amount of human life on this planet, and for the most part has added to the misery of most. Western modern civilization comprises only a small part of the human population on this planet. Yes, the convenience of that group has gone up dramatically in the last 300 years, and has now begun an observable decline in in returns. To a large extent, our “progress” has gone in the direction of convenience by button pushing. I'm not entirely convinced that this is progress.

Monday, September 2, 2013


The new flag for Mericans.  

From Murph


For days now, we have been bombarded with commentaries and research into the Syrian political situation/gas attack situation. One of the best, (not the only good one) was on Zero Hedge on Monday morning. http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2013-09-02/surreal-sadistic-syrian-subterfuge
George Ure on Monday morning had some interesting perspectives on Syria.

This article points out, AGAIN, how what we read about and what is put in front of us in the mass media is not how it is, not the whole story. Further, it pointedly makes the assertion that the folks making the actual decisions on actions in that part of the world are not the political figures we associate with these decisions. As we all pretty well know now, what is motivating all of these actions is the money interests, the really big money folks concentrated in the international banks and petroleum interests. The wars over energy control have gone up several notches.

If the U.S. and it's allies are not able to control the situation, (through the military of course), all hell could break loose, ala a large regional war. There are so many actors in this drama and so many conflicting interests that I find it impossible to keep it all straight in my mind.

I don't remember where I read it, but one commentary suggested that the NWO folks want the war so as to be justified in imposing controls on everyone planet wide. Fits right in with the agenda 21 papers, create a huge cluster fuck and then enforce the solution and the Mid East situation sure appears to me to fit that billing.

No matter who the actors, no matter what outcome, this will not be good for the lower economic 95% of the worlds population. While the top 5% of the worlds population can largely insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions, the rest of us can not. This also fits in with the agenda 21 population reduction concepts.

Another commentator suggested that we are already in a nuclear war. He points to depleted uranium munitions that have contaminated large swaths of land areas with drastic horrible consequences that will last many generations. So, through our war munitions we make more land areas uninhabitable for an increasing world wide population. That works.

I came across some demographic information lately concerning birth rates. It is asserted that when a geographical area (such as the U.S.) falls below 2.1 birth rates per women, that area is doomed for its future ethnic population and no country has survived this below 2.1 birth rate for very long. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323375204578270053387770718.html This article postulates that the world needs an increase in birth rates if civilization is to survive. Of course, all these postulates assume resources will always be available and that capitalistic expansion is a good thing. Which also leads to the question of availability of resources for an expanding population, which implies the sources of energy. There is much verbiage and arguments revolving around resources. Those advocating increased usage seem to assume that the planet's resources (particularly energy) are virtually limitless.

I assume that for most of us, we can agree that we have had a corporate take over of the country. It also appears that this take over has happened in all of the “developed countries”. This has world wide implications. I'm not very enthusiastic about corporate control over my life and have spent years trying to avoid it. Nearly impossible to do on a large scale. Smaller less industrialized countries have seen the writing on the wall and taken steps to limit this takeover. Their success or failure will be a part of our current history. This limitation seems concentrated in South America. The mid eastern countries seem to be caught up in the corporate takeover. Overt and covert destabilization of a bunch of countries has led to an obvious destabilization of the whole area. I cannot help but assume that this is going according to some master plan that the banks and corporations have cooked up. I look again at agenda 21.

I suspect that the situation with Syria and the entire mid east is a pivotal point. If the corporations are successful in the complete domination of the mid east and its energy supplies, the rest of the world should be a cake walk. If however, they tip over the molasses jug ( see Briar Rabbit) and create a really big messy situation, it could go against that takeover. Also, if enough populations see the danger in this takeover, it could change their time schedule considerably. However, it appears to me that this takeover has been advanced for many years (a truly magnificent conspiracy) and will continue no matter the mid east outcome. The only thing that would stop it in its tracks would be a large explosive change in the populations value system and abolishing of our hierarchical system. Considering the 5000 years of recorded history, I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.

I just finished Joe Bageant's book “Rainbow Pie”. I think he is dead on right. Better than “Deer Hunting With Jesus” even. Bageant has been one of the best spokespersons for the underclass for very many years. And just who is the underclass you might ask? That includes you and I folks. If you are not at least in the middle class for income and have adopted the middle class life style and value system, you are in the underclass. In “Rainbow Pie”, Bageant spends a lot of pages talking about what it was like to grow up in the underclass in the post WWII years in Appalachia. He makes a strong case concerning class struggles for equality, for equal chances at the “American Dream”, and mostly how it has failed miserably. My understanding of the historical context in class divisions of society indicates it has been a continual struggle for most of recorded history. Even our founding fathers and the folks that drafted our Constitution had contempt for the lower classes, that contempt kept slavery going for 200 years and women and the non elite from voting.

Until societies get over the knee bending and homage to folks that claim to be better able to tell us how to live, it won't change. Until societies decide to empower themselves and stop this nonsense, most of society will remain in some form of bondage, contributing to the fortunes of those that haven't the practical brain power to stop pounding sand down a rat hole. Only when and if we take away the declaration that the state has the sole right to use force to reinforce its dictates, it will continue. Only when we declare that our lives are ours to live, and we must allow others the same, it will not change. When the citizen become apathetic or disinterested in how their government is run and by who with what agenda, you then can observe the escalation of croneyism, cynicism, contempt, and subversion of those values that make life interesting and enjoyable for the rest of us. Until we get over accepting our roll as consumers and adapt a different value system, nothing will change.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


In remembrance of Brie and her chicks

From Freeacre

Remember the Deteriorata from National Lampoon back in the day? Here's a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ey6ugTmCYMk

It reads like this:


(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Deteriorata, Deteriorata)
Go placidly amidst the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof. Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep. Rotate your tires. Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself; and heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys. Know what to kiss - and when. Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do. Wherever possible, put people on hold. Be comforted, that in the face of all irridity and disillusionment, and despite the changing fortunes of time, there is always a big future in computer maintenance.
(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)
Remember the Pueblo. Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate. Know yourself. If you need help, call the FBI. Exercise caution in your daily affairs, especially with those persons closest to you... That lemon on your left, for instance. Be assured that a walk through the seas of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet. Fall not in love, therefore, it will stick to your face. Gracefully surrender the things of youth: the birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan - and let not the sands of time get in your lunch. Hire people with hooks. For a good time, call 606-4311, ask for Ken. Take heart in the deepening gloom that your dog is finally getting enough cheese. And reflect that whatever misfortune may be your lot, it could only be worse in Milwaukee.
(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)
Therefore, make peace with your god, whatever you perceive him to be: hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin. With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal, the world continues to deteriorate. GIVE UP!
(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)
It was going through my mind a few nights ago as I was falling asleep. I had to laugh.
Actually, it is a parody of an earlier poem entitled "Desiderata." Read this one and feel which one feels better to you.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
© Max Ehrmann 1927

Two different takes on the same situation. There are many more. Everyone connects the mental dots in different ways for themselves. We pick and choose which facts we focus on - which things to make "figure" and which we make "ground". Sometimes we make decisions before we even consciously know what we are doing. So, we don't even know we have a choice, unless we really work on our consciousness.

Lately, I've been obsessed by the escalating doom scenarios that are currently on the net. Beginning, more of less, with the Gary McPhereson methane release doom featured on Carolyn Baker's site, Speaking Truth to Power. He writes of NTE - Near Term Extinction due to the methane being released from perma-frost areas on land and under the ocean. Greenland ice is melting, accelerated by the grime in the air wafting in from pollution in China. This is info is backed up on Survival Aces site.

Then there is the lamestream media - all these breathless, gossipy warnings about potential imminent danger from terrorists. What's REALLY going on? More distractions from outrageous things that the government is doing? Probably. Another false flag event to have people begging for whatever liberties they have left to be sacrificed? Maybe.

Then, there's the space and fringe news. Our Sun is a binary star whose partner appears every 3,500 years or so and wipes out just about everything. This has happened at least five times before, which is why other civilizations built lasting structures (like the pyramids) to warn us of disaster. Our civilization, on the other hand, has built nuclear power plants all over the world. So, when the grid goes down, and the pumps stop working, the nuclear rods and waste will be uncontainable, melt down, and kill all life on this planet. Oh, yeah, and the sister star is within our solar system now and is coming with seven planets and a bunch of debris which has been arriving for awhile now in the form of meteors. Predicted to happen between August 11 and November sometime. Of course there is also comet ISON arriving around the same time...

Or, increasing activity of UFO sightings, strange noises, sinkholes, disclosures, NASA whistle-blowers, fish and animal die-offs. Nice round-ups most days on my buddy, Andre Heathe's site - CelestialConvergence.com.

So, you know, this has led to an increase in my personal anxiety. I occurs to me, though, that I have obsessed about death and possible disaster much of my life. Started as a kid when I was playing with a Ouija board and it said that I would die before I turned eighteen. I spent the night before my birthday fearing that I would die. Didn't happen. So, am I a wingnut, or perhaps one who has wisps of past life death memories? Don't know. I just know it has compelled me to prepare. And, I am glad that I have.

Personally, I am happy with this incarnation and I go to bed grateful for each day. And, at the same time, I am looking forward to my next experience. I have a kind of "Cloud Atlas" stance. But, the idea of young people and friends biting the dust is a very painful thought for me. I have not reached a state of acceptance on that one yet. And, I have also not released my anger at those who have caused this predicament due to greed and short-sightedness.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I am finding this time to be the culmination of my hopes and dreams. I find myself living the life I had envisioned for myself as a young woman. I have recognized where the choices I made made the transition take a lot longer, but at least I'm here now. I realize that there is more to work with than the thoughts in my head. Our hearts and our digestive system also have a sort of brain or nervous system. They also are for guiding our experience and increasing our awareness. It's where we recognize beauty and love, friendship, loyalty, courage, and Spirit. It is what makes life worth living in the first place. And, joyfully, I am beginning to appreciate it.

The Trout Clan is a real important piece of my life. I was not thinking with my whole self when I wrote in the last post about pulling up the stakes dousing the campfire. At this point, unless the grid goes down, we'll stay up. You guys keep me in touch with my heart and gut as well as my head. I honor you, and I am grateful.

Mimi turned me onto a poem by a Lakota poet:

Hozhoji, Hozho...
I walk in beauty...let beauty find me this day...so that as I go about that I walk in beauty...that it finds me, that there is beauty before me, and that it follows me....that there is beauty to the left of me....to the right of me....that there is beauty above me and below me...and so it is a new day and I must find the beauty in it...hozhgo nahasdlii...hozhogo nahasdlii.

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/31/i-walk-beauty#.UgG-ayXems8.email

See what I mean?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Mostly finished up interior of tipi

Last Post?   from Freeacre and Murph

I think it may be time to pull up the tent stakes and move on. I find myself in the curious position that in many ways, my personal dreams have, to a large extent, come true. I have my tipi now. We have prepared for a somewhat sustainable future for ourselves, with the animals and gardening. We have established ourselves in the community and made many good friends here.

We have known that huge surveillance has been going on for a long time. We decided to continue the conversation in spite of it. We’ve had a good run. Seven years. I think we’ve said all we needed to say regarding our political situation, the collapse, the rise of the police state, the deterioration of our liberty, the collusion of the financiers, the drug lords, and our responses and preparations.

But, now that Snowden has brought it out to the general public, it feels qualitatively different. Countries are deciding to rebel. South American countries as well as S. Africa, Germany, Iceland, etc. have registered their dissatisfaction at being monitored and stalked by the NSA and corporate overlords. Snowden is getting at least moral support from many places. ‘Mericka seems ever more belligerent, and looking more and more hypocritical and out of control.

When the deputy Joint Chief of Staff is arrested for espionage, for leaking the information on Stuxnet virus, that’s HUGE. There is some serious shit going on, and it’s only going to get worse. The implications to the stock markets, the reserve currency, the Federal Reserve, the money-laundering central banks, and on and on, could become staggering. It may be the end of the goodwill that the world has had for our country since WWII.

I do not expect the U.S. to take this with any sort of grace or sense of remorse. I believe that we are in for some sort of war, perhaps many wars. It could get real ugly. Disagreement or dissent will be interpreted as sedition, and punished accordingly. It is already being done. Take a look at this video of the internment camps now set up for dissidents: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oyauWrG6CM4

More than that, putting ourselves on Front Street is just making it easier for them. I am not comfortable with that. I am not comfortable with creating a forum where my cyber-tribe is endangered.

I keep wondering what effect this unrelenting surveillance will have on the children growing up with no privacy. That is the real horror. God save us all, it would be like creating The Borg. I don’t know how one remains human with no private moments or conversations. How can you have a love life? What if your genetic code is accessible to your potential employers? Will it be like “Gattika,” where you are tracked into menial labor or professional or scientific employment based on your genetics? With all your history, financial information, social status, relationships and everything about you documented for all time in some computer banks somewhere, the plug could be pulled on you at any time you are deemed to be out of compliance.

It’s not just about having “nothing to hide.” It’s about having nothing to live for.

SO…. What is the appropriate response? Charles Hugh Smith says that cooking your own healthy meals and living a happy life is a revolutionary act. I go along with that. Maintaining friendships and loyalty to each other is important as well. But, I question whether continuing to use the internet is justified. It feels like it is like putting the noose around our own necks. Shunning the corporate globalist miscreants seems appropriate to me. Visiting each other in person would be good. Focusing on our own hometown neighbors and friends. Cultivating a lifestyle that is exemplary, in terms of health, compassion, regard for the Earth -those things do not enable them and they are soothing to us.

I admit to being addicted to alternative news. I will not give it up real soon. I don’t want to be unaware. But, I don’t want to be enmeshed either. I don’t believe that there is only one way to be. It depends on your individual circumstances, age, family obligations, and lots of things. Each of us is going to have to access how it is for them, and how best to protect one’s self and loved ones from the shit storm that may be coming.

I’m still hoping that Universe and our Mother, the Earth, will somehow level the playing field. Or maybe these goofball, tattooed, millennials will come up with something totally out of the box that will change it all.

But, in terms of this blogsite, it’s time to pack it in. We still have e-mail, if we want to continue the conversation a bit less publicly. The conversation around our cyber fire has been reduced to more or less the same few anyway over the last several months. I still have a few things on my bucket list that I would like to accomplish, and I feel that my time and energy are dissipating quickly. We need to re-build around here, and that takes a lot of energy that we don’t have. I want to paint some things. I’d like to visit some friends and family – maybe take a ride on a train. I plan to spend a lot less time on the Net. It only encourages ‘em.

I have said all I have to say, except that I love you guys, and the tipi is here for anyone of you who wants to visit.

And, now, thoughts from the Murphinator:

I will admit that I have conflicting emotions concerning dropping the blog. It certainly has been a rather important nitch in our lives. And yet, I agree with Freeacre on the subject.

Personally, I am finding that my energy available for different tasks, including this blog, has diminished quite a bit. Something has to give. I've run out of things to say and it has been that way for some time. I'm not doing near the amount of research and cross checking of data that I used to do. I certainly am not a Charles Smith who writes a column every day 5 days a week or a Carl Denniger who writes 7 days a week.

We proposed some time ago that it was time to close down the blog for several reasons and after some discussion, decided to continue anyway. Since our rather disastrous fire, the question is again raised.

The point raised by Freeacre is whether we should feel threatened to any degree by the state surveillance system. Are we at risk? While it appears that all communications are recorded and monitored, is the public discussion on a blog increasing the risk of retribution by simple association over time? How far will the PTB go in squashing dissent? How far down the ladder of influence will they go? This blog is for all practical importance a non entity and yet....? Our readership is very small and therefore of little consequence, and yet....

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Freeacre artistic side

Saturday, June 22, 2013

poles against the sky

Summer Soltice 2013
By freeacre

Happy Soltice

It’s the first day of summer, a time for renewal. I guess that is especially meaningful this year, considering the devastating fire that destroyed much of what we had accumulated over our lifetimes. All the firearms, re-loading gear, tools, hides, traditional Indian blanket project that Murph had two thirds completed, money, tool sheds storing collectables, writings, photos, you name it – all gone. Dealing with the mess and the clean-up has been daunting, but we are finally making progress. We still have a lot of work to do to get the property looking decent, but at least we’ve got the tipi up and the land is cleared and ready for the installation of a new shop and car port. We are not putting in a garden this year, but we do plan to harvest the Swiss Chard and Kale that wintered over, and we planted potatoes and herbs, lettuce, and some Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower that should produce a bit this year.
 Here’s a picture of what we started with:

This is what the area looks like now:
Renovated and painted shed from fire. 

Here are some more pictures of the tipi and grounds as it looks currently:
The on top of floor fire pit
Looking at sky through smoke hole

UPS just delivered a new foam sleeper/sofa that we can sit or sleep on in the tipi.  When we get the liner, carpeting, and furniture all in, we’ll take another picture and publish it on our next post. Soon, we should have some money from the frigging’ insurance company to re-build buildings and begin replacing tools and things we need to get going again on our favorite projects.

I’ve been thinking a lot about collapse. I find myself feeling unusually emotional. I cry at the drop of a hat over just about anything. I also have been even more grumpy than usual. I came almost un-glued at the Grange Potluck/business meeting when we were told we have to post a no smoking within ten feet of the entrance to the Hall sign outside our building. I got all red in the face and began ranting about how stupid and infuriating this was to me, especially in light of the FUCKING RADIATION in the air that nobody seems to give a shit about! I probably was appalling to many of my fellow Grangers. I just couldn’t help it.

What I am realizing is that in many ways, the collapse that we have been anticipating for the last eight years has already happened to us personally. It just doesn’t look like we thought it would. We anticipated a financial collapse based on Peak Oil and other resources. We could not have imagined the bazaar lengths to which the Federal Reserve and the IMF would go to forestall the inevitable. We could not have imagined the police/surveillance state that has been developing over the last twenty years or so. We had no idea of Agenda 21, the world-wide program to depopulate rural areas and funnel us into cities. We didn’t know how many millions the governments of the world would be willing to sacrifice, kill, incarcerate and displace in order to keep their personal fortunes and power bases.

It is becoming clear now, however. I watch in wonder as the people of Turkey and Brazil mobilize in the streets to protest the policies of their out-of-touch governments and civil servants.  Their protests began over rising bus fares and destroying a city park in order to build a shopping mall – and have grown to include general dissatisfaction with the lack of freedom to express themselves and heavy-handed, unresponsive central powers.

This country has even more to protest against, but has done very little so far. We, of course, have been distracted by one questionable outrage after another – Sandy Hook, the Boston Bombings, Whistle-blowers, wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and potentially, Iran, Sudan, and on and on, as the relentless natural resource grab continues. And whether it’s the mind-numbing drugs we are collectively on, the mind-control shaping our limited attention spans by the mass media, the desperation of at-risk jobs, the indebtedness - the population of this country seems to be in a virtual coma.  Mumbling and hand-wringing are about all we can come up with as conditions deteriorate and the world slides into a full-on global corporate police state.

No wonder I am sad. I have not just lost my stuff. I have lost my country. I have lost any semblance of faith that I would have any influence over national or even local politics or policies. We have jumped through every hoop they threw out there for us to repeal the Local Rule and put a moratorium on mandated ATT septic systems due to them being unworkable, unaffordable, and ineffective for seven long years. And, after all this, we find that yet another agency, the EQC is in charge of the DEQ, and they won’t even hear our petition. There we are – flat up against Agenda 21. Screwed and tattooed.

It’s “Hunger Games,” “Le Miserables,” “Elysium” for us, and the “Great Gatsby” and “Anna Karenina” for them. You know me. I speak in movie metaphors. Think of every martial arts film you ever saw and how much the peasants’ opinions affected the Emperor, and you get the idea.

The only thing potentially leveling the playing field would be the intervention of Our Mother, the Earth, Herself and our sentient Universe. Therefore, I find myself backing away from the fray out there and shifting my focus to the inside link to the collective consciousness. Whether it’s due to global warming or a coming Ice Age, the acidification of the oceans, radiation from Fukushima, a kill shot from the Sun, drought, famine, volcanoes, floods, or whatever other natural disasters that seem to be piling on, the end of life as we know it seems to be upon us. Personally, I am going to spend more time concentrating on those desires that I still want to be met within this incarnation. I’d like to be more artistic, more at peace, healthier, more loving. When up against the globalist agenda, I admit to being powerless. I ask for divine intervention.

So, I turn within and celebrate the Summer Solstice. Despite the apparent clusterfuck, I will beat my drum and be grateful for each day that I have left on this wondrous planet.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

 From Belgium (aka SATS)
The New Great Game in the Old Russian Empire - (Part 2 of 2)

The Dilemma of the Caucasus

In the spring of 2010, Secretary of Defence Gates paid a visit to countries within the Caucasus region. This was followed a couple of months later by a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who covered much of the same ground. At the time it was reported that not much was expected to come out of these talks and in fact, not much was achieved. The question then comes of why did such high profile players go at all. A sufficient time had elapsed for the dust to settle since Putin hammered Junior into the long grass in Georgia. The situation left over was an uneasy stalemate and the last thing anybody wanted was to have another Yugoslavia in the Caucasus so the visits were essentially showing the flag and calling for cool heads. The area is quiet for now but quiet is not reassuring anybody. Before 1989 Russia had control of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia with its southern border running alongside those of Turkey and Iran. In the confusion of the fall of communism, these three states declared their independence and pushed Russia's border north by between 100 – 200 miles. Russia still had control of the mountains proper but it has lost its first line of defence before the high ground. Also, it had lost its direct bargaining power with Turkey and Iran. In the nineteenth century, these borders were a dynamic area but froze during the Soviet period. Now the ball is in play again. None of the primary powers completely control the region and there are competitions between the secondary powers and between the secondary powers and the primary powers. Given that the region involves the Russians; the Iranians and the Turks it is inevitable that the USA would also have an interest, hence Hillary's visit. Thus, seven players are involved in a very small space. Think of it as a cauldron framed by Russia Turkey and Iran which is occasionally stirred by Washington for whom each of the other three major powers poses some special challenges, to various degrees.

The Caucasus comprise two mountain ranges. The Greater Caucasus lie within Russia's domain. The lesser Caucasus are in Georgia and these ranges are separated by two plains, a smaller one on Georgia's Black Sea coast connected by a valley to a larger plane which is essentially Azerbaijan.

The Caucasus have always been an important stronghold for Russia. North of the mountains lies Russia's agricultural heartland, flat and without any natural barriers for hundreds of miles. The mountains are virtually impassible, especially to military vehicles so as long as Russia maintained a presence there it was secure from invasion by Turkey or Iran. Currently, maintaining a presence in the mountains is as much as Russia can hope for because although it owns the land it is a moot point whether it has full access to what it owns. The high mountains contain several semi autonomous regions and each of these regions are home to a bewildering number of nationalist insurgencies, more on these later. The majority of Russia's southern border is with Georgia, the remainder is Azerbaijan. From Georgia's point of view, Russia represents a threat and in fact in 2008 Russia recovered about a third of the Georgian territory it had formerly lost. This followed Saakashvili's expansionist military adventure when he was acting as a proxy (read patsy) for the USA. From Russia's point of view, Georgia represents a double threat. Firstly it accused Georgia of aiding Chechen rebels in their 1990 bid for UDI. A charge which Georgia denies. Secondly the USA chose Georgia as its ally in its program of the encirclement of Russia. Russia needs to hold the mountains otherwise one of its great agricultural areas is not secure. If it stays, it is in for an interminable ethnic fight with rebels who hold the high ground. Previously, these areas were enclosed but now many of them have common borders with independent states. Russia is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.

The Russians also maintained a close relationship with Armenia, where they continue to station more than 3,000 troops. The Armenians are deeply hostile to the Turks over demands that Turkey admit to massacres of large number of Armenians in 1915-16. The Armenians and Turks were recently involved in negotiations over the normalization of relations, but these talks collapsed, probably because of Russian interference. The issue was further complicated when a U.S. congressional committee passed a resolution condemning Turkey for committing genocide, infuriating the Turks.

One of the counter-charges against Armenia is that it has conducted its own massacres of Azerbaijanis. Around the time of the Soviet breakup, it conducted a war against Azerbaijan, replete with the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis in a region known as Nagorno-Karabakh in western Azerbaijan (see map), leaving Azerbaijan with a massive refugee problem. While the U.N. Security Council condemned the invasion, the conflict has been frozen, to use the jargon of diplomats. Azerbaijan, for its part, cannot afford to take on Russian troops out of Armenia, in order to recover this area whilst it shares a northern border with Russia and Armenia finds it politically impossible to give the area back.

Even though Georgia and the USA have formal ties, Azerbaijan is also pro Western, having formal relations with Israel. It has supported the war in Afghanistan and made logistical facilities available to the USA. This is another one of Russia's woes but this does not mean that Azerbaijan is not without its own problems. Before WWll it was a lot bigger than it is now. Most of what was Azerbaijan is now Iran and that is where the majority of Azerbaijanis now live. The Imam Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was an Azaibijani but whereas he was a Shi’ite nearly all Azerbaijanis are Sunni Muslims. Shi'ites are more sacred and take literally the word of the Koran, whereas Sunnis are slightly more secular and model their behaviour on the way Muhammed conducted his life. If it helps, you can think of the Shi'ites as being more akin to the Catholics and the Sunnis more akin to the protestants. An important issue Azerbaijan has with Iran is that Iran is sending clerics into their land to open Shi'ite schools and thus dilute the beliefs of their country. Adding to the complexity, Azerbaijan has long been a major producer of oil and has recently become an exporter of natural gas near the capital of Baku, exporting it to Turkey via a pipeline passing through Georgia. From the Turkish point of view, this provides alternative sources of energy to Russia and Iran, something that obviously pleases the United States. It is also an obvious reason why Russia sees Azerbaijan as undermining its position as the region’s dominant energy exporter.

Moscow, for its part would welcome the installation of a pro-Russian leaning regime in Georgia to link up both with its 1998 gains in the region and its position in Armenia. They would then become a force to harass Turkey and to Face Azerbaijan. The USA would oppose this for the same reasons that Russia would want it. The Russians would like to be able to integrate Azerbaijan’s exports into its broader energy policy, which would concentrate power in Russian hands and increase Russian influence on Russia’s periphery. This was made clear by Russia’s recent offer to buy all of Azerbaijan’s natural gas at European-level prices. Any gains by Russia in the region would disadvantage Turkey so whether they want to or not, Turkey must support Georgia.

Iran would like nothing better than to re-establish its pre WWll dominance over Azerbaijan but such a move is not in the offing and is very unlikely to happen. What would be a problem for Iran, so far as it has one, is that the opposite would happen and Azerbaijanis living within Iran would try to link up with their former homeland. Consider this from the American side. When we look at the map, we notice that Azerbaijan borders both Russia and Iran. That strategic position alone makes it a major asset to the United States. Add to it oil in Baku and investment by U.S. companies, and Azerbaijan becomes even more attractive. Add to this that its oil exports support Turkey and weaken Russian influence, and its value goes up again. Finally, add to it that Turkey infuriated Azerbaijan by negotiating with Armenia without tying the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh to any Turkish-Armenian settlement. Altogether, the United States has the opportunity to forge a beneficial relationship with Azerbaijan that would put U.S. hands on one of Turkey’s sources of oil. At a time when the Turks recognize a declining dependence on the United States, anything that could increase that dependence helps Washington. Moreover, Azerbaijan is a platform from which Washington could make the Iranians uncomfortable, or from which it could conduct negotiations with Iran.

The Kurds are the worlds largest ethnic group without a homeland of their own. Although not directly in the Caucasus theatre, the land they lay claim to extends across Northern Iraq; South East Turkey and into Iran. The Kurdish military the PKK has for some time been making forays into Turkey out of Iraq. If they, at some future time, caused problems in Iran and laid claim to the lands occupied by Azerbaijani groups this has the potential to cause a domino effect into the Caucuses proper. Since this land is in the region of some of Iran's richest oil fields then Iran would make this potential problem go away before it became a real problem however it is another factor to be built into the equation.

As mentioned earlier, Russia has its own ethnic problems. The Greater Caucuses are home to a myriad of ethnic groups. STRATFOR (The Office of Strategic Forecasting) identifies 16 separate groupings however The Joshua Project, who have given themselves the task of selling Evangelical Christianity to peoples who have had 1200 years of Islam, identify 24 so theirs is the map I am going to go with. I have not looked into all 24 groups myself but I will give you a few to let you see the type of peoples they are. The Chechen people are definitely the stone in Russia's shoe. They are the Russian equivalent of the Taliban, the same ones who saw off the Red Army from the mountains of Afghanistan. Remember that Russia cannot afford to loose its foothold in the Caucuses so it must contain the situation at all costs.

Chechen Peoples (Population 1 431 000)
The Chechen live in the remote valleys of the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. They are a strong, determined people with a long history of fighting for their independence. Soviet rule dominated the Chechen during the first half of the 20th century. For years the Chechen had based land tenure upon joint-clan ownership. When the Soviets introduced the idea of property ownership by society rather than by clan, the Chechen fiercely opposed it.

When World War II broke out, most Chechen opposed the Germans and fought alongside the Red Army. Despite this, in 1944 many of the Chechen and their

neighbors, the Ingush, were deported to central Asia. They were allowed to return after 1968. On October 27, 1991, the Chechen Republic declared its independence. Since then Russian troops have invaded Chechnya to regain control, and as a result much of the nation lies in ruins.

The Chechen span a variety of occupations and income levels. Most grow grains, vegetables or fruit; others work in oil refineries or are stockbreeders, particularly of fine-fleeced sheep. Chechen women work outside of their homes daily, as do other women in the former Soviet Union. The Chechen generally marry outside their own clans. Marriage between blood relations is forbidden within a span of three generations. A dowry is paid by the bridegroom's family to the bride or her family as a guarantee against divorce. Traditionally, a Chechen wife is not allowed to eat with her husband or to speak to his relatives; her role is one of subordination.

The core of the Chechen society is the taip, a clan-like organization whose members descend from a common ancestor. An assembly of elders, with their own court, rules each taip.

Ossetian Peoples (Population 529 000)
The Ossetians call themselves "Irons" or "Digorons," and are one of the oldest Caucasian peoples. When the Iranian speaking tribes (Alans, Scythes and Sarmats) settled there, the local population took their language and many cultural features. The Alans and the Ossetians started the formation of the Ossetians. This alliance was destroyed by the Mongol-Tatars, and the Alans were driven from the plains to the mountain ravines, part of them moving to the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus where they still live. Like other Caucasian peoples, they preserve and develop their traditions, customs and holidays. These are remembered in tales, proverbs and songs that depict the centuries-long history of the Ossetian people.

Most Ossetians live in North Ossetia (capitol is Vladikavkaz) and a large number also live in the Republic of Georgia. A smaller number are in South Ossetia (surrounded on three sides by Georgia). The Ossetians and Georgians have a long relationship and share some of their customs. There are also numbers of this group in Kabardin-Balkaria and the Stavropol Region of Russia. North Ossetia and South Ossetia straddle the northern border of Georgia. Most of the Ossetians professed Christianity that came from the Byzantine Empire and Georgia during the sixth and seventh centuries. Islam spread into Ossetia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.Most of the Ossetians are Orthodox. A large number profess Islam (Sunni).

Kalmyk-Oriat (Population – 183 000)
The Kalmyk of Russia are Mongolian in origin. In the 16th century, the Kalmyk, or Oirat, left their homeland, now known as areas of north-west China, to avoid political and economic pressures. They had hopes of settling in the rich pastures of the northern Caucasus Mountains.

In 1771, the majority of the Oirat decided to move back to their homeland in order to escape the Russian dictatorship, but only a few survived the long journey. Those who stayed behind in Russia became known as the Kalmyk, which means "to remain." As Kalmyks looked for their identity, they discovered it in Buddhism.

In 1943, Stalin had the Kalmyk descendants deported to Siberia for allegedly uniting with occupying Nazi troops. About half did not survive the Siberian cold; others were so dispersed that the Kalmyk language and culture suffered irreversible decline. In 1957, after Stalin's death, they were allowed to return home. Modern day Kalmykia is located north of the Caspian Sea and west of the Volga River. Animosity still remains between the Russians and Kalmyk.

After their return from Siberia, many Kalmyk were forced to conform to the Soviet lifestyle, living in traditional grey, five story apartment complexes of the 1950's and working in industrial plants. After Perestroika, or the collapse of the Soviet regime, the economy disintegrated and factories closed, leaving many unemployed and causing widespread hardship.

Kalmykia is composed of steppes (treeless plains), semi-desert, and desert. It does not have good soil for crops. In rural areas, there are herdsmen who raise cattle, sheep, goats, and a few camels. They are known for their love of fine horses and horse racing. Those who live in the narrow neck of land with access to the Volga River are fishermen. Many have a small garden plot in the yard, growing melons, corn, and potatoes for their families. Some are employed in the trades, earning barely sustainable wages. Others continue to live as nomads, their lives characterized by seasonal migrations. Their dwellings are portable tents called yurts.

The Kalmyk traditionally lived in extended family units with a mother and father, married sons and their families, and unmarried sons and daughters. Today there is a growing tendency toward nuclear families. Couples usually marry in their early to mid-twenties. Kalmykian law still allows polygamy. Sadly, divorce is becoming more common, and legal abortion is the principal means of birth control.

The traditional Kalmyk dress includes velvet hats, loose fitted coats, and heavily padded long pants. Men often shave their heads, except for one small area in the back that is reserved for a ponytail.

Oral history in an important part of Kalmyk culture. It is traditionally recited by a poet and accompanied by a two stringed lute called a dombr. Favourite past-times include storytelling and singing.

Their diet is largely one of meat and milk. At social gatherings, the Kalmyk enjoy drinking kumiss (fermented mare's milk) or Kalmyk tea made of tea leaves, milk, butter, salt, nuts, and sometimes even meat.

In the late 1500's, the Kalmyk adopted Tibetan Buddhism. Many were later forced to convert to Russian Orthodoxy. Kalmyk Buddhism is a mixture of ethnic beliefs and Shamanism (belief in unseen gods, demons, and spirits). The people continue to depend on shamans, or medicine men, despite laws forbidding their practices to cure the sick by magic and communication with the gods. The obo, a heap of stones thought to be inhabited by local spirits, often serves as a site for performing various rituals. Occultism is occurring as Kalmyks have the custom of going to a Buddhist temple and inviting the gods to live inside them. Many are possessed by demons. Some are now being persuaded to join the Muslim religion.

Now that Russia has lost the foreground of Azerbaijan and large parts of Georgia, the peoples of the Greater Caucuses are its first line of defence. Many of these peoples have suffered directly as a result of Russian policy and are antagonistic towards the people whose land they occupy. The above section is intended to be representative of the immense cultural differences that must be reconciled within its own borders before it can be tempered with its expansionist ideals.

An American strategy, on the other hand, should include Georgia, but Georgia is always going to be weaker than Russia, and unless the United States is prepared to commit major forces there, the Russians can act, overtly and covertly, at their discretion. A Georgian strategy requires a strong rear base, which Azerbaijan provides, not only strategically but also as a source of capital for Georgia. Georgian-Azerbaijani relations are good, and in the long run so is Turkey’s relation with these two countries.
For Azerbaijan, the burning issue is Nagorno-Karabakh. This is not a burning issue for the United States, but the creation of a stable platform in the region is. Armenia, by far the weakest country economically, is allied with the Russians, and it has Russian troops on its territory. Given that the United States has no interest in who governs Nagorno-Karabakh and there is a U.N. resolution on the table favouring Azerbaijan that serves as cover, it is difficult to understand why the United States is effectively neutral. If the United States is committed to Georgia, which is official policy, then it follows that satisfying Azerbaijan and bringing it into a close relationship to the United States would be beneficial to Washington’s ability to manage relations with Russia, Iran and Turkey.

A problem for Washington is not allowing itself to be divided and ruled. With the dollar and more particularly the petro-dollar becoming weaker by the day it is imperative for the US economy to protect its illicit drug trade out of Afghanistan from Taliban interference. It is hard to see what the USA is getting out of still being in Iraq except that it is very close to Iran. I should imagine that it is a case of getting out to be more difficult than getting in. Washington would reap benefits from committing in deeds as well as words to Georgia and pro-Israeli Azerbaijan. Perhaps American intentions, as its economy declines, is to turn its military attention inward. If this happens we can only expect Russia to come out of its Caucasian lair.
It is all a game of cat and mouse.

Main text - Looking for Trouble by George Friedman Reprinted from STRATFOR
Map 2 - The Joshua Project
Ethnic Profiles - The Joshua Project

Sunday, May 26, 2013

This photo is from;  http://www.advantour.com/img/uzbekistan/samarkand/samarkand.jpg

showing the Samarkand plaza. 

Belgium has graciously submitted this post concerning some history of Russian politics.   You can't imagine our relief.  There is a part 2 that will go up with the next post.   Lots of maps and explanations.   

Thanks Belgium aka SAS

The New Great Game in the Old Russian Empire -

Why the Russian Empire is Different From Other Historical Empires

All empires have existed for economic gain by the dominant country over the subjected countries. Sure, they said that their purpose in killing people until those left decided to give up, was to bring God to the heathens or to educate these poor unfortunates to our own high standards. Well, that was in there too, once the ones who were left over, knew who the bosses were and the resource rights had been secured. In fact, once the dominant country had such a tight hold on their economy that they could trash it from one moment to the next and trade agreements were in place to secure the mineral and other export rights, there was no reason not to give the countries back and let the subjected countries have the illusion of ruling themselves. This is what mainly happened in countries that had conquered by sea invasion, Britain; Portugal; Spain etc. France, being France, tended to be a bit more possessive about these things. With land based expansions like Rome or the Ottomans, for example, the centre stagnated whilst the vanguard was moving forward to a point where the middle ground could no longer be held.

What was so different about the Russian empire? What if they do loose a few economic trading partners, there is still enough of it left for themselves. You only have to look where their empire was for the answer. This may seem strange but Russia's sheer size is its vulnerability not its strength. Russia is mainly steppe crossed north to south by four major rivers, the Volga; the Ob; the Yenesei and the Lena together with the impenetrable mountain range of the Urals. These would represent a fall back position if anyone really took a fancy to the frozen swamplands of Siberia or God forbid, actually captured Moscow. During WWll, Stalin relocated some major manufacturing facilities into the Urals – just in case. None of these rivers and mountains protect Russia from invasion from the periphery, nor is there any natural barriers or defences of any kind to its heartland. Their empire was a buffer zone which contained many natural defences to be worn around the heartland like a girdle. Compare this to the United States. There are two great oceans, one to the east and the other to the west. To the north there is a friendly country which is mainly densely forested which then gives out onto an Arctic wasteland. No one would attack America from this direction. America's southern border is the Rio Grande, not that much of a river, I will grant you but one non the less and it is now complimented by a rabbit proof fence. Russia's empire was primarily and fore-mostly its defence. All economic considerations were secondary to this.
Although this is an ethnic map, the outline of the Russian heartland can clearly be seen in red and how other national groupings formed a barrier around this. For all of Russia's size, the yellow areas are virtually uninhabited. Not shown is Finland. Russia maintains a no-mans-land of between 3km – 10km between itself and Finland. The three Baltic states can be seen top left in brown coming around to Poland (not shown) and Belarus to protect itself from attack from Germany and the rest of Europe. Ukraine's southern border is the Black Sea. Its northern border is formed by the barrier of the Carpathian Mountains which also extend across Moldavia and into Romania. The Caucasus define the land bridge between the Black and Caspian Seas. The blue swathe is the great steppe of Kazakhstan. Before anyone could get into Kazakhstan, they would have to cross the high mountain plateaus of Uzbekistan; Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, collectively known as the Tien Shan. Together with Turkmenistan these formed part of the old Russian empire and it is definitely in Russia's interest to keep friendly relations with these. Finally to the east we get around to Mongolia with its great Gobi desert and then its border with China itself.

When communism fell in 1989 Russia lost control of all fourteen of these buffer states. The new Great Game revolves around Russia trying win back its influence in these states and the USA trying not to let it.

We are now going to have a look at the current situation in Central Asia and briefly at what is going on in Europe.

The Kyrgyzstan Revolution

Kyrgyzstan (Dark blue, lower central) at first sight, does not appear to be much of a prize for anyone. It has no economy, no resources and it relies on its neighbours to feed its people. It does have one thing that is unique, its geographical position. To understand why, we must first discuss the Ferghana Valley. As we have already seen the Tien Shan Mountains divide Northern Asia from Southern Asia and prevent an attack on Russia via the Kazakhstan steppe. Russia lost this protection in 1989. Kyrgyzstan; Uzbekistan and Tajikistan all meet in the fertile valley of Ferghana which naturally is the home of the majority of peoples from this mountainous region. To stop any one country having overall control of this important region, the former CIS divided it up between the three states. Uzbekistan owns the valley floor. Tajikistan owns the entrance to the valley and Kyrgyzstan owns the surrounding mountains which protect it.

For years in Kyrgyzstan, there had been smouldering unrest against the then government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Within 24 hours on a day in April 2010, discontent escalated into full blown revolution and a new government installed which immediately had the approval of Moscow. Of course Russia was using the techniques of the Arab Spring. There is nothing like
backing a winner when you pick the players and offer a tad of friendly assistance. The success of this has given Russia back one of its natural defence barriers earlier lost. Kyrgyzstan does not benefit economically from the Ferghana valley but it does benefit from encircling it. Control of Kyrgyzstan equals control of the valley and hence control of Asia's core. Kyrgyzstan (read Russia) now has the ability to monitor Chinese moves in the region. Its highlands overlook China's Tarim Basin which is part of the contentious Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
With the exception of the North European Plain, Russia’s expansion strategy focuses on the importance of mountains — the Carpathians, the Caucasus and Tien Shan — as geographic barriers. Holding the land up to these definable barriers is part of Russia’s greater strategy, without which Russia is vulnerable and weak. One part is now complete. Russia is on a time scale. It knows it must act quickly whilst the USA is preoccupied in Afghanistan and with the Muslim world. It will not always be like this and as much as possible must be gained before the USA's gaze returns to containing Russia and troops are redeployed.

Whilst Russia is in Disarray, the USA Will Play

The Soviet disintegration did not guarantee, of course, that Russia would not re-emerge in another form. The West, and the United States in particular, thus saw the end of the Cold War as an opportunity to ensure that Russia would never re-emerge as the great Eurasian hegemon. To do this, the United States began poaching among the states between Russia and its geographic barriers, taking them out of the Russian sphere in a process that ultimately would see Russian influence contained inside the borders of Russia proper. To this end, Washington sought to expand its influence in the countries surrounding Russia. This began with the expansion of the U.S. military club, NATO, into the Baltic states in 2004. This literally put the West on Russia’s doorstep at one of Russia’s weakest points on the North European Plain. At their nearest point, the Baltics are less than 100 miles from St. Petersburg.
Before the USA had its attention diverted towards the Middle East in 2003, it had already put plans into operation for the so called colour revolutions which bore fruition in Georgia 2003, Ukraine 2004 and Kyrgyzstan 2005, thus taking out Russia's main defensive barriers. Then one of those rare things happened, America blinked, or rather it averted its gaze towards the Muslim world. Realising that the USA was militarily stretched, Russia wasted no time in trying to restore the previous status quo. It has done this country by country using whatever techniques were appropriate for that particular situation. In January 2010, Moscow signed a customs union agreement to economically reintegrate Russia with Kazakhstan and Belarus. Also in January 2010, a pro-Russian government was elected in Ukraine. And now, a pro-Russian government has taken power in Kyrgyzstan.

As it seeks to roll back Western influence, Russia has tested a handful of tools in each of the former Soviet republics. These have included political pressure, social instability, economic weight, energy connections, security services and direct military intervention. Thus far, the pressure brought on by its energy connections, or disconnections, as seen in Ukraine and Lithuania, has proved most useful. Russia has used the cut-offs of supplies to hurt the countries and garner a reaction from Europe against these states. The use of direct military intervention, as seen in Georgia, has also proved successful, with Russia now holding a third of that country’s land. Political pressure in Belarus and Kazakhstan has pushed the countries into signing the aforementioned customs union. And now with Kyrgyzstan, Russia has proved willing to take a page from the U.S. play-book and spark a revolution along the lines of the pro-Western colour revolutions. Russian strategy has been tailor-made for each country, taking into account their differences to put them into Moscow’s pocket, or at least make them more pragmatic toward Russia.

Thus far, Russia has nearly returned to its mountain anchors on each side, though it has yet to sew up the North European Plain. And this leaves a much stronger Russia for the United States to contend with when Washington does return its gaze to Eurasia.

Next time the Caucasus. With four major players, three minor players and sixteen independent autonomous regions all with their own agenda, this is akin to playing three dimensional chess.

Looking for Trouble by Lauren Goodrich Reprinted from STRATFOR
The Joshua Project