There is no war - New York Times admits an elaborate hoax

‘We invented the wars because we thought it would be good for sales.  It just got out of hand is all.  It started as a practical joke, and it got away from us.’

With these words, the lead editorial in today’s New York Times announces the resignation of its editorial board and, incidentally, rewrites ten years of history.

The War on Terror, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya have all been concocted by fiction writers in order to sell newspapers.  Actors and movie set designers, laid off from a slumping Hollywood industry, were recruited to create the illusion of war.

‘Originally, we didn’t did think anyone would believe us,’ admitted General Publisher Arthur Sulzberger.  ‘I mean — these Realpolitik neocons getting caught in the same war that destroyed the British Empire and bankrupted the Soviet Union?  We assumed people would just see through the hoax right away...but after awhile the ‘wars’ had a life of their own.  People were reading their paper each morning, and they wanted more news, more news.’

‘With everyone reading the paper free on the Web, revenues were way down,’ added editor Bill Keller.  ‘The Soviet Union had finked out on us.  It was the end of history.  What did the Newspaper of Record have to offer our readers?’

A few people were relieved that there had been no real bombings, no orphans, no torture scandals — that it had all been staged.  But initially, at least, most readers seemed disappointed. 

‘Just another conspiracy theory,’ raved Glenn Beck. ‘I mean, we’re not just talking the Times.  Are you going to tell me that all those radio announcers and newspaper guys all got together in one big room and, like not one of them let on to the public?  Gimme a break.’

The extent to which the U.S. military cooperated in the hoax is still unknown. 

David Swanson, author of War is a Lie, would only say, ‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’

And what of the anti-war movement which raked in megabucks on the grand hoax?  Cindy Sheehan was on vacation with her son, and did not return phone calls.

1 April 2011

Being happy without trying

As people place more importance on being happy, they become more unhappy and depressed. The pressure to be happy makes people less happy. Organizing your life around trying to become happier, making happiness the primary objective of life, gets in the way of actually becoming happy.

In one study, people were asked a number of questions about how much they value happiness and how much they believe it is important to work toward being happy. When in the midst of great stress, people were generally unhappy. For everyone else, the greater emphasis put on happiness, the least successful they were at obtaining it. It didn’t matter how happiness was defined. People putting the greatest emphasis on being happy reported 50 percent less frequent positive emotions, 35 percent less satisfaction about their life, and 75 percent more depressive symptoms than people that had their priorities elsewhere. And in case, you are shaking your head at this narrow definition of happiness, take note that people who valued happiness the most also reported 17 percent less psychological well-being (a smorgasbord of what is good in life including self-esteem, positive relations with others, etc.)

In sum, the more you value happiness, try to be happy, organize your life around trying to become happy, the less happy you end up.

...When pushed to view happiness as fundamentally important, something of profound value, how does this affect one’s ability to be happy? The researchers tested this by asking people to watch a funny movie clip after reading the newspaper. When given information about the benefits of being happy, people enjoyed the movie less. That is, people primed to value happiness became less (not more) appreciative of positive events in their immediate environment.

— read more from Todd Kashdan at

The moral, concludes Kashdan:
Be in the present moment, be open and curious, and devote your life to what matters. Do this and you are liable to catch happiness along the way (or you might not). There are better things to live for than the pursuit of a perfect mix of thoughts and feelings inside our brain.


2 April 2011

Pursue virtue between the shoals of humility and absurdity. 
Chase truth till you fall down laughing.

— Josh Mitteldorf

3 April 2011

Artificial heart made of patient’s own cells

Scientists are growing human hearts in laboratories, offering hope for millions of cardiac patients.

American researchers believe the artificial organs could start beating within weeks.  The experiment is a major step towards the first ‘grow-your-own’ heart, and could pave the way for livers, lungs or kidneys to be made to order.

The organs were created by removing muscle cells from donor organs to leave behind tough hearts of connective tissue.  Researchers then injected stem cells which multiplied and grew around the structure, eventually turning into healthy heart cells.

Read more at the UK Daily Mail
Doris Taylor’s UofMN medical lab 

4 April 2011

The Consolation of Apricots

Especially in early spring,
when the sun offers a thin treacle of warmth,
I love to sit outdoors
and eat sense-ravishing apricots.

Born on sun-drenched trees in Morocco,
the apricots have flown the Atlantic
like small comets, and I can taste
broiling North Africa in their flesh.

Somewhere between a peach and a prayer,
they taste of well water
and butterscotch and dried apples
and desert simmoms and lust.

Sweet with a twang of spice,
a ripe apricot is small enough to devour
as two hemispheres.
Ambiguity is its hallmark.

How to eat an apricot:
first warm its continuous curve
in cupped hands, holding it
as you might a brandy snifter,

then caress the velvety sheen
with one thumb, and run your fingertips
over its nap, which is shorter than peach fuzz, closer to chamois.

Tawny gold with a blush on its cheeks,
an apricot is the color of shame and dawn.
One should not expect to drink wine
at mid-winter, Boethius warned.

What could be more thrilling
than ripe apricots out of season,
a gush of taboo sweetness
to offset the savage wistfullness of early spring?

Always eat apricots at twilight,
preferably while sitting in a sunset park,
with valley lights starting to flicker on
and the lake spangled like a shield.

Then, while a trail of bright ink tatoos the sky,
notice how the sun washes the earth
like a woman pouring her gaze
along her lover’s naked body,

each cell receiving the tatoo of her glance.
Wait for that moment
of arousal and revelation,
then sink your teeth into the flesh of an apricot.

Diane Ackerman

5 April 2011

Just in time for Lent

Fasting has long been associated with religious rituals, diets, and political protests. Now new evidence from cardiac researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute demonstrates that routine periodic fasting is also good for your health, and your heart.

Research cardiologists at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute are reporting that fasting not only lowers one's risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, but also causes significant changes in a person's blood cholesterol levels. Both diabetes and elevated cholesterol are known risk factors for coronary heart disease.

The discovery expands upon a 2007 Intermountain Healthcare study that revealed an association between fasting and reduced risk of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death among men and women in America. In the new research, fasting was also found to reduce other cardiac risk factors, such as triglycerides, weight, and blood sugar levels.

Press release from Intermountain

Curiously, even though the headlines talk about periodic fasting, the study only looked at short-term effects that appeared during a 24-hr fast.  However, there are other studies done with populations that fast for religious reasons, suggesting long-term benefits.  – JJM

6 April 2011

Some people think our souls are real – others, not so much.

Some people regard the existence of a conscious soul as the only thing of which we can be certain, through direct perception.  Others hold that the physical world is the only reality there is, and that intellectual obsession with the illusion of self derives either from egotism or wishful thinking.  It is striking to me how little these two groups have to say to each other.

Excerpts from three reviews of the recent book, Soul Dust by Nicholas Humphrey:

Humphrey and many others make a colossal and crucial assumption: the assumption that we know something about the intrinsic nature of matter that gives us reason to think that it’s surprising that it involves consciousness. We don’t. 
Galen Strawson
The core error here is a common but shockingly obvious one: the suggestion that nothing is real except what the physical sciences tell us. 
Mary Midgley

And from the author:

“Long before religion could begin to get a foothold in human culture human beings must already have been living in soul land...I suggest that organised religion is parasitic on spirituality, and in fact acts as a restraint on it.”
Nicholas Humphrey

The logical explanation would seem to be that some people have souls, and others look and act and talk like human beings, but there’s nobody home.

7 April 2011

Philosopher in Meditation

What was Life?

No one knew.  It was undoubtedly aware of itself, so soon as it was life; but it did not know what it was...It was not matter and it was not spirit, but something between the two, a phenomenon conveyed by matter, like the rainbow on the waterfall, and like the flame...It was a secret and ardent stirring in the frozen chastity of the universal.

— Thomas Mann (The Magic Mountain)

8 April 2011

I regenerate, you regenerate, he/she/it regenerates

Why is it that a worm can regrow most of its body if severed, that a starfish can regrow from a small piece, that a salamander can regrown a severed limb or tail — but mammals who lose a limb are out of luck?

Biologists say that it’s more complicated to create a limb in a more advanced and sophisticated mammalian anatomy.  When I was in school, we called that a ‘hand-waving argument’.  It explains nothing.

There is slowly mounting evidence that mammals don’t regenerate because they have genes that instruct the body not to.  The ability to regenerate remains latent in our cells and in our genetic legacy.  A few years ago, Ellen Heber-Katz discovered a mutant mouse strain that could grow back ears and organs that were lost. The mutant mice don’t have anything that ordinary mice don’t have; rather they have lost a gene (called p21) that instructs the body not to regenerate. 

Inevitably, these insights will be applied to human healing.  Inevitable, but not fast enough —I’m impatient to see the results.

This week a paper was published by two Korean scientists with the recipe for a treatment that gets mice started on the road to regenerating severed limbs. Muscle cells are ‘de-differentiated’ back to their pluripotent state; in other words, the muscle cells are induced to become stem cells so they can grow bones and nerves and skin in addition to muscle.

This technology is poised to be ready for us by the time you and I need it.

Science News article

9 April 2011

The biggest decision that we get to make

We may obsess over the ‘big’ decisions, which often turn out to be things over which we have little control.  Meanwhile, the most powerful choice that we have in each minute rarely merits a moment’s reflection.

We can choose in each minute the contents of our thoughts.

(How much time have I spent occupying my brain with thoughts that are neither productive nor conducive to my wellbeing?)

We can fill our minds with wonder or with blessings and kind thoughts of others, with the intention to help and to serve. We can choose thoughts that simultaneously culture our joy and direct our service.

We are both happier and more productive when our minds are occupied with gratitude and affirmations of wellbeing for ourselves and others.  But instead of consciously making the choice with what thoughts to occupy our minds, we allow this choice to be made reflexively, haphazardly.  We are at the mercy of an overstimulating environment, and of our own habitual obsessions.

Thoughts are conditioned more than we like to believe.  Directing our own thoughts is not like a single decision—more of a long-term project. The up side is that after a short time, habit begins to be on our side, and the process becomes self-reinforcing.

Commercialism is a serious obstacle. We live in a culture saturated with sounds and sights that are scientifically designed to grab our attention, to scare us, to create obsessive fears and desires. We need to give ourselves some distance from parasitic communication that is all around us.

Culture can help.  We can choose books and movies that have an uplifting message.  We can avoid commercial broadcasts and program our leisure time with nourishing input.

We may set aside a bit of time each day to evaluate our success and affirm our intention.  Then we remind ourselves frequently through the day with what we wish to be filling our brains.

— Josh Mitteldorf

“The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize
that we ought to control our thoughts.”  — Charles Darwin

10 April 2011


Mark with serene impartiality
The strife of things, and yet be comforted,
Knowing that by the chain causality
All separate existences are wed
Into one supreme whole, whose utterance
Is joy, or holier praise! ah! surely this were governance

Oscar Wilde|

11 April 2011

Breugel Carnival
click to enlarge

Animals who inspire

In March 2008 two pygmy sperm whales were trapped between a sandbar and Mahia Beach.  Malcolm Smith, a Department of Conservation worker, was notified.  He and other rescuers tried for an hour and a half to re-float the whales, but with no success.  Finally, it seemed to them that perhaps the humane thing to do would be to kill them.  But then Moko appeared and approached the pair of distressed whales.  He was able to lead them through a narrow channel to the safety of the sea.   

Article by Susan Megles

12 April 2011

What to remember when the airport security line is taking too long

You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.

You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.

Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness,
And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.

And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.

Kahlil Gibran

13 April 2011

Mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame baloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old baloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and



baloonMan whistles

— e e cummings

14 April 2011

Tough love cuts two ways

These words of Thomas Szasz may be the hardest to hear for me as a parent:

He who does not accept and respect those who want to reject life does not truly accept and respect life itself.

Thomas Szasz celebrates his 91st birthday today.  He is still writing a book a year.

15 April 2011

If I could fly...

Aki Suokas, a Finnish aeronautical engineer, has just finished creating a unique single-seat aircraft this week. The project was completed at Aero Friedrichshafen, and it has been dubbed the FlyNano.  It weighs 150 pounds, and is made entirely of carbon fiber composite. It flies up to 100MPH, and has a range of 40 miles before you need to refuel.  You can buy one for $40,000.

PhysOrg article

16 April 2011

Pursue joy...eschew comfort.

17 April 2011

Sea culture

Humpback whales not only sing, they imitate the singing of other whales. And some of their tunes turn into worldwide hits, with whales all over the Pacific Ocean picking them up.

Several genetically different groups of humpbacks, separate populations with little interchange among them, live in the South Pacific. Researchers recorded 11 different song types in the region from 1998 to 2008.

Their study, published online Thursday in Current Biology, found that each year, songs spread from one group to another, moving east from Australia to French Polynesia. They believe that this is the first observation of a cultural change transmitted repeatedly on such a large geographic scale.

Science Times article
Physorg article

18 April 2011

All human languages

have roots in southern Africa, between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago.  Language was invented just once, and all languages have diverged from the original.

Traditional ways of looking at language compare roots of words, and look for relationships among kindred languages.  This methodology has traced Indo-European languages to a root going back only 9,000 years.  Sino-Tibetan languages may be comparably old. 

The history of language before this time has been obscure.  Quentin Atkinson has applied a methodology from genetic analysis to infer something about a much earlier origin. 

The idea is this:  Each new group of people to colonize an area begins with a handful of ‘founders’, explorers who break off from a much larger population, and emigrate to a new area for the first time.  A much larger population grows from this smaller population.  Each time this happens, some diversity is lost  In genome analysis, the result is seen in diversity of genetic varieties. 

One of the ways in which it has been inferred that the human species had its origins in Africa is that genetic diversity declines with each step that a population is removed from Africa.  Atkinson has applied the same principle to phonemes in languages.  His inference for African origin of language derives from the one observation that the diversity of phonemes (primary sounds) in languages around the world is greatest in Africa, and smaller in relation to distance from Africa.

The application of genetic analysis to language is more speculative.  It is clear that a small group of individuals has less genetic diversity than a large population, but it is less clear that the language they speak has fewer primary sounds than the language spoken around them.

Nicholas Wade in the NYTimes
Research article by Atkinson in Science magazine

19 April 2011

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison of selfishness
by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures
and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but striving for such achievement
is itself a part of liberation.”    


20 April 2011

The Sun shines not on us but in us. The Rivers flow not past, but through us.

John Muir, born this day in 1838

21 April 2011

Celebrate Gaia

Life is planetary exuberance...the astronomically local transmutation of Earth’s air, water and sun into cells.  It is an intricate pattern of growth and death, dispatch and retrenchment, transformation and decay.  Life is the single expanding organization connected through Darwinian time to the first bacteria and through Verdanskian space to all citizens of the biosophere.  Life as God and music and carbon and energy is a whirling nexus of growing, fusing, and dying beings.  It is matter gone wild, capable of choosing its own direction in order to indefinitely forestall the inevitable moment of thermodynamic equilibrium – death.  Life is also a question the universe poses to itself in the form of a human being.

— Lynn Margulis & Dorion Sagan

‘Evolution is no linear family tree, but change in the single multi-
dimensional being that has grown to cover the entire surface of Earth.’

22 April 2011

To those who say ‘Get the government off my back!’ I say, ‘You settle far too cheap.’  We have a right to expect diverse opportunities to participate in a collective life, and to serve a larger community.  We have a right to expect truth, transparency, and legitimate democracy from our government.  We shall have it.

Did I mention peace?

— Josh Mitteldorf

How often has corporatism been sold to us as libertarianism?

24 April 2011

Friendly giant

On a warm summer afternoon in 2005, Bryant Austin was snorkeling in the blue waters of the South Pacific by the islands of Tonga, looking through his camera at a humpback whale and her calf swimming less than 50 yards away. As he waited for the right moment, the playful calf swam right up to him, so close that he had to lower his camera. That’s when he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder.

Turning around, Mr. Austin found himself looking straight into the eye of the mother whale, her body bigger than a school bus. The tap had come from her pectoral fin, weighing more than a ton. To Mr. Austin, her gesture was an unmistakable warning that he had gotten too close to the calf. And yet, the mother whale had extended her fin with such precision and grace — to touch the photographer without hurting him — that Mr. Austin was in awe of her “delicate restraint.”

Looking into the whale’s eye, lit by sunlight through the water, Austin felt he was getting a glimpse of calmness and intelligence, of the animal’s consciousness.

NYTimes article last week 

25 April 2011


How would we get around our cities if the streets were only wide enough for 1850 traffic?

Who would want to live in cities if they didn’t have greenways, parks, big open plazas, places to gather, places to escape, places to see the sky?

What would America be like if Frederick Law Olmsted, born this day in 1822, didn’t foresee the twentieth century from the midst of the nineteenth?

And who, today, is guiding our architecture, our research, our social policy — with our great grandchildren’s world in mind?

‘What architect so he who, with far-reaching conception of beauty, in designing power, sketches the outlines, writes the colors, becomes the builder and directs the shadows of a picture so great that Nature shall be employed upon it for generations, before the work he arranged for her shall realize his intentions.’

26 April 2011

Open your eyes, for vision
Is here of a world that has ceased to be bought and sold
With traitor silver and fairy gold;
But the diamond of endurance, the wrought-iron of passion
Is all their currency.
As the body that knows through action they are splendid,
Feeling head and heart agree;

Young men proud of their output, women no longer stale
With deferred crisis; the old, a full day ended,
Able to stand down and sit still.
Only the exploiter, the public nuisance, the quitter
Receive no quarter...

Spring through death's iron guard
Her million blades shall thrust;
Love that was sleeping, not extinct,
THrow off the nightmare crust.

Eyes, though not ours, shall see
Sky-high a signal flame
The sun returned to power above
A world, but not the same.

Cecil Day-Lewis, born this day in 1904

27 April 2011

On the taboo against knowing who you are

We do not ‘come into’ this world; we ‘come out of’ it—as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves,’ the universe ‘peoples.’ Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated egos inside bags of skin.

— Alan Watts

28 April 2011

from ‘A New Refutation of Time’

Every instant is autonomous. Not vengeance nor pardon nor jails nor even oblivion can modify the invulnerable past. No less vain to my mind are hope and fear, for they always refer to future events, that is, to events which will not happen to us, who are the diminutive present. They tell me that the present, the “specious present” of the psychologists, lasts between several seconds and the smallest fraction of a second, which is also how long the history of the universe lasts. O better, there is no such thing as “the life of a man,” nor even “one night in his life.” Each moment we live exists, not the imaginary sum of those moments. The universe, the sum total of all events, is no less ideal than the sum of all the horses — one, many none? — Shakespeare dreamed between 1592 and 1594.

— Jorge Luis Borges 
     more selections

29 April 2011

The Mistress of Vision

WHERE is the land of Luthany,
Where is the tract of Elenore?
I am bound therefor.

‘Pierce thy heart to find the key;
With thee take
Only what none else would keep;
Learn to dream when thou dost wake,
Learn to wake when thou dost sleep.
Learn to water joy with tears,
Learn from fears to vanquish fears;
To hope, for thou dar’st not despair,
Exult, for that thou dar’st not grieve;
Plough thou the rock until it bear;
Know, for thou else couldst not believe;
Lose, that the lost thou may’st receive;
Die, for none other way canst live.

Search no more—
Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.’
Where is the land of Luthany,
And where the region Elenore?
I do faint therefor.

Francis Thompson (1859-1907), suffered from addiction to opium, lived destitute as an ascetic in London and Wales, was discovered as an artist, was harbored by a prostitute.  Young J.R.R. Tolkein counted him as a major influence.

30 April 2011

Queen of Hearts — Archive of past entries. Bullfrog Design