November 29, 2015

Poem - "Evil's Safehaven"

It's sad to see,
Under apathy,
That we are not free.

For evil flourishes,
Yes it twists and bends,
Destroying our friends.

And surely we should know,
We're corrupting our own homes,
And building our tombs.

Yet all it would take,
Is to stop being fake,
To end the mistakes.

— M. L. Morgan

November 23, 2015

Statement on Behalf of Matthew Lee Morgan

November 13, 2015
“An eye-for-an-eye makes the whole world blind…”

To Those Who Judge Without Knowing,
Please allow me to tell you about the true nature of the man who stands before you today — the side of him that only those whom have made an effort to, actually get to know:

Matthew is not some solo maverick who operates with flagrant disregard for the rules.  Nor has he been anything but entirely humble about the diversity of talents he has had at his disposal.  By no means is he glamorous either.  He is not the scion of some high-society family, not the epitome of ‘studly’ masculinity, nor the shining example of flamboyant charisma that immediately and effortlessly wins over people’s ‘hearts and minds’ upon first impression.

No, he is none of these things.  He is merely a (naïvely?) hopeful soul whom has, ultimately, never lost faith in the ideas that people are fundamentally good, when given a real chance to be, and: “Love never fails. {1st Corinthians 13:8}

As a ten year-old boy, he suddenly gained a bottomless well of compassion — rooted in deep feelings of sorrow — for the plight of his fellow, equally fallible human beings.  At that tender age, he was profoundly struck by the evil and corruption of the world around him, perpetuated by people who were simply lost, broken-hearted, abused, and/or neglected.  The utter tragedy of the ‘human condition’ dawned on him, in all its dystopic ugliness.  Despite all his trials and tribulations, enduring the deepest pains and sufferings of life, he never allowed the wickedness of others, that he was incessantly afflicted by, to harden or corrupt his own heart.  The core of his soul has always been firmly rooted in and nurtured by the good soil of God’s Love.

As such, despite falling victim himself to irrelevant distractions, a broken heart, a permanently broken body, and psychological traumas, which caused him to stumble in darkness for a period of time, he has — in the end — remained an unperturbed idealist resolved to confront, and help others overcome, the canyon-like gulf that exists between an ideal world (driven by a spirit of love, patience, forgiveness, and hope) and the world as it is now (driven primarily by fear, anger, despair, and the petty, self-destructive desire for ‘eye-for-an-eye’ retribution).

His unusually astute awareness of the ever-widening gap between the two ‘worlds’ had cast, until recently, a shadow over his own state of mind, making him chronically depressed, stressed, and overwhelmingly anxious, sometimes to the point of being fatalistic about whether what he had to offer the world could ever make a difference.  Only under the most unfathomably suffocating and unbearable times of near-total hopelessness has he ever cracked under the pressure and done something egregiously bad, in a last-ditch effort (however misguided) to cope with mental torment.

Yet, despite this devastating (if not debilitating) experience — not of his own choosing — by the Grace of God, Matthew stands before you, now, a genuinely ‘new creation.’  Through a complete spiritual rebirth, he has purged all of his formerly paralyzing doubts, fears, and grief; and has achieved a total peace of mind and psychological freedom he had never known before.  This all thanks to — he happily admits frequently — a unification of perspective between sciences, philosophies, and Spirituality (guided by a harmonic synthesis of the most fundamental, uncorrupted aspects of Christian, Native American, Buddhist, Taoist, Islamic, Hindi, and other spiritualities).

Matthew is a heart-warming fulfiller, and shining example, of this quotation: “All us stumblers who believe Love rules, stand up and let It shine.”  In a world full of talkers, Matthew is a thinker and doer.  He doesn’t say much unless you ask him directly, which most folks have learned not to do — to their own detriment.  When he does speak, you wonder if he isn’t some sort of alien who sees the landscape of human ideas and experiences on an entirely whole other level.  The thing is though, he usually makes uncomfortable sense in a world where most people would rather just hear what they are used to hearing, which is often not anything of any real value.

Those who actually know him generally like him well enough, provided he keeps his thoughts mostly to himself.  And when he does talk, it isn’t that they stop liking him — rather, they become less satisfied with themselves.  (Common sense and honesty come so naturally to him, people can’t even see them for the gifts they are.)  When inclined to, he can speak intelligently about most anything, and even though you sense he has strong convictions, he has a gentle and humble way about him that let’s you keep your own.

Nowadays, his favorite topics are all about God, the nature of the universe, music, and why people believe and behave the way they do.  When engaged on these subjects, his eyes light up, he smiles brightly, and suddenly, like a little kid, the tiredness melts away and he becomes ageless and hardly able to contain himself.  Such grace seldom makes proper sense for those looking in from the outside.

The last several years of Matthew’s life have represented a true story of personal courage in the face of the darkest depths of remorse, self-hatred, and despair a human being can possibly bear and survive, having pulled himself out of a death-spiral of utter hopelessness.  Ever since he was given a second chance at living a life that is actually worth living, he has not taken a single blessing for granted, no matter how small.  Nor has he, even once, deliberately hurt himself or others through any choice of his own.

In all the time I have known him, he has been a rather kind and gentle soul.  Yet, since his ascension from his own personal hell, he has become all the more impenetrably loving and pure of heart.  For the first time in his entire life, he is truly at peace with himself and the imperfect world around him.

Before I close, I must mention this: Matthew’s prolonged dive into the dark depths of “lessons hard-learned and wisdom hard-earned” (as he had once put it) cost him very, very deeply and dearly.  He has always profoundly mourned the loss of his daughter, his greatest pride and joy in life, as though she had died in his arms four years ago.  Truly, the only thing he seems — at all — to fear any longer is the possibility of finding out something terrible has happened to her, because he hadn’t been there to protect her as her father.

Given all that I have mentioned up to this point, to say that Matthew takes nothing for granted these days would be a gross understatement.  He has always had an uncontainable passion for learning, and, though he occasionally stumbles (as we all certainly do), he has never failed to learn from his mistakes — he is not doomed to repeat them.

I implore you to recognize that, to turn your back on Matthew now, after all the remarkably good things he has accomplished and become, would be an unforgivable travesty and miscarriage of justice…

Most Sincerely,

“Matthew’s Best Friend”

August 18, 2015

Reforming a Broken, Societally Self-Destructive Criminal "Justice" System

Hello Difference Makers,

Waking up the oblivious public to the disaster that is our mental health and criminal justice systems, and reforming them, has been near and dear to my heart since I was 10 years old, and even more so since living with severe mental illness for years as an adult and getting caught up in the criminal 'justice' system myself. I have always tried to make a difference in reforming society to actually live up to our values and ideals, with the little influence I have. If every adult citizen in America had the same intimate, insider's look at how screwed up both systems are, from start to finish, they would be massively and fundamentally overhauled immediately. The problem is the vast majority of Americans don't know any better or just don't give a shit, because "it's not their problem." Yet, crime and mental illness affect us all enormously, regardless of where you stand in society.

Award winning Producer, Director & Human Rights Activist Matthew Cooke is calling for your help to build a reform movement by supporting completion of the documentary, "SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO PRISON".

This documentary will enlighten the general public as to the actual realities of our hypocritical, self-destructive 'hell-on-Earth' prison system ("glorified dog-kennels" is sadly accurate) and to the reality of our most EGREGIOUS FAILURES as a country in modern times:
-not living up to our responsibility to ensure the most basic of human rights for those we strip of all choice and freedoms (including assuring their safety, wellbeing, and dignity)
-not doing more to help victims of poverty, abuse, and mental illness, to prevent THOSE victims from creating victims of crime
-not upholding the moral high-ground we currently claim to live up to
-not having basic/natural compassion for our fellow, equally-fallible human beings, by not giving the incarcerated REAL support and opportunities to rehabilitate themselves through EFFECTIVE education, therapy, substance abuse, and other social programs (using money we save from reduced populations in our broken system of incarceration), not the half-assed, underfunded, misguided, or otherwise ineffective programs already in place
-in sum, not living up to our social responsibilities as individuals, communities, states, and country.

The documentary is "...a chilling exposé of the criminal justice system in America, told through the eyes of its victims and narrator Matthew Cooke. Executive produced by Adrian Grenier and Susan Sarandon, and featuring Harry Belafonte, Deepak Chopra, Russell Simmons, Michelle Alexander, Tom Morello, and Brandon Boyd.

"SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO PRISON exposes the horror of the criminal justice system-- from the time you get arrested, to the time you are tried, to your incarceration, to (if applicable) the MOMENT you are released. We tell you what to do to survive... no guarantees.

"The 3rd act focuses on solutions & how we can survive prison as a country.

-the Innocence Project estimates there could EASILY be anywhere from 40,000 to over 100,000 people in US prisons who never broke a law at all.
-77% of Americans going into state prisons return within 5 years.
-If you're an American, you're more likely to go to prison than
anywhere else in the world.
-More black men are in prison now than the total enslaved in 1850.
-1/3 of all the women in prison in the world, are in US prisons.
-The U.S. has the largest prison population on the planet ([>25% of the world's incarcerated;] larger than China)
-The US has more prisons than colleges and universities.

"Some people ask me, with all these famous people in the film, why can't THEY just pay for the movie? GREAT QUESTION! They are investing in the movie not JUST financially but with their time — which is also worth a LOT of money.

"Power in numbers speaks much louder than a handful of celebrities in the movement for deep political change. My ideal scenario would be 2 million people donating 5 cents each, because that would mean 2 million people were invested in changing this broken system. And that would make it happen.

"Anything you can afford - a dime, a dollar or more - represents your heart's participation in this movement to reform criminal justice.

"Your support isn't just about this movie. It's about a movement to radically reform the criminal justice system which so desperately needs our help.

"If we collectively inspire each other across political and cultural lines to free ourselves from the school to prison pipeline, get victims of crime the healing they need, give offenders the hope to actually turn their lives around, and rehabilitate we will have truly earned the title 'civilization'.

"If we want to break crime cycles in communities, we need prevention through investing in jobs & education. We need more restorative justice programs, which are proven to be some of the most impactful experiences with a 90% success rate in preventing people creating any more harm.

"But none of this information happens without us banding together, and it can start with this film.

-Prison University Project
-Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
-Amnesty International
-The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice
-American Civil Liberties Union
-Innocence Project
-The Drug Policy Alliance
-The Dream Corps
-Homeboy Industries ["...provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community."]

"There are two ways to help:
1. Contribute - even small contributions raise their popularity and give them more visibility on the site.
2. Post to Facebook - in the end, the more people hear about them, the more likely they are to meet their target."

Thank you!
Matthew Lee Morgan

July 5, 2015

Recovered High School Poetry...

"What Lies Ahead"

What lies ahead no human mind can know—
Tomorrow may bring happiness or woe.
We cannot carry charts
Save the faith that's in our hearts
As down the Unknown Way we go.

—M. L. Morgan


Yesterday the sun went down;
This morning it came up—

As it has,
As it will.

A nagging question plagues philosophers:
Why does the sun rise in the East at dawn
Instead of rising in the West at eve?
They meant to solve this problem yesterday;
They met with failure once again today—

As they have,
As they will.

While one wise solver contemplates,
Twelve folk toil to fill their plates.
Some produce, some sell their wares;
All seek exit from their cares—
One of which is not the sun
(save that their day's work is done).
West or East or Dawn or Eve
To philosophers they leave—

As they have,
As they will.

—M. L. Morgan

"Against the Tide"

A past forever lost
Is of great cost
To the one who struggles against the tide.

Those who witness
Such business
Behold the corruption of the dream.

The dream is of endless opportunity
But it does not hold the power of impunity
For its corruption is at hand.

The vulgar pursuit of wealth
Is poor for the health
In light of its destruction of equilibrium.

With this, blindness to the truth is complementary
While the corruption becomes supplementary
To the pure purpose of life.

It is of ultimate disgrace
What has taken place
With the wealth of the defiled and the subsistence of the pure of heart.

The presence of innocence
Is also the presence of ignorance
For the lack of wisdom is the susceptibility to corruption.

Disillusionment grows with the degradation of morality,
Violence grows with disillusionment,
Tragedy grows with violence.

You have lied to yourself.

—M. L. Morgan

May 26, 2015

"The Square Root of Three" by David Feinberg

I’m sure that I will always be,
A lonely number like root three

The three is all that’s good and right,
Why must my three keep out of sight

Beneath the vicious square root sign,
I wish instead I were a nine
For nine could thwart this evil trick,
with just some quick arithmetic

I know I’ll never see the sun, as 1.7321
Such is my reality, a sad irrationality

Hark! What is this I see,
Another square root of three
Has quietly come waltzing by,
Together now we multiply
To form a number we prefer,
Rejoicing as an integer

We break free from our mortal bonds,
With the wave of magic wands
Our square root signs become unglued,
Your love for me has been renewed

May 1, 2015

On Cannabis (From a College Discussion)

[The following is a reply I made to another student's post, which focused little on the article's content but heavily on conveying opinions of a negative, and uninformed nature.]

I truly, honestly respect your opinions and point-of-view. This post is merely to point out a couple logical fallacies you use in your statement (not intentionally I'm sure), and to introduce some additional information to our discussion derived from the scientific method, not myths perpetuated over the last several decades since the racially motivated "reefer madness" campaign intended to alarm "whites" to further discriminate against African-Americans (just like what was done in the past with criminalizing opium because of the Asian labor-force in the SW that used it frequently to offset the effects of being worked half-to-death, and with cocaine to sour majority {"white"} opinion about the latino population).

I agree that money-making is the main motivator involved in the business "model" described in the article. However, your explicit and implicit correlations between the harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco smoking, with the effects of cannabis use are a Fallacy by False Analogy. I recommend anyone identify and review this particular fallacy, and try to pick out the others inherent in your post for themself (I learned them all in my "Critical Thinking" philosophy course, but if you need a quick rundown on logical fallacies I suggest what I believe to be the most comprehensive and concisely defined list available at What decades of scientific study has revealed (that you'll only hear coming from those who do not have a motive to hide or downplay the following facts) is that:
  • Alcohol is, by definition, a "poison" to homo sapiens, because our biology neither involves internally creating alcohol molecules, nor needing to get it from an external source (through consumption), to fulfill a legitimate biological function/process; the human body is not biologically designed to make any biologically-productive use of this chemical, and, more to the point, the human body is not adapted to quickly and efficiently neutralize this particular chemical to keep it from causing physical damage to certain types of cells--especially neurons and the various types of liver cells there are--before it can be filtered out and expelled.
  • The human body has, by design, what is called by biologists, an "endocannabinoid system," which is directly involved in biochemical processes of inter-system communication between the central and peripheral nervous systems with other musculoskeletal systems and especially the immune system. Not only is the endocannabinoid system a critical component of the molecular messaging systems of the body that we inherently have by genetic design, our own bodies (and the bodies of certain other animal species) actually constantly create their own endocannabinoid molecules for use with the endocannabinoid receptor system.
  • Cannabis sativa and cannabis indica species are around today, and so effective at creating large quantities of phytocannabinoid molecules because humans carefully bred and cultivated cannabis for several thousand years to enhance the plant's hardiness against disease and pests, and to increase its cannabinoid output (in the U.S. up until the late 1930's with the marijuana/hemp tax stamp act, which was a ploy by government officials with corrupt personal socioeconomic motivations, under the public guise of just being a new tax, to actually ban it outright because not one, single stamp was ever issued by the government).
  • The use of the word "marijuana," instead of using its scientifically-catalogued genus name, "cannabis," was popularized back then to serve a derogatory purpose, clearly because of the racial stigma the non-English word invoked towards another targeted minority (latinos), in concert with the "reefer madness" campaign against African-Americans, to affect a public backlash based on irrational fear towards the plant because it threatened the financial interests of powerful whites invested in the pharmaceutical, timber (because hemp, cannabis' "cousin," is the strongest naturally occurring fiber on Earth*), and other industries threatened by this natural plant they couldn't control the market for and make money off of (certainly nowhere near the amount of money they stood to lose with a plant that was greatly superior to products offered by the aforementioned industries and could be cheaply grown by anybody, anywhere). *(Besides hemp making vastly superior rope and other textiles, the first two copies of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper, which is why after nearly 240 years they are in such excellent condition; if it had been written on wood pulp-based paper, it would have disintegrated long ago.)
  • Decades of scientific studies, mostly done in Israel and European countries because of cannabis' designation under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act as "Schedule I"--despite cannabis not meeting the law's own legal criteria for that category, the fact lawmakers claimed the scheduling decision for cannabis was supposed to be temporary (to allow time for additional research to assist placement in the proper Schedule, such as III or IV), and Nixon rejecting the findings of his own appointed commission (the "Schafer Commission") appointed to conduct a rational review of cannabis that found cannabis to be relatively harmless and that it should not be criminalized--conveniently prohibits possession by any person or institution even for the sole, legitimate purposes of medical and scientific study), have consistently proven that:
  1. it is literally, physically impossible to overdose on cannabinoids because they only interact with the endocannabinoid system which has a finite number of receptor/binding sites; every death ever recorded in which a person had consumed cannabis involved consumption of an additional substance you can OD on, like alcohol, heroin, cocaine, and, yes, even caffeine (caffeine ODs have made news lately because it is now being sold in a pure, powder form). Every scientific study done on animals to test cannabis' capacity to kill, has never succeeded in killing even one of its test subjects (except in the intentionally "fixed" study done in which the monkeys were asphyxiated because the researchers did not provide any oxygen into the masks attached to the subjects' faces).
  2. the only scientifically documented bodily harm associated with cannabis involves smoking it (which, like cigarette smoking, involves literally burning the plant-matter at very high temperatures, creating aerosolized tar and thousands of byproduct chemicals, many of which are carcinogens); all scientific studies done on inhaling cannabinoids through the use of a vaporizer (in which "hot" air at much lower temperatures pass through the plant-matter, aerosolizing the cannabinoid molecules without inducing any combustion) have consistently shown no presence of tar or carcinogenic compounds in the vapor inhaled. There is also no biological damage caused by consuming cannabinoids orally in any of the many edible formulations there are.
  3. the only negative psycho-neurological impact that has been scientifically documented on cannabis, is with extensive, prolonged use in a child, whose brain is still developing new neural networks. The myth that the "stoner effect" on intelligence lingers for years or forever, even after cessation of use, has been disproven time and time again.
  4. you can not become "addicted" to cannabis, as that word is defined in professional literature, for two reasons: a) cannabis does not interact with the dopamine system in the brain (commonly referred to as the "reward system," although it serves various other purposes as well), as drugs like meth, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, caffeine, opiates, barbiturates, and half a dozen or more byproduct chemicals of tobacco combustion do; b) your body creates endocannabinoid molecules all the time anyway--its a "natural substance" always present in your body--thus, you cannot develop what is technically referred to as "physiological dependence." Can it become habit-forming because you like the euphoria, immense pain-relief, enhanced creative/open-ended cognition and sensory sensitivity, and other effects it has on you? Yes. Does your body develop a physiological need to continue consuming cannabinoids, like alcoholics, heroin addicts, caffeine junkies, or tobacco smokers develop, in which cessation actually causes a severe biochemical deficit? No. No one who only consumes a significant amount of cannabis, and nothing else, ever experiences a "hangover" or withdrawal effect, for the reasons heretofore stated.
  • Do people do stupid and potentially dangerous things when "high?" Yes, as is true of most drug users, the mentally ill, and many perfectly sane, sober folks who just make bad decisions to try and satisfy a psychological motivation. Are cannabis users statistically as likely to do something stupid as, say, a drinker of alcohol? No, not even close--I welcome you looking up the stats yourselves. Do cannabis users get angry, aggressive, hostile, and have complete impairment of instinctual judgement like so many people do when they get drunk? No. They may just get temporarily lazy, hungry, lost in deep thought, and become "too" passive.
  • Has legalization statistically increased minors' access to cannabis? No. Why? Because the vast majority of minors still choose to get their cannabis through the black market, because it is cheaper (because of being of generally lower quality and not being taxed), and the quantitative total demand minors have had for cannabis was already being fully met by the black market prior to legalization.
  • The idea that cannabis is a "gateway drug" has been firmly discounted by recent studies. It is genetic predisposition and negative environmental influences that drive a person's desire to use "harder" drugs.
  • The government has a real, bona-fide patent, Patent 6630507, entitled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.” Not only does cannabis provide these benefits, which has major implications for improving general health and slowing the progression of Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological diseases, it has a very pronounced anti-inflammatory effect, both generally and on overactive immune systems that are responsible for such diseases as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn's disease, fibromyalgia, and countless others caused by a dysfunctional or hyperactive immune system.
  • The National Cancer Institute, a sub-department of the federal U.S. National Institutes of Health — before it was promptly gagged two days later — reported on their website a research finding that, “the health care provider may recommend medicinal Cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect.” As an official agency they are cautious in how they word things, by habit, but an official government agency that specializes in cancer research would never even mention such a 'possibility' if there wasn't significant evidence already documented of this likely being the case.
  • There are many other diseases for which concrete evidence is surfacing supporting the idea that (because the endocannabinoid system plays such a vital role in inter-system communication and in interacting with the immune system) cannabis use directly slows the progression or even reverses the progression of certain diseases, not that cannabis only can alleviate many of the symptoms of those diseases.

DISCLAIMER: I do not use cannabis at all (nor alcohol), and have not used it once in three years. Why did I previously use cannabis and do such thorough research on it (which required extra effort to find unbiased sources)? Because after my 16-month army combat deployment was over, I came home with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and PTSD, which developed into also having Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder, but I eventually ran into an article talking about how a research institution was trying to get government permission to conduct a study to see what benefit cannabis may have for veterans suffering from PTSD. That peaked my curiosity, and only after deep, extensive research did I decide to take advantage of WA and OR states' "medical marijuana" programs (which was before recreational legalization took place). I can't put into words how important it was to my recovery from the mental torment I had been living with every minute of every day. The editor of a widely-circulating NW publication did a cover story on my very real, life-saving experience with medicinal cannabis use.

Do I think cannabis should be legal for recreational use even though I personally choose not to use it now? Yes. Why? Because ultimately you can't stop people from doing what they want to do; all you can do is force it underground (black markets, "behind closed doors") by making it illegal, thus making it impossible to regulate and allowing all the money to flow into the hands of organized crime syndicates and violent cartels, instead of keeping the money in the legitimate economy and adding to government coffers to pay for social programs that can help the mentally ill and those suffering from real addictions, among other societal responsibilities we collectively have to each other.

If you want proof that the unwinnable "drug war" is not helping but only deepening social strife and societal dysfunction, look no further than our prison-industrial complex which makes some very wealthy (the U.S. houses 25% of all inmates incarcerated in the entire world), and the failed State of Mexico, whose collapse is almost entirely funded by black market drug money flowing in from the U.S. If you want proof that decriminalizing ALL drugs and taking all of the billions spent on a war on our own people and locking up countless millions in glorified dog-kennels that perpetuate dehumanization and "hardening" of criminals, but instead redirecting all of that money and effort into social programs that support rehabilitation, economic opportunity/independence, and a dramatic decline in drug abuse, look no further than Portugal and other European countries that have followed their lead.

March 22, 2015

Poem: "When the Vacation is Over for Good"

It will be strange
Knowing at last it couldn’t go on forever,
The certain voice telling us over and over
That nothing would change,
And remembering too,
Because by then it will all be done with, the way
Things were, and how we had wasted time as though
There was nothing to do,
When, in a flash
The weather turned, and the lofty air became
Unbearably heavy, the wind strikingly dumb
And our cities like ash,
And knowing also,
What we never suspected, that it was something like summer
At its most august except that the nights were warmer
And the clouds seemed to glow,
And even then,
Because we will not have changed much, wondering what
Will become of things, and who will be left to do it
All over again,
And somehow trying,
But still unable, to know just what it was
That went so completely wrong, or why it is
We are dying.

— Mark Strand

Petition to Restore Community Self-Sufficiency

[From my old Petition]

Petition to Restore Community Self-Sufficiency

All around the world, and especially here in the United States, communities have been completely disarmed by the forces of global capitalism.  Small, community-oriented businesses everywhere are getting squeezed out by large corporations flexing their legal and economic muscles--it's seldom a fair fight, especially with lobbyists setting the legal and regulatory 'mood' in DC by physically outnumbering our Congressional representatives over 3 to 1. (In America, the moral of the business story seems to have become, "May the best paid legal team win".)  Yet, it is not just an issue of competition.

If you look at the long, drawn-out recovery process in New Orleans as one example, you can see evidence in several areas of once vibrant communities that remain nearly ghost towns because corporations are still not yet willing to invest in those communities again because "they're not a good market" right now. Large corporations are more worried about profit than communities; but that's not much of a surprise, nor precisely the point here. New Orleans neighborhoods that had a richer small-business sector, prior to Katrina, were almost always the quickest to bounce back (many in just a few days after the flooding receded), and in many cases were the only help of any kind many residents received for several days during the disaster. Several small-business restaurant owners bravely ignored fines from government food-industry regulators as they served food to as many hungry, displaced residents as possible--all while FEMA's supplies were days and weeks away for most.

Several communities in Japan that bore the brunt of the tsunami were isolated and cut-off from help from higher authorities for several days in dangerously cold temperatures, even though their country is considered by most experts to be at the bleeding-edge of disaster preparedness systems and procedures.  Those communities only had each other and themselves to rely on, despite a government genuinely desperate to reach and help its own people.  Even if the federal government wanted to put its weight behind helping you, they may not be able to for a period of time quite longer than you may presume and currently be prepared for.

As a final example, the statistics on hunger and starvation in America are indicative of a for-profit, food mass-production system that makes money off selling nutritionally-deficient foods (often containing unpronounceable "fillers" and "preservatives" to boost profit margin) to Americans who can afford it, while subsidiary corporations own (directly or indirectly) most of the arable land in this country and the expense of buying land keep the poor helpless to provide for themselves and their families.  Tax-payers currently pay for food stamps for over 43 million people and families.  Unhealthy Food + Tax-Payer Subsidized Food Distribution = Increased Healthcare Costs + Stressed Crops/Animals/Soil + Welfare State (i.e. large-scale economic servitude to, and dependence on, a hand-full of affluent landowners).

Being able to provide one's self and family with nutritious foods grown out of non-toxic, nutrient-rich soil is a natural, God-given right.  Likewise, there is no excuse for millions to go hungry each day in this country while obesity is meanwhile considered an 'epidemic' here--no excuse, period.  Ultimately only greed and indifference, being the root of the problem, can explain this sad state of affairs and it needs to stop.  Remember, "global capitalism" is not the same as "global trade".  Global trade is not the disruptive, disarming force imperiling communities; it is the proliferation of monopolizing, international corporate conglomerates (calling plays from the 'profit-motive handbook') that act as middle-men in particular markets for goods and services, driving up the prices for consumers and reducing the quality-of-life for the supply-side labor force (by artificially suppressing the true value of their work), while adding little true value themselves to that particular product or service. 

A critical first step to getting 'at the root' of these particular problems and vulnerabilities is to restore families' and communities' capacity to provide (through non-profit, 'quid pro quo' cooperation) for their own basic necessities (i.e. food, water, shelter, heat, etc.)--a capacity that can not be reliant on or otherwise affected by outside socioeconomic forces, for the capacity for survival is too critical to risk unnecessary exposure. Any product or service not essential to survival would naturally continue to fall under global capitalism (at least for the time being).  As with global trade, state and federal resources are still very important and beneficial to us all, but none of those things can ever substitute for a culturally-vibrant, close-knit network of community-oriented citizens and community-oriented small-business owners whom, in times of disaster or other dire need, would be able to effectively "take care of their own", as opposed to large corporations and governments whom would either be disinterested or unable to do so. 

The country, and indeed the whole world, are in dire need of bold, selfless leaders who recognize and appreciate the importance of acting on this issue now and are willing to put their fellow human beings and the unborn before country, party, reelection, or other personal profit.  It is wholly wrong to allow our brothers and sisters in the "third world", our younger generations, and future generations to suffer a bleak existence, just so the affluent and entertained of today can continue on about their greed and indifference.

I urge those holding positions of influence in our government to consider acting on this matter as being "in the nation's vital interest".  Ultimately, it is a national security matter for a government purporting to serve "the People", particularly in light of:


Increasing frequency and severity of natural and man-made disasters in the last couple centuries (continuing to follow an exponential growth and crash cycle of increasing amplitude throughout human history)
An over-leveraged global economy that now resonates local and regional disruptions, instead of quelling them
Drastically reduced energy return on energy invested (in non-renewable energy sources, which will mean energy shortages or outages for communities reliant on external power sources {as non-renewable energy projects continue to approach a 1:1 return on investment ratio--eventually making such energy-capture ventures no longer worth the effort})
A global eco-system that is facing 'runaway' pollution-accumulation, loss of genetic-diversity, and inter-species collapse (leaving communities with fewer and fewer globally- and nationally-sourced food and fresh water resources to pull from)

By signing this petition you are sending a clear message to the highest levels of U.S. executive and legislative government (and indirectly to other world leaders), reminding them that the same principle applies to nations and humanity as does to a house: it is only as strong as its foundation.  In the case of country and humanity, the core foundation for a non-self-destructive society is one built upon strong family units, vibrant community life, and self-sustainability. Ask your leaders to take immediate actions to promote community-restoration for the sake of the greater good in securing the blessings of this Earth for all.

A View on Exploitative Economics

[From someone's old Facebook post: ]

Non-Exploitative Economics: Economic Rights, Economic Justice

For more than 300 years, economic decency, sanity and justice has been within our reach, yet we have failed to take it. This is an attempt to outline some of why our economic world is so unjust and so unsustainable, and to then show that we have some extraordinarily powerful tools at our disposal to change it. I will outline how we can make up for our past and finally create the vibrant and exciting human story that only an organization of the 99% can achieve.

The issues we face are fundamentally economic and nothing is more important in economics than money. It should be unsurprising, then, that we find the most powerful possibilities by looking at money itself. For more than 300 years, nations have lived with the existence of purely symbolic money. As a means of exchange, then, nothing more than ink printed on paper, or digits in a computer system, has served to facilitate the complex range of transactions required by modern societies. Many of you will already know that symbolic money is vulnerable and must be protected by a society, but is it worth protecting? The emergence of symbolic money, as a technological advance, is something that was and remains almost entirely missed by the vast majority of the world’s people. Quite simply, symbolic money offered humanity some extraordinarily powerful options which we are yet to grasp. By our own ignorance, we have allowed those who have understood and have seized that power, to wield that power over us. So let’s shed our ignorance and stand on an equal footing with the powerful, lest we remain ignorant and vulnerable to their abuses.

The most important thing we can say about today’s economics is that it’s fundamentally imperialistic/exploitative, operating by extracting vast amounts of wealth from those who produce/earn it, transferring it up the socio-economic pyramid towards an undeserving minority. Capitalism is already a dangerous animal, for it is an imperialistic economic system, being a system which allows the wealthy to earn wealth on wealth (I can assure you that kings and queens, the aristocracy and the propertied classes would advance no alternatives, so, unless you’re part of that 1%, I suggest you listen up). For every penny earned on wealth alone, that penny is being offered up by those who produce the value it is traded for. We must be vigilant, then, to ensure that we offer up our wealth only in faithful exchange and in a manner which conforms to basic justice. We certainly have the tools to achieve that, but if we find ourselves incapable of change, we’ll earn for ourselves continuing or worsening servitude to what appears to be an emerging global economic dictatorship. It’s about time we understood that we have the tools to stand up against the illusion of authority crafted by the controllers of money, when money has, for so long, been used to silence us and secure our impotent obedience.

Whilst we have long lived under economic structures which are designed to create and deliver upwards great wealth, the last 300 years has seen an amplification in this process, as the world’s economies have steadily been subsumed/conquered and laid under a system of (purely symbolic) ‘credit’ money (debt). The single outrage which defines human life on Earth today is the fact that all money has been privatized and is issued into existence as interest bearing debt to western financial interests. So all money is debt and bears its weight upon the world’s people. Although banking could be a legitimate business (and that’s very much what we can help to achieve here), private money powers are not doing the same job a publicly accountable authority would do. Today, banks will only create/release money into the economy as debt and only when it is profitable for them to do so. The vast majority of humanity suffers want (as much as 85% of all people know no comfort, only a struggle for survival) because most people have no way of making their existence profitable to western financial interests. Sadly, today’s banks are very much the outstretched fingers of the aristocracy and are the houses through which humanity’s indebtedness has been fashioned and exploited. In the wrong hands, the power to create and issue money has been the most powerful tool by which to conquer, to enslave and to harvest the productivity of working people that was ever conceived of; indeed, until we fix this aspect of our economics, money will continue to have a more profound and devastating impact on the world than any other weapon of war. Imagine, if you will, what kind of people are behind this operation. Whilst the developed nations of the world were better equipped to bear the weight of this draining systemic debt and usury than poorer nations, it is now becoming increasingly clear, even to westerners, that systemic debt and usury (which creates the conditions for its own exacerbation), is no basis for an economy/society.

Let’s look at some numbers. Whilst countless souls can thank the western imperial money system for the destitution and death that marks their existence on Earth, the comparatively privileged western worker is harvested for 80-90% or more of their earned wealth, with only those few, largely sub-standard public services given in return. Western workers will pay some 60-75% or more of their incomes in taxes alone, much of which can be traced back to the interest on borrowed money (don’t forget to add up all the taxes. Multiple sources for tax data on Google). On the money they do have left over, western workers are subject to near lifelong debt and unnecessary interest farming (to understand how banks create money, see ‘Modern Money Mechanics’ by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.) In addition, it has been estimated that around 50% of the cost of everything working people buy can be traced back to the interest on borrowed money (The Green Party, UK). Further still, we should add inflation; a difficult phenomenon to understand, but something which may be caused by the usury culture, monopolists’ price setting behavior, or the expansion of the money supply for parasitic money manipulations rather than investment in the productive economy.

We cannot let this global horror show continue and the growing movement of truth-seekers and Occupiers (and all those who support them) suggests that people are increasingly ready for change. If we were to decide upon a different foundation for our economies/societies, what might we choose? Well, the historical imbalance between a minority of wealthy people and the rest of humanity who are dependent/vulnerable/exploitable, is likely to be unavoidable to some extent, but what is not unavoidable is the peoples’ continuing subservience to powers that are unjust, predatory, parasitic and unserving to the point that they are undermining of the economy/society and our ability to live peacefully with others.

The alternative to privately issued and controlled money has long been argued to be full public/governmental control of money and banking. This article outlines the as yet unrecognized power of a third way, where the power to create, issue and control money is not left in the hands of concentrated private powers or concentrated State powers, but is taken up by all people. In effect, we can democratize the ‘money power’ and create a new, rights-based foundation for our economies. Money can come into existence not as debt to private banking interests, but on the back of inalienable rights to the money you can repay, interest free, for items of need like a home. Think about that; we have the power to say ‘no’ to the usurer/exploiter, who prints money into existence and then lives lavishly on our interest payments, and secure for ourselves the basic components of life unburdened. Other qualifying items of need might include education, healthcare, small and community businesses, transport etc. You decide. Wherever a society draws the line, an essentially protected zone is created, beyond which life and commerce can carry on according to rules that you lay down; will that be some form of capitalism, something more commensurate with common ownership or a meeting of the two? Either way, through economic rights, we can offer the world’s people and our societies/economies protection from the madness that is human economic relations.

I hope you can see that economic rights are not about free lunches, as what is borrowed is paid back. Indeed, the whole thrust of Non-Exploitative economics, or Economic Rights, is to reduce those community-draining free lunches our societies routinely offer up to the already vastly wealthy. By ending exploitation, we might be able to realize and enjoy our own and the economy’s capacity for full productivity. Today, not only is the debt that binds you to your desk predatory and parasitic, it is highly economically inefficient, for anything that binds you and forces you to compromise on your fullest potential runs counter to economic efficiency. Many of you will recognize that as a free-market argument, only this time, made for the benefit of working people. Of the 80-90+% of incomes currently harvested from working people, we will only need to pay that amount required to furnish us with a government and legitimate public goods/services. What will that cost, 30% of incomes? If you go from enjoying 10-20% of your income to enjoying 70% of it, that equates to a 3-7 fold increase in your real wealth. With this profound redress in the balance of economic power (and stride towards decency and justice in the world), working families can begin to shape their world according to their values. How would you use your economic power to shape your world once it has been returned to you? My experience suggests that people will invest in community enterprises and endeavors such as local permaculture and recreational/developmental activities for the young.

Understanding symbolic, social constructed money (the form it exists in today) grants us new possibilities about how we might live our lives; all of a sudden it really becomes a requirement that it be imbued with rights. In theory, there’s no incompatibility between economic rights and money backed by commodities such as gold, so don’t assume that economic rights are somehow opposed to ‘sound money’, but it appears to me that it would be far harder to implement and would, of course, rule out the noble initiative of allowing governments to spend debt- and interest-free money into the economy on valuable public projects like schools, hospitals, recycling/clean energy technologies etc. When we think deeply about money, the only thing we can really settle on is the idea that, as a tool, it should be employed for the greatest amount of good it can be employed for. Money spent freely into the economy by a publicly accountable authority, therefore, should be a very positive thing, but it is tempered by the fact that corrupt governments have used or abused this power for near limitless corruption, including waging aggressive wars of acquisition. When it comes to keeping governmental powers in line, I believe economic rights has yet one more powerful thing to offer; that is, if populations are enjoying interest-free loans for things like homes, parents and teachers will be teaching children precisely why. The power to create and issue money will therefore go from being the closely guarded secret used to drain working people and power the empire, to being the most important lessons we have in school. Economic rights will not only produce economically empowered families/communities, but also economically literate populations.

March 15, 2015

Reflections on the Nature of "Living" Systems

[Text below adapted from my college astronomy course discussion contributions:]

//Conditions Supportive of Life//
What conditions does Earth have that seem necessary to support the existence of living organisms? Be specific, and relate these conditions to the history and astronomical context of our planet.
Although other combinations of chemical compounds may possibly lead to self-organization, metabolic activity, and replication (and therefore evolution) as xenobiologists are currently studying, the most basic necessities for life in the form we are familiar with, which are provided for on Earth, include:
  • The Sun, as a source of electromagnetic energy necessary for photosynthesis and maintaining habitable temperatures on the Earth's surface (i.e. keeping water in its liquid state beyond the Archean Eon, 4.0-2.5 Ga; Note: "Astronomers think that the sun had about 70–75 percent of the present luminosity, yet temperatures appear to have been near modern levels even within 500 Ma of Earth's formation [> 4.04 Ga], which is puzzling (the faint young Sun paradox).  The presence of liquid water is evidenced by certain highly deformed gneisses produced by metamorphism of sedimentary protoliths. The equable temperatures may reflect the presence of larger amounts of greenhouse gases than later in the Earth's history.  Alternatively, Earth's albedo may have been lower at the time, due to less land area and cloud cover.").  Additionally, the Sun's electromagnetic radiation (reduced to a "healthy" level due to the Earth's magnetic field and ozone layer) accelerates evolution by introducing errors in DNA and RNA encoding sequences, a small percentage of which lead to beneficial adaptations [see Genetic Variation].
  • A very wide variety of types of elements and molecules from one or more supernovae, (reactants and catalysts) needed for complex chemical reactions, which provided the diverse array of chemical interplay and structures needed for the random creation of biochemical precursor compounds (i.e. amino acidsnucleic acids) necessary for a successful selection of chemically interacting components that could inherently self-organize, self-sustain through metabolic reactions, and replicate (via RNA or simpler precursors such as PNA, GNA, or TNA).
  • Liquid water, provided by volcanic activity as well as ice-containing asteroids, meteorites, and proto-planets (particularly during the Late Heavy Bombardment phase of Earth's history, 4.1-3.8 Ga), as a highly efficient medium for the suspension, free movement, and interaction of chemical compounds necessary for the formation of the first organic compounds (by allowing a very high frequency of random encounters of inanimate chemical compounds to occur), and to eventually continue providing cellular life the capacity for homeostasis (via self-containment within a membrane) and the medium in which to carry on cell processes, including metabolic chemical reactions.
  • An atmosphere, providing the containment (i.e. avoiding loss into space) of water vapor, a positive pressure environment necessary for cellular life to survive beyond the oceans, and a major source of molecules (such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen) necessary for the metabolic activity of more complex unicellular, and eventually multicellular, organisms utilizing photosynthesis.

How likely do you think it is that other planets in the universe have, or have had in the past, those conditions that seem necessary to support the existence of living organisms? Explain why you think so.
The following quote, which I used part of in my Week 2 discussion about the likelihood of "intelligent" life elsewhere in the universe, provides support for the idea that life must (extrapolating statistically) exist in other locations in the universe because very similar conditions to those on Earth exist in countless other solar systems in the universe:
"The chemistry of life may have begun shortly after the Big Bang13.8 billion years ago, during a habitable epoch when the Universe was only 10–17 million years old.  According to the panspermia hypothesis, microscopic life—distributed by meteoroidsasteroids and other small Solar System bodies—may exist throughout the universe.  Nonetheless, Earth is the only place in the universe known to harbor life.  Estimates of habitable zones around other stars, along with the discovery of hundreds of extrasolar planets and new insights into the extreme habitats here on Earth, suggest that there may be many more habitable places in the universe than considered possible until very recently.  On 4 November 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of sun-like stars and red dwarf stars within the Milky Way Galaxy.  11 billion of these estimated planets may be orbiting sun-like stars.  The nearest such planet may be 12 light-years away, according to the scientists." []
I personally concur with the panspermia hypothesis, that forms of basic animate matter (i.e. "life" and/or its precursor components) exist throughout the universe.  It is quite plausible that Earth was "seeded" with very basic form(s) of animate matter by one or more space bodies entering the Earth's atmosphere during its first billion years or so of existence.  On Earth, and on other planetary bodies in the universe with the right conditions, there as a "nursery" environment that permits the development of more complex animate matter and an evolutionary process, through natural selection, providing ever more complex forms of life to develop.

//Variety Possible in Forms of "Life"//
Many people often forget that there is a vast middle-ground of possibilities when it comes to the "variety spectrum" for animate systems.  For them there is either little, if any, forms of life beyond our planet or solar system, or there are countless other intelligent species in the universe that are generally very similar in their biochemistry and physiology to homo sapiens.  Yet, xenobiologists (and astrobiologists) have made significant progress in the last decade in expanding our realization of the vast variety of forms in which "living" things can potentially exist—forms of animate systems that are not carbon based, use a different molecular liquid besides water to provide an emulsion medium for metabolic-related chemical reactions, and even perhaps "life" that has advanced beyond biochemistry altogether (e.g. self-organized and evolving electromagnetic energy matrices that take full advantage of the significant evolutionary freedom the quantum mechanical characteristics of matter-energy systems provide at the microscopic level (the average photosynthetic efficiency in plants and photosynthetic bacteria is a staggeringly high ≥90-98%^, as compared to our most recent "cutting-edge" advance in solar cell efficiency in the lab of 46.0%, because those biochemical systems provide for the quantum process of photonic energy pathway self-selection called "quantum walk"*).
* "A phenomenon known as quantum walk increases the efficiency of the energy transport of light significantly. In the photosynthetic cell of an algae, bacterium, or plant, there are light-sensitive molecules called chromophores arranged in an antenna-shaped structure named a photocomplex. When a photon is absorbed by a chromophore, it is converted into a quasiparticle referred to as an exciton, which jumps from chromophore to chromophore towards the reaction center of the photocomplex, a collection of molecules that traps its energy in a chemical form that makes it accessible for the cell's metabolism. The particle's wave properties enable it to cover a wider area and try out several possible paths simultaneously, allowing it to instantaneously "choose" the most efficient route, where it will have the highest probability of arriving at its destination in the minimum possible time. Because it takes place at temperatures far higher than quantum phenomena usually occur in, quantum walking is only possible over very short distances, due to obstacles in the form of destructive interference that will come into play. These cause the particle to lose its wave properties for an instant before it regains them once again after it is freed from its locked position through a classic "hop". The distance towards the center is therefore covered in a series of conventional hops and quantum walks." [Source]

January 13, 2015

Dichotomy, Unity, and Balance in Nature and Life

//With Respect to the Overall Nature of Existence//
All that exists is inherently a dipolar spectrum that is both "One" and simultaneously "All."  It is "One" because everything that exists, exists relative to something else, and everything is interconnected with everything else, thus constituting an undivided whole.  Because this undivided spectrum provides for infinite degree between its two opposite "poles" (has no division of 'intervals' along it), it is what is necessary for "All" things to have relative distinction from all other things.  For anything to exist it must exist within a construct that provides the "contrast" necessary for any thing's attributes to be mathematically or physically definable; the dipolar spectrum in our universe provides this contrast, which in turn provides the capacity of things to have different attributes and relative relations to everything else.

So prolific and apparent is the dipolar nature of existence, a large group of people formulated the belief system called "Taoism" in which 'all is One whole' yet has internal distinctions ("Yin & Yang") simultaneously.  I will provide you with several examples of Yin & Yang features of nature that you are already naturally familiar with: light vs. darkness, order vs. chaos, hot vs. cold, larger scales of space vs. smaller scales of space, past vs. future, mass vs. no mass, higher energy state vs. lower energy state, stronger gravity/acceleration vs. weaker gravity/acceleration, moving closer together vs. moving away from each other, "good" vs. "evil", life (animate) vs. death (inanimate), et cetera.  Everything that exists has defining attributes, each of which lie somewhere along and within this dipolar spectrum geometry, whether the attributes being observed are being observed quantitatively (objectively) or qualitatively (subjectively; e.g. based on values and morals, or other form of personal perspective).  It is important to reiterate that even though different things or areas within different space-time locations have these relative distinctions from everything else, due to the fact nothing exists separate from all else and that all things are completely interconnected through space-time, quantum probability waveform, and the continuous field of matter-energy content (a.k.a. a 'state' information waveform), there are no distinct thresholds that separate one thing or area of space-time from another; thus, "All is One" by definition.  A perfect example of this whole concept is a "fractal," which is infinite in its scalability, has internal distinctions, yet is "One" mathematically-defined construct.

//With Respect to Human Life//
Forgive me if this seems obvious to some of you, but many people seem to seldom actively consider balance in their life, and, largely for this reason, happiness is elusive for them.  I would argue that being happy is as dependent on having balance in your life as it is on having the basic necessities of life.  Consider a few examples of the dichotomies that exist for humans in their life: time alone vs. time with friends and family, free time vs. productive time, strict parenting vs. lenient parenting, trusting others completely vs. protecting yourself by being paranoid/suspicious, taking care of others at the expense of self vs. devoting yourself to taking care of yourself so much it is at the expense of others, eating too many sweets vs. not enjoying any, explaining the world through logic and mathematics vs. grasping for meaning or purpose through subjective experiences that are beyond the power of reasoning to explain, worrying too much about appearance vs. not taking care of yourself, living up to others' expectations vs. acting solely based on what you believe is right and appropriate, being naive vs. being judgmental, living a very sheltered life vs. constantly exposing yourself to situations with high risk to the point you must struggle to stay alive, always accepting the beliefs of others vs. only valuing your own, et cetera.

I have come to instinctively recognize such dichotomies almost every day of my life for many, many years.  Indeed, the duality of the human experience is so frequently apparent to me that I perceive it as being as much a 'law of nature' as gravity.  A person who finds or puts themselves too far one way or the other with respect to any aspect of life defined by a dichotomous nature ultimately suffers.  Achieving balance is about achieving relative harmony in your life.  In the past, I personally did not have balance in my life in many areas, and I suffered continuously because of it—happiness was elusive for me because of that lack of balance and, thus, harmony.

One would think that awareness of this duality in every aspect of our lives would be enough to guide our decisions towards establishing harmony for ourselves.  Yet, it is one of humanity's greatest flaws that we constantly struggle with our own selves in trying to follow the "better" path (if we are fortunate enough to recognize it) because of our instinctive impulses, other engrained behaviors, and having to balance our efforts in achieving balance in our own life with helping achieve balance within our society, which often naturally conflict with one another.  We often find some excuse, some weak justification, for not taking the path we know deep down, almost subconsciously, to be more beneficial to us and/or society.  Why?  Is it possible that part of the reason is that we define our existence to some extent through our suffering—that we need suffering as much as happiness to feel alive?  Or do we simply not always have the courage to move beyond the status quo?  Unfortunately, although I have a great deal of objective knowledge and subjective experience on this topic, I have not come to a complete conclusion about such matters.  Maybe the "answer" is inherently different for everyone.  What's yours?

January 12, 2015

Highlights of the History of Astronomy and the Basics of Solar System Astronomy

  • The ancient Babylonians kept vast written records of astronomical data.
  • Since the 7th century B.C., the Chinese kept highly accurate records of astronomical data.
  • Plato and Aristotle formulated a geocentric model of the solar system describing the Earth as the center, with the sun and other planets revolving around the Earth in perfect circular orbits and the planets simultaneously having epicyclical orbits about their solar orbits to explain "retrograde motion" of the planets observed from Earth.
  • In the 2nd century B.C., Hipparchus improved the geocentric model slightly, made the first (relatively) precise observations of stars, and developed the apparent magnitude scale measuring the apparent brightness of a star on a scale of 1 (brightest) to 6 (faintest).
  • In the 3rd century B.C., Aristarchus was the first to propose a heliocentric model of the solar system (in which the sun is the center, and the planets revolve around the sun) but his work was largely ignored.
  • Ptolemy's sophisticated and far more detailed improvement on the geocentric model was so successful that it remained the near-universally accepted model of the solar system until the Renaissance.
  • During the Renaissance, Copernicus developed a detailed heliocentric model of the solar system utilizing a great deal of mathematics that successfully predicted the astronomical patterns of solar-body movements, and whose work was built upon by Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler.
  • Galileo, who developed the first relatively powerful telescope of the time, was the "father" of observational astronomy, and through his telescopically-collected observations discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter, that the moon had craters, the sun had "sunspots" (which he happened to correctly explain the nature of), observed that Venus (from the perspective of Earth) went through luminary phases similar to the moon, and used his observational evidence to directly support the validity of the heliocentric model.
  • Later, Kepler used the couple decades of accurate solar observational data collected by Tycho Brahe and his own intellectual conceptual insights to develop his three law's of planetary motion (1. The orbit of a planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci, 2. A line segment joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time, 3. The square of the orbital period of a planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit).
  • Then came along Isaac Newton, who developed the "universal law of gravitation," which very precisely explained mathematically the heliocentric model movements of solar-bodies and made extremely accurate predictions for the future motions and positions of solar-bodies.
  • Only approximately a maximum of 2,000 stars are visible with the naked eye.
  • The Earth's average diameter is 7,918 miles.
  • The solar system has a diameter of approximately 9 trillion miles.
  • 1 lightyear ≈ 5.88 trillion miles.
  • The radius of the observable universe is approximately 14 billion lightyears.
  • The apparent encompassing sphere of the heavens about the Earth is called the "celestial sphere."
  • 88 constellations are officially recognized by the IAU; that star patterns not formally considered constellations are called "asterisms."
  • The apparent path of the sun across the celestial sphere is called the "ecliptic."
  • Modern astronomers use a "photometer" and an apparent brightness scale that ranges from -30 to +31? (+31 was assigned to the faintest object detected by the Hubble telescope) {each increment = a ratio of 2.5 from the next increment in degree of brightness}, the Sun measures -26.75 on this scale, and the next brightest star, Sirius, measures in at -1.44.
  • Astronomers use "declination" (the angular measure above or below the celestial equator) and "right ascension" (angular measure in units of "hour" {1 hour = 1.5°} relative to the "celestial meridian" (0° in longitude) to define the location of astronomical objects.
  • The point directly above (90° perpendicular to the horizon at your current location) is called the 'zenith.'
  • A star is said to "culminate" (reaches its highest altitude in the sky) when it is on the celestial meridian.
  • The daily paths of stars around the celestial axis are called "diurnal circles."
  • To find the "North Star," Polaris, you can use the 'pointer' stars, Dubhe and Merak (which are at the end of the 'bowl' of the Big Dipper).
  • The stars that never 'set' below the celestial horizon in the Northern/Southern hemisphere are called "North (or) South circumpolar stars" respectively.
  • The band about 16° wide around the sky centered on the 'ecliptic' is called the 'zodiac,' which ancient astrologers divided into 12 constellations, or "signs," each taken at 30° increments of longitude.
  • The Earth’s geographical equator remains tilted at about 23.4-23.5° to its orbital plane about the sun.
  • The 'vernal equinox,' which occurs about March 20, is the Sun’s position as it crosses the celestial equator going north and is the point on the celestial sphere chosen to be the 0h measure of right ascension.
  • The 'autumnal equinox,' which occurs about September 23, is the Sun’s position as it crosses the celestial equator going south.
  • During the equinoxes, day and night are equal in length.
  • The 'summer solstice,' which occurs about June 21, and the 'winter solstice,' which occurs about December 21, are the most northern and most southern positions of the Sun during the year in the northern hemisphere, and that at these times we have the longest and shortest days, respectively, in the northern hemisphere.
  • There are two measures of "day": the 'solar day' (measuring the time interval of Earth’s rotation using the Sun for reference) and the 'sidereal day' (measuring the time interval of Earth’s rotation using the stars for reference).
  • A sidereal day is 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds long, requiring the use of leap-years and leap-seconds.
  • The Earth’s axis of rotation shifts extremely slowly around a imaginary 'cone' in space once about every 25,800 years (which is called "precession") and is caused mainly by the tug of the gravity of the Sun and Moon on Earth’s equatorial bulge.
  • The Arctic Circle and Antarctic Circle mark the southernmost and northernmost latitude, respectively, at which the sun can remain continuously above or below the horizon for 24 hours (at the June solstice and December solstice respectively).
  • The Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn are the northern and southern latitudes, respectively, at which the sun reaches zenith only one time a year.

January 11, 2015

Feed the Hungry

Brothers and Sisters,

I am writing today to ask you to help me make a difference in the lives of the millions of Americans who have trouble making ends meet. I'm hoping you will help me by donating to my personal fundraising campaign to help fight hunger.

Did you know that one out of every six Americans struggles with hunger? This is a problem people of all ages and backgrounds face across the country. Hardworking people struggle to put food on the table for their families, and the government programs designed to help these individuals cannot close the gap.

I believe that the primary thing standing in the way of ending hunger right now is people's inclination to be apathetic towards issues they'd rather not think about. Even those who think about and talk about such problems as ending childhood hunger rarely take direct action to actually help address the problem.

In the words of the current Dalai Lama, "To meet the challenges of this century, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility." This universal responsibility we all share for our collective welfare requires ACTION on the part of each person, not just talk, and especially not ignoring that a particular problem exists. There is no excuse for 1 in 5 children in America to face hunger on a regular basis. We each have a social and moral obligation to ACT to resolve this unacceptable situation. Supporting this food drive is an action on your part that will have a direct impact on reducing hunger in America, the last place on Earth that should have such a problem in the first place.

That is why I've created a Virtual Food Drive for Feeding America. I'm trying to raise $100 to help Feeding America provide nutritious and much-needed food to families battling hunger. I have already donated $10 to the fundraiser. Every dollar I raise in my Virtual Food Drive will help provide 10 meals to hungry families.

Please donate to my Virtual Food Drive today and, just as importantly, spread the word about it!

Your Hungry Brothers and Sisters Thank You for Your Support,
Matthew L. Morgan

Wisdom Concerning the 'Self' (from Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds)

[The following quote's are some of the ones that were compiled by Maria Popova in her article on :]

Mindfulness in the Present Moment
"I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to Society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is — I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?" — Henry David Thoreau ('Walking' - 1861)

"On the Shortness of Life" by Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC – AD 65)
"It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it."


"You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!"


"Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately."

Knowing Who You Are
"There is a growing apprehension that existence is a rat-race in a trap: living organisms, including people, are merely tubes which put things in at one end and let them out at the other, which both keeps them doing it and in the long run wears them out."


"We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms. Most of us have the sensation that 'I myself' is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body — a center which 'confronts' an 'external' world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange. Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. 'I came into this world.' 'You must face reality.' 'The conquest of nature.'

This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. 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 ('The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are' - 1966)

The 'Fixed Mindset' vs. the 'Growth Mindset'
"Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.


"There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training." — Carol Dweck ('Mindset: The New Psychology of Success' - 2006)

Never Cease to Ask Questions and Pursue Answers About the Unknown
"By posing the unanswerable questions of meaning, men establish themselves as question-asking beings. Behind all the cognitive questions for which men find answers, there lurk the unanswerable ones that seem entirely idle and have always been denounced as such. It is more than likely that men, if they were ever to lose the appetite for meaning we call thinking and cease to ask unanswerable questions, would lose not only the ability to produce those thought-things that we call works of art but also the capacity to ask all the answerable questions upon which every civilization is founded…

While our thirst for knowledge may be unquenchable because of the immensity of the unknown, the activity itself leaves behind a growing treasure of knowledge that is retained and kept in store by every civilization as part and parcel of its world. The loss of this accumulation and of the technical expertise required to conserve and increase it inevitably spells the end of this particular world." — Hannah Arendt ('The Life of the Mind' - 1978)

On 'Perfectionism'
"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.


Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here — and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing." — Anne Lamott ('Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life' - 1995)

On Evaluating the Validity and Usefulness of a New Idea
"The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance. If you’re so inclined, if you don’t want to buy baloney even when it’s reassuring to do so, there are precautions that can be taken; there’s a tried-and-true, consumer-tested method."


"1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.
9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result." — Carl Sagan (' The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark' - 1996)

Get Lost to Find Yourself
"Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go. Three years ago I was giving a workshop in the Rockies. A student came in bearing a quote from what she said was the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno. It read, “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” I copied it down, and it has stayed with me since. The student made big transparent photographs of swimmers underwater and hung them from the ceiling with the light shining through them, so that to walk among them was to have the shadows of swimmers travel across your body in a space that itself came to seem aquatic and mysterious. The question she carried struck me as the basic tactical question in life. The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration — how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?"


"How do you calculate upon the unforeseen? It seems to be an art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance, of recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit to calculation, to plan, to control. To calculate on the unforeseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation that life most requires of us."


"To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away. In Benjamin’s terms, to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography. That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost." — Rebecca Solnit ('A Field Guide to Getting Lost' - 2005)

Be Like Water
"After spending many hours meditating and practicing, I gave up and went sailing alone in a junk. On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched the water! Right then — at that moment — a thought suddenly struck me; was not this water the very essence of gung fu? Hadn’t this water just now illustrated to me the principle of gung fu? I struck it but it did not suffer hurt. Again I struck it with all of my might — yet it was not wounded! I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.

Suddenly a bird flew by and cast its reflection on the water. Right then I was absorbing myself with the lesson of the water, another mystic sense of hidden meaning revealed itself to me; should not the thoughts and emotions I had when in front of an opponent pass like the reflection of the birds flying over the water? This was exactly what Professor Yip meant by being detached — not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling was not sticky or blocked. Therefore in order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature."


"Water is so fine that it is impossible to grasp a handful of it; strike it, yet it does not suffer hurt; stab it, and it is not wounded; sever it, yet it is not divided. It has no shape of its own but molds itself to the receptacle that contains it. When heated to the state of steam it is invisible but has enough power to split the earth itself. When frozen it crystallizes into a mighty rock. First it is turbulent like Niagara Falls, and then calm like a still pond, fearful like a torrent, and refreshing like a spring on a hot summer’s day." — Bruce Lee ('Bruce Lee: Artist of Life' - 1999)

Making 'Good' Out of 'Evils'
"Throughout our nervous history, we have constructed pyramidic towers of evil, ofttimes in the name of good. Our greed, fear and lasciviousness have enabled us to murder our poets, who are ourselves, to castigate our priests, who are ourselves. The lists of our subversions of the good stretch from before recorded history to this moment. We drop our eyes at the mention of the bloody, torturous Inquisition. Our shoulders sag at the thoughts of African slaves lying spoon-­fashion in the filthy hatches of slave-ships, and the subsequent auction blocks upon which were built great fortunes in our country. We turn our heads in bitter shame at the remembrance of Dachau and the other gas ovens, where millions of ourselves were murdered by millions of ourselves. As soon as we are reminded of our actions, more often than not we spend incredible energy trying to forget what we’ve just been reminded of."


"To show you … how out of evil there can come good, in those five years I read every book in the black school library. I read all the books I could get from the white school library. I memorized James Weldon Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes. I memorized Shakespeare, whole plays, fifty sonnets. I memorized Edgar Allen Poe, all the poetry — never having heard it, I memorized it. I had Longfellow, I had Guy de Maupassant, I had Balzac, Rudyard Kipling — I mean, it was catholic kind of reading, and catholic kind of storing."


"Out of this evil, which was a dire kind of evil, because rape on the body of a young person more often than not introduces cynicism, and there is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing. In my case I was saved in that muteness… And I was able to draw from human thought, human disappointments and triumphs, enough to triumph myself."


"We need the courage to create ourselves daily, to be bodacious enough to create ourselves daily — as Christians, as Jews, as Muslims, as thinking, caring, laughing, loving human beings. I think that the courage to confront evil and turn it by dint of will into something applicable to the development of our evolution, individually and collectively, is exciting, honorable." — Maya Angelou (Documentary: 'Facing Evil with Maya Angelou' - 1988)

Living by Your Own Standards (the Basis for 'Happiness')
"Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively. After a short time, a very short time, there would be little that one really enjoyed. For what keeps our interest in life and makes us look forward to tomorrow is giving pleasure to other people."


"Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: ‘A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others.’"


"It’s your life — but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being." — Eleanor Roosevelt ('You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life' - 1960)