Monday, December 31, 2012

The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

Robalini's Note: The Konformist opened 2012 with a very happy personal Christmas story: the return of my sweet tomcat Blueboy returning home after being gone for a week following X-mas.  We end the year with perhaps the most amazing Christmas story of the 20th Century.

It's one of the most fascintating stories of the 20th Century that few people really know about, and the lack of knowledge is by design. During WWI, a Christmas truce broke out among the trenches among the front lines. In some cases, the truce did not end the following day. This story doesn't get airplay (though credit to Smithsonian Magazine for this article) because the idea of soldiers questioning the purpose of war is a threat to the military state of all wealthy nations. This is a story that needs to be told.

See you in 2013...

Peace on the Western Front, Goodwill in No Man’s Land
The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce
Mike Dash
December 23, 2011

Even at the distance of a century, no war seems more terrible than World War I. In the four years between 1914 and 1918, it killed or wounded more than 25 million people–peculiarly horribly, and (in popular opinion, at least) for less apparent purpose than did any other war before or since. Yet there were still odd moments of joy and hope in the trenches of Flanders and France, and one of the most remarkable came during the first Christmas of the war, a few brief hours during which men from both sides on the Western Front laid down their arms, emerged from their trenches, and shared food, carols, games and comradeship.

Their truce–the famous Christmas Truce–was unofficial and illicit. Many officers disapproved, and headquarters on both sides took strong steps to ensure that it could never happen again. While it lasted, though, the truce was magical, leading even the sober Wall Street Journal to observe: “What appears from the winter fog and misery is a Christmas story, a fine Christmas story that is, in truth, the most faded and tattered of adjectives: inspiring.”

The first signs that something strange was happening occurred on Christmas Eve. At 8:30 p.m. an officer of the Royal Irish Rifles reported to headquarters: “Germans have illuminated their trenches, are singing songs and wishing us a Happy Xmas. Compliments are being exchanged but am nevertheless taking all military precautions.” Further along the line, the two sides serenaded each other with carols—the German “Silent Night” being met with a British chorus of “The First Noel“—and scouts met, cautiously, in no man’s land, the shell-blasted waste between the trenches. The war diary of the Scots Guards records that a certain Private Murker “met a German Patrol and was given a glass of whisky and some cigars, and a message was sent back saying that if we didn’t fire at them, they would not fire at us.”

The same basic understanding seems to have sprung up spontaneously at other spots. For another British soldier, Private Frederick Heath, the truce began late that same night when “all down our line of trenches there came to our ears a greeting unique in war: ‘English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas!’” Then–as Heath wrote in a letter home–the voices added:

‘Come out, English soldier; come out here to us.’ For some little time we were cautious, and did not even answer. Officers, fearing treachery, ordered the men to be silent. But up and down our line one heard the men answering that Christmas greeting from the enemy. How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each other’s throats immediately afterwards? So we kept up a running conversation with the Germans, all the while our hands ready on our rifles. Blood and peace, enmity and fraternity—war’s most amazing paradox. The night wore on to dawn—a night made easier by songs from the German trenches, the pipings of piccolos and from our broad lines laughter and Christmas carols. Not a shot was fired.

Several factors combined to produce the conditions for this Christmas Truce. By December 1914, the men in the trenches were veterans, familiar enough with the realities of combat to have lost much of the idealism that they had carried into war in August, and most longed for an end to bloodshed. The war, they had believed, would be over by Christmas, yet there they were in Christmas week still muddied, cold and in battle. Then, on Christmas Eve itself, several weeks of mild but miserably soaking weather gave way to a sudden, hard frost, creating a dusting of ice and snow along the front that made the men on both sides feel that something spiritual was taking place.

Just how widespread the truce was is hard to say. It was certainly not general—there are plenty of accounts of fighting continuing through the Christmas season in some sectors, and others of men fraternizing to the sound of guns firing nearby. One common factor seems to have been that Saxon troops—universally regarded as easygoing—were the most likely to be involved, and to have made the first approaches to their British counterparts. “We are Saxons, you are Anglo-Saxons,” one shouted across no man’s land. “What is there for us to fight about?” The most detailed estimate, made by Malcolm Brown of Britain’s Imperial War Museums, is that the truce extended along at least two-thirds of British-held trench line that scarred southern Belgium.

Even so, accounts of a Christmas Truce refer to a suspension of hostilities only between the British and the Germans. The Russians, on the Eastern Front, still adhered to the old Julian calendar in 1914, and hence did not celebrate Christmas until January 7, while the French were far more sensitive than their allies to the fact that the Germans were occupying about a third of France—and ruling French civilians with some harshness.

It was only in the British sector, then, that troops noticed at dawn the Germans had placed small Christmas trees along parapets of their trenches. Slowly, parties of men from both sides began to venture toward the barbed wire that separated them, until—Rifleman Oswald Tilley told his parents in a letter home—”literally hundreds of each side were out in no man’s land shaking hands.”

Communication could be difficult. German-speaking British troops were scarce, but many Germans had been employed in Britain before the war, frequently in restaurants. Captain Clifton Stockwell, an officer with the Royal Welch Fusiliers who found himself occupying a trench opposite the ruins of a heavily shelled brewery, wrote  in his diary of “one Saxon, who spoke excellent English” and who “used to climb in some eyrie in the brewery and spend his time asking ‘How is London getting on?’, ‘How was Gertie Millar and the Gaiety?’, and so on. Lots of our men had blind shots at him in the dark, at which he laughed, [but] one night I came out and called, ‘Who the hell are you?’ At once came back the answer, ‘Ah—the officer—I expect I know you—I used to be head waiter at the Great Central Hotel.”

Of course, only a few men involved in the truce could share reminiscences of London. Far more common was an interest in “football”—soccer—which by then had been played professionally in Britain for a quarter-century and in Germany since the 1890s. Perhaps it was inevitable that some men on both sides would produce a ball and—freed briefly from the confines of the trenches—take pleasure in kicking it about. What followed, though, was something more than that, for if the story of the Christmas Truce has its jewel, it is the legend of the match played between the British and the Germans—which the Germans claimed to have won, 3-2.

The first reports of such a contest surfaced a few days afterward; on January 1, 1915, The Times published a letter written from a doctor attached to the Rifle Brigade, who reported “a football match… played between them and us in front of the trench.” The brigade’s official history insisted that no match took place because “it would have been most unwise to allow the Germans to know how weakly the British trenches were held.” But there is plenty of evidence that soccer was played that Christmas Day—mostly by men of the same nationality, but in at least three or four places between troops from the opposing armies.

The most detailed of these stories comes from the German side, and reports that the 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment played a game against Scottish troops. According to the 133rd’s War History, this match emerged from the “droll scene of Tommy und Fritz” chasing hares that emerged from under cabbages between the lines, and then producing a ball to kick about. Eventually, this “developed into a regulation football match with caps casually laid out as goals. The frozen ground was no great matter. Then we organized each side into teams, lining up in motley rows, the football in the center. The game ended 3-2 for Fritz.”

Exactly what happened between the Saxons and the Scots is difficult to say. Some accounts of the game bring in elements that were actually dreamed up by Robert Graves, a renowned British poet, writer and war veteran, who reconstructed the encounter in a story published in 1962. In Graves’s version, the score remains 3-2 to the Germans, but the writer adds a sardonic fictional flourish: “The Reverend Jolly, our padre, acted as ref [and showed] too much Christian charity—their outside left shot the deciding goal, but he was miles offside and admitted it as soon as the whistle went.”

The real game was far from a regulated fixture with 11 players a side and 90 minutes of play. In the one detailed eyewitness account that survives—albeit in an interview not given until the 1960s—Lieutenant Johannes Niemann, a Saxon who served with the 133rd, recalled that on Christmas morning:

the mist was slow to clear and suddenly my orderly threw himself into my dugout to say that both the German and Scottish soldiers had come out of their trenches and were fraternizing along the front. I grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate with the enemy. Later a Scottish soldier appeared with a football which seemed to come from nowhere and a few minutes later a real football match got underway. The Scots marked their goal mouth with their strange caps and we did the same with ours. It was far from easy to play on the frozen ground, but we continued, keeping rigorously to the rules, despite the fact that it only lasted an hour and that we had no referee.  A great many of the passes went wide, but all the amateur footballers, although they must have been very tired, played with huge enthusiasm.

For Niemann, the novelty of getting to know their kilted opposition matched the novelty of playing soccer in no man’s land:

Us Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts—and hooted and whistled every time they caught an impudent glimpse of one posterior belonging to one of “yesterday’s enemies.” But after an hour’s play, when our Commanding Officer heard about it, he sent an order that we must put a stop to it. A little later we drifted back to our trenches and the fraternization ended.

The game that Niemann recalled was only one of many that took place up and down the Front. Attempts were made in several spots to involve the Germans—the Queen’s Westminsters, one private soldier wrote home, “had a football out in front of the trenches and asked the Germans to send a team to play us, but either they considered the ground too hard, as it had been freezing all night and was a ploughed field, or their officers put the bar up.” But at least three, and perhaps four, other matches apparently took place between the armies. A sergeant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders recorded that a game was played in his sector “between the lines and the trenches,” and according to a letter home published by the Glasgow News on January 2, the Scots “won easily by 4-1.” Meanwhile Lieutenant Albert Wynn of the Royal Field Artillery wrote of a match against a German team of “Prussians and Hanovers” that was played near Ypres. That game “ended in a draw,” but the Lancashire Fusiliers, occupying trenches close to the coast near Le Touquet and using a ration-tin “ball,” played their own game against the Germans, and–according to their regimental history–lost by the same score as the Scots who encountered the 133rd,  3-2.

It is left to a fourth recollection, given in 1983 by Ernie Williams of the Cheshire Regiment, to supply a real idea of what soccer played between the trenches really meant. Although Williams was recalling a game played on New Year’s Eve, after there had been a thaw and plenty of rain, his description chimes with the little that is known for sure about the games played on Christmas Day:

[A] ball appeared from somewhere, I don’t know where, but it came from their side… They made up some goals and one fellow went in goal and then it was just a general kickabout. I should think there were a couple of hundred taking part. I had a go at the ball. I was pretty good then, at 19. Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was no sort of ill-will between us…. There was no referee and no score, no tally at all. It was simply a mêlee—nothing like the soccer that you see on television. The boots we wore were a menace—those great big boots we had on—and in those days the balls were made of leather and they soon got very soggy.

Of course, not every man on either side was thrilled by the Christmas Truce, and official opposition squelched at least one proposed Anglo-German soccer match. Lieutenant C.E.M. Richards, a young officer serving with the East Lancashire Regiment, had been greatly disturbed by reports of fraternization between the men of his regiment and the enemy and had actually welcomed the “return of good old sniping” late on Christmas Day—”just to make sure that the war was still on.” That evening, however, Richards “received a signal from Battalion Headquarters telling him to make a football pitch in no man’s land, by filling up shell holes etc., and to challenge the enemy to a football match on 1st January.” Richards recalled that “I was furious and took no action at all,” but over time his view did mellow. “I wish I had kept that signal,” he wrote years later. “Stupidly I destroyed it—I was so angry. It would now have been a good souvenir.”

In most places, up and down the line, it was accepted that the truce would be purely temporary. Men returned to their trenches at dusk, in some cases summoned back by flares, but for the most part determined to preserve the peace at least until midnight. There was more singing, and in at least one spot presents were exchanged. George Eade, of the Rifles, had become friends with a German artilleryman who spoke good English, and as he left, this new acquaintance said to him: “Today we have peace. Tomorrow, you fight for your country, I fight for mine. Good luck.”

Fighting erupted again the next day, though there were reports from some sectors of hostilities remaining suspended into the New Year. And it does not seem to have been uncommon for the resumption of the war to be marked with further displays of mutual respect between enemies. In the trenches occupied by the Royal Welch Fusiliers, Captain Stockwell “climbed up on the parapet, fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with ‘Merry Christmas’ on it.” At this, his opposite number, Hauptmann von Sinner, “appeared on the German parapet and both officers bowed and saluted. Von Sinner then also fired two shots in the air and went back into his trench.”

The war was on again, and there would be no further truce until the general armistice of November 1918. Many, perhaps close to the majority, of the thousands of men who celebrated Christmas 1914 together would not live to see the return of peace. But for those who did survive, the truce was something that would never be forgotten.


Malcolm Brown & Shirley Seaton. The Christmas Truce: The Western Front December 1914. London: Papermac, 1994; The Christmas Truce 1914: Operation Plum Puddings, accessed December 22, 2011; Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park (eds). Not a Shot was Fired: Letters from the Christmas Truce 1914.  Whitehaven, Cumbria: Operation Plum Puddings, 2006; Marc Ferro et al. Meetings in No Man’s Land: Christmas 1914 and Fraternization in the Great War. London: Constable & Robinson, 2007; “The Christmas Truce – 1914.” Hellfire Corner, accessed December 19, 2011; Thomas Löwer. “Demystifying the Christmas truce.” The Heritage of the Great War, accessed December 19, 2011; Stanley Weintraub. Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914. London: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Robalini's Week 17 NFL Picks

Here's my results for Week 16
W-L-T record: 5-1
Season record: 67-61

Buffalo Bills (-3 1/2) over New York Jets

Mark Sanchez has one final insult in his season of bad luck for the Jets.

Indianapolis Colts (+6 1/2) over Houston Texans

Hey, give the Colts a near touchdown at home against the Texans in their season of stunning surprises?  I'll take it!

Tennessee Titans (-4) over Jacksonville Jaguars

I'll take the Titans at home to beat the Jags soundly in the season finale.

Philadelphia Eagles (+6 1/2) over New York Giants

Michael Vick will return for one final game, and he'll at least keep it close in New York

Chicago Bears (-3) over Detroit Lions

After Megatron gets 2000 yards, the Lions have no focus for this game, while the Bears do.

Kansas City Chiefs (+16 1/2) over Denver Broncos

You should never give an NFL team 16 1/2 points.

Arizona Cardinals (+16 1/2) over San Francisco 49ers

See above.

St. Louis Rams (+11) over Seattle Seahawks

Eleven points in this game is still too much.

All bets are placed at Station Casinos:

To check Las Vegas odds, The Konformist recommends

Monday, December 24, 2012

Who Bombed Ben-Menashe’s House?

Exclusive: Montreal police may hope to just nail the “torch,” the culprit who hurled a fire-bomb into the home of ex-Israeli spy Ari Ben-Menashe. But to solve the mystery, they may have to delve into Ben-Menashe’s complex intelligence ties, including his hostile relations with his old superiors in Israel, writes Robert Parry.
Robert Parry
December 8, 2012

Montreal police are providing few details about their investigation into last Sunday night’s fire-bombing of an upscale home belonging to ex-Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe, as authorities sift through both the evidence collected from the ashes and the wide array of possible suspects.

Indeed, when I spoke with a police spokesman on Friday, all he offered was an outdated statement from Monday about the city assessing the risk of the gutted structure before collecting evidence. However, by Friday, the building had been taken down; the arson squad had scoured the wreckage for residue of the bomb’s accelerant; Ben-Menashe had been allowed to pick through the ashes looking for any personal items that might have survived; and the wreckage had been hauled away in dumpsters.

This past week in interviews with me as he worked to rebuild his life, Ben-Menashe, 61, was reluctant to finger any specific suspect, but suggested that the attack may have originated with the Israeli government, which has viewed its former intelligence officer over the past two decades as something between an irritant and a threat.

And, it appears that Ben-Menashe has risen again on the Israeli government’s list of concerns. If the bomb had not dramatically disrupted his life on Sunday night, he was planning to fly to Washington on Monday and accompany a senior Israeli intelligence figure to an interview with me.

The bombing not only prevented Ben-Menashe from making the trip, but he said it unnerved the other intelligence official who concluded that the attack was meant as a message from Israeli authorities to stay silent about the historical events that he was expected to discuss.

The fire also destroyed many of Ben-Menashe’s documents, his home computer and his personal records, including his old and current passports which provided something of a chronology of his decades traveling the globe.

So, if the Israelis were behind the attack, they would have accomplished many of their goals: intimidating Ben-Menashe, shutting down possible new disclosures of Israeli misconduct from the other intelligence veteran, and destroying records that would have helped Ben-Menashe prove whatever statements he might make.

An Almost Vanunu

In May 1991, Israel made a stab at capturing their rogue agent when Ben-Menashe was scheduled to fly from Australia to Washington to provide testimony to the U.S. Congress about national security scandals that implicated top Israeli officials and senior Republicans, including then-President George H.W. Bush.

Shortly before Ben-Menashe’s trip, a U.S. intelligence source tipped me off to a plan in which U.S. authorities would deny Ben-Menashe entrance at Los Angeles and then put him aboard a flight to Israel where he would have stood trial for exposing state secrets.

After getting the tip, I contacted congressional investigators who planned to question Ben-Menashe. One later called me back and said the Bush-41 administration was balking at giving a guarantee of safe passage for Ben-Menashe to Washington. It was suggested that I contact him and recommend that he delay his flight, which I did.

When I reached him in Australia, he was just about to leave for the airport, but agreed to postpone his flight until he got an all-clear from the congressional investigators, who finally received a promise from the Bush-41 administration that they would not deport Ben-Menashe to Israel. Ben-Menashe then flew to Washington.

Years later, Ben-Menashe told me that an old friend in Israeli intelligence confirmed the existence of the plan to deport him to Israel (much as was done to whistleblower Mordecai Vanunu in 1986 after he exposed the existence of Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal). Ben-Menashe said his old intelligence friend also relayed that there was active consideration of a back-up plan to simply kill Ben-Menashe as an enemy of the state.

Instead, Israel settled on a public relations campaign to destroy Ben-Menashe’s credibility by providing derogatory information to American journalists with close ties to Israeli intelligence. That campaign proved remarkably effective even as many of Ben-Menashe’s factual claims checked out or at least were not disproven. [For details, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Ben-Menashe also could be his own worst enemy, often compounding his media problem by treating journalists in a high-handed manner, either due to his suspicions of them or his arrogance.

In the 1990s, Ben-Menashe gradually rebuilt his life in Canada, marrying a Canadian woman and becoming a citizen. But he also surrounded his far-flung business activities in secrecy and got involved with some controversial international figures, such as Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe.

In recent years, Ben-Menashe has conducted his international consulting business at Dicksen and Madson in a wide variety of global hotspots, including conflict zones such as Mali, Sudan and Congo. He also has maintained ties to various intelligence services which are eager to receive his briefings about areas where traditional diplomats and even spies are hesitant to go.

Because of those complex business dealings and the international intrigue that has surrounded them, the Israeli government is only one of many possible suspects in last Sunday’s fire-bombing. Any number of Ben-Menashe’s enemies might have had motive to fire-bomb his house and send him fleeing into the night.

A Top Israeli Agent

During the 1980s, Ben-Menashe was something of a star intelligence officer for Israel assigned to a special unit of Israeli military intelligence. An Iraqi Jew born in Iran and an emigre to Israel as a teenager, Ben-Menashe was a young operative who assisted in rebuilding Israel’s strategic ties to Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Traveling the world, Ben-Menashe brokered Israeli-sponsored arms sales to Iran during its war with Iraq in the 1980s and handled sensitive assignments including efforts to counter U.S.-supported military shipments to Iraq. He turned up as a shadowy figure on the fringes of the Iran-Contra scandal, which is where I first heard about him as I was covering that story for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

But I never could track him down – until late 1989 when he was arrested in the United States on charges of selling military aircraft to Iran. Confined to the federal prison in Lower Manhattan, he consented to an interview and I flew from Washington to New York to speak with him.

During that prison interview, Ben-Menashe offered me startling new information about the Iran-Contra scandal, which I thought that I knew quite well. However, my first task was to verify who this brash Israeli was. Initially, the Israeli government dismissed him as an “impostor.” However, I was able to obtain official Israeli letters of reference describing his decade-long work for the External Relations Department of the Israel Defence Forces.

Confronted with that evidence, Israeli officials changed their story, admitting that Ben-Menashe indeed had worked for a branch of the IDF’s military intelligence but labeling him “a low-level translator.” But the letters described Ben-Menashe’s service in “key positions” and said he handled “complex and sensitive assignments.”

Despite this evidence – that Israeli officials had first lied and then retreated to a new cover story – the Bush-41 administration and the Israeli government managed to galvanize friendly journalists who went out of their way to discredit Ben-Menashe as a compulsive liar. [For details about one of the key denouncers of Ben-Menashe, see’s “Unmasking October Surprise ‘Debunker’”.]

In fall 1990, Ben-Menashe convinced a New York jury that he indeed had been working on official Israeli business in his transactions with Iran and he was acquitted of all charges. After that, Ben-Menashe continued to provide testimony about secret dealings involving Republicans and the Israeli government. He gave information to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh about Israel’s top-secret nuclear program and identified British media mogul Robert Maxwell as an Israeli spy.

Perhaps Ben-Menashe’s most controversial claim was that he and other Israeli intelligence officers had assisted the Republicans in brokering a deal with Iran’s Islamic regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1980 to hold 52 American hostages until after the U.S. election to ensure President Jimmy Carter’s defeat. As a result of this so-called October Surprise caper, the hostages were not released until Jan. 20, 1981, immediately after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as U.S. President, Ben-Menashe said.

Yet, if the American public ever came to believe that the Israeli government had manipulated the outcome of a U.S. presidential election – to put in a favored candidate – that could have severely damaged Israel’s crucial alliance with the United States. So, for both the Israelis and the Republicans, the goal of destroying or silencing Ben-Menashe became an important priority.

After achieving success in marginalizing Ben-Menashe by 1993 – at least in the eyes of the Washington Establishment — the Israelis seemed to view him as a declining threat, best left alone. He was able to pick up the pieces of his life, creating a second act as an international political consultant and businessman arranging sales of grain.

But his renewed efforts to finally prove the truthfulness of his earlier claims, especially regarding the October Surprise charges, may have suddenly elevated him again on Israel’s threat chart.

Though the Montreal police are understandably hesitant to climb down the rabbit hole into Ben-Menashe’s mysterious world of espionage and historical mysteries, they may ultimately have no choice.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Forging a Bond in Mud and Guts

December 7, 2012

BY Monday morning, Michael Cugini would be back at his desk at a major Wall Street firm, another high-powered cog in the engine of finance. There would be men on his left, men on his right, all yelling into their phones and scanning the stock ticker.

But Mr. Cugini bore unseen scars beneath his crisp custom suit. Twenty-four hours earlier, Mr. Cugini (nickname Cujo) was shirtless, face down, crawling through a 40-foot-long pit of cold mud, while being electrified by low-hanging wires. He also scaled a 15-foot-high wall, ran 12 miles and underwent something called an Arctic Enema, in which he jumped into a Dumpster filled with ice water, dyed neon green, and swam under concertina wire.

Two and a half hours after he began, Mr. Cugini crossed the finish line, bloody but unbowed. He had a Dos Equis to celebrate.

“There’s always a lot of moaning on Monday morning,” said Mr. Cugini, 31, a small man with a bald head and a strong grip. “And I just think, ‘Come on, what did you do this weekend?’ ”

Mr. Cugini had company. About 25,700 others participated that October weekend in an ordeal in Englishtown, N.J., known as Tough Mudder, an extreme obstacle course that is becoming the macho sport of choice for Type A men (and some women) who find marathons too easy and triathlons meh.

Started in 2010 by a Harvard Business School graduate, Tough Mudder has exploded onto the fitness scene, with 35 races this year in 4 countries and 660,000 participants to date. Next year, 55 events are scheduled for 5 countries. Along with other quasi-military obstacle courses like the Spartan Race and Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder is the new gantlet for body-conscious Gen Xers.

Though the muddy details vary, each challenge consists of a 3- to 12-mile course spiked with cheekily named obstacles like Ball Shrinker.

Rewards vary. There is neither a trophy nor a purse for Tough Mudder, only an orange headband. Spartan Race, on the other hand, gave away $500,000 in purse money this year. Beer is normally included with entrance fees, which range from $80 to $200.

The common motivator could be called the Walter Mitty weekend-warrior complex. While the races draw a fair share of endurance athletes and ex-military, many of the muddiest, most avid, most agro participants hail from Wall Street.

“Goldman brings a massive team,” said Will Dean, the 31-year-old founder of Tough Mudder. “So does Morgan Stanley.”

That they do makes sense since Mr. Dean tailored his sport for cubicle-bound masses yearning to breathe free. “When we started Tough Mudder, we identified a few key demographics,” he said. “One of them was the white-collar urban professional.”

FROM a distance, the Tough Mudder course at the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park looked more like a medieval battlefield than a 400-acre racetrack. Beefy figures, silhouetted against a frigid slate gray sky, faltered up steep hills. In the gravel parking lot, teams of men prepared for battle.

Some stretched, others squeezed into compression shirts. One man, placing surgical tape on his chest, said fearfully, “This is going to be 9/11 on my nipples.”

Held in late October, it was one of the last chances to qualify for the Toughest Mudder, an invitation-only championship race in November, and squads of men from the tristate area made the pilgrimage to Englishtown, a small New Jersey town of aluminum diners and gas stations.

The chest thumping began before the first obstacle. Next to a cheesesteak stand, a barbershop was set up to dispense free mohawks. A chin-up bar was erected next to a chalkboard, where the highest scores were posted. Nearby, men warmed up by tossing kegs at a cardboard cutout of Fabio.

The bonding intensified at the start line. From 8 a.m. onward, teams gathered in a gated corral on the racetrack, which was still sticky from burned tires, stamping their feet in the cold and jumping up and down in anticipation. Many wore matching T-shirts with team names like Mudlife Crisis and the STDS (short for “Super Tough Dudes”). One shirt read, “I don’t get drunk, I get awesome.” The fittest tended to go shirtless.

With American flags fluttering overhead, a wiry announcer in a plaid cap and tight blue T-shirt lifted the mic. “Everybody take a knee!” he yelled, and everyone knelt. “We’re going to test your fitness. Oo-rah!”

“Oo-rah!” the crowd replied, using the traditional greeting of the Marine Corps.

As the last note of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sounded, a monster truck roared to life and the Tough Mudders chased after it, like a herd of lemmings clad in Under Armour.

Among them was Carlo Ferolino, 27, an accountant with the Bank of New York Mellon in the financial district who had been training with his team, the Mudsketeers, since February. “Eight months!” he shouted, his shirt caked in dirt as he prepared to tackle a mile of muddy troughs. “It’s come to this: four hours of hell.”

His teammates shouted, “Let’s do this!” as they plunged back into the muck, like an armada of aggressive ducklings.

A few miles ahead, Brian Polakowski, 36, a vice president of BlackRock, the giant money manager in Midtown Manhattan, had collapsed into a muddy pit after being electrocuted in the Electric Eel challenge. As he crawled from exhaustion, a stranger grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to his feet, saying, “You did it, man, you did it.” Mr. Polakowski stumbled on.

Bryan Garlick, 30, a rugged analyst at Merrill Lynch in New York, fared better. He emerged from a sewer-like pipe exuberant. “Having competed in both, triathlons are boring and road races are even more boring,” he said. “Tough Mudder is the only chance for a guy like me to feel like King Leonidas.”

That is no accident, said Dr. Robert Heasley, a sociology professor at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the president of the American Men’s Studies Association. “Obstacle courses like these are the physical representation of masculinity, which is lacking for people like lawyers, doctors, bankers and others in softer careers,” he said. “By associating themselves with the military and military training, these men are becoming masculine by association.”

To paraphrase the manly poet Hamlin Garland, they let urban professionals be savage again.

THE founders of these tough-guy races are intimately familiar with that primal urge. Mr. Dean, a former intern at Bain Capital, developed the business plan for Tough Mudder as part of a competition at Harvard.

“Finance people are in a weird juxtaposition,” Mr. Dean said. “They may make 100 times more than their fathers, but their hands are soft. We designed Tough Mudder to fill that void.”

(As noted in a recent article in Outside magazine, Mr. Dean borrowed heavily from an English challenge called Tough Guy. A Harvard investigation cleared Mr. Dean of wrongdoing, though it noted that he “violated the Harvard Business School Community Values of honesty on several occasions.”)

“I was surrounded by supercompetitive alpha males at Harvard,” Mr. Dean said. “I thought if I could bring that to fitness, I’d be successful.”

His instincts proved correct. From just $20,000 in seed money and two employees (himself and a lawyer, Guy Livingstone, currently the company’s president), Tough Mudder is projected to take in $70 million this year, according to figures provided by the company.

Joe Desena, the founder of the Spartan Race (perhaps Tough Mudder’s fiercest rival), also comes from the hypercompetitive world of finance. An avid competitor who once ran two 100-mile ultramarathons and an Ironman Triathlon in one week, he is the managing director for ICAP, a brokerage in New York.

His 24-hour Dantean course — which involves chopping wood for two hours, carrying rocks for five hours, cutting a bushel of onions and memorizing the first 10 presidents of the United States — was partly inspired by the film “300,” which chronicled the Spartan stand at Thermopylae.

Originally called the Spartan Death Race, it was, in Mr. Desena’s words, “meant to break people.” The tagline was “You May Die” — the Web site,

To reach a broader audience, Mr. Desena also started the less brutal Spartan Races, in which Mount Killington takes the place of Mount Purgatory. The series has three levels of brutality: the Spartan Sprint, the Super Spartan and the Spartan Beast. “When I was in finance, everyone smoked cigars and had extravagant dinners,” he said. “But now, health and fitness are the new social status symbols.”

Male bonding, needless to say, figures prominently. Like Iron John before it, these obstacle challenges are designed to forge camaraderie.

The bonhomie is reinforced by challenges like the Everest and Berlin Walls, which require the men to work together and, in some cases, stand on one another’s shoulders. There are many one-arm bro-hugs, and even some full embraces.

That the three big races appropriate the argot and signifiers of the military is no coincidence. The logo of the Spartan Race consists of a Corinthian helmet. The logo of the Warrior Dash a Viking horned helmet.

“A part of me always wanted to join the army, but I never did,” said Evan Lotzof, 31, a senior accountant at Deloitte from Astoria, Queens, who ran Tough Mudder in October. “Tough Mudder gives me a sense of band of brothers.” The warlike glory was evident.

As Mr. Cugini crossed the finish line, he was greeted by pretty volunteers who slipped an orange headband over his head and a banana in his hand. A cover band played the White Stripes, and in the dying light, men did pull-ups and drank beer.

The next day, the competitors would be sitting at rival firms, but Mr. Cugini said the sense of camaraderie and confidence of Tough Mudder made these banking brethren his brothers for life.

Every day they are handed a mess, he said. “It’s not that different than slogging through mud.”

Significa 12-24-12

R.I.P. Ravi Shankar


RAGA is a journey to Ravi Shankar's musical, cultural and spiritual roots.

This documentary is an intimate portrait saturated with music as it follows Shankar rehearsing, teaching and performing in concert.


Discover How Many Different Ways You Can Use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is 85% Amorphous Silica! Silica is the most plentiful element on earth, following oxygen; but there are very few foods that contain an adequate amount to supply the quantity your body needs. Silica is crucial to bones, tendons, skin, cartilage and blood vessels. Silica is even located in the blood itself and important organs such as the liver, heart, and lungs. The average human body holds approximately 7 grams of silica, a quantity far exceeding the figures for other important minerals such as iron. It is as important to provide the body dietary sources of Silica early in life as it is during the aging process when Silica levels in tissue usually drop off steeply. Silica plays an important role in many body functions. Silica has an exact absolute influence on absorption of all minerals that the body requires to maintain health. It adds to the quality of life! Silica does not accumulate in the body; it is water soluble, is easily absorbed by the intestinal wall and rapidly excreted, so daily consumption is important. Studies have not found any negative side effects from too much Silica. Food Grade Diatomaceous earth is a 100% natural and organic source of silica, it is safe for the environment, pets, livestock, and people. It is taken from fresh water deposits and is the purest form available. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is not actually an "earth" but it is the fossilized remains of microscopic shells created by one celled plants called DIATOMS. When taken internally, many health benefits have been observed. The biggest benefits seen have been lower cholesterol, lowering of blood pressure, relief from arthritis pain, increased energy, more regular bowel movements, smoother complexion, and sinus and cough relief. It is estimated that there are more than 1,500 ways DE is beneficial to humans, plants, and animals. As a daily supplement, many believe that its most beneficial use is for internal cleansing by aiding in the elimination of intestinal parasites, which are not able to develop an immunity to the sharp edges of DE. DE can also detox the body. According to a top cancer researcher, it is also the best natural chelating product available for pulling heavy metals from the bloodstream. Many believe that the increase in the number of cases of Heavy metal poisoning has occurred in part due to mercury in vaccines, fluoridated water, deodorants with aluminum, some seafood, foil wrap, cooking in aluminum cookware, soda/energy/beer aluminum cans, and a number of other ways. DE has many health benefits. Years ago the silica in our food was adequate, but with todays hybrids and depleted soils, only about 1/3 of the silica needed is supplied in our food. Diatomaceous Earth is a simple and inexpensive way to get the silica your body needs. Food grade diatomaceous earth - aka Food Chemical Codex Grade contains 85% amorphous silica. The micro-fossil deposits, also known as Amorphous Silica, are mined from ancient dried lake bottoms thousands of years old. When magnified 7000x, diatomaceous earth looks like spiny honeycombs. Food Grade DE is completely safe and non toxic.

DE is EPA approved: For treatment of indoor and outdoor crawling insects DE is USDA approved: As an anti-caking agent for animal feed

Other beneficial effects of Amorphous Silica: Stimulates cell metabolism and cell formation Inhibits the aging process in tissues Necessary for the structure and functioning of connective tissue Strengthens and stimulates the immune system Silica is important for the development of healthy nails and hair and regular intake can stop unnecessary hair loss Strengthens and stimulates the vascular system; lowers blood pressure and improves the condition called arteriosclerosis Increase elasticity and firmness of the blood vessels Silica is indispensable for the elasticity of lung tissue and, therefore, is a basic therapy for lung and respiratory disorders Has anti-inflammatory disinfecting, absorbing and odor binding effects

Nature's Wisdom DE leaves no poisonous chemical residues which can build up in the bodies of animals or people. Nature's Wisdom DE is composed of naturally occurring minerals and contains no cancer-causing synthetic chemicals. Nature's Wisdom DE kills any insect coming in contact with it Nature's Wisdom DE is not a pesticide that insects can develope a resistance to. Nature's Wisdom DE is permanent... will not dissipate Nature's Wisdom DE is stainless and odorless Nature's Wisdom DE is economical... more for your money!


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2013 Inductees: Rush, Public Enemy, Heart and Randy Newman
Donna Summer and Albert King will be inducted posthumously
December 11, 2012

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has officially announced next year's inductees: Rush, Public Enemy, Heart, Randy Newman, Donna Summer and Albert King will all join the class of 2013, with Summer, who passed away this May, and King, who died in 1992, earning the honor posthumously. Lou Adler and Quincy Jones will both receive the Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-performers.

"It's a terrific honor and we'll show up smiling," Rush's singer and bassist, Geddy Lee, tells Rolling Stone. "It made my mom happy, so that's worth it." Lee is especially happy for Rush's army of hardcore fans. "It was a cause they championed," he says. "I'm very relieved for them and we share this honor with them, for sure."

Public Enemy are only the fourth hip-hop act to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were inducted in 2007, Run-D.M.C. made it in in 2009 and the Beastie Boys received the honor last year.

Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart were also overjoyed to learn the news. "Some people have an idea of what the shape of rock & roll is supposed to look like," says Ann Wilson. "We're not really it. Personally, that's why I think it's taken quite a while . . . We're always traveling and out there doing it. It can start to feel like you're a tree falling in the forest, but nobody notices. So this kind of acknowledgement is really sweet."

For Randy Newman, the news came as a shock. "I thought maybe I'd have to die before they let me in," he says. "I'm really glad it happened when I was still around to see it . . . They're always a little doctrinaire about what's rock & roll and what isn't rock & roll. It's nice they opened up a little to let me in."

The public was allowed to vote for the first time in the history of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Votes were taken online, and the result was a "fan's ballot" that was counted along with roughly 600 other ballots.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on April 18th, 2013 at the Nokia Theater and broadcast on HBO May 18th. Tickets will go on sale to the public on January 25th.


"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
~ Albert Einstein


Head Light: Taking the Psychology Out of Parapsychology
Paul Devereux

The existence or otherwise of  psi, ESP or whatever you want to call it, is one of those key controversies at the centre of the great consciousness debate concerning whether mind somehow exists beyond the confines of the brain.  Hardened materialists say such a notion is nonsense, that psi phenomena such as telepathy simply do not exist and that parapsychology is a sham.

A classic example of this attitude is pinpointed in David Metcalfe's Psi News 4 here on RS where he links to an Alex Tsakiris interview with arch-sceptic Victor Stenger, author of the recent God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion. In the interview, Stenger manages to call parapsychologists charlatans, even including venerable researchers like Stanley Krippner in that charge.  Apart from displaying such gall, "New Atheist" Stenger goes on to effectively equate psi research with beliefs about god and religion - something the likes of Richard Dawkins is guilty of too. But this linkage is false, a non-sequitur: the existence of psi phenomena does not necessarily need there to be a god.

This inappropriate free-association of ideas is typical of the muddled thinking in this whole area - even among some non-sceptics. But the nub of the matter remains - are critics like Stenger correct in their dismissal of psi? Well, this bleak midwinter I bring you the glad tidings that ongoing, remarkable experimental evidence not only indicates such scepticism to be misplaced, but that the whole nature of the debate is about to be superseded.

Parapsychology generally provides its evidence in the form of statistics, and so is all too readily subject to the charge of "lies, damned lies and statistics" - how reliable is monitoring lots of subjective responses to laboratory tests, and why isn't psi robustly repeatable in experimental conditions?  When it comes to actual, real-life psi experiences - telepathic or precognitive events, apparitions and so forth - critics tend to level accusations of misperception or dishonesty against the claimants, and point out that in any case such reports are merely anecdotal, and not acceptable as scientific evidence. Mainstream scientists demand "hard" evidence (whether or not their idea of that is applicable to the mercurial nature of psi phenomena). But now, research by the redoubtable Michael Persinger, with Blake Dotta and their team at Laurentian University, Ontario, makes it look as if the hard-nosed sceptics can at last be confronted on their own ground. To do so, the Laurentian researchers have taken a different track to standard parapsychology - and it is all to do with light.

Persinger is famous (or infamous) for his so-called "God helmet", a helmet that holds electrodes in place on the wearer's temples that generate programmed patterns of weak magnetic fields which massage the temporal cortex producing sensations  of unseen "presences" and other strange perceptions. (In fact, Persinger had developed this procedure to explore the neurological use of magnetism in therapy in place of pharmaceutical products.) But on the heels of this device, he and his co-workers developed a further instrument, nicknamed "the octopus" on account of all the wires involved. More properly known as a circumcerebral magnetic stimulation (CMS) device, this basically is comprised of solenoids (coils) set at intervals on a headband fitted around a person's cranium. The solenoids are controlled by a computer program that enables them to rotate precisely configured weak magnetic pulses around the head. This magnetic stimulation can affect the brain in certain ways, including partially disrupting the 40 Hz so-called "binding factor" of the brain which normally seems to help pull all our sensory inputs together into a smooth, seamless perception of the world. Put in non-technical language, this disruption allows normally curtailed or masked information from "Mind-at-Large" to reach awareness. Some of this information can seemingly possess psi properties, whatever they turn out to be.

I have been a long-time fan of this CMS device ever since I tried out a prototype at Laurentian. It gave me an unambiguous, veridical remote perception or telepathy experience, which I have written about on and off over the years. Now the Laurentian researchers have gone a stage further and carried out tests using two synchronised CMS devices, one worn by the "sender" in a telepathy experiment type of set up, and the other by the "receiver" sitting in a separate, distant, lightproof room. And here's the quirky bit: the receiving participant is monitored by a photomultiplier - a device so sensitive it can detect individual photons, minute specks of light invisible to the naked eye.

In fairly recently published research papers, the experimenters describe in detailed technical terms some results of these tests. Put in simpler language, two types of experiment were involved. In one, a volunteer wearing a CMS device sat in a room and was subjected to flashes of light. In the distant lightproof room, a second volunteer wearing another, synchronised, CMS device was monitored for biophoton activity ("biophotons" are emissions of ultraweak light produced by all living cells). What the experimenters found was that in exact time with the flashes of light in the first room, there was an increase of biophoton emission from the head of the second, "receiving" volunteer: the increased activity was picked up by the photomultiplier tube set a few centimetres from the right side of the person's head, at the level of the temporal cortex (roughly, just above the ear).  This was a repeatable effect. The other experiment was the same basic design, except this time instead of people, two petri dishes of cells were used, each set within a separate ring of synchronised rotating magnetic fields, with one dish being stimulated by light flashes.  Again, the cells in the second, lightproof room registered greater biophoton emission in synch with the light flashes in the first room. It seems the cells like the human brains were somehow communicating with one another without regard to space or time. When the rotating magnetic fields were not present, there were nil results.

Clearly, none of this has a direct bearing on psi itself, but, crucially, the experiments do apparently show that given the appropriate environment, some mysterious means exists for cells, and especially neurons, to directly interact with one another at a distance without any identifiable intermediary mechanisms. (Persinger tells me that preliminary experiments show the effect still works at distances of up to about 2 km, and the distance limit has not yet been defined.) The Laurentian researchers ascribe the effect to "entanglement", to non-locality:  when an atom is suitably stimulated and two of its electrons fly off in different directions, changes made to one instantly affect the other, irrespective of how far apart they are. The electrons are said to be "entangled", but nobody truly knows what that means. It is "spooky action at a distance" to hi-jack Einstein's memorable phrase.

Psi phenomena like telepathy or remote perception would require consciousness to possess non-local properties. If the Laurentian work holds up under further study, then the researchers will have demonstrated that there is a biophysical framework within which psi can occur. They will have stripped the psychology from parapsychology and moved the whole issue of psi research onto a different level altogether. Be in no doubt, the Laurentian research is potentially game changing, and Persinger is under no illusions - he knows mainstream materialists will resist it, and ignore and shun it for as long as possible. This is understandable, because it challenges the very philosophical plank on which the Western view of reality is based. Identifying the workings of psi will be merely a sideshow to the deeper implications. It makes one feel positively light-headed.
The technical papers referred to:

Persinger, M. A., Saroka, K. S., Lavallee, C. F., Booth, J.M., Hunter, M.D., Mulligan, B. P., Koren, S. A., Wu-H.P. and Gang, N. (2010). "Correlated cerebral events between physically and sensor isolated pairs of subjects exposed to yoked circumcerebral magnetic fields." Neuroscience Letters, 486, 231-234.

Dotta, B. T., Buckner, C. A., Lafrenie, R. M. and Persinger, M. A. (2011). "Photon emissions from human brain and cell culture exposed to distally rotating magnetic fields shared by separate light-stimulated brains and cells." Brain Research, 388, 77-88.

Further information on a version of the "Octopus" CMS device can be obtained from Dr. Todd Murphy at


Craft Brewers Call For Transparency in Major Beer Companies
December 14, 2012

American craft brewing is becoming a lucrative industry, growing by 13 percent in 2011 and another 12 percent this year, even while the overall beer industry is down. Beer drinkers are no longer stuck with name-brand, commercial beers, opening their palates to different textures and tastes. This has lead to large brewers attempting to enter the craft beer marketplace.

The Brewers Association recently issued a statement in support of small and independent craft brewers asking for transparency as these major beer companies produce craft-imitating beers. Many supposed craft beers in the marketplace were actually the products of large breweries, which goes against the exact definition of what it means to be “crafty.”

“The large, multinational brewers appear to be deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today’s small and independent brewers,” the statement read. “We call for transparency in brand ownership and for information to be clearly presented in a way that allows beer drinkers to make an informed choice about who brewed the beer they are drinking.”


Wal-Mart, Kroger among companies bidding for Hostess
Jeffrey McCracken and Beth Jinks
14 December 2012

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co. are among the bidders for assets being sold by Hostess Brands Inc., the bankrupt maker of Wonder bread and Twinkies, said a person familiar with the matter.

There are about two dozen bidders, said the person, who asked not to be named because the process is confidential. Last month, financial adviser Joshua Scherer of Perella Weinberg Partners LP said the liquidation sale may generate about $1 billion.

A few of the bids are for all the assets, some are for just the cakes or breads businesses, and others are interested in individual Hostess plants or products, according to the person. Other first-round bidders include Grupo Bimbo SAB and Alpha Baking Co., the person said.

The 82-year-old maker of Hostess CupCakes, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos said last month that it would liquidate and fire more than 18,000 workers after failing to reach agreement with its striking bakers' union on concessions to help it emerge from its second bankruptcy. Changes in American diets led to years of declining sales at Hostess, while ingredient costs and labor expenses climbed.

Representatives for Hostess, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Alpha Baking and Bimbo declined to comment on the auction process. C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., the private-equity firm that owns Pabst Brewing Co., planned to submit a bid, Daren Metropoulos, a principal at the Greenwich, Connecticut-based firm, said this week. He didn't respond to a request for comment.

A standoff with striking union workers triggered liquidation auctions of Hostess's brands, recipes, plants and other assets. The Bakery Confectionery Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike Nov. 9 after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain imposed contract concessions opposed by more than 90 percent of the union's members. The union represents more than 5,000 Hostess workers.

Hostess emerged from an earlier bankruptcy in 2009 as a private company controlled by buyout firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC and lenders. The company was previously known as Interstate Bakeries Corp. and changed its name to Hostess Brands in October of that year. Hostess entered its latest bankruptcy in January.


Forget Extinct: The Brontosaurus Never Even Existed
December 09, 2012

It may have something to do with all those Brontosaurus burgers everyone's favorite modern stone-age family ate, but when you think of a giant dinosaur with a tiny head and long, swooping tail, the Brontosaurus is probably what you're seeing in your mind.

Well hold on: Scientifically speaking, there's no such thing as a Brontosaurus.

Even if you knew that, you may not know how the fictional dinosaur came to star in the prehistoric landscape of popular imagination for so long.

It dates back 130 years, to a period of early U.S. paleontology known as the Bone Wars, says Matt Lamanna, curator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

The Bone Wars was the name given to a bitter competition between two paleontologists, Yale's O.C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope of Philadelphia. Lamanna says their mutual dislike, paired with their scientific ambition, led them to race dinosaur names into publication, each trying to outdo the other.

"There are stories of either Cope or Marsh telling their fossil collectors to smash skeletons that were still in the ground, just so the other guy couldn't get them," Lamanna tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. "It was definitely a bitter, bitter rivalry."

The two burned through money, and were as much fame-hungry trailblazers as scientists.

It was in the heat of this competition, in 1877, that Marsh discovered the partial skeleton of a long-necked, long-tailed, leaf-eating dinosaur he dubbed Apatosaurus. It was missing a skull, so in 1883 when Marsh published a reconstruction of his Apatosaurus, Lamanna says he used the head of another dinosaur — thought to be a Camarasaurus — to complete the skeleton.

"Two years later," Lamanna says, "his fossil collectors that were working out West sent him a second skeleton that he thought belonged to a different dinosaur that he named Brontosaurus."

But it wasn't a different dinosaur. It was simply a more complete Apatosaurus — one that Marsh, in his rush to one-up Cope, carelessly and quickly mistook for something new.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Although the mistake was spotted by scientists by 1903, the Brontosaurus lived on, in movies, books and children's imaginations. The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh even topped its Apatosaurus skeleton with the wrong head in 1932. The apathy of the scientific community and a dearth of well-preserved Apatosaurus skulls kept it there for nearly 50 years.

That Brontosaurus finally met its end in the 1970s when two Carnegie researchers took a second look at the controversy. They determined a skull found in a quarry in Utah in 1910 was the true Apatosaurus skull. In 1979 the correct head was placed atop the museum's skeleton.

The Brontosaurus was gone at last, but Lamanna suggests the name stuck in part because it was given at a time when the Bone Wars fueled intense public interest in the discovery of new dinosaurs. And, he says, it's just a better name.

"Brontosaurus means 'thunder lizard,'" he says. "It's a big, evocative name, whereas Apatosaurus means 'deceptive lizard.' It's quite a bit more boring."

Anarchy Comics: The Complete Collection

Jay Kinney

List Price: $20.00
Price: $13.45
You Save: $6.55 (33%)
Kindle Edition $7.99

Amazon URL


Kindle Edition:

Reviving an iconic comic series originally published from 1978 to 1986, this exclusive collection brings together the legendary four issues of Anarchy Comics, the underground comic that melded anarchist politics with a punk sensibility, producing a riveting mix of satire, revolt, and artistic experimentation. The anthology features previously unpublished work by Jay Kinney and Sharon Rudahl, along with a detailed introduction by Kinney that traces the history of the comic he founded and provides entertaining anecdotes about the process of herding an international crowd of anarchistic writers. Reintroducing the long-out-of-print underground comic that inspired its readers and united a subculture, this collection includes all 30 original contributors from across the globe, including Clifford Harper, Donald Rooum, Gary Panter, Melinda Gebbie, and Steve Stiles, among other talented writers and illustrators.

Editorial Reviews

"Somewhere between Creation and the Rapture—from Detroit to Tienanmen Square, from the Breatharyan Liberation Front to a Libyan Terrorist on a Suicide Mission—a subversive gang of unabashed underground artists managed to produce four prophetic issues of Anarchy Comics over an entire decade, thus providing reborn proof that Quality trumps Quantity in this book (still reeking with relevant irreverence) that you now hold in your grungy hands. Only the technology has changed. But do not try to read such a rare treasure from the political wing of the international counterculture in one sitting or you will be captured by the invisible top guns of the Tea Party. You have been issued a fat-free friendly warning."
Paul Krassner, author, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut

"Anarchy Comics, revisited here, with an ardent introduction by its principal editor, Jay Kinney, was a wonder of the underground comics world. Perhaps it might be better described as a wonder of the fading comics world, because times had grown difficult for the genre and Kinney was pulling out the stops to show off what was really funny and insightful in the genre at large, extending them into another era. Anarchy belongs to the last third of the twentieth century, and yet has lost none of its power for today's troubled world. Go to the original, reader—look and learn!"
Paul Buhle, founder, Radical America and Cultural Correspondence

"In the late '70s and early '80s we briefly had a comic voice that told our history (IWW, Spanish Civil War, Kronstadt), illustrated our culture (Brecht, communes, Yippies), and skewered our nemeses (Lenin, Mao, Trotsky), all with a large but necessary dose of self-deprecating humor. That was Anarchy Comics, and finally we can read it again!"
Josh MacPhee, founder,

"Anarchy Comics was an education I never got in school. I learned more deep truths about the way human megatribes operate (while at the same time being greatly amused by the superb art and writing) than from any textbook. Decades later, the insights I gleaned from these brilliant comics still affect the way I view global events."
Mark Frauenfelder, founder,

"Thrill to this recently disinterred archeological fragment from a lost civilization about to be reinvented. Anarchy Comics is a dream come true."
Mark Rudd, author, Underground

Jay Kinney was an active participant in the underground comix movement from 1968 through the 1970s—he cofounded the romance comic satire Young Lust, founded and edited Anarchy Comics, and contributed to numerous other comics. He served as editor of CoEvolution Quarterly before founding Gnosis. He is the author of Hidden Wisdom, The Inner West, and The Masonic Myth, and recently contributed a chapter on underground comics to Ten Years that Shook the City: San Francisco 1968–1978. He lives in San Francisco.

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: PM Press (November 26, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1604865318
ISBN-13: 978-1604865318

How Hitchens proved that nothing is sacred

How Christopher Hitchens proved that nothing is sacred
The late author's now-classic "The Missionary Position," a takedown of Mother Teresa, resonates even louder today
FRIDAY, DEC 14, 2012

Amazon URL Audible Audio Edition:

In the foreword to “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice,” Christopher Hitchens imagined the question he invited by writing the book: “Who would be so base as to pick on her, a wizened, shriveled old lady, well stricken in years, who has consecrated her entire life to the needy and the destitute?”

The short version of Hitchens’s answer: Me.

His longer version: The implied question “Is nothing sacred?” must always be answered “with a stoical ‘No.’”

This fierce stance was central to Hitchens’s work, and now that he has been dead for a year, and Mother Teresa has been dead for 15 years, the reissue of “The Missionary Position” as an audiobook is less an opportunity to revisit the history of their disagreement (his explicit, hers implicit) than it is an opportunity to remember the value of Hitchens’s great pugnacious willingness to examine, in cold detail, the things the culture has enshrined, and to “scorn to use the fear of death to coerce and flatter the poor.”

A writer as strident as Hitchens benefits from an audiobook narrator as measured and assured as Simon Prebble. A lesser narrator might misguidedly over-perform, perhaps in the hope of matching the writer’s intensity. But Prebble is wise enough to let the prose do the performing, and in his restraint, he casts a warm light on Hitchens’ sentences, which, for all their accusatory adjectives and sharp edges, are always terribly precise, and occasionally beautiful.

The popular idea of Mother Teresa — Hitchens calls it “the whole Mother Teresa cult” —  begins with “Something Beautiful for God,” a 1969 BBC documentary that was converted by Malcolm Muggeridge, in 1971, into a hagiographic book that attempted to establish, among other things, that Mother Teresa, though still alive, had already achieved the miracle that would be the prerequisite for sainthood.

The miracle in question was “a photographic miracle” of “divine light” which brilliantly illuminated BBC cameraman Ken Macmillan’s footage of Mother Teresa’s dimly lit Home for the Dying, but which Macmillan attributes, instead, to a new and better variety of filmstock recently shipped from Kodak. “It is the first unarguable refutation of a claimed miracle,” Hitchens wrote, “to come not merely from another supposed witness to said miracle but from its actual real-time author.”

Hitchens also objected to Muggeridge’s one-dimensional characterization of Calcutta, Mother Teresa’s base of operations, as a hell hole — a condescending and locally unpopular judgment, which failed to take into account the vitality of the culture, the work ethic of the people, or the historical conditions that gave rise to the city’s crowding and poverty. Even more, he objected to the thing Muggeridge admired most: The idea that what Calcutta suffered from most wasn’t material lack or physical need, but rather “being too distant from Jesus.”

This is the attitude that Hitchens saw as the central trouble with Mother Teresa. Although her emphasis was upon “the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low,” her solution was never to lift anyone out of poverty or lowness, much less to engage in a dialogue of change with the systems that perpetuated poverty and lowness. Since Jesus said, “The poor you always have with you,” then, in Hitchens’s estimation,  there becomes no particular hurry to ease the general condition of poverty, and the poor become objects “used to illustrate morality tales,” to advance political causes such as the outlawing of contraception, and to proselytize.

Hitchens offered disturbing examples. When Dr. Robin Fox, editor of the leading medical journal The Lancet, visited Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying operation in Calcutta, in 1994, he found that systematic approaches to diagnosing and caring for ill patients were frowned upon, because Mother Teresa preferred “providence to planning,” with one consequence being that patients were frequently misdiagnosed and given the wrong medicines. (“Investigations,” as the attending sisters told him, “are seldom permissible.”) Worse, he found a disturbing lack of the strong analgesics that are often required to manage the pain of the dying. The lack of good analgesia, Fox said, “marks Mother Teresa’s approach as clearly separate from the hospice movement. I know which I prefer.”

Other medical witnesses at Mother Teresa’s facilities spoke of inadequate beds, a lack of proper medical equipment, hypodermic needles reused without being sterilized, patients the sisters refused to transport to the hospital for relatively inexpensive antibiotics or operations, and all of it out of a logic of lack or resignation. One sister said, “If they do it for one, they do it for everybody.” Another, dismissing the unsterilized needles, said, “There’s no point. There’s no time.”

Hitchens’s response is worth quoting at length. “Bear in mind,” he wrote, “that Mother Teresa’s global income is more than enough to outfit several first-class clinics in Bengal. The decision not to do so, and indeed to run instead a haphazard and cranky institution which would expose itself to litigation and protest were it run by any branch of the medical profession, is a deliberate one. The point is not the honest relief of suffering but the promulgation of a cult based on death and suffering and subjugation.”

Much of the rest of “The Missionary Position” is interested in this tension between Mother Teresa’s resources and her organization’s unwillingness to deploy them in these basic and humane directions in the care facilities for which she had the final say. Particularly galling to Hitchens — and to the listener — is the contrast between a standard of care for the poor that a generous observer might have said bordered on neglect, and the extraordinary public affections, by contrast, that Mother Teresa lavished on wealthy patrons including the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and the S&L looter Charles Keating, or the silence she granted as tacit grace to the Dergue junta in Ethiopia which used starvation as a weapon against the people of Eritrea, or to the local oligarchy in Guatemala which had its hand in the slaughter of Guatemalan Indians.

If all this seems like a harsh piling-on, it is. If it seems like old news, by now it also is. But history is always in conversation with the present, and courteous silence about the trouble of the past is a reliable ally of whatever trouble the present is cooking up for the future.

On these grounds, Hitchens couldn’t be any more timely. At the end of “The Missionary Position,” he proclaims: “It is past time that [Mother Teresa] was subjected to the rational critique that she has evaded so arrogantly and for so long.” The listener, having been convinced by the rigor of Hitchens’s evidence-gathering and the intelligent moral rightness of his argument, now might ask: What other sacrednesses in our culture conspire “to use the fear of death to coerce and flatter the poor?”

And then: Who now will be brave enough to defy the tyranny of niceness, and gather the crucial evidence, and offer it without apology?

Kyle Minor is the author of "In the Devil’s Territory," a collection of stories and novellas, and the winner of the 2012 Iowa Review Prize for Short Fiction. His work has appeared in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Best American Mystery Stories 2008, "Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers" and "Forty Stories: New Voices from Harper Perennial." He lives in Ohio.

In Search Of... The Complete Series

Format: DVD
Amazon URL:

List Price: $149.99
Price: $104.99
You Save: $45.00 (30%)

Actors: Leonard Nimoy, Rod Serling, Mitch Pileggi
Directors: Leonard Nimoy
Format: Box set, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: Spanish
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Number of discs: 21
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Visual Entertainment Inc.
DVD Release Date: December 11, 2012
Run Time: 3612 minutes

Leonard Nimoy, hosts and narrates this documentary series that takes you to the world of Unsolved Mysteries and those strange and unusual things in the world that defy explanation and often understanding. The world is filled with unexplained mysteries, paranormal phenomena, strange creatures, and other things that go bump in the night. The topics are entertaining and engrossing. Lost civilizations, extraterrestrials, myths and monsters, missing persons, magic and witchcraft, unexplained phenomena. ''In Search Of...'' cameras travel the world, seeking out these great mysteries. This program was the result the work of scientists, researchers and a group of highly-skilled technicians and results in a series of programs that are varied and each is worth viewing.

Get Your Pitchfork On!

The Real Dirt on Country Living
(Process Self-reliance Series)
Kristy Athens

Print List Price: $19.95
Kindle Price: $9.99 includes free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
You Save: $9.96 (50%)
Length: 346 pages
Publication Date: May 8, 2012

Amazon URL

Kindle Edition:


For hard-working office workers Kristy Athens and husband Michael, farming was a romantic dream. After purchasing farm land in Oregon's beautiful Columbia Gorge, Athens and hubby were surprised to learn that the realities of farming were challenging and unexpected. Get Your Pitchfork On! provides the hard-learned nuts-and-bolts of rural living from city folk who were initially out of their depth. Practical and often hilarious, Get Your Pitchfork On! reads like a twenty-first century Egg and I.

Get Your Pitchfork On! gives urban professionals the practical tools they need to realize their dream, with basics of home, farm, and hearth. It also enters territory that other books avoid—straightforward advice about the social aspects of country living, from health care to schools to small-town politics.

Kristy Athens doesn't shy away from controversial subjects, such as having guns and hiring undocumented migrant workers. An important difference between Get Your Pitchfork On! and other farm/country books is that the author's initial country experiment failed. Ravaged by the elements, the economy, and the social structure of their rural area, Athens and husband sold their farm and retreated to Portland, Oregon, in 2009. This gave Athens the freedom to write honestly about her extraordinary experience.

Having learned from mistakes, both Kristy and her husband are currently saving up to buy another farm, and this time to live a practical dream rather than an uninformed nightmare.

"An entertaining and practical handbook that should be mandatory reading for urban dwellers considering a move to the country." - Rustik Magazine

"A nice change from the standard how to, this book may be more of a how not to, but proves equally effective." - Indie Reader

"Kristy Athens' observations hold plenty of joys and warnings for urbanites wanting to chuck it all or for those bluesy for the bucolic." - Publisher's Weekly

Kristy Athens and her husband Michael always had visions to get out of the city and get farming. And farm they did on the Washington side of the Columbia gorge. "Get Your Pitchfork On!" is both an amusing how-to from Kristy and hubby's hard-earned personal experiences.

Kristy Athens' nonfiction and short fiction have been published in a number of magazines, newspapers and literary journals, most recently High Desert Journal, Barely South Review and the anthology Mamas and Papas. In 2010, she was a writer-in-residence for the Eastern Oregon Writer-in-Residence program and Soapstone. Kristy has served on the boards of the Hood River County Cultural Trust, Independent Publishing Resource Center, and Northwest Writers. She has been a guest blogger for New Oregon Arts & Letters; editor of Columbia Gorge Magazine; and coordinator of the Columbia Center for the Arts Plein Air Writing Exhibition, and of Literary Arts’ Oregon Book Awards and Oregon Literary Fellowships programs.

This is Kristy's first book.

ISBN: 1934170348

Book Review: Medical Growing - A Garden of Peace

Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Culture, Growing, Products
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My friend Daniel Boughen has a green thumb, and he comes by it naturally. With a family history of organic horticulture, this British Columbia resident had a solid foundation when he began growing cannabis, the world's most medicinal plant.

Medical Growing: A Garden of Peace begins by ably pointing out the evil folly of the tragic War On Drugs, contrasting that with the numerous social, medicinal and economic benefits of cannabis and industrial hemp. Boughen shows a keen consciousness of the forces currently impacting the marijuana community, including the impending danger of corporate control.

In what I personally believe to be one of the most crucially important sections of the book, Boughen contrasts the corporate model of legalization with a more community-centered model. Daniel spares no words in condemning those who would make marijuana just another tool for big corporate profits.

"Monopolistic models for the corporatization of cannabis are now being presented by lobby groups who want to cash in on cannabis in order to sustain the inflated profits of Big Pharma," Boughen writes.

Recently instituted legalization models which place control in the hands of the state, and don't allow home growing, aren't good for cannabis genetics, we learn in Medical Growing.

"To preserve the biodiversity of the species, our access to specific strains grown for taste or symptoms, the people must remain the custodians of cannabis, and keep it in the public domain," Boughen writes. "Recent efforts to patent strains should be resisted; it's just another attempt by corporations to rob us of our natural rights."

Cannabis, Culture and Creativity

The important role of marijuana in culture isn't neglected, either.

"All of the arts have benefitted from the use of cannabis," Boughen writes. "It doesn't cause aggressive behavior or possess toxic properties of other substances, and cannabis is without the addictive profiles characterized by drugs such as tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamines or prescription opiates.

"Cannabis stimulates thought, creativity, and peaceful cooperation, and many of the other qualities we find aesthetically desirable in human kind, and yet with cannabis prohibition, those are not being stimulated in our society," Boughen points out. "When we prohibit cannabis, we also prohibit our culture's artistic and creative growth."

Grow Your Own

Daniel goes on to clearly outline a step-by-step manual for the growing, harvesting, curing and storage of cannabis, as well as provide recipes for preparing medicinal oils and other concentrates and extracts. Neither novice growers nor experienced veterans will feel left out, as the books techniques and tips cover a broad range of skill levels.

Boughen's clear, easy-reading style lets you know what to expect when growing cannabis, and what to do at each stage of growing and processing. He doesn't hide behind technical language; Medical Growing is written in everyday words, and the instructions call for everyday, low-cost materials found in most any home.

Daniel is a devotee of the "12-1" method of growing cannabis, and thus not a fan of the 18-6 vegetative grow cycle favored by many mainstream cultivators. However, even if you disagree with Boughen's assertion that 18-6 lighting cycles constitute "abusing" the plants, it's worth reading his arguments to broaden your perspective.

If you're confused about exactly what constitutes the 12-1 lighting cycle, see page 29 of Medical Growing for a clear explanation. Short version, instead of just a light and a dark cycle like 18-6, 12-1 involves 12 hours with the lights on; 5.5 hours lights off; 1 hour on; and 5.5 hours off, cycled over a 24-hour period.

Cannabutter and Baking

Since cannabis resins are easily extracted using butter to capture the oils, cannabutter (marijuana-infused butter) has become a popular option for those who use the herb medicinally. Medical Growing has a "Butter and Baking" section with instructions on how to make cannabis butter, and how to include it in recipes for cannabinated treats.

You can also learn how to make your own concentrates, including making hashish and making and dosing medicinal cannabis oils from leaf and trim (of which, using Boughen's techniques, you should soon have a nice supply).

Bottom Line

At $19.95 in the United States and $21.95 in Canada, Medical Growing: A Garden of Peace is a great choice either for yourself of for that experienced or aspiring cannabis farmer on your list.

For more information on ordering, visit

Conspiracy Geek

Joan d'Arc
Price: $29.99
Ships from and sold by

Amazon URL:

Joan d'Arc, co-founder in 1992 of Paranoia Magazine and editor of HunterGatheress Journal, now Chief Resident of the Paranoid Women Institute, compiles her best writings and interviews in this collection. A new race of disembodied cyborgs is being engineered to travel into deep space. The night Wilhelm Reich s Cloudbuster became a Spacegun. Proof that the U.S. knew Japan was going to bomb Pearl Harbor and let it happen. A new mafia-connected JFK witness steps forward. Giordano Bruno, the first Catholic priest Ufologist from the 16th Century, burned at the stake for his universalist ideas. Evidence of Robot Probes in our own solar system and what that means to humanity. Beings in NothingDrive: An Existential Analysis of the Travis Walton UFO Abduction. A chronology of anomalous radio signals: Have messages from space been misconstrued or covered up? Why alternatives to Darwinian Evolution should be taught in public schools. This cutting-edge 356-page book contains 13 articles and 12 interviews. Interviewees include: Joan Mellen on the Cast of Characters in the JFK assassination; Michael Cremo on how museums and textbooks hide evidence of extreme human antiquity; Barbara Walker on how God demoted Goddess and replaced the Womb with the "Word"; David Ray Griffin on 9/11 and Osama bin Laden; Jarrah White and Ralph Rene on the Apollo Moon Hoax; Stephanie Caruana on the Gemstone File JFK Thesis; Acharya S. on the mythological attributes Jesus shares with other solar gods; Craig Heimbichner on Freemasonry and Aleister Crowley's OTO; Beth Goobie on surviving a Canadian MKULTRA cult from birth; Spy Robert Eringer on how he brought in Ira Einhorn for the murder of Holly Maddux; Mike Bara on evidence of remains of ancient cities on the Moon.

Perfect Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Sisyphus Press; first edition (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1624071848
ISBN-13: 978-1624071843

Debt-Free United States Notes Were Once Issued

Debt-Free United States Notes Were Once Issued Under JFK And The U.S. Government Still Has The Power To Issue Debt-Free Money
By Michael, on December 19th, 2011

Most Americans have no idea that the U.S. government once issued debt-free money directly into circulation.  America once thrived under a debt-free monetary system, and we can do it again.  The truth is that the United States is a sovereign nation and it does not need to borrow money from anyone.  Back in the days of JFK, Federal Reserve Notes were not the only currency in circulation.  Under JFK (at at various other times), a limited number of debt-free United States Notes were issued by the U.S. Treasury and spent by the U.S. government without any new debt being created.  In fact, each bill said "United States Note" right at the top.  Unfortunately, United States Notes are not being issued today.  If you stop right now and pull a dollar out of your wallet, what does it say right at the top?  It says "Federal Reserve Note".  Normally, the way our current system works is that whenever more Federal Reserve Notes are created more debt is also created.  This debt-based monetary system is systematically destroying the wealth of this nation.

But it does not have to be this way.

The truth is that the U.S. government still has the power under the U.S. Constitution to issue debt-free money, and we need to educate the American people about this.

Posted below are pictures of the front and the back of a United States Note printed in 1963 while JFK was president....

Notice that there is a red seal instead of a green seal on the front, and it says "United States Note" rather than "Federal Reserve Note".

According to Wikipedia, United States Notes were issued directly into circulation by the U.S. Treasury and they were first used during the Civil War....

They were originally issued directly into circulation by the U.S. Treasury to pay expenses incurred by the Union during the American Civil War. Over the next century, the legislation governing these notes was modified many times and numerous versions have been issued by the Treasury.

So why are we using debt-based Federal Reserve Notes today instead of debt-free United States Notes?

It seems rather stupid, doesn't it?

Well, that is what Thomas Edison thought too.

Thomas Edison was once quoted in the New York Times as saying the following....

That is to say, under the old way any time we wish to add to the national wealth we are compelled to add to the national debt.

Now, that is what Henry Ford wants to prevent. He thinks it is stupid, and so do I, that for the loan of $30,000,000 of their own money the people of the United States should be compelled to pay $66,000,000 — that is what it amounts to, with interest. People who will not turn a shovelful of dirt nor contribute a pound of material will collect more money from the United States than will the people who supply the material and do the work. That is the terrible thing about interest. In all our great bond issues the interest is always greater than the principal. All of the great public works cost more than twice the actual cost, on that account. Under the present system of doing business we simply add 120 to 150 per cent, to the stated cost.

But here is the point: If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good makes the bill good.

Our current debt-based monetary system was devised by greedy bankers that wanted to make huge profits by creating money out of thin air and lending it to the U.S. government at interest.

Sadly, the vast majority of the American people have no idea how money is actually created in this nation.

In a previous article about money and debt, I explained how more government debt is created whenever the U.S. government puts more money into circulation....

When the government wants more money, the U.S. government swaps U.S. Treasury bonds for "Federal Reserve notes", thus creating more government debt.  Usually the money isn't even printed up - most of the time it is just electronically credited to the government.  The Federal Reserve creates these "Federal Reserve notes" out of thin air.  These Federal Reserve notes are backed by nothing and have no intrinsic value of their own.

When each new Federal Reserve Note is created, the interest owed by the federal government on that new Federal Reserve Note is not also created at the same time.

So the amount of government debt that is created actually exceeds the amount of money that is created.

Isn't that a stupid system?

The U.S. Constitution says that the federal government is the one that should actually be issuing our money.

In particular, according to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, it is the U.S. Congress that has been given the responsibility to "coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures".

So why is a private central banking cartel issuing our money?

As is the case with so many other issues, we desperately need to get back to the way the U.S. Constitution says that we should be doing things.

The debt-based Federal Reserve system is literally stealing the future from our children and our grandchildren.

Back in 1910, a couple years prior to the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, the national debt was only about $2.6 billion.

A little over 100 years later, our national debt is now more than 5000 times larger.

So why don't we just admit that this system simply does not work?

Our current debt-based monetary system also requires very high personal income taxes to pay for it.

In fact, it is no accident that the personal income tax was introduced at about the same time that the Federal Reserve system originally came into existence.

Our children, our grandchildren and many generations after that are facing a lifetime of debt slavery because of us.

As I have written about previously, if the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the national debt.

Neither the Republicans or the Democrats are proposing any solutions to this problem.  Rather, both parties are only trying to slow down the rate at which we are going into even more debt.

But the truth is that the federal government does not have to go into a single penny of additional debt.

How could this be?

It is not too complicated.

If Congress took back the power over our currency and started issuing debt-free money a lot of our problems could be fixed.

A basic plan would look something like this....

#1) The U.S. Congress votes to take back all of the functions that it has delegated to the Federal Reserve and begins to issue debt-free United States Notes.  These United States Notes would have the exact same value as existing Federal Reserve Notes, and over time all existing Federal Reserve Notes would be taken out of circulation.

#2) The U.S. Congress nationalizes all debt held by the Federal Reserve.  That would instantly reduce the national debt by 1.6 trillion dollars.  In fact, there are a few members of Congress that have already proposed this.

#3) A Constitutional amendment is passed limiting future U.S. government deficits to a reasonable percentage of GDP.  Any future deficits would not be funded by borrowing.  Rather, future deficits would be funded by newly created United States Notes.  Therefore, the federal government would never again accumulate another penny of debt.

And it would be important to inject new money into the economy from time to time.  When existing money is destroyed or when the population grows it is important to inject a certain amount of new money into the system in order to avoid deflation.

#4) The existing national debt would be very slowly paid off with newly created United States Notes.  The U.S. government spent over 454 billion dollars on interest on the national debt during fiscal year 2011, and over time this expense would go to zero.

If the national debt is paid off slowly enough, it would not create too much inflation.  I believe that it could be paid off gradually over 50 years without shocking the economy too much.

There are some that would object to any measure that would ever cause a small amount of inflation, but my contention is that we have created a $15 trillion dollar debt mess for future generations, and it would be absolutely criminal to pass that legacy on to them.

We created this mess, and it is our responsibility to clean it up.

While there is certainly a danger that we would have a limited amount of inflation under a debt-free monetary system such as the one described above, the reality is that we are absolutely guaranteed inflation under the Federal Reserve system.

Most Americans believe that inflation is a fact of life, but the sad truth is that the United States has only had a major, ongoing problem with inflation since the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913.

Sadly, the U.S. dollar has lost well over 95 percent of its value since the Federal Reserve was created.

So, yes, there would be a need for strict monetary discipline under a debt-free monetary system, but it would be hard to do worse than the Federal Reserve has already been doing.

And Congress could always slow down inflation using other methods.  For example, raising the reserve requirements for banks (which should be done anyway) would help keep inflation in check.

If the above proposals were adopted, the end result would be something that we could all live with.  The Federal Reserve system would be abolished, the national debt burden on future generations would be wiped out, the economy would not have to go through a devastating economic collapse that could last a decade or longer, and we could eventually make a fairly smooth transition to "hard money" if we wanted to after the national debt is gone.

Is there any other proposal out there that does all of those things?

There are many out there that would dispute some of the points above, and debate is good.  By engaging in debate, we can hopefully help educate the American people about the nature of money.

The key is to get rid of our current debt-based Federal Reserve Notes and replace them with debt-free United States Notes.

The American people need to understand that it is a lie that the U.S. government "must" borrow money from somebody else.

When the U.S. government borrows money, it slowly transfers wealth from the American people to those that lent it.

At this point, we have created a financial nightmare for future generations that is unlike anything the world has ever seen before.  We owe it to future generations to eliminate the debt problem without destroying the United States economy.  Adopting debt-free money would allow us to do that.

But sadly, neither political party is even talking about debt-free money.  In fact, most of the politicians in both political parties probably do not even know what debt-free money is.

So we need to get the American people educated about these things.  Because if we stay on the course that we are currently on, an economic collapse is inevitable.