Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Creation of Understanding

It’s discouraging that political bickering, books, movies, music, television, news broadcast and newspapers exploit sensationalism, not only visually, but also in language in order to rile others into action. The words must be provocative; therefore, in one way or other, it must indulge in raunchy, invective, sarcastic, or other contemptible language. Moreover, whether what is written or said is factual, fictitious or something in between, it does not seem to matter. In short, it must satisfy America’s egregiously bizarre appetite for what, in their view, is entertaining.

In America, we have abandoned decency, civility, and honesty. We have abandoned probity for whatever enhances one’s bottom line. In using inappropriate, meaningless, and callous language, we have lost the essence of persuasion, rather, we engage in manipulation. Embracing inappropriate language mars one’s ability to lead effectively. Leaders, instead, become a bully on the pulpit.

As leaders, we must behave so others will emulate our actions. So, using appropriate language in speech and writing is incumbent upon all of us.

It is not as if we do not have a better choice. There are many resources available from which one can choose to select a suitable word, phrase, euphemism or metaphor to symbolize one’s intention, view or opinion.

In employing a higher standard vocabulary to construct meaningful expressions, one reduces the chance of any unintentional meaning or misinterpretation, enabling one to communicate complex ideas and concepts that are succinct and non-esoteric. Furthermore, to use slang or gobbledygook is only a shortcut to circumvent the hard work of developing appropriate and more meaningful expressions. When we use shortcuts, we may blur fact and fiction.

So it should go without saying, don’t use the language of television and radio talk show hosts, who depend on confrontation, recrimination, incendiary words and hyperbole as tools to fire up their supporters and to discredit competition that don’t agree with them.

And certainly do not employ metaphoric militaristic language that has become so popular. Sarah Palin’s notable quotation, “Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!” is a good example of this egregious style.

The essence of communication is the creation of understanding. A writer or speaker sometimes may be communicating some very sophisticated and complex ideas or concepts to general audiences. It therefore is incumbent on the speaker or writer to be considerate of the symbols they employ.

We need leaders, their spokespersons and interlocutors to serve people rather than prey on them. They need to use words crafted to create understanding and not to intimidate or entertain rather than inform.

“60 Minutes” Quest for Sensationalism Rules over Probity

In 1993, mountaineer Greg Mortenson joined a group of climbers set out to climb K2, the second peak of Pakistan’s Karakoram Range in northern Kashmir. The climb was cut short in order to rescue another climber, during which Mortenson became lost and disorientated. Exhausted and weak, he stumbled into the village of Korphe. The village’s chief elder, the late Haji Ali, welcomed him and took him in, caring for him until he was well. During his recuperation, he recognized there was a desperate need for education, especially for girls. To show his appreciation for their hospitality he organized the funding necessary to build Korphe a school for girls. From that beginning, building schools for girls in Pakistan and later in Afghanistan turned out to be his life’s work. Teaming up with the late Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley pioneer, in 1996 they co-founded the Central Asia Institute (CAI), a foundation dedicated to building schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 1994, students at Westside Elementary School, River Falls, Wisconsin collected 62,340 pennies to help build a school in Pakistan, which became the name of CAI’s philanthropic program “Pennies for Peace.”

In recent years, Greg Mortenson has written two books, “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones to Schools,” and has taken on a hectic schedule of speaking engagements, all to promote the CAI’s mission.

According to CAI, it has built 170 schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, supported fully or partially 687 teachers, and say they have educated over 58,000 students of which 44, 000 are girls. Mortenson claims “This year alone (2011), just in Afghanistan, CAI plans and already started work to establish and build 63 to 68 more, mostly girls’ schools, based on the significant donations received in 2009-2010.”

Unfortunately, a CBS “60 Minutes” investigation charged that Greg Mortenson’s book “Three Cups of Tea” is exaggerated and fabricated; alleges that many schools CIA built don't exist or were built by others, and that CIA may have mishandled donations.

Greg Mortenson and CIA strongly dispute these accusations.

I cannot agree more with
Daniel Glick who says, 60 Minutes expose on Three Cups of Tea is weak – and wrong, and, that [he has] “no doubt he[Mortenson] has done orders of magnitude more good than harm.”

In 2009, in recognition for his humanitarian work and promotion of girl’s schools and education, Greg Mortenson received the Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan), Pakistan’s highest civilian award.

In 2009, he was deservingly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, by several bi-partisan members of U.S. Congress, and according to Norwegian odd-makers was believed to have been in a handful of finalists of the Peace prize that was awarded to President Obama on October 10, 2009.

According to a CBS News Release in 2009, the late Don Hewitt, creator of
60 Minutes,
“liked to say that 60 Minutes' success was not the best thing to happen to the small screen. Especially later in his life, he railed about how his news magazine changed television for the worse. News programs were never supposed to make money, he argued, and the minute they did, the pressure was on for news to get ratings. The quest for ratings led to more sensational topics on an increasingly larger number of broadcasts. Indeed, as soon as 60 Minutes broke the top 20 in 1977, a parade of imitators began and, at one point in the late ‘90s, nearly 30 percent of the top 20 programs were news magazines. Hewitt began to say publicly that ‘behind every news magazine there is a failed sitcom’ - the networks were using the format to cover their mistakes, not the news.”

And so, “60 Minutes” is certainly no stranger to “yellow journalism,” and there is more than enough evidence of what stirs audiences to read or view certain material, clearly illustrating that sensationalism rules over probity.

It is my fervent hope that other reputable news outlets in their pursuit for sensationalism can produce evidence of where “60 Minutes” missed the boat. After all, what news organization would not jump at the chance of proving a competitor wrong?


60 Minutes, The Program Video
Sunday, April 17, 2011

CBS News, Questions over Greg Mortenson's stories, 60 Minutes

Daniel Glick, 60 Minutes expose on Three Cups of Tea is weak – and wrong,

Photojournalist Ellen Jaskol and author Karin Ronnow, Journey of Hope, Central Asia Institute

Greg Mortenson and CAI’s responses:

Greg Mortenson’s Message to Supporters
CAI Board of Directors Statement 04/16/11
CAI Board of Directors Response to “60 Minutes” Questions
Greg Mortenson’s response to “60 Minutes” Questions

Sunday, April 10, 2011

National security is America’s Sacred Cow

In Chris Hellman's article for Tomgram he calculates “The Real U.S. National Security Budget” outlay at $1.2 to $1.3 trillion. The 2012 national security budget request is for $1.030–$1.415 trillion. While the 2011 United States federal budget request by President Obama puts federal budget expenditures at $3.82 trillion, with a deficit of $1.65 trillion.

There are national security costs that are unknown and could in reality increase these costs even more. Some of the unknowns are supplemental appropriations for defense, such as last year’s H.R. 4899, the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010, and “Top Secret America, a hidden world, growing beyond control [that] has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.” And there are contingencies such as Libya: “On the first day of strikes alone, U.S.-led forces launched 112 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, which cost about $1 million to $1.5 million apiece, from ships stationed off the Libyan coast. That totaled $112 million to $168 million.”

In reality, national security costs already add-up to greater than one-third, and possibly could end up at one-fourth to a half, of the federal budget.

Independents, democrats, and republicans alike have an egregiously disproportionate regard to funding national security, which supersedes any concern for the wellbeing of needy Americans. Homeland Security and the Pentagon are rampant with cost excesses. For example, the Navy has eleven carrier strike groups. Each group has a complement of 7,500 personnel, an aircraft carrier with an air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft, at least one cruiser, and two destroyers. As James Carroll points out in “Our misguided faith in strength, More personnel serve on just one carrier task force than the total of US foreign service officers. The familiar fact bears emphasizing: the State Department spends less than $50 billion annually, compared to the nearly trillion-dollar Pentagon — and Republicans want to cut the State Department even more.” Carroll also points out that we are “spending more than the rest of the world combined on weapons and warriors. …In fact, we outspend … China, roughly by a factor of 10.”

Bush’s “war on terror,” including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, since the 9/11 terror attacks and through 2010, have cost an estimated $1.15 trillion, according to the Congressional Research Service. Bush borrowed most of the money to fund these wars. At the same time, Bush and the republican majority cut taxes on the wealthy, pushing the middle class into poverty while bolstering America’s plutocracy. At the beginning of this year, Obama compromised with republicans to extend Bush’s tax cuts for another two years, even though they were cognizant of the fact that these tax cuts would increase the deficit by $858 billion dollars, and has become one of the deficit’s principal drivers.

This alone is proof positive that there is a lack of concern for Americans on Main Street, never mind the wellbeing of needy Americans, yet then we have Wisconsin Republican and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity,” the republican 2012 budget resolution. It is designed “to trim more than $1 trillion from the deficit over the next decade by reworking and cutting Medicaid and Medicare, defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, cutting farm subsidies, and other discretionary spending. Additionally, Ryan proposes a tax rate reduction to 25 percent for affluent individuals, corporations, and to end deductions.

Republicans say they are proposing budget cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, despite the fact that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security constitute mandatory spending. National security is necessary, but the sky is not the limit. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya fall under the category of discretionary spending, since it was America’s choice to engage in those endeavors.

And, it’s important to note that Obama’s spending plan also targets non-defense discretionary spending, cutting into programs that assist the poor, help the needy heat their homes, and expand access to graduate-level education.

Despite the fact that “A majority of Americans prefer cutting defense spending to reduce the federal deficit rather than taking money from public retirement and health programs,” to the President and congress national security spending remains sacrosanct. It’s America’s Sacred Cow.

RELATED VIDEO: Rethink Afghanistan War (Part 3): Cost of War


Jacob Weisberg, “Good Plan!” Slate:

E.J. Dionne, Jr., “The Right’s War on Moderation,” Posted on Apr 6, 2011

Jay Bookman, “The Ryan budget, Part I: Social Security,” Atlanta Journal- Constitution:

Jay Bookman, “The Ryan budget plan, Part II: Medicare,” Atlanta Journal- Constitution:

Jay Bookman, “The Ryan budget plan, Part III: More trickle-down,” Atlanta Journal- Constitution:

Wikipedia contributors, 'Military budget of the United States', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 April 2011, 15:21 UTC, [accessed 9 April 2011]

Christopher Hellman, “FY 2012 Budget Request: Detailed Numbers,” Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation:

Matthew Potter, “Despite Record Defense Spending Layoffs Starting to Mount,” Defense Procurement News:

Wikipedia contributors, 'Carrier strike group', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 March 2011, 01:19 UTC, [accessed 9 April 2011]

Dana Priest and William M Arkin, “Top Secret America,” The Washington Post:

Christopher Hellman, “The Real U.S. National Security Budget,”

James Carroll, “Our misguided faith in strength,”

Jennifer Liberto ,“Medicaid reduced by $1 trillion in GOP Plan,”

Juan Cole, “The $1 Trillion Cost of War: Rethinking Afghanistan, Pt. 3,”

Huffington Post, “Obama Budget Proposal: Cuts To Target Working Poor, Middle Class & Students (LIVE UPDATES),” HuffPost Politics:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unity of consciousness and advancements in knowledge will bring world peace

Around 475 BC, Leucippus, and his pupil Democritus developed a philosophical hypothesis of atomism, a doctrine postulating that simple, minute, indivisible, and indestructible particles were the basic components of the universe.

About 4 centuries later, in 50 BC, Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus published his epic poem “De rerum natura,” which when translated means “on the nature of things.” Considered a masterpiece of Epicurean philosophy, it portrays nature as a source of life, death, joy, peace, and terror, and describes how human beings should conduct themselves in their relationships. Lucretius conceived that the world could be understood by reason and that religion only aroused fear; that pursuing friendships over belligerence will avoid war; and that in Epicureanism lays the world’s best hope for happiness. In his poem, Leucippus also describes atoms as the building blocks of every object and living thing, and predicts an infinite universe.

Today, about 20 centuries later, from that first philosophical concept of an atom, evolving technology has made possible scientific study of sub-atomic reality. Physicists such as Amit Goswami, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, are now exploring what quantum physics tell us about the origins of the universe: the factual nature of reality rather than its conventional perception, and of life itself.

What Hawking and Mlodinow, as well as Goswami and others have come up with, so far, is that “the cosmos does not have just a single existence or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. When applied to the universe as a whole, this idea calls into question the very notion of cause and effect. But the ‘top-down’ [downwards causation] approach to cosmology they describe would say that the fact that the past takes no definite form means that we create history by observing it, rather than that history creates us. … the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature.”

If, right now, all sentient life ceased to exist, would geologic or cosmic reality continue to exist? It would not. That is because sentient life creates its own reality, a reality that can only exist within our laws of physics, biology, and chemistry, which paradoxically in itself is a result of our own creation. Our sentience, from which all phenomena are created, depends on chemical reactions to provide the sensory information that enables hearing, vision, touch, smell, and taste, as well as to form objects. Without that cause and effect, nothing would exist. Moreover, Amit Goswami says, “we become one with the neuronal images of an external object because of a strange loop circularity known as tangled hierarchy, wherein the “observer is the observed.”

The evidence clearly suggests that all sentient beings are reciprocally interconnected. We have an inherent unity of consciousness, what Amit Goswami refers to as “monistic idealism,” the “downwards causation” view that consciousness is the foundation of everything that is now or ever will be. The existence of consciousness is much like that of light: omnipresent but not visible.

Other than being curiously interesting, arousing one’s interest because of its novelty and strangeness, why are these findings important?

Foremost, it is necessary to come to an understanding that the purpose of our life is our evolution -- not just Darwinian, but also in every other sense of that word. A process of fluctuation, change and eventual transformation takes place in all creation. Before the birth of Jesus Christ, Leucippus postulated that simple, minute, indivisible, and indestructible particles were the basic components of the universe, a philosophical notion. In 1900, the discovery of quantum mechanics brought science to the scientific study of the structure and behavior of atoms and molecules. Today, Amit Goswami and others are studying the primacy of consciousness, where it is not atoms and molecules that are the basis of reality, but rather, the reality is that “consciousness is the ground of all being.” The pursuit in life should not be for material things; it is the pursuit of knowledge and unity of consciousness that will bring a better life over time through change. For, it is the lack of knowledge that has caused the world’s ills, and it is the gain of knowledge over time that is its cure.

The advancement of knowledge in science and technology, so far, has brought a more comfortable life with more conveniences for most people, while change has been slow in how humans conduct their relationships: we still cling to belligerence, violence, and war as solutions to conflict. The cause has been a worldview grounded in religious values and materialism motivated by a quest for power and wealth. But, the determination of Hawking, Mlodinow, and Goswami is that we must change our worldview if we are to progress and achieve world peace.

Achieving world peace will never come to fruition until the world understands that a pursuit of love and friendship, and embracing human values over religious, materialistic, and monetary values are the only way we will avoid war and unnecessary human conflict. Moreover, there needs to be an understanding that peace is a process, and a way of living, a way of thinking, and a way of being.

These principles originating in consciousness are our only best hope for happiness.


Amit Goswami, Center for Quantum Activism,

Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, "The Grand Design"
Bantam | 2010 | ISBN: 0553805371 | 208 pages | PDF | 10,4 MB

Peter Russell, The Spirit of Now,

Craig Hamilton, Scientific Proof of the Existence of God, an interview with Amit Goswami, EnlightenmentNext’ magazine: