Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Complexity of Language And the Tower of Babel

The Tower—Under Construction

The most extensive catalog of the world’s languages, generally perceived to be as authoritative as any, is that of “Ethnologue”, a comprehensive reference publication that catalogs all the known living languages.  Its detailed list as of 2013 sited 7,106 languages and dialects in the world today.  Of which only 230 are spoken in Europe, while 2,197 of the total are spoken in Asia.

During pre-contact times, in North America, over 300 languages were spoken. Of these, about half have died out completely.  Today (2014) about 165 indigenous languages remain; eight are spoken by as few as 10,000 people.   Nearly 75 are spoken only by a handful of older folks, and can be assumed to be on their way to extinction. While you might think this is an unusual fact about North America, in large part, due to the overwhelming pressure of European immigration over the past 500 years, it’s actually close to the norm.

The origin of the language you speak can be sub-divide into several theoretical approaches but with some underlying assumptions:

“Continuity Theories” are build on the idea that language exhibits so much complexity that one cannot imagine it simply appearing from nothing in its final form; so it must therefore have evolved from earlier pre-linguistic systems among our very ancient and primate ancestors.

“Discontinuity Theories” basically take the opposite approach — that language as a unique trait cannot compare with anything found among non-humans and must therefore have appeared fairly suddenly during the course of human evolution.

A few views see language mostly as an “Inborn Faculty” - largely genetically encoded; while other notions suggest that language is a “Cultural System” — learned through social interaction.

The “Inborn Faculty” theory may be the source for the old joke: “I would adopt that Vietnamese (etc.) child, but I can’t speak its language”; if so, the “Cultural System” certainly proves the flaw in that way of thinking.

A majority of “Linguistic Scholars” of late (2014) hold “uninterrupted flow” theories, but they vary in how they envision the actual development of language.  Among those who see language as mostly “inborn”, avoid speculating about specific forerunners in nonhuman primates (such as monkeys & apes); stressing simply that the language faculty must have evolved in the usual gradualist way over thousands of years.  Others in this intellectual camp hold that language evolved not from primate communication but from primate cognition / reasoning, which is much more complex.

Primates encompass 300 or more species; it’s the third most diverse order of mammals, after rodents and bats so why do humans have around 7,000 distinct languages while others apparently have none?  A good question, but a question none the less, that’s without a good answer.  In their efforts to explain the multitude of languages, nonspiritual theories have pretty much come up empty. You could say they have been upstaged by the biblical narrative, which credits God with the gift of language as well as the vast diversity of different language families.

Biblical history indicates that the diversity of language emerged from the area of “a plain in the land of Shinar.”   You may not know that the Land of Shinar was once a general geographic term for what is today Iraq, known in ancient times as Mesopotamia.   In this region, two of the greatest of ancient empires, Assyria and Babylon, were located.   Shinar you see is mentioned very early in Bible History, it being the location of the famous “Tower of Babel” that was constructed their many years after the Great Flood.

You probably already know how the story goes: Long, long ago many, many generations after Noah and his Ark survived the Great Flood; all the folks of earth spoke the same language.   As fate would have it, an unusually large number of these folks saw fit to travel to a plain in the Middle East. Turns out that many a traveler decided to settle down right there, in large part because most everyone got along with each other so well; this in turn helped stimulate their skills for building tall buildings and just generally helped with expanding the city.

Then one afternoon during a scheduled break from work they said to one another, “Let’s build a city and a tower, and let’s make a name for ourselves, so we won’t be scattered around the whole earth.”  So, wouldn’t you know it for the next 47 years they toiled mightily six days a week trying to construct a tower designed for worshiping the sun, moon and the stars!

What these ancient builders probably didn’t realize was that this action was a direct refusal to obey God’s command to go out and fill the earth. To add insult to injury, the tower’s design was for worshiping God’s own creations instead of the Lord Himself.

In those days it was pretty common for the Lord from time to time to have a little “look see” at the city, and especially check-out the tower these people were building; after all, a lot of folks had started insisting that the tower when finished would be nothing short of a Stairway to Heaven; which some say led to the song with the same name by Led Zeppelin in late 1971 (Click Here to have a listen).

Yep, the Lord he was “pissed”; he said, “Behold, the people are organizing as one group and since they all speak the same language, nothing they imagine to do will be held back from them. Let us go down and confuse their language, so that they cannot understand each other’s speech.” So the Lord mixed up their language, which caused them to stop building the tower and quit expanding the city.  

That’s how the name of that city ended up being called “Babel”; you see Babel, or ancient Babylon, some 65 miles south of modern day Baghdad, Iraq actually means confusion; so right there in down town Babel the Lord multiplied language on the earth, which resulted in causing the surviving people to scatter everywhere, which is exactly what the Lord wanted for some reason.

It depends upon who tells the story but some versions say that the Lord was so angry that day that he destroyed the Tower, for example in The Book of Jubilees, which is occasionally called “Lesser Genesis”, (an ancient Jewish religious work composed of 50 chapters) . . .  in its version the tower had parallel walls, was built with bricks of clay, and is described as being 5,433 cubits and 2 palms, or 2,484 m (8,150 ft.) tall just before it was destroyed — that’s about 1.6 miles high.

Before you get all “google eyed” about the reported height of the tower, you might like to know that simple elementary arithmetic shows that a tower with parallel walls could only have been built to a height of 1.3 miles before the bricks at the bottom were crushed.  It certainly seems that this little factoid may have been embellished a good bit over the years and naturally, the Biblical record does not indicate whether ruins of the Tower still exist, but if they did, they would be located in what is now Iraq near modern day Baghdad.

In any event the story of the tower only offers an explanation as to why the various cultures of the world speak so many diverse languages.  The same folks who relate the Tower of Babel story will tell you that the all inclusive language spoken by everyone on Earth prior to the “confusion event” was simply a result of creation. 

Regardless, a conclusive scientific account of how and when mankind developed the ability to verbally communicate with and to each other and why so much diversity exists between the many languages used may never be forthcoming.

Sources . . .

Sunday, October 5, 2014

U S Debt & Income Taxes . . . Can They be Fixed? or is it to Late!

Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes, right? Right!  But did you know that has not always the case in the U S, except the death part, that is.  You see, the United States didnt impose a personal income tax until 1861; in an effort to pay for the cost of the Civil War.

The first income tax was a flat tax of 3% on anyone making over $800 annually. This was repealed and replaced a year later with a “scaled tax” of 3% on incomes between 600 and 10,000 Dollars, and 5% on all incomes higher than 10,000 Dollars; it also had a built-in termination date: 1866.    Commonly called the INCOME TAX of 1864; it was 4 pages long.

Truth be told, Americans have always resented taxes, as was evidenced by the 1773 “Boston Tea Party” which was an act of protest by a group of angry “Indians” (who were really Colonists in costume) against Great Britain for the implementation of the Tea Act which resulted in the dumping of many chests of tea into Boston Harbor. You might say the Brits reacted harshly, because the conflict escalated to war in 1775. But actually, aversions to taxation in the United States really begin with the protests against British tax policies back in the 1760’s.  More recently, one need only look at the current (2014) National debt which is close to 18 Trillion Dollars to conclude that Americans hate paying taxes.

So how on earth did the early American Government pay its bills? While, modern America can’t or just won’t.  Well, in 1776, the new US Congress sought to raise money by way of loans from wealthy Colonists with the promise to repay the “bonds” after the war. They were in fact redeemed in 1791 at face value, but the scheme raised little money because Americans of the era had little hard money (gold and silver) on hand, and to make matters worse, many of the rich merchants were supporters of the British Crown. To some extent though, the independent nation did manage to collect just enough taxes on imports (“tariffs”), whiskey, and (for a while) even on glass windows to just get by.

In addition, France was secretly supplying the Americans with money, gunpowder and munitions in order to weaken its arch enemy, Great Britain; that’s right, France!  When the French officially entered the war in 1778, the subsidies continued, and the government of France, as well as bankers in Paris and Amsterdam loaned large sums to the American war effort. Yep, these loans were repaid in full but not until the 1790’s; but keep in mind that debt was paid in full long before the implementation if the first American Income Tax of 1864.

The Revolutionary War effort’s cost ended up being in the neighborhood of 101 Million Dollars and that’s in 1776 Dollars.  If the Revolutionary War’s cost seems excessive, just compare that price tag to the 111 Billion Dollars America spent on the war in Vietnam from 1965 to 1975 and if sounds like a real bargain.

Now think about this: In federal fiscal year 2011 alone (October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011), the government collected $2.3 trillion in revenues, which were comprised of:
47% individual income taxes
36% social insurance withholdings (SS benefits / FICA “tax”, etc.)
8% corporate income taxes
3% excise taxes
1% Custom Duties / Tariffs
0.3% Estate and Gift Taxes
4% Miscellaneous Receipts

The 2010 U S Census data combined with the most recent national population estimates place the current U S population at just over 319 Million (319,020,000) with a birth every 8 seconds, one death every 13 seconds, one international migrant (net) every 40 seconds which gives the U S a Net gain of one person every 15 seconds; still this relatively small group of Americans possess the largest national economy on earth, even though it’s only 4.43% of the world’s population. Comparatively speaking, the world population reached 7 Billion in 2012 and the new projections indicate that 8 Billion will be reached by 2025.

As for taxpayers in the U S, the IRS says that most of the approximately 243 million adults in the United States pay some type of federal tax.  But they contend that only about 122 million Americans pay Federal Income Tax. So it may come as somewhat of a surprise to learn that the IRS now collects more than 2.4 trillion Dollars from individual Tax Returns.   {Those figures are difficult for many of us to comprehend; so here’s a visual: A Trillion is One Million times One Million (1,000,000 x 1,000,000 = 1,000,000,000,000); that’s with 12 zero’s!}  Along about now you should probably also know many tax experts believe that over 46 percent of U.S. households do not pay federal income taxes at all; that’d be sayyy… 46% of 122,000,000 taxpayers  or 56,120,000 individuals (122,000,000 x 46%) who in theory aught to be taxpayers too . . . Considering this little known fact, who can justifiably argue that the current Income Tax system isn’t broken!

Anyway, it took an Amendment to the U S Constitution (the 16th) in 1913 before an enforced, annual income tax was established.  As fate would have it, with the Amendments passing— growth, corruption and far too often, abuse of individual rights, have become the new “Gold Standard” for the IRS. 

It doesn’t take rocket science to realize that Individual and Social Insurance Taxes are a necessity in todays America; but Tariff proceeds fall well short of the basic need. Bottom line: When government spends more than it collects in revenues, the resulting debt is an undue burden on tomorrow’s workers and taxpayers. This obvious drain can manifest in the form of higher taxes, fewer government benefits, reduced economic growth, inflation, or multiple combinations of such consequences.

Never the less it seems clear that the IRS’s taxing method has become far too complicated and to easily abused by those at each end of the economic spectrum.  For example in August 2011, the New York Times published an “opinion editorial” written by Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who claimed that he pays a lower portion of his income in federal taxes than anyone in his office.  On the opposite end: Did you know the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is money the federal government provides to low income working people to help them make ends meet? Yep, the EITC is managed by the IRS, and you dont have to owe or pay any federal income taxes to qualify for this handout. To get the credit, all you need to do is file a tax return and specifically claim the EITC.  Guess what?  Abuse is not uncommon.

Perhaps a flat ratescaled tax similar to the one mentioned in the second paragraph above is a sensible approach for fixing todays IRS; but that was way back in the 1860’s and you gotta figure, comparatively speaking, annual income was much lower back then. Keep in mind that the average income today (before taxes) is just a few dollars north of $63,000.00.  So, today, a Flat Rate Federal Sales Tax is perhaps the most practical approach.  An excellent example for promoting such a tax collecting system would be when the friendly neighborhood drug dealer that so many “big spenders” have on “speed dial”, buys that “really cool ride”; then he’ll pay Federal taxes too.

Currently, the individual income tax is structured to be progressive; in other words the effective tax rate increases as an individual’s income increases. In 2014, for example, the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers faced an average tax rate of a negative 4.5 percent (think EITC’s), which is essentially a tax subsidy; while the top 1 percent of taxpayers faced an average tax rate of 24.6 percent.  In any event, most tax experts agree that the average Federal Tax rate is a bit more than 11.5%.

There’s another “big deduction” though that must be worked into the equation; some folks simply call it social insurance “taxes” which are reserved for Social Security benefits / FICA withholdings.  This “bad boy” costs the average tax payer in the neighborhood of 12.5%; which is applied to earnings all the way up to 117,000 Dollars each year, and then it drops way down to 0%.

So if you’re like most of us, you gotta figure that Uncle Sam collects around 24% of the average earners income ($63,000.00), even though you could say that the FICA withholdings are, shall we say, placed in a “lay-away plan”. All of the other taxing methods (Excise, Tariffs, etc. – totaling about $384 Billion), are comparatively small sources of federal income in todays economy.

2.4 Trillion Dollars, remember that figure? Yep that’s how much money the U S Government generally collects from Individual and Corporate Income Taxes, Tariffs, Excise Taxes, Estate and Gift Taxes, etc. these days when combined. 

63,000.00 Dollars equals the average taxpayer’s annual income. By examining the “Where does the money go” chart depicted above we can see that that said taxpayer averages spending a bit more than $49,600.00 of the $63,000.00; a net gain (in theory at least) of $13,400.00 each year; right?  Wrong!  If you factor in 24% Withholdings for FICA and Individual Income Taxes, that same taxpayer should have surrendered a minimum of $15,100.00 to the IRS; well thank goodness for all those complicated exemptions!  But in most cases, the poor guy most likely has to pay State Income Taxes too, so he’s probably gonna end-up in the “red” anyway.  Toss in a city / county tax and a payroll tax, and he’s definitely “underwater”!

So what’s “Mr. Taxpayer” to do?  First he’ll waste no time in cutting back on Entertainment and Contributions to his favorite charity.  If that don’t fix things, there’s always the option to choose abstinence from Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverages and perhaps the implementation of a “work related miles only” policy on what was originally planned to be exclusively the “family” Car.  If he has two automobiles (gods forbid), hopefully only one is a “gas guzzler”, cause one of the two has to go.  If all else fails, he will simply teach his little family of 2.5 to survive without proper Health Care or alternatively, he could give it all up and simply starve.

On the national front in fiscal year 2015, the federal government is projected to spend around 3.9 Trillion Dollars.  We already know the IRS anticipates collecting somewhere near 2.4 trillion Dollars. The chart below will give you a simplified idea as to how that money is spent:

Wait! Something’s wrong here.  Didn’t that describe a situation wherein the U S Government pays out more than it takes in?  . . . That was 3.9 Trillion Dollars spent; 2.4 Trillion Dollars received.  After double checking the sources, turns out they’re right.  So just like “Mr. Taxpayer” mentioned hereinabove, Uncle Sam’s over spending too. Simple math makes the situation crystal clear, good ol’ Uncle Sam is 1.5 Trillion Dollars a year in the red (3.9 minus 2.4 = 1.5).  He’s probably been borrowing the “shortfall” somewhere from the looks of the annual Interest payment; if you don’t agree, just look at the Nations multi-Trillion Dollar debt – and you can bet it’s been going on for a good while.

So what’s “Uncle Sam” to do? First thing, he must do (as opposed to “should do”) is look into Discretionary Spending and see what part of that 29% can be eliminated or trimmed; sadly, a quick math calculation with a handy pocket calculator shows that cutting all Discretionary Spending (1.13 Trillion Dollars) is not enough.  You know, Discretionary spending is that part of the U.S. Federal Budget that is supposed to be negotiated between the President and the U S Congress every year as part of the budget process.  Which means it can be changed, enlarged or even (theoretically) reduced to zero, but only if Congress so desires. That’s because the Constitution gives Congress the power to raise and spend money for the federal government. You see, the President’s budget is only a recommendation, or a depiction of his priorities.  Regardless, it’s obvious none of them are doing their job – so next election; why not fire ‘em all.

First though, Sam should be aware that the Discretionary budget does not include Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These are in the Mandatory budget segment. However Discretionary Spending includes programs like Defense Spending (70% of the discretionary budget), Homeland Security, NASA, Foreign Aid, The Veterans Administration, Transportation, and Education to name but a few. Point being some of them may be worth saving if at all possible.

Here’s a few of the typical “whipping boys” that generally come to mind when budget cuts are discussed:

One: The U.S. spends 20.1 Billion Dollars a year on foreign aid. Truth is, even if all of this was cut, that would not do much toward reducing America’s National debt, but then, it wouldn’t hurt anything either.
Two: The U.S. military budget ($738.8 billion in 2014) is larger than the next 10 largest spenders combined. The second biggest spender, China, only paid out $166 Billion, on the other hand our old adversary, Russia, spent $90.78 Billion; while our chief ally, The United Kingdom, invested $60.8 Billion in defense which is less than 10% of what the U.S. spent in 2014.
Two-A: The costs of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan equals $4.4 Trillion Dollars from 2001 through fiscal year 2014 (over 338 Billion a year); money & lives forever lostPlus the U S has already spent nearly $160 billion for both medical care and disability benefits for the more than two million veterans of these wars.
Three: Every hour, of every day, U S taxpayers are paying 10.17 Million Dollars for the Cost of War in Afghanistan. If we assume there’s 24 hours in the “Afghan” day that computes to more than 244 Million Dollars per day or a little north of 8.9 Billion Dollars per year.
Four: U.S. military operations targeting Islamic State militants (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria continues to cost taxpayers between $7 and $10 Million Dollars each day. That’s an average of 8.5 Million per day, if the U S continues at the current rate; expect that cost to exceed 310 Billion Dollars per year ($310,500,000,000.00).

On the brighter side, it appears that Edwin Starr was right in June of 1970 when his musical single, “War”, became a runaway hit; it held the #1 position on the Billboard Pop Singles chart for three weeks, in August and September of 1970. The song’s power was confirmed yet again when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s version made the U.S. Top 10 in 1986.

War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! – So goes the lyrics of the classic.

Then there’s number Five: In 2015, Mandatory Spending is estimated to be 2.45 Trillion Dollars; yep, that’s a new record.  The bad news is that this slice of the pie includes the “untouchables” like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid        . . . Here's the breakdown / itemization:

Social Security - $896 Billion
Medicare - $526 Billion
Medicaid - $336 Billion
Federal Employee Retirement - $139 Billion
Veterans Pensions - $79 Billion
SNAP (Food Stamps) - $78 Billion
Earned Income Tax Credit - $58 Billion
Supplemental Income to disabled children and adults - $56 Billion
National Highways - $43 Billion
Child Tax Credit - $22 Billion
State Child Nutrition - $21 Billion
TANF (welfare) - $17 Billion
Veterans Education - $14 Billion
Mass Transit - $12 Billion
CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) - $11 Billion
Farm Subsidies - $11 Billion
Crime Victims Fund - $8 Billion
Foster Care - $7 Billion
TARP (home loan modification program) - $6 Billion
All other mandatory programs - $76 Billion.                                                                                           
The other bad news is that if Congress cut all Foreign Aid, reduced Military Spending to a more reasonable or tolerable number (say, a mere 2 Billion Dollars), and bailed out of all foreign wars or “Police Actions” such as items 1 through 4, listed above, America would still fall short of balancing the budget or reducing the more than 17 Trillion Dollar National debt.

The fact of the matter is that in all likelihood, Mandatory Spending (see itemized in the color red above) will have to be reduced by a minimum of 25% (612 Billion Dollars) plus the elimination of many Discretionary budget items.

If by some major miracle, the U S Congress finally recognizes the detrimental nature of continually maintaining the status-quo (operating in the “Red”) and makes the necessary corrections; they should also overhaul the IRS – maybe they’ll eliminate it altogether and replace it with a National Sales Tax.

Here’s why a Sales Tax might work: Last year, Americans spent 10 Trillion Dollars shopping; not including money spent on food, child care, medicines, housing, et cetera—items that should not be covered by a “new” national sales tax.  The reductions or “cut-backs” referenced hereinabove total 1.489 Trillion Dollars (877 Billion Discretionary; 612 Billion Mandatory).  

Keep in mind that Fiscal Year 2015 requires 3.9 Trillion Dollars, less the above mentioned “cut-backs” (1.489 Trillion Dollars); leaving the need for an additional 2.411 Trillion Dollars.  


Start with the “windfall” of 384 Billion Dollars the government derives from Excise Taxes, Tariffs, Corporate Income Taxes, etc.
Revised Fiscal Budget Requirement . . . <2.411> Trillion Dollars (a negative number)
“Windfall” tax earnings . . .                    +0.384 Billion Dollars (a positive number)
Sales Tax Receipts Needed to Balance  <2.027> Trillion Dollars . . .

Using the combined rate of the current withholding average, referenced several paragraphs above (11.5% + 12.5%; totaling 24%): 10 Trillion Dollars x 24% =   +2.400 Trillion Dollars which generates a surplus of 373 Billion Dollars that could be applied to the National debt; not much, but it’s a start in the right direction!   Yea, Yea, Yea, a 24% sales tax sounds really excessive but you gotta figure delaying the corrective measure will only make maters worse.  The alternative is: it’s already too late!

By the way, just for fun, some time before submitting your next “current-day” tax return, see if you can calculate what you would’ve owed in 1864. Remember: 3% on incomes between 600 and 10,000 Dollars per year, and 5% on all incomes higher than 10,000 Dollars per year.  You’ll probably be surprised.


Monday, September 15, 2014

The Age of Aquarius

When does the Age of Aquarius really begin? And exactly what is the Age of Aquarius anyway?   If you think of the Age of Aquarius as being part of the school of astronomy, you’re wrong.  Actually it’s an astrological age, which occurs because of the constant motion of the Earth known as the “precession of the equinoxes”, which, for example, causes the identity of the pole star to change over time. The cycle of precession lasts a really long time (25,800 years), and there are twelve (12) constellations or “signs” of the Zodiac. Hence, about every 2,150 years (25,800 ÷ 12), the sun’s position at the time of the March, or vernal, equinox moves in front of a new Zodiac constellation.   So the Age of Aquarius begins when the March equinox point moves out of the constellation of Pisces and into the constellation of Aquarius.   But when will that happen? Truth is there’s no conclusive proof. Yep, there are several interpretations, all with different answers to this often-asked query.

If you insist on an astronomical perspective, you’d have to accept the point of view of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) – which in the 20th century took it upon themselves to officially name and define all things astronomical; you see, they created official constellation boundaries way back in 1930 (all 12 of them). According to the IAU’s perspective, the beginning of the Age of Aquarius is based upon their own constellation boundaries, but New Age practitioners might or might not choose to agree with IAU’s computations.

According to a renowned Belgian astronomer and mathematical wizard who goes by “Jean Meeus”, who by the way does stand by IAU’s definitions, Earth’s sun at the March equinox passed from being in front of the constellation Aries and to being in front of the constellation Pisces in 68 B.C.  So looking ahead (again according to Jean Meeus), the March equinox will cross over into the constellation Aquarius in 2597 A.D.; so if your reading this in the 21st century, it’s not likely you’ll live to see the Age of Aquarius.

It gets even more completed because the constellations as defined by the IAU are different sizes. Astrologers on the other hand like to divide the Zodiac into twelve equal sections, more often than not.

Let’s just suppose you do equalize the size of the signs of the Zodiac, you still need to consider when the Age of Pisces started to be able to know when the Age of Aquarius begins because it is universally accepted that the Age of Pisces comes just before the Age of Aquarius. Unfortunately, there’s no firm consensus among astrologers as to when the Age of Pisces really began, either. Consequently there’s no set accord as to when the Age of Aquarius begins.

In The Book of World Horoscopes, English author Nicholas Campion, who is also a noted historian of astrology and cultural astronomy, suggests that approximated dates for entering the Age of Aquarius range from 1447 AD to 3597 AD. He also reviewed published material on the subject, from other astrological sources. He says that most writers assert that the Age of Aquarius arrived in the 20th century with 29 claims and the 24th century comes in second with 12 claims.

Then again, some astrologers are more specific, they say the Age of Aquarius actually began as recently as 2012. That’s because they believe the star “Regulus” located in the Leo constellation marked the ancient border between the constellations Leo and Cancer. Almost everyone knows that this star (being among the brightest in the night sky) moved to within 30 degrees of the September equinox point in 2012, meaning that Regulus left the sign Leo to enter the sign Virgo in that year.  To arrive at this conclusion you are presuming equal-sized constellations are and have always been the case; that assumption places the border of the constellations Pisces and Aquarius at 150 degrees west of Regulus on the March equinox of that year. So you can clearly see when using this formula, the Age of Aquarius began in 2012.

The Age of Aquarius in the U.S. is generally associated with free love and the hippies of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The arrival of the Aquarian age has historically been associated with peace, harmony, understanding, sympathy, free love and abounding trust.

That brings us to the 1967 (off Broadway) hit musical Hair, with its opening song  Aquarius, by a musical group called the 5th Dimension. You may remember the song opened with the lines:

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius

These days it’s hard to imagine how Hair affected the average person when it opened on Broadway in 1968. It ran for 1,750 performances on Broadway and 1,997 performances in London, with coinciding productions in cities across the United States and Europe; and too, don’t forget the accompanying recordings (the original Broadway cast recording sold three million copies).  Practically single-handedly during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, this Broadway musical brought the Aquarian Age concept into the forefront of popular culture. Click Here to view the musical video; it’s not the original, but it’s an excellent production.

In view of recent world events, it seems quite preposterous to suggest that the Age of Aquarius arrived in 2012, much less in 1967 when the Broadway musical Hair was the rage.  Just think ever so briefly of ISIS and the Vietnam War and you too will arrive at this unfortunate line of thought.

In any event, the lyrics of the song were based on the astrological belief that the world would soon be entering the “Age of Aquarius”, an age of love, light, and humanity. The exact circumstances for the change are “When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars.” It was presumed this change would occur near the end of the 20th century.

Sources . . .                                                            

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Land of Canaan . . . (Before the Jewish Invasion):

Palestine (Below)

You may be surprised to learn that for the most part ancient history is not relevant to the modern-day conflict over the “Holy Land”.   However there is a common misperception that the Israeli – Arab conflict has gone on ‘for centuries’ or even millennia and that Israel stands alone in her struggle to survive.  

So, a little historical background is probably a good idea.

The people of Israel (also called the “Jewish People”) trace their origin to Abraham, who according to Biblical history established the belief that there is only one God; who is the creator of the universe.   Abraham, his son Yitshak (Isaac), and his grandson Jacob (Israel), are denoted as being the patriarchs of the Israeli people.  For this reason most of us often perceive folks that call themselves “Jewish” (especially those in Palestine) to have deep religious bonds.

Before the Hebrews / Jews first migrated to Canaan sometime after 1800 BC (you’ll likely recall this celebrated event as is depicted in the 1956 motion picture, The Ten Commandments, based upon the exploits described in the Book of Exodus of The Holly Bible), the land of Canaan or modern day Palestine was occupied by Canaanites.   In the early days (3000BC – 1100BC) the Canaanite civilization covered the territory that is modern day Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon, and a large part of both Syria and Jordan. 

According to the Book of Exodus, after 40 years of wandering around in the Sinai Desert, Moses led the Hebrews / Jews to the Land which would become Israel; yep, wouldn’t you know it, the very same land promised by God himself to the descendants of the Jewish patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (See: Genesis 17:8).

By 1300BC the children of Abraham had created a nation, destined to be conquered by Rome in 63BC. You could say the original Jewish state didn’t come to an end until 70AD though, when the Romans begin to actively drive many of the Jews from the homes they had lived in for several hundred years.

Some time latter, Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonian (modern day Iraq) deported the Judean’s (the southernmost of the three traditional divisions of ancient Palestine; the other two were Galilee in the north and Samaria in the center) in 597BC and 586BC, but he did allow them to remain in a unified community, in Babylon. Another group of Judean’s fled to Egypt, where they settled in the Nile delta. From 597BC onwards, there were three distinct groups of Hebrews: a group in Babylon and other parts of the Middle East, a small group in Judaea, and a third group in Egypt.  For this reason, 597BC, is considered the beginning date of the “Jewish Displacement”.

Bet you non-Muslims didnt know that the religion of Islam has been present since the time of the prophet Adam.   Muslims (those of the Islamic faith) also believe that the ancient Jews: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, among others, were all Islamic prophets, and they have equal footing in the Qur’an; that makes Muhammad the last Muslim prophet but he’s special because he is credited with unifying Arabia into a single religious community under Islam.  By the way, the term “Muslim” is an Arabic word meaning “one who submits to God”, which suggests strong religious ties. So two (2) religious groups in the same area is bound to lead to little or no good.

It may come as a small surprise to learn that it wasn’t until 638AD that the the Arab Islamic Empire gained control of the Palestine region and according to one estimate, the Jews still numbered somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 living, breathing souls in the Palestine region.   

Regardless, after the Arab conquest, the majority of the population (including many Jews) became “Arabized” in both culture and language; many also adopted the new faith of Islam, perhaps in large part due to the practice the Muslims adopted of banning the construction of new Jewish synagogues and the establishment of the general understanding that “the only good Jew was a dead Jew”. In any event, various Muslim dynasties maintained “law & order” in Palestine until the first of the seven Christian Religious Crusades took control in 1099.   

Palestine was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 and remained under the rule of the Turks until after World War I.  Towards the end of WWI, the Turks were defeated by the British forces.  In the peace talks that followed, parts of the Ottoman Empire were handed over to the French to control and other parts were handed over to the British – which included Palestine.  

Britain governed this area under a League of Nations mandate from 1920 to 1948. 

To the Arab population who lived there, it was their homeland; it had been promised to them by the Allies for help in defeating the Turks during WWI; surprise, surprise, the British claimed the agreement gave no such promise.

To make matters worse, the same area of land had also been promised to the Jews (at least as they had interpreted it) in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which led the Jewish community in Britain and America into believing that Great Britain would surely support the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East; so after 1920, many Jews migrated to the Palestine area and lived among the far more numerous Arabs. During this time, the area was ruled by the British and both Arabs and Jews appeared to live together in some form of harmony, but only in the sense that both tolerated the existence of the other. There were problems in 1921 but between that year and 1928, the situation appeared to have stabilized.

You could say that the dilemma or problems arising after the war for the Palestine region was “perceived beliefs”.   You see, since the Arabs had joined the Allies to fight the Turks during WWI so they convinced themselves that they were due to be given what the Arabs believed was to be their home-land after the war was over.

On the other hand, and clashing with this perception, was the belief among all Jews that the Balfour Declaration of 1917 assured them the same piece of territory. And then too, God himself had promised the land to them in years past.

In August 1929, relations between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine broke down, spawning real violence. The focal point of this discontent was the city of Jerusalem, which naturally has strong religious ties to each group, but the primary cause of trouble was the increased influx of Jews who had immigrated to Palestine. You see, the number of Jews in the region had doubled in ten years and yes, to make matters worse, the city of Jerusalem had major religious (see previous Post) significance for both Arabs and Jews.

The violence that occurred in August of 1929 did not deter Jews from going to Palestine as you might think. Fact is, records show for example that in 1931 alone 4,075 Jews immigrated to the region. In 1935, the influx was an additional 61,854. Arab leaders figured that by the 1940’s there would be more Jews in Palestine than Arabs and that their power in the region would be squelched on a simple numerical basis.

In May of 1936, more violence occurred and the British “restored” law and order by using military force, but not without thirty-four of their soldiers being killed in the process along with an untold number of Arabs and Jews.  It came as little surprise when the violence did not stop; in fact, it only got worse.

For the Arabs there were two enemies – the Jews and the British authorities based in Palestine. And for the Jews there were also two enemies – the Arabs and the British.

Ultimately, the British were pushed into the middle of a conflict they clearly had little control over perhaps because the two other sides involved were so driven by their own beliefs or perceptions.   In an attempt to end the violence, the British put a quota on the number of Jews who could enter Palestine in any given year. They hoped to appease the Arabs with this action but from the Arab’s point of view they were siding with the Jews by recognizing that Jews could enter Palestine in the first place. To add insult to injury, the Jews were angry with the British because they were restricting immigration.

So the British found themselves under attack by both the Jews and the Arabs. The Arabs attacked because they believed that the British had failed to keep their word for the “promised homeland” after WWI; plus they believed that the British were not keeping the Jewish quotas in place as they did little to stop illegal landings into Palestine made by the Jews.

Then too, the Jews attacked the British authorities in Palestine because of the immigration quota which they believed was grossly unfair along with the fact that the British had also imposed restrictions on the amount of land Jews could buy in Palestine.

An uneasy truce occurred during WWII as hostilities seemed to cease. This truce, however, was only temporary.  As fate would have it, many Jews had fought for the Allies during the Second World War and had developed expert military talents. So guess what?   Shortly after the war ended in 1945, these same skills were used in; you guessed it, acts of terrorism!

Completely unable to influence ongoing events in Palestine, the British you could say were looking for a way out. So in 1947, when the newly formed United Nations accepted the idea to partition [Resolution 181(II)] Palestine into three sections: An Arab state, a Jewish state and the City of Jerusalem.  Yep, you guessed right, with this United Nations proposal on the table, the British withdrew from the region on May 14th 1948; probably before the ink dried on the Partition Plan.

Almost immediately, Israel was attacked by surrounding Arab nations (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) in a war that lasted from May 1948 to January 1949. The result of the war was not particularly favorable to the Arab Palestinians: Around 750,000 Palestinian Arabs had fled or were expelled from their homes, out of approximately 1,200,000 Arabs who had been living in Palestine.

Today, many Palestinian Arabs continue to refuse to recognize Israel and it has become the turn of the Israeli government itself to suffer from terrorist attacks when fanatics from the Palestinian Arabs community attacked Israel almost routinely.

The bottom line: To the Palestinian Arabs, the area the Jews call Israel, will always be Palestine. To the Jews it is Israel. There have been very few years of peace in the region since May of 1948.

That’s a very brief account of the events that have led to the deadly quagmire we currently see in the Middle East, particularly in the regions of Gaza, The West Bank, and all of Israel. Perhaps the only “saving grace” issue in the ongoing conflict is simply that the typical Arab Palestinian does not necessarily believe the region is some sacred gift from Allah.   

Although the recent Arab terror tactics of offering up innocent men, women, and children as “sacrificial lambs” in an obvious effort to taint the “defensive” / “offensive” (depending on if you are Jewish or Arabic) efforts of the Israelis, leaves most of the civilized world community in disgust; most Americans would probably be very surprised and seriously disenchanted if they knew that:

Ø Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $121 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance.
Ø Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance.
Ø Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers as well.
Ø U.S. assistance earmarked for Israel is generally delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other recipients normally receive aid in installments, and Israel (as is also the case with Egypt) is permitted to use cash flow financing for its U.S. arms purchases.
Ø Receiving U.S. State Department-administered foreign assistance, Israel also receives funds from annual defense appropriations bills for rocket and missile defense programs.
Ø Israel pursues some of those programs jointly with the United States.
Ø In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package for the period from 2009 to 2018.    During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Obama pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress.
Ø The 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-76) provides the President’s full $3.1 billion request for Israel.   In addition, it provides another $504 million in funding for research, development, and production of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system ($235 million) and of the joint U.S.-Israel missile defense systems David’s Sling ($149.7 million), the Arrow improvement program (or Arrow II, $44.3 million), and Arrow III ($74.7 million).
Ø For 2015, the Administration is requesting $3.1 billion in military funding to Israel and $10 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance. The Missile Defense Agency’s 2015 request for joint U.S. - Israeli programs is $96.8 million. The Obama Administration also is requesting $175.9 million for Iron Dome.
Ø Finally and in summation: The U.S. provides Israel $8.5 million in military aid each day!

You can’t put it much better than this:

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli citizen a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.
- John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

When taking into account the state of the US economy, one should perhaps wonder how much longer the Israeli Lobby can managed to keep the Washington “money spout” open so completely. Or in the alternative, what will happen in Palestine when America’s “money well” goes dry.  Since Israel now ranks 50th  in economic power, among the 196 nations of the world, probably nothing new.