Memes & Mysteries: Story of the Federal Reserve Audit

by talkbackty on Nov 27, 2011

Memes are ideas; for all intents and purposes at least. I'm simplifying an incredibly interesting and deep field of study, however, for my purposes, a meme is an idea. An idea that can spread throughout a population both vertically (from parent to child) or, and more importantly, horizontally (from person to person). Even if you're not familiar with the terminology, you are familiar with the concept:

Rebecca Black's Friday. YouTube videos of pandas sneezing. All that junk email you keep getting from semi-distant family members insisting that the President is a Muslim, or a communist, or the anti-Christ Those are all memes. They are silly or stupid memes, but at the end of the day, they are ideas that spread throughout a culture and end up affecting all of us.

Those are silly memes. Ones that do not really matter but make for an easy example. Occupy Wall Street is a meme. So was the Tea Party movement. Lack of trust in our government is a meme; it is always present in some shape or form throughout society yet that particular meme really began to spread virally in the late 1960's and early 70's. (Forgive my US centric focus, international readers)

The concept of memes is really fascinating to me. Richard Dawkins coined the phrase in his book The Selfish Gene where he goes into great detail discussing the biological similarities of memes.

What I am most interested in is why certain ideas do not take off. Why do some memes come and go quickly, seemingly intoxicating the entire world for a brief moment and then instantly fading into the abyss? While other memes, like a distrust of government, spread until they infect every possible person.

Recently, I've begun to talk more and more about the partial audit of the Federal Reserve in my daily life. This is due to the fact that last week was Thanksgiving and I spent the majority of time with a family that has a knack for talking, and partly due to the fact that I'm no longer completely surrounded by high school freshman. You're great kids, but your understanding of governmental organizations and international economics is seriously lacking.

I mentioned the audit briefly in my summary of Occupy Wall Street a few weeks ago. To summarize:

In mid-2011 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released their report after a partial audit of the Federal Reserve. This was the first audit, of any kind, of the Fed since the 1950s. The report found that over a period of three years (Jul 2007-Dec 2010) the Fed had authorized $16.1 trillion- yes, with a "t"- in secret loans to banks and financial institutions, both foreign and domestic. It also discovered and outlined numerous problems with the personnel serving on the Board of the Fed while also occupying high-ranking positions in the financial sector. For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed's board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed.

These unregulated, unmandated loans were given at 0% interest to nations and corporations with absolutely no representatives from the United States Congress having approved them, at least publicly. There were no votes or discussions. This is entirely separate from the TARP bailouts. Speaking of, the TARP bailouts cost about $800 billion. I'm sure you remember all the political bantering and news commentators commenting oh so vigorously when the TARP bill was being debated in Congress. Yet, all the while the Federal Reserve, mainly through the New York branch, was giving out $16 trillion in loans.
GAO Report page 131

Now personally, I don't think you could write a better story if you were James Patterson. Big Whig, old boys club gives out trillions of dollars to their 1% buddies all while the nation at large goes through the worst recession since the Great Depression and unemployment hangs around ten percent. It is a story made for the movies, with evil corporations, massive lies and insane corruption.

Those numbers are in Billions. So 16 thousand...billions.
Yet, no one is talking about it. As I attempted to explain to my father over Thanksgiving dinner his main response was, "That doesn't make sense. I would have heard about it." He's not whistling dixie either, he reads and watches a lot of news. Every day he checks his websites and every night he flips between FOX and MSNBC.

So I did some digging, complete with pictures for your entertainment.

Fox News.



Nothing. Not one story about the audit of the Federal Reserve. If you type in "partial audit of the federal reserve" into Google there is nothing but blogs reporting on the issue. No major network coverage at all. And I can't explain why. The story is too good, the meme has too much potential, yet I have absolutely no idea why nobody is talking about this.

This is what an insane person must feel like. As if the entire world can't see a plain truth sitting right in front of them. It's baffling and confusing. $16 trillion dollars is more than our debt. More than our budget. More money than any human being can honestly wrap their head around.

So what is it that makes a meme spread? What takes an idea from infancy to mass acceptance. How come powerful memes never become fully realized? Is it being stopped by the ever-mythical "man." As per usual, I don't have answers, merely questions. Yet questions are potent in their own regard. They can inspire and spread. They can change perspectives and force us all to accept things we once rejected. A question can be a meme, spreading the mystery faster and farther until, hopefully, it reaches a point that can provide answers.

Hey, here's my sources:
GAO report
Senator Bernie Sanders Summary (the most official summary other than the report itself)
Washington Post (not on the money, but on CEO's sitting on the board of the Fed)

My Biggest Fear

by talkbackty on Nov 17, 2011

This is part of our Us Meets World blog. Feel free to answer this question on your own blog. "What is your biggest fear?" Send me a link and I'll post your blog along with all the others.

Fear is an interesting thing. On the one hand, we all deal with it. There is no one who is truly fearless. Even sociopaths who feel no emotions, as we understand them, still wake up in the morning, eat food, go to the bathroom and all other basic human survival elements. In the most primal way, they do not want to die.

Which is a common fear for many, Thanatophobia, the fear of death. It's not particularly high on my list though. We all get old, our bodies break down and we die. If you have the misfortune to skip the getting old and body breaking down steps, that's all it is...misfortune.

What am I afraid of?

Let me first explain that I am something of a smile/laughter seeker. I want to cause people to laugh, to be happy, to enjoy a tiny portion of life. I try not to be the obnoxious, class-clown type (although I went through that phase). I want your day to be a little bit better after having been around me.

Over time though I've come to realize that my charms are not universal. Not everyone likes me. More importantly, I don't like everyone. There are a lot of closed minded, ignorant people who can really screw with my day. Having learned these things, I no longer try to be constantly funny or entertaining. If you annoy me, I am pretty quick to disengage and get you out of my life as quickly as possible.

For people that I like, people I enjoy being around or talking to...for them I will go to the ends of the earth trying to please them. It's not a fact I broadcast much. I've been burned a few times by soul-draining humans who will take advantage of poor saps like me. However, for those on the inside of my "circle of trust" there is very little I will not do. Car broke down 150 miles away? No problem. Need $500 to pay rent. Here's a check. Killed someone and need help hiding the body? I'll get the shovel Rolando friend.

My biggest fear then is hurting one of those people. One of those people who I would have done anything for. When I create a situation that I can not fix and have done irrerable harm. Yes, it has happened before. And I don't want it to happen again. Hence, biggest fear. When you have that mindset regarding a certain person it's incredibly heartbreaking when they no longer want anything to do with you. It's even worse if I never told them how highly I valued them.

At the end of the day my greatest fear is one that is incredibly simple and incredibly self-generated. Notice there is not a whole lot of outside influence involved in my fear. No one is dumping a tank of snakes on me; although I imagine that to be uncomfortable and, depending on the size of the tank, possibly deadly. My fear is internal. Both self-created and self-inflicting. Absolutely terrifying because the only person in control is the one person hardest to control, myself.

The Soul-Sucking Meeting

by talkbackty on Nov 15, 2011

This is the another post in my Zen and the Art of Teaching series. Check out them all here. 

This can apply to a variety of businesses. Maybe you'll notice how similar what I'm about to describe fits the office where you work. Let me assure you, schools have mastered the art of the soul-sucking meeting.

You know the one. It drags on and on. You're not even sure why you came in the first place. What's going on? Is this important? Whoever is in front speaking sure seems to think so. In fact, they believe this is the most important meeting on the face of the earth. As if the Lord Almighty commanded this meeting be brought forth from oblivion to bring the idle masses to salvation.

It's about toner cartridges.

Or teaching strategies. Or a particular student. Or tardies, fire drills, rallies, football boosters, school elections, math club, being too disengaged with students, being too engaged with students, not teaching enough, teaching too much, and on and on and on. Eons pass and ice ages come and go in the time it takes to get through some meetings.

The worst part is that we could be working. We could be finding our way into the Element. Creating lessons that will actively involve our students and actually teach them something. Perhaps, if we are lucky, inspire them to create something of their own.

Schools (and maybe your business) need to discover what meetings are for. They are not for hanging out, catching up, checking in, seeing how things are going or progress reports. There is no need to have a meeting every day, probably unnecessary to have one every week.

What a meeting should be is a place where individuals can gather to collaborate and share ideas. You should go to a meeting, get something wonderful out of it that will help you create something of your own. Regurgitation of a process is simple. Every animal species can walk in a line. Humans are so advanced we invented email. If all a manager wants done is for his drones to follow an order- send an email.

Here are my rules for meetings, when I am in charge.

1. Cancel it. Honestly, is this meeting necessary? Will every single individual get something out of it that will improve their lives and their students lives? If the answer is no, cancel the meeting. If the answer is yes, move on.

2. Never longer than a half an hour. Ever hear someone say, "Kids attention spans are so short nowadays." It's not nowadays and it's not kids. The absolutely maximum a mind can stay focused on a single task is 45-50 minutes. But that takes a lot of interesting things, active involvement and communication. Most likely, a mind can handle closer to 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is the perfect length of a meeting. Assemble the troops, hand out papers, expect them to read the papers another time (don't go over information twice), say something inspiring and let them do the job you hired them for.

3. Inspire. Make it so meetings aren't necessary. The best manager should make themselves obsolete. The best teachers should fade into the background. People want to work and think and create all on their own. Inspire them to do that.

Here are my rules for meetings when I am in attendance.

1. Don't go. It's a waste of your time. Inform your superiors beforehand. Make it clear to them you don't do meetings. They are a drain on your energy, your time and they prevent you from reaching the Element.

2. Seriously. Read number one.

3. If you must go, do your best to be open to inspiration. Chances are it won't happen. Whoever is in charge is probably wasting everyone's time with idle chatter. However, you can at least, for a moment, attempt to be open. If you can't make it through three hours of being open to inspiration then try small segments. But seriously, read number one.

Send emails, use IMs, set up a Skype account. You know what all of those things have in common? You can turn them off whenever you want. You have a choice about when you are going to work individually or collaboratively. Unlike when meetings are forced upon you, choice is present. Companies/schools that block websites to improve worker productivity are stupid. Let your employees go on Facebook and Twitter. Let them search the web for Gnostic Christianity and sites on Anarchy. They may be inspired to create something wonderful for your company. Or teach a child something that will change his/her life.

Block meetings though. I'm all for blocking meetings.

*With inspiration from Leo Babauta.

Virtual Coffee Shop

by talkbackty on Nov 13, 2011

When I was taking classes in college I had a professor who had a big complaint about the University. He didn't believe we had enough coffee shops. Not being much of a coffee drinker, he meant this figuratively instead of literally. The idea is that what our university lacked was places where people could gather and talk, brainstorm, argue and laugh. We lacked community and idenity because the only goal the university had was to get students out as fast as possible with a degree.

It is in that spirit that I'm announcing the Virtual Coffee Shop. Usuing Google+ (sorry Facebook doesn't do this well, or at all) people can group chat with up to ten other individuals. This is called a Hangout. Using the Hangout feature I want to see if we can create a Coffee Shop feature on the internet. What will be talking about? I don't know. Politics, religion, science, comedy, jobs, the governments use of taxpayer dollars to fund research to combine spiders with goats in order to create material stronger than could be anything.

If you don't have a Google+ account it is very simple to make one. You no longer need an invite, but if you want one just to feel special...let me know and I'll send it your way. Once you've done that, type in my name and add me as a friend. I'll start the hangout at 8pm MST (7pm PST). It should just show up in your timeline. Technical details you can private message me. 

Let me know if you are interested in comments so I know if this is worthy of pursuit. Or find me on Google+ and jump in randomly! 

One love. DFTBA.

The Element: Remembering our Authentic Swing

by talkbackty on Nov 8, 2011

We are all searching for something. Often in life we feel lost or scared or confused, but what we are is directionless. We've stopped searching. As we stop searching we begin to feel confined, isolated and afraid. We are out-of-sorts, and we continuously wonder why.

It is because we are not in our Element. It is because we have not remembered our Authentic Swing. It is because who we are in actuality is not who we are pretending to be in reality.

These are all topics I've hit on before. Topics I've hinted at and mentioned. My posts on Zen and the Art of Teaching are all about this, in the broadest sense. Yet, I've never tackled the issue head on. Partly, because it is still undefined in my own mind. Partly, because I know that my ideas are a collection of Ken Robinson's and Leo Babauta's and Kevin Smith's and Steven Pressfield's and Joe Rogan's and John Green's.

The names I mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. Each of those individuals were inspired by others stretching back through time. Rogan loves Graham Hancock and Hunter S. Thompson. Kevin Smith is motivated by Wayne Gretzky and his own Catholicism. Pressfield studied Indian cultures and religions. Everyone is a collection of other people's ideas. It may be that there is no originality whatsoever, only the ether. Only the Element where all possibilities exist simultaneously and continuously. Where our Authentic Swings can be remembered.

I am mixing different terms which may be confusing to those trying to pay attention. Let me be clear:

There is something beyond our own internal bodies. Something outside the clicking clock that operates our organs. It goes by many names; heaven, yin and yang, the Field, the Element, the Middle Path, Nirvana, consciousness, the ether, Alpha and Omega. Arriving at a name is problematic because it has a tendency to alienate those unfamiliar with this new name. Or it causes suffering because of preconceived notions and biases.

I realize these problems exist. Help me circumvent them. I am calling this consciousness outside ourselves The Element. It is what drives us in our searching. It is both the destination and the path. The Element is where we all wish to reside.

We have been there before. When we are playing sports and get into the zone our bodies seem to become extensions of our minds, reacting at our slightest will, and sometimes, without our will at all. Almost on pure instinct. When we are writing and the words seem to flow from our fingertips. The pen flies across the paper, our fingers dance across the keyboard and beauty emerges. We are in our Element when we are in love and when we are at play. I know we have all been there before. The key is how do we remain there.

How can we be in The Element at all times? That depends on who you are. Are you an athlete, a warrior, a writer, a lover, a singer or a saint? To put it another way, what is your Authentic Swing? The path you will take is not identical, in fact it can not be identical, to someone else's. Your path is based on who you are and the experiences you have. It is individual and personal. Yet, it is still The Element.

The Element is universal. It is calling to all of us, and we are searching for it. The more we realize this, the more we become aware of the cues. We begin to see what leads in the right direction and what leads us astray. Awareness is the first step towards The Element. You must open your eyes before anything else can take place. Yes, the light is bright, but we must embrace it. We lose our way not because The Element has shifted the path, but because we choose to shield ourselves from the light.

Take the first step. Open your eyes.

Cheating for Students

by talkbackty on Nov 4, 2011

This is the another post in my Zen and the Art of Teaching series. Check out them all here.

Every teacher approaches things in a different fashion. I don't mean to be all-encompassing and over-generalizing. This is how I feel, but I believe it's how a great number of people feel as well. This is partly to let you know you're not alone, and partly to remind myself that neither am I.

Teachers don't care about a student’s grade.

They care what a student learns, they care if a student is better educated when they leave the classroom, and they care about a student's health and well-being. None of that has anything to do with a student's grade. Which is why it is so easy to cheat for students.

If day in and day out a teacher sees how a student behaves and works, they know if a student is getting the material or not. Then test time comes around and the kid does terribly. We know he is smart, we know he is capable, we know he understands the material. So why not bump him from a D to a C?

People's gut reaction is, "That's unfair. It is giving special treatment to a small group of students."

Life's not fair. People, teachers included, know this instinctively. We know people get treated differently, we see it all the time in our work or professional lives. There is little, if anything, fair about the world. So fairness isn't a priority in our mind.

To add insult to injury, we know everything is a little silly. The only teacher's who believe their material, tests, homework is important to a student's livelihood are the ones who take themselves too seriously. I do not take myself seriously.

I don't mean to imply that I'm not a professional or not serious about my students’ education. I am both. That doesn't mean I take myself seriously. I was a class clown in high school, rarely did homework, and aced most tests. Years after high school, I turned out alright.

Here's the truth. Adults don't know what they are doing. We are just as lost and confused as teenagers. There is no moment of revelation that comes bestowing adults with untold knowledge; unlocking the mysteries of the universe. Adults make just as many mistakes, if not more, than teens; most likely, because we have more decisions to make than teenagers.

The difference is that some adults forget how dumb they really are. They come to believe that because they've been doing one thing a certain way for 15, 20, or 50 years that now they know something about life. They do not. We do not. I do not.

This is why when true innovators come along, people who actually perceive the world differently than everyone else, we are blown away. Steve Jobs, Gandhi, Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Jesus Christ. All of them blew us away with their views on life, their tenacity, their innovative way of looking at mankind. By this comparison, I only mean to point out the inherit ability of different individuals to change the world simply by having a different outlook.

Those people are the exception, not the rule for adults. Most are followers, nothing more than mindless sheep that wake up and do the same thing every single day. When a person begins to realize how silly everything is, they can not take themselves seriously. They know that a test is not a reflection of a student's intelligence, not a measurement of how they will do in life and not anything more than an inadequate tool that has been used for far too long.