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Become a Musician

I originally published this blog post under the title:  “Play Piano by Ear”.   But (after reading numerous comments on a subsequent post called ‘Finding the Chords’) I came to the conclusion that I had (inadvertently) HIDDEN this instalment.  So (on August 7th 2020) I changed the title.

In order to become a musician (or – to grow as a musician) you need to do more than just practice.  You need to understand Song Structure … and Chord Patterns.   And you need to know HOW to practice.  That is – you need to DO music … but (while doing it), you need to know what to pay attention to.

This essay is intended to get you going.

I do happen to believe that the most efficient way (to make this beginning) will be to put your hands on a (functional) piano keyboard    and play it / (employ it as a Teaching Aid).

Solve this problem (that is – GET yourself in front of a piano) … and I’ll tell you what to do next.


But first let me share with you some of my own ‘back-story’.


By the fourth grade I could (spontaneously) make up harmonies to songs that we sang in school.  I began singing in the (adult) church choir when I was about eleven. I loved many of the songs that we sang around the campfire (in Scouts).   I sang in the school choir in Jr. High and in High school.

Also -(for a couple years in high school) a friend of mine and I were a folk duo.  We sang folk songs [and Beatles songs] and accompanied ourselves on guitars. I usually sang harmony. We got some gigs and we had some fun.

I got a lot of joy from singing.  So, as I was about to graduate from high school (and go to college) I considered majoring in Music.  But as I contemplated doing this, I felt as though I was standing on the edge of a deep dark pit. (Music is, after all, quite mysterious)  It seemed like, if I committed to Music, I would have to throw myself into this “pit” … and (honestly) this put me off.


I entered a Liberal Arts program in college and took some choral electives, eventually ending up in the concert choir.  And, as I had begun playing guitar in high school, I continued to study music informally, on my own. 

As I continued to play (and sing) in college, I came to realize that the chords used to accompany a song …. exist as a Pattern – and so can be transferred to another key, while keeping the pattern intact.


[an Extra]:  It is not easy to build a guitar, but it is not difficult to build a gut bucket (a home-made string bass – made from an inverted (steel) wash tub, a broom handle (or stick) and a piece of braided nylon cord.  I would make such an instrument sometimes … and play it. You raise the pitch of the note by increasing the tension on the string (by pulling the stick away from the tub, with your foot on the rim of the tub, opposite the stick).  Of course it’s funky (not ‘respectable’) to look at … but, if played well (which I could do) it does a good impersonation of a real stand-up bass.  [Years later … watching the string vibrate one day … I realized – ‘this is an exquisite instrument’.]   Anyway, it’s fun, it’s cheap … and it’ll give you a “bottom”.


I continued to ‘study’ music and song structure (& chord patterns) over several decades.  And eventually I understood music enough … such that if I could have been in possession of these understandings when I first stood on the ‘edge of the pit’ … I think that pit would NOT have seemed so dark and foreboding … and maybe I would have jumped.


You see – by the age of 18, as I first dared to ‘peer into the pit’, I knew that even if I should become an ‘accomplished musician’ (quite able perhaps – to play any piece you might care to put before me) … a ‘well-oiled music machine’ … that that would NOT be enough for me.  I knew that I needed (not just to be able to PLAY music) … but also to UNDERSTAND it.

As Annie Dillard says – “we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?”

Even then I knew I was a philosopher … and that I would require a philosopher’s enquiry into the nature of music.  I wanted to feel the music with my soul; and I wanted it (to the extent possible) to make sense intuitively.  I knew that a mechanistic approach would NOT satisfy me.


I do not claim to know the Path of Formal Training.  I do not know what it’s like to ‘become a musician’ by going down the Formal Path.  But I can now say some things about the informal path. And I quite suspect – that these two approaches naturally complement and augment each other.  So (it may be that) what I have learned may be of use even to a musician who DID go down the Formal Path.


It seems to me that the core of what I have learned about Music: (song structure and chord patterns) is really fairly simple.  It doesn’t amount to all that much. And yet it is powerful. Do these few things, and (if you have normal pitch and rhythm … and you love music) you will become a musician.


If you can sing a song (especially if you can sing it beautifully) – you’re a Singer.  If you can ACCOMPANY (on an instrument) someone else (or yourself) such that your accompaniment makes them sound good – you’re a Musician.  And my assumption is that you’d like to be able to accompany YOURSELF as you sing a song.  And my suggestion for an instrument is – the PIANO. The keys are perfectly laid out in order.  And (not trivially) you do NOT have to PRACTICE on the piano … just to play a chord.  The first time you try to play an F chord on the guitar, you may think:  “I’ll never be able to do this.”  It isn’t TRUE of course; you CAN learn to play it, but you have to practice.  But with a piano, you just have to know what to DO to play a given chord.  (And of course – EVERYTHING gets better with practice.)


You will notice that a piano keyboard is laid out (in a repeating pattern) with white keys and black keys.  Imagine for a moment that this were not the case. What if all the notes were identical in appearance. It would be very difficult, would it not – to orient yourself on such a keyboard?  (Be grateful for the way it is.)


You may as well know – that any note you choose to play will have a certain frequency.  [the A below middle C is 440 hertz (440 cycles per second) … world-wide]  So – the A below that will be HALF that frequency – which is 220 Hz … and the one above will be of TWICE 440, or 880 Hz.  And this pattern holds true for any note, anywhere.  This is the relationship of notes an octave apart.


Also you should know – that as you move up the keyboard, note by note – all the intervals are equalregardless of whether you’re moving from a white key to a black one, black to white, or white to white.  The intervals are all the same; and this (one note to the next) interval is called a “half-step”.   Each octave is divided into 12 (equal) half-step intervals.

All the white keys on the keyboard are (thought of as being) lettered, sequentially, in octaves  –  A, B, C, D, E, F, G … then you’re in a new octave, and you start over.  Seven letters for seven notes.

I think we should admit that the word “octave” is slightly confusing … as it means – “8” … even though there are only seven (different, solfa) notes.  This is because when we play (or sing) up the keyboard – all the notes of an octave, we WANT to hear the Do at the beginning … AND AT THE END AS WELL.  Our ear simply REQUIRES THIS.  (TRY getting away with just playing seven notes … and you’ll see what I mean.)


So (beginning on C  – the white key just to the left of a ‘two-group’ of black keys) – if you play all the white keys in order) … you will recognize the solfa scale.  And the black notes show you the structure of the solfa scale:  that is – FIVE of the intervals are whole-steps … and the other two (between Mi & Fa, and from Ti to Do) are half-steps (as there is no black key in between).


You may as well acquaint yourself with the black keys.  If you play them (starting with a 3-group) you will hear them play (as you run up the keys) an abbreviated version of the seven-tone solfa scale:  They go: Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La, Do.  Five notes. This is called the Pentatonic Scale, as it has five tones. The tune(s) to ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Shortnin’ Bread’ (for example) are pentatonic.  Mmm?

I want to say something to connect the piano keyboard to the standard way of writing musical score:  The C (note) in the middle of the keyboard is called ‘Middle C’. The treble clef (of musical score) is depicted as being a considerable distance from the bass clef.  But here’s the truth: There is really only a single line missing (undepicted) between the two clefs … and this (undepicted) line … is Middle C.


And, by the way, the difference between a man’s voice and a woman’s voice … is (roughly) one octave.  So (by convention) the same notes are used to depict a female vocal part … even though those notes  are really an octave higher than the notes used to depict a (male) Tenor line.

The sol-fa ‘value’ of any note is (much) more important than which octave it happens to be in.



You need to know chords.  And for that you need to know solfa.  The good news is – that you ALREADY KNOW sol-fa. (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do) … but you’ll need to make it more accessible to your intellect, your conscious mind; so you might as well learn the hand signs:    (Solfege Hand Signs)


Let’s not pretend  – all these notes are NOT of equal importance.  Do & Mi & Sol … are the most important; and (of these Main Three – Do is the most important).


Do is Home. Songs have no trouble starting on a note other than Do; but at the end of the song (the tune) will always (almost always) ‘come home’ to Do.


So – the C-scale (on the piano keyboard) … shows you the structure of the SolFa scale.  [To play the solfa scale using only white keys, you must begin with C (as Do).] 


 Remember this: The key of C (on the piano) DISCLOSES the solfa scale.


Okay.    Chords:


Just keep in mind that a piano allows you to play any song in ANY key.  But for now (for simplicity / to minimize the need for black keys) we’re going to stick with the key of C (that is –  C   and A-minor)

{I play the piano and the guitar (by ear) … and I use these instruments mainly to ACCOMPANY myself or others while singing.  (When I sing in a choir, I am obliged to make use of [paper] score; and I can sight-read better than most.) But when I play the piano … I do it without any paper.

I prefer playing in the keys of A, C, D, E, & G.  (I will sometimes play in another key, but only if necessary … and with some difficulty.)  And this is the case with BOTH (piano and guitar).

In recent years, I’ve developed a bias toward the key of D.  Quite often it just seems like the Best Key (given that it suits the vocal range, etc.)            Some years ago I was trying to figure out the chords to Mozart’s   Ave, Verum Corpus (a work of extraordinary beauty and grace.)  [When I was 18 or 20 I sang this song with my mom, in church, as a duet.  She sang the harmony; I sang the melody.  It’s a gorgeous piece.]   I tried the key of C, but couldn’t seem to get through it.  Then I tried D (which is the key Mozart wrote it in) … and it worked.  It was much easier.

Anyway, D is a good key.  I don’t really know why.}


Before getting to the nuts & bolts of chords, I want to make one more general statement about chords.  Eventually I realized (and it’s quite a surprising discovery, really) – that a given song is MADE of its chord pattern.

Now, you can ask any sensible person, and they will tell you that a Song is equal to its TUNE.

Well, this is TRUE, of course … even SO … a song is, in its First Essence – its Skeleton … that is – its Chord Pattern.

And what convinces me of this is the fact that you can leave the tune unchanged; but, alter the chord pattern … and you get quite a Different Song.


A song’s Chord Structure  would seem to be of a Higher order of reality than the Tune.


Okay –

Now we’re going to play a ‘C chord’, an ‘F chord’, and a ‘G chord’.


To play a C chord, I put my right thumb on a C … my index finger on the E … and my ring finger on the G.  (A real piano player may tell you a different way, but that’s the way I usually do it.)


You can use Middle C.  Remember? It’s the first white key   just to the left of the two-group of black keys in the middle of the keyboard.  

Satisfy yourself that your thumb is on C … and the other two notes – you do by feel.  You’re now playing a (major) C-triad / a C chord. Your thumb is playing Do … your index finger is playing the Mi … and your ring finger is playing the Sol … all at the same time.

Now play them one at a time and listen to the chord structure:  C, E, G = Do, Mi, Sol.

This is what it means – ‘to play a C chord’.  You’re playing a Do-Mi-Sol chord … with C as Do.


Okay, now the F-chord:  Just lift your hand and move your thumb to the F … and play the same (skip, skip) pattern as before.  (index finger on the A … and ring finger on the C). Now the Do is F (and you’re also playing Mi & Sol relative to the new Do)

Okay?  Now – same thing with the G chord.  You put your thumb on the G (skip, skip) and play the same pattern as before.  Index finger plays B (the new Mi); and your ring finger plays the new Sol (supplied by the D).   This is what it means ‘to play a G-chord’. (G is now Do; and you’re also playing the necessary Mi & Sol relative to that G.)    Mmm?


Now, to grow as a musician, you must keep track of what you’re doing, in the moment.  You must pay attention … but NOT to everything. You just need to know that you’re playing a C chord, (or whatever) … that your thumb is on C … and a ‘C chord’ = Do, Mi, Sol (with C as Do)


You also need to keep track of where you are [that is, where the SONG is] IN THE PATTERN (the chord pattern).  And you’ve already learned one.  C, F, G  aren’t just random chords.  They comprise a pattern. A Music Major will call these chords: Tonic, Subdominant, and Dominant.  A working musician will probably refer to them (the SAME chords) as 1, 4, & 5.


Now, if you’re playing in the key of G, then 1, 4, & 5 will NOT be C, F, & G … they will be G, C, & D.  But we won’t worry about that for now. However, you can be assured – the pattern is exactly the same.


Let’s turn our left hand into a Teaching Aid:  Look into the palm of your left hand. (Level your forearm so that your thumb is pointing up, and your fingers point to the right.  You’ve probably already noticed that you have five fingers. Let’s number them: little finger = 1 … thumb = 5.  Now fold in 2 & 3.   What remains (of course) are 1, 4, & 5. Have a good look at your left hand as you see it right now. Remember it.

This pattern is analogous to the solfa scale.  (Only –  solfa is about NOTES … and the ‘1-4-5-Hand’ is about CHORDS.  But BOTH are key-independent.)


With regard to NOTES:  Do = the root (or Home) … Sol = the ‘high one’ … &  Mi = the ‘pretty one’ –    ( 1, 5, & 3 )

With regard to CHORDS:  the 1-chord (tonic chord) is ‘Home’.  A song is likely to start off with the home chord, but it may well NOT.  However, the song will ALWAYS (almost always) END on the home chord.  The song will ‘come home’.            The 4-chord (subdominant chord) has a feeling (as the song moves from the 1  to the  4) – of development  –  of (dramatic) change.  (“We’re not in Kansas any more, Toto.”)        The 5-chord (dominant chord) has the feeling of tension (or the) need for resolution.      And (of course) the song then finds relief … by ‘coming home’ (to the 1-chord).

The key is (in order to grow as a musician) – that you pay attention to the feelings which the various chord changes produce.  Music is emotion.  Without that, it would be pointless, wouldn’t it?   (So  – pay attention.)


Okay, let’s again play a C-major triad  (1, 3, 5 = C, E, G)


Okay, now play the same chord again, only this time play it with a flatted 3rd.   (instead of playing E for the 3rd, play the black key  E-flat)

Hear that?

That’s a C-minor chord.


The Do didn’t change.  The Sol didn’t change. Only the Mi changed; (it changed to Mey.)


Whether a chord is Major or Minor … is determined by the THIRD.


Now play these two triads sequentially / open them up in time:  C, E, G … C, E-flat, G …

And sing along:  Do, Mi, Sol … Do, Mey, Sol


Only a single note is different (and only by a half-step) … but it makes a huge difference.


The Mi (in the major triad) seems pretty; but the Mey (the third in the minor triad) does not.  It’s somber.   Dark.

Big difference.


Now, let’s describe these two chords – by their respective intervals.  A basic chord is 1, 3, 5 … three notes, and TWO intervals.

How many half-steps are there? – between the Do and the third (Mi)   in the major triad? We can find out  by simply counting the cracks between the keys.  I make it: FOUR. And between Mi and Sol … there are THREE more half-steps.


So – we may describe the major chord (in terms of intervals) as: 4 & 3


The minor triad (Do, Mey, Sol … wherein the 3rd has been flatted) as: 3 & 4.

[Please do not be bothered by the fact that these numbers (3 & 4) do NOT refer to notes or chords, but to the number of half-steps between the notes of the chord.]


4 & 3 = Do, Mi, Sol  = a major chord.


3 & 4 = Do, Mey, Sol  = a minor chord.


ANY major chord … ANY minor chord.   Mmm? (REMEMBER this.)




We’re now going to DOUBLE the number of chords in our (basic) chord pattern.


Before we just had:  1, 4, and 5.

Now we’re going to add the Shadow Chords: (dark 1, dark 4, & the ‘dark 5’)


We already know the relationship between, say, a C-chord … and a C-minor chord.

We know what it SOUNDS like … and we know what the change amounts to.


Our Basic Chord Pattern is about to include, not just the normal 1, 4, 5 chords (C, F, & G) but also the Relative Minors of these chords (Am, Dm, & Em … these are also called Enharmonic Minor(s).


Here’s how you form them.  (It’s always the same!):


Play a C-chord (C, E, G)

Now, instead of flatting the third, we’re going to change a single note … and still turn this chord into a minor chord.  Here’s what you do:


Lift your hand … and put it down again, but with your thumb on the A.


Before the chord was: C, E, G … now it’s A, C, E.     It was major; now it’s minor.  It was a 4 & 3 chord; now it’s 3 & 4 (in terms of intervals)


‘A’ has become the Do … The C (which was Do) is now Mey … and E (which was Mi) is now Sol.


Play these chords (back & forth) a few times.  Get used to the sound of them.  [ C … Am     – – – –         The ‘One’ chord … the ‘Dark One’ ]


You may form the Relative Minor of ANY (major) chord … in just this way.  [Lift your hand, shift down three half-steps, put your thumb on that note, and continue to play what were the bottom two notes, just as before.]


That’s all there is to it.


Do this with your Four-chord (the F-chord) … and you get Dm.

Do it with the 5 (the G-chord) … and you get Em.


But now I have some news for you:  the Dark 5 (Em) MAY be E-minor … but, more likely – it will just be E.   Yep, E-Major.

But whether it’s Em or E-Major … we’re STILL going to call it the ‘Dark 5’ chord.



Hunt up your left hand again … and configure it as before (with fingers 2 & 3 tucked in) …


Now find a light    and a flat surface (such as a table top) … and get your hand to cast a shadow on the surface.  You should now be able to see TWO hands … one – which helps you wash your right hand … and the shadow-hand.  The flesh hand reminds you of the regular chords (C, F, & G) … and the shadow of it is to remind you of the shadow chords (Am, Dm, & Em/E … the ‘dark One’, the ‘dark Four’, and the ‘Dark Five’)


Go use ‘em.


You can now give yourself permission to accompany yourself on the piano.   Just pick a song you know (and like) and see if you can accompany yourself on the piano.


We haven’t yet dealt with  Accidental chords (chords which aren’t part of the Regular Progression, but are used anyway) … seventh chords (and major sevenths) … suspensions … or chord inversions  …   but those things are for later.  

You have a lot to work with already.

You can get a cheap bottom … by simply playing a single bass note – corresponding to the root (the Do) of the chord you’re playing with the right hand.

This is quite easy to do; and it adds quite a bit of fullness to the sound, and for very little work.

You may be able to add yet another dimension, simply by doing a ‘slow pulse’ with your right hand.  [listen to ‘The Rose’;  link at end]


Read the section on Changing Chords … then pick a song, and give it a try.

You find the chords, you find the song.


Remember, we’re not trying to be GREAT on the piano.  We’re just (as Bukka White says) playing the piano till the piano player comes.



Changing Chords

A given song might of course be played in any key.  But if you’re just beginning to learn to play the piano by ear, why not linger a while in the key that’s easiest to play  — C (and A minor).


One of the things going on here is that we’re using the piano to understand Song Structure.  When you’re on your own (i. e., not looking at marks on a piece of paper), you have to GUESS.  You have to guess When to change and What to change to.  So, just keep in mind what you know about chord patterns / (song structure)    and DO something. When you make a mistake, the piano will tell you.  


You are training your brain.  Keep in mind that what you are learning to do  – is to ‘play’ two instruments at the same time  – your own vocal cords … and the keyboard. And sometimes chords need to change rather irrespective of the tune that you’re singing; so be patient.  And be willing to grant the piano Independence from your singing voice.  Quite often the chord will change with the lyrics (on a vowel); but when this happens, it needs to be like ‘two people’ who (right now) happen to be doing something at the same time.  Don’t try to actuate your two voices from a single impulse. Maintain with them (with your two instruments) a regard of independence, autonomy, and equality … (and maybe even appreciation and respect). 


Accompaniment / (accompanying) is a high art; and you are learning to accompany yourself on the piano.  In order to play a C chord or an F chord, you must , of course, know that you’re playing a C or an F.     But to grow in the art of Accompanying (by ear), you must also pay attention to other things.  You need to keep track of Where you are – where the SONG is – at any given time – in the chord progression.  You need to be mentally Aware … and Emotionally aware too. In a given song every chord has a certain Feeling; and when the chord Changes, the change (itself) causes another feeling  (which I call ‘dramatic’). I think that the dramatic component is relatively ‘shallow’ (or simple). But there is a further component to the Feeling associated with the way chords change in a song   which is not in the least Simple. This one I call ‘Emotional’. This component is rooted, not just in the song itself, but in what we believe, what we love, and how we experience Life. It is very spread out.  It should (the way music is emotional) probably be regarded as one of the Mysteries.


Just pay attention.  Use your own feeling-sense.  You will notice, for example, that the 1-chord has the feeling of Home, especially when the song Comes Home (at the end of a musical line or at the end of the whole song).  The change from the 1 to the 4 chord can have the feeling of venturing forth (of going out from Home). The 5 chord can have the feeling of Tension … of the Need for Resolution.  Sometimes, when the song is in the 5, you can feel a Wanting to Come Home. And of course it wants to come home to the 1 (to the Home chord). Normally this is a simple 5-1 event. But when the song comes home through the 4-chord, it will sound Bluesy.  This is definitely a blues move (5-4-1).  

But Feel in your own way.  Just have fun … stay oriented … and pay attention.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

[In this case, at the beginning, you’re hearing the piano/right hand playing an ‘open‘ (that is – a ‘thirdless’) chord.  It happens to be in C … so:  just the C & the G, (no E)]

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Greta Thunberg



Probably most of us have seen the film: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).  Let us for a minute regard this film as Theater … that is – that it’s reflecting to us a vision of ourselves.  I will leave to you whether the reflection in this particular mirror is accurate; but, what it’s showing us is that the Grownups have somehow lost their humanity … and that the children are the only sane human beings around.

If you haven’t seen her before, let me introduce to you – Greta Thunberg:


  (Greta Thunberg attacks world leaders at UN Summit on Climate Change, 23 Sept. 2019   [1 ½ min.])


Don’t you think you’re in the presence of a Sane Person?   (a person of unusual sanity, I should think).



When she says  “those of us on the spectrum”  she is referring to the autistic spectrum … as she has Asperger’s syndrome   (which she regards as an asset).

    (Greta Thunberg, TED talk  [11 min.])




She says – she does what she does … so that she’ll be able to look herself in the eye – 

  (Greta Thunberg on Whether She’d Meet with the President   [8 ½ min.])




“Act … as though you love your children above all else” –

   (Trump and Greta Thunberg clash at Davos over climate change  [1 ½ min.])  – 

    [A fine example of and excerpt from   – the Great War of Ideas.]




Jimmy Kimmel Live [6 min.] –

    (Trump’s Insane Outburst Against 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg)




From her speech at the U.N. global climate conference in Madrid  … warning against “clever accounting and creative PR”  to avoid action on the climate crisis. [8 min.]  Hope is with THE PEOPLE!














(Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says – Greta Thunberg can criticize ‘after she studies economics’)








Greta is one of our new great heroes

in the Great War of Ideas

         no doubt.





Greta Thunberg

Excerpted from – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Greta Thunberg
Portrait of Thunberg at the European Parliament

Thunberg in April 2019
Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg[1][2]

3 January 2003 (age 17)

Stockholm, Sweden
Occupation Student, environmental activist
Years active 2018–present
Movement School strike for climate
Relatives Olof Thunberg (grandfather)

Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg FRSGS (Swedish: [ˈɡrêːta ˈtʉ̂ːnbærj] (About this soundlisten); born 3 January 2003) is a Swedish environmental activist on climate change whose campaigning has gained international recognition. Thunberg is known for her straightforward speaking manner,[3][4] both in public and to political leaders and assemblies, in which she urges immediate action to address the climate crisis.

Thunberg’s activism started after convincing her parents to adopt several lifestyle choices to reduce their own carbon footprint. In August 2018, at age 15, she started spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament to call for stronger action on climate change by holding up a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (School strike for climate). Soon, other students engaged in similar protests in their own communities. Together, they organised a school climate strike movement under the name Fridays for Future. After Thunberg addressed the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, student strikes took place every week somewhere in the world. In 2019, there were multiple coordinated multi-city protests involving over a million students each.[5] To avoid flying, Thunberg sailed to North America where she attended the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. Her speech there, in which she exclaimed “how dare you”, was widely taken up by the press and incorporated into music.

Her sudden rise to world fame has made her both a leader[6] and a target for critics.[7] Her influence on the world stage has been described by The Guardian and other newspapers as the “Greta effect”.[8] She has received numerous honours and awards including: honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical SocietyTime magazine’s 100 most influential people and the youngest Time Person of the Year; inclusion in the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women (2019)[9] and two consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize (2019 and 2020).

Early life

Greta Thunberg was born on 3 January 2003 in Stockholm, Sweden,[10][11] the daughter of opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg.[12] Her paternal grandfather was actor and director Olof Thunberg.[13][14]

“I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndromeOCD and selective mutism. That basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary. Now is one of those moments.”

— Greta Thunberg in her TEDx Talk
Stockholm, November 2018[15]

Mental health

Thunberg says she first heard about climate change in 2011, when she was eight years old, and could not understand why so little was being done about it.[16] The situation made her depressed. She stopped talking and eating, and lost ten kilograms (22 lb) in two months.[17] Eventually, she was diagnosed with Asperger syndromeobsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism.[16] In one of her first speeches demanding climate action, Thunberg described the selective mutism aspect of her condition as meaning she “only speaks when necessary”.[16]

Greta struggled with depression for three or four years before she began her school strike.[18] When she started protesting, her parents did not support her activism. Her father said he does not like her missing school but said: “[We] respect that she wants to make a stand. She can either sit at home and be really unhappy, or protest, and be happy”.[19] Her Asperger diagnosis was made public nationwide in Sweden by her mother in May 2015, in order to help other families in a similar situation.[20] While acknowledging that her diagnosis “has limited me before”, Thunberg does not view her Asperger’s as an illness, and has instead called it her “superpower”.[21]

Activism at home

For about two years, Thunberg challenged her parents to lower the family’s carbon footprint and overall impact on the environment by becoming veganupcycling, and giving up flying.[12][22][23] She has said she tried showing them graphs and data, but when that did not work, she warned her family that they were stealing her future.[24] Giving up flying in part meant her mother had to give up her international career as an opera singer.[19] Thunberg credits her parents’ eventual response and lifestyle changes with giving her hope and belief that she could make a difference.[12] The family story is recounted in the 2018 book Scenes from the Heart.[25]

Interviewed in December 2019 by the BBC, her father said his wife stopped flying to try to ‘save’ their daughter rather than the climate. He added: “To be honest, (her mother) didn’t do it to save the climate. She did it to save her child because she saw how much it meant to her, and then, when she did that, she saw how much (Greta) grew from that, how much energy she got from it.”[26]


School strike for climate

Strike at the Riksdag

Thunberg in front of the Swedish parliament, holding a “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (transl. School strike for climate) sign, Stockholm, August 2018

Bicycle in Stockholm with references to Thunberg: “The climate crisis must be treated as a crisis! The climate is the most important election issue!” (11 September 2018)

Sign in Berlin, 14 December 2018

In August 2018, Thunberg began the school climate strikes and public speeches for which she has become an internationally recognised climate activist. In an interview with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, she said she first got the idea of a climate strike after school shootings in the United States in February 2018 led to several youths refusing to go back to school.[12] These teen activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, went on to organise the March for Our Lives in support of greater gun control.[27][28] In May 2018, Thunberg won a climate change essay competition held by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. In part, she wrote “I want to feel safe. How can I feel safe when I know we are in the greatest crisis in human history?”[29]

After the paper published her article, she was contacted by Bo Thorén from Fossil Free Dalsland, a group interested in doing something about climate change. Thunberg attended a few of their meetings. At one of them, Thorén suggested that school children could strike for climate change.[30] Thunberg tried to persuade other young people to get involved but “no one was really interested”, so eventually she decided to go ahead with the strike by herself.[12]

On 20 August 2018, Thunberg, who had just started ninth grade, decided not to attend school until the 2018 Swedish general election on 9 September; her protest began after the heat waves and wildfires during Sweden’s hottest summer in at least 262 years.[19] Her demands were that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and she protested by sitting outside the Riksdag every day for three weeks during school hours with the sign Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for climate).[31][32]

Thunberg said her teachers were divided in their views about her missing class to make her point. She says: “As people they think what I am doing is good, but as teachers they say I should stop.”[19]

Social media activism

Thunberg posted a photo of her first strike day on Instagram and Twitter, with other social media accounts quickly taking up her cause.[33] High-profile youth activists amplified her Instagram post, and on the second day she was joined by other activists.[33] A representative of the Finnish bank Nordea quoted one of Thunberg’s tweets to more than 200,000 followers. Thunberg’s social media profile attracted local reporters whose stories earned international coverage in little more than a week.[33]

One Swedish climate-focused social media company was We Don’t Have Time (WDHT), founded by Ingmar Rentzhog. He claimed her strike only began attracting public attention after he turned up with a freelance photographer and posted Thunberg’s photograph on his Facebook page and Instagram account, and a video in English that he posted on the company’s YouTube channel.[34] Rentzhog subsequently asked Thunberg to become an unpaid youth advisor to WDHT. He then used her name and image without her knowledge or permission to raise millions for a WDHT for-profit subsidiary, We Don’t Have Time AB, of which Rentzhog is the chief executive officer.[35] Thunberg received no money from the company[34] and terminated her volunteer advisor role with WDHT once she realised they were making money from her name.[36]

After October 2018, Thunberg’s activism evolved from solitary protesting to taking part in demonstrations throughout Europe; making several high-profile public speeches, and mobilising her growing number of followers on social media platforms. After the December 2018 general elections, Thunberg continued to strike only on Fridays. She inspired school students across the globe to take part in student strikes. That month, more than 20,000 students had held strikes in at least 270 cities.[37]

Protests and speeches in Europe

Her speech during the plenary session of the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) went viral.[38] She commented that the world leaders present were “not mature enough to tell it like it is”.[39] In the first half of 2019 she joined various student protests around Europe, and was invited to speak at various forums and parliaments. At the January 2019 World Economic Forum, Thunberg gave a speech in which she declared: “Our house is on fire”.[40] She addressed the BritishEuropean and French parliaments, where in the latter case several right-wing politicians boycotted her.[41][42] In a short meeting with Thunberg, Pope Francis thanked her and encouraged her to continue.[43] By March 2019, Thunberg was still staging her regular protests outside the Swedish parliament every Friday, where other students occasionally joined her. According to her father, her activism has not interfered with her schoolwork, but she has had less spare time.[44] She finished lower secondary school with good grades.[45] In July 2019, Time magazine reported Thunberg was taking a “sabbatical year” from school, intending to travel in the Americas while meeting people from the climate movement.[46]

Sabbatical year

In August 2019, Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, England, to New York, USA, in the 60-foot (18 m) racing yacht Malizia II, equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines. The trip was announced as a carbon-neutral transatlantic crossing serving as a demonstration of Thunberg’s declared beliefs of the importance of reducing emissions. France 24 reported that several crew would fly to New York to sail the yacht back to Europe.[47] The voyage lasted fifteen days, from 14 to 28 August 2019. Thunberg was invited to give testimony in the US House Select Committe on the Climate Crisis on September 18. Instead of giving testimony, she gave an eight sentence statement and submitted the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C as evidence.[48]

UN Climate Action Summit

Thunberg at the Climate March, Montréal, September 2019

On 23 September, Thunberg attended the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.[49][50] That day the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) hosted a press conference where Thunberg joined fifteen other children including Ayakha MelithafaAlexandria VillaseñorCatarina LorenzoCarl Smith and others. Together, the group announced they had made an official complaint against five nations that are not on track to meet the emission reduction targets they committed to in their Paris Agreement pledges: Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey.[51][52] The complaint challenges these countries under the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Protocol is a quasi-judicial mechanism which allows children or their representatives, who believe their rights have been violated, to bring a complaint before the relevant ‘treaty body’, the Committee on the Rights of the Child.[53] If the complaint is successful, the countries will be asked to respond, but any suggestions are not legally binding.[54][55]

In a speech at the summit, Thunberg said to world leaders: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”[56]

Autumn global climate strikes

In Canada, Thunberg participated in climate protests in the cities of MontrealEdmonton and Vancouver including leading a climate rally as part of the 27 September Global Climate Strike in Montreal.[57] The school strikes for climate on 20 and 27 September 2019 were attended by over four million people, according to one of the co-organisers.[58] Hundreds of thousands took part in the protest described as the largest in the city’s history. The mayor of Montreal gave her the Freedom of the City. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance, and Thunberg spoke briefly with him.[59] While in the United States, Thunberg participated in climate protests in New York City, Iowa CityLos AngelesCharlotteDenver, and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. In various cities, Thunberg’s keynote speech began by acknowledging that she was standing on land that originally belonged to Indigenous peoples, saying: “In acknowledging the enormous injustices inflicted upon these people, we must also mention the many enslaved and indentured servants whose labour the world still profits from today.”[60][61]

Participation at COP25

Thunberg had intended to remain in the Americas to travel overland to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) originally planned in Santiago, Chile in December. However, it was announced on short notice that COP25 was to be moved to Madrid, Spain, because of serious public unrest in Chile.[62] Thunberg has refused to fly because of the carbon emissions from air travel, so she posted on social media that she needed a ride across the Atlantic Ocean. Riley Whitelum and his wife, Elayna Carausu, two Australians who had been sailing around the world aboard their 48-foot (15 m) catamaran, La Vagabonde, offered to take her. So, on 13 November 2019, Thunberg set sail from Hampton, Virginia, for Lisbon, Portugal. Her departing message was the same as it has been since she began her activism: “My message to the Americans is the same as to everyone – that is to unite behind the science and to act on the science.”[63][64][65]

Thunberg arrived in the Port of Lisbon on 3 December 2019,[66][67] then travelled on to Madrid to speak at COP25 and to participate with the local Fridays for Future climate strikers. During a press conference before the march, she called for more “concrete action,” arguing that the global wave of school strikes over the previous year had “achieved nothing”, because greenhouse gas emissions were still rising—by 4% since 2015.[68][69]

Further activism in Europe

Thunberg speaks before the European Parliament’s Environment Committee in 2020

On 30 December 2019 Thunberg was guest editor of the BBC Radio’s flagship current affairs programme, the Today Programme.[70] Thunberg’s edition of the programme featured interviews on climate change with Sir David Attenborough, Bank of England chief Mark CarneyMassive Attack’s Robert Del Naja, and Shell Oil executive Maarten Wetselaar. The BBC subsequently released a podcast[71] containing these interviews and other highlights. On 11 January 2020 Thunberg called on German company Siemens to stop the delivery of railway equipment to the controversial Carmichael coal mine operated by a subsidiary of Indian company Adani Group in Australia,[72] but on 13 January Siemens said that it would continue to honour its contract with Adani.[73]

On 21 January 2020, Thunberg returned to the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, delivered two speeches, and participated in panel discussions hosted by The New York Times and the World Economic Forum. Thunberg used many of the themes contained in her previous speeches, but focused on one in particular: “Our house is still on fire.” Thunberg joked that she cannot complain about not being heard, saying: “I am being heard all the time.” [74][75][76]

On 4 March 2020, Thunberg attended an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee to talk about the European Climate Law. There she declared that she considered the new proposal for a climate law published by the European Commission to be a surrender.[77]

Position on climate change

File:Greta Thunberg- World Economic Forum (Davos).webm

A video of Thunberg speaking at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos

Thunberg believes that humanity is facing an existential crisis because of global warming[78] and holds the current generation of adults responsible for creating the problem.[79] She uses graphic analogies (such as “our house is on fire”) to highlight her concerns and often speaks bluntly to business and political leaders about their failure to take concerted action.[80][81]

Thunberg has pointed out that climate change will have a disproportionate effect on young people whose futures will be profoundly affected. She argued that her generation may not have a future any more, because “that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money”.[82] She also has made the point that people in the Global South will suffer most from climate change, even though they have contributed least in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.[83] Thunberg has voiced support for other young activists from developing countries who are already facing the damaging effects of climate change. Speaking in Madrid in December 2019, she said: “We talk about our future, they talk about their present.”[84]

Speaking at international forums, she berated world leaders that too little action is being taken to reduce global emissions.[85] She makes the point that lowering emissions is not enough, and says emissions need to be reduced to zero if the world is to keep global warming to less than 1.5C. Speaking to the British Parliament in April 2019, she said: “The fact that we are speaking of “lowering” instead of “stopping” emissions is perhaps the greatest force behind the continuing business as usual”.[86][87] In order to take the necessary action, she added that politicians should not listen to her, they should listen to what the scientists are saying about how to address the crisis.[88][86]

More specifically, Thunberg has argued that commitments made at the Paris Agreement are insufficient to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, and that the greenhouse gas emissions curve needs to start declining steeply no later than 2020—as detailed in the IPCC’s 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° C.[89][82] In February 2019, at a conference of the European Economic and Social Committee, she said that the EU’s current intention to cut emissions by 40% by 2030 is “not sufficient to protect the future for children growing up today” and that the EU must reduce their CO
 emissions by 80%, double the 40% goal.[90][91]

Public response and impact

Thunberg has received both strong support and strong criticism for her work from politicians and the press.

International reception

In February 2019, 224 academics signed an open letter of support stating they were inspired by Thunberg’s actions and the striking school children in making their voices heard.[92] United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres endorsed the school strikes initiated by Thunberg, admitting that “My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”[93] Speaking at an event in New Zealand in May 2019, Guterres said his generation was “not winning the battle against climate change” and that it’s up to youth to “rescue the planet”.[94]


Presidential candidates Kamala HarrisBeto O’Rourke, and Bernie Sanders expressed support after her speech at the September 2019 action summit in New York.[95] German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that young activists like Thunberg had driven her government to act faster on climate change.[96]

Thunberg and her campaign have been criticised by politicians as well, such as the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison,[97] German chancellor Angela Merkel,[98] Russian president Vladimir PutinOPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and repeatedly by U.S. president Donald Trump.[99] The criticism ranges from personal attacks to claims she oversimplifies the complex issues involved.

Addressing her critics:
“It’s quite hilarious when the only thing people can do is mock you, or talk about your appearance or personality, as it means they have no argument or nothing else to say.”

— Greta Thunberg
Person of the Year
TIME magazine October 2019

In October 2019, Vladimir Putin described Thunberg as a “kind girl and very sincere”, while suggesting she was being manipulated to serve others’ interests. Putin criticised her as “poorly informed”: “No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different and people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same wealth level as in Sweden.” Similar to her reaction to Trump, Thunberg updated her Twitter bio to reflect Putin’s description of her.[100] In December 2019, Thunberg tweeted “Indigenous people are literally being murdered for trying to protect the forrest [sic] from illegal deforestation. Over and over again. It is shameful that the world remains silent about this”. When asked about this subject two days later, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro responded: “Greta said that the Indians were dying because they were trying to protect the Amazon. It is impressive how the press gives voice to such a brat.” On the same day, Thunberg changed her Twitter description to “pirralha“, the Portuguese word for “brat” used by Bolsonaro.[101]

In September 2019, Donald Trump shared a video of Thunberg angrily addressing world leaders, along with her quote that “people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction“. Trump wrote about Thunberg, tweeting: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Thunberg reacted by changing her Twitter bio to match his description, and stating that she could not “understand why grown-ups would choose to mock children and teenagers for just communicating and acting on the science when they could do something good instead.”[102] In December 2019, President Trump again mocked Thunberg after she was named Person of the Year for 2019 by Time magazine: “So ridiculous”, Trump tweeted. “Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” Thunberg responded by changing her Twitter biography to: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”[103]

In an interview with Suyin Haynes in Time magazine, Thunberg addressed the criticism she has received online saying: “It’s quite hilarious when the only thing people can do is mock you, or talk about your appearance or personality, as it means they have no argument or nothing else to say.”[104] Joe Biden, a former US vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner, responded to President Trump’s tweet mocking Thunberg after she was named Person of the Year 2019 by Time magazine tweeting: “What kind of president bullies a teenager? @realDonaldTrump, you could learn a few things from Greta on what it means to be a leader.”[105]


In August 2019, Scott Walsman wrote in Scientific American that Thunberg’s detractors have “launched personal attacks”, “bash [her] autism”, and “increasingly rely on ad hominem attacks to blunt her influence.”[106] Writing in The Guardian, Aditya Chakrabortty said that columnists including Brendan O’NeillToby Young, the blog Guido Fawkes, as well as Helen Dale and Rod Liddle at The Spectator and The Sunday Times had been making “ugly personal attacks” on Thunberg.[107] British TV presenter Piers Morgan also mocked Thunberg.[108] As part of its climate change denial, Germany’s right wing Alternative for Germany party has attacked Thunberg “in fairly vicious ways”, according to Jakob Guhl, a researcher for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.[109]

Arron Banks‘ Twitter post saying that “freak yachting accidents do happen in August…” outraged a number of British MPs (Member of Parliament), celebrities and academics. Tanja Bueltmann, founder of EU Citizens’ Champion, said Banks had “invoked the drowning of a child” for his own amusement and said that most of those attacking Thunberg “are white middle-aged men from the right of the political spectrum”.[110] Writing in The GuardianGaby Hinsliff, said Thunberg has become “the new front in the Brexit culture war” arguing that the outrage generated by personal attacks on Thunberg by Brexiteers “gives them the welcome oxygen of publicity”.[111]

“The Greta effect”

Thunberg has inspired a number of her school-aged peers in what has been described as “The Greta effect”.[112] In response to her outspoken stance, various politicians have also acknowledged the need to focus on climate change. Britain’s secretary for the environment, Michael Gove, said: “When I listened to you, I felt great admiration, but also responsibility and guilt. I am of your parents’ generation, and I recognise that we haven’t done nearly enough to address climate change and the broader environmental crisis that we helped to create.” Labour politician Ed Miliband, who was responsible for introducing the Climate Change Act 2008, said: “You have woken us up. We thank you. All the young people who have gone on strike have held up a mirror to our society … you have taught us all a really important lesson. You have stood out from the crowd.”[8]

In February 2019, Thunberg shared a stage with the then President of the European CommissionJean-Claude Juncker, where he outlined “In the next financial period from 2021 to 2027, every fourth euro spent within the EU budget will go towards action to mitigate climate change”.[113] Climate issues also played a significant role in European Parliament election in May 2019[114] as Green parties recorded their best ever result,[115] boosting their MEP seat numbers from 52 to 72.[116] Many of the gains came from northern European countries where young people have taken to the streets inspired by Thunberg.[115]

In June 2019, a YouGov poll in Britain found that public concern about the environment had soared to record levels in the UK since Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion had “pierced the bubble of denial”.[117] In August 2019, publication and sales of children’s books about the climate crisis reportedly doubled compared to the previous year. Publishers attribute this to the “Greta effect”.[118] Inspired by Thunberg, wealthy philanthropists and investors from the United States have donated about $600,000[119] to support Extinction Rebellion and school strike groups to establish the Climate Emergency Fund.[120][121][122] Trevor Neilson, one of the philanthropists, said the three founders would be contacting friends among the global mega-rich to donate “a hundred times” more in the weeks and months ahead.[119] In December 2019, the New Scientist described the impact made by Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion with the headline: “The year the world woke up to climate change”.[123]

Flight shame

Thunberg has spearheaded the anti-flying movement, promoting train travel over flying on environmental grounds.[124] The buzzword associated with this movement is flygskam or ‘flight shame’.[125][126] It is a phenomenon in which people feel social pressure not to fly because of the rising greenhouse gas emissions of the airline industry. It was originally championed by Swedish Olympic athlete Björn Ferry, but has gained significant momentum after Thunberg’s refusal to fly on environmental grounds. Thunberg backed the campaign to fly less, and made it part of her 2019 “awareness tour” in Europe.[127] Sweden has reported a 4% drop in domestic air travel for 2019 and an increase in rail use. The BBC says that the movement could halve the growth of global air travel, but Airbus and Boeing say that they still expect to grow at around 4% until 2035.[128][129] In June 2019, Swedish Railways (SJ) reported that the number of Swedes taking the train for domestic journeys had risen by 8% from the previous year, reflecting growing public concern (reflected in a survey published by the Swedish Railways) about the impact of flying on CO

Posted on 5 Comments

The Doomsday Clock


So many things fail to interest us, simply because they don’t find in us enough surfaces on which to live; and what we have to do then – is to increase the number of planes in our mind, so that a much larger number of themes can find a place in it at the same time.     

                                              –     Jose Ortega y Gasset   


One must have apocalypse in one eye and the millennium in the other, and as you look out through that double vision, the third eye develops and sees the resolution of tragedy and conflict and the rest of it.

                                        –   William Irwin Thompson







We should not think that our paying attention to the (real) possibilities of Disaster … amounts to Fear-based Thinking    or that it’s a negative thing.


Many of us sometimes drive a car.  And some of us have had an accident.  But consider all the times we have reached our destination SAFELY.  How does this happen?


It happens because we are doing what (above) William Irwin Thompson says we SHOULD do:  we are guided by TWO MAIN desires – to get where we are going … and NOT DYING or KILLING SOMEONE.


How (for example) do we decide whether to overtake the car ahead of us?  (or whether it is needful)   We do not HAVE to think about the results of a head-on collision; we already KNOW that such an occurrence is likely to be deadly … so we AVOID making such decisions.  

And ALL THE WHILE we are remembering our PURPOSE:  the REASON for our trip  – what we hope to DO when we get there.


So  – you see  we are ALREADY well practiced in ‘keeping one eye on the apocalypse and the other on the millennium.’  We do it ROUTINELY.


There is nothing negative about it.  And we KNOW HOW TO DO IT. It’s what gets us there AND keeps us alive.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We should ALL be aware of the work of the folks who publish the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.


Some of the scientists who helped create the Atomic Bomb (following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) CONTINUED to collaborate … in order to PROMOTE SURVIVAL.


And so – they began publishing a mimeographed newsletter … and then a magazine (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)


As a communication tool, they use the idea of a clock.  The time to which the clock is set – is meant to be an indication of  –  the degree to which we are at risk of perishing outright, as a species  (or as a planet).


The application is of course metaphorical.  But it does not merely make use of our notion of time; it also makes use of our understanding of machines.


We all know – that a clock is a machine, and (as such) it will just keep moving.  So – using a clock is a way of communicating urgency. Their clock is telling us that – if we wish to SURVIVE … we’re going to have to DO SOMETHING.


We must CHANGE.


Our car is heading toward the DITCH !




Rachel Bronsen says (their current President & CEO) –  


“We believe that we can help solve the world’s most intractable problems with sustained attention, sound judgment, and evidence-based debate and assessments. But we can’t do it without you.”


Each January they make a determination as to “what time it is” … and the clock gets reset.


They take into account: 


nuclear risk, climate change, and disruptive technologies.


Sometimes the clock is advanced … sometimes it is set back.


It has varied between 17 minutes to midnight (in 1991) … to 100 seconds to midnight (since Jan. 2020).





[At the end of this essay, I’ll list the clock’s timeline … or  – you can find that in Wikipedia’s page]


Have a look at their site –   

and maybe sign up to receive their updates.




   (the Doomsday Clock, explained)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

[from   ]:



Civilization-ending nuclear war—whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication—is a genuine possibility. Climate change that could devastate the planet is undeniably happening. And for a variety of reasons that include a corrupted and manipulated media environment, democratic governments and other institutions that should be working to address these threats have failed to rise to the challenge. Faced with a daunting threat landscape and a new willingness of political leaders to reject the negotiations and institutions that can protect civilization over the long term, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board moved the Doomsday Clock 20 seconds closer to midnight—closer to apocalypse than ever. See the full statement from the Science and Security Board on the 2020 time of the Doomsday Clock.




As the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board prepared for its first set of Doomsday Clock discussions this fall, it began referring to the current world security situation as a “new abnormal.” This new abnormal is a pernicious and dangerous departure from the time when the United States sought a leadership role in designing and supporting global agreements that advanced a safer and healthier planet. The new abnormal describes a moment in which fact is becoming indistinguishable from fiction, undermining our very abilities to develop and apply solutions to the big problems of our time. The new abnormal risks emboldening autocrats and lulling citizens around the world into a dangerous sense of anomie and political paralysis.See the full statement from the Science and Security Board on the 2019 time of the Doomsday Clock.




The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable—but that failure can be reversed. It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The warning the Science and Security Board now sends is clear, the danger obvious and imminent. The opportunity to reduce the danger is equally clear. The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation. But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world. See the full statement from the Science and Security Board on the 2018 time of the Doomsday Clock.




For the last two years, the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock stayed set at three minutes before the hour, the closest it had been to midnight since the early 1980s. In its two most recent annual announcements on the Clock, the Science and Security Board warned: “The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.” In 2017, we find the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent. It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way. See the full statement from the Science and Security Board on the 2017 time of the Doomsday Clock.




“Last year, the Science and Security Board moved the Doomsday Clock forward to three minutes to midnight, noting: ‘The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.’ That probability has not been reduced. The Clock ticks. Global danger looms. Wise leaders should act—immediately.” See the full statement from the Science and Security Board on the 2016 time of the Doomsday Clock.




“Unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.” Despite some modestly positive developments in the climate change arena, current efforts are entirely insufficient to prevent a catastrophic warming of Earth. Meanwhile, the United States and Russia have embarked on massive programs to modernize their nuclear triads-thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties. “The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.” Read the full statement.




“The challenges to rid the world of nuclear weapons, harness nuclear power, and meet the nearly inexorable climate disruptions from global warming are complex and interconnected. In the face of such complex problems, it is difficult to see where the capacity lies to address these challenges.” Political processes seem wholly inadequate; the potential for nuclear weapons use in regional conflicts in the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and South Asia are alarming; safer nuclear reactor designs need to be developed and built, and more stringent oversight, training, and attention are needed to prevent future disasters; the pace of technological solutions to address climate change may not be adequate to meet the hardships that large-scale disruption of the climate portends. Read the full statement.




“We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons” is the Bulletin’s assessment. Talks between Washington and Moscow for a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty are nearly complete, and more negotiations for further reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenal are already planned. The dangers posed by climate change are growing, but there are pockets of progress. Most notably, at Copenhagen, the developing and industrialized countries agree to take responsibility for carbon emissions and to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. Read the full statement.




The world stands at the brink of a second nuclear age. The United States and Russia remain ready to stage a nuclear attack within minutes, North Korea conducts a nuclear test, and many in the international community worry that Iran plans to acquire the Bomb. Climate change also presents a dire challenge to humanity. Damage to ecosystems is already taking place; flooding, destructive storms, increased drought, and polar ice melt are causing loss of life and property. Read the full statement.




Concerns regarding a nuclear terrorist attack underscore the enormous amount of unsecured — and sometimes unaccounted for — weapon-grade nuclear materials located throughout the world. Meanwhile, the United States expresses a desire to design new nuclear weapons, with an emphasis on those able to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets. It also rejects a series of arms control treaties and announces it will withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Read the full statement.




India and Pakistan stage nuclear weapons tests only three weeks apart. “The tests are a symptom of the failure of the international community to fully commit itself to control the spread of nuclear weapons — and to work toward substantial reductions in the numbers of these weapons,” a dismayed Bulletin reports. Russia and the United States continue to serve as poor examples to the rest of the world. Together, they still maintain 7,000 warheads ready to fire at each other within 15 minutes. Read the full statement.




Hopes for a large post-Cold War peace dividend and a renouncing of nuclear weapons fade. Particularly in the United States, hard-liners seem reluctant to soften their rhetoric or actions, as they claim that a resurgent Russia could provide as much of a threat as the Soviet Union. Such talk slows the rollback in global nuclear forces; more than 40,000 nuclear weapons remain worldwide. There is also concern that terrorists could exploit poorly secured nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union. Read the full statement.




With the Cold War officially over, the United States and Russia begin making deep cuts to their nuclear arsenals. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty greatly reduces the number of strategic nuclear weapons deployed by the two former adversaries. Better still, a series of unilateral initiatives remove most of the intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers in both countries from hair-trigger alert. “The illusion that tens of thousands of nuclear weapons are a guarantor of national security has been stripped away,” the Bulletin declares. Read the full statement.




“We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons” is the Bulletin’s assessment. Talks between Washington and Moscow for a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty are nearly complete, and more negotiations for further reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenal are already planned. The dangers posed by climate change are growing, but there are pockets of progress. Most notably, at Copenhagen, the developing and industrialized countries agree to take responsibility for carbon emissions and to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. Read the full statement.




The United States and Soviet Union sign the historic Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the first agreement to actually ban a whole category of nuclear weapons. The leadership shown by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev makes the treaty a reality, but public opposition to U.S. nuclear weapons in Western Europe inspires it. For years, such intermediate-range missiles had kept Western Europe in the crosshairs of the two superpowers. Read the full statement.




U.S.-Soviet relations reach their iciest point in decades. Dialogue between the two superpowers virtually stops. “Every channel of communications has been constricted or shut down; every form of contact has been attenuated or cut off. And arms control negotiations have been reduced to a species of propaganda,” a concerned Bulletin informs readers. The United States seems to flout the few arms control agreements in place by seeking an expansive, space-based anti-ballistic missile capability, raising worries that a new arms race will begin. Read the full statement.




The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan hardens the U.S. nuclear posture. Before he leaves office, President Jimmy Carter pulls the United States from the Olympic Games in Moscow and considers ways in which the United States could win a nuclear war. The rhetoric only intensifies with the election of Ronald Reagan as president. Reagan scraps any talk of arms control and proposes that the best way to end the Cold War is for the United States to win it. Read the full statement.




Thirty-five years after the start of the nuclear age and after some promising disarmament gains, the United States and the Soviet Union still view nuclear weapons as an integral component of their national security. This stalled progress discourages the Bulletin: “[The Soviet Union and United States have] been behaving like what may best be described as ‘nucleoholics’ — drunks who continue to insist that the drink being consumed is positively ‘the last one,’ but who can always find a good excuse for ‘just one more round.'” Read the full statement.




South Asia gets the Bomb, as India tests its first nuclear device. And any gains in previous arms control agreements seem like a mirage. The United States and Soviet Union appear to be modernizing their nuclear forces, not reducing them. Thanks to the deployment of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV), both countries can now load their intercontinental ballistic missiles with more nuclear warheads than before. Read the full statement.




The United States and Soviet Union attempt to curb the race for nuclear superiority by signing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The two treaties force a nuclear parity of sorts. SALT limits the number of ballistic missile launchers either country can possess, and the ABM Treaty stops an arms race in defensive weaponry from developing. Read the full statement.




Nearly all of the world’s nations come together to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The deal is simple — the nuclear weapon states vow to help the treaty’s non-nuclear weapon signatories develop nuclear power if they promise to forego producing nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapon states also pledge to abolish their own arsenals when political conditions allow for it. Although Israel, India, and Pakistan refuse to sign the treaty, the Bulletin is cautiously optimistic: “The great powers have made the first step. They must proceed without delay to the next one — the dismantling, gradually, of their own oversized military establishments.” Read the full statement.




Regional wars rage. U.S. involvement in Vietnam intensifies, India and Pakistan battle in 1965, and Israel and its Arab neighbors renew hostilities in 1967. Worse yet, France and China develop nuclear weapons to assert themselves as global players. “There is little reason to feel sanguine about the future of our society on the world scale,” the Bulletin laments. “There is a mass revulsion against war, yes; but no sign of conscious intellectual leadership in a rebellion against the deadly heritage of international anarchy.” Read the full statement.




After a decade of almost non-stop nuclear tests, the United States and Soviet Union sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which ends all atmospheric nuclear testing. While it does not outlaw underground testing, the treaty represents progress in at least slowing the arms race. It also signals awareness among the Soviets and United States that they need to work together to prevent nuclear annihilation. Read the full statement.




Political actions belie the tough talk of “massive retaliation.” For the first time, the United States and Soviet Union appear eager to avoid direct confrontation in regional conflicts such as the 1956 Egyptian-Israeli dispute. Joint projects that build trust and constructive dialogue between third parties also quell diplomatic hostilities. Scientists initiate many of these measures, helping establish the International Geophysical Year, a series of coordinated, worldwide scientific observations, and the Pugwash Conferences, which allow Soviet and American scientists to interact. Read the full statement.




After much debate, the United States decides to pursue the hydrogen bomb, a weapon far more powerful than any atomic bomb. In October 1952, the United States tests its first thermonuclear device, obliterating a Pacific Ocean islet in the process; nine months later, the Soviets test an H-bomb of their own. “The hands of the Clock of Doom have moved again,” the Bulletin announces. “Only a few more swings of the pendulum, and, from Moscow to Chicago, atomic explosions will strike midnight for Western civilization.” Read the full statement.




The Soviet Union denies it, but in the fall, President Harry Truman tells the American public that the Soviets tested their first nuclear device, officially starting the arms race. “We do not advise Americans that doomsday is near and that they can expect atomic bombs to start falling on their heads a month or year from now,” the Bulletin explains. “But we think they have reason to be deeply alarmed and to be prepared for grave decisions.” Read the full statement.




As the Bulletin evolves from a newsletter into a magazine, the Clock appears on the cover for the first time. It symbolizes the urgency of the nuclear dangers that the magazine’s founders — and the broader scientific community — are trying to convey to the public and political leaders around the world. Read about Martyl Langsdorf, the creator of the Doomsday Clock, and read her note about how and why she came up with the design for what graphic designer Michael Beirut calls “the most powerful piece of information design of the 20th Century.”

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Right Use of Data


“Those who do not move

 do not notice their chains.”

                  ― Rosa Luxemburg





If we survive long enough … eventually the people of this planet will come to the realization that WE ARE THE PEOPLE OF THIS PLANET …  and then we will take responsibility for our welfare. And surely one of the things we will do – is to declare that war is illegal.

But for now we are still in the awkward stage – we really haven’t made up our mind to survive.  We lack hope … and we lack unity.


We all agree that killing is wrong (& illegal) … and that people get killed in wars; but we have not yet declared war to be illegal.


Of course we all realize that every municipality assumes this responsibility (of establishing a police force to protect people … and to see that laws are obeyed)


We don’t have World Peace yet … because we don’t (yet) want it.


It’s bound to come though … (simply) because it’s the only option that makes any sense.


And we now find ourselves IN THE DIGITAL AGE.  And our relationship with that fact is similar to our relationship with realizing that we are ALL A SINGLE FAMILY.


And so – we are in (yet another) awkward stage regarding our relationship with our Personal Data.


That’s why we are currently in the GOLDEN AGE OF SURVEILLANCE.  – We have the technology. (and virtually NO regulation) The public is largely ignorant.  And we have not yet (as a society) grappled with the situation … to understand it … and then balance our need for information (for purposes of legitimate protection against real dangers) against the cost to our privacy (particularly the cost to our most vulnerable people) 


Here is a good introduction –

    (Edward Snowden  on the Importance of Privacy, [3 ½ min.])



Also this –



And there’s more here –



 (Edward Snowden “Data Security and Privacy in the Age of Surveillance”,  [1 hr. 22 min.])


Snowden says that will solve our problems by choosing to … and through engineering (rather than my laws)    Though I think we should try to humanize our laws.


We should be aware of what has already happened … and we should try to understand our (current) situation. –


 (Chris Wylie [on CNN] :  ‘We tested Trump slogans in 2014’, [20 min.])


Part of our Situation  is that there unscrupulous companies (people) which/who are altogether willing to manipulate electoral outcomes … for a fee.


(I have read that these Grey Men first appeared during the Napoleonic Wars … when certain bankers began to exploit war … for profit  (not interested in the outcome of the war. Just a means to make money)


There is a remarkable (apparent) difference between the poor toothpaste salesman Alexander Nix here –

  (Cambridge Analytica boss under fire from MPs)


                             and the Alexander Nix here –

   (Alexander Nix of Cambridge Analytica – on ‘Big Data’ and Psychographics and their use in elections)


[It strikes me that Nix and Trump are quite similar … in that they are both quite willing to pretend WHATEVER they think they may be able to get away with … and have NO loyalty to the truth.]


Is this what it means … to be a Modern Man?


We need to figure out  … what we need to do – so that our Personal Data is not misused  (used against us).

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(Trump &) Snowden


I respect faith, but 

doubt is what gets you an education.                          

                                                –    Wilson Mizner




At the time of last week’s writing I promised myself I would MOVE ON.


and I will do it … (just not immediately)


Our president [the POTUS] is an accomplished showman and, (I will admit) quite a Spectacle.  


Our (current) president is truly

                               without precedent.


I hesitate (to move on) mainly because of his extreme incomprehensibility.

I think this is because his type of insanity is strange to us … and so we (simply) have no way to recognize it. 

[because – recognition always occurs on the basis

              of (an original) cognition]



Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig are (both) Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists; and together they wrote :  “A Very Stable Genius   Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America”. [The first part of the title comes from one of Mr. Trump’s (own) descriptions of himself; but I admit, I am sorry that the authors chose to use it in the title … as irony is often simply lost on many people.  And most people don’t read books]  … anyway


Stephanie Ruhle conducts a very good interview of these two authors (on The Washington Post Live) :

   (Stephanie Ruhle interviews Philip Rucker & Carol Leonnig  re [their book] “A Very Stable Genius”)



Also you may wish to see:

   (Report: Donald Trump Has ‘Stubborn Disregard’ For Intelligence Briefings) 




 (George Will Considers The President An ‘Embarrassing Wreck Of A Man’)




  (Governor Gavin Newsom      on Suing President Trump)


The reason I chose the epigram I did for today’s essay  – is that it pertains to our Mr. Trump’s wonderful lack of interest in (and even disdain for) Learning … including Intelligence Briefings.  This is very difficult to make sense of … so here is what I suggest: Imagine this – Suppose YOU were the president. And suppose also that your ability to doubt your own opinion had (somehow) been reduced to ZERO … which is what would happen if at some point you had concluded that your believing something made it True.  Once you can no longer distinguish between Reality   and Your View of Things … once these two things seem equivalent … then you will have lost all motivation to educate yourself!   Even if some Senior Advisor from our (multi-billion dollar) National Intelligence industry offers you some information … if your own opinion happens to be different from what he’s telling you … you’ll just think HE’S WRONG!


There is a saying (much used within the Conscious Transformation community):  “Don’t believe everything you think.”    Such counsel is OF NO USE to anyone in Donald Trump’s condition.  The advice has arrived TOO LATE. It is (now) meaningless.


And – Mark Twain’s counsel – that

“Those who do not read have no advantage over those who can’t.”

… is likewise completely useless to someone in Trump’s condition.  As far as self-education goes – he may as well be illiterate.


But let’s not make our life about Donald Trump.  There is much to be set right in this world, and it’s clear that HE will not be the one to look to for ANY of that.


Before a few weeks ago I was (nearly completely) ignorant of Edward Snowden … and, as Kabir says –  “Knowing nothing shuts the iron gates”.


I was very glad to (finally) learn something about him.

Let me suggest you watch these videos … (this first one, by Noam Chomsky, is only 5 minutes)

                  (Chomsky says –  that Snowden should be honored)



   ( Edward Snowden On Trump, Privacy, and Threats To Democracy  [54 min.])  


It seems to me that Edward Snowden is intelligent … decent … and patriotic actually.  He loves the United States; and he cares about what happens here.


He thinks that a government should be afraid of its citizenry, not the other way round. 

     (What an idea!)


And he thinks that our personal data should belong to us  /  the property of EACH INDIVIDUAL … (NOT belong the state, or to some corporation.)  


And he seems to think that this goal can be achieved.


I suggest (if you’re interested in the ‘privacy issue’ regarding our Personal Data) – that you have a look at –



and (of course) the film –

          “The Great Hack”  (2019, with Brittany Kaiser & David Carroll)









    (I just now watched) –

Silicone Valley’s Computer History Museum’s  Live presentation on the issues presented in “The Great Hack”.


which, by the way, includes a clip from ‘The Great Hack’      wherein David Carroll says that – “70 thousand voters, in 3 states, decided the (2016) election.”


How much did the Trump campaign pay Facebook (and Cambridge Analytica) to pull this off?


Perhaps one day we will find out?



Edward Snowden

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden-2.jpg
Edward Joseph Snowden

June 21, 1983 (age 36)

Nationality American
Occupation Computer security consultant
Known for Revealing details of classified United States government surveillance programs
Lindsay Mills (m. 2017)
Awards Right Livelihood Award
Website Edit this at Wikidata
Edward Snowden signature 2013.svg

Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983) is an American whistleblower who copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 when he was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and subcontractor. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments, and prompted a cultural discussion about national security and individual privacy.

In 2013, Snowden was hired by an NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, after previous employment with Dell and the CIA.[1] Snowden says he gradually became disillusioned with the programs with which he was involved and that he tried to raise his ethical concerns through internal channels but was ignored. On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and in early June he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn GreenwaldLaura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill. Snowden came to international attention after stories based on the material appeared in The Guardian and The Washington Post. Further disclosures were made by other publications including Der Spiegel and The New York Times.

On June 21, 2013, the United States Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property,[2] following which the Department of State revoked his passport.[3] Two days later, he flew into Moscow‘s Sheremetyevo Airport, where Russian authorities noted that his U.S. passport had been cancelled, and he was restricted to the airport terminal for over one month. Russia later granted Snowden the right of asylum with an initial visa for residence for one year, and repeated extensions have permitted him to stay at least until 2020. In early 2016, he became the president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that states its purpose is to protect journalists from hacking and government surveillance.[4] As of 2017 he is married and living in Moscow.[5][6]

On September 17, 2019, his memoir Permanent Record was published.[7] On the first day of publication, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against Snowden over publication of his memoir, alleging he had breached nondisclosure agreements signed with the U.S. federal government.[8] Former The Guardian national security reporter Ewen MacAskill called the civil lawsuit a “huge mistake”, noting that the “UK ban of Spycatcher 30 years ago created huge demand”.[9][10] The memoir was listed as no. 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list that same day.[11] In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! on September 26, 2019, Snowden clarified he considers himself a “whistleblower” as opposed to a “leaker” as he considers “a leaker only distributes information for personal gain”.[12]


Childhood, family, and education

Edward Joseph Snowden was born on June 21, 1983,[13] in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.[14] His maternal grandfather, Edward J. Barrett,[15][16] a rear admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard, became a senior official with the FBI and was at the Pentagon in 2001 during the September 11 attacks.[17] Snowden’s father, Lonnie, was also an officer in the Coast Guard,[18] and his mother, Elizabeth, is a clerk at the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.[19][20][21][22][23] His older sister, Jessica, was a lawyer at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. Edward Snowden said that he had expected to work for the federal government, as had the rest of his family.[24] His parents divorced in 2001,[25] and his father remarried.[26] Snowden scored above 145 on two separate IQ tests.[24]

In the early 1990s, while still in grade school, Snowden moved with his family to the area of Fort Meade, Maryland.[27] Mononucleosis caused him to miss high school for almost nine months.[24] Rather than returning to school, he passed the GED test[28] and took classes at Anne Arundel Community College.[21] Although Snowden had no undergraduate college degree,[29] he worked online toward a master’s degree at the University of Liverpool, England, in 2011.[30] He was interested in Japanese popular culture, had studied the Japanese language,[31] and worked for an anime company that had a resident office in the U.S.[32][33] He also said he had a basic understanding of Mandarin Chinese and was deeply interested in martial arts. At age 20, he listed Buddhism as his religion on a military recruitment form, noting that the choice of agnostic was “strangely absent.”[34] In September 2019, as part of interviews relating to the release of his memoir Permanent Record, Snowden revealed to The Guardian that he married Lindsay Mills in a courthouse in Moscow.[7]

Political views

Snowden has said that, in the 2008 presidential election, he voted for a third-party candidate, though he “believed in Obama’s promises.” Following the election, he believed President Barack Obama was continuing policies espoused by George W. Bush.[35]

In accounts published in June 2013, interviewers noted that Snowden’s laptop displayed stickers supporting Internet freedom organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Tor Project.[28] A week after publication of his leaks began, Ars Technica confirmed that Snowden had been an active participant at the site’s online forum from 2001 through May 2012, discussing a variety of topics under the pseudonym “TheTrueHOOHA.”[36] In a January 2009 entry, TheTrueHOOHA exhibited strong support for the U.S. security state apparatus and said leakers of classified information “should be shot in the balls.”[37] However, Snowden disliked Obama’s CIA director appointment of Leon Panetta, saying “Obama just named a fucking politician to run the CIA.”[38] Snowden was also offended by a possible ban on assault weapons, writing “Me and all my lunatic, gun-toting NRA compatriots would be on the steps of Congress before the C-Span feed finished.”[38] Snowden disliked Obama’s economic policies, was against Social Security, and favored Ron Paul‘s call for a return to the gold standard.[38] In 2014, Snowden supported a basic income.[39]


Feeling a duty to fight in the Iraq War to help free oppressed people,[28] Snowden enlisted in the United States Army Reserve on May 7, 2004, and became a Special Forces candidate through its 18X enlistment option.[40] He did not complete the training[13] because he broke both legs in a training accident,[41] and was discharged on September 28, 2004.[42]

Snowden was then employed for less than a year in 2005 as a security guard at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language, a research center sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA).[43] According to the University, this is not a classified facility,[44] though it is heavily guarded.[45] In June 2014, Snowden told Wired that his job as a security guard required a high-level security clearance, for which he passed a polygraph exam and underwent a stringent background check.[24]

Employment at CIA

After attending a 2006 job-fair focused on intelligence agencies, Snowden accepted an offer for a position at the CIA.[24][46] The Agency assigned him to the global communications division at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.[24]

In May 2006, Snowden wrote in Ars Technica that he had no trouble getting work because he was a “computer wizard”.[34] After distinguishing himself as a junior employee on the top computer team, Snowden was sent to the CIA’s secret school for technology specialists, where he lived in a hotel for six months while studying and training full-time.[24]

In March 2007, the CIA stationed Snowden with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer-network security.[24][47] Assigned to the U.S. Permanent Mission to the United Nations, a diplomatic mission representing U.S. interests before the UN and other international organizations, Snowden received a diplomatic passport and a four-bedroom apartment near Lake Geneva.[24] According to Greenwald, while there Snowden was “considered the top technical and cybersecurity expert” in that country and “was hand-picked by the CIA to support the president at the 2008 NATO summit in Romania”.[48] Snowden described his CIA experience in Geneva as formative, stating that the CIA deliberately got a Swiss banker drunk and encouraged him to drive home. Snowden said that when the latter was arrested, a CIA operative offered to help in exchange for the banker becoming an informant.[49] Ueli MaurerPresident of the Swiss Confederation for the year 2013, in June of that year publicly disputed Snowden’s claims. “This would mean that the CIA successfully bribed the Geneva police and judiciary. With all due respect, I just can’t imagine it,” said Maurer.[50] In February 2009, Snowden resigned from the CIA.[51]

NSA sub-contractee as an employee for Dell

In 2009, Snowden began work as a contractee for Dell,[52] which manages computer systems for multiple government agencies. Assigned to an NSA facility at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Snowden instructed top officials and military officers on how to defend their networks from Chinese hackers.[24] Snowden looked into Mass surveillance in China prompted him to investigate and then expose Washington’s mass surveillance programme after he was asked in 2009 to brief a conference in Tokyo.[53] During his four years with Dell, he rose from supervising NSA computer system upgrades to working as what his résumé termed a “cyberstrategist” and an “expert in cyber counterintelligence” at several U.S. locations.[54] In 2011, he returned to Maryland, where he spent a year as lead technologist on Dell’s CIA account. In that capacity, he was consulted by the chiefs of the CIA’s technical branches, including the agency’s chief information officer and its chief technology officer.[24] U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the investigation said Snowden began downloading documents describing the government’s electronic spying programs while working for Dell in April 2012.[52] Investigators estimated that of the 50,000 to 200,000 documents Snowden gave to Greenwald and Poitras, most were copied by Snowden while working at Dell.[1]

In March 2012, Dell reassigned Snowden to Hawaii as lead technologist for the NSA’s information-sharing office.[24] At the time of his departure from the U.S. in May 2013, he had been employed for 15 months inside the NSA’s Hawaii regional operations center, which focuses on the electronic monitoring of China and North Korea,[1] the last three of which were with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.[55] While intelligence officials have described his position there as a system administrator, Snowden has said he was an infrastructure analyst, which meant that his job was to look for new ways to break into Internet and telephone traffic around the world.[56] On March 15, 2013 – three days after what he later called his “breaking point” of “seeing the Director of National IntelligenceJames Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress”[57] – Snowden quit his job at Dell.[58] Although he has said his career high annual salary was $200,000,[59] Snowden said he took a pay cut to work at Booz Allen,[59] where he sought employment in order to gather data and then release details of the NSA’s worldwide surveillance activity.[60] An anonymous source told Reuters that, while in Hawaii, Snowden may have persuaded 20–25 co-workers to give him their login credentials by telling them he needed them to do his job.[61] The NSA sent a memo to Congress saying that Snowden had tricked a fellow employee into sharing his personal public key infrastructure certificate to gain greater access to the NSA’s computer system.[62][63] Snowden disputed the memo,[64] saying in January 2014, “I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers.”[65][66] Booz Allen terminated Snowden’s employment on June 10, 2013, one month after he had left the country.[67]

A former NSA co-worker said that although the NSA was full of smart people, Snowden was a “genius among geniuses” who created a widely implemented backup system for the NSA and often pointed out security flaws to the agency. The former colleague said Snowden was given full administrator privileges with virtually unlimited access to NSA data. Snowden was offered a position on the NSA’s elite team of hackersTailored Access Operations, but turned it down to join Booz Allen.[64] An anonymous source later said that Booz Allen’s hiring screeners found possible discrepancies in Snowden’s resume but still decided to hire him.[29] Snowden’s résumé stated that he attended computer-related classes at Johns Hopkins University. A spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins said that the university did not find records to show that Snowden attended the university, and suggested that he may instead have attended Advanced Career Technologies, a private for-profit organization that operated as the Computer Career Institute at Johns Hopkins University.[29] The University of Maryland University College acknowledged that Snowden had attended a summer session at a UM campus in Asia. Snowden’s résumé stated that he estimated that he would receive a University of Liverpool computer security master’s degree in 2013. The university said that Snowden registered for an online master’s degree program in computer security in 2011 but was inactive as a student and had not completed the program.[29]

Snowden has said that he had told multiple employees and two supervisors about his concerns, but the NSA disputes his claim.[68] Snowden elaborated in January 2014, saying “[I] made tremendous efforts to report these programs to co-workers, supervisors, and anyone with the proper clearance who would listen. The reactions of those I told about the scale of the constitutional violations ranged from deeply concerned to appalled, but no one was willing to risk their jobs, families, and possibly even freedom to go through what [Thomas Andrews] Drake did.”[66][69] In March 2014, during testimony to the European Parliament, Snowden wrote that before revealing classified information he had reported “clearly problematic programs” to ten officials, who he said did nothing in response.[70] In a May 2014 interview, Snowden told NBC News that after bringing his concerns about the legality of the NSA spying programs to officials, he was told to stay silent on the matter. He asserted that the NSA had copies of emails he sent to their Office of General Counsel, oversight and compliance personnel broaching “concerns about the NSA’s interpretations of its legal authorities. I had raised these complaints not just officially in writing through email, but to my supervisors, to my colleagues, in more than one office.”[17]

In May 2014, U.S. officials released a single email that Snowden had written in April 2013 inquiring about legal authorities but said that they had found no other evidence that Snowden had expressed his concerns to someone in an oversight position.[71] In June 2014, the NSA said it had not been able to find any records of Snowden raising internal complaints about the agency’s operations.[72] That same month, Snowden explained that he himself has not produced the communiqués in question because of the ongoing nature of the dispute, disclosing for the first time that “I am working with the NSA in regard to these records and we’re going back and forth, so I don’t want to reveal everything that will come out.”[73]

In his May 2014 interview with NBC News, Snowden accused the U.S. government of trying to use one position here or there in his career to distract from the totality of his experience, downplaying him as a “low level analyst.” In his words, he was “trained as a spy in the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas—pretending to work in a job that I’m not—and even being assigned a name that was not mine.” He said he’d worked for the NSA undercover overseas, and for the DIA had developed sources and methods to keep information and people secure “in the most hostile and dangerous environments around the world. So when they say I’m a low-level systems administrator, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’d say it’s somewhat misleading.”[17] In a June interview with Globo TV, Snowden reiterated that he “was actually functioning at a very senior level.”[74] In a July interview with The Guardian, Snowden explained that, during his NSA career, “I began to move from merely overseeing these systems to actively directing their use. Many people don’t understand that I was actually an analyst and I designated individuals and groups for targeting.”[75] Snowden subsequently told Wired that while at Dell in 2011, “I would sit down with the CIO of the CIA, the CTO of the CIA, the chiefs of all the technical branches. They would tell me their hardest technology problems, and it was my job to come up with a way to fix them.”[24]

Of his time as an NSA analyst, directing the work of others, Snowden recalled a moment when he and his colleagues began to have severe ethical doubts. Snowden said 18 to 22-year-old analysts were suddenly

“thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility, where they now have access to all your private records. In the course of their daily work, they stumble across something that is completely unrelated in any sort of necessary sense—for example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation. But they’re extremely attractive. So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker … and sooner or later this person’s whole life has been seen by all of these other people.”

As Snowden observed it, this behavior happened routinely every two months but was never reported, being considered one of the “fringe benefits” of the work.[76]

Global surveillance disclosures

The exact size of Snowden’s disclosure is unknown,[77] but Australian officials have estimated 15,000 or more Australian intelligence files[78] and British officials estimate at least 58,000 British intelligence files.[79] NSA Director Keith Alexander initially estimated that Snowden had copied anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 NSA documents.[80] Later estimates provided by U.S. officials were on the order of 1.7 million,[81] a number that originally came from Department of Defense talking points.[82] In July 2014, The Washington Post reported on a cache previously provided by Snowden from domestic NSA operations consisting of “roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.”[83] A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report declassified in June 2015 said that Snowden took 900,000 Department of Defense files, more than he downloaded from the NSA.[82]

In March 2014, Army General Martin DempseyChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee, “The vast majority of the documents that Snowden … exfiltrated from our highest levels of security … had nothing to do with exposing government oversight of domestic activities. The vast majority of those were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques and procedures.”[84] When asked in a May 2014 interview to quantify the number of documents Snowden stole, retired NSA director Keith Alexander said there was no accurate way of counting what he took, but Snowden may have downloaded more than a million documents.[85]

According to Snowden, he did not indiscriminately turn over documents to journalists, stating that “I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest. There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over”[28] and that “I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists … If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country.”[60] Despite these measures, the improper redaction of a document by the New York Times resulted in the exposure of intelligence activity against al-Qaeda.[86]

In June 2014, the NSA’s recently installed director, U.S. Navy Admiral Michael S. Rogers, said that while some terrorist groups had altered their communications to avoid surveillance techniques revealed by Snowden, the damage done was not significant enough to conclude that “the sky is falling.”[87] Nevertheless, in February 2015, Rogers said that Snowden’s disclosures had a material impact on the NSA’s detection and evaluation of terrorist activities worldwide.[88]

On June 14, 2015, UK’s Sunday Times reported that Russian and Chinese intelligence services had decrypted more than 1 million classified files in the Snowden cache, forcing the UK’s MI6 intelligence agency to move agents out of live operations in hostile countries. Sir David Omand, a former director of the UK’s GCHQ intelligence gathering agency, described it as a huge strategic setback that was harming Britain, America, and their NATO allies. The Sunday Times said it was not clear whether Russia and China stole Snowden’s data or whether Snowden voluntarily handed it over to remain at liberty in Hong Kong and Moscow.[89][90] In April 2015 the Henry Jackson Society, a British neoconservative think tank, published a report claiming that Snowden’s intelligence leaks negatively impacted Britain’s ability to fight terrorism and organized crime.[91] Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, criticized the report for, in his opinion, presuming that the public became concerned about privacy only after Snowden’s disclosures.[92]

Release of NSA documents

Snowden’s decision to leak NSA documents developed gradually following his March 2007 posting as a technician to the Geneva CIA station.[93] Snowden first made contact with Glenn Greenwald, a journalist working at The Guardian, on December 1, 2012.[94][95] He contacted Greenwald anonymously as “Cincinnatus”[96] and said he had sensitive documents that he would like to share.[97] Greenwald found the measures that the source asked him to take to secure their communications, such as encrypting email, too annoying to employ. Snowden then contacted documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in January 2013.[98] According to Poitras, Snowden chose to contact her after seeing her New York Times article about NSA whistleblower William Binney.[99] What originally attracted Snowden to both Greenwald and Poitras was a Salon article written by Greenwald detailing how Poitras’s controversial films had made her a target of the government.[97]

Greenwald began working with Snowden in either February[100] or April 2013, after Poitras asked Greenwald to meet her in New York City, at which point Snowden began providing documents to them.[94] Barton Gellman, writing for The Washington Post, says his first direct contact was on May 16, 2013.[101] According to Gellman, Snowden approached Greenwald after the Post declined to guarantee publication within 72 hours of all 41 PowerPoint slides that Snowden had leaked exposing the PRISM electronic data mining program, and to publish online an encrypted code allowing Snowden to later prove that he was the source.[101]

Snowden communicated using encrypted email,[98] and going by the codename “Verax“. He asked not to be quoted at length for fear of identification by stylometry.[101]

According to Gellman, prior to their first meeting in person, Snowden wrote, “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end.”[101] Snowden also told Gellman that until the articles were published, the journalists working with him would also be at mortal risk from the United States Intelligence Community “if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information.”[101]

In May 2013, Snowden was permitted temporary leave from his position at the NSA in Hawaii, on the pretext of receiving treatment for his epilepsy.[28] In mid-May, Snowden gave an electronic interview to Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum which was published weeks later by Der Spiegel.[102]

After disclosing the copied documents, Snowden promised that nothing would stop subsequent disclosures. In June 2013, he said, “All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”[103]


On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong,[104] where he was staying when the initial articles based on the leaked documents were published,[105] beginning with The Guardian on June 5.[106] Greenwald later said Snowden disclosed 9,000 to 10,000 documents.[107]

Within months, documents had been obtained and published by media outlets worldwide, most notably The Guardian (Britain), Der Spiegel (Germany), The Washington Post and The New York Times (U.S.), O Globo (Brazil), Le Monde (France), and similar outlets in Sweden, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Australia.[108] In 2014, NBC broke its first story based on the leaked documents.[109] In February 2014, for reporting based on Snowden’s leaks, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman and The Guardian′s Ewen MacAskill were honored as co-recipients of the 2013 George Polk Award, which they dedicated to Snowden.[110] The NSA reporting by these journalists also earned The Guardian and The Washington Post the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service[111] for exposing the “widespread surveillance” and for helping to spark a “huge public debate about the extent of the government’s spying”. The Guardians chief editor, Alan Rusbridger, credited Snowden for having performed a public service.[112]


Slide from an NSA presentation on “Google Cloud Exploitation” from its MUSCULAR program;[113] the sketch shows where the “Public Internet” meets the internal “Google Cloud” where user data resides.[114]

Data visualization of U.S. intelligence black budget (2013)

The ongoing publication of leaked documents has revealed previously unknown details of a global surveillance apparatus run by the United States’ NSA[115] in close cooperation with three of its four Five Eyes partners: Australia’s ASD,[116] the UK’s GCHQ,[117] and Canada’s CSEC.[118]

PRISM: a clandestine surveillance program under which the NSA collects user data from companies like MicrosoftGoogleAppleYahooFacebook and YouTube.

On June 5, 2013, media reports documenting the existence and functions of classified surveillance programs and their scope began and continued throughout the entire year. The first program to be revealed was PRISM, which allows for court-approved direct access to Americans’ Google and Yahoo accounts, reported from both The Washington Post and The Guardian published one hour apart.[113][119][120] Barton Gellman of The Washington Post was the first journalist to report on Snowden’s documents. He said the U.S. government urged him not to specify by name which companies were involved, but Gellman decided that to name them “would make it real to Americans.”[121] Reports also revealed details of Tempora, a British black-ops surveillance program run by the NSA’s British partner, GCHQ.[119][122] The initial reports included details about NSA call databaseBoundless Informant, and of a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand the NSA millions of Americans’ phone records daily,[123] the surveillance of French citizens’ phone and Internet records, and those of “high-profile individuals from the world of business or politics.”[124][125][126] XKeyscore, an analytical tool that allows for collection of “almost anything done on the internet,” was described by The Guardian as a program that shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements: “I, sitting at my desk [could] wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.”[127]

The NSA’s top-secret black budget, obtained from Snowden by The Washington Post, exposed the successes and failures of the 16 spy agencies comprising the U.S. intelligence community,[128] and revealed that the NSA was paying U.S. private tech companies for clandestine access to their communications networks.[129] The agencies were allotted $52 billion for the 2013 fiscal year.[130]

It was revealed that the NSA was harvesting millions of email and instant messaging contact lists,[131] searching email content,[132] tracking and mapping the location of cell phones,[133] undermining attempts at encryption via Bullrun[134][135] and that the agency was using cookies to piggyback on the same tools used by Internet advertisers “to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.”[136] The NSA was shown to be secretly accessing Yahoo and Google data centers to collect information from hundreds of millions of account holders worldwide by tapping undersea cables using the MUSCULAR surveillance program.[113][114]

The NSA, the CIA and GCHQ spied on users of Second LifeXbox Live and World of Warcraft, and attempted to recruit would-be informants from the sites, according to documents revealed in December 2013.[137][138] Leaked documents showed NSA agents also spied on their own “love interests,” a practice NSA employees termed LOVEINT.[139][140] The NSA was shown to be tracking the online sexual activity of people they termed “radicalizers” in order to discredit them.[141] Following the revelation of Black Pearl, a program targeting private networks, the NSA was accused of extending beyond its primary mission of national security. The agency’s intelligence-gathering operations had targeted, among others, oil giant Petrobras, Brazil’s largest company.[142] The NSA and the GCHQ were also shown to be surveilling charities including UNICEF and Médecins du Monde, as well as allies such as European Commissioner Joaquín Almunia and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.[143]

In October 2013, Glenn Greenwald said “the most shocking and significant stories are the ones we are still working on, and have yet to publish.”[144] In November, The Guardians editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said that only one percent of the documents had been published.[145] In December, Australia’s Minister for Defence David Johnston said his government assumed the worst was yet to come.[146]

By October 2013, Snowden’s disclosures had created tensions[147][148] between the U.S. and some of its close allies after they revealed that the U.S. had spied on Brazil, France, Mexico,[149] Britain,[150] China,[151] Germany,[152] and Spain,[153] as well as 35 world leaders,[154] most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said “spying among friends” was unacceptable[155][156] and compared the NSA with the Stasi.[157] Leaked documents published by Der Spiegel in 2014 appeared to show that the NSA had targeted 122 high-ranking leaders.[158]

An NSA mission statement titled “SIGINT Strategy 2012-2016” affirmed that the NSA had plans for continued expansion of surveillance activities. Their stated goal was to “dramatically increase mastery of the global network” and to acquire adversaries’ data from “anyone, anytime, anywhere.”[159] Leaked slides revealed in Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide, released in May 2014, showed that the NSA’s stated objective was to “Collect it All,” “Process it All,” “Exploit it All,” “Partner it All,” “Sniff it All” and “Know it All.”[160]

Snowden said in a January 2014 interview with German television that the NSA does not limit its data collection to national security issues, accusing the agency of conducting industrial espionage. Using the example of German company Siemens, he said, “If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to US national interests—even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security—then they’ll take that information nevertheless.”[161] In the wake of Snowden’s revelations and in response to an inquiry from the Left Party, Germany’s domestic security agency Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) investigated and found no concrete evidence that the U.S. conducted economic or industrial espionage in Germany.[162]

In February 2014, during testimony to the European Union, Snowden said of the remaining undisclosed programs, “I will leave the public interest determinations as to which of these may be safely disclosed to responsible journalists in coordination with government stakeholders.”[163]

In March 2014, documents disclosed by Glenn Greenwald writing for The Intercept showed the NSA, in cooperation with the GCHQ, has plans to infect millions of computers with malware using a program called TURBINE.[164] Revelations included information about QUANTUMHAND, a program through which the NSA set up a fake Facebook server to intercept connections.[164]

According to a report in The Washington Post in July 2014, relying on information furnished by Snowden, 90% of those placed under surveillance in the U.S. are ordinary Americans, and are not the intended targets. The newspaper said it had examined documents including emails, message texts, and online accounts, that support the claim.[165]

In an August 2014 interview, Snowden for the first time disclosed a cyberwarfare program in the works, codenamed MonsterMind, that would automate detection of a foreign cyberattack as it began and automatically fire back. “These attacks can be spoofed,” said Snowden. “You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?”[24]


File:PRISM - Snowden Interview - Laura Poitras HQ.webm

Snowden speaks about the NSA leaks, in Hong Kong, filmed by Laura Poitras.

Snowden first contemplated leaking confidential documents around 2008 but held back, partly because he believed the newly elected Barack Obama might introduce reforms.[1] After the disclosures, his identity was made public by The Guardian at his request on June 9, 2013.[100] “I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded,” he said. “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”[104]

Snowden said he wanted to “embolden others to step forward” by demonstrating that “they can win.”[101] He also said that the system for reporting problems did not work. “You have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it.” He cited a lack of whistleblower protection for government contractors, the use of the Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute leakers, and his belief that had he used internal mechanisms to “sound the alarm,” his revelations “would have been buried forever.”[93][166]

In December 2013, upon learning that a U.S. federal judge had ruled the collection of U.S. phone metadata conducted by the NSA as likely unconstitutional, Snowden said, “I acted on my belief that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts … today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights.”[167]

In January 2014, Snowden said his “breaking point” was “seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress.”[57] This referred to testimony on March 12, 2013—three months after Snowden first sought to share thousands of NSA documents with Greenwald,[94] and nine months after the NSA says Snowden made his first illegal downloads during the summer of 2012[1]—in which Clapper denied to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the NSA wittingly collects data on millions of Americans.[168] Snowden said, “There’s no saving an intelligence community that believes it can lie to the public and the legislators who need to be able to trust it and regulate its actions. Seeing that really meant for me there was no going back. Beyond that, it was the creeping realization that no one else was going to do this. The public had a right to know about these programs.”[169] In March 2014, Snowden said he had reported policy or legal issues related to spying programs to more than ten officials, but as a contractor had no legal avenue to pursue further whistleblowing.[70]

Flight from the United States

Hong Kong

In May 2013, Snowden took a leave of absence, telling his supervisors he was returning to the mainland for epilepsy treatment, but instead left Hawaii for Hong Kong[170] where he arrived on May 20. Snowden told Guardian reporters in June that he had been in his room at the Mira Hotel since his arrival in the city, rarely going out. On June 10, correspondent Ewen MacAskill said Snowden had left his hotel only briefly three times since May 20.[171]

Hong Kong rally to support Snowden, June 15, 2013

Snowden vowed to challenge any extradition attempt by the U.S. government, and engaged a Hong Kong-based Canadian human rights lawyer Robert Tibbo as a legal adviser.[1][172][173] Snowden told the South China Morning Post that he planned to remain in Hong Kong for as long as its government would permit.[174][175] Snowden also told the Post that “the United States government has committed a tremendous number of crimes against Hong Kong [and] the PRC as well,”[176] going on to identify Chinese Internet Protocol addresses that the NSA monitored and stating that the NSA collected text-message data for Hong Kong residents. Glenn Greenwald said Snowden was motivated by a need to “ingratiate himself to the people of Hong Kong and China.”[177]

After leaving the Mira Hotel, Snowden was housed for two weeks in a number of apartments by other refugees seeking asylum in Hong Kong, an arrangement set up by Tibbo to hide from the US authorities.[178][179] The Russian newspaper Kommersant nevertheless reported that Snowden was living at the Russian consulate shortly before his departure from Hong Kong to Moscow.[180] Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and legal adviser to Snowden, said in January 2014, “Every news organization in the world has been trying to confirm that story. They haven’t been able to, because it’s false.”[181] Likewise rejecting the Kommersant story was Anatoly Kucherena, who became Snowden’s lawyer in July 2013 when Snowden asked him for help in seeking temporary asylum in Russia.[182] Kucherena said Snowden did not communicate with Russian diplomats while he was in Hong Kong.[183][184] In early September 2013, however, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that, a few days before boarding a plane to Moscow, Snowden met in Hong Kong with Russian diplomatic representatives.[185]

On June 22, 18 days after publication of Snowden’s NSA documents began, officials revoked his U.S. passport.[186] On June 23, Snowden boarded the commercial Aeroflot flight SU213 to Moscow, accompanied by Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks.[187][188] Hong Kong authorities said that Snowden had not been detained for the U.S. because the request had not fully complied with Hong Kong law,[189][190] and there was no legal basis to prevent Snowden from leaving.[191][192][Notes 1] On June 24, a U.S. State Department spokesman rejected the explanation of technical noncompliance, accusing the Hong Kong government of deliberately releasing a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant and after having sufficient time to prohibit his travel.[195] That same day, Julian Assange said that WikiLeaks had paid for Snowden’s lodging in Hong Kong and his flight out.[196]

In October 2013, Snowden said that before flying to Moscow, he gave all the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong, and kept no copies for himself.[93] In January 2014, he told a German TV interviewer that he gave all of his information to American journalists reporting on American issues.[57] During his first American TV interview, in May 2014, Snowden said he had protected himself from Russian leverage by destroying the material he had been holding before landing in Moscow.[17]

In January 2019, Vanessa Rodel, one of the refugees who had housed Snowden in Hong Kong, and her 7-year-old daughter were granted asylum by Canada. Five other people who helped Snowden still remain in Hong Kong awaiting a response to their asylum request.[197]


Ecuador embassy car at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow on June 23, 2013

On June 23, 2013, Snowden landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.[198] WikiLeaks said he was on a circuitous but safe route to asylum in Ecuador.[199] Snowden had a seat reserved to continue to Cuba[200] but did not board that onward flight, saying in a January 2014 interview that he intended to transit through Russia but was stopped en route. He asserted “a planeload of reporters documented the seat I was supposed to be in” when he was ticketed for Havana, but the U.S. cancelled his passport.[181] He said the U.S. wanted him to stay in Moscow so “they could say, ‘He’s a Russian spy.'”[74] Greenwald’s account differed on the point of Snowden being already ticketed. According to Greenwald, Snowden’s passport was valid when he departed Hong Kong but was revoked during the hours he was in transit to Moscow, preventing him from obtaining a ticket to leave Russia. Greenwald said Snowden was thus forced to stay in Moscow and seek asylum.[201]

According to one Russian report, Snowden planned to fly from Moscow through Havana to Latin America; however, Cuba told Moscow it would not allow the Aeroflot plane carrying Snowden to land.[183] Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Cuba had a change of heart after receiving pressure from U.S. officials,[202] leaving him stuck in the transit zone because at the last minute Havana told officials in Moscow not to allow him on the flight.[203] The Washington Post contrasted this version with what it called “widespread speculation” that Russia never intended to let Snowden proceed.[204] Fidel Castro called claims that Cuba would have blocked Snowden’s entry a “lie” and a “libel.”[200] Describing Snowden’s arrival in Moscow as a surprise and likening it to “an unwanted Christmas gift,”[205] Russian president Putin said that Snowden remained in the transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport, had committed no crime in Russia, was free to leave and should do so.[206] Putin denied that Russia’s intelligence agencies had worked or were working with Snowden.[205]

Following Snowden’s arrival in Moscow, the White House expressed disappointment in Hong Kong’s decision to allow him to leave.[207][208][195] An anonymous U.S. official not authorized to discuss the matter told AP Snowden’s passport had been revoked before he left Hong Kong, but that a senior official in a country or airline could order subordinates to overlook the withdrawn passport.[209] U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Snowden’s passport was cancelled “within two hours” of the charges against Snowden being made public[3] which was Friday, June 21.[2] In a July 1 statement, Snowden said, “Although I am convicted of nothing, [the U.S. government] has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”[210]

Four countries offered Snowden permanent asylum: Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Venezuela.[211] No direct flights between Moscow and Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua existed, however, and the U.S. pressured countries along his route to hand him over. Snowden said in July 2013 that he decided to bid for asylum in Russia because he felt there was no safe way to reach Latin America.[212] Snowden said he remained in Russia because “when we were talking about possibilities for asylum in Latin America, the United States forced down the Bolivian President’s plane”, citing the Morales plane incident. On the issue, he said “some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.”[213] He said that he would travel from Russia if there was no interference from the U.S. government.[181]

Four months after Snowden received asylum in Russia, Julian Assange commented, “While Venezuela and Ecuador could protect him in the short term, over the long term there could be a change in government. In Russia, he’s safe, he’s well-regarded, and that is not likely to change. That was my advice to Snowden, that he would be physically safest in Russia.”[170] According to Snowden, “the CIA has a very powerful presence [in Latin America] and the governments and the security services there are relatively much less capable than, say, Russia…. they could have basically snatched me….”[214]

In an October 2014 interview with The Nation magazine, Snowden reiterated that he had originally intended to travel to Latin America: “A lot of people are still unaware that I never intended to end up in Russia.” According to Snowden, the U.S. government “waited until I departed Hong Kong to cancel my passport in order to trap me in Russia.” Snowden added, “If they really wanted to capture me, they would’ve allowed me to travel to Latin America, because the CIA can operate with impunity down there. They did not want that; they chose to keep me in Russia.”[215]

Morales plane incident

Spain, France, and Italy (red) denied Bolivian president Evo Morales permission to cross their airspace. Morales’s plane landed in Austria (yellow).

On July 1, 2013, president Evo Morales of Bolivia, who had been attending a conference in Russia, suggested during an interview with Russia Today that he would consider a request by Snowden for asylum.[216] The following day, Morales’s plane, en route to Bolivia, was rerouted to Austria and landed there, after France, Spain, and Italy denied access to their airspace. While the plane was parked in Vienna, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and asked to search the plane but they were denied permission by Morales himself.[217] U.S. officials had raised suspicions that Snowden may have been on board.[218] Morales blamed the U.S. for putting pressure on European countries, and said that the grounding of his plane was a violation of international law.[219]

In April 2015, Bolivia’s ambassador to Russia, María Luisa Ramos Urzagaste, accused Julian Assange of inadvertently putting Morales’s life at risk by intentionally providing to the U.S. false rumors that Snowden was on Morales’s plane. Assange responded that “we weren’t expecting this outcome. The result was caused by the United States’ intervention. We can only regret what happened.”[220][221]

Asylum applications

Snowden applied for political asylum to 21 countries.[222][223] A statement attributed to him contended that the U.S. administration, and specifically Vice President Joe Biden, had pressured the governments to refuse his asylum petitions. Biden had telephoned President Rafael Correa days prior to Snowden’s remarks, asking the Ecuadorian leader not to grant Snowden asylum.[224] Ecuador had initially offered Snowden a temporary travel document but later withdrew it,[225] and Correa later called the offer a mistake.[226]

In a July 1 statement published by WikiLeaks, Snowden accused the U.S. government of “using citizenship as a weapon” and using what he described as “old, bad tools of political aggression.” Citing Obama’s promise to not allow “wheeling and dealing” over the case, Snowden commented, “This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile.”[227] Several days later, WikiLeaks announced that Snowden had applied for asylum in six additional countries, but declined to name them, alleging attempted U.S. interference.[228]

After evaluating the law and Snowden’s situation, the French interior ministry rejected his request for asylum.[229] Poland refused to process his application because it did not conform to legal procedure.[230] Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said the government planned no response to Snowden’s asylum request. Germany and India rejected Snowden’s application outright, while Austria, Ecuador, Finland, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain said he must be on their territory to apply.[231][232][233] In November 2014, Germany announced that Snowden had not renewed his previously denied request and was not being considered for asylum.[234] Glenn Greenwald later reported that Sigmar GabrielVice-Chancellor of Germany, told him the U.S. government had threatened to stop sharing intelligence if Germany offered Snowden asylum or arranged for his travel there.[235]

Putin said on July 1, 2013, that if Snowden wanted to be granted asylum in Russia, he would be required to “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners.”[236] A spokesman for Putin subsequently said that Snowden had withdrawn his asylum application upon learning of the conditions.[237]

In a July 12 meeting at Sheremetyevo Airport with representatives of human rights organizations and lawyers, organized in part by the Russian government,[238] Snowden said he was accepting all offers of asylum that he had already received or would receive. He added that Venezuela’s grant of asylum formalized his asylee status, removing any basis for state interference with his right to asylum.[239] He also said he would request asylum in Russia until he resolved his travel problems.[240] Russian Federal Migration Service officials confirmed on July 16 that Snowden had submitted an application for temporary asylum.[241] On July 24, Kucherena said his client wanted to find work in Russia, travel and create a life for himself, and had already begun learning Russian.[242]

Amid media reports in early July 2013 attributed to U.S. administration sources that Obama’s one-on-one meeting with Putin, ahead of a G20 meeting in St Petersburg scheduled for September, was in doubt due to Snowden’s protracted sojourn in Russia,[243] top U.S. officials repeatedly made it clear to Moscow that Snowden should immediately be returned to the United States to face charges for the unauthorized leaking of classified information.[244][245][246] His Russian lawyer said Snowden needed asylum because he faced persecution by the U.S. government and feared “that he could be subjected to torture and capital punishment.”[247]

In a letter to Russian Minister of Justice Aleksandr Konovalov dated July 23, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder repudiated Snowden’s claim to refugee status, and offered a limited validity passport good for direct return to the U.S.[248] He further asserted that Snowden would not be subject to torture or the death penalty, and would receive trial in a civilian court with proper legal counsel.[249] The same day, the Russian president’s spokesman reiterated that his government would not hand over Snowden, noting that Putin was not personally involved in the matter and that it was being handled through talks between the FBI and Russia’s FSB.[250]

Criminal charges

On June 14, 2013, United States federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Snowden, charging him with theft of government property and two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 through unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.[2][248] Each of the three charges carries a maximum possible prison term of ten years. The charge was initially secret and was unsealed a week later.

Snowden was asked in a January 2014 interview about returning to the U.S. to face the charges in court, as Obama had suggested a few days prior. Snowden explained why he rejected the request:

What he doesn’t say are that the crimes that he’s charged me with are crimes that don’t allow me to make my case. They don’t allow me to defend myself in an open court to the public and convince a jury that what I did was to their benefit. … So it’s, I would say, illustrative that the President would choose to say someone should face the music when he knows the music is a show trial.[57][251]

Snowden’s legal representative, Jesselyn Radack, wrote that “the Espionage Act effectively hinders a person from defending himself before a jury in an open court.” She said that the “arcane World War I law” was never meant to prosecute whistleblowers, but rather spies who betrayed their trust by selling secrets to enemies for profit. Non-profit betrayals were not considered.[252]

Civil lawsuit

On September 17, 2019, the United States filed a lawsuit against Snowden for alleged violations of non-disclosure agreements with the CIA and NSA.[253] The complaint alleges that Snowden violated prepublication obligations related to the publication of his memoir Permanent Record. The complaint lists the publishers Macmillan and Holtzbrink as relief-defendants.[254]

Asylum in Russia

On June 23, 2013, Snowden landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport aboard a commercial Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong.[255][187][256] On August 1, after 39 days in the transit section, he left the airport and was granted temporary asylum in Russia for one year.[257] A year later, his temporary asylum having expired, Snowden received a three-year residency permit allowing him to travel freely within Russia and to go abroad for up to three months. He was not granted permanent political asylum.[258] In January 2017, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry wrote on Facebook that Snowden’s asylum, which was due to expire in 2017, was extended by “a couple more years”.[259][260] Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said the extension was valid until 2020.[261]

As of October 2019, Snowden had been granted permanent residency in Russia, which is renewed every three years. He secretly married Lindsay Mills in 2017. By 2019 he no longer felt the need to be disguised in public and lived what was described as a “more or less normal life”, able to travel around Russia and make a living from speaking arrangements (locally and over the internet). His memoir Permanent Record was released internationally, and while U.S. royalties were expected to be seized, he was able to receive the advance.[6] According to Snowden, “One of the things that is lost in all the problematic politics of the Russian government is the fact this is one of the most beautiful countries in the world” with “friendly” and “warm” people.[6] In another interview, Snowden went on to say: “There’s a way to criticize the Russian government’s policies without criticizing the Russian people who are ordinary people, who just want to have a happy life; they just want to do better. They want the same things that you do.”[262]


United States

A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero,[263][264][265] a whistleblower,[266][267][268][269] a dissident,[270] a patriot,[271][272][273] and a traitor.[274][275][276][277] Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg called Snowden’s release of NSA material the most significant leak in U.S. history.[278][279]

Government officials

Numerous high-ranking current or former U.S. government officials reacted publicly to Snowden’s disclosures.


  • Director of National Intelligence James Clapper condemned the leaks as doing “huge, grave damage” to U.S. intelligence capabilities.[280] Ex-CIA director James Woolsey said that if Snowden were convicted of treason, he should be hanged.[281]
  • FBI director Robert Mueller said that the U.S. government is “taking all necessary steps to hold Edward Snowden responsible for these disclosures.”[282]

  • House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger said a classified Pentagon report written by military intelligence officials contended that Snowden’s leaks had put U.S. troops at risk and prompted terrorists to change their tactics, and that most files copied were related to current U.S. military operations.[283]
  • President Barack Obama said that “our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.” Obama also objected to the “sensational” way the leaks had been reported, saying the reporting often “shed more heat than light.” He went on to assert that the disclosures had revealed “methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations.”[284]
  • Former congressman Ron Paul began a petition urging the Obama Administration to grant Snowden clemency.[285] Paul released a video on his website saying, “Edward Snowden sacrificed his livelihood, citizenship, and freedom by exposing the disturbing scope of the NSA’s worldwide spying program. Thanks to one man’s courageous actions, Americans know about the truly egregious ways their government is spying on them.”[286]
  • Mike McConnell—former NSA director and current vice chairman at Booz Allen Hamilton—said that Snowden was motivated by revenge when the NSA did not offer him the job he wanted. “At this point,” said McConnell, “he being narcissistic and having failed at most everything he did, he decides now I’m going to turn on them.”[287]
  • Former president Jimmy Carter said that if he were still president today he would “certainly consider” giving Snowden a pardon were he to be found guilty and imprisoned for his leaks.[288]
  • Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said, “[W]e have all these protections for whistleblowers. If [Snowden] were concerned and wanted to be part of the American debate…it struck me as…sort of odd that he would flee to China, because Hong Kong is controlled by China, and that he would then go to Russia—two countries with which we have very difficult cyberrelationships.” As Clinton saw it, “turning over a lot of that material—intentionally or unintentionally—drained, gave all kinds of information, not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups and the like. So I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia, under Putin’s authority.”[289] Clinton later said that if Snowden wished to return to the U.S., “knowing he would be held accountable,” he would have the right “to launch both a legal defense and a public defense, which can of course affect the legal defense.”[290]
  • Secretary of State John Kerry said Snowden had “damaged his country very significantly” and “hurt operational security” by telling terrorists how to evade detection. “The bottom line,” Kerry added, “is this man has betrayed his country, sitting in Russia where he has taken refuge. You know, he should man up and come back to the United States.”[291]
  • Former vice president Al Gore said Snowden “clearly violated the law so you can’t say OK, what he did is all right. It’s not. But what he revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the U.S. constitution that were way more serious than the crimes he committed. In the course of violating important law, he also provided an important service. … Because we did need to know how far this has gone.”[292]
  • In December, President Obama nominated former deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter to succeed outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Seven months before, Carter had said, “We had a cyber Pearl Harbor. His name was Edward Snowden.” Carter charged that U.S. security officials “screwed up spectacularly in the case of Snowden. And this knucklehead had access to destructive power that was much more than any individual person should have access to.”[293]


In the U.S., Snowden’s actions precipitated an intense debate on privacy and warrantless domestic surveillance.[294][295] President Obama was initially dismissive of Snowden, saying “I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”[296][297][298] In August 2013, Obama rejected the suggestion that Snowden was a patriot,[299] and in November said that “the benefit of the debate he generated was not worth the damage done, because there was another way of doing it.”[300]

In June 2013, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont shared a “must read” news story on his blog by Ron Fournier, stating “Love him or hate him, we all owe Snowden our thanks for forcing upon the nation an important debate. But the debate shouldn’t be about him. It should be about the gnawing questions his actions raised from the shadows.”[301] In 2015, Sanders stated that “Snowden played a very important role in educating the American public” and that although Snowden should not go unpunished for breaking the law, “that education should be taken into consideration before the sentencing.”[302]

Snowden said in December 2013 that he was “inspired by the global debate” ignited by the leaks and that NSA’s “culture of indiscriminate global espionage … is collapsing.”[303]

At the end of 2013, however, The Washington Post noted that the public debate and its offshoots had produced no meaningful change in policy, with the status quo continuing.[139]

In 2016, on The Axe Files podcast, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that Snowden “performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made.” Holder nevertheless said that Snowden’s actions were inappropriate and illegal.[304]

In September 2016, the bipartisan U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence completed a review of the Snowden disclosures and said that the federal government would have to spend millions of dollars responding to the fallout from Snowden’s disclosures.[305] The report also said that “the public narrative popularized by Snowden and his allies is rife with falsehoods, exaggerations, and crucial omissions.”[306] The report was denounced by Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman, who called it “aggressively dishonest” and “contemptuous of fact.”[307]

Presidential panel

In August 2013, President Obama said that he had called for a review of U.S. surveillance activities before Snowden had begun revealing details of the NSA’s operations,[299] and announced that he was directing DNI James Clapper “to establish a review group on intelligence and communications technologies.”[308][309] In December, the task force issued 46 recommendations that, if adopted, would subject the NSA to additional scrutiny by the courts, Congress, and the president, and would strip the NSA of the authority to infiltrate American computer systems using backdoors in hardware or software.[310] Panel member Geoffrey R. Stone said there was no evidence that the bulk collection of phone data had stopped any terror attacks.[311]

Court rulings

On June 6, 2013, in the wake of Snowden’s leaks, conservative public interest lawyer and Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit claiming that the federal government had unlawfully collected metadata for his telephone calls and was harassing him. In Klayman v. Obama, Judge Richard J. Leon referred to the NSA’s “almost-Orwellian technology” and ruled the bulk telephone metadata program to be probably unconstitutional.[312] Snowden later described Judge Leon’s decision as vindication.[313]

On June 11, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, alleging that the NSA’s phone records program was unconstitutional. In December 2013, ten days after Judge Leon’s ruling, Judge William H. Pauley III came to the opposite conclusion. In ACLU v. Clapper, although acknowledging that privacy concerns are not trivial, Pauley found that the potential benefits of surveillance outweigh these considerations and ruled that the NSA’s collection of phone data is legal.[314]

Gary Schmitt, former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote that “The two decisions have generated public confusion over the constitutionality of the NSA’s data collection program—a kind of judicial ‘he-said, she-said’ standoff.”[315]

On May 7, 2015, in the case of ACLU v. Clapper, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said that Section 215 of the Patriot Act did not authorize the NSA to collect Americans’ calling records in bulk, as exposed by Snowden in 2013. The decision voided U.S. District Judge William Pauley’s December 2013 finding that the NSA program was lawful, and remanded the case to him for further review. The appeals court did not rule on the constitutionality of the bulk surveillance, and declined to enjoin the program, noting the pending expiration of relevant parts of the Patriot Act. Circuit Judge Gerard E. Lynch wrote that, given the national security interests at stake, it was prudent to give Congress an opportunity to debate and decide the matter.[316]

USA Freedom Act

On June 2, 2015, the U.S. Senate passed, and President Obama signed, the USA Freedom Act which restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act that had expired the day before, while for the first time imposing some limits on the bulk collection of telecommunication data on U.S. citizens by American intelligence agencies. The new restrictions were widely seen as stemming from Snowden’s revelations.[317][318]


Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic security agency, speculated that Snowden could have been working for the Russian government.[319][320] Snowden rejected this insinuation,[321] speculating on Twitter in German that “it cannot be proven if Maaßen is an agent of the SVR or FSB.”[322]

International community

Demonstration at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin during Barack Obama’s visit, June 18, 2013

Crediting the Snowden leaks, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 68/167 in December 2013. The non-binding resolution denounced unwarranted digital surveillance and included a symbolic declaration of the right of all individuals to online privacy.[323][324][325]

Support for Snowden came from Latin American leaders including the Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.[326][327]

In an official report published in October 2015, the United Nations special rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of speech, Professor David Kaye, criticized the U.S. government’s harsh treatment of, and bringing criminal charges against, whistleblowers, including Edward Snowden. The report found that Snowden’s revelations were important for people everywhere and made “a deep and lasting impact on law, policy and politics.”[328][329] The European Parliament invited Snowden to make a pre-recorded video appearance to aid their NSA investigation.[330][331] Snowden gave written testimony in which he said that he was seeking asylum in the EU, but that he was told by European Parliamentarians that the U.S. would not allow EU partners to make such an offer.[332] He told the Parliament that the NSA was working with the security agencies of EU states to “get access to as much data of EU citizens as possible.”[333] The NSA’s Foreign Affairs Division, he claimed, lobbies the EU and other countries to change their laws, allowing for “everyone in the country” to be spied on legally.[334]

In July 2014, Navi PillayUN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told a news conference in Geneva that the U.S. should abandon its efforts to prosecute Snowden, since his leaks were in the public interest.[335]

Public opinion polls

A rally in Germany in support of Snowden on August 30, 2014

Surveys conducted by news outlets and professional polling organizations found that American public opinion was divided on Snowden’s disclosures, and that those polled in Canada and Europe were more supportive of Snowden than respondents in the U.S. although more Americans have grown more supportive of Snowden’s disclosure. In Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain more than 80% of people familiar with Snowden view him positively.[336]


For his global surveillance disclosures, Snowden has been honored by publications and organizations based in Europe and the United States. He was voted as The Guardians person of the year 2013, garnering four times the number of votes as any other candidate.[337]

Teleconference speaking engagements

In March 2014, Snowden spoke at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive technology conference in Austin, Texas, in front of 3,500 attendees. He participated by teleconference carried over multiple routers running the Google Hangouts platform. On-stage moderators were Christopher Soghoian and Snowden’s legal counsel Wizner, both from the ACLU.[338] Snowden said that the NSA was “setting fire to the future of the internet,” and that the SXSW audience was “the firefighters.”[339][340][341] Attendees could use Twitter to send questions to Snowden, who answered one by saying that information gathered by corporations was much less dangerous than that gathered by a government agency, because “governments have the power to deprive you of your rights.”[339] Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) of the House Intelligence Committee, and later director of the CIA, had tried unsuccessfully to get the SXSW management to cancel Snowden’s appearance; instead, SXSW director Hugh Forrest said that the NSA was welcome to respond to Snowden at the 2015 conference.[339]

Speaking via telepresence robot, Snowden addresses the TED conference from Russia.

Later that month, Snowden appeared by teleconference at the TED conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. Represented on stage by a robot with a video screen, video camera, microphones and speakers, Snowden conversed with TED curator Chris Anderson, and told the attendees that online businesses should act quickly to encrypt their websites. He described the NSA’s PRISM program as the U.S. government using businesses to collect data for them, and that the NSA “intentionally misleads corporate partners” using, as an example, the Bullrun decryption program to create backdoor access.[342] Snowden said he would gladly return to the U.S. if given immunity from prosecution, but that he was more concerned about alerting the public about abuses of government authority.[342] Anderson invited Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee on stage to converse with Snowden, who said that he would support Berners-Lee’s concept of an “internet Magna Carta” to “encode our values in the structure of the internet.”[342][343]

On September 15, 2014, Snowden appeared via remote video link, along with Julian Assange, on Kim Dotcom’s Moment of Truth town hall meeting held in Auckland.[344] He made a similar video link appearance on February 2, 2015, along with Greenwald, as the keynote speaker at the World Affairs Conference at Upper Canada College in Toronto.[345]

In March 2015, while speaking at the FIFDH (international human rights film festival) he made a public appeal for Switzerland to grant him asylum, saying he would like to return to live in Geneva, where he once worked undercover for the Central Intelligence Agency.[346]

In April 2015, John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, flew to Moscow to Interview Edward Snowden.[347]

On November 10, 2015, Snowden appeared at the Newseum, via remote video link, for PEN American Center’s “Secret Sources: Whistleblowers, National Security and Free Expression,” event.[348]

In 2015, Snowden earned over $200,000 from digital speaking engagements in the U.S.[349]

On March 19, 2016, Snowden delivered the opening keynote address of the LibrePlanet conference, a meeting of international free software activists and developers presented by the Free Software Foundation. The conference was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was the first such time Snowden spoke via teleconference using a full free software stack, end-to-end.[jargon][350][351][352][353]

On July 21, 2016, Snowden and hardware hacker Bunnie Huang, in a talk at MIT Media Lab‘s Forbidden Research event, published research for a smartphone case, the so-called Introspection Engine, that would monitor signals received and sent by that phone to provide an alert to the user if his or her phone is transmitting or receiving information when it shouldn’t be (for example when it’s turned off or in airplane mode), a feature described by Snowden to be useful for journalists or activists operating under hostile governments that would otherwise track their activities through their phones.[354][355][356][357][358]

The “Snowden effect”

In July 2013, media critic Jay Rosen defined The Snowden Effect as “Direct and indirect gains in public knowledge from the cascade of events and further reporting that followed Edward Snowden’s leaks of classified information about the surveillance state in the U.S.”[359] In December 2013, The Nation wrote that Snowden had sparked an overdue debate about national security and individual privacy.[360] In Forbes, the effect was seen to have nearly united the U.S. Congress in opposition to the massive post-9/11 domestic intelligence gathering system.[361] In its Spring 2014 Global Attitudes Survey, the Pew Research Center found that Snowden’s disclosures had tarnished the image of the United States, especially in Europe and Latin America.[362]

Jewel v. NSA

On November 2, 2018, Snowden provided a court declaration in Jewel v. National Security Agency.[363][364][365]


In popular culture

Snowden’s impact as a public figure has been felt in cinema,[368] television,[369] advertising,[370] video games,[371][372] literature,[373][374] music,[375][376][377] statuary,[378][379] and social media.[380][381]

Snowden gave Channel 4’s “Alternative Christmas Message” in December 2013.[6]

The film Snowden, based on Snowden’s leaking of classified US government material, was released in 2016.[382] The documentary Citizenfour won Best Documentary Feature at the 87th Academy Awards.[383]

See also


  1. ^ Hong Kong’s Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen argued that government officials did not issue a provisional arrest warrant for Snowden due to “discrepancies and missing information” in the paperwork sent by U.S. authorities. Yuen explained that Snowden’s full name was inconsistent, and his U.S. passport number was also missing.[193] Hong Kong also wanted more details of the charges and evidence against Snowden to make sure it was not a political case. Yuen said he spoke to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder by phone to reinforce the request for details “absolutely necessary” for detention of Snowden. Yuen said “As the US government had failed to provide the information by the time Snowden left Hong Kong, it was impossible for the Department of Justice to apply to a court for a temporary warrant of arrest. In fact, even at this time, the US government has still not provided the details we asked for.”[194]

[I do not include the (383) References, or the suggestions for Further Reading, or the External Links

Posted on 1 Comment

Truth = Reality


You who build these altars now 

to sacrifice these children, 

you must not do it anymore. 

A scheme is not a vision 

and you never have been tempted 

by a demon or a god. 

You who stand above them now, 

your hatchets blunt and bloody, 

you were not there before, 

when I lay upon a mountain 

and my father’s hand was trembling 

with the beauty of the word. 

        –   Leonard Cohen 
              (from ‘The Story of Isaac’)




When we think of ‘the Truth’, we may well think of Telling the Truth … of NOT LYING.  

(and we have a name for people who speak the truth (and do not deceive);  we say that they are HONEST.


But if we are to have any chance of understanding the mind of our current president (the POTUS) … we will need to understand his relationship to (both) TRUTH … and REALITY.


But before trying that, let’s take a few steps back … for some CONTEXT.


The Requirements of Living confront us ALL.


We are (always) in some Situation or another.  And besides the particular situation, we are in a

‘Generic’ … a general situation.  Let’s call it the Basic Human Situation.  (And it’s to an aspect of this Basic situation … that I now draw your attention.)


The Tasks of Living are several  (five, perhaps). The first one is – that we are confronted with is the necessity of comprehending the Nature of our Situation.


So –

What’s the Nature of my Situation?

What are my Alternatives of Action?

How will the world unfold … if I choose this path, or that one?

What do I care about? / (Who do I love?)

Taking action.


Suppose, for example, that you are driving a car.  You’re driving at the speed of the cars around you (which happens to be pretty fast) … and then you come to a curve in the road.  Now, if the road surface happens to be slippery (with rain, or snow, or ice) then you would do well to take into account that your situation has changed.  It may be that reducing your speed is the choice that is needed to keep your car from skidding off the road or into the lane of oncoming traffic.  


We (routinely) depend upon a clear assessment of our Situation … to keep ourselves ALIVE.  


We should also take good care of our Repertoire of Choices … (and tend it as we would a rose garden.)  When we are driving, we should ask ourselves (often) – “Am I leaving enough distance in front of me? (leaving enough space between my car and the one ahead?)   “Am I driving slow enough?” Such choices keep us alive (and/or keep us from killing someone else !)


If we are driving, and our FAMILY is riding in our car, then we are especially careful.  Why? Because we love them.


As Rumi says –


Someone who does not run

toward the allure of love

walks a road where nothing lives. 


Life is ours

in as far as our lives are love-driven and love oriented.


And we strive to comprehend the Truth because we understand

that therein lies the power to make choices … to cause the events of the world

to unfold in such a way that the people we love will enjoy good health and (we hope) be happy.


And Truth has to do with Reality.

“Truth” is our apprehension of Reality.

When our comprehension of the nature of Reality approaches the way it really IS … then we say that we comprehend the truth.


Reality is what ‘The Truth’ is (always) ABOUT !


Truth = Reality.       Mmm?


And – by “Reality” … we mean:  That which IS.   That which exists ON ITS OWN.


The fact that Science exists (as a collective enterprise – a cooperative effort to understand the natural world) bears witness to our need (and the value) to understand Reality (the Truth).


And this Pursuit of the Truth (always) takes place in (what I described last week) as the Zone of Philosophy.


Normal people have a USE for (and are routinely INVOLVED in) the pursuit of truth (trying to understand the nature of our Situation / the nature of Reality.


Did you notice the emboldened line in the epigram?    (‘A scheme is not a vision’)?


Cohen is telling us – that when we are love-oriented (and we have a plan … a goal) to make the world better for its (beloved) inhabitants  … THAT IS A VISION. (such as Deganawida’s [deliberate] efforts to create the Iroquois Confederacy … and the Great Peace. This is an example of a Leader wanting [and creating] a better world.  A Vision.



What if you are completely Selfish?  Then all your plans and goals will be only to serve yourSELF !     In such a case, the best you will be able to come up with is … a “Scheme”!   Mmm?


THIS is why our Mr. Trump can not be a leader … Because he DOES NOT LOVE.


He has no Visions … only SCHEMES    (because he is Completely Selfish) He thinks everything is ABOUT HIM !



Adulation (& admiration, & fealty) are a poor substitute for Love.  But it’s the best thing he can come up with.


You can say that he is ‘narcissistic’ … or that he is a ‘pathological liar’ … but these terms will probably NOT help you to understand him.


He’s BEYOND that really.


He SAYS he is ‘Very Normal’ … but he is NOT normal.


As long as we think that he is (basically) like US … we will not understand him.


[If you want to understand him … I suggest you study ‘Lucifer’ (in the Urantia Book.  Info at end of essay.)]

Trump does NOT LIE … not in the way WE understand lying.  He does not have ANY relationship with the Truth.  

Because his sense of Reality (within his personal Schematic … his sense of his own Basic Situation) is completely disrupted    (or perhaps it’s been destroyed)

We have all heard people refer to “my truth” / (“It’s true for me.”) … which implies that we DO NOT LIVE IN THE SAME WORLD … that we do NOT SHARE A PUBLIC REALITY.

Donald Trump (the way he is RIGHT NOW) shows us where this line of thinking is heading.     For he has arrived.


We (most people) have a use for the truth.  We want to understand reality better, because we want to make our LIVES better.


But this is NOT how our Mr. Trump functions. He has NO INTEREST in the truth.  AT ALL.   BECAUSE he (thinks he) has NO USE for Reality.  


Everything (from his point of view) is ABOUT HIM.  He’s an emotional four-year old … who simply Wants what he Wants.  And he’s going to GET it, if he CAN.


And what does he want?  Money. Power. Influence.  Followers. Approval. Fealty.  Adulation.


Perhaps he has been “eaten” by (modern) Social Media.  Consider his Tweets.  I think THAT’S real to him.  He wants a following.  I think he has substituted (his base’s) perception of him for Reality.  For him – Perception is primary.


In the last few decades I have observed a shift in how this society regards Reality.  There has been a marked increase in the view that Perception is an important form of Primary Reality.  [Consider our increasing dependence upon public opinion polls.   Donald Trump has simply (within his own psyche) carried this trend to its (logical) conclusion.]


Each and every ONE of us knows something about Selfishness & Self-Absorption … because we are ALL afflicted with it.  We all do it.



(That is … not Selfishness as we know it)




Compulsive Liar?


I suppose so … but none of these terms are adequate.


I think that “where he is”  (WHO he has become) … is now probably beyond our comprehension.


But I’m pretty sure – that it would NOT be worth going there

 … just in order to find out what it’s like.



53. The Lucifer Rebellion

1. The Leaders of Rebellion
2. The Causes of Rebellion
3. The Lucifer Manifesto
4. Outbreak of the Rebellion
5. Nature of the Conflict
6. A Loyal Seraphic Commander
7. History of the Rebellion
8. The Son of Man on Urantia
9. Present Status of the Rebellion

54. Problems of the Lucifer Rebellion

1. True and False Liberty
2. The Theft of Liberty
3. The Time Lag of Justice
4. The Mercy Time Lag
5. The Wisdom of Delay                                            Twelve reasons

6. The Triumph of Love

– (excerpted from the Contents of The Urantia Book)

~ ~ ~


Story of Isaac

  by    Leonard Cohen

The door it opened slowly, 

my father he came in, 

I was nine years old. 

And he stood so tall above me, 

his blue eyes they were shining 

and his voice was very cold. 

He said, “I’ve had a vision 

and you know I’m strong and holy, 

I must do what I’ve been told.” 

So he started up the mountain, 

I was running, he was walking, 

and his axe was made of gold. 


Well, the trees they got much smaller, 

the lake a lady’s mirror, 

we stopped to drink some wine. 

Then he threw the bottle over. 

Broke a minute later 

and he put his hand on mine. 

Thought I saw an eagle 

but it might have been a vulture, 

I never could decide. 

Then my father built an altar, 

he looked once behind his shoulder, 

he knew I would not hide. 

You who build these altars now 

to sacrifice these children, 

you must not do it anymore. 

A scheme is not a vision 

and you never have been tempted 

by a demon or a god. 

You who stand above them now, 

your hatchets blunt and bloody, 

you were not there before, 

when I lay upon a mountain 

and my father’s hand was trembling 

with the beauty of the word. 

And if you call me brother now, 

forgive me if I inquire, 

“Just according to whose plan?” 

When it all comes down to dust 

I will kill you if I must, 

I will help you if I can. 

When it all comes down to dust 

I will help you if I must, 

I will kill you if I can. 

And mercy on our uniform, 

man of peace or man of war, 

the peacock spreads his fan.


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The First Law of Ideas (Reconsidered)



Much have I talked about the Great War of Ideas and its importance in our lives.


And several times have I spoken or written about the First Law of Ideas [ –  that ANY idea can be wrong] … and how that law ‘falls out’ of an understanding of the Essential Nature of Ideas ( –  namely – that all Ideas and perceptions are, in effect, already wrong … since they are a MODEL of what they are an idea [or perception] OF; and they are useful to us – due to the RESEMBLANCE they bear to their referent.)



For the past few weeks I’ve undertaken the task of explaining our Mr. Trump’s relationship with the Truth … and I’m no longer satisfied to call (the above described) Law …  ‘The First Law’.

(I mean – I still think it’s TRUE … but I’m no longer willing to say that it’s “first”)  There is (I have come to realize) something more essential and fundamental governing our thinking.


[When we talk about the “Laws” of Physics … or the “Laws” of Nature … we are NOT (of course) talking about some form of Legality (such as Tax Law, Immigration Law, or Divorce Law).  We talk about the ‘Law’ of Gravity (for example) – as a way of regarding the everywhere-ness (and reliability) of (any) Natural Law.  It’s our (perhaps quaint) way of describing the fundamental NATURE of a phenomenon.  Mmm?]


Our first big High-Dollar job – as a Philosopher – is one we do in the middle of our first year of life:  we POSTULATE the EXISTENCE of The WORLD! (Piaget, of course, explains this transition by our ‘learning to ascribe the property of object permanence’ to things; but I think this denigrates the outrageousness, the magnificence, and the audacity of our postulation.  It’s Big!) And on the BASIS of it … we (gradually) walk away from our Infancy. We begin then to function as a PARTICIPANT in the Events of the World.


It’s the Great Transition (demarcating the end of Infancy and the beginning of Childhood)  Even as an infant, we were “conscious”; but we did not know what we were conscious OF. But (eventually) we GET it:  It’s THE WORLD!


Before we were having an experience (eyes open) of our surroundings.  We were having a (high fidelity) ‘dream’ of our surroundings … but we still lacked the Initial Cognition (of ‘Reality’ … or ‘The World’) … so our experience was JUST a DREAM.  But – once we dared to Imagine the WORLD … all of a sudden – the World became visible to us and we could begin to (actually) participate in it.


The difference between an Infant … and a Child … it’s a HUGE difference.   And we ALL DID IT.


And the fact that this landed us smack into Ignorance Consciousness (the naive realism of the Waking State, wherein we think that we (actually) see the World ) is (usually) not of Primary Importance.

I mean – it’s important … but nobody complains about the fact that mortar keeps the bricks apartThe reason we USE mortar (and what’s good about it) is that it CONNECTS the bricks!


Right now I’m inclined to think that the (actual) First Law (of Thought) is this image … the Understanding ITSELF – (of our Basic Situation) … a sort of schematic of the Basic Human Situation.  I see it as : Three Zones –

The first zone (the ‘near’ one) is the zone of the (abstract) Self … the experiencer … our Consciousness.

The second zone is inhabited by our thoughts and our perceptions.  This is the Zone of Philosophy.

The third zone is “Reality”, symbolized by “The World”.  (and I say ‘symbolized’ … because there is more to reality than the physical.  Also – we each have a physical body – which is part of the world … which is why I do not say that the First Zone is inhabited by our Ego – which would include the physical body.  Better to regard it simply as the Experiencer (abstract).

So – you see – that we are connected to reality BY our thoughts and perceptions (by our Philosophy) … in much the same way that the bricks in a structure are connected to the foundation by mortar … even though the mortar also separates.


I think that what falls out of this image – is the realization that to understand the World … well, it’s a Big Job … it’s quite a challenge!    Thus – The Truth is understood to be a Precious Commodity.


And, even though we all started out (from the age of half a year) thinking that we’re in Direct Contact with Reality … as we mature we are able to make increasingly better allowance for other people’s points of view.  We learn that the other person may be right … that there’s nothing ‘special’ (or privileged) about our own point of view.  We become more respectful. And we achieve this even without understanding the nature of the (great) illusion [that we are in direct contact with Reality … that we (actually) see the world … that our sight goes out from our eye]


But sometimes

We go the other way.  We might be (entirely) taken in by the Great Projection … the Great Illusion … the sense that WHAT we are seeing is ACTUALLY REALITY.

When THIS happens, it creates a (major) rearrangement in our comprehension of our Basic Situation.  And we no longer have access to the First Law. (we have REPLACED it) The Truth seems to disappear … and so there is NO WAY to pursue it (or respect it, or value it … or wonder whether we are in possession of it … ANY of it.  It’s just GONE.


Once you’ve convinced yourself that if you think something … if you believe it – then IT’S TRUE.  If you stay on this path (whether you’re a Human Being … or a Primary Lanonandek Son, such as Lucifer, our one-time System Sovereign) … you’re in Big Trouble.  You’re flirting with Cosmic Insanity.  

And return may not be possible.


In the book – “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President”   the authors are able (through knowledge, experience, & training) to evaluate a person WITHOUT projecting their own ways of functioning onto the subject.  The are quite familiar with Projection. But MOST of us … we could Very Easily look at our Mr. Trump … and ascribe to him what OUR motives would have been if WE had done what he (just) did.


And I do not consider that Cosmic Insanity is widely understood, nor is it easy to understand.


But the First Law bears heavily on it:  that ‘our relationship with the Truth … is Primary.



And as a culture – our relationship with the Truth … we are painting these days (for the whole world to see) … and with Bold Strokes.


Tomorrow I’m pretty sure that our Senate (the Senate of the United States !) will acquit their guy (Donald Trump).  (The Majority)- remembering that they are Republicans … and forgetting that they are the Senate.


And the Truth?   Also forgotten.   [as Don McLean sings – “And the three men I admired most – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost … caught the last train for the coast … the day the Music died.”]


And our Republican Senators (who are able to forget they are Senators) also bring to my mind the story of Jumping Mouse … who, having traveled very far, across the great prairie, to the foot of the Sacred Mountain … met a wolf.  And this wolf had a problem – he would forget that he was a wolf.

It’s a good story.  We should all read it … especially our “senators”.      [info at end of essay]


Today (of course) was the State of the Union Address.  And for those who would appreciate a description of the actual state of our union, I offer this (reprint)  from TruthOut’s Sasha Abramsky –

The Senate appears poised to acquit President Trump at his impeachment trial, and to essentially greenlight any and all presidential actions as being literally above the law and outside congressional restraining powers. What would an honest third-party observer say if they were invited to give the State of the Union on February 4 in lieu of Donald Trump?

As we approach the 2020 election, it’s time to give an honest accounting of Donald J. Trump’s time in office.

Let’s start with the bottom line: dollars and cents. On the surface, the economy is humming along — based in large part on mechanisms put in place during the Obama administration, as well as this administration’s relentless focus on the short term — though the escalating global coronavirus outbreak could easily cause economic mayhem over the coming months.

The decent economic indicators of the past few years, however, hide deep, systemic problems. The Trump administration summarily discounts all the future harm caused by deregulating workplace safety; undermining environmental rules; opening up public lands to the fossil fuel industry; turbocharging inequality through tax cuts skewed to the rich and cuts to public services used by the poor; eviscerating our public rainy day funds by running historically unprecedented deficits during boom times, thus leaving nothing in reserve for smoothing out the rough edges during the next recession; and pushing to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) to further reduce spending on the safety net, leaving a million more people without insurance in 2019 than in 2018, and creating the possibility that, at Trump’s urging, the U.S. Supreme Court will, soon after the election, strike down the entire ACA edifice.

Unemployment stands at 3.5 percent and median income is on the rise (although, notably, the gulf between rich and poor continues to grow, and the “recovery” has disproportionately benefitted the rich). Some of the ongoing growth is the legacy of Obama’s careful stewardship of the economy in the post-recession years. Partly it is also due to the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates historically low. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, except in part it’s the consequence of Trump bludgeoning the Fed’s chair, Jerome Powell, to keep those interest rates low, at least through the November election, no matter the long-term cost. Low interest rates during boom times — priming an already primed pump — turbocharges investment and borrowing but can stack up a host of inflation-related problems down the road. The long term, however, as repeatedly demonstrated by Trump’s malign business practices before he became president, has always been viewed by The Donald as being for losers. In Trump’s mental universe, only the now matters — only the instant gratification. Only the consumption, the grabbing of whatever is near enough to grab.

But truth be told, it’s not the economy that seems to get Trump’s juices flowing. And, in all fairness, why should he be excited by good economic indicators when a majority of the public doesn’t buy the argument that the good data is enough to qualify him for re-election? In normal years, if a president were presiding over an economic boom like this, that president’s popularity would be stratospheric. But Trump’s isn’t; instead, his support hovers at somewhere between 38 and 44 percent.

No, what gets Trump excited is the fact that his base loves him – and always will. To a depressingly large degree, his 2016 prognostication — when he infamously said he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and those guys would stick with him — has been proven right. Yet his supporters have been outnumbered by people who have hated him and his administration from day one. In fact, Adam Schiff’s legally compelling presentations at the Senate impeachment trial have resulted in majorities of Americans now saying he ought to be removed from public office. He won’t be, we all know that; but that has nothing to do with his guilt or innocence over the Ukraine quid pro quo. It has much more to do with the GOP’s willingness to be complicit in his myriad crimes. His attorney, Alan Dershowitz, has advanced the breathtaking argument, apparently now bought into by the vast majority of GOP senators, that anything Trump does to advance his personal interests as president can be conceived as being in the public interest. L’etat c’est moi, as the French kings used to say — not that Trump, in his tasteless MAGA cap, can or wants to speak a foreign language.

Trump’s as guilty as sin on the Ukrainian “drug deal,” but Mitch McConnell’s happy to keep him along for the ride, to cater to his vastly inflated ego, so long as he keeps delivering up fanatically conservative judicial nominees whom the Senate can then process onto the benches at factory-line speed to eviscerate voting rights, undermine anti-poverty programs, attack immigrants and, of course, shred a person’s right to reproductive choice. And even if Mitch-the-Machiavellian weren’t enjoying how much raw power Trump’s handed him, the GOP in Congress is now so scared of the president’s cultist base — and The Donald’s ability to use Twitter to instantly turn mobs against whoever opposes him — that most GOP senators probably wouldn’t convict the president even if he sexually assaulted someone on camera (as opposed to just boasting about it on a hot mic).

Throughout his life Trump has been dogged by allegations of violence, including bullying while at school, sexual assault charges as an adult, and the hectoring and intimidating of employees. These days, what he seems to really enjoy as he sits at the apex of power is the utter debasement of one public institution after the next, the bending of regulatory agencies, and the manipulation of the other branches of government to his personal will. There’s something deeply Nietzschean about it; Trump views himself as the Übermensch, the superman above of and outside of all normal moral limits. Despite the fact that he almost never smiles, Trump seems to genuinely revel in the fact that he has the power to get Bill Barr’s Justice Department to investigate his political opponents, to get the Pentagon to reinstate convicted war criminals, to get the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite climate change science and the national weather service to support his lies about the path a hurricane might take.

More than three years into his presidency, Trump is glorying in the corrosion and degradation of public discourse; in the establishment of what a few smart alecks back in 2017 and 2018 were calling a “Kakistocracy,” a realm where the shit rises to the top, where the crudest, cruelest people are amply rewarded for their service, and where humane world visions are replaced by loyalty, fealty, devotion to the Dear Leader, the man with, as he so piquantly put it, “great and unmatched wisdom.”

Trump is clearly enjoying the implosion of empathy and human rights, seen most prominently in how the country and its bureaucracies now treat immigrants: caging children; enforcing mandatory DNA and pregnancy tests; bottling would-be asylum seekers up in fetid, disease-riddled, violent camps; sending asylum seekers from Guatemala to Honduras, and from Honduras to El Salvador. The president appears to be having fun seeing immigration attorneys in fits of horror at new public charge rules that essentially impose wealth tests on those seeking to make the U.S. their home. He seems to be at his happiest when flirting with the idea of dramatically expanding the Muslim travel ban — now that the Supreme Court has given him carte blanche on that front — or proposing new ways to lock down the southern border.

The scale of this political tragedy is vast. Every time Trump journeys to a conference or a summit or a meeting of allies overseas, he ends up pissing off yet another leader from yet another country that we have enjoyed close ties to for the better part of a century. He has asserted his unilateral authority to assassinate foreign officials he doesn’t like — and to threaten to obliterate their countries’ cultural and population centers if they dare to respond. He has scrapped the INF nuclear arms control treaty, and threatens to withdraw from the treaties limiting intercontinental ballistic missiles, increasing the likelihood of an atomic Armageddon. Now the world stands on the precipice of what the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists calls “midnight,” that moment when nuclear proliferation ceases to be controllable.

Trump’s nuclear recklessness is matched only by his appalling disregard for the environment and for the perils of climate change. He is doing everything in his power not just to roll back Obama-era environmental rules aimed at tackling climate change, but also to actively push policies that would further increase CO2 in the atmosphere rapidly. He is even ending California’s authority to regulate tailpipe emissions, even though many of the world’s biggest car manufacturers had agreed to design more fuel-efficient, less-polluting cars that would meet those standards.

Internationally, in embracing Brexit and its aims, Trump and his nationalist team have managed to undermine the coherence of the European Union and put the post-war stability of Europe at risk. On a near daily basis, for reasons that often seem as random as whether Trump woke up on the right or wrong side of the bed that morning, he throws wrenches into the works of international trade systems and partnerships. His negotiators work on trade agreements with other countries only for Trump to arbitrarily threaten to impose tariffs on erstwhile partners. And as the U.S.’s commitment to these relationships fades, trade spats around the globe, including between allies like South Korea and Japan, are escalating.

Because of McConnell’s Faustian bargain, overseas governments and criminal enterprises will implicitly be given free rein to interfere in U.S. elections as much and as often as the president demands it.

Domestically, white supremacist violence is on the rise across the U.S., and neo-Nazi groups such as The Base and Atomwaffen are on the march — openly participating in gun-pride events and using the internet to threaten race war. For these groups, Trump is a talisman, a symbol of how their worldview can triumph.

But, while Trump flirts with white nationalism, he’s also, primarily, concerned with numero uno. He self-deals shamelessly, channeling business to his hotel in D.C., to his golf courses and resorts in Florida, to his overseas properties in Scotland, in Turkey and elsewhere.

He loves the Saudi government’s leadership. Since Saudi Arabia buys huge amounts of American weaponry, Trump forgives its government for its involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He wants to do more business with Turkey and thus doesn’t think twice about giving Turkey free-range to attack and kill the Kurds in Syria. He feels simpatico with the strong-man leadership style of China’s President Xi, and thus refuses to say more than a few milquetoast words in support of Hong Kong’s democracy protesters.

Three years in, Trump increasingly views himself as all-powerful. He has articulated a political doctrine that Article II of the Constitution allows him as president to do “whatever I want,” and he has sent his lawyers to court to argue that he is literally unindictable, that he is definitionally above the law. The Senate will, in its acceptance of Dershowitz’s arguments, give its imprimatur to this. Seeking to leverage their short-term power, McConnell and the rest of his gang will weaken the long-term ability of Congress to function as a co-equal branch of government, thus signing off on Congress’s own demise, in much the same way as Roman senators, in the dying days of the Republic, divided into a series of warring factions and ceded power to strongmen and dictators, thus paving the way for imperial rule.

From here on in, because of McConnell’s Faustian bargain, overseas governments and criminal enterprises will implicitly be given free rein to interfere in U.S. elections as much and as often as the president demands it. They will be vultures pecking at the corpse of U.S. democracy.

Trump is like Charlie Chaplin’s tyrant-character in The Great Dictator, dreamily playing with an inflated world globe. He jokes about ruling for life, but, drunk on his own power, he no longer knows where humor ends and longing begins. His entire presidency is a Rorschach test. And each day he remains in office speaks volumes to the real state of the union — and to where it is heading.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  [for our Senators] :

How many legs does a dog have

if you count the tail as a leg?


Calling the tail a leg

does not make it a leg.

                –   Abraham Lincoln



Lincoln also said –  “I have learned that most men can withstand adversity.  If you would test a man’s character, give him power.”






The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President”   – by Bandy X. Lee , Jeffrey Sachs, et al.


The story of Jumping Mouse is from –  “Seven Arrows”   by Hyemeyohsts Storm 


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Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to prosecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing

                                                                                                 –  Vaclav Havel






As always, the Great War of Ideas continues to rage – (both around us and in us.)


Last week the essay was about our president’s impeachment.  This week I would like (if I am able to do so) to say some things to contextualize our understanding of our relationship with the Truth … (particularly in regard to our Mr. Trump’s ‘love affair’ with the Truth)


Last week I made use of an interview of Bill Moyers  ( )     wherein he said that President Trump is a “solipsist”.  I think this is actually a very helpful comment. (I’m assuming now – that our ‘shared goal’  is to better understand what’s happening)

[And, in case you want to make use of it, I’ll include at the end of this essay – the link to the Wikipedia page on ‘Solipsism’]


But I feel that it is inadequate (simply) to name the condition (‘He’s a solipsist’)  I’m hoping we can understand it a bit deeper.


M. Scott Peck wrote a book called “The People of the Lie”.  Here’s a brief summary –






I would like to acquaint you with (the basics of) ‘Relativity’ (as I learned something about it during my 17 years in a religious order)


‘Intellectual Relativism’ believes that “All truth is relative” … that one belief is as good as another … and that (finally) there IS no TRUTH.  It’s just ‘my word against yours’ … and that’s all there is to it. It essentially DENIES the existence of Absolutes (of Absolute Truth). And (of course) it puts an end to all discussion before it even begins.


‘Moral Relativism’ takes the position – that  there IS NO right or wrong.  (And – there is No evil.)  Ever hear the expression – “It’s all Good”?  (Quite a bit of New Age thought comes from Relativity … and deserves to be reconsidered)


But now I should warn you – that the next couple references contain mention of numerous (non-human) orders of beings.  (this does not trouble me, but it may trouble you) –


[If you’d like to make use of it – “The Cosmic Family  Volume I” offers a pretty good summary, beginning on pp.23 & 24  – ‘The Fall of our System Sovereign and Planetary Prince’          { availability:  at end of essay } ]


In The Urantia Book there is considerable information in Papers 53 & 54 (‘The Lucifer Rebellion’  and ‘Problems of the Lucifer Rebellion’)     Here are a couple excerpts –


2. The Causes of Rebellion

53:2.1 (602.4) Lucifer and his first assistant, Satan, had reigned on Jerusem for more than five hundred thousand years when in their hearts they began to array themselves against the Universal Father and his then vicegerent Son, Michael.

53:2.2 (602.5) There were no peculiar or special conditions in the system of Satania which suggested or favored rebellion. It is our belief that the idea took origin and form in Lucifer’s mind, and that he might have instigated such a rebellion no matter where he might have been stationed. Lucifer first announced his plans to Satan, but it required several months to corrupt the mind of his able and brilliant associate. However, when once converted to the rebel theories, he became a bold and earnest advocate of “self-assertion and liberty.”

53:2.3 (602.6) No one ever suggested rebellion to Lucifer. The idea of self-assertion in opposition to the will of Michael and to the plans of the Universal Father, as they are represented in Michael, had its origin in his own mind. His relations with the Creator Son had been intimate and always cordial. At no time prior to the exaltation of his own mind did Lucifer openly express dissatisfaction about the universe administration. Notwithstanding his silence, for more than one hundred years of standard time the Union of Days on Salvington had been reflectivating to Uversa that all was not at peace in Lucifer’s mind. This information was also communicated to the Creator Son and the Constellation Fathers of Norlatiadek.

53:2.4 (602.7) Throughout this period Lucifer became increasingly critical of the entire plan of universe administration but always professed wholehearted loyalty to the Supreme Rulers. His first outspoken disloyalty was manifested on the occasion of a visit of Gabriel to Jerusem just a few days before the open proclamation of the Lucifer Declaration of Liberty. Gabriel was so profoundly impressed with the certainty of the impending outbreak that he went direct to Edentia to confer with the Constellation Fathers regarding the measures to be employed in case of open rebellion.

53:2.5 (603.1) It is very difficult to point out the exact cause or causes which finally culminated in the Lucifer rebellion. We are certain of only one thing, and that is: Whatever these first beginnings were, they had their origin in Lucifer’s mind. There must have been a pride of self that nourished itself to the point of self-deception, so that Lucifer for a time really persuaded himself that his contemplation of rebellion was actually for the good of the system, if not of the universe. By the time his plans had developed to the point of disillusionment, no doubt he had gone too far for his original and mischief-making pride to permit him to stop. At some point in this experience he became insincere, and evil evolved into deliberate and willful sin. That this happened is proved by the subsequent conduct of this brilliant executive. He was long offered opportunity for repentance, but only some of his subordinates ever accepted the proffered mercy. The Faithful of Days of Edentia, on the request of the Constellation Fathers, in person presented the plan of Michael for the saving of these flagrant rebels, but always was the mercy of the Creator Son rejected and rejected with increasing contempt and disdain.


53:5.6 (606.2) “There was war in heaven; Michael’s commander and his angels fought against the dragon (Lucifer, Satan, and the apostate princes); and the dragon and his rebellious angels fought but prevailed not.” This “war in heaven” was not a physical battle as such a conflict might be conceived on Urantia. In the early days of the struggle Lucifer held forth continuously in the planetary amphitheater. Gabriel conducted an unceasing exposure of the rebel sophistries from his headquarters taken up near at hand. The various personalities present on the sphere who were in doubt as to their attitude would journey back and forth between these discussions until they arrived at a final decision.

53:5.7 (606.3) But this war in heaven was very terrible and very real. While displaying none of the barbarities so characteristic of physical warfare on the immature worlds, this conflict was far more deadly; material life is in jeopardy in material combat, but the war in heaven was fought in terms of life eternal.


[Though it says (in 53:5.6) that – ‘ the dragon and his rebellious angels fought but prevailed not.’ … I once heard the Bright and Morning Star of Salvington (- Gabriel, who argued for God  and against the rebellion) say … that, when at last this great debate ended … he thought he had lost.]


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I believe that the ‘correct’ way to understand ANY person … is to keep in mind – that whatever that person did … we are ALL capable of it.


George Will wrote – “Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic,” Will stated at the end of his column. “Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.”


Now, I like George Will very much, and I respect and value him; but I think he is wrong to think that Donald Trump (simply) IS what he IS.  


Having done some studying (and thinking) about Lucifer’s downfall, I feel confident that Trump (also) made a choice.  He CHOSE to scorn the Truth … to prefer his own beliefs … or (perhaps) to think that his beliefs (simply) ARE the truth.


I suspect that such a choice … amounts to a denial of Reality.


What we mean by ‘Reality’ is that – it does NOT depend upon us (our beliefs or awareness).  I think my house is real. By that – I mean that even when no person is in the house … or if I forget about the house … that the house STILL EXISTS.  That its existence is INDEPENDENT from me (or my awareness of it).


I think Trump must have made a choice to ‘reclassify reality’, as it were.  I suspect that he no longer regards it as having an independent existence (from him).

I’m pretty sure that Lucifer made a similar choice.

But – what’s going to happen, do you think, when a person is no longer able to distinguish between REALITY … and WHAT THEY BELIEVE IS TRUE?

Well … it’s going to be a real mess!

And this is probably why such a condition is regarded (among the celestials) as COSMIC INSANITY.


This is NOT an easy thing to understand … yet we should apply ourselves  … help each other. We should TRY.


I recommend you watch 



Ms. Warren talks about how we ALL are involved (every day, in many ways) in self-deception.


But – our Mr.Trump has taken self-deception to such an extreme … that it’s scary.





The Cosmic Family, Vol. I    is available from  –

                    or through Amazon




How many legs does a dog have

if you count the tail as a leg?


Calling the tail a leg

does not make it a leg.


                –   Abraham Lincoln



Posted on 101 Comments



How many legs does a dog have

if you count the tail as a leg?


Calling the tail a leg

does not make it a leg.


                                  –   Abraham Lincoln







Will our (Republican dominated) senate muster up the necessary tunnel vision (ignoring the facts, ignoring their oath) to acquit our Mr. Trump of his betrayal of the public trust?  

It looks like it.

Is not such Tunnel Vision really a form of arrogance?  [thinking that we’re so important that we are at liberty to ignore whatever does not pertain to Republican Party politics.  (Who cares about Context?  Who cares about the nature of the Broader Situation?)  As though we were our own Primary Reality!]


But suppose they don’t.  Suppose for a minute they find him guilty (of the crimes indicated by the facts)

Do you imagine that Donald Trump will admit that he did wrong?   Mmm?




Donald Trump is Our Problem.  He’s US, really. He’s the Arrival our society has been heading toward for quite some time.


And … WHICH do you think is more important?  President Trump being on trial? …. or the fact that our Entire Society is on Trial before the World?


WHAT is our relationship with the Truth?   (and how has that relationship been developing during the last couple centuries?)


We treat Knowledge as though it were a disease.  In our public schools, we teach our children that if they can just pass (a certain) test … they will then be “immune” to the knowledge covered in the test … and they won’t have to bother with it further.  (Once you’ve had the measles, you won’t have to deal with it again. You’ll then be immune.)


And – what about the “sport” of Debate?  We’ve been doing (formalized) debate since 1892   (a century and a quarter)   


What do these competitions tell us about our society’s relationship with the Truth?

(quite a bit, I think) –


Does a formal (inter-collegiate) debate (or the preparation for it) even vaguely resemble a truth-seekers’ Think-Tank?  (A cooperative striving to come closer to the truth.  An earnest attempt to understand some particularly elusive aspect of reality)?




It’s all about persuasion. 

The Reality (of the real World) … the Truth of the matter … such considerations have long ago faded into the mist … somewhere now over the horizon, perhaps hidden by the (modern-cognitive) curve of the earth.


Instead … it’s Salesmanship.


We have traded in Reality (and the Truth) … for MARKETING.


And so we have (through long labor) produced a man with a heightened sense of How he Looks / of Appearance … and NO sense of the Truth.  (and we have made him our PRESIDENT)


And now (as we struggle over whether to relieve him of his position) we display – for all the world to see … just HOW FAR (from the Truth) … we have come.


(Such an achievement!)



Impeach the President?        It’s WE who are on trial.




[Please take note of Bill Moyers’ comments about Václav Havel, near the end of his talk.]



 (Noam Chomsky –

The Most Dangerous Organization in Human History)


 (Bill Moyers – on The Dangers Of So Much Dishonesty)


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Too Little


It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limits of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive.

                                                                                                                     –    C. W. Leadbeater





We are highly (highly) resistant to believing in things we have not directly experienced.


We all know what a unicorn is.  But (I think) very few people believe they are real … (me too). 

But, did you know – that, even as late as 1900, very few people believed that gorillas were real (despite the fact that they knew about them … they knew what they were)  People did not believe in gorillas TILL THEY WERE CAPTURED AND PRESENTED, IN PERSON (as it were).


We tend to make direct experience into a requirement (for belief).


But, I think there’s more to it than that …  (that is – more to why our resistance to belief is so strong)


Maybe watch this video, wherein a medical doctor (and skeptic, Justin Coleman) fails to be convinced that actual healing is taking place … EVEN THOUGH he is a direct witness to the ‘healings’.  And I think it’s because he is fond of his belief structure (which [he believes] he himself created) … and is unable to make sense of what he sees – IN TERMS OF that STRUCTURE. And so … he REMAINS A SKEPTIC.




I think, too – that a good portion of our resistance to belief comes from the fact that it seems to us that our “sight” goes out from our eyes … and strikes (and apprehends) our environment … out there, where the things are.  This (all day, every day) experience … leaves us (STUCK with) the impression … that we “SEE THE WORLD” … that we are in direct contact with reality !  (which we are NOT) 

Most of us (actually DO) realize – that the direction of perception is INward.  … But, since we EXPERIENCE it as outward … we operate under the illusion that … we are in DIRECT CONTACT with reality.          (I have discussed this [powerful and persistent] illusion in previous essays)

Anyway, I quite suspect – that this same illusion is partly responsible for the fact that we have such (great) resistance … to believing in anything which we have not (personally and) directly experienced.


But in any case …  it’s still a mistake.  (a malfunction)



There may be quite a number of things that I believe in (believe to be real) … which you may not.


But, let’s just consider a couple :  angels … and crop circles.


The MAIN reason I believe in angels – is because I am able to respect the (personal, reported) direct experience OF OTHERS.

I do not own all the experience in the world.  Should we not respect the experience of others?  (and make use of it?)











7. The Talk About Angels

167:7.1 (1840.6) As they journeyed up the hills from Jericho to Bethany, Nathaniel walked most of the way by the side of Jesus, and their discussion of children in relation to the kingdom of heaven led indirectly to the consideration of the ministry of angels. Nathaniel finally asked the Master this question: “Seeing that the high priest is a Sadducee, and since the Sadducees do not believe in angels, what shall we teach the people regarding the heavenly ministers?” Then, among other things, Jesus said:

167:7.2 (1841.1) “The angelic hosts are a separate order of created beings; they are entirely different from the material order of mortal creatures, and they function as a distinct group of universe intelligences. Angels are not of that group of creatures called ‘the Sons of God’ in the Scriptures; neither are they the glorified spirits of mortal men who have gone on to progress through the mansions on high. Angels are a direct creation, and they do not reproduce themselves. The angelic hosts have only a spiritual kinship with the human race. As man progresses in the journey to the Father in Paradise, he does traverse a state of being at one time analogous to the state of the angels, but mortal man never becomes an angel.

167:7.3 (1841.2) “The angels never die, as man does. The angels are immortal unless, perchance, they become involved in sin as did some of them with the deceptions of Lucifer. The angels are the spirit servants in heaven, and they are neither all-wise nor all-powerful. But all of the loyal angels are truly pure and holy.

167:7.4 (1841.3) “And do you not remember that I said to you once before that, if you had your spiritual eyes anointed, you would then see the heavens opened and behold the angels of God ascending and descending? It is by the ministry of the angels that one world may be kept in touch with other worlds, for have I not repeatedly told you that I have other sheep not of this fold? And these angels are not the spies of the spirit world who watch upon you and then go forth to tell the Father the thoughts of your heart and to report on the deeds of the flesh. The Father has no need of such service inasmuch as his own spirit lives within you. But these angelic spirits do function to keep one part of the heavenly creation informed concerning the doings of other and remote parts of the universe. And many of the angels, while functioning in the government of the Father and the universes of the Sons, are assigned to the service of the human races. When I taught you that many of these seraphim are ministering spirits, I spoke not in figurative language nor in poetic strains. And all this is true, regardless of your difficulty in comprehending such matters.

167:7.5 (1841.4) “Many of these angels are engaged in the work of saving men, for have I not told you of the seraphic joy when one soul elects to forsake sin and begin the search for God? I did even tell you of the joy in the presence of the angels of heaven over one sinner who repents, thereby indicating the existence of other and higher orders of celestial beings who are likewise concerned in the spiritual welfare and with the divine progress of mortal man.

167:7.6 (1841.5) “Also are these angels very much concerned with the means whereby man’s spirit is released from the tabernacles of the flesh and his soul escorted to the mansions in heaven. Angels are the sure and heavenly guides of the soul of man during that uncharted and indefinite period of time which intervenes between the death of the flesh and the new life in the spirit abodes.”

167:7.7 (1841.6) And he would have spoken further with Nathaniel regarding the ministry of angels, but he was interrupted by the approach of Martha, who had been informed that the Master was drawing near to Bethany by friends who had observed him ascending the hills to the east. And she now hastened to greet him.


The reason, by the way, that Jesus told Nathaniel (in the 1st paragraph of p. 1841 of the Urantia Book) that humans do not become angels when we die … is because – that was a common belief in those days (just as it still is today).


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Let us consider the phenomenon of Crop Circles.








Though I have never (personally) seen a crop circle … even so, I feel they are real … and (often) exquisitely beautiful.  Nor do I doubt – that they are created for us (humans) as a form of communication … from some (higher, and benevolent) race (or races) of beings.  I believe they care about us … and hope for our survival. I’m sure they are aware of the considerable hazards (of self-destruction) which confront us; and I think they are pulling for us.


And … it has occurred to me – that (maybe) – simply gazing at these wonderful designs (even if we apparently do not ‘understand’ what they mean) … still it may be helping us in some way.  Once we’ve seen such patterns … we’re not quite the same as we were.          Mmm?    (balls of light   forming crop circles)    (UFO’s making crop circles)




~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I will (yet again) quote William Irwin Thompson :


We are like flies crawling across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: we cannot see what angels and gods lie underneath the threshold of our perceptions.  We do not live in reality; we live in our paradigms, our habituated perceptions, our illusions; the illusions we share through culture we call reality; but the true historical reality of our condition is invisible to us.



The world we live in … that is, the world that we imagine that we live in … is very much smaller (and duller) than the one we actually live in.


We believe (in) too little.




film – Heaven Is For Real   (2014   Greg Kinnear  et al.)    (EBENs etc.  – Linda Moulton Howe )