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Africa, Shamanism, and the Transhumanist Future with Kilindi Iyi – Free Radical Media Podcast

Disinformation - 5 hours 52 min ago

In this installment, the Free Radical crew speaks with martial artist and world traveler Kilindi Iyi. Iyi discusses his travels through the African continent, including his studies of ancient shamanistic practices, secret societies, and martial arts traditions. Kilindi has studied under and worked with tribal elders and leaders throughout Africa. He also details his extensive study of entheogenic substances, particularly psilocybin (in amounts that make Terence McKenna’s “Heroic Dose” look like child’s play), and his theories of the new, natural shamanism and transhumanism.

Kilindi can be reached via facebook.

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The post Africa, Shamanism, and the Transhumanist Future with Kilindi Iyi – Free Radical Media Podcast appeared first on disinformation.

What We Know About the Mysterious Suicide of Missouri Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Schweich

Disinformation - 7 hours 53 min ago

Tom Schweich” by http://www.tomschweich.com/. Licensed under CC BY 1.0 via Wikipedia.

Jenna McLaughlin and Pema Levy write at Mother Jones:

On Thursday morning, Thomas Schweich, Missouri’s auditor and a Republican candidate for governor, died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. His death—coming moments after he had invited two reporters to his home later that day—shocked Missouri political observers, who point out that in addition to his beloved family and distinguished career in public service, Schweich, 54, had just won re-election to a second term as state auditor and was leading in early polls of the 2016 governor’s race. Why he would have taken his own life is a mystery to those who knew him. Just as strange is the predominant theory of what may have provoked his apparent suicide: rumors that he was Jewish.

In the days before his death, Schweich had been worried that the head of the Missouri Republican Party was conducting a “whisper campaign” against him by telling people that he was Jewish. Schweich was, in fact, an Episcopalian, but his grandfather was Jewish.

The police were called to Schweich’s home in Clayton, Missouri at 9:48 a.m. on Thursday. Just seven minutes earlier, Schweich had left a voicemail for Tony Messenger, an editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, inviting him to send a reporter to his home that afternoon. That morning, Schweich had also invited an AP reporter to attend this interview.

According to Messenger, Schweich had hoped to counter rumors that he was Jewish, which he believed were being spread by Missouri GOP chairman John Hancock in a bid to damage his candidacy. He feared misconceptions about his faith might hurt him with evangelical voters, according to a report by the New York Times. Schweich had been “agitated” discussing rumors about his faith earlier in the week, according to the AP reporter who had spoken to him minutes before his death.

Hancock responded on Friday to allegations that he was spreading misinformation about Schweich’s faith: “It’s plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish because I thought he was, but I wouldn’t have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion.”

But would rumors about Schweich’s religion really have hurt him politically? A Jewish background doesn’t appear to be impeding another prospective GOP gubernatorial candidate.

Read more here.

The post What We Know About the Mysterious Suicide of Missouri Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Schweich appeared first on disinformation.

The Official History of Monopoly Is a Fraud

Disinformation - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 16:30

First page of patent submission for second version of Lizzie Magie’s board game, submitted in 1923 and granted in 1924.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of America’s best-selling board game, Monopoly. And while many folks might fib about their age, Hasbro’s accounting of the game’s birth is quite the tall tale.

The true story is revived in a new book by journalist Mary Pilon, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, just released by Bloomsbury. I also cover the game’s origins in my documentary PAY 2 PLAY: Democracy’s High Stakes, showing how a folk game was co-opted by a big company to become a billion-dollar industry.

I had set out to use a Monopoly metaphor to make the issues of campaign finance more relatable. Since practically everyone played the game in childhood, it has a nostalgic connection, though in hindsight it does teach some rather insidious lessons, such as felony crime. Anti-trust laws established over generations would make much of the behavior encouraged in the game illegal in real life. Between that and how Mr. Monopoly has come to symbolize the bankers and moguls flooding our elections with cash, I thought I had a pretty good metaphor to work into an essay film.

But it turned out to be just the beginning. I take you now to the sequence in my documentary that shows what real monopolization looks like: a company that asserts it has a monopoly on the very word “monopoly.” (I know: No one watches videos anymore. But this is really good, and it matters to the rest of the story. Besides, it’s way quicker than me condensing here.)

And we’re back! As you no doubt just saw, Monopoly was originally known as The Landlord’s Game, created by Lizzie Magie over 30 years prior to Charles Darrow’s claim that he invented a board game to feed his family during the Great Depression.

The story of Lizzie Magie and her intentions are important, because her goal for the game was to teach progressive economic theory, which got lost along the way. Worse still, she was dutifully conned out of attribution and money from Monopoly’s wild success.  This recent New York Times article by Pilon tells the story of Lizzie and her vision of spreading the teachings of Quaker economist Henry George and his “single tax” theory.

The usurping of The Landlord’s Game makes for a great meta-monopoly story, but even this turned out to be a story within a story. The real history may not even have been uncovered were it not for one tireless Ralph Anspach. An economics professor in the 1970s, Anspach thought a good way to teach anti-trust law would be to make his own board game, which he called Anti-Monopoly. As seen above, Ralph Anspach fought Parker Brothers for years over his game and its name, and in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, the little guy prevailed, forcing the owners of Monopoly to settle. Ralph Anspach shared his remarkable story in a book called Monopolygate, alternatively released as The Billion-Dollar Monopoly Swindle. There could even be a movie in the works about Ralph’s comedic odyssey.

You can read more about the efforts to suppress the true history of Monopoly in the books cited above. But here I wanted to share a modern-day effort to rewrite the past that I encountered while making my documentary. It showed me that far from having little impact, documentaries can serve as a powerful record.

When I finally got to sit down with Anspach, now in his 80s, I showed him a documentary that had just been released, Under the Boardwalk, a hagiography to Monopoly and its champions. The film was executive-produced by Phil Orbanes, who also appears in it as Monopoly’s chief historian. Orbanes was Parker Brothers Senior Vice President for Research and Development until the 1990s, before going solo to write books and articles about Monopoly as a full-time authority. A supposed expert on the Charles Darrow legend, Orbanes saw the myth he ardently peddled upended by Anspach’s revelations. Whereas Parker Brothers had been able to claim that Charles Darrow was the game inventor, Anspach had proved in court through depositions, testimony, and physical evidence that there had been a clear line passing The Landlord’s Game from a series of people before Eugene Raiford introduced the game to his guest Charles Darrow, even typing up the rules for him because he was so interested in this folk game that had been around. In fact, it was Darrow’s strict adherence to the game as presented to him that, years later, led to proof in court that he had essentially plagiarized everything.

All the street names in Monopoly come from streets in Atlantic City. The Landlord’s Game had been passed around for years with homemade game boards made out of oil cloths and wood, but it was only a group of Atlantic City Quakers in the 1920s that started naming the squares with their own street names. When Charles Darrow passed this game off as his own, no one seemed to wonder why a guy in Philadelphia came up with a game about Atlantic City property. Some might have wondered why, out of all the real street names, one of the names in misspelled: Marvin Gardens actually has an “e,” as in Marven Gardens.

It turns out that when Raiford obliged Darrow’s request for a written version of the game rules, the secretary who was typing it up made a typo. That Darrow used that misspelling verbatim, Anspach explained to me, can be used as evidence of plagiarism, because it removes the plausibility that Darrow did anything other than copy what he was given.

But there was so much more evidence: There were homemade game boards that predated Darrow’s boards, with the same squares such as “GO TO JAIL” and “PARK,” even with the same playing cards and play money. The game had been called “monopoly” commonly, with a lowercase “m” the way that “cards,” “chess,” and “checkers” are not capitalized. Darrow hadn’t even come up with a new name. Wisely, General Mills Fun Group, owners of Monopoly at that time, settled with Ralph Anspach in 1983 for an undisclosed amount.

So it was with great interest that Ralph watched the documentary I was showing him. With fun graphics, Orbanes and younger gamers describe how The Landlord’s Game was the predecessor to Monopoly, but it wasn’t until it reached Charles Darrow that he supposedly updated the game and named it Monopoly.

With amazement, Ralph reviewed the movie to watch again as his entire investigation was co-opted by Monopoly purists. “Wow,” he mused. “Orbanes is clever. You gotta hand it to him. Did you see what he did there?” Ralph fiddled with the remote to rewind the sequence. Ralph’s past as a professor never really left him, and he couldn’t help but teach. And even though he was in his 80s, I strained to keep up with him.

Ralph replayed the illustrated history sequence of Under the Boardwalk. With fun retro motion graphics, a little race-car playing piece from Monopoly zips over a map of America to indicate where the game had been played as The Landlord’s Game in various cities over the years — this, the timeline of Quakers, economics students, and neighborhood couples that Ralph Anspach had pieced together as a gumshoe trying to defend himself in court. While the timeline presented in Under the Boardwalkmatches the revelations detailed in Ralph’s book, there was no attribution or mention of Ralph in this supposed historical record. Ralph did receive a request from a producer to be interviewed for a documentary about Monopoly, but after Ralph asked if their documentary was working with Hasbro, he never heard back. (I know this because Ralph was suspicious about my intentions when I reached out to him to interview him for my documentary, and it took some convincing that I genuinely wanted to tell his story.)

As Ralph replayed the scene from Under the Boardwalk, it began to sink in why there would be so much subterfuge and misrepresentation decades after Ralph won his lawsuit. “Orbanes is very clever,” Ralph mused again. Orbanes had incorporated all of the history uncovered and worked it into the new and improved official history of Monopoly. At the end of the timeline, however, the movie’s voiceover cheerfully concludes that it was when The Landlord’s Game was introduced to Charles Darrow that Darrow then took the game, made all the changes that are different from The Landlord’s Game, and then named it Monopoly himself.

Ralph had disproved the entirety of this claim in court. For one, Ralph had depositions from people who played the game decades before Darrow claimed to invent it, and they had referred to it as “monopoly” (seen in the clip above). Moreover, through the process of being passed on from player to player over the years, the changes to the game had been made by a number of people over time, including some of the most pivotal changes to the game that made it accessible to children. Ralph stressed the importance of Atlantic City Quakers who first set a fixed price for the properties as opposed to letting them go up for auction. This aspect made the game easier for kids to understand buying the property squares and also circumvented some un-Quaker-like actions such as raising one’s voice, as in quarreling, and lying about the value of something, since that value is changing every second.

Pointing his finger at the screen, Ralph asked me, “What is that? What is that called when a bunch of different people make contributions to a creative work over time? That’s the public domain.” It was starting to make sense to me now. In one fell swoop, the history of Monopoly had been rewritten to include the timeline Ralph had exposed while diluting what really unfolded in that timeline in order to buttress the legend of Charles Darrow.

In his book, Ralph stresses the importance of why Parker Brothers needs to burnish Darrow into a genius inventor: Parker Brothers needed to be able to have bought the game from someone in order to claim they own the game. In their early correspondence with Darrow, it was clear Parker Brothers knew about the preexistence of this game, confronting him in a letter while at the same time instructing him as to what details they would need from him in order to create a credible claim to patent. At the time, Parker Brothers had to work to remove Lizzie Magie’s imprint on the game. Today the owners of Monopoly work to remove the general public’s imprint on Monopoly, because if a billion-dollar industry could be considered in the public domain, why, anyone could go into that business — that is, if they could stand up to a monopoly.

Even in their PR materials today, Hasbro maintains that Charles Darrow invented the game, not even mentioning The Landlord’s Game (seen in the clip above, which I know you watched).

Making a documentary can be a lengthy, lonely affair, and once released, it can feel like the film disappears into the ether with little notice. But when you see history rewritten before your eyes, it’s an alarming reminder of how vital posterity is, because truth seekers in years to come will be putting together our story. What lessons they take away may not be in our control, but it is up to us to keep up the fight to spread the truth.

PAY 2 PLAY: Democracy’s High Stakes is out on video from Disinformation and airs next week on Free Speech TV. Check listings. First published at Huffington Post.

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The Anarchist Cookbook: Burn After Reading

Disinformation - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 14:30

“In 1971, William Powell published The Anarchist Cookbook, a guide to making bombs and drugs at home. He spent the next four decades fighting to take it out of print,” writes Gabriel Thompson at Harpers:

In September 10, 1976, during an evening flight from New York to Chicago, a bearded passenger handed a sealed envelope to an attendant. The note began: “One, this plane is hijacked.” In the rest of the letter, the passenger, a Croatian nationalist named Zvonko Busic, explained that five bombs had been smuggled onboard, and that a sixth had been placed in locker 5713 at Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Busic added that the pilot should radio the authorities immediately and that further instructions would be found with the bomb in the locker. “[It] can only be activated by pressing the switch to which it is attached,” he added, “but caution is suggested.”

While the captain notified air traffic control, Busic entered the cockpit wearing what looked like three sticks of dynamite attached to a battery. He told the captain that TWA Flight 355 was now headed to Europe. When members of the N.Y.P.D. bomb squad investigated the subway locker, they found a bomb inside, along with two lengthy tracts in favor of Croatian independence from Yugoslavia. Busic demanded the declarations appear in several newspapers the next day, including the New York Times and Washington Post.

Onboard with Busic were four accomplices, including his wife, who spent her time chatting up passengers and passing out leaflets. After multiple refueling stops, the Boeing 727 finally touched down at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, near Paris, where Busic finally surrendered. Surprisingly, the passengers—none of whom were hurt—emphasized the courtesy of the hijackers. “There was almost an excess of politeness,” one man told the Associated Press. “They were so polite it was ridiculous,” another told Newsweek. It turned out that the bombs onboard consisted of cooking pots, Silly Putty, and tape.

But all had not gone so smoothly on the ground. After removing what turned out to be a real bomb from the subway locker, the NYPD brought it to a demolition range in the Bronx. Members of the bomb squad tried to detonate it remotely, without success. When they approached the device, it suddenly blew up, killing one officer, Brian Murray, leaving another blind in one eye, and injuring two more. While being interrogated, Busic told investigators that he built the bomb—made of eight packages of explosive gelatin—by following instructions found in The Anarchist Cookbook.

Written by nineteen-year-old William Powell, The Anarchist Cookbook included sections such as “Converting a shotgun into a grenade launcher” and “How to make TNT.” The book’s message wasn’t subtle. In the forward, Powell expressed “a sincere hope that it may stir some stagnant brain cells into action.” The final sentence reads: “Freedom is based on respect, and respect must be earned by the spilling of blood.” When it was published, in January 1971, Powell was young and angry in a country where the young and angry had started to blow things up. But by the time the bomb detonated in the Bronx—marking the first of many connections between the book and real-world carnage—Powell had become a father and converted to Christianity and was having reservations about what promised to be his life’s most enduring legacy…

[continues at Harpers]

The post The Anarchist Cookbook: Burn After Reading appeared first on disinformation.

How Iron Age Literacy Spawned Modern Violent Extremism

Disinformation - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 12:30

By Valerie Tarico via IEET:

Why aren’t Muslim and Christian extremists extremely peaceful? The answer lies in the Iron Age setting of the Bible and Quran—when literate cultures replaced the Golden Calf with the Sacred Text. Diplomats, religious leaders, and peacemakers of many stripes keep insisting that ISIS isn’t about Islam. They point to a host of other factors including colonialism, injustice, lack of economic opportunity, and hopelessness. They’re not altogether wrong, but they are missing the tyrannosaurus rex in the room.

At one level, ISIS cannot be about “Islam,” because Islam is as varied as the number of sects or even the number of adherents that claim the label, some of whom are pacifist mystics, and most of whom abide by the dictates of compassion and by the secular laws that govern the countries where they live. So, to say ISIS is about Islam is to say something far too broad and nonspecific to be either substantially true or useful.

And yet, it is equally clear that the form and focus of the Islamic State are scripted by patriarchal, violent, dominionist texts contained in the Quran and Hadiths and sanctified therein, just as Christianity’s history of witch burnings and inquisitions–and modern obsessions with salvation, creationism and Armageddon—have been scripted by verses from the Bible.

The “Sins of Scripture”

Passages in the Bible and Quran or Hadiths endorse holy war, subjugating or exterminating unbelievers, killing blasphemers and others who violate religious taboos, stoning adulterers, ritually slaughtering animals, sexually enslaving females, and beating children. They prescribe mutilation of criminal suspects. They record tribal “histories” that feed hatred between tribes of believers and competing entitlements in territorial disputes. They include factual inaccuracies, and exhort believers to close their minds against contradictory information.

Two millennia have passed now since the first of these texts were written, and in an ideal (humble, self-reflective, growth oriented) world the “sins of scripture” would just be a painful reminder of humanity’s perennial flaws—of man’s ability to dehumanize woman and child and members of other tribes; to sanctify small-minded confirmatory thinking; and to boldly assert knowledge from a position of ignorance.

Unfortunately, our spiritual ancestors were prone to another human flaw that appears to be timeless and boundless: while scorning the spiritual beliefs of their ancestors, they insisted that they, finally had gotten God right. And throughout two millennia, their followers have concurred, putting their words above reproach or question, often on pain of death.

Continue reading.

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81% Of Products In Popular Store Found To Contain Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Disinformation - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 11:30

Traditional retailers like Walmart have been losing ground to discount dollar stores. But a new study has revealed what’s really on the dollar store shelves.

The post 81% Of Products In Popular Store Found To Contain Cancer-Causing Chemicals appeared first on disinformation.

Feast-and-famine diet could help extend life, study suggests

Disinformation - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 10:30

Vox Efx (CC BY 2.0)

via ScienceDaily [Based on materials from the University of Florida]:

Think of it as interval training for the dinner table.

University of Florida Health researchers have found that putting people on a feast-or-famine diet may mimic some of the benefits of fasting, and that adding antioxidant supplements may counteract those benefits.

Fasting has been shown in mice to extend lifespan and to improve age-related diseases. But fasting every day, which could entail skipping meals or simply reducing overall caloric intake, can be hard to maintain.

“People don’t want to just under-eat for their whole lives,” said Martin Wegman, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the UF College of Medicine and co-author of the paper recently published in the journal Rejuvenation Research. “We started thinking about the concept of intermittent fasting.”

Michael Guo, a UF M.D.-Ph.D. student who is pursuing the Ph.D. portion of the program in genetics at Harvard Medical School, said the group measured the participants’ changes in weight, blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, cholesterol, markers of inflammation and genes involved in protective cell responses over 10 weeks.

“We found that intermittent fasting caused a slight increase to SIRT 3, a well-known gene that promotes longevity and is involved in protective cell responses,” Guo said.

The SIRT3 gene encodes a protein also called SIRT3. The protein SIRT3 belongs to a class of proteins called sirtuins. Sirtuins, if increased in mice, can extend their lifespans, Guo said. Researchers think proteins such as SIRT3 are activated by oxidative stress, which is triggered when there are more free radicals produced in the body than the body can neutralize with antioxidants. However, small levels of free radicals can be beneficial: When the body undergoes stress — which happens during fasting — small levels of oxidative stress can trigger protective pathways, Guo said.

“The hypothesis is that if the body is intermittently exposed to low levels of oxidative stress, it can build a better response to it,” Wegman said.

Continue reading.

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Welcome to Gibtown, the Last ‘Freakshow’ Town in America

Disinformation - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 09:30

“With the demise of the carnival, an important slice of American history risks being lost – but the residents of Gibsonton, Florida, are trying to keep the legacy of the town’s famous ‘freaks’ alive,” report Kim Wall and Caterina Clerici for the Guardian:

For those who didn’t quite fit elsewhere, Gibtown was a utopia. Its first settlers, the Giant, and his wife, the Half-Woman, ran a campsite, a bakeshop and the fire department. The post office catered to little people with extra-low counters, and the beer hall had custom-built chairs for the Fat Ladies and the Tallest Man. Special zoning regulations allowed residents to keep and train exotic animals in their gardens. Siamese-twin sisters ran a fruit stand. Three factories manufactured Ferris wheels and carousels.

Gibtown. Photo: janhatesmarcia

 

Or at least that’s how Ward Hall, aka the King of Sideshow, remembers it.

In the golden days of American carnival, all roads led to Gibsonton, Florida. The self-defined, 14,900-inhabitant town 12 miles south of Tampa became the industry capital. “Carny Town” was a fabled place where everyone had run away with the circus.

When Ward arrived in 1967, it was home to up to 100 self-defined “human oddities”, in addition to several thousand “carnies”. Balmy winter weather offered a foothold in a nomadic lifestyle, where rides could be repaired, big cats trained (“every day, or they forget”) and stunts practiced during the off-season. It was a safe haven, away from prying eyes.

Before the internet, radio and TV, sideshow was sold as “edutainment”. As a show organizer, Ward promised visitors what they had never seen before, assuring them they would be shocked and amazed.

The “freaks” came in three categories: self-made (the tattooed lady), working acts (sword swallowers, fire breathers, knife throwers) and the natural-born. There was Betty Lou Williams, who had her baby sister growing out of her abdomen. You could admire Priscilla the Monkey Girl, who had a double set of teeth and silky black hair covering her body (she eloped with the Alligator Boy, with a skin condition making his skin reptile-scaly). You could also meet Lobster Boy, who only had two fingers on each hand…

[continues at the Guardian]

The post Welcome to Gibtown, the Last ‘Freakshow’ Town in America appeared first on disinformation.

Life in Prison for Selling $20 of Weed

Disinformation - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 08:30

Torben Hansen (CC BY 2.0)

This is awful.

Abby Haglage via The Daily Beast:

PART I

On September 5, 2008, Fate Vincent Winslow watched a plainclothes stranger approach him. Homeless and hungry, on a dark street rife with crime, the 41-year-old African American was anxious to make contact, motivated by one singular need: food.

Another man, this one white, stood next to Winslow. He is referred to in court documents exclusively as “Perdue.”

It was nearly 9:20 p.m., hours after the sun had dipped below the abandoned buildings surrounding them. The lights of downtown Shreveport, Louisiana, flickered in the distance as the plain-clothes man—unbeknownst to them, an undercover cop—arrived.

“What do you need?” Winslow asked. “A girl and some weed,” Officer Jerry Alkire replied.

Perdue remained silent as Winslow and Alkire negotiated the costs. Winslow wanted a $5 delivery fee for the $20 (two dime bags) of pot. Fine. Money settled, he grabbed Perdue’s bike and took off. In the meantime, Alkire and Perdue waited. According to the police report, the two hardly spoke.

A “girl” was the prime reason Alkire was there. Prostitutes were known to frequent these seedy streets, and he was looking to nab one. It was for this reason that an arrest agent, Sgt. Ricky Scroggins, sat listening to the bug hooked up to his ear from an unmarked vehicle nearby.

The details of what happened next remain murky. Winslow returned to the scene, allegedly with marijuana. Money and drugs were exchanged between hands in the dark. When Scroggins and the other officers rushed to the scene after Officer Alkire confirmed the pot, they found $5 on Winslow and $20 on Perdue. Both bills had been marked, but no one could explain how, exactly, they got there.

Police arrested Winslow, drove him to prison, and locked him up. Six months later, a jury found him guilty of distribution of a schedule I substance (marijuana). Three months after that, a judge sentenced him to life imprisonment with hard labor, without the benefit of parole.

Perdue was never arrested.

Continue reading.

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Young Goodman Brown

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 20:30

r reeve (CC BY-ND 2.0)

“Young Goodman Brown” By Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), 1835

YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN came forth at sunset, into the street of Salem village, but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to exchange a parting kiss with his young wife. And Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap, while she called to Goodman Brown.

“Dearest heart,” whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, “pr’y thee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she’s afeard of herself, sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!”

“My love and my Faith,” replied young Goodman Brown, “of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done ‘twixt now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months married!”

“Then God bless you!” said Faith, with the pink ribbons, “and may you find all well, when you come back.”

“Amen!” cried Goodman Brown. “Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee.”

So they parted; and the young man pursued his way, until, being about to turn the corner by the meeting-house, he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him, with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I, to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought, as she spoke, there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done to-night. But, no, no! ‘twould kill her to think it. Well; she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.”

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that, with lonely footsteps, he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

“There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,” said Goodman Brown to himself; and he glanced fearfully behind him, as he added, “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!”

His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and looking forward again, beheld the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree. He arose, at Goodman Brown’s approach, and walked onward, side by side with him.

“You are late, Goodman Brown,” said he. “The clock of the Old South was striking, as I came through Boston; and that is full fifteen minutes agone.”

“Faith kept me back awhile,” replied the young man, with a tremor in his voice, caused by the sudden appearance of his companion, though not wholly unexpected.

It was now deep dusk in the forest, and deepest in that part of it where these two were journeying. As nearly as could be discerned, the second traveller was about fifty years old, apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him, though perhaps more in expression than features. Still, they might have been taken for father and son. And yet, though the elder person was as simply clad as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and would not have felt abashed at the governor’s dinner-table, or in King William’s court, were it possible that his affairs should call him thither. But the only thing about him, that could be fixed upon as remarkable, was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought, that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light.

“Come, Goodman Brown!” cried his fellow-traveller, “this is a dull pace for the beginning of a journey. Take my staff, if you are so soon weary.”

“Friend,” said the other, exchanging his slow pace for a full stop, “having kept covenant by meeting thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples, touching the matter thou wot’st of.”

“Sayest thou so?” replied he of the serpent, smiling apart. “Let us walk on, nevertheless, reasoning as we go, and if I convince thee not, thou shalt turn back. We are but a little way in the forest, yet.”

“Too far, too far!” exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians, since the days of the martyrs. And shall I be the first of the name of Brown, that ever took this path and kept–”

“Such company, thou wouldst say,” observed the elder person, interrupting his pause. “Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem. And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip’s War. They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. I would fain be friends with you, for their sake.”

“If it be as thou sayest,” replied Goodman Brown, “I marvel they never spoke of these matters. Or, verily, I marvel not, seeing that the least rumor of the sort would have driven them from New England. We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness.”

“Wickedness or not,” said the traveller with the twisted staff, “I have a very general acquaintance here in New England. The deacons of many a church have drunk the communion wine with me; the selectmen, of divers towns, make me their chairman; and a majority of the Great and General Court are firm supporters of my interest. The governor and I, too–but these are state-secrets.”

“Can this be so!” cried Goodman Brown, with a stare of amazement at his undisturbed companion. “Howbeit, I have nothing to do with the governor and council; they have their own ways, and are no rule for a simple husbandman like me. But, were I to go on with thee, how should I meet the eye of that good old man, our minister, at Salem village? Oh, his voice would make me tremble, both Sabbath-day and lecture-day!”

Thus far, the elder traveller had listened with due gravity, but now burst into a fit of irrepressible mirth, shaking himself so violently that his snake-like staff actually seemed to wriggle in sympathy.

“Ha! ha! ha!” shouted he, again and again; then composing himself, “Well, go on, Goodman Brown, go on; but, pr’y thee, don’t kill me with laughing!”

“Well, then, to end the matter at once,” said Goodman Brown, considerably nettled, “there is my wife, Faith. It would break her dear little heart; and I’d rather break my own!”

“Nay, if that be the case,” answered the other, “e’en go thy ways, Goodman Brown. I would not, for twenty old women like the one hobbling before us, that Faith should come to any harm.”

As he spoke, he pointed his staff at a female figure on the path, in whom Goodman Brown recognized a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser, jointly with the minister and Deacon Gookin.

“A marvel, truly, that Goody Cloyse should be so far in the wilderness, at night-fall!” said he. “But, with your leave, friend, I shall take a cut through the woods, until we have left this Christian woman behind. Being a stranger to you, she might ask whom I was consorting with, and whither I was going.”

“Be it so,” said his fellow-traveller. “Betake you to the woods, and let me keep the path.”

Accordingly, the young man turned aside, but took care to watch his companion, who advanced softly along the road, until he had come within a staff’s length of the old dame. She, meanwhile, was making the best of her way, with singular speed for so aged a woman, and mumbling some indistinct words, a prayer, doubtless, as she went. The traveller put forth his staff, and touched her withered neck with what seemed the serpent’s tail.

“The devil!” screamed the pious old lady.

“Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend?” observed the traveller, confronting her, and leaning on his writhing stick.

“Ah, forsooth, and is it your worship, indeed?” cried the good dame. “Yea, truly is it, and in the very image of my old gossip, Goodman Brown, the grandfather of the silly fellow that now is. But–would your worship believe it?–my broomstick hath strangely disappeared, stolen, as I suspect, by that unhanged witch, Goody Cory, and that, too, when I was all anointed with the juice of smallage and cinque-foil and wolf’s-bane–”

“Mingled with fine wheat and the fat of a new-born babe,” said the shape of old Goodman Brown.

“Ah, your worship knows the recipe,” cried the old lady, cackling aloud. “So, as I was saying, being all ready for the meeting, and no horse to ride on, I made up my mind to foot it; for they tell me, there is a nice young man to be taken into communion to-night. But now your good worship will lend me your arm, and we shall be there in a twinkling.”

“That can hardly be,” answered her friend. “I may not spare you my arm, Goody Cloyse, but here is my staff, if you will.”

So saying, he threw it down at her feet, where, perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to Egyptian Magi. Of this fact, however, Goodman Brown could not take cognizance. He had cast up his eyes in astonishment, and looking down again, beheld neither Goody Cloyse nor the serpentine staff, but his fellow-traveller alone, who waited for him as calmly as if nothing had happened.

“That old woman taught me my catechism!” said the young man; and there was a world of meaning in this simple comment.

They continued to walk onward, while the elder traveller exhorted his companion to make good speed and persevere in the path, discoursing so aptly, that his arguments seemed rather to spring up in the bosom of his auditor, than to be suggested by himself. As they went, he plucked a branch of maple, to serve for a walking-stick, and began to strip it of the twigs and little boughs, which were wet with evening dew. The moment his fingers touched them, they became strangely withered and dried up, as with a week’s sunshine. Thus the pair proceeded, at a good free pace, until suddenly, in a gloomy hollow of the road, Goodman Brown sat himself down on the stump of a tree, and refused to go any farther.

“Friend,” said he, stubbornly, “my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil, when I thought she was going to Heaven! Is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith, and go after her?”

“You will think better of this by-and-by,” said his acquaintance, composedly. “Sit here and rest yourself awhile; and when you feel like moving again, there is my staff to help you along.”

Without more words, he threw his companion the maple stick, and was as speedily out of sight, as if he had vanished into the deepening gloom. The young man sat a few moments by the road-side, applauding himself greatly, and thinking with how clear a conscience he should meet the minister, in his morning-walk, nor shrink from the eye of good old Deacon Gookin. And what calm sleep would be his, that very night, which was to have been spent so wickedly, but purely and sweetly now, in the arms of Faith! Amidst these pleasant and praiseworthy meditations, Goodman Brown heard the tramp of horses along the road, and deemed it advisable to conceal himself within the verge of the forest, conscious of the guilty purpose that had brought him thither, though now so happily turned from it.

On came the hoof-tramps and the voices of the riders, two grave old voices, conversing soberly as they drew near. These mingled sounds appeared to pass along the road, within a few yards of the young man’s hiding-place; but owing, doubtless, to the depth of the gloom, at that particular spot, neither the travellers nor their steeds were visible. Though their figures brushed the small boughs by the way-side, it could not be seen that they intercepted, even for a moment, the faint gleam from the strip of bright sky, athwart which they must have passed. Goodman Brown alternately crouched and stood on tip-toe, pulling aside the branches, and thrusting forth his head as far as he durst, without discerning so much as a shadow. It vexed him the more, because he could have sworn, were such a thing possible, that he recognized the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin, jogging along quietly, as they were wont to do, when bound to some ordination or ecclesiastical council. While yet within hearing, one of the riders stopped to pluck a switch.

“Of the two, reverend Sir,” said the voice like the deacon’s, I had rather miss an ordination-dinner than tonight’s meeting. They tell me that some of our community are to be here from Falmouth and beyond, and others from Connecticut and Rhode-Island; besides several of the Indian powows, who, after their fashion, know almost as much deviltry as the best of us. Moreover, there is a goodly young woman to be taken into communion.”

“Mighty well, Deacon Gookin!” replied the solemn old tones of the minister. “Spur up, or we shall be late. Nothing can be done, you know, until I get on the ground.”

The hoofs clattered again, and the voices, talking so strangely in the empty air, passed on through the forest, where no church had ever been gathered, nor solitary Christian prayed. Whither, then, could these holy men be journeying, so deep into the heathen wilderness? Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a tree, for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and overburthened with the heavy sickness of his heart. He looked up to the sky, doubting whether there really was a Heaven above him. Yet, there was the blue arch, and the stars brightening in it.

“With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” cried Goodman Brown.

While he still gazed upward, into the deep arch of the firmament, and had lifted his hands to pray, a cloud, though no wind was stirring, hurried across the zenith, and hid the brightening stars. The blue sky was still visible, except directly overhead, where this black mass of cloud was sweeping swiftly northward. Aloft in the air, as if from the depths of the cloud, came a confused and doubtful sound of voices. Once, the listener fancied that he could distinguish the accent of town’s-people of his own, men and women, both pious and ungodly, many of whom he had met at the communion-table, and had seen others rioting at the tavern. The next moment, so indistinct were the sounds, he doubted whether he had heard aught but the murmur of the old forest, whispering without a wind. Then came a stronger swell of those familiar tones, heard daily in the sunshine, at Salem village, but never, until now, from a cloud of night. There was one voice, of a young woman, uttering lamentations, yet with an uncertain sorrow, and entreating for some favor, which, perhaps, it would grieve her to obtain. And all the unseen multitude, both saints and sinners, seemed to encourage her onward.

“Faith!” shouted Goodman Brown, in a voice of agony and desperation; and the echoes of the forest mocked him, crying –“Faith! Faith!” as if bewildered wretches were seeking her, all through the wilderness.

The cry of grief, rage, and terror, was yet piercing the night, when the unhappy husband held his breath for a response. There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered lightly down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon.

“My Faith is gone!” cried he, after one stupefied moment. “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to thee is this world given.”

And maddened with despair, so that he laughed loud and long, did Goodman Brown grasp his staff and set forth again, at such a rate, that he seemed to fly along the forest-path, rather than to walk or run. The road grew wilder and drearier, and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward, with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil. The whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds; the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians; while, sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church-bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveller, as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn. But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other horrors.

“Ha! ha! ha!” roared Goodman Brown, when the wind laughed at him. “Let us hear which will laugh loudest! Think not to frighten me with your deviltry! Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powow, come devil himself! and here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well fear him as he fear you!”

In truth, all through the haunted forest, there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown. On he flew, among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter, as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous, than when he rages in the breast of man. Thus sped the demoniac on his course, until, quivering among the trees, he saw a red light before him, as when the felled trunks and branches of a clearing have been set on fire, and throw up their lurid blaze against the sky, at the hour of midnight. He paused, in a lull of the tempest that had driven him onward, and heard the swell of what seemed a hymn, rolling solemnly from a distance, with the weight of many voices. He knew the tune; it was a familiar one in the choir of the village meeting-house. The verse died heavily away, and was lengthened by a chorus, not of human voices, but of all the sounds of the benighted wilderness, pealing in awful harmony together. Goodman Brown cried out; and his cry was lost to his own ear, by its unison with the cry of the desert.

In the interval of silence, he stole forward, until the light glared full upon his eyes. At one extremity of an open space, hemmed in by the dark wall of the forest, arose a rock, bearing some rude, natural resemblance either to an altar or a pulpit, and surrounded by four blazing pines, their tops aflame, their stems untouched, like candles at an evening meeting. The mass of foliage, that had overgrown the summit of the rock, was all on fire, blazing high into the night, and fitfully illuminating the whole field. Each pendent twig and leafy festoon was in a blaze. As the red light arose and fell, a numerous congregation alternately shone forth, then disappeared in shadow, and again grew, as it were, out of the darkness, peopling the heart of the solitary woods at once.

“A grave and dark-clad company!” quoth Goodman Brown.

In truth, they were such. Among them, quivering to-and-fro, between gloom and splendor, appeared faces that would be seen, next day, at the council-board of the province, and others which, Sabbath after Sabbath, looked devoutly heavenward, and benignantly over the crowded pews, from the holiest pulpits in the land. Some affirm, that the lady of the governor was there. At least, there were high dames well known to her, and wives of honored husbands, and widows, a great multitude, and ancient maidens, all of excellent repute, and fair young girls, who trembled lest their mothers should espy them. Either the sudden gleams of light, flashing over the obscure field, bedazzled Goodman Brown, or he recognized a score of the church-members of Salem village, famous for their especial sanctity. Good old Deacon Gookin had arrived, and waited at the skirts of that venerable saint, his reverend pastor. But, irreverently consorting with these grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames and dewy virgins, there were men of dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches given over to all mean and filthy vice, and suspected even of horrid crimes. It was strange to see, that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints. Scattered, also, among their palefaced enemies, were the Indian priests, or powows, who had often scared their native forest with more hideous incantations than any known to English witchcraft.

“But, where is Faith?” thought Goodman Brown; and, as hope came into his heart, he trembled.

Another verse of the hymn arose, a slow and mournful strain, such as the pious love, but joined to words which expressed all that our nature can conceive of sin, and darkly hinted at far more. Unfathomable to mere mortals is the lore of fiends. Verse after verse was sung, and still the chorus of the desert swelled between, like the deepest tone of a mighty organ. And, with the final peal of that dreadful anthem, there came a sound, as if the roaring wind, the rushing streams, the howling beasts, and every other voice of the unconverted wilderness, were mingling and according with the voice of guilty man, in homage to the prince of all. The four blazing pines threw up a loftier flame, and obscurely discovered shapes and visages of horror on the smoke-wreaths, above the impious assembly. At the same moment, the fire on the rock shot redly forth, and formed a glowing arch above its base, where now appeared a figure. With reverence be it spoken, the figure bore no slight similitude, both in garb and manner, to some grave divine of the New-England churches.

“Bring forth the converts!” cried a voice, that echoed through the field and rolled into the forest.

At the word, Goodman Brown stepped forth from the shadow of the trees, and approached the congregation, with whom he felt a loathful brotherhood, by the sympathy of all that was wicked in his heart. He could have well nigh sworn, that the shape of his own dead father beckoned him to advance, looking downward from a smoke-wreath, while a woman, with dim features of despair, threw out her hand to warn him back. Was it his mother? But he had no power to retreat one step, nor to resist, even in thought, when the minister and good old Deacon Gookin seized his arms, and led him to the blazing rock. Thither came also the slender form of a veiled female, led between Goody Cloyse, that pious teacher of the catechism, and Martha Carrier, who had received the devil’s promise to be queen of hell. A rampant hag was she! And there stood the proselytes, beneath the canopy of fire.

“Welcome, my children,” said the dark figure, “to the communion of your race! Ye have found, thus young, your nature and your destiny. My children, look behind you!”

They turned; and flashing forth, as it were, in a sheet of flame, the fiend-worshippers were seen; the smile of welcome gleamed darkly on every visage.

“There,” resumed the sable form, “are all whom ye have reverenced from youth. Ye deemed them holier than yourselves, and shrank from your own sin, contrasting it with their lives of righteousness, and prayerful aspirations heavenward. Yet, here are they all, in my worshipping assembly! This night it shall be granted you to know their secret deeds; how hoary-bearded elders of the church have whispered wanton words to the young maids of their households; how many a woman, eager for widow’s weeds, has given her husband a drink at bed-time, and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom; how beardless youth have made haste to inherit their father’s wealth; and how fair damsels–blush not, sweet ones–have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest, to an infant’s funeral. By the sympathy of your human hearts for sin, ye shall scent out all the places–whether in church, bed-chamber, street, field, or forest–where crime has been committed, and shall exult to behold the whole earth one stain of guilt, one mighty blood-spot. Far more than this! It shall be yours to penetrate, in every bosom, the deep mystery of sin, the fountain of all wicked arts, and which inexhaustibly supplies more evil impulses than human power–than my power at its utmost!–can make manifest in deeds. And now, my children, look upon each other.”

They did so; and, by the blaze of the hell-kindled torches, the wretched man beheld his Faith, and the wife her husband, trembling before that unhallowed altar.

“Lo! there ye stand, my children,” said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad, with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. “Depending upon one another’s hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream! Now are ye undeceived! Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race!”

“Welcome!” repeated the fiend-worshippers, in one cry of despair and triumph.

And there they stood, the only pair, as it seemed, who were yet hesitating on the verge of wickedness, in this dark world. A basin was hollowed, naturally, in the rock. Did it contain water, reddened by the lurid light? or was it blood? or, perchance, a liquid flame? Herein did the Shape of Evil dip his hand, and prepare to lay the mark of baptism upon their foreheads, that they might be partakers of the mystery of sin, more conscious of the secret guilt of others, both in deed and thought, than they could now be of their own. The husband cast one look at his pale wife, and Faith at him. What polluted wretches would the next glance show them to each other, shuddering alike at what they disclosed and what they saw!

“Faith! Faith!” cried the husband. “Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!”

Whether Faith obeyed, he knew not. Hardly had he spoken, when he found himself amid calm night and solitude, listening to a roar of the wind, which died heavily away through the forest. He staggered against the rock, and felt it chill and damp, while a hanging twig, that had been all on fire, besprinkled his cheek with the coldest dew.

The next morning, young Goodman Brown came slowly into the street of Salem village, staring around him like a bewildered man. The good old minister was taking a walk along the graveyard, to get an appetite for breakfast and meditate his sermon, and bestowed a blessing, as he passed, on Goodman Brown. He shrank from the venerable saint, as if to avoid an anathema. Old Deacon Gookin was at domestic worship, and the holy words of his prayer were heard through the open window. “What God doth the wizard pray to?” quoth Goodman Brown. Goody Cloyse, that excellent old Christian, stood in the early sunshine, at her own lattice, catechising a little girl, who had brought her a pint of morning’s milk. Goodman Brown snatched away the child, as from the grasp of the fiend himself. Turning the corner by the meeting-house, he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at sight of him, that she skipt along the street, and almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting.

Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting?

Be it so, if you will. But, alas! it was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown. A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he become, from the night of that fearful dream. On the Sabbath-day, when the congregation were singing a holy psalm, he could not listen, because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear, and drowned all the blessed strain. When the minister spoke from the pulpit, with power and fervid eloquence, and with his hand on the open Bible, of the sacred truths of our religion, and of saint-like lives and triumphant deaths, and of future bliss or misery unutterable, then did Goodman Brown turn pale, dreading lest the roof should thunder down upon the gray blasphemer and his hearers. Often, awaking suddenly at midnight, he shrank from the bosom of Faith, and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled, and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away. And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave, a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grand-children, a goodly procession, besides neighbors, not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom.

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Thoughts on Bankruptcy by Voltaire

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 19:30

Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)

Excerpted from Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary.

Few bankruptcies were known in France before the sixteenth century. The great reason is that there were no bankers. Lombards, Jews lent on security at ten per cent: trade was conducted in cash. Exchange, remittances to foreign countries were a secret unknown to all judges.

It is not that many people were not ruined; but that was not called bankruptcy; one said discomfiture; this word is sweeter to the ear. One used the word rupture as did the Boulonnais; but rupture does not sound so well.

The bankruptcies came to us from Italy, bancorotto, bancarotta, gambarotta e la giustizia non impicar. Every merchant had his bench (banco) in the place of exchange; and when he had conducted his business badly, declared himself fallito, and abandoned his property to his creditors with the proviso that he retain a good part of it for himself, be free and reputed a very upright man. There was nothing to be said to him, his bench was broken, banco rotto, banca rotta; he could even, in certain towns, keep all his property and baulk his creditors, provided he seated himself bare-bottomed on a stone in the presence of all the merchants. This was a mild derivation of the old Roman proverb–solvere aut in aere aut in cute, to pay either with one’s money or one’s skin. But this custom no longer exists; creditors have preferred their money to a bankrupt’s hinder parts.

In England and in some other countries, one declares oneself bankrupt in the gazettes. The partners and creditors gather together by virtue of this announcement which is read in the coffee-houses, and they come to an arrangement as best they can.

As among the bankruptcies there are frequently fraudulent cases, it has been necessary to punish them. If they are taken to court they are everywhere regarded as theft, and the guilty are condemned to ignominious penalties.

It is not true that in France the death penalty was decreed against bankrupts without distinction. Simple failures involved no penalty; fraudulent bankrupts suffered the penalty of death in the states of Orleans, under Charles IX., and in the states of Blois in 1576, but these edicts, renewed by Henry IV., were merely comminatory.

It is too difficult to prove that a man has dishonoured himself on purpose, and has voluntarily ceded all his goods to his creditors in order to cheat them. When there has been a doubt, one has been content with putting the unfortunate man in the pillory, or with sending him to the galleys, although ordinarily a banker makes a poor convict.

Bankrupts were very favourably treated in the last year of Louis XIV.’s reign, and during the Regency. The sad state to which the interior of the kingdom was reduced, the multitude of merchants who could not or would not pay, the quantity of unsold or unsellable effects, the fear of interrupting all commerce, obliged the government in 1715, 1716, 1718, 1721, 1722, and 1726 to suspend all proceedings against all those who were in a state of insolvency. The discussions of these actions were referred to the judge-consuls; this is a jurisdiction of merchants very expert in these cases, and better constituted for going into these commercial details than the parliaments which have always been more occupied with the laws of the kingdom than with finance. As the state was at that time going bankrupt, it would have been too hard to punish the poor middle-class bankrupts.

Since then we have had eminent men, fraudulent bankrupts, but they have not been punished.

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Ed Gein Cauldron That Once Held Human Entrails Up for Auction

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 18:30

A cauldron that once belonged to Ed Gein will be up for auction in Wisconsin tomorrow (Feb. 28). Hollis Brown, a former neighbor of Gein’s, confirms its authenticity and even claims that it once held human body parts.

Charlie Hintz via Cult of Weird:

According to Dan McIntyre, the cauldron’s current owner, his grandmother Evelyn Mair purchased the cauldron from the Gein estate sale held in 1958, along with some gardening tools. She painted the cauldron and planted flowers in it as a memorial for Gein’s victims.

McIntyre says it wasn’t until 50 years later that he learned the shocking reality of the inconspicuous flower pot that ended up in his parent’s garage.

Hollis Brown, a friend of the McIntyre family, had been a neighbor of Ed Gein’s. Brown told McIntyre that, after the police had finished photographing the crime scene, they were feeling sick to their stomachs. So he and another neighbor by the name of Howard Lowellyn helped remove the bodies and various remains. It was then that Hollis first saw the black cauldron in a shed, crusted with dried blood and guts beside tubs and barrels filled with what he described as bloody human entrails.

When he saw the cauldron again many years later in the garage, Hollis immediately recognized it. Pale and noticeably shaken, he told his son Carneth about the cauldron, saying that he saw something he had not seen in 50 years. He wished he didn’t remember where he saw it.

The cauldron will be up for bidding this Saturday, February 28th in Hatley, WI. For more info go to the Pientka Auction website right here.

Continue reading.

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Black Moon/Dave Cloud

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 17:30

Last Wednesday afternoon my Facebook wall began to light-up with the frantic news that outsider musician and Nashvillian par-excellence, Dave Cloud, was in an intensive care unit as a result of his battle with cancer. The news came out of nowhere for most of the rocker’s friends and admirers, and last Thursday’s announcement of his death came so quickly that most are still trying to wrap their heads — and hearts — around the wide, wild space Cloud and his art once occupied.

For the uninitiated, here’s a bit of the man’s bio:

By day a volunteer book reader for the blind, Cloud undergoes a transformation at night, and for over three decades has entertained patrons of local dive bar Springwater, often with his band The Gospel of Power. Cloud’s unpredictable performances can be uproarious, jaw-droppingly bizarre events, delighting some while frightening others. His musical amalgam of experimental garage rock and lounge crooning—defies easy categorization, but his delivery makes the experience hard to forget. Cloud has appeared in several films, videos, and television programs, including Harmony Korine’s films Gummo and Trash Humpers.

There have been some thoughtful remembrances in Nashville’s local media. Here’s a bit from Jim Ridley’s post on the Nashville Scene’s Country Life blog…

Twenty years ago, while Nashville was lusting after the acclaim and approval of coastal arbiters, Cloud was bashing out untutored, incantatory garage rock in venues like Springwater and Lucy’s Record Shop. Nobody at the time suspected how crucial those clubs would be to the city’s reversing fortunes — or how much of a cult figure Cloud would become in Scandinavia and other ports of call.

And yet even when he was backed by members of Lambchop, Silver Jews and other vanguard indie bands, Cloud bowed to nobody’s fashion. Whether he was playing ’60s bubblegum tunes or easy-listening standards, they came out in his own Martian time signatures and pulverizing arrangements, animated by the innocent primordial current of rock ‘n’ roll. He could be courtly and coarse, sophisticated and vulgar, elevated and lowbrow. What he could never be was the same damn thing you’d seen a hundred times before — or like everyone else.

I met Dave years ago at the Springwater, and I remember working to re-open a re-modeled local art museum in the summer of 1999 with Dave’s debut CD, Songs I Will Always Sing, echoing through the galleries “…I’ll run the jack on you NOOOOOWWWWWWWWW!” I witnessed the interchangeable musicians who backed Dave as the Gospel of Power come and go from the Springwater stage over the years, and I know for certain that I caught a glimpse of the still-beating blood red heart of rock ‘n’ roll one Saturday night at that bar somewhere in the middle of a medley of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Bruce Springsteen’s “She’s the One.”

But, mostly I remember Dave as a good neighbor. I lived in and near Nashville’s Belmont/Hillsboro neighborhood for nearly two decades. During much of that time, Bongo Java’s original coffeehouse and the Circle K gas station and convenience store were daily stops for me. They also seemed to be daily stops for Dave. It was always a fun surprise to see the man outside of the beery, bleary late night scene at the Springwater. Off of the stage, Dave was still a big, imposing man with a deep drawl of a voice. Dave was a flat-out riot when he was rockin’ in the wee hours, but in the sober light of day he was always thoughtful, kind, eloquent and happy to see you and to chat about nearly anything that might come up. That’s the Dave Cloud I’ll miss the most.

Nashville’s pre-eminent curator of the avant-garde, Tony Youngblood lost his radio show on Vanderbilt University’s WRVU station following an appearance by Cloud. It wasn’t really Dave’s fault. Here are Youngblood’s thoughts on that episode from his website, introducing a little over an hour of a weird, wild and hilarious tour of the mind and mouth of Dave Cloud…

Featuring a band comprised of some of Nashville’s most talented players, Get It On With Dave Cloud sounds lush and bristles with detail. Dispensing with our usual arhythmic soup, the idea here was to create jilted lounge music that conversed with Dave’s dialogue. The band provided that, and in spades. I only wish we picked a different mic for Dave to speak into. WRVU Studio Mic 4 has a tendency to distort and Dave Cloud has a tendency to talk loud. (I warned Jim Hayes about that mic before. Am I the only dj that notices these kinds of things?) Still, the slight distortion in Dave’s voice kind of works in a strange way.

For an hour and eight minutes (I just couldn’t whittle it down to one hour), Dave Cloud flirts with callers, reads from dirty magazines, takes long smoke breaks, and espouses his wisdom. I’m quite proud of this episode, and it makes a fine sendoff to WRVU. In a weird way, this episode is responsible for this blog and podcast. If we hadn’t made Get It On, we still might be on WRVU. If we were still on WRVU, I probably wouldn’t have invested the time in learning how to podcast.

Listen to the full episode here.

Dave left us under the celestial sign of a Black Supermoon, at the turning of the Chinese Lunar New Year — a nearby new moon that arrives during the daytime hours, hidden by the sun’s glare.

Here’s Dave and the Gospel of Power playing a house party, and the man himself being interviewed outside the Springwater.

Stay Awake!

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Rogue Owl Attacks in Dutch Town

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 16:30

jennicatpink (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This is my fear. I’m that coward who ducks when the pigeons fly too close.

via BBC News:

Residents in the northern Dutch town of Purmerend have been advised to take umbrellas out at night after a spate of attacks by an owl.

Dozens of residents have suffered head injuries over the past three weeks at the claws of the rogue European eagle owl.

Two runners were attacked on Tuesday, with one requiring stitches for five separate head wounds.

The European eagle owl’s usual prey are small mammals and birds.

Falconer

One of the sites of the attacks has been a home for the disabled.

Liselotte de Bruijn, a spokeswoman for the home, told the AFP news agency that residents and workers had suffered at least 15 separate attacks by the nocturnal bird, which remains at large.

Continue reading.

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4 Psychology Myths You Probably Thought Were True

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 15:30

Do you know brain facts from fiction?

The post 4 Psychology Myths You Probably Thought Were True appeared first on disinformation.

Is Scurvy the New Diabetes?

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 14:30

Scurvy is the new poor people’s disease in the United States. Yes you read that right. Leigh Cowart tells the sad story at Medium:

… It’s true: Scurvy is not something that you will readily encounter in mainstream American life, since death from lack of vitamin C requires poor medical care and consistent and prolonged lack of access to fresh or fortified foods. It also often involves a cofactor such as alcoholism, being an elderly shut-in, or inadequate infant nutrition. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook: Like so many diseases with social roots, scurvy doesn’t come on like flipping a switch; it’s not as if one day you’re fine, and the next all your old scars are opening up and your tongue is covered in sores. This kind of malnutritive illness exists on a sliding scale of grays. Vitamin C deficiency is no joke, and acting like we don’t have to worry about historical diseases is arrogant and stupid. Here’s why.

Patient presented with a “scorbutic tongue” due to what proved to be a vitamin C deficiency.

But hunger and poverty are quiet monsters, the ones content to burden its victims with the job of concealment. As far as society is concerned, it’s easy to miss what you didn’t want to see in the first place. But in 2013, 49.1 million Americans were food insecure — a status defined by the USDA as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food” — and homes with children were more likely to struggle. That year, almost one in five homes with children were food insecure; for households run by a single mother, the rate jumped to over 1 in 3.

The last time CDC researchers looked at vitamin C deficiency among the American public, they found that an estimated 8.4 percent of adults aged 20 and older were at risk of developing scurvy. Like scurvy-scurvy, with wound-healing problems and weird rashes and bleeding gums, the whole sick-pirate bit. Prolonged vitamin C levels this low are incredibly dangerous.

But it’s not just scurvy-scurvy, either. There’s also latent scurvy, which happens when vitamin C concentrations are low but not super low. Research suggests it’s associated with fatigue and irritability, as well as vague, dull, aching pains; one study showed 15.7 percent of adults had vitamin C levels in this low range…

[read the full article at Medium]

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‘Bigfoot Smiled at Me’, says Texas Man

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 13:30

terry priest (CC BY 2.0)

What’s up with Texans and weird Bigfoot stories?

via Cryptozoology News:

Texas — A man claims he had multiple encounters with a “Bigfoot” creature in Marion County.

Richard, who didn’t provide a last name, said he was at his house on the Big Cypress Bayou when the events allegedly took place at 10.30 p.m. about four decades ago.

“I had a house on top of the hill by Lake O’ the Pines. I was out the backdoor smoking a cigarette,” he said last month on a 20-minute call to Nite Callers Bigfoot Radio, a radio podcast with over four years of experience covering “Sasquatch and other related mysterious subjects”.

Suddenly, the eyewitness said, he noticed a strange shape next to an oak tree.

“I saw something on the edge of the tree line. I could see it from the porch’s light.”

Curious and decided to find out what the silhouette was, Richard reportedly put out his smoke and walked out of the driveway to try to interact with the animal.

“This thing smiled, and I thought to myself ‘surely I did not see a bush smile’. I thought I was losing my mind. I went back in the house and closed the door, and there was nothing malicious about it, it scared me, but because of the smile, I thought ‘what in the hell am I seeing here?’”

The eyewitness said the purported beast was about 9 feet tall. He did not provide further physical details.

According to Richard, three nights later, another “petrifying” event occurred.

Continue reading.

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Minimalist Movie Posters by Nick Barclay

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 12:30

Nick Barclay is a “freelance designer who designs things.” He has a collection of minimalist movie posters available on his website.

 

 

Visit his website for more minimalist poster designs.

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Inverted Totalitarianism: A New Way of Understanding How the U.S. Is Controlled

Disinformation - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 11:30

Chalmers Johnson via Alternet:

Reviewed: Democracy Incorporated by Sheldon S. Wolin (Princeton University Press, 2008)

It is not news that the United States is in great trouble. The pre-emptive war it launched against Iraq more than five years ago was and is a mistake of monumental proportions — one that most Americans still fail to acknowledge. Instead they are arguing about whether we should push on to “victory” when even our own generals tell us that a military victory is today inconceivable. Our economy has been hollowed out by excessive military spending over many decades while our competitors have devoted themselves to investments in lucrative new industries that serve civilian needs. Our political system of checks and balances has been virtually destroyed by rampant cronyism and corruption in Washington, D.C., and by a two-term president who goes around crowing “I am the decider,” a concept fundamentally hostile to our constitutional system. We have allowed our elections, the one nonnegotiable institution in a democracy, to be debased and hijacked — as was the 2000 presidential election in Florida — with scarcely any protest from the public or the self-proclaimed press guardians of the “Fourth Estate.” We now engage in torture of defenseless prisoners although it defames and demoralizes our armed forces and intelligence agencies.

The problem is that there are too many things going wrong at the same time for anyone to have a broad understanding of the disaster that has overcome us and what, if anything, can be done to return our country to constitutional government and at least a degree of democracy. By now, there are hundreds of books on particular aspects of our situation — the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bloated and unsupervised “defense” budgets, the imperial presidency and its contempt for our civil liberties, the widespread privatization of traditional governmental functions, and a political system in which no leader dares even to utter the words imperialism and militarism in public.

There are, however, a few attempts at more complex analyses of how we arrived at this sorry state. They include Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, on how “private” economic power now is almost coequal with legitimate political power; John W. Dean, Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches, on the perversion of our main defenses against dictatorship and tyranny; Arianna Huffington, Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe, on the manipulation of fear in our political life and the primary role played by the media; and Naomi Wolf, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, on Ten Steps to Fascism and where we currently stand on this staircase. My own book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, on militarism as an inescapable accompaniment of imperialism, also belongs to this genre.

Continue reading.

Chalmers Johnson’s latest book is Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (Metropolitan Books, 2008), now available in a Holt Paperback. It is the third volume of his Blowback Trilogy.

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