Friday, April 18, 2014

Greg Hunter,“Weekly News Wrap-Up 4.18.14”

“Weekly News Wrap-Up 4.18.14”
By Greg Hunter’s 

“A deal has been reached over the Ukraine crisis, and that will supposedly “de-escalate tensions and restore security.” This deal is between the EU, U.S., Russia and Ukraine. I guess this is good news, but I would call it extremely temporary. This is supposed to lead to disarming the pro-Russian militia and returning control of government buildings in Eastern Ukraine. Loyal Ukrainians and pro-Russian factions have been going at it, and I am not sure this deal is going to “de-escalate tensions.” Even President Obama is skeptical.  He said that the U.S. has to be ready to “respond to what continue to be interference by the Russians.” The military option is off the table according to the White House. So, that leaves sanctions that nobody wants, especially in the EU. Massive amounts of business are done between Russia and the EU. The global economy is weak at best, and in some places in Europe, you can call it a depression. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has, “the right to use military force in Ukraine.” Russia is going to end up with much of Ukraine, and I do not think there is much anyone is going to do about it.  

I don’t think the Russians are worried about sanctions over the Ukraine. I think they and many other countries are trying to halt the use of the U.S. dollar as fast as they can. The latest evidence of that is news of the BRICS making great strides in developing alternatives to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. There is no doubt that the use of the dollar is being used less and less to settle international trade. That is the dominate trend, and I see no reversal in sight. The rest of the world is going to stop depending on the U.S. dollar, and my prediction is that will be much sooner than many can imagine. The inflation this will bring is going to be stunning as there are $16 trillion liquid dollar assets held outside the country. 

The Intelligence Minister of Israel is not happy about the negotiations with Iran over curtailing its nuclear program. Yuval Steinitz said the U.S. negotiations were a “surrender” to Iran. Israel is not happy that Iran could enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon in a matter of months. This is a big indication on how the negotiations are going. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for the peaceful production of energy, and the West does not buy it. More negotiations are happening next month.  

President Obama is touting 8 million have now signed up for Obama Care. Of course, the government admits it does not know how many have paid or how many are really newly enrolled. What is constantly ignored is the plan is not nearly rolled out. Hundreds of exemptions have been given to big business and the plan for the bulk of the people has been delayed. It’s been delayed because it will hurt many who will pay more and get less, and it is all enforced by the IRS. Instead of saving $2,500 per family, the CBO says it will cost $2,100 more for the average family. Sure, some will get a good deal, but that will be paid for by others. This is the big election issue and no matter if the MSM ignores the bad parts of the Obama Care story. Many now that are living this are not going to be happy come Election Day.  

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid says the folks that protested at the Bundy ranch in Nevada recently are “domestic terrorists.” That is harsh language, especially from the government that set up 1st Amendment zones for protestors miles away from the ranch. The 1st Amendment is everywhere in the U.S.  I guess all the folks at the BLM failed civics class. What scares me about this “domestic terrorist” comment by Senator Reid is I think he is trying to justify the heavy handed tactics by the government. I’ll be the first to say that Cliven Bundy is not totally in the right here. He has lost some court battles over the use of this land, but the government was totally out of line bringing swat teams and attack dogs to settle a civil issue.  The government destroyed property and killed many of Bundy’s cattle. The government is certainly not cracking down on illegal immigration this way. Banks that admitted they laundered money for terrorists have paid fines. JP Morgan paid a fine to get out of criminal prosecution in the Bernie Madoff fraud case. The list goes on and on. Not a single banker has been arrested and prosecuted for trillions of dollars in fraud perpetrated on honest Americans. My guest Fabian Calvo brought up this week that there is plenty of information about the possible collateralization of American land to pay off our debts, debts that many crooked bankers have stacked up with fraud such as “toxic” mortgage backed securities. If law enforcement wants to crack down let’s start with the bankers, not the food producers!! 

Join Greg Hunter as he analyzes these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"How It Really Always Was, And Is"

The Economy: "What Do Janet Yellen and Yuri Geller Have in Common?"

"What Do Janet Yellen and Yuri Geller Have in Common?"
by Bill Bonner

“It looks as though the US stock market is in the process of topping out. But if you'd bet heavily on a bear market, each time you saw one coming, you'd be broke by now. We will wait to see what happens... 

Meanwhile, we are still puzzling over the miracle produced by the Fed. Yuri Geller could bend spoons. The Fed bends the entire economy. Hardly a single price is unaffected. Hardly a single business plan or investment strategy goes forward without an eye on the central bank. Jesus turned water into wine and multiplied loaves and fishes. But the Fed make the Nazarene seem like a two-bit shell game hustler. The loaves and the fishes couldn't have had a market value of more than a few thousand shekels! 

Ex nihilo nihil fit*: Compare that to the Fed. It helped usher in $33 trillion worth of goods and services – out of nothing. Yes, dear reader, that is the total amount of purchases made over the last 30 years... on excess credit. We say "excess" because it is above and beyond the level of credit that had existed – relative to GDP – for many decades before. Roughly, from 1900 to 1970, the US had $1.50 for every dollar of output. Now, there is about $3.50 per dollar of GDP. The difference, over the last 30 years, is about $33 trillion. 

Where did all that bounty come from? That is the question. Can something really come from nothing? Ex nihilo nihil fit (nothing comes from nothing). And yet $33 trillion worth of "stuff" seemed to have come from out of nowhere. It didn't come from savings; the savings rate went down during this period. It didn't come from earnings, either. Wages and earnings – in real terms – barely rose since the 1970s. How about from an increase in productivity or output? Nope. As we have seen, compared to output, this "wealth" grew much faster. 

That leaves only one possible source... 

Childishly Naïve: You may think banks lend out savings. Un un. In the modern fiat money-based economy, they create credit out of thin air. The money supply goes up when the banks see fit to make loans. And banks no longer set aside meaningful reserves against their loans. So, the limit to new credit is... well... limitless. This entire system is created by and presided over by the Fed – a public cartel of private banks. And that's a worry. Because, as we put it last week, the Fed's theory – that it can build real wealth by increasing credit faster than GDP forever – is "childishly naïve." 

An old friend, Pierre Lemieux, wrote in with the following comment: "The production of things is not done with money, but with real resources. If I see a car, I know it has been produced with steel, aluminum, plastic, labor, etc. That's the real side of the economy. We get on the financial side when we ask how this production was financed, that is, how people were motivated to release control of real resources. In most cases, they are motivated in doing so by receiving in exchange claims to other resources or consumer goods. Finance is the domain of the exchange of claims to real resources. The question, then, is in which circumstances does money (a very liquid claim on real resources) help production (by reducing transaction costs), hinder it or, as you point out, create gainers and losers?"

When Credit Turns Bad... : In a better world, credit depends on savings... which represent real resources. This restrains credit growth, because there are only so many real resources... and only so much savings representing them. But in the world created by the Fed, credit has no savings behind it. It is just notations in the banking system... with no effective limit on the quantity of credit available. That is how $33 trillion came to exist. It pretended to be real savings... representing real resources... which were then put to work to make the autos and houses that people wanted, but couldn't afford. 

In other words, the system created new claims on resources... which drew resources into the real economy. Neither past earnings (savings), nor current earnings (output) supported this economic expansion. Instead, it was all a claim on future earnings. This is all a way of saying the obvious: If future output cannot keep up with this $33 trillion of excess debt, this debt must go bad. 

That is, of course, the problem. The economy limps along... even with $1 trillion of extra QE money per year. It depends on more credit and more debt just to stay in the same place. Every year, more resources must be drawn from the future and enjoyed in the present. Every year, the claims on future earnings increase... and every year the debt becomes even more unsupportable. Somehow. Someday. Those claims on the future will be marked down."
* "Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning "out of nothing". It often appears in conjunction with the concept of creation, as in creatio ex nihilo, meaning "creation out of nothing"—chiefly in philosophical or theological contexts, but also occurs in other fields. In theology, the common phrase creatio ex nihilo ("creation out of nothing"), contrasts with creatio ex materia (creation out of some pre-existent, eternal matter) and with creatio ex deo (creation out of the being of God).

The phrase ex nihilo also appears in the classical philosophical formulation ex nihilo nihil fit, which means "Out of nothing comes nothing".

Ex nihilo when used outside of religious or metaphysical contexts, also refers to something coming from nothing. For example, in a conversation, one might raise a topic "ex nihilo" if it bears no relation to the previous topic of discussion. The term has specific meanings in military contexts."

“Overpopulation Is Not A Problem For Us”

“Overpopulation Is Not A Problem For Us”
By Raul I Meijer

“On a day like this, when Bloomberg runs the hilarious and preposterous headline “Euro Periphery Emerges as Haven as Bonds Rise”, and markets are up because the Chinese government announces a 7.4% GDP growth number, which might as well be 4.7% for all we know given the opaqueness and rosy bubbly with which Beijing is known to “calculate” these numbers, let’s talk about something entirely different. And what better to talk about than a topic I know beforehand will antagonize a substantial part of my readership? And add a title to match that?

In the comment thread to my post yesterday, “This Is Where We Say Good Night And Good Luck?”, a discussion emerged about overpopulation and what we should and can do about it. Lot of numbers got thrown around, as always, and as always lowering the birth rate received most attention. Some numbers are interesting though: In today’s world, some 350,000 people are born each day and 150,000 die, leaving a surplus of 200,000 every 24 hours. An estimated 106 billion people ever lived on Earth. 94% of them are dead. Most were or are poor. Over 60% live(d) in Asia.

But to get back to lowering the birth rate, that’s not going to work. For very obvious reasons. As I said yesterday: Just lowering the birth rate doesn’t work, or at least not well. A healthy population is dependent on a healthy age balance. I don’t know how to solve the overpopulation issue, but I do know this is not the way to go. Then again, I also can’t see older people – boomers, the most numerous generation – go voluntarily in large numbers, though I’ve been suggesting it to them here at TAE.

I’ve written earlier that we may have to concede that we can’t solve this one, we’ll have to leave it to nature to do it for us. And I think there’s a reason we need nature to solve this issue for us. That reason is our own “nature”. Or perhaps I should say “the degree to which we belong to the entire natural system”, something we have a hard time understanding because we’re so prone to thinking we are located someplace above and beyond that system. Our overpopulation problem tells us we’re not. Nor is it an exclusively human issue: all organisms will suffer it, provided they are put in the proper conditions. I put it this way:

Mankind may have invented mythological/religious stories of a deity that made us in his own image, stories that serve to make us feel elevated above all other life, and the crowning achievement of creation/evolution, but the reality is that we are no different from the yeast in the wine vat or bacteria in a petri dish, or any and all other organisms for that matter: when confronted with an energy surplus in a given environment, all species will multiply and proliferate until either they run out of space or the energy surplus runs out, and then there is a die-off.

To be exact: the die-off comes before a species can run out of space or energy, because the use of energy produces waste, and no organism can survive in a medium of its own waste (the corollary to the 2nd law of thermodynamics as defined by Herman Daly and Kenneth Townsend in their 1993 book “Valuing the Earth”). Thus, there will always be more space and more energy left even after the population has collapsed. And that collapse is inevitable. No need to worry about how many people need to disappear for any given amount of time.

I’ve often called us the most tragic species, because we have an awareness, we can see ourselves do it, but that doesn’t mean we can stop ourselves from doing it. Perhaps we need to contemplate the limits of our awareness, perhaps if we were fully aware of what we do, we wouldn’t to the damage we do. Or perhaps our awareness simply is no match for the drive to consume all energy available to us, a drive we inherited from more primitive lifeforms. However it may be, what we call our awareness, and our power of reasoning, seem to be applied in the race to consume energy as fast as we can, not to slow down the rate of consumption, even if our survival might hinge on it. What’s ironic is that the drive to consume is very close, if not identical, to the drive to survive that all life possesses.

Overpopulation is not a problem for us, simply because we’re not capable of solving it. So it’s a problem for us, but not one we can solve. It’s not FOR US, because we have no answer, and we never will. The techno happy crowd out there has no answer either, because the more things they solve that are part of problem, the more it grows. With the same inevitable outcome, only slightly later. Technology is no match for life itself. Which is what this is, of course: there can be no life on earth if it doesn’t possess the drive to fill up every available nook and cranny, only to be held back by factors beyond its control. It’s the very essence of life.

If I had to choose a religion, that would be it: life iself. It doesn’t explain where it’s from, perhaps, but you throw a bunch of amino acids from some asteroid together in the right setting, and you’re halfway there. I don’t think that’s any less comforting than a story of a guy, who looks like me to boot, sitting on a cloud trying to keep a snake he himself just made from tempting a naked woman into eating a piece of fruit. My deity would be everywhere, in me -but not looking like me -, and in every songbird and blade of grass and dungbeetle, and in you. But we would still not be able to escape the essence of life, and given an energy surplus, we would still get into trouble.

We don’t like to admit that there are things we have no answer for, but maybe that’s primarily a late addition to our – western – cultural heritage, a disputable interpretation of the mythological idea that we were made in the image of our creator(s), and lions or songbirds or sunflowers were not. Which seems to reflect a notion, more, of us having been made in our own image, in that at least that way we get to pick what we like.

If that collapse is then inevitable, you might ask, what is it that we have to live for? Well, today’s a beautiful day.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"A Look to the Heavens"

“In the 1920s, examining photographic plates from the Mt. Wilson Observatory's 100 inch telescope, Edwin Hubble determined the distance to the Andromeda Nebula, decisively demonstrating the existence of other galaxies far beyond the Milky Way. His notations are evident on the historic plate image inset at the lower right, shown in context with ground based and Hubble Space Telescope images of the region made nearly 90 years later. By intercomparing different plates, Hubble searched for novae, stars which underwent a sudden increase in brightness. He found several on this plate and marked them with an "N". Later, discovering that the one near the upper right corner (marked by lines) was actually a type of variable star known as a cepheid, he crossed out the "N" and wrote "VAR!".
Click image for larger sizes.
Thanks to the work of Harvard astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, cepheids, regularly varying pulsating stars, could be used as standard candle distance indicators. Identifying such a star allowed Hubble to show that Andromeda was not a small cluster of stars and gas within our own galaxy, but a large galaxy in its own right at a substantial distance from the Milky Way. Hubble's discovery is responsible for establishing our modern concept of a Universe filled with galaxies.”

“The Descent Of Man”

“The Descent Of Man”
Has Human intelligence been on an intellectual and 
emotional decline since its peak thousands of years ago?
by Steve Connor

"Is the human species doomed to intellectual decline? Will our intelligence ebb away in centuries to come leaving our descendants incapable of using the technology their ancestors invented? In short: will Homo be left without his sapiens? This is the controversial hypothesis of a leading geneticist who believes that the immense capacity of the human brain to learn new tricks is under attack from an array of genetic mutations that have accumulated since people started living in cities a few thousand years ago.

Professor Gerald Crabtree, who heads a genetics laboratory at Stanford University in California, has put forward the iconoclastic idea that rather than getting cleverer, human intelligence peaked several thousand years ago and from then on there has been a slow decline in our intellectual and emotional abilities.

Although we are now surrounded by the technological and medical benefits of a scientific revolution, these have masked an underlying decline in brain power which is set to continue into the future leading to the ultimate dumbing-down of the human species, Professor Crabtree said. His argument is based on the fact that for more than 99 per cent of human evolutionary history, we have lived as hunter-gatherer communities surviving on our wits, leading to big-brained humans. Since the invention of agriculture and cities, however, natural selection on our intellect has effective stopped and mutations have accumulated in the critical "intelligence" genes.

"I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas and a clear-sighted view of important issues," Professor Crabtree says in a provocative paper published in the journal "Trends in Genetics". "Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues. I would also make this wager for the ancient inhabitants of Africa, Asia, India or the Americas, of perhaps 2,000 to 6,000 years ago," Professor Crabtree says. "The basis for my wager comes from new developments in genetics, anthropology, and neurobiology that make a clear prediction that our intellectual and emotional abilities are genetically surprisingly fragile," he says.

A comparison of the genomes of parents and children has revealed that on average there are between 25 and 65 new mutations occurring in the DNA of each generation. Professor Crabtree says that this analysis predicts about 5,000 new mutations in the past 120 generations, which covers a span of about 3,000 years. Some of these mutations, he suggests, will occur within the 2,000 to 5,000 genes that are involved in human intellectual ability, for instance by building and mapping the billions of nerve cells of the brain or producing the dozens of chemical neurotransmitters that control the junctions between these brain cells.

Life as a hunter-gatherer was probably more intellectually demanding than widely supposed, he says. "A hunter-gatherer who did not correctly conceive a solution to providing food or shelter probably died, along with his or her progeny, whereas a modern Wall Street executive that made a similar conceptual mistake would receive a substantial bonus and be a more attractive mate," Professor Crabtree says.

However, other scientists remain skeptical. "At first sight this is a classic case of Arts Faculty science. Never mind the hypothesis, give me the data, and there aren't any," said Professor Steve Jones, a geneticist at University College London. "I could just as well argue that mutations have reduced our aggression, our depression and our penis length but no journal would publish that. Why do they publish this?" Professor Jones said. "I am an advocate of Gradgrind science - facts, facts and more facts; but we need ideas too, and this is an ideas paper although I have no idea how the idea could be tested," he said.

The Descent of Man:

Hunter-gatherer man: The human brain and its immense capacity for knowledge evolved during this long period of prehistory when we battled against the elements

Athenian man: The invention of agriculture less than 10,000 years ago and the subsequent rise of cities such as Athens relaxed the intensive natural selection of our "intelligence genes".

Couch-potato man: As genetic mutations increase over future generations, are we doomed to watching soap-opera repeats without knowing how to use the TV remote control?

iPad man: The fruits of science and technology enabled humans to rise above the constraints of nature and cushioned our fragile intellect from genetic mutations."

"Dreamers Of the Day..."

"Always Been Sane..."

"As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. Indigenous humans have always been sane because they have always been mystic. They permit the twilight."
- G. K. Chesterton

The Daily "Near You?"

Ft. Worth, Texas, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

Chet Raymo, "Free As A Bird"

"Free As A Bird"
by Chet Raymo

"All afternoon I have been watching a pair of hummingbirds play about our porch. They live somewhere nearby, though I haven't found their nest. They are attracted to our hummingbird feeder, which we keep full of sugar water. What perfect little machines they are! No other bird can perform their tricks of flight - flying backwards, hovering in place. Zip. Zip. From perch to perch in a blur of iridescence. If you want a symbol of freedom, the hummingbird is it. Exuberant. Unpredictable. A streak of pure fun. It is the speed, of course, that gives the impression of perfect spontaneity. The bird can perform a dozen intricate maneuvers more quickly than I can turn my head.

Is the hummingbird's apparent freedom illusory, a biochemically determined response to stimuli from the environment? Or is the hummingbird's flight what it seems to be, willful and unpredictable? If I can answer that question, I will be learning as much about myself as about the hummingbird. So I watch. And I consider what I know of biochemistry. The hummingbird is awash in signals from its environment - visual, olfactory, auditory and tactile cues that it processes and responds to with lightning speed.

How does it do it? Proteins, mostly. Every cell of the hummingbird's body is a buzzing conversation of proteins, each protein a chain of hundreds of amino acids folded into a complex shape like a piece of a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Shapes as various as the words of a human vocabulary. An odor molecule from a blossom, for example, binds to a protein receptor on a cell membrane of the hummingbird's olfactory organ - like a jigsaw-puzzle piece with its neighbor. This causes the receptor molecule to change that part of its shape that extends inside the cell. Another protein now binds with the new configuration of the receptor, and changes its own shape. And so on, in a sequence of shapeshifting and binding - called a signal-transduction cascade - until the hummingbird's brain "experiences" the odor.

Now appropriate signals must be sent from the brain to the body - ion flows established along neural axons, synapses activated. Wing muscles must respond to direct the hummingbird to the source of nourishment. Tens of thousands of proteins in a myriad of cells talk to each other, each protein genetically prefigured by the hummingbird's DNA to carry on its conversation in a particular part of the body. All of this happens continuously, and so quickly that to my eye the bird's movements are a blur.

There is much left to learn, but this much is clear: There is no ghost in the machine, no hummingbird pilot making moment by moment decisions out of the whiffy stuff of spirit. Every detail of the hummingbird's apparently willful flight is biochemistry. Between the hummingbird and myself there is a difference of complexity, but not of kind. If humans are the lords of terrestrial creation, it is because of the huge tangle of nerves that sits atop our spines.

So what does this mean about human freedom? If we are biochemical machines in interaction with our environments, in what sense can we be said to be free? What happens to "free will"? Perhaps the most satisfying place to look for free will is in what is sometimes called chaos theory. In sufficiently complex systems with many feedback loops - the global economy, the weather, the human nervous system - small perturbations can lead to unpredictable large-scale consequences, though every part of the system is individually deterministic. This has sometimes been called - somewhat facetiously - the butterfly effect: a butterfly flaps its wings in China and triggers a cascade of events that results in a snowstorm in Chicago. Chaos theory has taught us that determinism does not imply predictability. Of course, this is not what philosophers traditionally meant by free will, but it is indistinguishable from what philosophers traditionally meant by free will. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

I watch the hummingbirds at the feeder. Their hearts beat ten times faster than a human's. They have the highest metabolic rate of any animal, a dozen times higher than a pigeon, a hundred times higher than an elephant. Hummingbirds live at the edge of what is biologically possible, and it's that, the fierce intenseness of their aliveness, that makes them appear so exuberantly free. But there are no metaphysical pilots in these little flying machines. The machines are the pilots. You give me carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and a few billion years of evolution, and I'll give you a bird that burns like a luminous flame. The hummingbird's freedom was built into the universe from the first moment of creation."
Further Reading:

For a brilliant and provocative treatment of free will and determinism, read Daniel Dennett's "Freedom Evolves."

A superb book on how the mind makes itself is Gary Marcus's "The Birth of the Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought."

The always provocative Roger Penrose looks for free will in quantum uncertainty in his "The Emperor's New Mind". Not an easy read, and, in my view, case not proved.

"The Champ"

"The Champ"
by CoyotePrime

Ding, ding, ding... you hear the bell for the start of the fight, hear the crowd, noisy, excited to see this rematch between you and Life.  You’re here, and still the Champ, right? Fought this guy many times before, always beat him, too, though you took many a beating yourself in the process, each fight a little tougher, taking a little more out of you each time. You meet in the center of the ring... damn, has this guy grown somehow? He looks bigger, more muscled, and has a real confident look in his eye. So what? You’re the Champ, still standing, right? Let’s get it on!

Ding, ding, ding... you meet him in the center of the ring, toe to toe, jabbing, bobbing and weaving, feeling each other out. He seems faster that you remember, while your own punches are a hair slower, not quite able to connect solidly, while his land solidly, crisply, heavily. He lands a tremendous body shot to your side, knocking the air right out of you, and you clinch him desperately, sucking in as much air as you can while he hammers away at you, your forearms blocking most, but not all, of those heavy, heavy punches.

Ding, ding, ding... the bell ends the round and you sit on your stool, hearing the trainers tell you how to fight this guy, “Don’t clinch with him, he’s too strong, he’ll break you up”, “Dance, man, side to side, bob and weave, don’t give him anything to hit”, “Jab and dance away, jab, jab, jab”, words you’ve heard so many times before. You think of previous bouts with this guy, the loss of a job when you had a family to support, the bitter divorce, the deaths of loved ones... every time he came wanting to knock your head off, but your will power, training and instincts always kept you standing at the end, still the Champ, right? But this time, something’s not right, something's different somehow...

Yeah, time’s gone by, not so young or strong as you once were, not as fast, don’t recover as fast, but haven’t been taken out yet, right? And everybody knows the rules, the only way he wins is to knock you out, you just gotta hang on, take his best shots and give him all you got until that bell rings for the end of the fight, and if you’re still there, still standing, you win. Still the Champ, right? Round after round after round...

Ding, ding, ding... last round, you’re feeling so tired, legs almost gone, no snap to the punches, but he looks fresh, strong, and bores in with a mean intent, landing hammer blows, knocking you back towards the corner where he wants you, you try dancing sideways, he cuts off the ring, no escape that way, and keeps coming in. A thunderous right cross lands smack on your chin, everything turns black for a second, legs about to go as the instincts kick in and you throw your body back out of the way, sucking in as much air as you can, shaking your head to clear the blurriness, but you’re in the corner now, where he wants you, and here he comes with a vengeance, fast, strong, wanting the knockout, but you’re still standing, still the Champ, right? Right?

Ding, ding, ding...

Rumi, "The Tavern,"

"All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there. Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison for drunks. I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way. Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home."
- Rumi, "The Tavern," Ch. 1:, p. 2, from "The Essential Rumi"

"How It Really Is"

George Carlin, “The American Dream”

George Carlin, “The American Dream”

"An Inconvenient Truth"

"An Inconvenient Truth"
by Karl Denninger 

"We're better than those damned Russians and their Putin; we have democracy! Well, maybe not. "Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism."

Lots of big words in that paragraph. Let's distill it down - the argument presented is that America is really no different than Russia; that actual democratic forces, that is, the expression of will by the people, for the people is a chimera and has no actual effect or impact on policy.

However, the 0.01% do; they set policy and then create a shimmer of "belief" that you actually have a voice. Just like Russia does. You think not? Then explain the following:

How is it that it can be illegal, with felony prison time attached, for you to buy a drug manufactured in Mexico and bring it back to the United States for resale? This prohibition is the only reason that scorpion antivenom sells for $30,000 a vial here and $100 in Mexico, where it is made and where you can buy it over the counter. Likewise it is the same set of laws that allows Gilead to charge $84,000 for a course of treatment that they sell in other nations for $900 while prohibiting you from buying it for $900 and reselling it here in the US. This sort of conduct would be punished as flat-out unlawful in an actual society that honored the rule of law and the principle that all are equal. Instead our nation will imprison you should you try to break that monopoly using nothing other than your own money to buy and willing customers to sell said products to.

How is it that universities and industry can collude to effectively force attendance at their schools in order to enter various fields instead of simply testing for competence?  Specifically you cannot even sit for a bar exam without attending law school in person, among other fields. Yet you may have all of the skills necessary to be an attorney and you may have acquired them through various means. The same is true of many other disciplines. On top of that both universities and banking interests have managed to reclassify loans for education as "special" and therefore unable to be discharged in bankruptcy, thereby protecting the price of their service. All of this has served to drive post-secondary educational costs up 600% compared against minimum wage jobs over the last 30 years, rendering it flatly impossible to work your way through school - a path that used to be available to literally anyone who could pass the coursework.

Want to make cars? You must allow a cartel of middlemen to sell and service them. Yes, Tesla got a "limited exemption" in some states (but not others), but it only applies to them! Gee, you don't think the money and influence that Tesla's founder has might be involved in that? What part of a free market prohibits the entry and exit of various manufacturers of vehicles "at will" with different sales and service economic models, all of which should be competing for market share?

How close are we to minting another Hitler or Stalin?  Many think Putin is one.  Better look closer to home; specifically in NYC. What sort of hubris do you have to have to believe that you're entitled to entry to heaven? Especially when that same "entitlement" comes from your belief that you should be able to carry a weapon for self-defense and pay others to do so on your behalf (up to and including taking a bullet in the chest in your place) but ordinary people should be barred as a matter of law from doing so and sent to prison if they refuse to consent to being violent crime victims unable to defend themselves from the myriad thugs that are unfortunately present in all societies. Maybe - just maybe - such hubris comes with an expectation that if you succeed in your quest you might be the guy directing who goes into the boxcars - and ultimately the "showers"?

Take a read of that Princeton paper. I'm not much of a fan of that particular college, but once in a while even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Or, in this case, maybe they've identified and called out a whole bunch of nuts.”

The Economy: “The Great Keynesian Fraud”

“The Great Keynesian Fraud” 
by Bill Bonner

“Economics has been called the "dismal science." But even that is merely fraud and flattery. Economics is dismal, but it isn't science. At best it is merely voyeurism – peeping in people's windows as they go about their business and trying to figure out what they are doing. At worst, it is pompous theorizing about how to get the schmucks to do better. 

We doubt that you are especially interested in economics, dear reader. We know we are not. But we can't resist a good comedy... or a good opportunity to point and giggle. We keep our eye on economists and politicians the way children watch clowns; we can't wait to see them get whacked in the head or trip over each other. 

But what is amusing is also instructive. Are clowns not people too? Are they not part of human life... human organization... and human economy? Every one of them is driven by the same motors that power everyone else. They want power... glory... money. But how do they get it? Can we not watch politicians and economists and learn something about ourselves? 

Men Like Gods: One of the many conceits of politicians and economists is that they are somehow out of the ordinary. They are godlike, or so they pretend, having no other ambition but to make the world a better place. Neither drink, nor meat, nor false witness cross their lips. They sweat for no material gain... and know no lust – save for the betterment of all mankind. They pass laws... they enact codes and regulations... they jiggle this lever and turn another – as if they were the masters of the whole human race, rather than mere parts of it themselves. Since they float above it all, they are not subject to the normal temptations. The rest of us spend our whole lives like animals – craving profits, mates, status, pride, love, and money like raccoons searching for a garbage pail without a lid. Unless we are kept in tight cages, who knows what we will do? 

That is why the tabloid press – especially in Britain – loves stories about government ministers having affairs with their secretaries or cheating on their income tax. Who doesn't like to see hypocrisy revealed in public? It is as though the king himself had been caught with his pants down; we gape... and see that he is human, just like the rest of us. 

But thank God there are leaders! Thinkers! Theorists with their "isms" and their rat wire... ready not merely to keep us from hurting one another, but also to give us a sense of moral purpose. It is not enough that we should each seek happiness in our own private way, we must Free the Sudetenland! Abolish Poverty! Make the World Safe for Democracy! We must realize our manifest destiny... and provide lebensraum (living space) for the German people! Full employment! A minimum wage! No humbug left behind! 

We bring this up only to laugh at it. 

Predictably Disastrous: In the early 20th century, John Maynard Keynes came up with a new idea about economics. The politicians loved it; Keynes explained how they could meddle in private affairs on a grand scale – and, of course, make things better. Keynes argued that a government could take the edge off a business recession by making more credit available when money got tight... and by spending itself to make up for the lack of spending on the part of consumers and businessmen. Keynes suggested, whimsically, hiding bottles of cash all around town, where boys might find them, spend the money, and revive the economy. 

The new idea caught on. Soon economists were advising all major governments about how to implement the new "ism." It did not seem to bother anyone that the new system was a fraud. Where would this new money come from? And what made anyone think that the economists' judgment of whether it made sense to spend or save was better than any individual's? 

All the Keynesians had done was to substitute their own guesses for the private, personal, economic opinions of millions of ordinary citizens. They had resorted to what Franz Oppenheimer called "political means," instead of allowing normal "economic means" to take their own course. 

The economists wanted what everyone else wants – power, prestige, women (except for Keynes himself, who preferred men). And there are only two ways to get what you want in life, dear reader. There are honest means, and dishonest ones. There are economic means, and there are political means. There is persuasion... and there is force. There are civilized ways... and barbaric ones. 

The economist is a harmless crank as long as he is just peeping through the window. But when he undertakes to get people to do what he wants – either by offering them money that is not his own... by defrauding them with artificially low interest rates... or by printing up money that is not backed by something of real value (such as gold)... he has crossed over to the dark side. He has moved to political means to get what he wants. He has become a jackass. 

Keynesian "improvements" were applied in the 1920s – when then Fed governor Ben Strong decided to give the economy a little "coup de whiskey" – and later in the 1930s when the stock market was recovering from the hangover. The results were predictably disastrous. And along came other economists with their own bad ideas. Rare was the man, such as Robert Lucas or Murray Rothbard, who pointed out that you could not really improve economic results with political means. 

If a national assembly could make people rich simply by passing laws, we would all be billionaires, because assemblies have passed a multitude of laws and seem capable of enacting any piece of legislation brought before them. If laws could make people wealthy, some assembly somewhere would have found the magic edicts – simply by chance. But instead of making them richer, each law makes them a little poorer. Every time political means are used they interfere with the private, civilized economic arrangements that actually get people what they want. 

Here Come the Meddlers: One man makes shoes. Another grows potatoes. The potato grower goes to the cobbler to buy a pair of shoes. He must exchange two sacks of potatoes for one pair of penny loafers. But then the meddlers show up and tell him he must charge three sacks... so that he can pay one in "taxes," to the meddlers themselves. And then he needs to put in an alarm system in his shop, and buy a hardhat, and pay his helper minimum wage, and fill out forms for all manner of laudable purposes. When the potato farmer finally shows up at the cobbler's he is informed that the shoes will cost seven sacks of potatoes! That is just what he has to charge in order to end up with the same two sacks he needed to charge in the beginning. "No thanks," says the potato man, "At that price, I can't afford a pair of shoes." 

What the potato grower needs, say the economists, is more money! The money supply has failed to keep pace, they add. That was why they urged the government to set up the Federal Reserve in the first place; they wanted a stooge currency that would be ready to go along with their plans. Gold is fine, they said, but it's anti-social. It resists new "isms" and drags its feet on financing new social programs. Why, it is positively recalcitrant! 

Clearly, when we face a war or a Great National Purpose we need money that is willing to stand up and sign on. Gold malingers. Gold hesitates. Gold is reluctant and reticent. Gold is fine as a private money. But what we need is a source of public funding... a flexible, expandable national currency... a political money that we can work with. We need a dollar that is not linked to gold. 

In the many years since the creation of the Federal Reserve System as America's central bank, gold has remained as steadfast and immobile as ever. An ounce of it today buys about the same amount of goods and services as an ounce in 1913. But the dollar has gone along with every bit of political gimcrackery that has come along – the war in Europe, the New Deal, World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Illiteracy, the New Frontier, the Great Society, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the War in Iraq, the War on Terror – the list is long and sordid. 

As a result, guess how much a dollar is worth today in comparison to one in 1913? Five cents. 

The Road to Hell: Keynesianism is a fraud. Supply-siderism is a con. The dollar is a scam. All were developed by people with good intentions. But these good intentions not only paved the road to Hell, they greased it. There was no point putting on the brakes. Once underway, there was no stopping it. 

Right now, the US slides towards some sort of Hell. Half a century of deceit has produced a nation that is ready to believe anything... and go along with anything... provided it promises to make them rich. They will be very disappointed when they discover that all the political means they counted on – the phony money, the laws, the regulations, and the wars – have made them poorer. That is when we will really need cages... 

"Nothing in nature is evil," said Marcus Aurelius. Keynes was human. Even Adolf Hitler was a man, a part of nature himself. And the Evil Empire, was it not created by men too, men who – like economists and politicians – followed their own natural impulses? Adolf may have erred and strayed. But he did so with the best of intentions: He thought he was building a better world. And he had all the "reasons" you could ask for. He could argue all day; "proving" that his plan was the best way forward. 

Not that there weren't arguments on the other side. What were smart people to do? People argued about Keynesianism for many years. Each side had good points. One was convincing; the other was persuasive. It was like a couple arguing in divorce court – the husband forgot to take out the trash and knocked over a vase; the wife ran him over with the family car. "He had it coming," she says. 

What would an observer think? No amount of logic could help him. Both parties made good points. All the judge could do was to fall back on his own deep sense of right and wrong, of proportion... and good taste. "She shouldn't have run him down," he says. 

"Love the man, hate the sin," say the Baptist preachers. They have a useful point. There's no point in hating Adolf, Josef, Osama... John Maynard... or any of the other thousands of clowns who entertain, annoy and murder us. 

They are God's creatures too, just like the rest of us. What they did wrong was what they always do wrong... they all resorted to political means, to get what they wanted. We do not hate them; we just hope they get what they deserve.”
Editor's Note: If you want to read more about the scams being perpetrated on investors, we have a special offer for Diary of Rogue Economist Readers. We're giving away FREE hardcover copies of his book "The New Empire of Debt," which he wrote with Addison Wiggin. Keynesian ideas about how the economy works are now widely accepted – especially in Washington. That means the entire system is in danger. As "MarketWatch" put it, Bill and Addison's book is "a wake-up call for all investors." Claim your FREE book here

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Edward Abbey, "I Promise You This..."

"One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards."
- Edward Abbey

Rumi, "Sit, Be Still, And Listen..."

"Sit, be still, and listen,
because you're drunk,
and we're at the edge of the roof."

- Rumi

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Bright stars, clouds of dust and glowing nebulae decorate this cosmic scene, a skyscape just north of Orion's belt. Close to the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, the wide field view spans about 5.5 degrees. Striking bluish M78, a reflection nebula, is at the left. M78's tint is due to dust preferentially reflecting the blue light of hot, young stars. 
Click image for larger size.
In colorful contrast, the red sash of glowing hydrogen gas sweeping through the center is part of the region's faint but extensive emission nebula known as Barnard's Loop. At right, a dark dust cloud forms a prominent silhouette cataloged as LDN 1622. While M78 and the complex Barnard's Loop are some 1,500 light-years away, LDN 1622 is likely to be much closer, only about 500 light-years distant from our fair planet Earth."

Crowfoot, "What Is Life?"

 "What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."

- Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior and Orator

Paulo Coelho, “I’d Rather Be In Hell”

“I’d Rather Be In Hell”
by Paulo Coelho

"As soon as he died, Juan found himself in a gorgeous place, surrounded by all the comfort and beauty he had dreamed of. A fellow dressed in white approached him and said, “You have the right to have whatever you want; any food, pleasure or amusement.” Charmed, Juan did everything he dreamed of doing during his life. After many years of pleasures, he sought the fellow in white and asked, “I have already experienced everything I wanted. Now I need to work in order to feel useful.”

“I am sorry,” said the fellow in white, “but that is the only thing I am unable to give you. There is no work here.” “How terrible,” Juan said annoyed, “I will spend eternity dying of boredom! I’d much rather be in hell!” The man in white approached him and said in a low voice: “And where do you think you are?”
Illustration by Ken Crane

Chet Raymo,"The Imperfect Is Our Paradise"

"The Imperfect Is Our Paradise"
by Chet Raymo

"'The Anecdote of the Jar' by Wallace Stevens:

    "I placed a jar in Tennessee,
    And round it was, upon a hill.
    It made the slovenly wilderness
    Surround that hill.

    The wilderness rose up to it,
    And sprawled around, no longer wild.
    The jar was round upon the ground
    And tall and of a port in air.

    It took dominion every where.
    The jar was gray and bare.
    It did not give of bird or bush,
    Like nothing else in Tennessee."

It is reasonable to ask, why, in a cyberspace teeming with millions of blogs, I sit here in a quiet corner of the house or College Commons each morning and compose these few words. I click "Post" and off they go to God knows where. I am grateful that they are read, but it is not to be read that I write. I write because I have reached that age - seventy years - when I look around me and see a slovenly tangle of a life, a serendipitous stumbling from A to B. I know where I am but I haven't a clue how I got here. I stand on such a summit as I have found and see no trace of a path. I remember briars, and mire, and sunny glades, and freshets, and deep pools. I recall meeting strangers. I don't recall map or compass.

Each of these posts is a jar of sorts, placed on a hill amidst the sprawl, in the deeply Catholic sacramental hope that it will assert a dominion, make order out of chaos. I'm looking for that single sentence that will summarize - something as glassy clear and shapely as those wide-mouthed jars that lined the shelves on my grandmother's back porch pantry in Tennessee, and which may have been the inspiration for Stevens' poem.

I go back to my dog-eared and well-thumbed "Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens," especially those poems like "The Idea of Order at Key West," "The Poems of our Climate," and "Add This To Rhetoric" that I discovered as a young man - scraps of paper in a trackless wilderness, covered with words, flawed words, stubborn sounds, but somehow full of promise, evidence that someone had gone that way before and perhaps, just perhaps, reached a place of repose. Here is what I learned from Stevens, the single sentence that will summarize: "There never was a world for her/ Except the one she sang and, singing, made."

Free Download: Olaf Stapledon, “Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future”

“Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future”
by Olaf Stapledon

“Great are the stars, and man is of no account to them. But man is a fair spirit, whom a star conceived and a star kills. He is greater than those bright blind companies. For though in them there is incalculable potentiality, in him there is achievement, small, but actual. Too soon, seemingly, he comes to his end. But when he is done he will not be nothing, not as though he had never been; for he is eternally a beauty in the eternal form of things.

Man was winged hopefully. He had in him to go further than this short flight, now ending. He proposed even that he should become the Flower of All Things, and that he should learn to be the All-Knowing, the All-Admiring. Instead, he is to be destroyed. He is only a fledgling caught in a bush-fire. He is very small, very simple, very little capable of insight. His knowledge of the great orb of things is but a fledgling's knowledge. His admiration is a nestling's admiration for the things kindly to his own small nature. He delights only in food and the food-announcing call. The music of the spheres passes over him, through him, and is not heard.

Yet it has used him. And now it uses his destruction. Great, and terrible, and very beautiful is the Whole; and for man the best is that the Whole should use him.

But does it really use him? Is the beauty of the Whole really enhanced by our agony? And is the Whole really beautiful? And what is beauty? Throughout all his existence man has been striving to hear the music of the spheres, and has seemed to himself once and again to catch some phrase of it, or even a hint of the whole form of it. Yet he can never be sure that he has truly heard it, nor even that there is any such perfect music at all to be heard. Inevitably so, for if it exists, it is not for him in his littleness.

But one thing is certain. Man himself, at the very least, is music, a brave theme that makes music also of its vast accompaniment, its matrix of storms and stars. Man himself in his degree is eternally a beauty in the eternal form of things. It is very good to have been man. And so we may go forward together with laughter in our hearts, and peace, thankful for the past, and for our own courage. For we shall make after all a fair conclusion to this brief music that is man."

Freely download "Last and First Men" here:

Alan Watts, "It Comes, Then, To This..."

"It comes, then, to this: that to be "viable", livable, or merely practical, life must be lived as a game - and the "must" here expresses a condition, not a commandment. It must be lived in the spirit of play rather than work, and the conflicts which it involves must be carried on in the realization that no species, or party to a game, can survive without its natural antagonists, its beloved enemies, its indispensable opponents. For to "love your enemies" is to love them as enemies; it is not necessarily a clever device for winning them over to your side. The lion lies down with the lamb in paradise, but not on earth - "paradise" being the tacit, off-stage level where, behind the scenes, all conflicting parties recognize their interdependence, and, through this recognition, are able to keep their conflicts within bounds.

This recognition is the absolutely essential chivalry which must set the limits within all warfare, with human and non-human enemies alike, for chivalry is the debonair spirit of the knight who "plays with his life" in the knowledge that even mortal combat is a game. No one who has been hoaxed into the belief that he is nothing but his ego, or nothing but his individual organism, can be chivalrous, let alone a civilized, sensitive, and intelligent member of the cosmos."
~ Alan Watts,
"On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are"

The Daily "Near You?"

Nuremberg, Bayern, Germany. Thanks for stopping by.