Thursday, January 17, 2019

"Enlightened Self Interest and Financial Industry Hypocrisy: Benevolent Self-Deception”

"Enlightened Self Interest and Financial Industry Hypocrisy:
Benevolent Self-Deception
By Cognitive Dissonance

“Too often we divide the world into black and white hats on good and bad people, or left and right ideology that’s right or wrong. Absolute certainties make the process of determining what to believe, to deny or just to ignore so much easier when we don’t actually need to navigate through the cognitive fog to reach critical thinking.

Sadly this duality of extremes is used as a weapon against us at every twist and turn for the benefit of the powerful. And we fall for it hook, line and sinker every single time. I’ve wanted to dig my teeth into the subject of hypocrisy as it applies to the financial ‘industry’ as well as average Joe for several years now, but have held back because the subject is extremely divisive and triggering. Now appears as good a time as any to turn the compost pile.

First let’s get the disclosures out of the way. I was ‘in the business’ for 25 years and I recently closed a small (emphasis on small) financial advisory firm. I ran small money for a living, though that hasn’t always been the case. So while I’ll point fingers and render opinions, and I am extremely critical of society in general and the financial industry in particular, until recently I was swimming in the same cesspool and faced the same ethical dilemmas. That said, while I live in a glass house I’m still going to throw a few stones. Breaking glass is extremely satisfying in a visceral kind of way.

In addition, regardless of how you may interpret what I write below, I am very optimistic that our problems can be solved, and relatively quickly once the individual and national ‘will’ finally develops. We have the power in our hands to change everything and always have. However, as has been the case for hundreds (thousands?) of years, the sole job of the magicians who cast the nation’s economic and cultural spells is to convince us on a daily basis to surrender our power to them in return for empty promises of pain free living and delayed (if ever) consequences.

Viewed from the perspective of technical analysis, it appears we are nearing the peak in the last wave of an eighty year long insanity rally. And while there is no way of knowing exactly when it will end, we do know it will end. A careful review of world history over several thousand years shows that insanity runs in cycles of intensity (but never really goes away) and we are in the final phase of this particular cycle.

When we grow up a bit more and recognize that no leader will guide us out of our own insanity, that it is up to us alone, this leg of our maturation process will be over. I see great potential, but I have low expectations that this potential will be achieved without a great deal of pain. Empires will fall, war will explode and people will die, of this I have little doubt. The death throes of self deceit are extremely destructive as the excesses of the insane asylum are discarded, then replaced just in time to start the next cycle.

With that said, please don’t make the mistake of assuming this article doesn’t apply to all of us just because ‘we’ don’t work in the ‘industry’. What is happening in the financial industry is just a symptom of global wide narcissistic navel gazing, blatant greed and overall rot that has permeated our global society. There are no innocent bystanders in this debacle, only varying levels of involvement or passivity beginning with the ring leaders and flowing down through several layers of direct and indirect enablers. And as I will flesh out below and in subsequent chapters, I suggest it flows up as well as down in a dysfunctional and symbiotic positive feedback loop.

Ethics and ethical behavior, along with all its sub categories, including Enlightened Self Interest (ESI) and benevolent self deception, is not exclusive to financial professionals. In fact these moral concepts flow up from the individual into society in general and our institutions specifically. Thus if we declare our institutions corrupt we are clearly and unmistakably declaring ourselves corrupt as well. From a big picture point of view, in a representative form of government (and I would argue in any form of government) we (re)elect and/or support exactly the type of leaders we desire (notice I did not say deserve) but to which we will rarely admit any culpability.

For those who might strenuously object to that statement, let me give you an example. During the 2004 Presidential election cycle there was a voter survey conducted (very Orwellian that in the past year that poll has disappeared) asking about corrupt politicians. When asked what percentage of Senate and House congressional critters were corrupt in any way (an admittedly broad definition) the answer was 81%. Meaning 4 out of 5 were considered corrupt by those who elect them to office or who watch from the sidelines. When asked what percentage of the respondent’s own elected representatives were corrupt, the answer dropped to 19%.

Common sense dictates that if 4 out of 5 politicians in general are corrupt, on average the same percentage of our own representatives is corrupt. So why the large discrepancy? Well, if my elected representatives are corrupt it reflects poorly on me. Even if I don’t vote or care much about the issue I don’t want others (more specifically the poll taker) to think I ‘allow’ or ignore corruption after making such a strong statement about the large degree of corruption nationwide. Thus when answering the survey questions, which are often posed by live individuals either in person or by phone, I must cover my cognitive butt and present myself as pure… or at least more pure than the next guy who is the real idiot electing all these corrupt politicians.

The simplest way to avoid this cognitive dissonance is to lie to our ‘self’ under the cover of all kinds of slick and plausible excuses, such as bacon delivery, political clout or whatever. It doesn’t matter how I brush it away, just that I do. It’s OK to lie to myself, but I must not let anyone else see that my cognitive slip is showing.

If we wish to be lied to in order to hide from ourselves and any personal accountability or self awareness, that is exactly the style of leadership we will get. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people from a variety of political and social convictions who will scream in outrage at this or that political transgression.

But when asked about their own faults and hypocrisies they are nearly always unable to look at themselves with an unbiased eye, never mind make any real attempt to provide a semi honest self appraisal. As I like to say, space aliens don’t drop our political and business leaders from the sky. They are all home grown 100% USDA certified Earthlings spawned from mom and dad, at least until proven otherwise.

Every person carries around a bucket full of lies, half truths and self deceptions to which we add to and subtract from all the time. While many will claim this is simply human nature, I suspect it is more a cultural phenomenon than a natural tendency. If one believes we are a product of evolution, while I can see the utility of some social lies to promote harmony and cooperation, self deception is not necessarily conductive to a long life, particularly when resources are scarce.

During the present era of perceived abundance that is rapidly fading in the rear view mirror, our formerly over flowing cup might have something to do with our present day insanity. Self destructive behavior requires heaping helpings of denial front and center, and only the ideologically blinded or mentally ill can take a look around and consider the present sorry state of the human race to be the result of others and not ourselves. One of the hallmarks of insanity is the personal belief that there isn’t anything wrong with me, just everyone else.

Since by definition a culture is all encompassing and totally immersive, one cannot see ourselves for what we really are unless we make an honest and sustained effort to do so. Everything looks pretty much normal (in an insane kind of way) to the non-critical eye……which is often just the way we like it. This is where the lying and self deception comes into play.

One of the most common enabling lies we tell ourselves is that because we are more (mostly) pure of mind and deed (or at least thoroughly rationalized and justified) it is those people over there who are the real problem. So in our mind we make a generous offer and declare that we might clean up our own act, what little there actually needs to be done, once the bastards who are responsible for this mess are hung from the rafters. This is the epitome of blame shifting and magical thinking, and it is the root of the problems we all face.      

At one point or another we have all pointed our finger towards (or should I say given the finger to) the ‘bad’ guys at the Federal Reserve and on Wall Street, at the White House, Congress, the Judicial System and the huge multinational Corporations. And while you will get no argument from me that all these players are both compliant puppets and powerful puppeteers, they are all essentially powerless without our direct consent or passive agreement.

As well, while the game is obviously rigged to compel our participation, many of us roll over and concede defeat, taking the softer easier way out while claiming the moral high ground to enable our own victimization. After all ‘victims’ aren’t responsible for anything, including ourselves, because we are all… well, victims, right? Don’t blame me dawg, I’m just the poor trapped soul caught in the nasty spider web.

While I am sure there will be angry comments declaring that I am unfairly blaming the victim when it is clearly those lousy bastards over there that are responsible for this mess, short of putting a gun to our heads we always have choices. And to say otherwise is bordering on the infantile. What we are really saying when we claim there is no way out or that we are powerless to stop the insanity, is that all the easy alternatives have been eliminated and the only remaining paths we perceive as available involve high levels of pain, discomfort and distress.

This is an illusion we actively encourage to enable us to remain comfortably passive within the insanity, or which we use to give us the moral green light to participate in the looting under the guise of profit, saying we’re just taking care of ourselves and our own. You know, buy the f**king dip, regardless if whether it’s stocks, bonds, CRE, distressed housing, PM’s, whatever. Or one I heard just today, where the person states that it will never change so why not position ourselves to profit from the mess.

Of course, we nearly always exaggerate potential dangers or project undesirable outcomes when facing paths we don’t wish to pursue. I can always find a reason not to act, while finding reasons to act are far and few between. This isn’t human nature alone, but just as much nurture, meaning our training and conditioning beginning with our parents. Sure there are basic tendencies to procrastinate inherent in each individual, but children of proactive and positive parents tend to be the same and vice versa.

Very early in my career I was told by a wise mentor that successful people do the things unsuccessful people don’t want to do. I was then challenged to demonstrate this with the understanding that words without action accomplishes little other than verbal and mental masturbation. This applies so well to life in general. Bottom line, if we don’t want to do something we will find every excuse in the book not to do so. Rather than closely examine our part in this slow dance of socioeconomic death, we paper over our own involvement in the very system we claim we want radically changed or even destroyed.

Time to take a closer look at what’s really going on here because this game is exactly what many of us want to play in order to avoid dealing with the very collapse or change we say is desirable. Many of us are junk yard dogs with absolutely no desire to bite except maybe each other out of impotent frustration.

If you give it some thought, to say that we wish to see our corrupt and patently unfair financial system collapse in order to rout the bastards from our house is the functional equivalent of wishing someone would burn down our uninsured home to rid ourselves of a severe cockroach infestation. Or better yet hiring (or electing) someone(s) to do the job for us.

Yes, when all is said and done the roaches might be gone, but there were less destructive ways of removing them. Sometimes we select bad choices to hide from even more frightening ones, a personal and collective insight we carefully conceal from ourselves in order to continue with our benevolent self deception.

Alas, we will find less damaging cockroach extermination methods only if we are willing to explore all avenues, including the emotionally, physically and economically painful. In reality we don’t wish to collapse our economic system. What we desperately desire is for the thieving and insanity to end (or at least to greatly diminish) and for a return to the mythical land of the Norman Rockwell lie of milk and honey.

Can’t say I blame us, though it appears to be time to short unicorns and fairy tales and go long courage and cooperative collusion. Aside from possibly preparing ourselves for the coming collapse, what are we doing to prepare our nation, state and community for this new beginning? Is it a matter of each of us waiting for everyone else to go first? Yeah, that will work wonders when the unrest goes local.

Since we aren’t especially willing to look too closely at all aspects of the insanity for fear it might implicate us nearly as much as the bad guys, we declare we would rather watch the entire stinking mess disintegrate and then wash away with the evening tide. This allows us to individually and collectively wash our hands of the enormous social disintegration that will result from economic collapse while emotionally and intellectually shielding us from any danger, real or imagined, that we may encounter if we were to work towards other less destructive ‘solutions’, or to help prepare our surrounding community for the storm we are forecasting.

It’s so much more comforting to suffer misery as part of the collective herd than to suffer alone while feeling vulnerable. This is one of the reasons we latch onto the “It’s just impossible to change” or even “It’s not me, it’s those damn idiots over there who aren’t doing anything about this” excuses. The list of reasons why we should not act is as varied as our imagination. So how convenient it is that if everyone says the same thing, everyone has a wonderful excuse not to do anything yet still remain blameless. This is the collective self deception that is ostensibly benevolent to both the individual and the group, or so we wish to think.

Essentially this is a Bizzaro World Catch 22 that works to our advantage over the short term, but destroys our souls and our neighborhoods quicker than we think. However, in a world of short term thinking this doesn’t look like such a bad deal when my focus is squarely on what’s in it for me, myself and I.

Make no mistake about it though, denial, both individual and collective, is so overwhelmingly powerful that not only will tortured souls self destruct and commit suicide while in its throes, but nations will rush head long into the dual abyss of self destruction via war, civil or otherwise, and economic self immolation. However, a nation doesn’t self destruct because its land and buildings are consumed in the fires of economic hell. Nope, it is the citizens of a nation that wither away on the vine, eventually taking the physical and economic infrastructure with them into the bottomless abyss of insanity.

The only saving grace is that who can really say what is or is not insane when we are all on the same glide path to hell? That’s our own special theory of insanity relativity. The same insanity that drives nations into competing rounds of destructive currency devaluation also drives us into feeding off each other’s delusions and delirium tremens.

When a sovereign state’s currency and credit system, its blood and circulatory network, depends entirely upon the faith and belief of its captive and captivated population, stability for the most part can be manufactured simply by believing in the system. Understand though that in this case ‘belief’ can mean active or passive participation and/or dependency. This ‘belief’ also includes ignoring potential dangers to the system, especially terminal dangers of the mind numbing variety.

This explains perfectly why as the system gets closer to the edge, people can continue to go nervously about their lives. Truth be told, on some basic level most of the population already knows things are in very bad shape, but we chose to ignore it. The level of governmental and corporate corruption, the rise of the surveillance/police state, chronic unemployment, rising food and medical costs and the escalating taking of rights and freedoms are not unseen by the population at large, just desperately ignored.


What does one do and how does one act when the myth can no longer be sustained and we find out our protectors are actually the predators and our torturers? What would we do if we suddenly discovered our father was a child molester or our brother a mass murderer and we were next on the list if we attempted to expose him?

For most of us the drill would be duck and cover baby, duck and cover, then head even deeper into the mind numbing embrace of denial. Without question most of us would move to the center of the herd and act like there’s nothing wrong in the suburbs. Only we would do so quietly and with baby steps. After all, you don’t want to alert the wolves circling the herd that you are injured and ripe for the taking.

Just as the world is beginning to recognize that the efficient market theory was efficient solely in snowing people into believing logic and reason ruled the market, we should understand that much of our individual decision making process is subconscious and totally illogical. So is it really surprising that ‘We the People’ have made a mostly subconscious decision to carry on as if nothing is wrong and hope for the best? This is the childishly adult equivalent of covering our ears and repeatedly screaming ‘I can’t hear you’.

As long as the government is successful in keeping the wolves at bay, at least for the ever decreasing majority, we will happily ignore the growing desperation in the streets in exchange for some make believe ignorant bliss. Just leave me and mine alone and I will avert my eyes and hurry about my business. Of course, this can only be accomplished if we discard critical thinking and independent thought and stick to binary input and output. If no one wishes to recognize the full insanity, all it takes to accomplish this in a leveraged fiat system is a collective and unspoken understanding to ignore the ugly truth and move along. What you don’t make ‘real’ by specifically acknowledging it just can’t hurt you, at least for today and hopefully a few more tomorrows.

As nonsensical as this might sound, we make our own emotional and intellectual reality fresh on a daily basis. While doing so, we mold our physical world to fit our belief system as we have conceived it. Do this, don’t do that, deny those, ignore them, focus of this and before you know it our world begins to conform to how we denied it. Multiple our individual effort by two or three hundred million, or two or three billion, then conjure up several hundred trillion of Federal Reserve electronic ones and zeros while casting a collective self propaganda spell of ‘all is well’ and temporary stability is created out of thin air.

The only problem is this huge edifice has no foundational support and can easily be toppled by a small percentage of bolting members of the unsettled herd. Panic is easy to generate among the hard core deniers because deep down we all know it is just a lie. All but the truly clueless stand around with their hands in their pockets, trying to look innocent and unconcerned while memorizing all the exits and escape routes. Only a fool or the hopelessly self deceived will actually drink their own Kool-Aid mix, though I am constantly amazed how many do. Mine is cherry banana by the way.

Sure the fundamentals are slowly deteriorating (again) and the second (third?) plunge appears just around the corner. Real reality will eventually re-assert itself with a vengeance because it’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature. But (sadly) not before several more revolutions of the fiat paper around the toilet bowl have been completed.

After all, to some degree or another we are all engaged in group psychological can kicking, if for no other reason than to keep the inner boogieman at bay. Binary thinking doesn’t allow for long range planning or constructive positioning, just blame shifting and avoidance, something we do with typical American arrogance and excellence.

We all have a tendency to exaggerate the value of our prior investment in our jobs, our family and ourselves. So when considering what to do or not do, often the decision we make is to make no decision at all, to go with the flow and to make no waves. We never really acknowledge that making no decision is actually a decision in and of itself, an affirmation of the status quo and the present day insanity. “Hey, it wasn’t me that made that decision. I’m not responsible.”

The more out-of-control we feel our life and world is becoming, the more we will seek to avoid making any decision we (want to) believe might endanger our life or position in the social order regardless of its present state of advanced decay. Misery is always relative to those who are around us. I can be the happy king of the soup kitchen or just another miserable nobody in the corporate cafeteria.

In addition we will avoid any responsibility for decisions (or non decisions) made by ourselves or anyone else. We learn this behavior early in life, first from our family, then from our social interactions in school and later corporate life. Cover our ass begins and ends in the familiar warmth and comfort of our duplicitous mind."

"Least Masculine Society In Human History Decides Masculinity Is A Growing Threat"

"Least Masculine Society In Human History 
Decides Masculinity Is A Growing Threat"
by The Babylon Bee

U.S.— "As society becomes increasingly dominated by nerds, hipsters, and computer programmers, people have fixated on what they think is our biggest problem: masculinity. “It’s just toxic and causes nothing but problems,” said Elisha Mcewen, a vegan activist and no threat whatsoever to spiders or tight jar lids. “I was sharing my feelings on masculinity with other men in my drum circle, and we all agreed that if we ever encountered masculinity, we would run far away.”

Masculinity is said to have in the past been the cause of such things as violence, war, bullying, defeating the Nazis, carving society out of untamed wilderness, and landing men on the moon, but now masculinity is being driven out of society to make sure nothing like those things ever happens again. However, there are reports that masculinity still lurks out there, which is a source of anxiety to modern men and causes them to have upset tummies.

“I am just so worried that somewhere out there someone is still knowingly producing testosterone,” said Wyatt Lockhart, a Twitch streamer who had never thrown a punch outside of a video game. “I constantly have to find a safe place to calm down just thinking about it.”

Duke Miller, a Marine sergeant and one of the few remaining examples of traditional masculinity, was asked about his feelings on the negative view of masculinity, but he seemed confused by the word “feelings” and then punched out an elk just because."

Oh yeah, Mogambo Guru, I hear you..."We're so freakin' doomed!"
And we are....

"True Friends..."

"Our true friends are those who are with us when the good things happen. They cheer us on and are pleased by our triumphs. False friends only appear at difficult times, with their sad, supportive faces, when, in fact, our suffering is serving to console them for their own miserable lives."
Paulo Coelho

"How It Really Is"

"Trump's ShutdownTrap?"

"Trump's ShutdownTrap?"
By Thomas Lifson

"Has President Trump suckered Democrats and the Deep State into a trap that will enable a radical downsizing of the federal bureaucracy?  In only three more days of the already "longest government shutdown in history" (27 days and counting, as of today), a heretofore obscure threshold will be reached, enabling permanent layoffs of bureaucrats furloughed 30 days or more.

Don't believe me that federal bureaucrats can be laid off?  Well, in bureaucratese, a layoff is called a RIF – a Reduction in Force – and of course, it comes with a slew of civil service protections. But, if the guidelines are followed, bureaucrats can be laid off – as in no more job. It is all explained by Michael Roberts here (updated after the beginning of the partial shutdown): "A reduction in force is a thoughtful and systematic elimination of positions. For all practical purposes, a government RIF is the same thing as a layoff. Organizations must stick to predetermined criteria when sorting out what happens to each employee. They must communicate with employees how and why decisions are made. 

In deciding who stays and who goes, federal agencies must take four factors into account:

1.    Tenure
2.    Veteran status
3.    Total federal civilian and military service
4.    Performance

Agencies cannot use RIF procedures to fire bad employees. 

A lot of procedures must be followed, and merit ("performance") is the last consideration, but based on the criteria above, employees already furloughed can be laid off ("RIFed") once they have been furloughed for 30 days or 22 work days: When agencies furlough employees for more than 30 calendar days or 22 discontinuous work days, they must use RIF procedures. An employee can be terminated or moved into an available position.

This seems to be what was referenced in this remarkable essay written by an "unidentified senior Trump official" published in the Daily Caller, which vouches for the authenticity of the author and explains that it is protecting him from adverse career consequences should the name become known. I strongly recommend reading the whole thing. The purported senior official makes the case that devotion to "process" eats up most of the time of federal bureaucrats and is also used by enemies of President Trump's initiatives to stymie the legitimate orders issued by his senior officials:

"On an average day, roughly 15 percent of the employees around me are exceptional patriots serving their country. I wish I could give competitive salaries to them and no one else. But 80 percent feel no pressure to produce results. If they don't feel like doing what they are told, they don't.

Why would they? We can't fire them. They avoid attention, plan their weekend, schedule vacation, their second job, their next position – some do this in the same position for more than a decade. They do nothing that warrants punishment and nothing of external value. That is their workday: errands for the sake of errands – administering, refining, following and collaborating on process. "Process is your friend" is what delusional civil servants tell themselves. Even senior officials must gain approval from every rank across their department, other agencies and work units for basic administrative chores."

Then the senior official notes what I have just called the "trap": "Most of my career colleagues actively work against the president's agenda. This means I typically spend about 15 percent of my time on the president's agenda and 85 percent of my time trying to stop sabotage, and we have no power to get rid of them. Until the shutdown."

Those officials who waste time and stymie the president's initiatives now are not present because they are not categorized as "essential." "Due to the lack of funding, many federal agencies are now operating more effectively from the top down on a fraction of their workforce, with only select essential personnel serving national security tasks. President Trump can end this abuse. Senior officials can reprioritize during an extended shutdown, focus on valuable results and weed out the saboteurs. We do not want most employees to return, because we are working better without them."

Keep in mind that saboteurs cannot be individually identified and RIFed, but they can be included in the layoffs if they meet the criteria above in terms of seniority and service, and they must be given 60 days' notice. But once they are gone, they are no longer free to obstruct using the "process" as their friend, because they are gone.

You can expect lawsuits on every conceivable point, and I suspect that the definition of "furlough" will be one matter of dispute.

If this was the plan all along, it would explain why President Trump goaded Chuck and Nancy in his televised meeting with them last year, boasting that he would claim credit for the shutdown. How could they resist a prolonged shutdown when he made it so easy to blame him? President Trump has proven that he is a "disruptor" who changes the framework of thinking on major issues by refusing to accept the "givens" – the assumptions of how things always have been done and therefore always must be done.

So who is the "senior official"? I don't know, but I think Stephen Miller is the sort of bold thinker who might volunteer to telegraph the strategy just five days before the deadline. Give Chuck and Nancy something to think about and probably reject as unthinkable. Then they can't complain that they weren't warned once the trap is sprung.

Such a mass RIF would be the Trump version of Ronald Reagan firing the air traffic controllers when they went on an illegal strike in 1981. That was completely unexpected by his enemies, vehemently criticized, and successful.

Among other benefits, it taught the leaders of the USSR that Ronald Reagan was a man whose threats cannot be dismissed as mere rhetoric. If you think that Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un, Angela Merkel, and any other foreign leaders would not draw the same conclusion from a massive RIF, then you are kidding yourself. My theory may be completely wrong, but I pray that it is not."

Monica Showalter adds: Slate of all places has a useful chart on which agencies have the most RIFs on the line.  Surprise, surprise: It's where the bureaucrats most in need of layoffs happen to roost:
Click image for larger size.

"Shock Survey: 59 Percent Of Americans Support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Proposal To Raise The Top Tax Rate To 70%"

"Shock Survey: 59 Percent Of Americans Support 
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Proposal To Raise The Top Tax Rate To 70%"
by Michael Snyder

"Although she has only been in Congress for less than a month, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is getting more attention than any other member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She has been setting social media ablaze with her posts about the inner workings of Congress, the mainstream media is constantly gushing about her, and now she has been tapped to teach her fellow Democrats “how to be good at Twitter”. She is getting rave reviews for taking on the corrupt establishment in both political parties, but the bad news is that she literally doesn’t know what she is talking about on virtually every single important issue. She is like a five-year-old kid that has been set free to run wild in a toy store, and her misdirected enthusiasm is bound to get her into all sorts of trouble.

It is a good thing to be idealistic, as long as you have the right ideals. Unfortunately for Ocasio-Cortez, her head has been filled with all sorts of socialist nonsense.  During a recent interview with 60 Minutes, she proposed raising the top income tax rate to “as high as 60 or 70 percent”: “You look at our tax rates back in the ’60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system, your tax rate, let’s say from zero to $75,000, may be 10 percent or 15 percent, etc. But once you get to the tippy-tops —  on your 10 millionth dollar — sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder, you should be contributing more.”

Do you think that anyone is going to want to work hard to earn an extra dollar once their income reaches a level where each extra dollar is being taxed at 70 percent? The truth is that socialism kills the incentive to work hard, and it is hard work that fuels economic growth.

If somebody works really hard to earn a dollar, it is immoral for somebody else to come in and grab 70 percent of that dollar just because they can. But an increasing percentage of Americans are fully embracing the idea of “radical wealth redistribution”, and a shocking new poll contains some numbers that are almost too crazy to believe. 

According to this new survey, 59 percent of all Americans support raising the highest tax rate to 70 percent: "Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her Republican critics have both called her proposal to dramatically increase America’s highest tax rate “radical” but a new poll released Tuesday indicates that a majority of Americans agrees with the idea. In the latest The Hill-HarrisX survey — conducted Jan. 12 and 13 after the newly elected congresswoman called for the U.S. to raise its highest tax rate to 70 percent — a sizable majority of registered voters, 59 percent, supports the concept."

Even as I write this article, I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that most Americans want tax rates to be that high. But this is the reality of the “Robin Hood mentality” that is sweeping the nation. Most people seem to think that we should “take from the rich” and “give to the poor”, and that even includes a lot of so-called “conservatives”.

In fact, that same survey found that 45 percent of Republicans actually support what Ocasio-Cortez is proposing: "Increasing the highest tax bracket to 70 percent garners a surprising amount of support among Republican voters. In the Hill-HarrisX poll, 45 percent of GOP voters say they favor it while 55 percent are opposed to it. Independent voters who were contacted backed the tax idea by a 60 to 40 percent margin while Democratic ones favored it, 71 percent to 29 percent."

What in the world has happened to us? We have already traveled very far down the road toward socialism, and now key leaders on the left such as Ocasio-Cortez want to take us the rest of the way. This is why we need a new generation of leaders in America that are willing to do more than just get elected to office. We need educators that are willing to work hard to win the battle for hearts and minds. We need men and women of character that will be able to communicate why the values that America was founded upon are so great and why we need to return to them. And we need fighters that have the courage to intellectually contend for the future of our nation while there is still time to do so.

Even though virtually everything that she believes is wrong, at least Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has enough passion to stand up for what she believes. That is more than can be said for the soy latte drinking wimps on the right that never want to offend anyone so that they can extend their political careers for as long as possible.

At this point the left is rapidly taking control of the national conversation, and Rasmussen just released a national survey that shows that if Ocasio-Cortez ran for president in 2020 she would almost have as much support as Trump: "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that, if the 2020 presidential race was between Trump and Ocasio-Cortez, 43% of Likely U.S. Voters would vote for Trump, while 40% would vote for Ocasio-Cortez. A sizable 17% are undecided."

Fortunately, Ocasio-Cortez is not old enough to run for president yet. But someday she will be. We are in a tremendous amount of trouble as a nation, and we are rapidly running out of time to do anything about it."

"Quantitative Brainwashing"

"Quantitative Brainwashing"
by Jeff Thomas

"We’re all familiar with the term, “quantitative easing.” It’s described as meaning, “A monetary policy in which a central bank purchases government securities or other securities from the market in order to lower interest rates and increase the money supply.” Well, that sounds reasonable… even beneficial. But, unfortunately, that’s not really the whole story.

When QE was implemented, the purchasing power was weak and both government and personal debt had become so great that further borrowing would not solve the problem; it would only postpone it and, in the end, exacerbate it. Effectively, QE is not a solution to an economic problem, it’s a bonus of epic proportions, given to banks by governments, at the expense of the taxpayer. But, of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that governments have passed off a massive redistribution of wealth from the taxpayer to their pals in the banking sector with such clever terms. Governments of today have become extremely adept at creating euphemisms for their misdeeds in order to pull the wool over the eyes of the populace.

At this point, we cannot turn on the daily news without being fed a full meal of carefully- worded mumbo jumbo, designed to further overwhelm whatever small voices of truth may be out there. Let’s put this in perspective for a moment. For millennia, political leaders have been in the practice of altering, confusing and even obliterating the truth, when possible. And it’s probably safe to say that, for as long as there have been media, there have been political leaders doing their best to control them.

During times of war, political leaders have serially restricted the media from simply telling the truth. During the American civil war, President Lincoln shut down some 300 newspapers and arrested some 14,000 journalists who had the audacity to contradict his statements to the public. As extreme as that may sound, this practice has been more the rule in history than the exception.

In most countries, in most eras, some publications go against the official story line and may very well pay a price for doing so. But, other publications go along with the official story line to a greater or lesser degree and are often rewarded for doing so. It should come as no surprise, then, that media outlets often come to report the news in a less than accurate manner.

Mark Twain is claimed to have said, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.” Quite so. Still, only fifty years ago, much of the then “Free World” enjoyed a relatively objective Press. Even on television, reporters such as Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, etc. presented the news in a bland manner. It wasn’t very exciting, but at least it was relatively balanced and, to this day, most people who were around then still have no idea as to whether reporters like Walter Cronkite were liberal or conservative. Although he was a committed Democrat, he never allowed that to significantly color his reporting.

But today, we have a very different corporate structure as regards the media. The same six corporations hold the controlling interest of over 80% of the media. And those same corporations also own a controlling interest in the military industrial complex, Wall Street, the major banks, Big Pharma, etc. What we’re witnessing today is media having been transformed into something more akin to a three-ring circus than journalism of old. This is no accident.

The present travesty that is the 21st century media, is journalism in name only. So, why should this be so? Well, as it happens, people tend not to like governments dominating their lives – simple as that. And yet, the primary objective of any government is to increase its size and power as rapidly as the populace will tolerate it. The only reason that they rarely do this quickly, is that they can’t get away with it. Like boiling a frog, it takes time to lull the populace into submission, bit by bit.

Once having had enough time to do so, there comes a point at which the government becomes woefully top-heavy, as well as unworkably autocratic. At such times, all that’s necessary to make people rebel is an economic crisis. Such is the case in much of the world today – the EU, the US, Canada, etc.. Even in their arrogance, the powers that be have to be aware that they’re right at the tipping point. An economic crisis would almost certainly push the situation over the edge.

When truth threatens to undermine machinations for self-aggrandizement, individuals tend to obfuscate in order to delay the inevitable fallout. Governments are no different. So it was that, in 1999, the largest banks entered into a massive lending scam that would most certainly collapse within a decade. However, before putting the scam in place, they arranged for a “bailout” by the government, which would effectively pass the bill to the taxpayer, while the banks themselves simply increased their own wealth massively.

Of course, QE, as massive as it was, was a mere Band-Aid solution. All those involved (big business and the government) understood that it would hang like a sword of Damocles over the economy until it inevitably came crashing down – a fate far worse than if QE had never been implemented.

And so, for those entities to have invested into the domination of the media was, in fact, essential. Had they not done so, it’s entirely likely that, with a free press, the man on the street would, by now, have figured out that he’d been hoodwinked. Thus do we see the journalistic equivalent of Quantitative Brainwashing, in which the inevitable realization is delayed for as long as possible. And, in order to make sure that the public do not figure out what’s been done to them, the news reporting becomes Orwellian in its endless repetition of a false narrative.

It is, however, true that, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Eventually, the Band-Aid peels back to reveal an infection that’s far beyond what had been generally perceived. It then falls away in layers, as increasing numbers of people become aware that they’ve been scammed – that the media is entirely corrupt and that the media’s owners – big business - have, with the enthusiastic compliance of the government, robbed them on a wholesale basis. Historically, that’s when the jig is up. What happens then is a matter of historic record."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Musical Interlude: Neil H, “From Start to Finish”

Neil H, “From Start to Finish”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“It's the bubble versus the cloud. NGC 7635, the Bubble Nebula, is being pushed out by the stellar wind of massive central star BD+602522. Next door, though, lives a giant molecular cloud, visible to the right. At this place in space, an irresistible force meets an immovable object in an interesting way. 
Click image for larger size.
The cloud is able to contain the expansion of the bubble gas, but gets blasted by the hot radiation from the bubble's central star. The radiation heats up dense regions of the molecular cloud causing it to glow. The Bubble Nebula, pictured above in scientifically mapped colors to bring up contrast, is about 10 light-years across and part of a much larger complex of stars and shells. The Bubble Nebula can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Queen of Aethiopia (Cassiopeia).”

"The Human Condition"

"The Human Condition"
by Meanings of Life

"Man remains largely unknown of himself. What are we, in our innermost recesses, behind our names and our conventional opinions? What are we behind the things we do in our lives, behind what we see in others and what others see in us, or even behind things science says we are? Is man the crazy being about whom Carl Gustav Jung spoke ironically, when he demanded a man to treat? Is man the Dr. Jerkyll that contains in himself a criminal Mister Hyde, and more than a personality, and contradictory feelings?

Are we the result of our dreams, as Prospero, in the Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” asked? Are we able to raise our nature and become the dignified beings evoked by Pico de la Mirandola: It’s the seeds a man cultivates that "will mature and bear fruit in him. If vegetative, he will become a plant; if sensual, he will become brutish; if rational, he will reveal himself a heavenly being; if intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God"?

Almost two centuries ago, Spencer characterized the contradictory features of natives from the African east coast: "He has at the same time good character and hard heart; he is a fighter, conscientious, good in a precise moment, and cruel, pitiless and violent in the other; superstitious and rudely irreligious; brave and pusillanimous, servile and dominator, stubborn and at the same time fickle, relied to honor views, but without signs of honesty, niggard and economical, but careless and improvident".

It’s probably a good definition of a certain primitive man, to whom we are undoubtedly connected. But we are also cultural and ethic beings. We are able to change our values and behaviors. As William James says, human beings can change their lives through their mental attitudes. We can grow ethically. We can dominate part of our own instincts. And that’s why we can be different from the indigenous African described by Spencer. More: our thought dignifies us ("All the dignity of man consists in thought", says Blaise Pascal). We are, in many senses, the conscience of the Universe, and its utmost elaborated product. As Edgar Morin says, "in the core of our singularity, we carry not only all the humanity, all the life, but also all the cosmos, including its mystery, present in the heart of our beings".

We are creators, creator beings, and, in a sense, we can create, or recreate ourselves. All goes through our mind. It is our mind that constructs our truths and errors, and also the most sublime things in the Universe. And yet evil and stupidity exist in us. Sometimes we fall, we are stroked, and life reveals its cruelty, and we may think as Mark Twain, and say that it was a pity that Noah had arrived late to the ark. In our innermost recesses, there is also the cruelty and the inhumanity of life. Charles Darwin showed that we are descendants of inferior life forms: we have been long ago a "bush and a bird, and a fish silently swimming in the waters", to use the poetic terms used by Empedocles in its "Purifications."

From a genetic and evolutionist point of view, we contain in us the survival reflexes and the aggressiveness of the life forms that preceded us: "All that threatened the cave man - dangers, darkness, famine, thirst, ghosts, demons – all has passed to the interior of our souls, all troubles us, grieves us, threatens us from inside." (Morin). Besides, we are also beings that can differ significantly from each other. We are equal, but also different. "The awake involve a common world, but dreams deviate each one to its own world," Heraclites rather enigmatically declares. He thought we can’t help sleeping and living in illusory worlds, even when awake.

For all these reasons, Blaise Pascal’s celebrated definition of the human being, despite the hard language, not exactly agreeable to our ears, is undoubtedly one of the most powerful that can be applied to the rather unknown being that we can’t help being to ourselves: "What a chimera then is man! What a novelty, what a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depositary of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the pride and refuse of the universe! Who will unravel this tangle?"

"We Are Mortals All..."

"We are mortals all, human and nonhuman, bound in one fellowship of love and travail. No one escapes the fate of death. But we can, with caring, make our good-byes less tormented. If we broaden the circle of our compassion, life can be less cruel."
- Gary Kowalski

"Isochronic Tones: Cognition Enhancer For Clearer and Faster Thinking"

"Isochronic Tones: 
Cognition Enhancer For Clearer and Faster Thinking"
by Jason Lewis 

“HEADPHONES REQUIRED - Note: As this session stimulates each ear with different frequencies, you will need to use headphones to experience the full effect. Alternative background sounds available on Mp3 here: Orchestral, Hybrid, World Music, Rain, Brown Noise.

What does this track do? This session stimulates Beta, SMR and Alpha, alternating in 2 minute increments to help keep the user relaxed and engaged. Note: SMR (sensorimotor rhythm) relates to the frequency range between 12 - 15Hz. It's associated with sensory processing and motor control. Stimulating this can result in relaxed focus and improved attention. This session is meant to speed up the brain while keeping the left hemisphere dominant (good for attention, concentration and reducing emotional response and hyperactivity). ADD and similar disorders are often characterized by "slow-wave" EEG patterns, particularly in the left frontal region. As such, this session stimulates the left brain hemisphere with Beta frequencies and the right with SMR.

Can it be used to help with studying and if so, when should you listen to it? Yes, it can be helpful to use while studying, and if you read through the many comments about this track, you'll see that many people have successfully used it for studying. You can either listen to it while you are studying, to get your brain into a good mental state when you need it. Or if you are someone that gets a bit distracted by music while studying, listen to it just before you begin.

How Loud Should The Volume Be? There is varying advice and opinions on the impact of volume with brainwave entrainment, with some saying the louder it is the more impact it has. From my own experience, my advice is to play it at a volume level you feel comfortable with. The main thing to consider is that it should be loud enough to hear the repetitive isochronic tones, so you don't want it so quiet you can hardly hear them. But you also don't want it so loud that its uncomfortable for you. Somewhere in the middle is my recommendation. 

Use this session in the morning or afternoon, to train your brain for better cognition, such as clearer and faster thinking. You can either sit somewhere quiet and comfortable with your eyes closed and give your brain a nice workout, or you can also listen to this while doing an activity that requires a boost in concentration, like studying. 

How long should you listen for to get a good effect? It takes around 6 minutes for your brainwaves to fall in step with the tones and become entrained. It then takes time to be guided along the frequency range used in the track. Listening to about half way through is the minimum in my opinion, but 30 minutes is the optimum and preferred length to listen for. 

Drink some water - Make sure you are well hydrated before listening to brainwave entrainment. WHY? Your brain is made up of around 75% water, so it needs plenty of water to function well. When you stimulate your brain in this way, you're increasing electrical activity and blood flow in the brain and giving your brain a good workout, so it can be a good idea to drink before listening, so that your brain can fire on all cylinders.

It is not recommended to listen to this while driving or operating machinery.  WHY? Brainwave entrainment involves a process of stimulating your brainwaves and changing your mental state. While this is safe to do and use in normal situations, it can sometimes zone you out during the track, as you focus in on the sound of the tones. This could result in you being distracted temporarily, which is not a good thing while you're driving or operating machinery. Some people also experience tingling and other sensations from the stimulation. While that might feel quite nice sitting in a comfortable chair at home, it could cause you to be distracted while driving and result in an accident.

It is not recommended to listen to this while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or any mind altering substance. WHY? When your brain is under the influence of drugs or alcohol it's not operating to it's full capacity, and you react differently to stimulation and situations, compared to when you are sober. So as a precaution and because I don't know how you will react in that situation, I recommend you do not use it in that situation.

Who Should NOT listen to this audio? Those who should not listen to this video/audio include: Those who are prone to or have had seizures, epilepsy, pregnant or wear a pacemaker should NOT listen to this video/audio. WHY? There is insufficient research data in this area, so as a precaution, if you are among the categories listed above, I would recommend you consult a doctor or medical professional before listening to this video/audio.”