Saturday, April 21, 2018

“From Fake Boom to Real Bust”

“From Fake Boom to Real Bust”
by MN Gordon

"More is revealed with each passing day. You can count on it. But what exactly the ‘more is of’ requires careful discrimination. Is the ‘more’ merely more noise? Or is it something of actual substance?  Today we endeavor to pass judgment, on your behalf.

For example, here in the land of fruits and nuts, things are whacky, things are zany. Last month, State Senator, Dick Pan, introduced Senate Bill (SB) 1424, which would require California based websites to utilize fact checkers to verify news stories prior to publishing them. Who exactly these fact checkers would be – the moral servants that would save the world from the ills of fake news – was conveniently missing from the bill. Ironically, the control freaks in California state government can’t control themselves; they want to muck around with people’s lives unconditionally.

Nonetheless, screwball proposals like this out of Sacramento fall into the mere noise category – for now. We estimate it will take another Presidential election cycle, or two, before such nonsense is taken seriously by the majority of state lawmakers.

At the local level, there are more demanding problems that require more demanding solutions.  Here in Los Angeles County, according to something called the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, there is now a homeless population of precisely 57,794. For perspective, Chavez Ravine (i.e., the Dodger Stadium), has a capacity of 56,000.

This army of indigents, roaming about the LA LA land paradise, has become a significant embarrassment for local leaders. Haphazard urban campsites litter the bank tops of the colossal, concrete Los Angeles River Channel between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Long Beach. The massive collection of tents and makeshift shelters has become too much to ignore.

A Novel Pilot Program: Obviously, an unpleasant situation like this requires big, outside the box, solutions. Free brown bag lunches and roll-out blankets won’t cut it. Hence, the clever folks at the LA Community Development Commission have launched a pilot program to pay homeowners to construct backyard dwelling units to house the homeless.

Loans of $75,000 are being granted for constructing a new backyard unit for the purpose of housing vagrants. There’s even a design competition for model secondary dwelling units. What’s more, loan interest stops accruing after five years in the program, and the loan is forgiven after 10 years. All for turning your backyard into your very own rescue mission. What could be a more noble endeavor?

Our objective is not to ridicule this novel homeless housing program. Though, we’ll point out that every subsidy backed solution generates a horde of new problems. What we’re really after today, is a better understanding of how this diminished condition came to be.

What is going on? What is it that has produced a world where homeowners must be paid to build backyard homeless dwellings? It is certainly not the world that is presented by the government’s statistics.

The last we checked the U.S. unemployment rate is just 4.1 percent – a 17 year low. (Such an outrageous lie, but what else is new? - CP) The unemployment rate in Los Angeles County is 4.5 percent, which is near a record low. (More of the same. - CP) So if everyone has jobs, why is everyone homeless? Unemployment rates in LA County haven’t been this low in recent memory – things have probably never been better! This makes it difficult to explain the sudden proliferation of Hoover-towns – are they a fata morgana? The desert is nearby after all.

From Fake Boom to Real Bust: Similarly, the economy has been on a continuous growth streak since June 2009. That is a remarkable run. In fact, it is the second longest economic growth period for the U.S. in the post-World War II era.

The current nine year bull market in U.S. stocks is also one for the record books. It is now the second-longest U.S. bull market in history. What in the world is going on? After a 400 percent increase in the S&P 500, shouldn’t everyone be rich? Wasn’t Ben Bernanke’s wealth effect thesis supposed to bring prosperity to the masses?

After a nine year economic expansion, and an unemployment rate of just 4.1 percent, shouldn’t everyone have arrived at a place where they can sufficiently afford even a small, rundown apartment? Why is it that so many people have given up, and checked out from pursuing a productive, self-supporting life?

Perhaps, it is because the nine year economic boom has, in effect, been a fake boom. Government statistics may say one thing. But open eyes, and a crude awareness, tell a completely different story.  It is a story of large segments of the population being left behind.

Alas, when the stock market cracks, and the economic growth charts can no longer be fabricated upward, the fake boom will turn to a real bust. We suspect this real bust will coincide with the breakdown of the debt based fiat money system. (Ongoing, accelerating... -CP) In other words, the entire capital structure that’s been propping up the present mirage of prosperity will cascade down like a Mammoth Mountain avalanche. After that, things will really get out of hand.”
Lest you folks living elsewhere remain deluded, you will not escape the consequences of this total collapse. But believe what you need to while chanting, in unison, "Oh, that could never happen here!" Famous last words...

Friday, April 20, 2018

Musical Interlude: Neil H, “Tender Embrace”

Neil H, “Tender Embrace”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Near the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy some 200 thousand light-years distant, lies 5 million year young star cluster NGC 602. Surrounded by natal gas and dust, NGC 602 is featured in this stunning Hubble image of the region. 
 Click image for larger size.
Fantastic ridges and swept back shapes strongly suggest that energetic radiation and shock waves from NGC 602's massive young stars have eroded the dusty material and triggered a progression of star formation moving away from the cluster's center. At the estimated distance of the Small Magellanic Cloud, the picture spans about 200 light-years, but a tantalizing assortment of background galaxies are also visible in the sharp Hubble view. The background galaxies are hundreds of millions of light-years or more beyond NGC 602.”

"The First Peace..."

"The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes 
within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, 
their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when 
they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, 
and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us."
- Black Elk (1863-1950)

"The Genius Of You Americans..."

“The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut 
stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make us wonder
 at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing.”
- Gamel Nasser

"The Wit And Wisdom Of Will Rogers"

"Will Rogers, who died in a 1935 plane crash with Wylie Post, was probably the greatest political sage this country has ever known. Enjoy the following:

1. Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.


2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.



3. There are 2 theories to arguing with a woman . . . neither works



4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.



5. Always drink upstream from the herd.



6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.



7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket.


8. There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by
observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

10. If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.


11. Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.


12. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut

ABOUT GROWING OLDER...

First ~ Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

Second ~ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Third ~ Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know 'why' I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.

Fourth ~ When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.

Fifth ~ You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

Sixth ~ I don't know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.

Seventh ~ One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.

Eighth ~ One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.

Ninth ~ Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable

Tenth ~ Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it's called golf.

And finally ~ If you don't learn to laugh at trouble, you won't have anything to laugh at when you are old."

The Poet: Mary Oliver, "Song of the Builders"

"Song of the Builders"

"On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God -
 a worthy pastime.

Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
 this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.

Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.”

~ Mary Oliver, “Why I Wake Early”

The Daily "Near You?"

Lytham, Lancashire, United Kingdom. Thanks for stopping by!

"Consider The Following..."

"Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others' actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others' activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.

Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others. But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness but they also lessen our experience of suffering. Here I am not suggesting that the individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others' happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune than the one who does not. Sickness, old age, mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace- anxiety, doubt, disappointment- these things are definitely less. In our concern for others, we worry less about ourselves. When we worry less about ourselves an experience of our own suffering is less intense.

What does this tell us? Firstly, because our every action has a universal dimension, a potential impact on others' happiness, ethics are necessary as a means to ensure that we do not harm others. Secondly, it tells us that genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness and so on. For it is these which provide both for our happiness and others' happiness. A good motivation is what is needed: compassion without dogmatism, without complicated philosophy; just understanding that others are human brothers and sisters and respecting their human rights and dignities. That we humans can help each other is one of our unique human capacities"
- Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

"Apathy And Evil..."

"Apathy and evil. The two work hand in hand. They are the same, really... Evil wills it. Apathy allows it. Evil hates the innocent and the defenseless most of all. Apathy doesn't care as long as it's not personally inconvenienced."
- Jake Thoene, "Shaiton's Fire"

“It shouldn’t be a bragging point that “Oh, I don’t get involved in politics,” as if that makes you somehow cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic. Liars and panderers in government would have a much harder time of it if so many people didn’t insist on their right to remain ignorant and blindly agreeable.” 
– Bill Maher

"Democratic Party Sues Russia, Trump, Wikileaks For Conspiring To Hurt Hillary In 2016 Election"

"Democratic Party Sues Russia, Trump, 
Wikileaks For Conspiring To Hurt Hillary In 2016 Election"
by Tyler Durden

"Did The Democrats' "The Russians did it" narrative just jump the shark? The Washingtoin Post reports that The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump. The lawsuit alleges that in addition to the Russian Federation, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0, top Trump campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and pretty much everyone else who has been mentioned in the same paragraph as Trump...”
The rest of this ridiculous, but true, article is here:
https://www.zerohedge.com/
To paraphrase, "I love the smell of desperation in the morning..."

"How It Really Is"

X 22Report Spotlight, “Be Prepared For The Entire System To Go Dark For 2-3 Days”

X22 Report Spotlight, “Be Prepared For The Entire System To Go Dark For 2-3 Days”
Today's Guest: Jordan Sather

"Whirling Whirling"

"Whirling Whirling"
by James Howard Kunstler

"It begins to look like The USA will litigate itself into Civil War Two with the first battle being half the lawyers in the Department of Justice prosecuting the other half until Anthropogenic Global Warming puts the DC Swamp completely underwater and all parties concerned scuttle off into the deep blue sea.

It was rather a shock to see the photo lineup of all those familiar faces - Comey, Hillary, McCabe, Loretta Lynch et. al. - in the criminal referral “matters” sent over to the DOJ by Congress on Wednesday, as if they were some mob of goombahs caught running a waste management kickback racket in the Hackensack mud-flats. But the evidence trail has been in plain sight for more than a year that Justice Department officials of various ranks and stripes colluded to bring off a legalistic coup d’etat against the loathed and despised winner of the 2016 election - with a little help from (of all things and personae) Russia, as in that political smallpox blanket known as the Steele Dossier.

Mixed metaphors aside, it looks like all the clones of Ricky Ricardo and Lucy engineered in some CIA black lab will never satisfy the amount of ’splainin’ that needs to be done, and that the ensuing trials may last longer than the lifetimes of millennials still struggling on campus with their gender presentation. There may be even more line-ups to come. I’m thinking players like Susan Rice, the Podesta brothers, Huma Abedin, John Brennan, James Clapper, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and perhaps the gentleman who preceded the Golden Golem of Greatness in the oval office. This melodrama will make The Lord of the Rings look like a knock-knock joke.

Meanwhile, the Republic actually whirls around the drain, both as a legitimate polity between Montauk Point and the Farallon Islands, and as an actor on the world stage. The Washington bureaucracy is not the only swamp that needs to be drained. There’s also the reeking Okeefenokee wasteland known as the US economy, led by its financial avatars on Wall Street who engineered the orgy of asset-stripping that chewed through the industrial states like some flesh-eating bacteria.

There is nothing left in Flyover-land. I drove through part of it yesterday on a book-reporting chore: the “quiet corner” of northeastern Connecticut south of Worcester, Mass, a valley of decrepitating mill towns and opiate addiction, like some place out of H.P. Lovecraft’s demon-haunted imagination, where the sun comes up twenty minutes later than anywhere else, and a dwindling population of malevolent diseased imbeciles shriek their lonesome agonies of failure and destitution to a God that never returned from lunchbreak one day in 1985. Their parting shot to an unjust world was voting for Donald Trump. Next time, they won’t even be around.

Anyway, Trump may emerge briefly from his triumph over the Swamp-led coup-d’etat only to find himself in his fated other role as designated bag-holder for the next crack-up of the banking system. At least he’ll be in his natural element: bankruptcy, presiding over the biggest ruined casino the world has ever seen. Who will bail America out then? Hint: the Federal Reserve is out of tricks - except maybe turning the US Greenback into a Bazooka Joe comic. That act of this national Grand Guignol awaits in the second half of 2018.

Meantime, my head is still reeling from the shenanigans in Syria last week. How many of our missiles were shot down exactly? I’m not too confident we’ll ever get a straight answer about that from the generals. Nor why they decided to blow up a suspected chemical weapons factory which, you’d think, would disperse a residue cloud of chemical weapons all over the Syrian landscape - and since that didn’t happen, was it actually a chemical weapons factory at all? And what of the shockingly credible claims from many quarters that there was no chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians in any case? Judging by the front-page of The New York Times today, that nearly world-ending incident has already been shoved down the memory-hole.”

“How to Use uBlock Origin Advanced User Mode Tutorial 2018”

“How to Use uBlock Origin Advanced User Mode Tutorial 2018”
"uBlock Origin has a very confusing user interface in the advanced user mode if you haven't read the lengthy documentation. This video tutorial explains how to use uBlock Origin in advanced user mode and all the advanced settings to protect your online privacy. With this uBlock Origin video, you'll learn how to use it to protect your online privacy and security. The biggest benefit of this tutorial is that you'll learn how to block scripts with uBlock Origin. uBlock Origin is essential to learn how to protect your online privacy, and can replace other extensions like uMatrix, Request Policy, Adblock Plus, Privacy Badger, and many other blockers." 

“Why Deficits ‘Don’t Matter’”

“Why Deficits ‘Don’t Matter’”
by Bill Bonner

"Bitcoin is making itself useful. Bloomberg is on the case: ‘Bolívar to Bitcoin Market Hits Record $1 Million Per Day’ ‘The Venezuelan bolívar to bitcoin market reached a record on Tuesday, as the dollar-starved nation increasingly seeks the digital token in exchange for its nearly worthless currency.’ Venezuela is a disaster. Inflation is expected to hit 13,000% this year. But disaster isn’t sedentary. It’s nomadic. And our guess is that it is headed our way.

Doom index First, let’s turn to the research department to find out how close it might be… What’s up with the Doom IndexAs you recall, our researchers - led by the indefatigable Joe Withrow - came up with a way to tell when a crash was likely to happen. We call it the Doom Index. No guarantees, because these things are unpredictable. But a measure based on a broad group of indicators should be more reliable than your editor’s hunches, right? Well, who knows.

Here’s an update from yesterday: ‘The Doom Index spiked up to 7 - our extreme warning level - back in January…and it will remain at 7 for at least another three months based on first-quarter numbers. But it is not signalling the crash alert flag…yet. What has kept the crash alert flag in storage - and perhaps what will keep the markets chugging along for another quarter - is an uptick in credit growth. After falling to 1.6% last quarter, credit growth increased to 2.4% during Q1 2018.

Remember, we are leaning on economist Richard Duncan’s analysis here. Duncan says that the modern economy requires at least 2% credit growth to avoid recession. So 2.4% is just enough to avoid a Doom Point.

On the flip side, there was a sharp drop in non-farm payrolls. Non-farm payrolls steadily increased for 29 consecutive quarters - that takes us back to 2010. But they plunged 1.2% during Q1 2018. 1.2% sounds like a small move, but that’s the biggest drop in non-farm payrolls since the start of 2009. So we saw an uptick in credit growth, but a fall in wages this past quarter. Perhaps those two moves are related…I don’t know…But we find ourselves right back where we were in January.’

Okay. ‘Extreme warning’. But no crash yet. Got that? 

Real catastrophe: And while the data is giving us an ‘extreme warning’, so are the fundamentals - which is why a catastrophe may be headed towards us…and why there may be no way to avoid it. Markets go up and down all the time - sometimes sharply. People never know what things are worth. They discover prices by bidding against one another. And human beings tend to overdo it. They get overly optimistic or overly pessimistic…driving prices too high or too low…causing mini-booms and panics.

Between the end of the War Between the States and the Great Depression, there was the Panic of 1873, the Panic of 1884, the Panic of 1893, the Panic of 1901, the Panic of 1907, and the Depression of 1920–21. The pain and damage done by these setbacks varied. But generally, they came and went. Markets quickly adjusted. Prices fell. Companies went broke. Entrepreneurs and speculators picked up the pieces…and got back to work.

Anyone can make a mistake. But if you want a real catastrophe, you need the government. The feds began to ‘do something’ about these periodic overshoots following the crash of ’29. The result was the Great Depression. Then, the Federal Reserve got in on the action.

Taking away the punchbowl: The Fed was set up in 1913. At first, its job was modest: to protect the currency and make sure the big banks made money. This it did cautiously, at first, by ‘taking away the punchbowl’, as former Fed chief William McChesney Martin described it, when the party started to get out of hand.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the Fed became the life of the party itself. By then, the US had a new currency (the ever-stretchy, post-gold-backed dollar)…and the politicians had realized that ‘deficits don’t matter’. They didn’t seem to matter because beginning in the late-’80s, the Fed was no longer restraining excess spending…it was enabling it.

Deficits used to draw down the nation’s savings. That’s because the feds had to borrow to fill in the hole. And when you borrowed, you borrowed what someone else had saved. No more. The new dollar and the Fed’s low interest rates made real savings irrelevant. The Fed dropped interest rates to make saving unattractive…and covered the deficits with fake savings - credit it invented ‘out of thin air’; it bought US Treasury bonds itself.

Back when the feds had to borrow real savings to close the gap between outlays and tax receipts, there was a natural limit on what they could spend. If they borrowed too much, they ‘crowded out’ private borrowers. Interest rates rose. Savings increased. The economy cooled down. And tax receipts fell.

Every lawmaker knew that the federal government had to manage its finances responsibly. Neither party wanted to get a reputation for incompetence with money. But now, all that has changed. The illusion of abundance - provided by the Fed’s EZ-money policies - has bamboozled them all. More to come…”
A clarification of the graphic at top. Yes, that's money falling from the Fed's heavens, at least $23 trillion dollars dropped on the banks since 2008. And what did they do with all that money? No, no, they didn't invest in companies providing jobs for our citizens, they used it to buy back their own stocks- providing themselves and the shareholders hefty dividends- and to make wagers in the world wide derivatives racket. What a sweet deal! Of course they also gave We the People credit cards with interest rates around 24%, on money they "borrowed" at .5% interest from the Federal Reserve. And car loans up to 25% interest! The rest they "lent" to the US Treasury at 4-5% interest - the exact same money they got from the Federal Reserve at .5% interest! - meaning you and I, Good Citizens, have the privilege of paying for that, too. The 1% got very fat and happy, while the rest of us were tossed under the bus. Did any money fall on you? I didn't think so, me either... Why not? As George Carlin explained, "It's a Big Club, and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the Big Club." 
- CP

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Greg Hunter, "Weekly News Wrap-Up 4/20/18"

"Weekly News Wrap-Up 4/20/18"
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com 

"Eleven members of the House GOP have given a criminal referral for the top people in the FBI, DOJ and State Department in the Obama Administration. James Comey, Hillary Clinton, Loretta Lynch and Andrew McCabe were all accused of a variety of crimes, including obstruction of justice to perjury. Hillary Clinton is being accused of getting “contributions and donations by foreign nationals.” This has never happened in U.S. history to have so many top former U.S. officials accused of this many crimes.

Meanwhile, former renowned Federal prosecutor Joe diGenova continues to accuse Democrats of “framing” the Trump Administration with “fake evidence” in a grand conspiracy to remove a duly elected President. DiGenova also accuses President Obama to be part of the conspiracy.  The mainstream media (MSM) has, by and large, refused to cover the criminal referral of multiple high ranking Obama Administration officials and treats the fired FBI director as some sort of hero on his ongoing book tour.

Gregory Mannarino of TradersChoice.net is out with a warning about the flattening yield curve. Mannarino says a flattening yield curve always signals a coming recession, which will spell trouble for the markets.
"Join Greg Hunter as he talks about these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up."

Musical Interlude: 2002 (Pamela and Randy Copus), “Oceans of Life”

2002 (Pamela and Randy Copus), “Oceans of Life”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“How massive can a normal star be? Estimates made from distance, brightness and standard solar models had given one star in the open cluster Pismis 24 over 200 times the mass of our Sun, making it one of the most massive stars known. This star is the brightest object located just above the gas front in the featured image. 
Click image for larger size.
Close inspection of images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, however, have shown that Pismis 24-1 derives its brilliant luminosity not from a single star but from three at least. Component stars would still remain near 100 solar masses, making them among the more massive stars currently on record. Toward the bottom of the image, stars are still forming in the associated emission nebula NGC 6357. Appearing perhaps like a Gothic cathedral, energetic stars near the center appear to be breaking out and illuminating a spectacular cocoon.”

Margaret Atwood, "The Moment"

"The Moment"

"The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. 
We never belonged to you.
 
You never found us.

It was always the other way round."

- Margaret Atwood
"Morning in the Burned House"

"The Essential Thing..."

"The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. 
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
- Pierre de Courbertin

Free Download: Leo Tolstoy, “A Letter To A Hindu”

“A Letter To A Hindu”
Tolstoy’s Letters to Gandhi on Love, Violence, and the Human Spirit
by Maria Popova

“Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills.”
- Leo Tolstoy

"In 1908, Indian revolutionary Taraknath Das wrote to Leo Tolstoy, by then one of the most famous public figures in the world, asking for the author’s support in India’s independence from British colonial rule. On December 14, Tolstoy, who had spent the last twenty years seeking the answers to life’s greatest moral questions, was moved to reply in a long letter, which Das published in the Indian newspaperFree Hindustan. Passed from hand to hand, the missive finally made its way to the young Mahatma Gandhi, whose career as a peace leader was just beginning in South Africa. He wrote to Tolstoy asking for permission to republish it in his own South African newspaper,Indian Opinion. Tolstoy’s letter was later published in English under the title "A Letter to a Hindu" (free download here.)

The exchange sparked an ongoing correspondence between the two that lasted until Tolstoy’s death — a meeting of two great minds and spirits, eventually collected in "Letters from One: Correspondence (and more) of Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas Gandhi" and rivaled only by Einstein’s correspondence with Freud on violence and human nature.

Tolstoy’s letters issue a clarion call for nonviolent resistance — he admonishes against false ideologies, both religious and pseudo-scientific, that promote violence, an act he sees as unnatural for the human spirit, and advocates for a return to our most natural, basic state, which is the law of love. Evil, Tolstoy argues with passionate conviction, is restrained not with violence but with love — something Maya Angelou would come to echobeautifully decades later.

Gandhi’s introduction to the original edition, in which he calls Tolstoy “one of the clearest thinkers in the western world, one of the greatest writers,” offers a pithy caveat to the text, as perfect today as it was a century ago: "One need not accept all that Tolstoy says… to realize the central truth of his indictment. There is no doubt that there is nothing new in what Tolstoy preaches. But his presentation of the old truth is refreshingly forceful. His logic is unassailable. And above all he endeavors to practice what he preaches. He preaches to convince. He is sincere and in earnest. He commands attention."

Tolstoy opens each “chapter” of his missive — for the letter’s length, indeed, puts in glaring perspective the nuanceless and hasty op-eds of our time, contrasting the truly reflective with the merely reactive — by quoting a passage from Krishna as a backdrop for his political, moral, and humanistic arguments. His words bear extraordinary prescience today, as we face a swelling tide of political unrest, ethnic violence, and global conflict. 

He writes: "The reason for the astonishing fact that a majority of working people submit to a handful of idlers who control their labour and their very lives is always and everywhere the same — whether the oppressors and oppressed are of one race or whether… the oppressors are of a different nation. The reason lies in the lack of a reasonable religious teaching which by explaining the meaning of life would supply a supreme law for the guidance of conduct and would replace the more than dubious precepts of pseudo-religion and pseudo-science with the immoral conclusions deduced from them and commonly called “civilization.”

It’s worth pausing here to note that Tolstoy’s notion of “religious teaching” is perhaps best regarded as “spiritual direction,” for he dedicated a great portion of his life trying to discern precisely such spiritual direction for himself by selectively culling wisdom from all the major religious and philosophical traditions. Indeed, he speaks to that aspect directly further along in the letter: "In every individual a spiritual element is manifested that gives life to all that exists, and that this spiritual element strives to unite with everything of a like nature to itself, and attains this aim through love… The mere fact that this thought has sprung up among different nations and at different times indicates that it is inherent in human nature and contains the truth. But this truth was made known to people who considered that a community could only be kept together if some of them restrained others, and so it appeared quite irreconcilable with the existing order of society."

He considers how political ideologies hijacked this basic law of love at various times in human history and tried to replace it with a law of violent submission: "This truth was made known to people who considered that a community could only be kept together if some of them restrained others, and so it appeared quite irreconcilable with the existing order of society… The dissemination of the truth in a society based on coercion was always hindered in one and the same manner, namely, those in power, feeling that the recognition of this truth would undermine their position, consciously or sometimes unconsciously perverted it by explanations and additions quite foreign to it, and also opposed it by open violence. Thus the truth — that his life should be directed by the spiritual element which is its basis, which manifests itself as love, and which is so natural to man—this truth, in order to force a way to man’s consciousness, had to struggle not merely against the obscurity with which it was expressed and the intentional and unintentional distortions surrounding it, but also against deliberate violence, which by means of persecutions and punishments sought to compel men to accept religious laws authorized by the rulers and conflicting with the truth.

The recognition that love represents the highest morality was nowhere denied or contradicted, but this truth was so interwoven everywhere with all kinds of falsehoods which distorted it, that finally nothing of it remained but words. It was taught that this highest morality was only applicable to private life — for home use, as it were — but that in public life all forms of violence — such as imprisonment, executions, and wars — might be used for the protection of the majority against a minority of evildoers, though such means were diametrically opposed to any vestige of love. And though common sense indicated that if some men claim to decide who is to be subjected to violence of all kinds for the benefit of others, these men to whom violence is applied may, in turn, arrive at a similar conclusion with regard to those who have employed violence to them, and though the great religious teachers … foreseeing such a perversion of the law of love, have constantly drawn attention to the one invariable condition of love (namely, the enduring of injuries, insults, and violence of all kinds without resisting evil by evil) people continued — regardless of all that leads man forward — to try to unite the incompatibles: the virtue of love, and what is opposed to love, namely, the restraining of evil by violence. And such a teaching, despite its inner contradiction, was so firmly established that the very people who recognize love as a virtue accept as lawful at the same time an order of life based on violence and allowing men not merely to torture but even to kill one another."

He distills this idea to one “old and simple truth”: "It is natural for men to help and to love one another, but not to torture and to kill one another."

In addition to the false interpretations of religion, Tolstoy takes equal issue with scientific reductionism — something that undoubtedly felt like a great threat at the dawn of the twentieth century, when science was just beginning break to down the material universe into its basic atomic units, a discovery that many feared might be reduced to the hollowing belief that a human being is nothing more than physical “stuff.” Both science and religion, Tolstoy argues, could result in dangerous dogma that blinds us to the basic law of love, if taken at face value and stripped of nuance — the danger of, as he puts it, “scientific superstition replacing the religious one”: "But by the term “scientific” is understood just what was formerly understood by the term “religious”: just as formerly everything called “religious” was held to be unquestionable simply because it was called religious, so now all that is called “scientific” is held to be unquestionable… The unfortunate majority of men bound to toil is so dazzled by the pomp with which these “scientific truths” are presented, that under this new influence it accepts these scientific stupidities for holy truth, just as it formerly accepted the pseudo-religious justifications."

(How easy it is even today for laypeople to be “dazzled by the pomp” of questionable science journalism that prioritizes clickbait sensationalism — something else about which Tolstoy held passionate, prescient opinions — over clarity and rigor.)

He returns to the central point, affirming Gandhi’s advocacy of nonviolent resistance: "Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills, and in it you too have the only method of saving your people from enslavement… Love, and forcible resistance to evil-doers, involve such a mutual contradiction as to destroy utterly the whole sense and meaning of the conception of love."

Considering the British colonization of India, Tolstoy marvels at how “A commercial company enslaved a nation comprising two hundred millions” and argues that this was only made possible by people, both the oppressors and the oppressed, failing to contact “the eternal law of love inherent in humanity.” He writes: "As soon as men live entirely in accord with the law of love natural to their hearts and now revealed to them, which excludes all resistance by violence, and therefore hold aloof from all participation in violence — as soon as this happens, not only will hundreds be unable to enslave millions, but not even millions will be able to enslave a single individual."

Reflecting on the process of reawakening to that “eternal law,” Tolstoy offers a developmental metaphor: "What is now happening to the people of the East as of the West is like what happens to every individual when he passes from childhood to adolescence and from youth to manhood. He loses what had hitherto guided his life and lives without direction, not having found a new standard suitable to his age, and so he invents all sorts of occupations, cares, distractions, and stupefactions to divert his attention from the misery and senselessness of his life. Such a condition may last a long time.

When an individual passes from one period of life to another a time comes when he cannot go on in senseless activity and excitement as before, but has to understand that although he has outgrown what before used to direct him, this does not mean that he must live without any reasonable guidance, but rather that he must formulate for himself an understanding of life corresponding to his age, and having elucidated it must be guided by it. And in the same way a similar time must come in the growth and development of humanity. I believe that such a time has now arrived — not in the sense that it has come in the year 1908, but that the inherent contradiction of human life has now reached an extreme degree of tension: on the one side there is the consciousness of the beneficence of the law of love, and on the other the existing order of life which has for centuries occasioned an empty, anxious, restless, and troubled mode of life, conflicting as it does with the law of love and built on the use of violence. This contradiction must be faced, and the solution will evidently not be favorable to the outlived law of violence, but to the truth which has dwelt in the hearts of men from remote antiquity: the truth that the law of love is in accord with the nature of man.

But men can only recognize this truth to its full extent when they have completely freed themselves from all religious and scientific superstitions and from all the consequent misrepresentations and sophistical distortions by which its recognition has been hindered for centuries. To save a sinking ship it is necessary to throw overboard the ballast, which though it may once have been needed would now cause the ship to sink."

Sensing that global tensions were brewing, Tolstoy added the prescient admonition that “in our time all these things must be cleared away in order that mankind may escape from self-inflicted calamities that have reached an extreme intensity.” World War I broke out less than five years later. One of humanity’s grimmest self-inflicted calamities offered evidence, as modern wars do, that we still have a long way to go before reaching that return to the basic nature of love Tolstoy envisioned — which is why Tolstoy’s closing words to Gandhi ring with amplified urgency today: "What are wanted for the Indian as for the Englishman, the Frenchman, the German, and the Russian, are not Constitutions and Revolutions, nor all sorts of Conferences and Congresses, nor the many ingenious devices for submarine navigation and aerial navigation, nor powerful explosives, nor all sorts of conveniences to add to the enjoyment of the rich, ruling classes; nor new schools and universities with innumerable faculties of science, nor an augmentation of papers and books, nor gramophones and cinematographs, nor those childish and for the most part corrupt stupidities termed art — but one thing only is needful: the knowledge of the simple and clear truth which finds place in every soul that is not stupefied by religious and scientific superstitions — the truth that for our life one law is valid — the law of love, which brings the highest happiness to every individual as well as to all mankind. Free your minds from those overgrown, mountainous imbecilities which hinder your recognition of it, and at once the truth will emerge from amid the pseudo-religious nonsense that has been smothering it: the indubitable, eternal truth inherent in man, which is one and the same in all the great religions of the world."

Writing to Gandhi again on September 7, 1910 — eight weeks before he took his final breath — Tolstoy revisited the subject with even more heartfelt conviction: "The longer I live — especially now when I clearly feel the approach of death — the more I feel moved to express what I feel more strongly than anything else, and what in my opinion is of immense importance, namely, what we call the renunciation of all opposition by force, which really simply means the doctrine of the law of love unperverted by sophistries. Love, or in other words the striving of men’s souls towards unity and the submissive behavior to one another that results therefrom, represents the highest and indeed the only law of life, as every man knows and feels in the depths of his heart (and as we see most clearly in children), and knows until he becomes involved in the lying net of worldly thoughts… Any employment of force is incompatible with love.”
"A Letter to a Hindu" is well worth a read in its entirety. Complement it with Tolstoy on finding meaning in a meaningless world, his timeless Calendar of Wisdom, and a rare recording of the author reading from it shortly before his death, then revisit another extraordinary exchange of Eastern and Western ideas in Einstein and Tagore’s 1930 conversation about Truth and Beauty."
Freely download “A Letter to a Hindu,” by Leo Tolstoy, here: