Thursday, October 31, 2013

"A Look to the Heavens"

“NGC 7841 is probably known as the Smoke Nebula, found in the modern constellation of Frustriaus, the frustrated astrophotographer. Only a few light-nanoseconds from planet Earth, The Smoke Nebula is not an expanding supernova remnant along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, though it does look a lot like one. Instead it was created by flash photography of rising smoke. 

 Click image for larger size.
The apparently rich starfield is actually composed of water droplets sprayed from a plant mister by an astrophotographer grown restless during a recent stretch of cloudy weather in Sweden. A single exposure and three external flashes were triggered to capture the not-quite-cosmic snapshot.”

Chet Raymo, “Out Of Eden”

 “Out Of Eden”
by Chet Raymo

“The Maori of New Zealand imagined the original man with his head planted firmly in the earth, an ocean issuing from his mouth, in his groin a gum tree, clouds on his feet. What are we to make of this upside-down Adam? No head-in-the-clouds this fellow. His tattooed noggin is fixed in the soil like a tuber. Arms spread like an ocean-going outrigger canoe. Heart and lungs smoldering in the hearth of his chest. Only the soles of his feet keeping the sky from crushing him out.

Looks good to me. Humankind as integral to nature. Earth, water, fire, air. The spindle on which the world is spun. Compare this to Adam in the Judeo-Christian myth, breathed into a world already formed, almost as if he were an afterthought. Lord and master of the whole affair. His dealings are with God alone.

Of course, no one who is at all cognizant of the last 400 years of science believes in a literal Adam, or a literal Maori man for that matter. The stories are interesting from an historical point of view, and they can serve a metaphorical purpose, but we don't take them seriously. We have our own creation myths, and some of us take them very seriously indeed.

Here is John Haught, a theologian I admire, in a recent issue of "Commonweal", offering his own take on how it all came to be: "It is the presence and lure of infinite being, wisdom, truth, and goodness that grounds both the world's intelligibility and our own intelligent life. Through natural processes the inexhaustible love of God evokes an anticipatory restlessness that we call evolution and, in our newly emergent minds, an unrestricted desire to know. Such a theological vision not only makes the world a favorable place for scientific inquiry; it also provides good reasons for entrusting ourselves to the mind's spontaneous quest for understanding and truth."

Well, yes. Give Haught this: He doesn't dismiss science as a way of reliable knowing. And he espouses a faith that doesn't stand in stark opposition to science. But the story he proposes is no less a myth than Adam or the Maori man. For that matter, so is the myth of the scientific materialist, evoking chance and non-teleological emergence. At least the latter has Ockham's razor on its side.

We spend a lot of time contesting each other's myths, as if they had an objective foundation. We have a hard time saying, ‘I don't know.’"

Musical Interlude: Michael Bolton, “When I'm Back On My Feet Again”


 Michael Bolton, “When I'm Back On My Feet Again”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=114QK3SVqyk 
 .
Don’t give up! Don’t you dare give up... a better day is coming...
- CP

"I'll Bet..."

"The Point..."

"What is the point? We assume that every time we do anything we know what the consequences will be, i.e., more or less what we intend them to be. This is not only not always correct. It is wildly, crazily, stupidly, cross-eyed-blithering-insectly wrong!"

- Douglas Adams,
 “The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide”

Satire “G.O.P. Unveils Own Health-Care Web Site, EmergencyRoom.gov”

 “G.O.P. Unveils Own Health-Care Web Site,
 EmergencyRoom.gov”
by Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)— “Saying that “the American people are fed up with a disastrous Web site that doesn’t work and never will,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) and a phalanx of congressional Republicans today unveiled their own health-care Web site, EmergencyRoom.gov. “At EmergencyRoom.gov, every American can access the one tried-and-true health-care system that has worked in this country for decades,” he said.

While Healthcare.gov has frustrated many users with its difficult-to-navigate design, Rep. Cantor said that at EmergencyRoom.gov, “Health care is just three easy steps away. One: enter your zip code. Two: see the list of emergency rooms. Three: get to the nearest one before you die.” The Virginia Republican wasted no time touting the cost savings of EmergencyRoom.gov, comparing it favorably with the notoriously expensive Obamacare site: “Unlike Healthcare.gov, which private contractors built at a cost running into the hundreds of millions, EmergencyRoom.gov was built for nine hundred dollars by my intern Josh.”

And in contrast with Healthcare.gov’s maze of forms, links, and phone numbers, he said, “EmergencyRoom.gov has just one phone number: 9-1-1.” In what may be the strongest selling point for the new site, Rep. Cantor said that the wait time on EmergencyRoom.gov is “virtually nonexistent,” not counting the twelve to thirty-six hours spent in the actual emergency room.”

The Daily "Near You?"

 
Addis Ababa, Adis Abeba, Ethiopia. Thanks for stopping by.

"Ignored Reality Is Going To Wipe Out The Human Race"

 
"Ignored Reality Is Going To Wipe Out The Human Race"
by Paul Craig Roberts

"To inform people is hard slugging. Everything is lined up against the public being informed, or the policymakers for that matter. News is contaminated by its service to special interests and hidden agendas. Many scientists or their employers are dependent on federal money. Even psychologists and anthropologists were roped into the government’s torture and occupation programs. Economists tell lies for corporations and Wall Street. Plant and soil scientists tell lies for agribusiness and Monsanto. Truth tellers are slandered and persecuted. However, persistence can eventually win out. In the long-run, truth sometimes emerges. But not always. And not always in time.

I have been trying to inform the American people, economists, and policymakers for more than a decade about the adverse impacts of jobs offshoring on the US economy. The word has eventually gotten out. Last week I was contacted by 8th grade students competing for their school in CSPAN’s StudentCam Documentary Contest. They want to interview me on the subject of jobs offshoring for their documentary film.

America is a strange place. Here are eighth graders far ahead of the economics profession, the President, the Congress, the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, and the financial press in their understanding of one of the fundamental problems of the US economy. Yet, people say the public schools are failing. Obviously, not the one whose students contacted me.

Is it too late? I know much, but not all. So this is not the final word. I think it might be too late. When skilled jobs are sent abroad, the skills disappear at home. So do the supply chains and the businesses associated with the skills. Things close down, and abilities are lost. Why take a major in college for a job that is offshored. A culture disappears.

But we can start them back up, right? Perhaps not. When a First World country exports its technology and know-how abroad to a Third World country in order to benefit from lower cost labor, how does the First World country get the work back? Living standards and the cost of living in Third World countries are much lower than in First World countries. The populations of First World countries cannot pay their mortgages, car payments, student loans, medical care, and grocery bills with the wages of Third World countries.

When First World wages drop, mortgage, car, credit card, and student loan payments do not drop. Americans cannot live on Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian wages. Once the technology and know-how is transferred, the low wage country has the advantage in the absence of tariff protection.

For America to revive, our economy would have to be walled off with high tariffs, and subsidies would have to be provided in order to recreate US industry and manufacturing. But many corporations now produce offshore, and America is broke. The government has been $1 trillion dollars in the hole each year for the last 5 years.

Jobs offshoring diminished the US tax base. When a job is sent abroad, so is that job’s contribution to US GDP and tax base. When millions of jobs are sent abroad, US GDP and tax base cannot support government spending levels. To the extent that there are any replacement jobs, they are in lowly paid domestic services, such as waitresses, bartenders, retail clerks, and hospital orderlies. These jobs do not provide a tax base or consumer spending power comparable to manufacturing jobs and tradable professional services such as software engineering and information technology.

Republicans and increasingly Democrats, as both parties are dependent on the same sources of campaign contributions, blame “entitlements.” By entitlements they mean welfare. In fact, entitlements consist of Social Security and Medicare. Entitlements are funded by the payroll tax, approximately 15% of payroll. The fact that a person pays the payroll tax all his working life is why the person is entitled to Social Security and Medicare if they live to retirement age. Welfare, such as food stamps and housing subsidies, are a small part of the federal budget and are not entitlements.

Ever since President Reagan was betrayed three decades ago by Alan Greenspan and David Stockman, both of whom sold out to Wall Street and raised the Social Security payroll tax above what was needed to pay Social Security benefits in order to protect Wall Street’s stock and bond portfolios from exaggerated deficit fears, Social Security payroll tax revenues have exceeded Social Security payments. As of today, Social Security revenues exceed payments to beneficiaries by an accumulated $2 trillion. The money was used by the federal government to pay for its wars and other spending programs. The Social Security Trust Fund holds non-marketable IOUs from the Treasury. These IOUs can only be made good from an excess of tax revenues over expenditures or by the Treasury selling $2 trillion in bonds, notes, and bills and paying off its IOUs to the Social Security Trust Fund. This is not going to happen.

The Federal Reserve could not care less about the US population. The Fed was established for the purpose of protecting and aiding banks. Currently, the Fed, as if America were a Banana Republic which America appears to be becoming, is printing one thousand billion dollars per year in order to support the banks and to finance the federal deficit.

This is bad news for Americans, as it means that their fiat money is being created at a far greater rate than the demand for the dollar. The implication for our future is a drop in the dollar’s value. As there are no jobs, a drop in the dollar’s value means high inflation on top of unemployment and double the misery of the Great Depression.

As bad as this is, it is minor compared to the destruction of the planet’s environment. Online information shows that the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem is in crisis after the BP spill and use of Corexit, a dispersant used to hide, not clean up, the spilled oil. http://www.opednews.com

The Fukushima catastrophe has hardly begun. Yet already the radioactive water pouring into the Pacific Ocean has made fish dangerous to eat unless a person is willing to accept a higher risk of cancer. Fukushima has the potential of making Japan uninhabitable and of polluting the air, water, and soil of the US with radioactivity. Yet the crisis is seldom mentioned in the US media. In Japan the government just passed a law that could be used to imprison Japanese journalists who report truthfully on the dire situation.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the online information about Fukushima.. According to the presstitute media, Americans face threats from Iran and Syria and from whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden. The real threats are simply not in the news. If you search Fukushima, you will find information that the presstitute media hides from you. See for example, http://www.globalresearch.ca/

There are a number of other threats to the environment on which our lives depend. One is the effort to extract more productivity from the soil by use of GMOs. Monsanto has altered the genes of several crops so that the crops can be sprayed with RoundUp to eliminate weeds. The results have been to deplete the soil of nutrients, to destroy the micro-biology of the soil so that new plant diseases and funguses are activated, and to produce superweeds that require heavier doses of the glyphosate in RoundUp. The heavier dose of RoundUp worsens the aforementioned problems. US agricultural soil is losing its potency.

Now we come to chemtrails, branded another “conspiracy theory.” However, the US government’s efforts to geo-engineer weather as a military weapon and as a preventative of global warming appear to be real. The DARPA and HAARP programs are well known and are discussed publicly by scientists. See, for example, Search Chemtrails, and you will find much information that is kept from you. See, for example, and http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org.

Some describe chemtrails as a plot by the New World Order, the Rothchilds, the Bilderbergers, or the Masons, to wipe out the “useless eaters.” Given the amount of evil that exists in the world, these conspiracy theories might not be as farfetched as they sound. However, I do not know that. What does seem to be possibly true is that the scientific experiments to modify and control weather are having adverse real world consequences. The claim that aluminum is being sprayed into the atmosphere and when it comes to earth is destroying the ability of soil to be productive might not be imaginary. Those concerned about chemtrails say that weather control experiments have deprived the western United States of rainfall, while sending the rain to the east where there have been hurricane level deluges and floods.

In the West, sparse rainfall and lightning storms without rain are resulting in forests drying out and burning down. Deforestation adversely affects the environment in many ways, including the process of photosynthesis by which trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. The massive loss of forests means more carbon dioxide and less oxygen. Watershed and species habitat are lost, and spreading aridity further depletes ground and surface water. If these results are the consequences of weather modification experiments, the experiments should be stopped.

In North Georgia where I spend some summers, during 2013 it rained for 60 consecutive days, not all day, but every day, and some days the rainfall was 12 inches- hurricane level- and roads were washed out. I received last summer 4 automated telephone warnings from local counties not to drive and not to attempt to drive through accumulations of water on the highways.

One consequence of the excess of water in the East is that this year there are no acorns in North Georgia. Zilch, zero, nada. Nothing. There is no food for the deer, the turkeys, the bear, the rodents. Starving deer will strip bark from the trees. Bears will be unable to hibernate or will be able only to partially hibernate, forced to seek food from garbage. Black bears are already invading homes in search of food.

Unusual drought in the West and unusual flood in the East could be coincidental or they could be consequences of weather modification experiments. The US, along with most of the world, already had a water problem prior to possible disruptions of rainfall by geo-engineering. In his book, Elixir, Brian Fagan tells the story of humankind’s mostly unsuccessful struggle with water. Both groundwater and surface water are vanishing. The water needs of large cities, such as Los Angeles and Phoenix, and the irrigation farming that depends on the Ogallala aquifer are unsustainable. Fagan reminds us that “the world’s supply of freshwater is finite,” just like the rest of nature’s resources. Avoiding cataclysm requires long-range thinking, but humanity is focused on immediate needs. Long-range thinking is limited to finding another water source to deplete. Cities and agriculture have turned eyes to the Great Lakes.

Los Angeles exists because the city was able to steal water from hundreds of miles away. The city drained Owens Lake, leaving a huge salt flat in its place, drained the Owens Valley aquifer, and diverted the Owens River to LA via aqueduct. Farming and ranching in the Owens Valley collapsed. Today LA takes water from the Colorado River, which originates in Wyoming and Colorado, and from Lake Perris 440 miles away.

Water depletion is not just an American problem. Fagan reports that “underground aquifers in many places are shrinking so rapidly that NASA satellites are detecting changes in the earth’s gravity.” If the government is experimenting with weather engineering, scientists are playing God when they have no idea of the consequences. It is a tendency of scientists to become absorbed by the ability to experiment and to ignore unintended consequences.

Readers have asked me to write about Fukushima and chemtrails because they trust me to tell them the truth. The problem is that I am not qualified to write about these matters with anything approaching the same confidence that I bring to economic, war and police state matters.

The only advice I can give is that when you hear the presstitute media smear a concern or explanation as “conspiracy theory,” have a closer look. The divergence between what is happening and what you are told is so vast that it pays to be suspicious, cynical even, of what “your” government and “your” presstitute media tell you. The chances are high that it is a lie."

"The Plague..."

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”
- Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Bottom Line: The NSA Lied (Again) To Congress”

 
“Bottom Line: The NSA Lied (Again) To Congress”
 by Karl Denninger

“That's the bottom line folks- they lied, repeatedly and intentionally.

“The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials. By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.”

Remember, they said they didn't do that and only collected data under "valid" FISA court warrants. Nope. They cheated by tapping links outside the US.  And since Google and Yahoo, along with others, are firms with international data centers but mirror data all over the place (for both performance and redundancy reasons) voila- they got it all.

These people need to be shut down- completely. Not so much because they spy on other nations and people in other countries but because they repeatedly lie about their operations to the US Congress and the American people, and their "craft" extends to Americans in America and data owned by Americans- and that, without a valid warrant, is flatly illegal. Never mind the immediate (and possibly terminal) harm done to American vendors of such services in the International marketplace.”
In this slide from a National Security Agency presentation on “Google Cloud Exploitation,” a sketch shows where the “Public Internet” meets the internal “Google Cloud” where user data resides. Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw the drawing.

“NSA Infiltrates Links to Yahoo, Google Data Centers Worldwide”
- http://www.washingtonpost.com/

“Google Statement on NSA Infiltration of Links Between Data Centers”
- http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Obama, NSA Spying and the Dangers of Secretive, Authoritarian Government"

 "Obama, NSA Spying and the Dangers of 
Secretive, Authoritarian Government"
By John W. Whitehead

“The perception here is of a United States where security has trumped liberty, intelligence agencies run amok (vacuuming up data of friend and foe alike), and the once-admired “checks and balances” built into American governance and studied by European schoolchildren have become, at best, secret reviews of secret activities where opposing arguments get no hearing.” – New York Times columnist Roger Cohen

Recent reports indicating that President Obama was aware of and personally approved an NSA program that involved spying on the personal communications of various international leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have once again highlighted the deception and intransigence of the Obama administration in dealing with the revelations that the National Security Agency has been acting outside the bounds of the law, sucking up electronic communications the world over.

While this may come as a shock to most Americans, I’ve been writing about the NSA’s illegal surveillance tactics since the 1980s, which features prominently in my new book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State
. However, this latest development in the spying saga—that the NSA has been aiming its surveillance activities at the citizens of allied countries, including France and Germany—has thrown a kink into the Obama administration’s attempts at maintaining a cozy relationship with its foreign allies.

Specifically, according to comments by an anonymous “high-level” NSA official to a German newspaper, President Barack Obama personally approved spying on the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. These comments come despite claims made by the White House last week that Obama had no idea that the NSA had tapped her phone. The NSA has denied the reports that Obama was personally briefed on the Merkel spying operation in 2010, but did not indicate whether he may have learned about it via other means.

According to a report by German newspaper Der Spiegel, the NSA had been spying on Merkel since 2002, before she was Chancellor and acting as an opposition leader. The NSA had also allegedly been spying on French and German citizens, an accusation which prompted both countries to demand an explanation from the United States about the purpose and reasoning behind the spying programs. The US spying on German communications was apparently conducted from the American embassy in Berlin.

According to another anonymous US official, the United States was engaged in espionage on 35 world leaders, but most of these programs have been terminated or are set to be terminated. This official also claims that Obama was unaware of the program, and that the NSA had chosen not to brief him on all their various spying operations, saying, “These decisions are made at the NSA. The president doesn’t sign off on this stuff.”

Whatever the exact truth of the matter, there are two possible scenarios. Either the President was fully aware of the extent of the NSA’s criminal activities, which violate both domestic and international law, and was willing to go along with them or the NSA has amassed so much power in Washington that it literally operates outside the chain of command and above the rule of law. In either case, we face a tyrannical force the likes of which have never been seen in the United States before.

In just one month (January 2013), the NSA spied on some 125 billion phone calls worldwide, 3 billion of which originated in the United States. In addition to German and French citizens, the NSA has targeted Spain as well, sweeping up some 60 million communications in the span of one month.

Of course, this global surveillance program should come as no surprise. Since September 11, 2001, the United States has spent over $500 billion on an intelligence community that, according to the Washington Post, constitutes an “espionage empire with resources and a reach beyond those of any adversary, sustained even now by spending that rivals or exceeds the levels at the height of the Cold War.” The CIA and NSA have both begun to engage in so-called “offensive cyber operations,” which involves hacking into foreign computer networks in order to either steal information or sabotage the network itself.

In fact, the NSA has been conducting worldwide surveillance for quite some time. Echelon, a global electronic surveillance network that allows security agencies of Great Britain and the United States, as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to collect and exploit intelligence collected worldwide, was developed by the NSA. Created in the heat of the Cold War, Echelon intercepts and analyzes virtually every phone call, fax and email message sent anywhere in the world. It does so by positioning “listening stations” (including land bases, satellites and ships sailing the seven seas) all over the globe to capture data, satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic communications traffic.

Although Echelon was originally established as an international spy system, suspicions arose at the dawn of the new millennium that its intelligence ambitions might have turned inward. A Congressional investigation determined that Echelon had not only turned inward, targeting such peaceful political groups as Amnesty International, Greenpeace and several Christian groups, but had actually broadened the scope of its mission to include political espionage. It also became a means of benefiting big business and advancing personal political agendas. For example, in March 2003, the British Observer asserted that the Bush Administration had used its Echelon satellite station in New Zealand to spy on council members from Angola, Bulgaria, Camaroon, Chile, Guinea and Pakistan in its effort to garner support for the impending war against Iraq.

The other main object of Echelon seems to be corporate espionage. In 1993, President Bill Clinton directed the NSA to use Echelon facilities to spy on Japanese car manufacturers developing zero-emission cars and to pass on critical information to the three largest American car manufacturers, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. In the 1990s, German firm Enercon, a wind generator manufacturer, developed innovative wind related technology. However, by the time it was ready to sell the technology to the US, the US rival company had already patented a similar project. Later, an NSA employee admitted to stealing the technology through phone taps and computer link line spying.

Given the NSA’s history, there is nothing innocent about a worldwide program of surveillance. Rather, this is the dawning of a new era, an expansion of the Cold War mentality of tracking an unknown enemy which only exists in the imagination of those who seek more power. Al-Qaeda’s capability to penetrate the American homeland is nil. The chances of dying in a terrorist attack are miniscule. There is no justification for these programs, which is why they have been conducted and approved in secret. Any public scrutiny would demonstrate their ineffectiveness and uselessness.

Unfortunately, our so-called representatives in Congress are doing very little to combat the menace of unlawful surveillance, going out of their way to justify these programs and give them the trappings of legitimacy. For example, Rep. Mike Rogers, head of the House Intelligence Committee, made the bizarre claim that the rise of fascism in Europe in the early 20th century could be attributed to the United States failing to spy on its allies: “We said: ‘We’re not going to do any kinds of those things, that would not be appropriate’ Look what happened in the 30s: the rise of fascism, the rise of communism, the rise of imperialism. We didn’t see any of it. And it resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people.”

Battles are being waged between civil liberties-minded representatives and law-and-order types such as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who is drafting a bill that would codify the NSA’s program of collecting the metadata of American communications. She supports her position by making nonsensical statements such as, “People believe it’s surveillance, but it’s not.”

Contrary to Feinstein’s claims, the NSA is collecting personal information on every single person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. The NSA is able to crack the security of all major smartphones, including iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices, which gives agents access to information such as contacts, SMS messages, and location data. The NSA is also suspected to be engaging in so-called “man in the middle” attacks, which involve NSA agents pretending to be legitimate web services (in this case search engine Google) in order to obtain private information. These and other programs, such as PRISM and XKEYSCORE, open our private lives to government agents who are only a computer click away from knowing what we do on a daily basis.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether you want an open, transparent and therefore free government or a closed, secretive, authoritarian regime. For those who claim to want open and free government, it’s time to restore the rightful balance in government and make it clear to our leaders that these spying programs are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Remember, a true patriot is one who upholds the principles upon which his country was founded, not the power of those who have hijacked the nation.”
Click image for larger size.

Yes Sir, I feel so much better having these fine, upstanding and law-abiding true Patriots watching this little blog, protecting us all from those oh-so-scary terrorists... And comforting to know that those whom even McDonalds and Burger King wouldn't hire still have employment opportunities in this great land of the free and the home of the brave...
- CP

"How It Really Is"


"The Duty..."

“America’s Cult of Ignorance, Part 2”

 
“America’s Cult of Ignorance, Part 2”
by James Quinn

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” – Isaac Asimov

“While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.” – Henry Hazlitt

America’s cult of ignorance, combined with the selfish interests of various constituencies, the character weakness of the people elected to office, a lack of understanding or interest in basic mathematical concepts, and inability to comprehend the long term and unintended consequences of every piece of legislation, have brought the country to the brink of fiscal disaster. But still, the vast majority of Americans, including the supposed intellectuals and economic “experts”, are basking in their ignorance, as the stock market reaches a new high, the local GM dealer just gave them a 7 year $40,000 auto loan at 0% on that brand new Cadillac Escalade, Bank of America still hasn’t foreclosed on their McMansion two years after making their last mortgage payment, and they just received three pre-approved credit card notices from Capital One, American Express and Citicorp. As long as Bennie has our back printing $1 trillion new greenbacks per year, nothing can possibly go wrong. Our best and brightest economic minds are always right:

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

“Many of the new financial products that have been created, with financial derivatives being the most notable, contribute economic value by unbundling risks and shifting them in a highly calibrated manner. Although these instruments cannot reduce the risk inherent in real assets, they can redistribute it in a way that induces more investment in real assets and, hence, engenders higher productivity and standards of living.” – Alan Greenspan – March 6, 2000

“We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” – Ben Bernanke – July 2005

The profound level of ignorance displayed by economists, politicians, business leaders, media personalities, and the average American, regarding the mathematically unsustainable path of our fiscal ship is perplexing to me on so many levels. If the Federal government was a family, the budget ceiling debate would be put into the following terms. Our household earns $28,000 per year, but we spend $38,000 per year and add $10,000 to our credit card balance, which stands at the limit of $170,000. In addition, we owe our neighbors $2 million we don’t have because we promised to pay if they voted for us as Treasurer of our homeowners association. We celebrate our good fortune of getting approved for another credit card with a $30,000 limit by increasing our spending to $39,000 per year. Intellectuals scorn such simplistic analogies by glibly pointing out that the family has a crazy uncle with a printing press in the basement and can pay-off the debt with his freshly printed dollars. And this is where the deliberate and calculated ignorance by the highly educated Ivy Leaguers regarding long term and unintended consequences is revealed. They ignore, manipulate, cover-up and obscure the facts because their wealth, power and influence depend upon them doing so. But ignorance doesn’t change the facts.
.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
 – Aldous Huxley

Nothing exposes the ignorance of various factions within our society better than a debate about budgets, spending, and unfunded liabilities. This is where every party, group, special interest, and voting bloc ignore any and all facts that are contrary to their selfish interest. They only see what they want to see. The fallacies, errors, omissions and mistruths of their positions are inconsequential to people who only care about their short-term self-seeking interests. When I question the out of control spending on entitlements and our impossible to honor level of unfunded liabilities, those of a liberal persuasion lash out with accusations of hating the poor, starving children and throwing granny under the bus. Anyone suggesting we should slow our spending is branded a terrorist by the overwhelmingly liberal legacy media.

When I accuse Wall Street bankers of criminal fraud and ongoing manipulation of the financial markets, the CNBC loving apologists for these felons bellow about the market always being right. When I rail about the military industrial complex and our un-Constitutional invasions of other countries, the neo-cons come out in force blathering about the war on terror and imminent threats. When I point out the horrific results of our government run educational system and how mediocre union teachers are bankrupting our states and municipalities with their gold plated health and pension plans, I’m met with howls of outrage about the poor children. The common thread is that facts are ignored because each of their agendas requires ignorance on the part of their team’s fans.

The following chart of truth portrays an unsustainable path. Ignoring the facts will not change them. This isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It’s an American problem.


“There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: “In the long run we are all dead.” And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.” – Henry Hazlitt

Henry Hazlitt may have written these words six decades ago, but they aptly describe Paul Krugman and the legions of Keynesian apostles whose bastardized interpretation of Keynes’ theory has led us to this fiscal cliff. How anyone can truly believe that borrowing to consume foreign produced goods versus saving and making job creating capital investments is a rational and sustainable economic policy is the height of ignorance. One look at this chart exposes the political party system as a sham. When it comes to the fiscal train wreck, set in motion thirty years ago, the ignorant media pundits peddle a narrative about politicians failing to compromise as the culprit in this derailment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compromise is what has gotten us to this point. The Republicans compromised and allowed the Democrats to create a welfare state. The Democrats compromised and allowed the Republicans to create a warfare state. The Federal Reserve compromised their mandate of stable prices and preventing financial calamities by inflating away 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in 100 years, while creating bubbles every five or so years, like clockwork. There are a myriad of facts related to the chart above that cannot be ignored:

    • It took 192 for the country to accumulate $1 trillion in debt. It has taken us 30 years to accumulate the next $16 trillion of debt. We now add $1 trillion of debt per year.
    • If the Federal government was required to use GAAP accounting, the annual deficit would amount to $6.7 trillion per year.
    • The fiscal gap of unfunded future liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and government pensions is $200 trillion.
    • Using realistic growth assumptions adds another $6 trillion of state and local government unfunded pension benefits to the equation.
    • The Federal government has increased their annual spending from $1.8 trillion during Bill Clinton’s last year in office to $3.8 trillion today, a 110% increase. The population has increased by 12% over that same time frame, and real GDP has advanced by 25% since 2000.
    • Defense spending has increased from $358 billion in 2000 to $831 billion today, despite the fact that no country on earth can challenge us militarily.
    • The average Baby Boomer will receive $300,000 more than they contributed to Social Security and Medicare over their lifetime. Over 10,000 Boomers per day will turn 65 for the next 17 years.
    • The Social Security lockbox is filled with IOUs. The funds collected from paychecks over the last 80 years were spent by Congress on wars of choice, bridges to nowhere, and thousands of other vote buying ventures.
    • A normalization of interest rates to long-term averages would double or triple the interest on the national debt and increase our annual deficits by at least 30%.
    • Obamacare and the unintended consequences of Obamacare will add tens of trillions to our national debt. The initial budget projections for Medicare and Medicaid showed only a modest financial impact on the financial situation of the country. How did that work out?
    • Entitlement spending in 2003 was $1.3 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2008 was $1.7 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2013 was $2.2 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2018 will be $2.8 trillion, as these programs are on automatic pilot.

When you consider the facts in a rational manner, without vitriolic denials, bitter accusations, acrimonious blame, and rejection of the entire premise, you come to the conclusion that we’ve passed the point of no return. Decades of bad choices, bad leadership, bad men in important positions, bad education, bad governance, and bad citizenship have led to bad times. But very few people, across all socio-economic classes, have any interest in understanding the facts or making the tough choices required to save future generations from a life of squalor. We willfully choose to ignore the facts.
.
“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. 
We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” 
– Aldous Huxley

Our degraded and ignorant society is incapable of comprehending their dire circumstances or acting for the common good of the country. We are a nation on the take. Greed really is good. Everyone needs to play the game. From the top floor corporate CEO suite to the decaying urban wastelands, we have chosen comforting ignorance to uncomfortable knowledge. Our warped form of democracy enriches the few at the top, while dispensing enough subsistence payments to the lower classes to keep them from revolting, while enslaving the middle class in debt and convincing them it’s really wealth. Mencken understood the pathetic impulses of the American populace decades before we reached our point of no return.
.
“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.”
 – H.L. Mencken

The only way a democracy can survive is if the population is knowledgeable, vigilant, skeptical, educated, individually responsible, self-reliant, moral, capable of critical thinking and willing to accept the consequences of their actions. A nation of takers, fakers and blamers will not last long. We’ve degenerated into a nation of knowledge hating book burners. Our culture of ignorance will lead to the destruction of our culture and the ignorant masses will wonder what happened.
.
“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, 
wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.” 
– Ray Bradbury, "Fahrenheit 451"

Join James Quinn at www.TheBurningPlatform.com to discuss truth and the future of our country.

The Economy: “Apocalypse Later!”

  “Apocalypse Later!”
by Bill Bonner

“It’s all decided. Play now. Pay later. Let’s see, stocks moved up again yesterday. The Dow rose 111 points. Gold fell $6 an ounce. As usual, Bloomberg had a reporter in the playground: "It still seems that the Fed has created this good news is bad news, bad news is good news scenario,”Randy Bateman, who oversees $15 billion as chief investment officer of Huntington Asset Advisors in Columbus, Ohio, said by telephone. “The anticipation is that the Fed will retain its purchasing of $85 billion in monthly Treasury and mortgage securities, which is going to continue to help the housing market. That will be taken fairly well by the market.”

The S&P 500 climbed in 13 of the past 15 sessions, as companies beat estimates in the current earnings reporting season and signs of slower economic growth fueled bets the Fed will maintain stimulus measures after its two-day meeting that started today. The rally has pushed the index up 24% this year, leaving it poised for the best annual gain in a decade.

Well… there’s the good news. Where’s the bad news that causes this good news? Bloomberg continues: "Data today showed retail sales dropped 0.1% last month, restrained by the biggest decrease at auto dealers since October 2012. Wholesale prices unexpectedly fell in September as food costs retreated. Inflation has been running below the Fed’s 2% objective in the near-term, giving policy makers room to maintain monetary stimulus."

Hmmm… yes… bad. Janet Yellen does not like to hear about falling prices. She thinks her job is to make them go up. She wants more inflation, not less. So, there will be no tapering anytime soon. You can count on it.

A Free Pass to Corporate America: But everyone knows that the Fed’s $85 billion-a-month bond buying spree can’t last forever. And everyone knows that there will be hell to pay when it stops. Why? Because government finances, stock market prices, the bond market and the housing market depend on the Fed’s EZ money. And nobody wants to find out what happens when the Fed stops. Apocalypse Now? No, the feds prefer an Apocalypse Later situation…

The press referred to the recent threat of a government shutdown as Apocalypse Now. But it didn’t happen. The feds decided to go for Apocalypse Later. They kicked the can down the road to January. There will be no fiscal apocalypse either. Not as long as Congress still has a foot to boot the can with. The apocalypse will be delayed… postponed… and held off for as long as possible.

In the meantime, corporate America is enjoying higher corporate earnings (although top-line revenues remain challenged). Where do these higher earnings come from? Believe it or not, much of it comes courtesy of Fed policy. As Bonner & Partners editor-in-chief Chris Hunter has reported, since the March 2009 low, 60% of the expansion of corporate America’s operating earnings has been due to a reduction in interest expenses on debt.

And US corporations haven’t been shy about taking on new debt either. As Chris reported yesterday, corporate America (excluding the financial sector) has taken on $1 trillion in new debt over the last three years. This has brought the total debt load to $14 trillion – about twice the level it was at when Alan Greenspan issued his infamous “irrational exuberance” warning in 1996.

This Trend Can’t Last:
The cost of credit is so low that even the most reckless and least creditworthy corporations can still get loans… and stay in business. Junk bond defaults are running at only 1.6% – one-third the average level of the last 30 years. Meanwhile, the first 282 companies reporting earnings this season showed earnings up 5.7% on revenue increases of only 3.5%. How can you increase profits 60% faster than sales?

Easy: You borrow cheap money and lower your debt-service costs. Everyone knows that can’t last. Corporations can’t continue to borrow so much money at such low rates. But everyone is perfectly happy to postpone that apocalypse too.

Stock market investors are no dopes either. They know this Fed-driven bull market must come to an end sometime. By many different measures – P/Es… swollen margin accounts… enterprise-value-to-revenue ratios… investor sentiment – the stock market is already in the danger zone.

What will happen? Either the Fed will begin to taper – probably causing a crash. Or investors will get tired of investing real money in a phony trend. Either way, when the apocalypse comes… it will be later."

Musical Interlude: Deuter, "Illumination"


Deuter, "Illumination"
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxlMqABNx8M

Musical Interlude: Moody Blues, “Candle of Life”


 Moody Blues, “Candle of Life”
Uploaded by Moody Jill, who “gets it.”
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0p1MwX6vG4

"We Are Stardust"

"In a sense, human flesh is made of stardust… Every atom in the human body, excluding only the primordial hydrogen atoms, was fashioned in stars that formed, grew old and exploded most violently before the Sun and the Earth came into being. The explosions scattered the heavy elements as a fine dust through space. By the time it made the Sun, the primordial gas of the Milky Way was sufficiently enriched with heavier elements for rocky planets like the Earth to form. And from the rocks atoms escaped for eventual incorporation in living things: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur for all living tissue; calcium for bones and teeth; sodium and potassium for the workings of nerves and brains; the iron colouring blood red… and so on. No other conclusion of modern research testifies more clearly to mankind’s intimate connections with the universe at large and with the cosmic forces at work among the stars."
- Nigel Calder, "The Key to the Universe," BBC, 1977

"Illusions and Seagulls"

"There is a family of us who have this yearning for a kind of excellence that we can manifest every day of our lives, a family who wants to believe we're not pawns, we're not victims on this planet, that knows we have the power within us here and now to change the world we see around us!"

"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in 
each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."
- Richard Bach, "Illusions: The Adventures of A Reluctant Messiah"

"If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we've destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don't you think that we might see each other once or twice?"
- Richard Bach, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"

"Where Few Are Willing To Search..."

"It is easier to perceive error than to find truth,
for the former lies on the surface and is easily seen,
while the latter lies in the depth, where few are willing to search for it."  
-  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Jeff Wayne, “War Of The Worlds”

Jeff Wayne, “War Of The Worlds”, Full Album Disc 1

“This is the  full album “War Of The Worlds” by Jeff Wayne. It was released in 1978 and it retells the story of "The War of the Worlds" by H. G. Wells. Its format is progressive rock and string orchestra, using narration and leitmotifs to carry the story via rhyming melodic lyrics that express the feelings of the various characters. Narrative by Richard Burton.”



"War Of The Worlds", Disc 2

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Frightening forms and scary faces are a mark of the Halloween season. They also haunt this cosmic close-up of the eastern Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. While the Veil is roughly circular in shape covering nearly 3 degrees on the sky in the constellation Cygnus, this portion of the eastern Veil spans only 1/2 degree, about the apparent size of the Moon. That translates to 12 light-years at the Veil's reassuring estimated distance of 1,400 light-years from planet Earth. 

 Click image for larger size.
In the composite of image data recorded through narrow band filters, emission from hydrogen atoms in the remnant is shown in red with strong emission from oxygen atoms in blue-green hues. In the western part of the Veil lies another seasonal apparition, the Witch's Broom.”

"Passive Aggressive Behavior: Claiming our Feelings"

 "Passive Aggressive Behavior: Claiming our Feelings"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

The way to end passive aggressive behavior on your part or others’ is with complete honesty and truth in any situation. If you’ve ever found yourself repressing your anger and behaving in other ways to get your point across, you may be someone who is adept at engaging in passive-aggressive behavior. Although passive-aggressive behavior is recognized as a psychological disorder, it also describes the behavior that many people use to cope with confrontational situations. Such behavior has the outward appearance of being peaceful, yet it is really an attempt to express oneself in seemingly passive ways—usually without accepting responsibility for doing so. For example, someone who doesn’t want to attend an event with a partner might engage in behavior that causes them to be late or miss the event without ever admitting to their partner that they never wanted to go to the function at all. Procrastination, inefficiency, stubbornness, and sullenness are some of the many ways that anger can be expressed indirectly.

It is important not to judge ourselves when we engage in passive-aggressive behavior. You may want to consider that you are not owning your feelings or your expression by indirectly expressing yourself. Perhaps you are judging your feelings and needs as wrong—which is why you are expressing yourself indirectly. You also may be worried that others will judge you for feeling the way that you do. Remember that anger and every other emotion are never good or bad. They can, however, become toxic of you don’t express them in healthy and proactive ways. When we express ourselves directly, we are more likely to be heard by the other person. It also becomes easier for us to ask for and get what we want.

Once we learn to be honest with ourselves about our feelings, we can begin to directly express ourselves to others.  By learning to express ourselves directly, we prevent misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and resentment from cropping up in our relationships. We also learn to communicate with others in healthy and productive ways. It is never too late to start working on ourselves and our behaviors, just take it one day at a time."

Chet Raymo, “Retirement”

 
 “Retirement”
by Chet Raymo

    "Farewell, thou busy world! And may
    We never meet again!
    Here I can eat and sleep and pray,
    And do more good in one short day
    Than he who his whole age outwears
    Upon the most conspicuous theatres,
    Where naught but vanity and vice do reign."

"The first verse from a poem called "The Retirement" by Charles Cotton (1630-1687), a friend of Izaak Walton, about his private fishing retreat on the river Dove. The poem was incorporated into Walton's "The Compleat Angler."

And what do I make of it, now, in retirement? All these hours on hand to eat, sleep and pray all I want? "Good God! How sweet are all things here!" enthuses Cotton, "How beautiful the fields appear!...How happy here's our leisure!...How innocent our pleasure!"

Yes? No?

As I've mentioned, I've been rummaging lately in the junk room upstairs, which has been accumulating the intellectual detritus of my life for 50 years. It seems from the accumulated evidence that I always had sufficient hours on hand to eat, sleep and pray, if by prayer one means paying attention.

I have mixed feelings about retirement. On the one hand I have all these hours of the day to use as I want, to read and walk and meditate. On the other hand, I miss the stimulation of the unending buzz. It is clear as I rummage through the upstairs archive that I got more done that was spiritually and intellectually rewarding while juggling what in effect were three full-time jobs than I do now without a care in the world.
    "How calm and quiet a delight
    Is it, alone
    To read and meditate and write,
    By none offended and offending none!
    To walk, ride, sit, or sleep at one's own ease;
    And, pleasing a man's self, none other to displease."

And yet, and yet. Where is the rush and dither of creativity, the frenzy of fantasy and foolishness, the clash and clamor of happenstance? Here I sit now, on the rocking-chair porch of life, with no one but myself to please, grateful for those of you who stop by to visit these increasingly self-indulgent ramblings. Nudge me. Keep me awake. I feel a nap coming on.”

The Daily "Near You?"

 Butterworth, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia. Thanks for stopping by.

“Our Invisible Revolution”

 
“Our Invisible Revolution”
by Chris Hedges   

“Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in the world?” the anarchist Alexander Berkman wrote in his essay “The Idea Is the Thing.” “If you did, then your answer must have been that it is because the people support those institutions, and that they support them because they believe in them.”

Berkman was right. As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden.

It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing their efficacy across the political spectrum. The ideas that are rising to take their place, however, are inchoate. The right has retreated into Christian fascism and a celebration of the gun culture. The left, knocked off balance by decades of fierce state repression in the name of anti-communism, is struggling to rebuild and define itself. Popular revulsion for the ruling elite, however, is nearly universal. It is a question of which ideas will capture the public’s imagination.

"It is certain now that a popular revolt is coming."

Revolution usually erupts over events that would, in normal circumstances, be considered meaningless or minor acts of injustice by the state. But once the tinder of revolt has piled up, as it has in the United States, an insignificant spark easily ignites popular rebellion. No person or movement can ignite this tinder. No one knows where or when the eruption will take place. No one knows the form it will take. But it is certain now that a popular revolt is coming. The refusal by the corporate state to address even the minimal grievances of the citizenry, along with the abject failure to remedy the mounting state repression, the chronic unemployment and underemployment, the massive debt peonage that is crippling more than half of Americans, and the loss of hope and widespread despair, means that blowback is inevitable.

“Because revolution is evolution at its boiling point you cannot ‘make’ a real revolution any more than you can hasten the boiling of a tea kettle,” Berkman wrote. “It is the fire underneath that makes it boil: how quickly it will come to the boiling point will depend on how strong the fire is.”

Revolutions, when they erupt, appear to the elites and the establishment to be sudden and unexpected. This is because the real work of revolutionary ferment and consciousness is unseen by the mainstream society, noticed only after it has largely been completed. Throughout history, those who have sought radical change have always had to first discredit the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and construct alternative ideas for society, ideas often embodied in a utopian revolutionary myth. The articulation of a viable socialism as an alternative to corporate tyranny—as attempted by the book “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA” and the website Popular Resistance—is, for me, paramount. Once ideas shift for a large portion of a population, once the vision of a new society grips the popular imagination, the old regime is finished.

An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites. Social upheaval without clear definition and direction, without ideas behind it, descends into nihilism, random violence and chaos. It consumes itself. This, at its core, is why I disagree with some elements of the Black Bloc anarchists. I believe in strategy. And so did many anarchists, including Berkman, Emma Goldman, Pyotr Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin.

By the time ruling elites are openly defied, there has already been a nearly total loss of faith in the ideas—in our case free market capitalism and globalization—that sustain the structures of the ruling elites. And once enough people get it, a process that can take years, “the slow, quiet, and peaceful social evolution becomes quick, militant, and violent,” as Berkman wrote. “Evolution becomes revolution.”

This is where we are headed. I do not say this because I am a supporter of revolution. I am not. I prefer the piecemeal and incremental reforms of a functioning democracy. I prefer a system in which our social institutions permit the citizenry to nonviolently dismiss those in authority. I prefer a system in which institutions are independent and not captive to corporate power. But we do not live in such a system. Revolt is the only option left. Ruling elites, once the ideas that justify their existence are dead, resort to force. It is their final clutch at power. If a nonviolent popular movement is able to ideologically disarm the bureaucrats, civil servants and police—to get them, in essence, to defect—nonviolent revolution is possible. But if the state can organize effective and prolonged violence against dissent, it spawns reactive revolutionary violence, or what the state calls terrorism. Violent revolutions usually give rise to revolutionaries as ruthless as their adversaries. “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster,” Friedrich Nietzsche wrote. “And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Violent revolutions are always tragic. I, and many other activists, seek to keep our uprising nonviolent. We seek to spare the country the savagery of domestic violence by both the state and its opponents. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, especially with the corporate state controlling a vast internal security apparatus and militarized police forces. But we must try.

Corporations, freed from all laws, government regulations and internal constraints, are stealing as much as they can, as fast as they can, on the way down. The managers of corporations no longer care about the effects of their pillage. Many expect the systems they are looting to fall apart. They are blinded by personal greed and hubris. They believe their obscene wealth can buy them security and protection. They should have spent a little less time studying management in business school and a little more time studying human nature and human history. They are digging their own graves.

Our shift to corporate totalitarianism, like the shift to all forms of totalitarianism, is incremental. Totalitarian systems ebb and flow, sometimes taking one step back before taking two steps forward, as they erode democratic liberalism. This process is now complete. The “consent of the governed” is a cruel joke. Barack Obama cannot defy corporate power any more than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton could. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Bush, who is intellectually and probably emotionally impaired, did not understand the totalitarian process abetted by the presidency. Because Clinton and Obama, and their Democratic Party, understand the destructive roles they played and are playing, they must be seen as far more cynical and far more complicit in the ruination of the country. Democratic politicians speak in the familiar “I-feel-your-pain” language of the liberal class while allowing corporations to strip us of personal wealth and power. They are effective masks for corporate power.

The corporate state seeks to maintain the fiction of our personal agency in the political and economic process. As long as we believe we are participants, a lie sustained through massive propaganda campaigns, endless and absurd election cycles and the pageantry of empty political theater, our corporate oligarchs rest easy in their private jets, boardrooms, penthouses and mansions. As the bankruptcy of corporate capitalism and globalization is exposed, the ruling elite are increasingly nervous. They know that if the ideas that justify their power die, they are finished. This is why voices of dissent—as well as spontaneous uprisings such as the Occupy movement—are ruthlessly crushed by the corporate state.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

“Food Stamps In US To Be Reduced By $5 Billion, More Cuts To Follow”

 
“Food Stamps In US To Be Reduced By $5 Billion,
 More Cuts To Follow”
by RT

“The US food stamps system is set to be reduced starting November. The average benefit is set to shrink, and the number of people who receive it will drastically diminish – by millions.  Currently, the program costs about $80 billion per year and provides food aid nearly 15 per cent of all US households – over 45 million people. A big automatic cut is expected on November 1, taking $5 billion from federal food-stamp spending over 2014. The benefit is set to shrink by 5 per cent.


One of the reasons for the reduction is the temporary expansion of the food-stamp program in 2009 as part of the Recovery Act.  Thus, the maximum monthly benefit for a household of four will drop by $36 a month, by $29 for a family of three, and by $20 for two people, according to a report published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That bill spent $45.2 billion to increase monthly benefit levels to around $133. Now, almost 45 million people get food stamps - compared to 26.3 million, or 8.7% of the population, in 2007.

However, it isn’t the last reduction the program will see over the next few months, with the Congress set to resume the negotiations over the five-year farm bill. The Senate has so far approved the version of the farm bill that would make only minor changes to the food-stamp program, saving $4.5 billion over 10 years.

House Republicans, though, voted on a bill that takes $39 billion from the program over the decade, planning to remove 3,800,000 people from the program over 2014.  First, the Republicans are going to limit the benefits for able-bodied, childless adults aged 18 to 50, with the critics stating that employment options are scarce across the country, which will virtually let people starve.

Second, the House bill would restrict states' abilities to determine a person's eligibility for food stamps based in part on whether they qualify for other low-income benefits, The Washington Post reported. This is called "categorical eligibility" and has generally allowed families just above the poverty line to get food stamps if they have unusually high housing costs or are facing other difficulties.

These changes are not set in stone because the Congressmen may not adopt them. However, the states may act on their own, putting some restrictions into practice. In 2013, 44 states qualified for federal waivers that would allow more able-bodied adults to receive food stamps if unemployment in the area was particularly high.

Kansas already let its waiver expire at the start of October, a change that could affect as many as 20,000 people. Oklahoma passed a bill to add a similar work requirement to its food-stamp program. Ohio is also going to apply similar restrictions starting January 1, and Wisconsin will follow suit next July.”

"Why Not?"

God knows we have an over abundance of it...

The Economy: “The Fed Was Right...Maybe… Perhaps… Probably… Could Be, But Who Knows?”

 
 “The Fed Was Right...”
by Bill Bonner

“Yesterday, markets did nothing. Gold and US stocks ended the day roughly flat. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. A crash? A bubble? Not for us! For dear readers who had lingering doubts, we just proved we are no good at predicting the future. We missed one of the biggest bull markets in history! Bloomberg has the details: "The S&P 500 rose 0.1% to 1,762.15 at 4 p.m. in New York. The gauge has rallied 23.6% this year, which would be the best annual gain since a 26.4% surge in 2003. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.09 points, or less than 0.1%, to 15,569.19.

“The most bullish thing a market can do is go up, and that’s what it’s been doing,” Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at RW Baird & Co, said by phone from Sarasota, Florida. His firm oversees $100 billion. “With Janet Yellen coming on stream and the latest jobs data that was a disappointment, that suggests that the Fed will continue to ease and print money until at least March and probably beyond.”

Fed policy makers meet Tuesday and Wednesday to consider whether economic growth is strong enough to start trimming $85 billion of bond purchases. This month’s 16-day government shutdown took at least $24 billion out of the economy and will spur central-bank policy makers to wait until March to scale back the stimulus, a Bloomberg survey showed this month.

We should have had more faith in the feds. They set out in a panic to boost asset prices. “Yes we can!” they said. “No you can’t,” we replied. In our case, we are dealing with family money. And it would have been incredibly reckless and foolish to have moved 100% of our family money into US stocks. (We follow a strict asset allocation strategy that prevents us from betting the farm on any single investment.)

Besides, we assumed the feds would mess it up. And we believed their recovery efforts would end in failure – like nearly every other federal program since World War II. Then the stock market would be doomed to a final bear-market selloff, similar to 1982, when you could buy all you wanted for only six times earnings. (At one point, you could have bought the Dow for a single ounce of gold.)

Well, we were right… and wrong. As to the recovery, it has been a dud, just as we said it would be. Americans, on average, have gotten poorer every year since 2007. What kind of recovery is it when disposable household income goes down? It is no recovery at all. But as to the stock market, the dumbbells were right. It didn’t retrace half of its losses, as we predicted. It retraced 100%... and kept going… more than doubling investors’ money.

But wait... What kind of stock market is it that doubles in price even though the economy on which it depends barely limps along? From whence cometh a bull market, if not from the growth and prosperity of the society it serves? It was not a boom you could depend on, we reasoned. It was a precarious and dangerously manipulated boom – a boom driven by the fed’s policies, not by real growth. It was just a matter of time, we guessed, before it would blow up.

And so we hoisted our poor “Crash Alert” flag, where it has stayed for months… soaked in the rain… bleached in the sun. The poor thing is now in tatters. Even so, we’re afraid to take it down! If stocks were risky in 2008… they’re more than twice as risky now! But so what? Prices have gone up. That’s all that matters, right? The bulls were right. The bears were wrong… and we were wrong along with them.

Still, without genuine economic growth, what made US companies worth twice as much? Well, three things.

First, corporate earnings rose. But behind that story lurked another sordid tale. Since the March 2009 low, nearly two-thirds of the rise in operating earnings for S&P 500 companies has come from neither higher sales nor increased productivity. Instead, it has come from lower interest expenses on corporate debt. Corporate America is a debtor. It benefits from lower interest rates, while savers lose.

Second, as the so-called “risk free” return on bonds falls, future earnings streams from stocks look more attractive on a relative basis. (Wall Street prices stocks based off bond yields. The lower bond yields are, the more attractive stocks look by comparison.)

Third, by evaporating the yields off bonds, the Fed has forced investors to “reach for yield” elsewhere. An obvious place to look is stocks.

Between these three things – not to mention the implicit guarantee by the feds to backstop the stock market – the Dow rose to over 15,500 – an increase worth about $8 trillion to investors.

Let’s get this straight. Corporations haven’t been selling much more product (reflected in relatively static top-line revenues). Nor have they been hiring more employees or paying higher wages… thus expanding the base of potential buyers for their products. What was really going was that the Fed goosed up stock prices. And now (maybe… perhaps… probably… could be, but who knows) it is headed for disaster."
Humpty Dumpty, indeed...

Satire: “Congress Spends Several Hours Pretending to Understand Internet”

 
“Congress Spends Several Hours Pretending to Understand Internet”
by Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—  “In an impressive white-knuckle performance on live television today, members of Congress spent several hours in a hearing room pretending to understand the Internet. Beginning this morning, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee devoted four hours to grilling Web-site contractors about site architecture, Web traffic, software, and other I.T. concepts about which their ignorance is nearly complete.

“As members of this committee, we are supposed to have a deep understanding of the technology involved in the health-care Web site,” said Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan). “So it was absolutely imperative for us to fake that we do.”

For the duration of the hearings, the Web contractors offered detailed testimony about “end-to-end testing,” “enterprise identity management,” and other technical concepts to a group of elected officials who can barely use e-mail. “I would say that, to a man, we did not understand ninety-nine per cent of that computer nonsense they were going on about,” Chairman Upton said. “To me it was a whole lot of blahbitty-blahbitty-blah. I hope it wasn’t too obvious.”

Rep. Upton said that “looking serious and nodding our heads a lot” contributed to the illusion that committee members had even scant comprehension of what was being discussed. “At the end of the day, a lot of it came down to not asking the questions you really wanted to ask,” he said. “Like, ‘What exactly is a Web site?’”

"How It Really Is"

And despite the NSA, and God knows what other "alphabet agencies", 
this is how it's really going to be...
And you, Good Citizen, better not either...
- CP