Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Georg Deuter, “Lavender Fields”
“What will become of these galaxies? Spiral galaxies NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 are passing dangerously close to each other, but each is likely to survive this collision. Typically when galaxies collide, a large galaxy eats a much smaller galaxy. In this case, however, the two galaxies are quite similar, each being a sprawling spiral with expansive arms and a compact core. As the galaxies advance over the next tens of millions of years, their component stars are unlikely to collide, although new stars will form in the bunching of gas caused by gravitational tides.
Click image for larger size.
Close inspection of the above image taken by the 8-meter Gemini-South Telescope in Chile shows a bridge of material momentarily connecting the two giants. Known collectively as Arp 271, the interacting pair spans about 130,000 light years and lies about 90 million light-years away toward the constellation of Virgo. Recent predictions hold that our Milky Way Galaxy will undergo a similar collision with the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years.”
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by Chet Raymo
"Poor Calvin is overwhelmed with the vastness of the cosmos and no small dose of existential angst. He is not the first, of course. Most famously the 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal wailed his own despair: "I feel engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces whereof I know nothing and which know nothing of me. I am terrified...The eternal silence of these infinite spaces alarms me."
And he didn't know the half of it. Not so long ago we imagined ourselves to be the be-all and end-all of creation, at the center of a cosmos made expressly for us and at the pinnacle of the material Great Chain of Being. Then it turned out that the Earth was not the center of the cosmos. Nor the Sun. Nor the Galaxy. The astronomers Sebastian von Hoerner and Carl Sagan raised this experience to the level of a principle -- the Principle of Mediocrity -- which can be stated something like this: The view from here is about the same as the view from anywhere else. Or to put it another way: Our star, our planet, the life on it, and even our own intelligence, are completely mediocre.
Moon rocks are just like Earth rocks. Photographs of the surface of Mars made by the landers and rovers could as well have been made in Nevada. Meteorites contain some of the same organic compounds that are the basis for terrestrial life. Gas clouds in the space between the stars are composed of precisely the same atoms and molecules that we find in our own backyard. The most distant galaxies betray in their spectra the presence of familiar elements.
And yet, and yet, for all we know, our brains are the most complex things in the universe. Are we then living, breathing refutations of the Principle of Mediocrity. I doubt it. For the time being, Calvin will just have to get used to living in the infinite abyss and eternal silence. He has Hobbes. We have each other. And science. And poetry. And love."
“Even in our darkest times, there are seeds of light within ourselves, we need only call them forward. Anyone who has walked through the valley of despair and come out the other side knows that even in that darkness, seeds of light can be found. Often their tendrils reach out of the gloom and into the daylight alongside the journeyer who emerges from that deep sorrow. When we find ourselves in a place of despair, it can help us to know this, so that we don’t give up. We can stop, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves that we will find ourselves on the other side of this troubled time, and that we may even emerge with something new to offer.
It seems that despair has been around for as long as humans have been able to express themselves, and many of the great artists, teachers, and visionaries have labored through times of depression and hopelessness. Their words, images, and lives can serve as beacons in the darkness, even if they can’t always immediately lead us out. In the end, we must find our own way, and this is why despair often overwhelms us when it comes; we doubt that we have the resources to contend with such a formidable presence all by ourselves. This is when we must come to our own aid and know in our hearts that we have what it takes to keep moving forward in the general direction of the light.
Even though we must ultimately rely on ourselves, this doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help. Our friends and families can help us, as can our inner guides and helping spirits. They can serve the purpose of a fire that burns throughout the night, keeping us warm, and providing a light by which we might see the changes we may need to make in order to move forward. In addition, there truly are seeds of light inside us, however small, waiting to unfurl their green shoots, if only we will give them the time.”
"My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-
and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces."
- Rainer Maria Rilke
by Jim Quinn
“In America, the criminally insane rule and the rest of us,
or the vast majority of the rest of us, either do not care, do not know,
or are distracted and properly brainwashed into acquiescence.”
- Kurt Nimmo
“What are the facts? Again and again and again– what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the un-guessable “verdict of history”– what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!” - Robert A. Heinlein
Facts are treasonous and dangerous in an empire of lies, fraud and propaganda. It is maddening to watch the country spiral downward, driven to ruin by a psychotic predator class, while the plebs choose to remain willfully ignorant of reality and distracted by their lust for cheap Chinese crap and addicted to the cult of techno-narcissism. We are a country running on heaping doses of cognitive dissonance and normalcy bias, an irrational belief in our national exceptionalism, an absurd trust in the same banking class that destroyed the finances of the country, and a delusionary belief that with just another trillion dollars of debt we’ll be back on the exponential growth track. The American empire has been built on a foundation of cheap easily accessible oil, cheap easily accessible credit, the most powerful military machine in human history, and the purposeful transformation of citizens into consumers through the use of relentless media propaganda and a persistent decades long dumbing down of the masses through the government education system.
This national insanity is not a new phenomenon. Friedrich Nietzsche observed the same spectacle in the 19th century: “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”
The “solutions” imposed by the supposed brightest financial Ivy League educated minds and corrupt bought off political class upon people of the United States since the Wall Street created 2008 worldwide financial collapse are insane and designed to only further enrich the crony capitalists and their banker brethren. The maniacs are ruling the asylum. John Lennon saw the writing on the wall forty five years ago: “Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends, and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.” – John Lennon, Interview BBC-TV (June 22, 1968)
The world is most certainly ruled by a small group of extremely wealthy evil men who desire ever more treasure, supremacy and control, but the vast majority of Americans have stood idly by mesmerized by their iGadgets and believing buying shit they don’t need with money they don’t have is the path to happiness and prosperity, while their wealth, liberty and self-respect were stolen by the financial elite. Our idiot culture, that celebrates reality TV morons, low IQ millionaires playing children’s sports, egomaniacal Hollywood hacks, self-promoting Wall Street financers, and self-serving corrupt ideologue politicians, has been degenerating for decades.
“We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot sub-culture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal.” - Carl Bernstein, 1992
The examples of our national insanity are almost too vast to document, but any critical assessment of what we’ve done over the last one hundred years reveals the idiocracy that has engulfed our collapsing empire.
The Madness of Crowds: “In reading "The History of Nations", we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.” – Charles MacKay, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds"
We have become a nation that seamlessly goes mad every five years in pursuit of some new delusionary fantasy sold to us by the ruling class, only to see those dreams shattered like a wooden ship on the reef of reality. You can never underestimate the power of human stupidity. Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen and their Federal Reserve cronies have printed $2.6 trillion of new money out of thin air since September 2008 in order to prop up their Wall Street owners, who had engineered the largest control fraud (mortgage debt/housing bubble) in world history, recklessly gambled in their ravenous appetite for sordid profits, and drove their firms into insolvency. It took the Federal Reserve 95 years to accumulate a balance sheet of $900 billion of safe U.S. Treasuries.
They have insanely quadrupled their balance sheet in the last 5 years by accumulating toxic mortgage debt from Wall Street banks and purchasing the majority of new Treasury debt being issued to fund the Federal government’s insane trillion dollar annual deficits. Bernanke, the corporate media, government apparatchiks, and captured political class act as if this is normal, when it is clearly the act of a desperate ruling class in its final death throes. The Fed has leveraged its balance sheet 60 to 1. Lehman and Bear Stearns were leveraged 30 to 1 when they collapsed. The 100 basis point move in rates over the space of two months has resulted in Bernanke losing $200 billion and effectively wiping out his $55 billion of capital.
Of course, in a corrupt regime accounting fraud is encouraged and applauded by the status quo. Just as the spineless accountants on the FASB buckled to threats from Bernanke and Paulson in early 2009 and reversed the requirement that assets be marked to market so the felonious Wall Street banks could fraudulently hide their insolvency, the Federal Reserve has decided their losses don’t matter. The Federal Reserve classifies their losses as an asset. Don’t you wish you could classify your 401k losses and your home value losses as an asset? The tapering bullshit storyline is just another attempt to distract the masses from focusing on the fact that Bernanke will never stop expanding his balance sheet because if he stops the financial system will collapse in a catastrophic implosion. The Ponzi scheme will continue until loss of faith leads to a scramble away from the U.S. dollar.
Since the infamous creation of the Federal Reserve by a secretive cabal of bankers and politicians in 1913, the ultimate destination of the American empire was set. Every fiat currency in world history has collapsed. Our entire system has been based on infinite exponential growth. The fallacy of American exceptionalism has been built on an underpinning of pure stupid luck and the issuance of more and more debt. The American empire grew to epic proportions due to the discovery of cheap easily accessible oil in the late 19th century and the physical and economic destruction of Europe, Russia and Japan during World War II. The accumulation of debt was fairly moderate during the glory years after World War II, but began to accelerate after the fateful year of 1971 when U.S. oil production peaked and Tricky Dick Nixon removed the last vestiges of restraint from central bankers and politicians by closing the gold window. With the shackles removed from the wrists of corruptible knaves and shysters, America’s future depended upon the wisdom, honest and financial acumen of Washington politicians and Wall Street financers. Once the citizens realized they could vote for more bread and circuses, our ultimate demise was set in motion. A nation that had produced real annual growth of 4% during the 1950’s and 1960’s has seen a steady decline for the last four decades.
The term pushing on a string describes the Quantitative Easing (literally money printing) and Keynesian debt financed pork spending efforts of our increasingly frantic owners. The insanity of what we’ve done since 1971 is almost too crazy to comprehend. In the first 182 years of our existence the leaders we elected to steward the nation accumulated $400 billion of national debt. By 1981, unleashed from any semblance of spending control, the politicians and bankers had added another $600 billion of debt, a 150% increase in 10 years. By 1991 our beloved leaders had added another $2.6 trillion of debt, another 160% increase in 10 years. By 2001 another $2.2 trillion had been accumulated, only a 60% increase due to the end of the Cold War and a one-time tax surge from the Dot.com stock bubble. Bush’s worldwide War on Terror, expansion of the police state, tax rebate stimulus idiocy, and expansion of the welfare state (Medicare Part D) drove the national debt up by another $2.2 trillion in just eight years, a 40% increase.
The insane amassing of debt since 2008 has put a final nail in the coffin of the ridiculous Keynesian theory, as the Federal government has increased annual spending by 35% over the last five years and the economy is still moribund. Our fearless leaders have driven the national debt from $7.8 trillion to $17.7 trillion in less than five years, a 110% increase. The country continues to add $2 to $3 billion of debt per day. Consider how insane it is that we now accumulate more debt in half a year than we did cumulatively over the first 182 years of our existence as a country. And our elected, or should I say selected, leaders, cheer on the intellectually bankrupt academics like Bernanke whose only solution to every crisis is to print moar and then lie to the American people about his true purpose, act as if annually spending $1 trillion more than we collect while knowing there are over $200 trillion of unfunded promises to fulfill is a reasonable and realistic way to manage the national finances. Any sane person knows our current path will lead to ruin. When you need to issue new debt in order to honor old debt, the end is in sight.
The multitude of insane responses to a financial crisis created by a few greedy psychopathic bankers will be looked upon by historians with contempt and scorn. Future generations will wonder “What were they thinking?” Trillions in wealth were vaporized due to the actions of a small secretive league of highly educated, egocentric psychopaths whose warped sense of morality led them to pillage the wealth of the nation through fraudulent financial products, bribing regulatory agencies, stabbing clients and competitors in the back, and peddling lies, propaganda and misinformation to the public through their captured media mouthpieces. Not only haven’t any predator bankers been thrown in jail, but these villains have grown their parasitic entities to enormous proportions while paying themselves obscene billion dollar bonuses. Jon Corzine stole $1.2 billion directly from the accounts of his customers to cover his gambling losses and he remains free to laze about in one of his five gated mansions. The largest banks on earth have been caught red handed forging mortgage documents, rigging LIBOR, front running the muppets with non-public economic information, insider dealing, and using their HFT supercomputers to manipulate the markets at their whim. Government spy agencies regularly use the U.S. Constitution like toilet paper while accumulating electronic dossiers on every citizen in the country. The rule of law does not exist for the ruling class.
Only in a world gone insane would we be celebrating Wall Street generating all-time high profits through the use of accounting fraud and Bernanke filling their coffers with trillions of interest free money while bilking senior citizens out of $400 billion per year of interest income through his dastardly ZIRP “save a Wall Street banker” scheme. The Federal Reserve has stolen close to $2 trillion from the bank accounts of little old ladies since 2008 and given it to Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfien and the rest of the Wall Street scumbags. While Wall Street and the crony capitalist mega-corporations report record profits, Main Street is left with 5 million less full-time jobs than they had in 2007 and a real unemployment rate exceeding 20%. While the government has insanely reported a recovering economy since mid-2009, the food stamp rolls have grown from 33 million to 47 million. The ruling class cheers the record highs in the stock market that overwhelmingly benefit the top .1% because they are the .1%. Meanwhile, the average schmuck out in the hinterlands is paying double the price they were paying for gas in 2009 and their everyday living costs are rising by greater than 5% annually. Luckily for the financial elite, the average American would rather watch Honey Boo Boo than try to understand the evilness of Federal Reserve created inflation. The economic recovery storyline is obliterated by the fact that real household income is still 9% below its 2008 peak and amazingly 8% below its 2000 level.
Since the 2009 low, the household net worth of the wealthiest 7% has grown by 28%, while the other 93% have seen their net worth decline by a further 4%. The profits accrue to those who run the show, buy the politicians, write the laws, command the media propaganda machine and control the currency. As a sane person in this insane world I’m flabbergasted that there is virtually no outrage at the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity. Americans have earned the moniker – ignorant masses. Bread and circuses have won the day in our declining empire. The oligarchs thank you.
The blame doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of the evil men running the show. They have only done what we allowed them to do. From top to bottom our society has hopped on the crazy train. The lack of national morality, sense of civic duty, inter-generational responsibility, and willful ignorance regarding sensible financial policies has led us to a tipping point. Decades of feckless self-serving political leadership making entitlement promises they could never honor to win votes, combined with a parasitic financial class peddling debt to millions of witless, narcissistic, math challenged, materialistic morons, has left the country in debt up to its eyeballs with no escape other than cataclysmic default. Michael Lewis documents the bleeding out of our society in his recent book:
“The people who had the power in the society, and were charged with saving it from itself, had instead bled the society to death. The problem with police officers and firefighters isn’t a public sector problem; it isn’t a problem with government; it’s a problem with the entire society. It’s what happened on Wall Street in the run-up to the subprime crisis. It’s a problem of taking what they can, just because they can, without regard to the larger social consequences. It’s not just a coincidence that the debts of cities and states spun out of control at the same time as the debts of individual Americans. Alone in a dark room with a pile of money, Americans knew exactly what they wanted to do, from the top of the society to the bottom. They’d been conditioned to grab as much as they could, without thinking about the long-term consequences. Afterward, the people on Wall Street would privately bemoan the low morals of the American people who walked away from their subprime loans, and the American people would express outrage at the Wall Street people who paid themselves a fortune to design the bad loans.” – Michael Lewis, "Boomerang"
The insanity of our debt accumulation in relation to our pathetic economic growth is clearly evident to even an Ivy League educated economist or a bubble headed CNBC anchorwoman. Since 1971 nominal GDP has grown by a factor of 14. Over this same time frame total credit market debt (household, corporate, government) has grown by a factor of 32. Real GDP (even using the fraudulent BLS manipulated CPI) has only expanded by a factor of 3.5 since 1971. The exponential growth model is clearly failing, with debt going hyperbolic, while GDP has stagnated.
Since 2007 real GDP has gone up $500 billion while total credit market debt has gone up by $6 trillion. Only an insane society would allow itself to be convinced by the perpetrators of the financial crimes that collapsed our economic system that accelerating the level of debt in our system will resolve the dilemma of Too Big to Trust banker insolvency. Transferring the immense losses of greedy sham capitalist gambling addicts from their insolvent balance sheets onto the balance sheets of the taxpayer has allowed the criminals to retain and expand their wealth, while sovereign states shift the pain and suffering onto the backs of the sinking middle class. This is a worldwide phenomenon perpetuated by central bankers at the behest of their crony capitalist co-conspirators. They call it capitalism when the scams, dodges and swindles work and the profits accrue to the schemers. When the gamblers and extreme risk addicts roll craps they use their crony capitalist connections, bought with blood money, to socialize their losses. The game is rigged and your owners don’t care about your hopes and dreams or your children’s future. They care about their own wealth and lifestyles of luxury. When the richest 300 people in the world have a greater net worth than the poorest 3 billion people on earth, a sane person realizes a chaotic end of the existing social order beckons.
“All over the world people borrowed vast sums of money they could never repay. The honest toting up, and taking, of the losses is being delayed. There’s a reason for this. The bad debts are owed, largely, to big banks. The big banks (even bigger than they were at the start of this crisis) and the people who own them enjoy a wildly disproportionate amount of political influence. And so, even now, five years into this mess, we remain at the mercy of the failed financial institutions that sit at the center of our capitalism. Geithner & Bernanke, along with their European counterparts, are doing everything in their power to prevent banks from failing. But the effect of this new financial order is bizarre: capitalism for everyone but the capitalists. Ordinary workers remain fully exposed to the increasingly harsh collisions in the marketplace while the highest paid financial elites ride protected by a passenger airbag.” – Michael Lewis, "Boomerang"
Clearly we’ve entered the final phase of our debt financed orgy of narcissistic materialism and self-absorbed avarice. The unsustainability of our course is a fact. Our society has gone mad en-masse but we are only recovering our sanity one by one. The global financial system is insolvent. A fractional reserve fiat money based system requires continuous growth or it collapses. The global banking system is overleveraged and real global growth is stagnant. Central bankers are not smart men. They have one response to every crisis – print!!! Bernanke and his fellow banker cronies are printing at hyper-speed in order to prop up the terminally ill mega-banks. Bernanke feigns confusion at the fact that his QE to infinity and ZIRP have only benefitted his banker puppet masters and the richest .1%, while further impoverishing senior citizen savers and the working middle class.
The anger at the true Wall Street malefactors manifested itself in the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street movement, but both efforts were quickly hijacked by neo-con right wingers and socialist left wingers for their own ideological purposes. The existing social order continues to hold the reins of power, but their grip is growing precarious. The anger, dismay and resentment in the country simmer beneath the surface. The average person senses that all is not well, but most absurdly continue to believe the lies and propaganda spewed at them on a daily basis by the ruling class and their corporate media pawns. When the next shoe drops and billions of stock market and housing wealth are wiped out again, the national anger will sweep away the corrupt social order in a torrent of blood and retribution. Innocent and guilty alike will suffer the consequences. Michael Lewis is somewhat perplexed by the lack of outrage and violence so far.
“A lot has happened. And yet, given the provocation, it’s amazing how little has happened. No one on Wall Street has been shot, or even jailed – and the existing social order has not been seriously challenged. There’s a reason for this, too. The anger arising from the financial crisis finds no natural channel. In another era – an era before catastrophic experiments with radical socialism and nationalism – we would be watching market capitalism being displaced by something far uglier. But today there is no natural place for anger to flow, and so the anger flows haphazardly, like raindrops down a windowpane. The only political ideology that anger benefits these days is anarchy. From the point of view of those who enjoy political stability, it’s a stroke of luck that anarchists have no natural talent for organizing themselves. But how long will it take them to learn?” – Michael Lewis, "Boomerang"
“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is apt to spread discontent among those who are.”
– H.L. Mencken
"Here Come the Money Helicopters!"
by Bill Bonner
LONDON – "We interrupt our series on what to do if you have no money to bring you an update on those who are losing it. (You can catch up on Parts I and II of that series here and here.) What was the best place for your money so far in 2015? Cash! Compared to cash, almost everything is down.
$10 Trillion Goes to Money Heaven: We are headed for the worst quarter for stocks since 2011, says the lead story in today’s Financial Times. Global stock markets have lost $10 trillion of their value over the last three months. What? Where did all that paper wealth go? The old-timers say it went to “money heaven.”
We’re not so sure. But we stop. We stare. We look at it as we would at a corpse. What happened to its life force? Where did it go? Why is it no longer there? We have no answer. But looking at a stock market sell-off is like standing over an open coffin: We are in awe at the power of the gods to take as well as to give. They ask no one’s permission. They follow their own playbook (which they never reveal to mortals). And they are as much a law unto themselves as the NSA. But what’s $10 trillion that never actually existed anyway? Easy come, easy go, right? Well… yes… and no. It’s usually a pleasure to welcome a baby, but a funeral can be painful. And every one of those dollars – now headed for heaven or hell – will be missed by someone.
Yesterday, the Dow rose 154 points to 16,049. That left the stock market overvalued by about 8,000 points. At least, that is the assessment of billionaire investor and Wall Street legend Carl Icahn. The current price-earnings ratio for the Dow is 15, he says, and “half of that is bulls**t.” “Money talks and bulls**t walks,” is the old expression. And sometimes the bulls**t walks out the door… taking the money with it. That is what has been happening in this quarter. And not only in the U.S. The biggest losses have been suffered abroad. Japan, for example, deserves special notice.
Our Trade of the Decade Sours: After a quarter-century of a bear market, we figured Japanese investors were sure to catch a break. And Japanese bonds had been so overbought for so long, the market in JGBs was bound to run into trouble. This trade looked pretty good a few weeks ago. Japanese stocks were up almost 20% this year alone in dollar terms. That was largely thanks to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 's plan to devalue the yen and one of his so-called "Three Arrows." But like all macroeconomic engineering by public officials, the plan soon revealed itself as just more bulls**t.
Instead of stimulating the economy, Abe’s first two arrows – monetary and fiscal easing – struck vital organs, draining away what little life was left. Japan is now on the verge of a technical recession. Its economy shrank in the second quarter. And it’s on the verge of repeating the trick in the quarter just ending. In fact, so disappointing were the results that Abe forgot his third arrow – structural reform – and instead picked up a new quiver with the usual assortment of crooked and twisted policy claptrap. But the bulls**t walked out the door anyway, with Japanese stocks giving up all this year’s gains. Japan’s economy is shrinking. And deflation came back to life the day after Abe proclaimed it dead.
And now cometh Etsuro Honda, a special advisor to Mr. Abe and often described as an “architect” of Abenomics. Mr. Honda says it may be premature to say Japan is in recession. Instead, he describes the economy as “static.” In yesterday’s interview with the Financial Times, Honda took no blame for the slowdown, even though he, as much as any living human being, is clearly responsible for it. Instead, he proposes to go “full retard,” with even more imbecilic policies.
QE for the People: This, we fear, is not just a freaky sideshow. It is more like the coming attractions. Japan has led the world for the last three decades – first with an unsustainable bubble economy in the 1980s… then with a meltdown… followed by a long on-again-off-again recession.
The Japanese feds tried every trick in the book to revive the economy – except for the one that would have worked. The government borrowed and spent (as a percentage of the economy) more than any nation had ever done. And it invented ZIRP and QE as policy tools.
But now it’s become “urgent,” says Honda, to do more. Hasn’t he done enough already? you may ask. But no… He now proposes more QQE (for “qualitative and quantitative easing”).
What grotesquerie lies ahead? Our mouth hangs open. What is this strange beast slouching towards the Eccles Building (the headquarters of the U.S. Fed)…waiting to be born? The idea behind Japan’s quantitative easing was to INCREASE the quantity of money in the system so as to DECREASE the quality of each unit.
It was expressly meant to devalue the yen so that consumers would want to get rid of their currency faster. QQE makes no sense… even in the perverse terms of modern central bank meddling.
But wait. There’s more. Honda says it will be accompanied by a “supplementary budget, focusing on the real income shortage of mid- and low-income households.” Right now, this proposed extra spending is being funded out of taxes. But support is growing around the world for such spending to be funded by “People’s QE.” The idea behind “People’s QE” is that central banks would directly fund government spending… and even inject money directly into household bank accounts, if need be. And the idea is catching on.
Already the European Central Bank is buying bonds of the European Investment Bank, an E.U. institution that finances infrastructure projects. And the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is backing a British version of this scheme. Ah-ha! That’s the monster coming to towns and villages near you! Call it “overt monetary financing.” Call it “money from helicopters.” Call in “insane.” But it won’t be unpopular. Who will protest when the feds begin handing our money to “mid- and low-income households”?
We wait. We watch. We wonder how the Japanese will attempt to bring back to life the economy they have worked so hard to kill. And now, all over the world, central planners, bankers, and politicians are watching too. “Where goest the Bank of Japan, there too I shall go,” they tell themselves. Stay tuned…"
“3 Reasons America Is Totally Paranoid Despite
Being the Only Superpower on Earth”
By Tom Engelhardt
“Given the cluttered landscape of the last 14 years, can you even faintly remember the moment when the Berlin Wall came down, the Cold War ended in a stunned silence of shock and triumph in Washington, Eastern Europe was freed, Germany unified, and the Soviet Union vanished from the face of the Earth? At that epochal moment, six centuries of imperial rivalries ended. Only one mighty power was left.
There hadn’t been a moment like it in historical memory: a single “hyperpower” with a military force beyond compare looming over a planet without rivals. Under the circumstances, what couldn’t Washington hope for? The eternal domination of the Middle East and all that oil? A planetary Pax Americana for generations to come? Why not? After all, not even the Romans and the British at the height of their empires had experienced a world quite like this one.
Now, leap a quarter of a century to the present and note the rising tide of paranoia in this country and the litany of predictions of doom and disaster. Consider the extremity of fear and gloom in the party of Ronald “It’s Morning Again in America” Reagan in what are called “debates” among its presidential candidates, and it’s hard not to imagine that we aren't at the precipice of the decline and fall of just about everything. The American Century? So much sawdust on the floor of history.
If, however, you look at the country that its top politicians can now hardly mention without defensively wielding the words “exceptional” or “indispensable,” the truly exceptional thing is this: as a great power, the United States still stands alone on planet Earth and Americans can exhibit all the paranoia they want in remarkable safety and security. Here, then, are three exceptional facts of our moment.
Exceptional Fact #1: Failure Is Success, or the U.S. Remains the Sole Superpower: If you were to isolate the single most striking, if little discussed, aspect of American foreign policy in the first 15 years of this century, it might be that Washington’s inability to apply its power successfully just about anywhere confirms that very power; in other words, failure is a marker of success. Let me explain.
In the post-9/11 years, American power in various highly militarized forms has been let loose repeatedly across a vast swath of the planet from the Chinese border to deep in Africa- and nowhere in those 14 years, despite dreams of glory and global dominion, has the U.S. succeeded in any of its strategic goals. That should qualify as exceptional in itself. After all, what are the odds that, in all that time, nothing should turn out as planned or positively by Washington’s standards? It could not win its war in Afghanistan; nor its two wars, one ongoing, in Iraq; nor has it had success in its present one in Syria; it failed to cow Iran; its intervention in Libya proved catastrophic; its various special ops and drone campaigns in Yemen have led to chaos in that country; and so, as novelist Kurt Vonnegut used to say, it goes.
Though there was much talk in the early years of this century of “nation building” abroad, American power has been able to build nothing. Its effect everywhere has been purely disintegrative (unless you count the creation of a terror “caliphate” in parts of collapsed Syria and Iraq as a non-disintegrative act). Under the pressure of American power, there have been no victories, nor even in any traditional sense successes, while whole countries have collapsed, populations have been uprooted, and peoples put into flight by the millions. No matter how you measure it, American power has, in other words, been a tempest of failure.
Where, then, does success lie? The answer: despite 15 years bouncing from one militaristic disaster to another, can there be any question that, signs of decline or not, the United States remains the uncontested sole superpower of planet Earth? Consider that a testimony to the wealth and strength of the country. In many ways- certainly, in military terms (despite the hue and cry at the recent Republican debates)- there is no power that could or would contest it.
If you listen to the Republicans, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, now seems to stand in almost alone for the former Soviet Union. He and his country are, so Republicans, neocons, and top military figures agree, hands down the country’s greatest enemy, a genuine “existential threat” to the U.S. But looked at in a clear-eyed fashion, this monstrous (yet strangely familiar) enemy is in many ways a house of cards. Or put another way, Putin as a leader has managed to do a remarkable amount (much of it grim indeed, from Ukraine to Syria) with remarkably little. To compare him, no less his country, to the former Soviet Union in its heyday is, however, simply a bad joke (except perhaps when it comes to its still superpower-sized nuclear arsenal). He is, in fact, the head of a rickety, embattled energy state at a time when the price of oil seems to be headed for the sub-basement.
As for China, always assumed to be the coming superpower of the later twenty-first century, don’t count on it. As recent economic events there have reminded us, it’s a country on the edge. Despite more than four “to get rich is glorious” decades and remarkable economic growth, it remains a relatively poor land whose leadership doesn’t know what might happen if, as in any capitalist economy, bubbles were to burst, things went south, and the economy began to tank. Yes, its military budget, though still modest by Pentagon standards, is rising and it’s growing increasingly aggressive in the neighborhood, but its leaders still show no sign of wanting to garrison the planet or become a true military competitor to the U.S. in anything but the most local terms.
And China aside, a quarter-century after the Soviet Union imploded, there are still no other potential rivals anywhere on Earth, just strapped regional powers of various sorts and, of course, a set of interlinked extremist terror outfits, constantly morphing and growing under the pressure of U.S. bombing runs, special ops raids, and drone assassination campaigns.
No question about it, if you’re a big fan of Washington’s exceptional superpowerdom, the news isn’t exactly cheery. Nothing works the way it did, say, in Iran in 1953 when the CIA-instigated a coup that overthrew a democratically elected government and put its own man on the “Peacock Throne.” There, it took 26 years for blowback to occur and the Shah to flee. In 2015, it seems to take only 26 days or maybe 26 minutes.
Still, the good news is that, however crippled U.S. power may be in practice, like the cheese of nursery rhyme fame, it still stands alone. How exceptional is that?
Exceptional Fact #2: Americans Are Actually Safe and Secure: Think of exceptional fact two as the don’t-believe-your-ears one. In the post-9/11 era, a national security and global surveillance state of historic proportions has been built and funded on one proposition: that without its 17 intelligence agencies, the Homeland Security Department, and the military, as well as a spreading penumbra of secrecy and classification (that is, its ability not to let citizens know much of anything about what’s being done in their name), the American people would be in almost unimaginable danger from a single phenomenon, “terrorism” (with the adjective “Muslim” or “Islamic” implied if not tacked on).
With its talk over the years of sleeper cells, lone wolves, and plots to kill Americans, this message has been a constant of our world. As the handcuffing and arrest of a ninth grader in Irving, Texas, for bringing a clock he cobbled together to school shows, it’s now in the American bloodstream. It’s also provided the largely unquestioned rationale for the growth of secretive agencies of every sort, for the careers of a vast range of top officials, for the extraordinary powers granted to what is increasingly a secretive state within a state (as the U.S. military now has a secret military of ever expanding proportions in its midst). Were it to be put in doubt, that state and much else might be put in doubt, too. A great deal depends on news of and alarms about endless possible terror plots, which often turn out to have been promoted or instigated by FBI informants.
The message manifests itself in a kind of hysteria over possible future plots, claims (largely unsubstantiated or untrue) of past ones that were broken up by agencies of the national security state, and endless stories about how the Islamic State is using the Internet to rouse individuals in this country to commit mayhem here.
And yet- exceptional fact two- despite 9/11, the record clearly indicates that Americans are in next to no danger. If you’re living in Baghdad, the possibility of terror attacks couldn’t be more real or horrific. If you’re living in Irving, Texas, Toledo, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or even New York City, they are close to nil. A country bounded by two oceans and friendly neighbors remains a formula for security, with no credit whatsoever to the national security state. In few places on the planet is anyone likelier to be safer when it comes to Islamic terror attacks than this one. It is, of course, quite true that the U.S. has helped spread insecurity and fear in significant areas of the world. It is also true that even Europe is no longer untouched by that insecurity and by violence. In this way, too, it could be said that the United States stands alone (not that you would know it living inside the American terrordome).
Let me, then, offer anyone reading this a practical guarantee. You will not be killed in the continental United States by an Islamic terrorist or someone in sympathy with the Islamic State- or rather your chances of that happening are infinitesimally small. The odds of almost anything else disastrous happening to you, no matter how obscure, is at least as great, and in almost every case staggeringly greater, including being crushed beneath falling furniture, shot by a tot who has found a stray loaded weapon, murdered in a mass killing incident (not by a terrorist), struck by lightning (or done in by weather events of almost any sort), knocked off by food poisoning, or killed in your own car.
As has always been true- the British burning of Washington in 1814, Pearl Harbor in 1941, and 9/11 being the exceptions- the United States has been a remarkably protected place (except, of course, when it came to internal strife of various sorts). That sense of invulnerability explains why the 9/11 attacks had an impact beyond compare, and why it was so easy to build a vast structure meant to oversee the “homeland” in all sorts of historically intrusive ways.
The other side of this- consider it exceptional fact two-and-a-half- is that, at this point, American taxpayers have invested trillions of dollars in what can only be called a scam.
Exceptional Fact #3: A Culture of Victimhood Is Developing Among the Inhabitants of the Planet’s Sole Superpower: Given exceptional facts one and two, what could be more exceptional than significant numbers of Americans living in a fear-based culture of victimhood laced with paranoia and extremism that seems to have captured one of the two major political parties?
In it, Americans are always at the mercy of the evil doers everywhere, including those distinctly in our midst with mayhem in mind. Our military is an underfinanced wreck, our Navy practically a set of dinghies, a Muslim is even in the White House, a malign climate-change movement is eager to destroy capitalism as we know it, women’s bodies are enough of a danger to shut the government down, immigrants are potential terrorists or rapists, and so on and so forth through a litany of strangely woven fantasies and factoids.
This mood was highlighted in the media recently after a man at a Donald Trump rally in New Hampshire in the wake of the second Republican debate rose in a question period and said, “We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one- you know he’s not even an American. But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of them?” Media coverage generally focused on the presidential or “birther” part of the man’s statement, ignoring those fantasy “training camps” for terrorists assumedly here in the USA. Largely ignored as well were the two other audience members called on by Trump who were no less bizarre. The first, a man, said, “I applaud the gentleman who stood and said Obama is a Muslim born abroad and about the military camps, everyone knows that.” (“Right,” Trump responded and moved on.) The second, a woman, according to the Hill, “told him that there is a ‘new holocaust’ in New Hampshire and that people are being loaded into boxcars and beheaded by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ‘I just wanted you to know that.’”
Consider it a small, off-center measure of the sense of fear, persecution, and fantasy now embedded in what’s often referred to as the Republican “base.” Such paranoia is, of course, nothing new in this country, particularly in moments of economic stress. Still, given the years of fear mongering since 9/11 and the building up of a right-wing media universe that’s both echo chamber and megaphone, this is dangerous stuff. And we’re not talking about just a weird set of fringe lunatics here. After all, as the Washington Post reported recently, “54 percent of Trump supporters and some 43 percent of Republicans believe that Obama is a Muslim.”
In this context, while the U.S. military pursues its failing wars, interventions, and raids abroad, while the national security state develops ever more mechanisms for snooping, surveilling, and controlling populaces at home (as in the recent essentially unprecedented security lockdowns of major American cities “for” the Pope), many of the country’s citizens are increasingly living inside a fact-challenged fantasy of a country, a victimized superpower. Boogiemen lurk around every corner, as do high crimes and dark conspiracies, and any sense of responsibility for what the U.S. has done in the world in these last years is missing in action.
In the meantime, we live on an increasingly disturbed planet in which the basics of drought, fire and flood, melting and freezing, are gaining new meaning, in which power seems not to be expressing or displaying itself in the normal, reasonably predictable ways. The sun may be setting, albeit slowly indeed, on American imperial power, but perhaps it is also setting on imperial power as we’ve known it. And if so, that would truly be exceptional.’
by Leonard Pitts Jr.
"Wonderful. That’s just what the conservative movement needs right now. Less adult supervision. But with the fall last week of House Speaker John Boehner- more accurately, with his decision to resign because life is too short for Ted Cruz- that is precisely what conservatives now have. It is a development with sobering implications far beyond the political right.
Not that you’d have known this from the bacchanal of celebration the news set off among conservatives. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was swamped by a roar of approbation when he announced the resignation at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. Sen. Cruz, who has long been Boehner’s chief tormentor, seemed ready to lead a conga line as he joked about it before the same gathering.
And here, it might be instructive to remind ourselves of the nature of Boehner’s supposed apostasy. He was, after all, aligned with his persecutors on pretty much every issue of substance. The Affordable Care Act? Guns? The debt ceiling? There was not a scintilla of daylight between him and them.
But what we’ve learned since the Tea Party came to town is that being right- as in right wing- is no longer enough. Now you must be so unyielding in your rightness that you’d rather damage the country than seek common ground with the other side. To do so is to risk being tarred, as Boehner was, as spineless and weak.
In the end, then, his sin was that he was a pragmatist; he understood, as Ronald Reagan did, as Bill Clinton did, as every successful leader in a democratic system must, that politics is the art of compromise. His sin is that he was a grown-up in a Congress of Tea Party children who made a calculated decision to render that body inert and ungovernable rather than yield, even in the face of inevitable discredit and defeat.
One is reminded of how toddlers will sometimes throw temper tantrums and threaten to hold their breath until they get their way. With apologies to kids — who, after all, have the excuse of being kids — there are echoes of that kind of behavior in this last five years of governance by threat, high-stakes brinksmanship and fiscal hostage taking: In fact, a new such fight was brewing even as Boehner called it quits. Hardline conservatives want to- all together now- shut down the government unless it defunds Planned Parenthood.
Republican Rep. Peter King probably put it best when he said of Boehner’s resignation: “I think it signals that crazies have taken over the party.”
Ya think? Heck, some of us- including some Republicans- have been saying that for years. Moreover, the unruliness of the Tea Party seems part and parcel of a more general lawlessness that has afflicted the once-upon-a-time party of law and order. Consider how GOP presidential candidates rushed to lionize Kentucky bureaucrat Kim Davis, who, in declining to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, did only what George Wallace and Orval Faubus did once upon a time: refused to abide by a Supreme Court ruling. Unable to vindicate their ideals within the rules, conservatives seem increasingly unwilling to be constrained by rules or, indeed, by much of anything.
These are the forces that felled Boehner, and you might describe it as a case of just deserts given that the Speaker once supported, and saw political benefit from, the unleashing of those selfsame forces. But what happened here is not good for any of us. Governance in a democracy requires give and take between at least two political parties. More and more, we seem to find ourselves one party short, the GOP choosing instead to function as a cult or belief system.
Boehner’s departure does not help. It only removes one more adult from the equation in a party that doesn’t have any to spare.”
“GOP Upheaval Brings New Dread”
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
“Namibia has some of the darkest nights visible from any continent. It is therefore home to some of the more spectacular skyscapes, a few of which have been captured in the below time-lapse video. We recommend watching this video at FULL SCREEN (1080p), with audio on. The night sky of Namibia is one of the best in the world, about the same quality of the deserts of Chile and Australia.
Visible at the movie start are unusual quiver trees perched before a deep starfield highlighted by the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. This bright band of stars and gas appears to pivot around the celestial south pole as our Earth rotates. The remains of camel thorn trees are then seen against a sky that includes a fuzzy patch on the far right that is the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. A bright sunlight-reflecting satellite passes quickly overhead. Quiver trees appear again, now showing their unusual trunks, while the Small Magellanic Cloud becomes clearly visible in the background. Artificial lights illuminate a mist that surround camel thorn trees in Deadvlei. In the final sequence, natural Namibian stone arches are captured against the advancing shadows of the setting moon. This video incorporates over 16,000 images shot over two years, and won top honors among the 2012 Travel Photographer of the Year awards.”
"How to Spot Your Own Self-Delusion"
by Pamela Meyer
"What if deception is in the eye of the beholder? And what if lies can help us tell the truth? Enter into the multimedia world of magician Marco Tempest and decide for yourself:
Marco is right: The biggest lies are the lies we tell ourselves. S.E. Hinton wrote in "The Outsiders", "I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me." Maybe she was onto something. We've trained ourselves to accept certain truths about where we find fulfillment, where we find joy, and where we find success. But should we challenge that conventional wisdom? Recent studies show that much of what we know about leading a rewarding life is wrong. Some of it is delusional, and some of those delusions are self-inflicted. Here are 5 lies we tell ourselves that we should cleanse from our brains.
Lie #1: Idle Hands are the Devil's Workshop: A hard day's work is great. Mindless busy work is not. The greatest threat to success isn't an hour lunch break or a seven-hour day. Everyone's had a boss that believes working hard is the same as working smart. Take this 2013 study from the New Zealand Productivity Commission (yes, that's a thing). In it, experts draw a sharp contrast between work and productivity. The two are not interchangeable. Productivity, notes the study, is the efficient use of both labor and capital. You shouldn't waste labor, just like you shouldn't waste money. We're hardwired to equate quantity of work with quality of work. So we admire and promote the co-worker who puts in the longest hours, when we should be rewarding the co-worker who puts out the best work. We trick ourselves into emphasizing inputs instead of outputs.
Lie #2: "Winners never quit, and quitters never win." Vince Lombardi immortalized that can-do spirit, and has the creds to back it up. Today, we accept his cliché blindly. But quitters can win, and win big. Einstein was a patent clerk in his first gig. Lombardi's wisdom would've had Einstein working to be the best darn patent clerk in Germany. He quit, and traded a fulfilling civil service career for the theory of relativity. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg quit Harvard, Steve Jobs quit Reed College - how significantly has our world changed thanks to their quitting spirit?
Winning strategies don't come from the senseless pursuit of bad ideas. To wit, that's precisely what this fascinating psychological report concludes. In an exhaustive study of 12,000 young people's progress over their lifetime, the University of Florida's Timothy Judge found a beguiling little demographic of successful individuals. Their success didn't come from their backgrounds, but from their ability to collective, analyze, and reject -quit, if you will--certain paths in front of them. Not only did they succeed, they succeeded at higher levels than peers who had greater advantages in pedigree and education.
Lie #3: "Money for Nothing": There's no such thing as a free lunch. This data from The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), read: a bunch of rich countries, found that working hours have gone down since 1991 while wages have gone up. Along with that trend comes the perception that success comes easy and money comes quick.We live in a world of miracle weight loss, fast cash and no-hassle loans. This is an era where people actually believe a Nigerian Prince is willing to pay them millions in exchange for a social security number. The reality is that if you want to make it, you need to get gritty and you need to get dirty. There's no quick, clean fix, there's rarely an easy set path, and there are no free rides. Richard Branson had a little record shop before he started signing bands like The Sex Pistols and founding Virgin Airways (no, not that kind of dirty.) He said: "You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over."
Re: the grit and dirt part, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is a good place to find both. Two West Point professors, along with two of their colleagues, confirm the bad news: "grit" and determination towards achieving a goal is just as important as your individual talent.
Lie #4 "I will win at all costs. I can do it." That philosophy worked so well for Lance Armstrong... But losing isn't just an option; it's the breeding ground for resiliency. And we shouldn't fear it. Harvard's Rosabeth Moss notes "the difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing." Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper gig for lacking "imagination" and "original ideas." Michael Jordan was cut from his High School basketball team. Oprah was demoted from her news gig because she "wasn't fit for television." Losing, writes Kanter in her book, is the building block of confidence. As the self-esteem generation rises -with its noted intolerance for criticism and defeat- the biggest winners will be the best losers.
Lie #5: Note to self: " You are my best friend: You are special": It sounded so good when Mr. Rogers said it. But we're not all special. Not until we do something to prove it. Psychologist Jean Twenge has studied what she calls the "Narcissism Epidemic" that courses through our society. It's a look at how an infatuation with ourselves is chipping away at the foundations of success and mental health. This self-deception, says John Reynolds of Florida State University, has engendered inflated ambitions and expectations, which -surprise!- leads to depression and feelings of failure.
So what's the antidote for all the special snowflakes out there? In "The Pyschology of Success", Carol Dweck speaks to the importance of having a "growth mindset" rather than a "fixed mindset." Put plainly, you can be special and you can be talented. But it isn't divinely appointed. Act mediocre, lead a mediocre life, and you'll be as special as a glass of lukewarm milk. Per Dweck, you either grow personally and professionally to fulfill your aspirations, or your stubbornly expect your aspirations to come to you.
All of this, of course, is easier said than done. The logistician Ludwig Wittgenstein said "nothing's so difficult as not deceiving ourselves." Clear heads are hard to come by, common sense is rarely common, and perception isn't always reality. True honesty isn't limited to the way you talk to your neighbors. It can also come from the way your heart talks to your brain.”