Monday, April 30, 2018

"The Fleeting Happiness of Life"

"The Fleeting Happiness of Life"
By  Jocelyn Soriano 

"The truth is, there is no one place, however we may envy it, which would be indisputably good for us to occupy; much less for us to remain in. The zest of life, like the pleasure which we receive from a work of art, or from nature, comes from undulations – from inequalities; not from any monotony, even though it be the monotony of seeming perfection.

The beauty of the landscape depends upon contrasts, and would be lost in one common surface of splendor. The grandeur of the waves is in the deep hollows, as well as the culminating crests; and the bars of the sunset glow on the background of the twilight. The very condition of a great thing is that it must be comparatively a rare thing.

We speak of summer glories, and yet who would wish it to be always summer? – who does not see how admirably the varied seasons are fitted to our appetite for change? It may seem as if it would be pleasant to have it always sunshine; and yet when fruit and plant are dying from lack of moisture, and the earth sleeps exhausted in the torrid air, who ever saw a summer morning more beautiful than that when the clouds muster their legions to the sound of the thunder, and pour upon us the blessing of the rain? 

We repine at toil, and yet how gladly do we turn in from the lapse of recreation to the harness of effort! We sigh for the freedom and glory of the country; but, in due time, just as fresh and beautiful seem to us the brick walls the busy streets where our lot is cast, and our interests run.

There is no condition in life of which we can say exclusively “It is good for us to be here.” Our course is appointed through vicissitude, – our discipline is in alternations; and we can build no abiding tabernacles along the way."

Musical Interlude: Deuter, "Blessing"

Deuter, "Blessing"

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Far beyond the local group of galaxies lies NGC 3621, some 22 million light-years away. Found in the multi-headed southern constellation Hydra, the winding spiral arms of this gorgeous island universe are loaded with luminous young star clusters and dark dust lanes. Still, for earthbound astronomers NGC 3621 is not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy. Some of its brighter stars have been used as standard candles to establish important estimates of extragalactic distances and the scale of the Universe. 
 Click image for larger size.
This beautiful image of NGC 3621 traces the loose spiral arms far from the galaxy's brighter central regions that span some 100,000 light-years. Spiky foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy and even more distant background galaxies are scattered across the colorful skyscape.”

"There Is No Need..."; "Dial T For Tyranny"

“Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.” 
- Professor Neil Postman, 
"Amusing Ourselves to Death: Discourse in the Age of Show Business"

"Dial T for Tyranny: 
While America Feuds, the Police State Shifts Into High Gear"
by John W. Whitehead

"What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.

Played out on the national stage and eagerly broadcast to a captive audience by media sponsors, this farcical exercise in political theater can, at times, seem riveting, life-changing and suspenseful, even for those who know better. 

Week after week, the script changes - Donald Trump’s Tweets, Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Michael Cohen’s legal troubles, porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit over an alleged past affair with Trump, Michelle Wolf’s tasteless stand-up routine at the White House correspondents’ dinner, North and South Korea’s détente, the ongoing staff shakeups within the Trump administration -with each new script following on the heels of the last, never any let-up, never any relief from the constant melodrama.

The players come and go, the protagonists and antagonists trade places, and the audience members are forgiving to a fault, quick to forget past mistakes and move on to the next spectacle. All the while, a different kind of drama is unfolding in the dark backstage, hidden from view by the heavy curtain, the elaborate stage sets, colored lights and parading actors.

Such that it is, the realm of political theater with all of its drama, vitriol and scripted theatrics is what passes for “transparent” government today, with elected officials, entrusted to act in the best interests of their constituents, routinely performing for their audiences and playing up to the cameras, while doing very little to move the country forward.

Yet behind the footlights, those who really run the show are putting into place policies which erode our freedoms and undermine our attempts at contributing to the workings of our government, leaving us none the wiser and bereft of any opportunity to voice our discontent or engage in any kind of discourse until it’s too late.

It’s the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

Indeed, while mainstream America has been fixated on the drama-filled reality show being televised from the White House, the American Police State has moved steadily forward. Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, over-criminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, roving VIPR raids and the like - all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts - our constitutional freedoms have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

Our losses are mounting with every passing day. Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people.

All the while, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process. None of these dangers have dissipated. They have merely disappeared from our televised news streams.

The new boss has proven to be the same as the old boss, and the American people, the permanent underclass in America, has allowed itself to be so distracted and divided that they have failed to notice the building blocks of tyranny being laid down right under their noses by the architects of the Deep State.
Frankly, it really doesn’t matter what you call the old/new boss - the Deep State, the Controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex - so long as you understand that no matter who occupies the White House, it is a profit-driven, an unelected bureaucracy that is actually calling the shots.

In the interest of liberty and truth, here’s an A-to-Z primer to spell out the grim realities of life in the American Police State that no one is talking about anymore.”
Please view the rest of this article here:

"The Cosby Status Quo: A Facade of Wholesomeness Masks Feudal Exploitation”

"The Cosby Status Quo: 
A Facade of Wholesomeness Masks Feudal Exploitation”
In America's feudal society/economy, there are two systems of "justice."
by Charles Hugh Smith

"The conviction of Bill Cosby for sexual exploitation/assault serves as a useful metaphor for our entire status quo, which projects a wholesome PR facade (free market capitalism, win-win, democracy, meritocracy, anyone can grow up to win American Idol, etc.) which masks a predatory culture of exploitation.

The most important aspect of the Cosby case is that dozens of reports of his drugging and assaulting women were routinely ignored for decades. The facade of wholesomeness, generated to protect the profit-generating machinery of the Cosby brand, buried accusations with a blizzard of legal and PR maneuvers.

The only difference between the predations of Cosby and those of Harvey Weinstein is that Weinstein had no need for a facade of wholesomeness because his brand/core business did not generate profit from a pretense of wholesomeness like Cosby's. Weinstein's predations were an open secret because he reckoned his power and connections rendered him invulnerable. In other words, he was nobility in a feudal society/economy.

In America's feudal society/economy, there are two systems of "justice": one for the wealthy and powerful oligarchs generating profits for Hollywood and Corporate America, and an overcrowded gulag of serfs forced to plea-bargain in the other.

The predation and the hollowness of the wholesome image were well-known to those serving the nobility. Hundreds of insiders knew the truth, just as hundreds of insiders with top secret clearance knew about the contents of the Pentagon Papers, and thus knew the Vietnam War was little more than an accumulation of official lies designed to protect the self-serving elites at the top of the power pyramid.

Only one analyst of the hundreds with access to the truth had the courage to risk his career and liberty to release the truth to the American public: Daniel Ellsberg.

If you want to understand why the status quo is unraveling, start by examining the feudal structure of our society, politics and economy: the endemic corruption, predation and exploitation of the privileged nobility at the very top, the well-paid class of self-serving sycophants, toadies, lackeys, hacks, apologists, flunkies, careerists and legal-team mercenaries who toil ceaselessly to protect their oligarch overlords from exposure and the exploited, powerless serfs at the bottom.

As Orwell observed about a totalitarian oligarchy, some are more equal than others. That is the definition of an exploitive, predatory feudal society."

X22 Report, “Deep States Plan Much Larger & Horrific Than Originally Thought”

X22 Report, “Deep States Plan Much Larger & Horrific Than Originally Thought”
Related followup report:
X22 Report, “Warning, The Petro Yuan Will Change The World As We Know It”

Musical Interlude: John Denver, “I Want To Live”

John Denver, “I Want To Live”

The Daily "Near You?"

Yerevan, Armenia. Thanks for stopping by!

"I Will Gladly Change..."

“If any man is able to show me and prove to me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change, for I seek the truth, by which no man was ever injured. It is only persistence in self delusion and ignorance that does harm.” 
- Marcus Aurelius

“How Government ‘Works’”, Part 1

“How Government ‘Works’”, Part 1
by Bill Bonner

“There are many theories to explain government. Most are nothing but scams, justifications, and puffery. One tries to put something over on the common man…the other claims it was for his own good…and the third pretends that he’d be lost without it. Most are not really ‘theories’ at all…but prescriptions, blueprints for creating the kind of government the ‘theorist’ would like to have. Not surprisingly, the blueprints flatter his intellect and engage his imagination.

The “social contract,” for example, is a fraud. You can’t have a contract unless you have two willing and able parties. They must come together in a meeting of the minds — a real agreement about what they are going to do together. But what is the ‘social contract’ with government? There was never a meeting of the minds. The deal was forced on the public. And now, imagine that you want out. Can you simply “break the contract”? You refuse to pay your taxes and refuse to be bossed around by TSA agents and other government employees. How long would it be before you got put in jail?

What kind of contract is it that you don’t agree to and can’t get out of? They can dress it up…print out a piece of paper…have a solemn ceremony in which everyone pretends it is a real contract. But it’s not worth the paper it’s not written on. Also, what kind of a contract allows for one party to unilaterally change the terms of the deal? Congress passes new laws almost every day. The bureaucracy issues new edicts. The tax system is changed. The pound of flesh they got already wasn’t enough; now they want a pound and a half!

Here are the critical questions: Why do we let other people tell us what to do; are we not all equal? What is the purpose of government? What does it cost and what benefits does it confer? A theory should explain something without reference to something else. That is, a metaphor doesn’t work. It’s just a description. If you say that government is a kind of ‘social contract,’ you are merely describing how it seems to you…or what you think it might be comparable to.

Let’s try a simpler insight: government is a natural phenomenon, an expression of power relationships, in which some people seek to dominate others by force. These dominators gather ‘insiders’ together so that they can take money, power and status away from other people, the ‘outsiders.’

Many people think that government provides some service. That is true, but it is incidental. Governments often deliver the mail. But they don’t have to. They would still be governments even if they didn’t control the Post Office. And what if they didn’t have a department of inland fisheries, or a program to teach retarded democrats to count to 20? They would still be in the government business…and still have their helicopters, chauffeurs and expense accounts. But if they lost control of the police or the army it would be an entirely different matter. Force is the essence of government, not a decorative detail. Without armies and police, they would no longer be governments, but voluntary associations like the Kiwanis Club or the Teamsters Union.

In 2016, the US faced a major presidential election. Several people came forward offering to take charge of the US government. What exactly were they going to take charge of? Government is a fact. It exists. It is as common as stomach gas. It is as ubiquitous as lice and as inescapable as vanity. But what is it? Why is it? And what has it become?

We know very little about the actual origins of government. All we know, and this from the archeological records, is that one group often conquered another. There are skeletons more than 100,000 years old, showing the kind of head wounds that you get from fighting. We presume this meant that ‘government’ changed. Whoever had been in charge was chased out or murdered. Then, someone else was in charge.

Tribal groups, or even family groups for that matter, probably had “chiefs.” They could have been little more than bullies…or perhaps respected elders. Over the millennia there were probably as many different examples of primitive ‘government’ as there were tribes. Some elected their leaders. Some may have chosen them randomly, for all we know. Many probably simply conferred leadership by consensus. Some probably had no identifiable leaders at all. But it seems to be a characteristic of the human race that some people want to be in charge…and many people want someone to be in charge of them.

In adversity, there was probably an advantage to having a leader. Hunts were often collective enterprises. There were also group decisions to be made…about how food was stored up or rationed out, for example…that would affect the survival of the whole group. Under attack from another group, a strong, able leader could make the difference between life and death. We can guess that people enter into leader/follower roles today because they are programmed for it by evolution. Those who can’t or won’t…well, perhaps they died out many millennia ago.

We don’t have to look back to the Last Glacial Period to see what happens in small political units. We can see them today. They are all around us. Every church has its governing board. Every community has some form of government. Every corporation…group…club…every place where humans get together seems to develop rules and power relationships. Leaders arise. Informal groups typically yield to the strong personality. Juries try to control it. Families resist it. Dinner parties try to avoid it. But that’s just the way it is. Some people seek to dominate. Others like being dominated.

Trouble is, there is usually more than one person or one group that wants to do the dominating. This leads to conflict. Treachery. Murder. Rivalry. And elections. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re talking about the origins of government and trying to guess what they were like. On a small scale, we conclude, governments were both extremely variable in form…and extremely limited in scope. That is, how much governing can you get away with in a small group? Not much. You can boss people around, but they won’t take too much bossing. And there is always a rival bosser who is ready to topple the big boss if he should lose his popular support. In a tribal setting, we imagine that the strongest, fiercest warrior might have been able to set himself up as the governing authority. But he could be stabbed in the back as he slept…or even shot with an arrow in a ‘hunting accident.’ Even in the best of circumstances, his reign wouldn’t last much longer than his own strength.

In a small town, government proceeds tolerably well. There is not much distance between governors and the governed. The latter know where the former live…and how they live…and how little difference there is between them. If the governors overreach, they are likely to find themselves beaten in the next election…or in the middle of the street. But as the scale increases…as the distance between the governed and the governors increases…and as the institutional setting grows and ages…government becomes a bigger deal. More formal. More powerful. It can begin governing more grandly.

The first large scale, long-term government we know about was in Egypt. After the unification of the upper and lower kingdoms in about 3,150 BC, the dynastic period began. It continued for two millennia, not ending until the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 BC. We don’t know exactly how government worked during those many centuries, but we know that a theory of government arose out of them. At the time, it was not considered a theory at all, but a fact. The ruler was divine. A god.

As a theory, it is a good one. It answers the question: why should you take orders from another human being? In Ancient Egypt, the question didn’t arise. Because Pharaoh was not another human being. He was something else. Precisely what he was…or what people thought he was…is not clear. But the archeological record shows that he was treated as though he was at least a step or two higher up on the ladder than the rest of us. If not a full god, he was at least a demi-god…on the mezzanine between Earth and Heaven. If that was so…and who are we to doubt it?…the theory holds together perfectly well. The divine authority is transmitted from heaven to man via his intermediary…the pharaoh.

You might think that would be the end of the story. It was not. There were Asiatic settlers moving in the delta area - the Hyskos - who apparently had a different idea. And the Thebans. And the Nubians. And the Assyrians. And the Hittites. There arose hundreds of years of internal warfare against dozens of different groups…not to mention the struggles within the divine families themselves. If God had wanted His man on the throne, you’d think he would have done more to help him. Or at least you’d think he would have been a little clearer about who His man was. Why let people guess and rumble, trying to decide who really is God’s choice? But who can figure the mind of God? Maybe the whole divinity hypothesis was just a lie. Maybe God liked to see His man get a workout. We can’t know.

Pharaohs may have lived like lords. They may have governed like gods. But they died just like everyone else. And after the 30 dynasties, as counted by Menes, the whole system was kaput. Cleopatra Ptlolemy got herself rolled up in a carpet so she could spin out at the feet of Julius Caesar. She had a child by him…but then went over to Marc Antony’s side. That proved a mistake. Caesar’s nephew, Octavian, was better organized and a shrewder politician. Antony’s army was beaten at Actium.

But the idea of a divine ruler survived. Antony had already begun to feel the blood of divinity pumping in his veins when Octavian cornered him. His omniscience failed. Thinking Cleopatra was dead, he stabbed himself to death. Then, hardly had the half-god pharaohs gone to their graves in Egypt than the half-mad Caesars in Rome started to sprout wings…

You may have doubts about the divinity of the Pharaohs. Certainly, either the Egyptians had some doubts themselves, or they were among the most impious people who ever lived. Pharaoh was supposed to be a god. He was supposed to be in charge of everything, even the annual flooding of the Nile, the weather…life, death, you name it. But that didn’t stop him from getting the old heave-ho from time to time. Rival groups didn’t wait for God to decide who would sit on the throne. Men fought it out.

We don’t have any way of knowing about the pharaohs’ divine bona fides. But as a theory of government, it does the job. Government claims the right to tell you what to do. Using the blunt instrument of ‘government’ some people are able to direct the energy of a whole society to where they want it to go - categorizing, regulating, taxing, inspecting, dragooning, conscripting, enslaving, bullying, incarcerating, murdering and pushing around other people.

There must be at least 10,000 commandments we Americans are expected to obey. The IRS code probably has that many alone. We cannot build a house or cash a check without fulfilling hundreds of (often invisible) requirements. We pass through an airport and we submit to indignities, usually without question. We know the TSA agent is a moron. But “dress’d in a little brief authority,” as Shakespeare put it, “most ignorant of what he’s most assur d, glassy essence, like an angry ape, plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven, as make the angels weep.”

For the two thousand years of the 30 dynasties, men killed each other to determine who would hold the pharaonic power. The last of them was clearly an interloper. The Ptolemies weren’t even Egyptian. They were Greeks, who conquered Egypt with Alexander. Then, finally, Julius Caesar and his nephew Octavian put an end to the divine tradition in Egypt forever. God either abandoned His man on the Nile, or he is playing tricks with us.

Caesar took the role of emperor of the whole Roman world. He did not seem to be too concerned about the theory of it. People bowed to him and paid tribute. That was how an empire worked. And he never had too much time to think about it anyway. He was cut down on the Ides of March at the age of 55 in 44 BC. But the appeal of divinity did not die with the Ptolemies. Four score years after Cleopatra’s death the emperor Caligula declared that he was a god. This didn’t seem to take him very far. Romans came to the conclusion that he was not divine at all, but insane. He was murdered soon after by his own guards.

Rome struggled on for another 4 centuries. If there was a theory to dignify one man’s bending to another we aren’t aware of it. It was considered normal and natural. Those who got control of the government of Rome were able to exercise the rights of governors. They were victors on the field of battle…and in the halls and assemblies of Roman government. What did they do with this power? “Ad victorem spolias.” Simple enough. You defeat someone. You take his stuff. His land. His wife. His children. At least there was no humbug about it. And the rules were simple. Government operated its naked form. As Mao described it two millennia later, political power came “from the barrel of a gun,” not from the Rights of Man or the Social Contract.

In the exploits of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, too, we find a very pure form of government at work…and a very clear theory about it. Genghis announced his theory of government as follows: “Man’s greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize his total possessions, leave his married women weeping and wailing, ride his gelding, use his women as a nightshirt and support, gazing upon and kissing their rosy breasts, sucking their lips which are as sweet as the berries of their breasts.” Tamerlane was no less direct. He saw government as a legitimate enterprise. He raised troops with the intention of conquering other peoples and replacing their governments with his own. His warriors were paid in booty — jewels, coins, horses, women, and furs. He was paid in loot, tribute and taxes.

This is not to say that there was anything wrong with running a government in such a way. We are not giving advice or making suggestions. We are just trying to understand the essence of what government is and how it careens to the downside.”

"How Government “Works”, Part II"

"How Government “Works”, Part II"
 by Bill Bonner

"In the case of Egypt, people listened and obeyed - at least, as much as they did - because Pharaoh was, in theory, a god. In the case of Rome - with the exception of Caligula’s claims - and the Mongol empires, the theory was similarly simple, though different. Tamerlane made no claim to divinity. He merely made it clear what he would do to you if you resisted him. Towns that submitted were generally governed passably, according to the standards of the day…and taxed, but not razed to the ground. Those that contested his authority were destroyed, often with all the inhabitants killed.

In Rome and out on the steppes, those who controlled the ‘government’ were in the favored position. They could reach out and impose their will on those who were not favored. Which is exactly what they did. As long as they were able, the insiders took from the outsiders. In both cases, the outsiders were literally outside the ruling group and its homeland.

This is perhaps a good place to point out that government is a phenomenon, not a system. It is best understood as a fight between the outsiders and the insiders. The insiders always control the government…and use it to conquer and control the outsiders. Why do they want to do so? The usual reasons. Wealth. Power. Status.

Everybody - or everyone who isn’t either feebleminded or a saint - wants wealth, power and status. And the easiest, fastest way to get it usually is to take it away from someone. That is government’s role. Only government can take something away from someone else lawfully. Why? Because governments make the laws.

We’ve already seen how a small group of Romans were able to reach beyond their home town, for nearly 1,000 years, taking wealth from people on the outside. One tribe fell under their control. Then another. Then, one town. And another. And always the power, prestige and wealth flowed back to Rome.

But not all Romans benefited in the same way. Rome itself was divided. During the Republican period, the insiders were the leading families who controlled the Senate. Then came the dictators, the emperors, and the scalawags who were able to get control of the government. Often, they were military men, popular or cunning generals who rose through the ranks, murdered their rivals, and took the reins of power for themselves. Each brought in new insiders…and kicked out some of the old ones. Rome sizzled with intrigue…and sometimes erupted into open warfare, with one group of insiders battling it out with another.

After Rome fell, barbarian tribes swept over Europe. Local strongmen were able to set up their own governments. There was little theory or justification involved. They used brute force to take what they wanted. Then they settled down to govern. One local lord provided protection from other local lords. All demanded payment, tribute, wealth and power. In the largely un-moneyed economies of the Dark Ages, taxes were in the form of a share of output…and/or days of labor. A serf typically worked one day in 10 for his lord and master.

The local warlord and his entourage were the insiders. They took from the outsiders as much as they could get away with. Or as much as they thought it prudent to demand. Some even asserted a droit du seigneur, known in France by the more carnal expression “the right to the thigh.” The local chief demanded the right to deflower the brides of his peasants. Even as recently as the beginning of the last century, Kurdish chieftains claimed the right to bed Armenian brides on their wedding night.

As the Dark Ages progressed, government became less locally peculiar. Across Europe, serfs, lords, and vassals knit themselves together into the feudal system. One governed a small area and was in turn governed by another, who governed a bigger one. At the top was the king, who owed his allegiance to God himself.

Justifying and explaining the phenomenon of government also evolved. How to make sense of it? Why was one man powerful and rich and another weak and poor? Europe was Christianized by then. All men were supposed to be equal in God’s eyes. How come they were so different in the eyes of each other?

Reaching back into antiquity, the doctrine of the “Divine Right of Kings” was developed to explain it. Scholars did not maintain that kings were divine, because that would undermine the foundations of Judeo-Christian monotheism. Instead, they claimed that kings had a special role to play, that they were appointed…and anointed, by God (through his ministers in the church of St. Peter)…to rule. Some people thought the kings were descended directly from the line of Jesus Christ. Others thought that God gave kings a “divine” right to govern in His name.

In the fixed order of the world, each person had a job to do. One was a hewer of wood. Another was a drawer of water. A third was a king. Each man did his duty.

Scholars in the middle ages spent a lot of time on the issue. As a theory of government it seemed coherent and logical. But there were traps and dead ends in it. If the right to rule were given by God, man could not contradict Him. But men did. One divinely-appointed ruler met another divinely-appointed ruler on the field of battle. Only one could win. What kind of game was God playing?

And if God granted a man the right to rule other men, did that mean that every order he gave must be obeyed, just as though it had come from the mouth of God himself? And what if the king seemed not to be doing God’s work at all? Adultery was clearly a no-no. God disapproved of it. But kings often made it a habit and a sport. Did not the king defile his body and betray his Lord? In an effort to explain away the problem, scholars put forth the idea that the king actually had two bodies. One sacred. One profane.

But which was which?

“The Divine Right of Kings” was a theory of government that held water. But you had to put the water in the right container. You had to believe in God. You had to believe that He gave out job assignments. You also had to believe that He didn’t mind when His employees and agents made a mess of things…or even when they contradicted His own orders. Looking at the history of the monarchs who were thought to have been given this divine authority, you would have to conclude that God was either a very tolerant task-master, or a very negligent one. Adultery, murder, thieving, lying - there was hardly one of God’s commandments they obeyed.

As a theory of government, the ‘divine right of kings’ would have been okay had it not been for the kings themselves. Some were reasonable men. Others were tyrants. Many were incompetent, largely irrelevant and silly. Taken all together, it was very difficult to believe that they had been selected by God, without also believing that God was just choosing His most important managers at random. Kings were not especially smart. Not especially bold or especially timid. Not especially wise or stupid. For all intents and purposes, they were just like everyone else. Sometimes smart. Sometimes dumb. Sometimes good. Sometimes evil. And always subject to influence.

Towards the end of the 18th century, the ‘divine right of kings’ lost its following. The church, the monarch and the feudal system all seemed to lose market share. The Enlightenment had made people begin to wonder. Then, the beginning of the “Industrial Revolution” made them stir.

In 1776, Adam Smith published his “Wealth of Nations,” arguing that commerce and production were the source of wealth. Government began to seem like an obstruction and a largely unnecessary cost. Its beneficial role was limited, said Smith, to enforcing contracts and protecting property.

The school of laissez-faire economics maintained that government was a “necessary evil,” to be restrained as much as possible. The “government that governs best,” as Jefferson put it, “is the one that governs least.” This is, of course, another way of saying that government - like every other natural phenomenon - is subject to the law of declining marginal utility. A little government is probably a good thing. The energy put into a system of public order, dispute resolution, and certain minimal public services may give a positive return on investment. But the point of diminishing returns is reached quickly. For reference, here is the ‘take’ by modern governments today.

Government - according the Liberal philosophers of the 18th and 19th century was supposed to get out of the way so that the ‘invisible hand’ would guide men to productive, fruitful lives. Smith thought the arm attached to the invisible hand was the arm of God. Others believed that not even God was necessary. Men, without central planning or God to guide them, would create a ‘spontaneous order,’ which would be a lot nicer than the one created by kings, dictators or popular assemblies.

This idea of government, such as it is, leads to what we know of today as “libertarianism.” Libertarians argue about how much authority the government should have. They scrap among themselves over what the government should do and how big it should be allowed to get. But all libertarians agree with Jefferson. And all agree that the governments in the world circa 2018 are much too big.

The libertarians are concerned about their loss of freedom. But what we’re concerned about is the downside. When the point of diminishing returns is passed, the payoff from further investment of resources in policing and wealth re-distribution declines. Then what happens? We’ve already seen what happened to Germany in the ’30s and ’40s. Hitler was elected. But then, the Reichstag burned and he suspended democratic institutions. Perhaps more robust, modern democracies can adapt more readily and thereby avoid the downside? We’ll see..."

"The BAD Stage of Inflation Has Officially Hit"

"The BAD Stage of Inflation Has Officially Hit"
by Phoenix Capital

"The BAD stage of inflation has officially hit. As I have noted previously, inflation enters the financial system in stages. The first stage involves a jump in prices paid by producers. This means that those firms responsible for manufacturing goods and services suddenly see a sharp spike in the cost of the basic materials they use to build/ manufacture finished products. That process began in early 2016 and accelerated throughout 2017 into this year.
The next round of inflation… the BAD one… occurs when these prices remain elevated long enough that firms are forced to raise the prices of their finished goods/ services in order to maintain profits. The BIG tell on this is when you start seeing wages jump. This means that the cost of everyday items is rising fast enough that employees start demanding raises in order to maintain their quality of life.

We have officially hit that point with Year over Year wages jumping 2.9% in the first quarter of 2018. This is the largest jump since 3Q08, when the US was completing a MASSIVE credit cycle and about to plunge into the worst recession in 80 years.

Put simply, inflation has officially seeped into the economy in a MAJOR way. We are now at the point at which wages are rising... and the Fed is hopelessly behind the curve. Small wonder the bond market is blowing up. Bond yields rise along with inflation. Does this chart look like inflation is "contained" to you?”

"How It Really Is"

This idiocy will work about as well as this did:

"Oh, the lack of humanity!"

The Poet: William Stafford, "You Reading This, Be Ready"

"You Reading This, Be Ready"

"Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life.

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?"

- William Stafford

"Sometimes..."

"Sometimes even to live is an act of courage."
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

"Insanity..."

But our wars are all too real...

"Insanity - a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world."
- R. D. Laing

"In individuals, insanity is rare; 
but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

"About That World War III You Ordered..."

“Israel Closes Airspace Near Syria Border Ahead Of 
Netanyahu Speech With "Dramatic News About Iran"; Oil Surges”
by Tyler Durden

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 10:19: "Moments ago, Israel's Channel10 reported that Netanyahu is set to make "significant" televised announcement on Iran on Monday evening at 8pm local time (5pm GMT) in what his office said would be "dramatic news about Iran" and "significant development regarding" the Iran nuclear agreement and which will reportedly influence the world.

As Channel 10 adds, Netanyahu previously relayed the Iran info to Trump on Saturday and Pompeo on Sunday, during his visit to Israel. The speech will come after Israel's security cabinet convened for an impromptu, unscheduled meeting in the wake of the strike on Syria overnight, which as we noted earlier reportedly killed 11 Iranians.

Meanwhile, hinting that Israel may be about to launch another, far more powerful strike on Syria, Ynet reports that Israel has closed its airspace near the Golan Heights and the Israel-Syria border, most likely in anticipation of one or more bombing/missile attacks on Syrian territory.

Having slumped earlier following the disappointing German inflation data, WTI has regained all losses on the news that Israel may be about to attack Syria, even following Putin's direct warning to Netanyahu not to continue airstrikes on Syria."
"Syrian Army: 'Enemy' Rockets Strike 2 Bases, 11 Iranians Killed"
"Following yesterday's report that Israel fighter jets unleashed a new attack on Syrian territory, with the resulting explosions so strong they registered as an earthquake, the Syrian army said on Monday that "enemy" rockets struck Assad regime military bases. An official from a regional alliance including Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, said Monday that the strikes killed 16 people, among them 11 Iranians, according to the New York Times. The report said the bombardment also destroyed 200 missiles."

Rapidly developing events to be aware of... 
it's a good thing they'd never let that really happen, right? Right?

“That Collapse You Ordered…?”

“That Collapse You Ordered…?”
by James Howard Kunstler

"I had a fellow on my latest podcast, released Sunday, who insists that the world population will crash 90-plus percent from the current 7.6 billion to 600 million by the end of this century. Jack Alpert heads an outfit called the Stanford Knowledge Integration Lab (SKIL) which he started at Stanford University in 1978 and now runs as a private research foundation. Alpert is primarily an engineer.

At 600 million, the living standard in the USA would be on a level with the post-Roman peasantry of Fifth century Europe, but without the charm, since many of the planet’s linked systems - soils, oceans, climate, mineral resources - will be in much greater disarray than was the case 1,500 years ago. Anyway, that state-of-life may be a way-station to something more dire. Alpert’s optimal case would be a world human population of 50 million, deployed in three “city-states,” in the Pacific Northwest, the Uruguay/Paraguay border region, and China, that could support something close to today’s living standards for a tiny population, along with science and advanced technology, run on hydropower. The rest of world, he says, would just go back to nature, or what’s left of it. Alpert’s project aims to engineer a path to that optimal outcome.

I hadn’t encountered quite such an extreme view of the future before, except for some fictional exercises like Cormac McCarthy’s "The Road." (Alpert, too, sees cannibalism as one likely byproduct of the journey ahead.) Obviously, my own venture into the fictionalized future of the "World Made by Hand" books depicted a much kinder and gentler re-set to life at the circa-1800 level of living, at least in the USA. Apparently, I’m a sentimental softie.

Both of us are at odds with the more generic techno-optimists who are waiting patiently for miracle rescue remedies like cold fusion while enjoying re-runs of "The Big Bang Theory." (Alpert doesn’t completely rule out as-yet-undeveloped energy sources, though he acknowledges that they’re a low-percentage prospect.) We do agree with the basic premise that the energy supply is mainly what supports the way we live now, and that it shows every evidence of entering a deep and destabilizing decline that will halt the activities necessary to keep our networks of dynamic systems running.

A question of interest to many readers is how soon or how rapid the unraveling of these systems might be. When civilizations crumble, it tends to fast-track. The Roman empire seems to be an exception, but in many ways it was far more resilient than ours, being a sort of advanced Flintstones economy, with even its giant-scale activities (e.g. building the Coliseum) being accomplished by human-powered work. In any case, the outfit really fell apart steadily after the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius (180 AD).

The Romans had their own version of a financialized economy: they simply devalued their coins by mixing in less and less silver at the mint, so they could pretend to pay for the same luxuries they had grown accustomed to as resources stretched thin. Our financialized economy - like everything else we do - operates at levels of complexity so baffling that even its supposed managers at the central banks are flying blind through fogs of debt, deception, and moral hazard. When that vessel of pretense slams into a mountain top, the effects are likely to be quick and lethal to the economies on the ground below.

In our time, the most recent crash of a major socioeconomic system was the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990-91. Of course, it happened against the backdrop of a global system that was still revving pretty well outside the USSR, and that softened the blow. Ultimately, the Russians still had plenty of oil to sell, which allowed them to re-set well above the Fifth Century peasant level of existence. At least for now. The Soviet Union collapsed because it was a thoroughly dishonest system that ran on pretense and coercion. Apparently, the US Intel Community completely missed the signs that political collapse was underway.

They seem to be pretty clueless about the fate of the USA these days, too. If you consider the preoccupations of two very recent Intel chiefs - John Brennan of CIA and James Clapper, DNI -who now inveigh full-time on CNN as avatars of the Deep State against the wicked Golden Golem of Greatness. Personally, I expect our collapse to be as sudden and unexpected as the USSR’s, but probably bloodier because there’s simply more stuff just lying around to fight over. Of course, I expect the collapse to express itself first in banking, finance, and markets — being so deeply faith-based and so subject to simple failures of faith. But it will become political and social soon enough, maybe all-at once. And when it happens in the USA, it will spread through the financial systems the whole world round."