Monday, December 9, 2019

"How It Really Is"

Of course you understand who they consider the donkey, right?

"We're Living On Borrowed Time..."

"We're Living On Borrowed Time..."
by Adam Taggart

"The laws of physics are governed by cause and effect. But there can exist a time lag between the two. For instance:
Note how the speed of both the bullet and the retracting latex far exceed that of the shockwave or gravity on the water contained inside each balloon. There’s an observable time lag during which the globe of previously-contained water momentarily hangs there in space. Then, a beat later, it’s obliterated.

Living On Borrowed Time: I’m unusually focused on time these days as we’re updating Peak Prosperity’s crown jewel, The Crash Course video series. Originally created in 2008 and updated in 2014, it lays out the macro forces driving the economy and our way of living, explaining why most of them are unsustainable and headed for trouble. That then opens the door to an avalanche of critical questioning about what the future will bring.

Updating the parade of charts and data has been eye-opening for me. When I last did this (early 2014), the S&P had just returned to the same price level that served as the apex for both the 2001 and 2008 market bubbles. I remember how concerned I was then. How could we have returned to such reckless exuberance so quickly after the pain caused by the Dot-com bust and the Great Financial Crisis? Did we learn nothing from our previous (and recent!) excess? Clearly not only did we not learn; we didn’t give a crap. With a “hold my beer, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” bravado, we proceeded to DOUBLE the S&P above the previous bubble highs.

Here at, my co-founder Chris Martenson and I have spilled a lot of ink in the ensuing years, warning how QE (aka central bank money printing), stock buybacks, and record low interest rates have pushed the degree of systemic unsustainability to Bizzaro-world levels. For our most recent analysis, click here, here and here. But the TL;DR version is succinctly captured by the chart below:
Click image for larger size.
Source: Hussman Funds

A few important things to note beyond the colorful editorial commentary I added to John Hussman’s quality work here. First, the chart is logarithmic. The y-axis value doubles with each hashmark. Meaning: the current excess is a lot more extreme than it looks at first glance. Second, the vertical lines indicate ‘dispersions’ which are market conditions Hussman finds are highly-correlated with “steep and rather abrupt market plunges, often representing the first leg of a more extended collapse”.

Notice how rarely they have occurred over the past 25 years, and yet they’ve suddenly increased in frequency of late (the most recent took place on Nov 20th). This is what you would expect to see from a dangerously over-extended system, where prices have been propelled way beyond where they can be sustainably supported. Keep in mind, today’s all-time high prices are occurring at a time when:"

As we covered in a recent report "The Phantom Mania," there’s simply no substance underlying this latest run in stocks. It’s all been driven by multiple expansion, which is a fancy term for “paying more for the same dollar of earnings”, aka, speculating that you’ll be able to sell at a higher price to an even greater fool:
Click image for larger size.
What we are experiencing right now is a ‘time lag’ between the collapse of the argument underlying the 10-year bull market and investors’ recognition of that. A full decade and some $14 Trillion in newly-printed money later, plus the cheapest interest rates in recorded history, and yet the central banks have not been able to restore growth to the global economy. The experiment has failed. And what do we have to show for it? The worst wealth gap in history. An impoverishment of future generations, who will be stuck paying off our recent debt orgy:
Click image for larger size.

Time Is Running Out: And of course, that’s just what’s going on in funny-money land. In the real world, the resources we rely on to power the economy, sustain our modern lifestyle, and put food into our bellies are rapidly becoming more scarce and expensive.

Energy & Minerals: The world remains extremely dependent on fossil fuels and demands more every year. Yet discoveries peaked many decades ago and our reserve replacement rates are now negative: 
Click image for larger size.
Source: Visual Capitalist, US Geological Survey
As explained in this excellent podcast with petroleum geologist Art Berman, this supply/demand imbalance will predictably escalate throughout our lifetime. And a ‘smooth’ transition to other energy sources is mathematically impossible at this point. Sustained supply constraints and higher prices are inevitable. Similarly, many of the most important ores and minerals necessary for economic development are in even worse decline:
Click image for larger size.
Source: World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report

The Biosphere: As a consequence of human industry’s ever-increasing need to consume and the pollution that results, life on the planet is dying off at an unprecedented rate (short of a giant meteorite extinction-level event). World animal populations are dropping at an alarming pace:
Click image for larger size.
Source: Statista

As are insects:
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Source: Statista
As are aquifers and forests:
Click image for larger size.
Source: climatepro
Ourselves: The above statistics clearly show that we are dismantling the underpinnings of the ecosystems we depend on to live. Thus, we have become an existential threat to ourselves. So should it comes as any surprise that we’re already seeing a diminishment of our health? And even of our ability to self-perpetuate?
Click image for larger size.
Source: JAMA
Click image for larger size.
Yes, our lives today still run largely as we’ve always been used to. But given the data above, how long (or brief) will the remaining time lag be before the ramifications begin to hit us at force?

Time To Get Busy: I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really: Get busy living or get busy dying. So concluded Andy Dufresne in "The Shawshank Redemption." And at this stage in the story, the decision is really that binary.

Society for its part is committed to the “busy dying” path. It’s still clutching tightly to Business As Usual. Like an alcoholic who has yet to admit to himself he has a drinking problem, it won’t address what it refuses to recognize. So we can expect the status quo of consume-and-pollute to continue on for some time. Most likely it will be pursued until it simply proves too painful than the remaining alternatives. By which time our other options are likely to be materially worse than they are today. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that conscientious, critically-thinking individuals like you can choose to get busy living. There is much you can do during this time lag to invest in resilience and install regenerative models before the next systemic crisis is upon us. Whatever time we have left, and it may very not be much, is a gift. Use it.

Many of the best defenses - like fitness, community, and valuable skills - require time to acquire. You can’t simply buy them off the shelf the way you can, say, a water filter or a backup generator. Once time has run out, you either already have them in place or you don’t.

In "Part 2: How Best To Use The Time Remaining" we provide our advice for prioritizing and allocating your precious time capital, as well as share with you what and Chris and I are most focused on in own personal preparations. Included along with this are several hours of excellent video clips of experts from our recent educational live events and webinars, available to-date only to premium subscribers. Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)."

"Economic Market Snapshot AM 12/9/19"

Updated frequently as available.
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AM 12/9/19: Gregory Mannerino,
"Market Updates"
— § —
MarketWatch Market Summary, Live Updates
Alert: Watch the % change!
A study, long lost, determined that a 3% drop in the daily % change would be the trigger for an irrecoverable free fall for not only the American economy but the entire global economy as well. The resulting mega-hurricane of margin calls, derivative claims, defaults and bankruptcies would finally and absolutely crush the economy, with extremely dire consequences for us all. Beware... See article "95% Stock Market Loss And A Can Too Big To Kick".

CNN Market Data:

CNN Fear And Greed Index:
—   §   —
Buffett Indicator: Where Are We with Market Valuations?
"As of 12/019 (updates daily): The Stock Market is Significantly Overvalued. Based on historical ratio of total market cap over GDP (currently at 147.3%), it is likely to return -2.4% a year from this level of valuation, including dividends. As of today, the Total Market Index is at $ 31,728 billion, which is about 147.3% of the last reported GDP. The US stock market is positioned for an average annualized return of -2.6%, estimated from the historical valuations of the stock market. This includes the returns from the dividends, currently yielding at 1.74%."
— § —
Daily Job Cuts, Updated daily.
— § —
Visit "ZeroHedge" and "Wall Street On Parade" for the 
very latest daily factual news and information:

— § —

— § —
And soon, the End Game...

"Trump Isn’t Capable of Real Evil"

"Trump Isn’t Capable of Real Evil"
By Bill Bonner

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – "Poor Donald Trump. The Chinese won’t play ball with him. The Democrats are trying to impeach him. And now, other world leaders are laughing at him! L.A. Times: "President Trump, who views norms like a teenager does curfews, shattered another tradition Wednesday when he became the first U.S. president to be laughed at by some of America’s closest allies at a NATO summit, a sign of his increasing isolation on the world stage."

Great Moqueur: The great moqueur is being mocked. But so what? The Donald was elected to break up the status quo. Naturally, a lot of people don’t like it. And many readers will be tempted to pile on… to carp and criticize… Others will prefer to compare Mr. Trump to Woodrow Wilson, whom Europe’s leaders also mocked. When Mr. Wilson showed up in Paris after WWI, with his Fourteen Points in hand, French prime minister Georges Clemenceau tittered that even God himself only had 10.

But like all of us, the president has his strengths and his weaknesses. The problem, from our cynical point of view, is that his strengths are soft and hollow; his weaknesses, on the other hand, are hard as granite. His strengths are his bull-headishness… his reckless disregard for experts, criticism, and convention… and his willingness to go head-to-head with the Deep State and its sanctimonious promoters, such as Hillary Clinton.

Applied consistently and intelligently, The Donald might actually have drained a little greasy water from the Swamp… extricated U.S. soldiers from the pointless wars of the Middle East… dumped a few jackasses from the federal payroll… and trimmed the national debt. His weaknesses, alas, get in his way. He never seems to understand what he is doing or where he is going. He watches TV and changes course. He charges ahead… then retreats. He fires off an attack in one direction… and then in another.

Waste of Time: For example, he was right when he said NATO is a waste of time. But now he tries to build it up. The Associated Press: "Trump, looking to showcase foreign policy wins as he heads into an election year, offered a more optimistic outlook for NATO’s future."

He says he wants to pull out of the forever wars… and ends up adding to them. Foreign Affairs: “Great nations do not fight endless wars,” Trump declared in his 2019 State of the Union address. “We’re bringing our troops back home,” he boasted during a cabinet meeting in October. “I got elected on bringing our soldiers back home.”

But after nearly three years in office, Trump’s promised retrenchment has yet to materialize. In the final months of Obama’s presidency, approximately 198,000 active duty U.S. military personnel were deployed overseas, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Manpower Data Center. By comparison, the most recent figure for the Trump administration is 174,000 active duty troops. But even that difference reflects an accounting trick.

Beginning in December 2017, the Defense Department started excluding troops deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria from its official reports, citing a vague need to “protect our forces.” When the estimated troop levels for those three countries are added back in, the current total is around 194,000–roughly equivalent to the number Trump inherited.

He promises to drain the Swamp… and pay off the national debt. Then, like a fallen woman who pledges to have no more babies out of wedlock, he hops into bed with every lobbyist and big-ticket donor in Washington. It is as if he never knew where babies came from. And so, the Swamp grows deeper… and the national debt rises, even faster than under Obama. 

The Balance: During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump promised he would eliminate the nation’s debt in eight years. Instead, his budgets would add $9.1 trillion during that time. It would increase the U.S. debt to $29 trillion according to Trump’s budget estimates. By contrast, according to The Balance, Obama’s budgets added a total of $8.6 trillion.

Big-Shot POTUS: The more tweets we read… the more we’re persuaded that Trump has never been truly dishonest or two-faced. That would require self-awareness and careful calculation. Instead, his life as a big-shot developer, billionaire, and media star taught him to say things that sounded daring and decisive. But they were just words to him; it didn’t matter what they meant. A tree drops its leaves on the ground, but it can’t be charged with littering.

And Donald J. Trump… mocked and maligned as evil, grasping, and incompetent… and probably guilty on hundreds of counts of bad judgement, negligence, high crimes, and misdemeanors… may actually be the most innocent creature ever to nest in the White House."

The Poet: Kurt Vonnegut, "Joe Heller"

"Joe Heller"

"True story, Word of Honor:

Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead,

and I were at a party given by a billionaire
 on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel 
to know that our host only
may have made more money 
than your 
novel ‘Catch-22’ 
has earned in its entire history?”

And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”

And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”

And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”

Not bad! Rest in peace!"

- Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, December 8, 2019

"In Three Words..."

The Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke, "Sunset"


"Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you,
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,
leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so helplessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs –
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

"Every Human Decision..."

"Except for totally impulsive or psychotic behavior, every human
decision comes down to the choice between two alternatives."
- Jeff Duntemann

“Cheyenne Autumn and Beyond”

“Cheyenne Autumn and Beyond”
by Christy Rodgers

“Autumn in the US is oddly bookmarked by the two holidays that celebrate the origins of European settler colonialism in the Americas: Columbus’ landfall on October 10, and that mythological encounter of multicultural good will, the first successful harvest of the Plymouth Colony on the fourth Thursday in November.

For those who would reflect on a fuller meaning of that history stripped of the hagiography of the victors, this period is a good one in which to be reading Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’ book, “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States” (from Beacon Press’ ReVisioning History series). The book is out in hardcover, and it should be as widely read as possible. It is a foundational work.

It is an overview of more than 400 years of European and US American relations with the Indigenous peoples of the continent, and at less than 240 pages long, it is a somewhat breathless reading experience. But "An Indigenous Peoples’ History" is really meant to be a beginner’s introduction to the topic; its primary function is as a corrective to the inexcusably minimal depiction of those relations even in other radical or revisionist US histories – including Howard Zinn’s original "People’s History," the genesis of the ReVisioning series. In a recent talk in San Francisco, the author described how Zinn essentially commissioned her, when she critiqued this limitation of his work, to write the history he had not.

As an introduction, "An Indigenous Peoples’ History" is written with a clarity and straightforwardness that aid its presentation of a thesis as sound as it is grim: Genocide against Native Americans was not a “tragic” side consequence of settler colonialism based on “cultural misunderstandings” or the unwitting introduction of disease. It was an explicit policy integral to European colonial expansion in the Americas and foundational to post-colonial nation-building. The Americas were already fully settled when Europeans came. Stating the so-often denied obvious, Dunbar-Ortiz notes: “Settler colonialism requires violence or the threat of violence to attain its goals. People do not hand over their land, resources, children, and futures without a fight.” But she also makes it clear that the conditions that drove European expansionism had been hundreds of years in the making.

The class structure developed over centuries in European societies had utterly dispossessed and impoverished a huge segment of their own populations, creating a permanently desperate and land-hungry class whose members, as the book describes, became the justification for and in fact the shock troops of Indian removal. And this remained true even though, time after time, large landholders and speculators were the primary beneficiaries of the land clearances. Dunbar-Ortiz describes how England’s brutal colonization of Ireland in particular served as an effective dry run for its colonial endeavor in the New World.

The ideology of white Christian supremacy, in place since the Crusades, and more recently injected with Calvinism’s idea of the covenant, was also definitive. It wholly justified (when it was necessary to colonial expansion) construing Indigenous peoples as inferior or even satanic. This allowed them no rights – including any to the land on which they lived – that “a white man was bound to respect.” Manifest destiny was the ultimate American expression of this centuries-in-the-making set of doxa. God had conveniently bestowed superior culture (might) upon His chosen, and so they were destined to possess the land. The book convincingly makes the case that these were not the views of outlying extremists, but of the Founding Fathers and the most powerful actors in the colonial and post-colonial political and military arenas.

But there is an equally important and perhaps more unique element that truly makes "An Indigenous Peoples’ History" fundamental reading. It exposes how the set of beliefs and assumptions justifying the displacement and extermination of Native Americans has been crucial to the establishment of a mainstream US identity that persists today, of which manifest destiny is the unspoken premise. And it describes how this idea-set has been and remains a driver of US militarism elsewhere in the hemisphere and the world.

The identity is the settler identity – surrounded by implacable enemies and hostile nature, the US American’s role is to possess and subdue the land and civilize the peoples. Once the frontier closed in the late 19th century, such a heroic and powerfully attractive identity still needed to find expression, and one way it did is through imperialist enterprises spun as bringing light to dark peoples – but also conveniently beneficial to controlling the trade routes and raw materials necessary to internal economic growth.

But outside intervention was also coeval with ongoing wars against Native peoples throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Dunbar-Ortiz describes the continuous nature of US interventionist policy, almost from the founding of the republic: "Between 1798 and 1827, the US intervened militarily twenty-three times from Cuba to Tripoli (Libya), to Greece. There were seventy-one interventions between 1831 and 1896, on all continents, forty interventions between 1898 and 1919, conducted with even more military heft but using the same methods.

The most direct connection between internal and external wars in the late 19th century is the presence of the same military leadership in campaigns against American Indians and in overseas occupations like the Philippines. “Twenty-six of the thirty US generals in the Philippines had been officers in the ‘Indian wars,’” according to Dunbar-Ortiz. “Major General Nelson A. Miles [who had led definitive campaigns to uproot the Nez Perce, the Sioux, and the Apache] was put in general command of the army in the Philippines war.” She notes that Admiral Dewey “referred to the Filipino rebels as ‘the Indians’ and vowed to ‘keep the Indians out’” of Manila."

In the 20th century, the Vietnam War was fought using many of the same methods, and grunts and leaders alike referred to the land beyond enemy lines as “Indian Country.” Dunbar-Ortiz cites military historians who have found the reference in every ensuing US military engagement where troops are on the ground.

Particularly fascinating is her exposure of the use of US legal precedents established during the wars against American Indians, to legitimize torture and the expansion of US military authority in the 21st century “War on Terror.” We are given the example of a Yemeni captive in Guantanamo, whose conviction by US military tribunal was upheld using a precedent from US action against the Seminoles, with the analogy that Seminole resistance was “much like modern-day al Qaeda.” John Yoo’s infamous Bush Administration “Torture Memo” used an 1873 Supreme Court decision declaring vengeful actions, including murder, legal when they are exercised on persons considered “banned from society but still subject to the sovereign’s power.” The precedent-setting case in question concerned the treatment of Modoc Indian prisoners in California who had killed a US Army general.

The third beneficial aspect of this work is the emphasis on Indigenous resistance and survival. It describes the scope of the genocide (with the continental Indigenous population collapsing by 90% in less than 200 years, “commonly referred to as the most extreme demographic disaster in human history”), but it also refuses the narrative that Native American peoples ever became essentially extinct or irrelevant in spite of the almost unrelenting attempts to make them so. Multiple examples of resistance are noted, as well as the late 20th century resurgence in movements that have led to concrete gains for Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty in the US and globally.

Finally, the book challenges what Dunbar-Ortiz calls the “perfectability narrative” of other radical US histories. This is the idea that the US, whatever its original ills, needs only to continue moving towards greater inclusion, and that an engaged citizenry, building on the accomplishments of previous struggles, will ensure that this happens. But without acknowledgment and significant redress of the original wrong, she counters, inclusion will always be an empty word. If there is no acceptance of the fundamentality of genocide to settler colonialism, including in the territory that became the USA, colonialism’s unspoken norms will continue to underlie all US politics, internal or external.

Almost as a side note, she dismisses postmodern and “multicultural” relativist approaches with a lack of equivocation that seems overdue on the Left – that emperor has been parading around in the nude for quite a while.

No matter how many other histories are published in the ReVisioning series, in my view this is the one that should be read first and foremost. The great value of historical events to the non-historian is always the insight they give us into contemporary realities. And only through the corrective lens of the history told here can our current social and political reality even begin to be understood.”

Freely download "A People's History Of The United States", by Howard Zinn, here:

"Is A Global Crash Just Around The Corner? Central Banks Are Cutting At The Fastest Rate Since The Financial Crisis"

"Is A Global Crash Just Around The Corner? Central Banks 
Are Cutting At The Fastest Rate Since The Financial Crisis"
by Tyler Durden

"There is something very fishy about the world's economic situation. On one hand, US president Trump keeps repeating that the US economy is the strongest it has ever been, with global strategists, economists and officials parroting as much they can, repeating that the world economy is also set to rebound sharply any minute now. And yet, two things stand out.

As we pointed out first last month, and as Convoy Investments echoed last week, with the US economy allegedly doing very well, the Fed's balance sheet is now expanding at a rate matched only briefly by QE1, and faster than QE2 or QE3, in the aftermath of September's repo fiasco which provided Powell with an extremely convenient scapegoat on which to hang the return of "NOT QE" (which, we now know, is in fact QE.)

The Fed's unprecedented balance sheet expansion in a time of alleged economic stability and solid growth is a handy explanation why the S&P has been soaring in the past two months, and as we pointed out, a remarkable correlation has emerged whereby the S&P is up every week the Fed's balance sheet is higher, and down whenever the balance sheet has declined.

And so, while helping us understand what has been the fuel for the market's recent blow-off top meltup, the Fed's emergency intervention does beg the question: is there something amiss more than just the repo market, and is Powell telegraphing that a far more serious crisis may be looming?

It's not just Powell, however. It's everyone. As Bank of America's Michael Hartnett notes in his latest Flows and Liquidity weekly, global monetary policy has flipped from Quantitative Tightening (net 42 hikes & $650bn liquidity removed in 2018) to aggressive Quantitative Easing (net 53 cuts) and represents that fastest pace of central bank cuts since the financial crisis.

Of course, back then, there was a legitimate reason for central banks to be cutting rates as if their lives depended on it: they literally did, because absent stabilization at any cost, fractional reserve banking, modern economics and the entire western way of life was on its way out in the aftermath of the Lehman failure.

Yet now there is none of that.... or so conventional thinking goes. In fact, the global economy - while sputtering - is supposedly doing just fine. And yet, central banks are acting as if a global financial crisis is just around the corner.

And here are the stats backing this up: central banks have injected $400 billion in liquidity since last Christmas, while the dovish ECB and now Fed - which added $107BN in liquidity on Friday lone - are set to boost central bank balance sheets by another $600 billion in 2020 and, as Bank of America's Hartnett concludes "remain chief bullish support for risk assets."

What does this all mean? It means that whereas we once joked that stocks would hit +∞ the moment World War III begins, we are now convinced - and dead serious - that algos will bid up every single asset to whatever is "limit up" (if there is one) when the next depression officially begins, front-running the final act, in which central banks buy every single asset out of existential desperation, as the alternative would be a world where the central planning that has defined "markets" for the past decade, is finally over.”

"Our Hope, Our Illusion..."

"One day everything will be well, that is our hope;
Everything’s fine today, that is our illusion."
– Voltaire, “Poem on the Lisbon Disaster” (1756)

"Love Life..."

"In 1999, Steve lost his son to suicide. A few years later he lost his daughter to a drug overdose. At sixty-four years old, he has walked across the United States seven times to raise awareness for depression and suicide and to inspire people he meets to “love life.” Prior to his departure, Steve ran a couple of successful car detailing businesses in Vero Beach, Florida. After fourteen years and 34,000 miles of walking, Steve continues his quest to heal his heart and the hearts of those in need. “When love fills your life all limitations are gone. The medicine this sick world needs so badly is love.” – Peace Pilgrim

Musical Interlude: Gov't Mule, "Soulshine"; "Forevermore"

Gov't Mule, "Soulshine"

Gov't Mule, "Forevermore"
This song, and story, will touch your soul...

"And I believe that love is stronger than death..."
- Robert Fulghum
"93-Year Old Man Eats Lunch With Late Wife Everyday"

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Grand tidal streams of stars seem to surround galaxy NGC 5907. The arcing structures form tenuous loops extending more than 150,000 light-years from the narrow, edge-on spiral, also known as the Splinter or Knife Edge Galaxy. Recorded only in very deep exposures, the streams likely represent the ghostly trail of a dwarf galaxy - debris left along the orbit of a smaller satellite galaxy that was gradually torn apart and merged with NGC 5907 over four billion years ago. 
Click image for larger size.
Ultimately this remarkable discovery image, from a small robotic observatory in New Mexico, supports the cosmological scenario in which large spiral galaxies, including our own Milky Way, were formed by the accretion of smaller ones. NGC 5907 lies about 40 million light-years distant in the northern constellation Draco. “

“New ATF Study: 423 MILLION Guns In Hands Of Americans”

“New ATF Study: 423 MILLION Guns In Hands Of Americans” 
Violent crime rate has decreased by 48.6 percent in tandem with ownership rise.
by Steve Watson

"Newly released figures from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives shows that there are now a whopping 422.9 million guns in the hands of Americans. The number equates to 1.2 guns for every person in the country. The figures also show that in 2018, 8.1 billion rounds of ammunition were produced by the gun industry.

The figures also reveal that the most popular firearm in the country is the much maligned sporting rifle, often mis-identified as an “assault rifle”, the AR-15 being one of the more popular models. The findings highlight that there are now 17.7 million of them in private hands, a record high, and more than half (54%) of all rifles produced in 2017 were modern sporting rifles.

The ATF figures also reveal that firearms-ammunition manufacturing accounted for nearly 12,000 jobs in the US, creating over $4.1 billion in goods shipped in 2017. “These figures show the industry that America has a strong desire to continue to purchase firearms for lawful purposes,” said Joe Bartozzi, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“The modern sporting rifle continues to be the most popular centerfire rifle sold in America today and is clearly a commonly owned firearm with more than 17 million in legal private ownership today.” Bartozzi continued. “The continued popularity of handguns demonstrates a strong interest by Americans to protect themselves and their homes and to participate in the recreational shooting sports,” Bartozzi added.

Bartozzi also noted that “as lawful firearms ownership in America continues to grow, criminal and unintentional misuse of firearms is falling.” “During the 25-year period covered in this report (1993–2017) the violent crime rate has decreased by 48.6 percent and unintentional firearm-related fatalities have declined by 68 percent.” he added.

One reason why the popularity of the sporting rifle continues to grow may be because it is routinely criticized and targeted in arguments for stricter gun control. Justin Anderson of Hyatt Guns, one of the biggest firearm retailers in the country noted that “Sales have definitely been brisk, especially of small, concealable handguns. We also saw a spike in sales of tactical rifles like AR-15s and AK-47s, for which I think we can confidently thank Beto O’Rourke.”

During a failed presidential run, Beto said on multiple occasions that he would ban AR-15s, and even go door to door to confiscate the weapons from Americans. With a near record high of gun sales on Black Friday, Americans are sending a clear message in exercising their Second Amendment rights.

"Two Ways To Be Fooled..."

”There are two ways to be fooled: one is to believe what isn’t so; 
the other is to refuse to believe what is so."
- Soren Kierkegaard

"Frenchmen! To Arms!"

"Frenchmen! To Arms!" 
by Eric S. Margolis

"Citizens of France! To arms! Man the ramparts! The American barbarians are coming! They shall not pass!

Le Trump’s threat to France’s splendid wines and Roquefort cheese are the gravest menace France has faced since the Germans invaded this fair land in 1914. Burgundy wines and France’s 300 fromages form the very soul of la Belle France.

Trump does not know or care that France saved America from British mis-rule.  He wants revenge because France – which taxes nearly everything – seeks to tax US IT firms like Google and Amazon. Trump considers this a personal affront. Besides, he dislikes wine and lives on desiccated burgers made with petrochemical cheese, washed down by acidic Diet Cokes.

On top of this outrage comes the squabble over NATO. Trump used to scoff at the Alliance, saying it was ‘obsolete’ as well as under-armed and short of money. The president and his backers really dislike France and all it stands for, including wine and cheese.

Even more important, Trump and his Bible Belt supporters want to keep ‘ungodly’ Europe under Washington’s thumb.  NATO is the instrument of America’s domination over Europe.  Confused president Trump fails to understand that the NATO members are supposed to devote up to 2% of their budgets to building their own military forces, not to paying off Washington for protection.

Most European nations have sharply reduced their military budgets since the end of the Cold War.  In spite of warlike talk from some NATO leaders, most Europeans, aside from the Poles and Baltic states, see no threat from the old foe, Russia. Modern Russia’s armed forces have seriously shrunken. While impressive on paper, they must defend a vast territory from Poland to the Bering Strait. Worse, the drop in world oil prices has cut Russia’s military budgets.

Unlike 1980, Europeans have little fear that 40,000 Soviet tanks are about to crush all before them and race for the Channel ports. The most important European power, Germany, has grown militarily feeble. German tax-payers, like most other Europeans, see no need to spend billions of hard-earned euros against a non-existent threat from the East. The Poles are arming against Russia, and the Greeks against Turkey, but these local squabbles should not be NATO’s primary concern.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron called today’s NATO brain dead, invoking the ire of Trump.  What Macron meant was that the alliance has no coherent strategy or world view. The US wants to use NATO as a Europe-based police force to support its imperial operations in the Mideast, Africa and, most lately, against China. Most Europeans say that these far-flung regions have nothing to do with European security and want no part of a growing conflict with China. It was bad enough the US forced NATO to get militarily involved in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq. Trump wants his European Foreign Legion; Europeans say no.

Aside from France, which is deeply involved in a nasty, neo-colonial misadventure in West Africa, most Europeans have no interest in such ‘little wars.’ Their military industrial complexes do not drive government policies, as in the United States. Though, an interesting exception is Britain. It was just revealed that commandos of Britain’s Special Boat Service have been actively involved in Yemen’s bloody civil war to assist Saudi-backed forces.

As President Macron has been rightly saying, the European Union, a greater economic power than the United States, should have its own unified military forces. It’s absurd that the so-called European Union has neither armed forces nor centralized command. The United States is happy to fulfill this role because it preserves American domination of Europe that dates back to the 1940’s and assures a large market for US arms makers.

And, yes, many Europeans don’t want to pay the price for real military power. Who cares about squalid little wars in the Mideast, Africa and West Asia? There’s no way Europe will get into a military confrontation with China over two-by-nothing islets no one has ever even heard of."

"A Fraught Moment"

"A Fraught Moment"
by James Howard Kunstler

"The last time the Democratic Party blew up in a presidential election year was 1860. It had evolved from Jefferson’s 1800 bloc of yeoman farmers to Andrew Jackson’s rowdy caucus of frontier populists in the 1830s, and settled into a slough of pro-slavery apologists by the 1850s, including two do-nothing Democratic presidents, Pierce and Buchanan. The party held a nominating convention in the spring of 1860 and couldn’t come up with a candidate when a claque of southern “fire-eaters” walked out. They tried again a few months later and cracked up into three separate parties with three nominees - and of course Mr. Lincoln won the election. The result was the bloodiest war in US history.

That’s one way to drain a swamp. Historical obfuscators might say the Civil War was a lofty, legalistic quarrel over “state’s rights,” but of course it was really about the intolerable depravity of slavery. A hundred years later, the mysterious inversions of history converted the old slaver’s party into the Civil Rights party. That had a good fifty-year run. It included a hearty side-dish of anti-war sentiment, and a general disposition against the Big Brother treatment of citizens, including especially the overreach of the CIA and the FBI.

What is the Democratic Party today? Well, it’s the cheerleading squad for “seventeen” government agencies that add up to the craftily-labeled “intel community,” a warm-and-fuzzy coalition of snoops, false witnesses, rogue lawfare cadres, seditionists, and bad-faith artists working sedulously to hide their previous misdeeds with ever-fresh ones. They’re the party against free speech, the party against due process of law, the party determined to provoke war with Russia. They’re the party of sexual confusion, sexual hysteria, and sexual conflict, the party of kangaroo courts, cancel culture, erasing boundaries (including national borders), and of making up rules for all that as they go along - like the Nazis and Soviets used to do. The ideas and policies they advocate are so comprehensively crazy that their old support of slavery looks quaintly straightforward in comparison.

It’s taken a while for the full efflorescence of these political pathologies to present. But now they are finally on display for all to see in what is supposed to be a climactic impeachment melodrama. The impeachment process itself has revealed the party’s genius for inventing new debaucheries of law and government misconduct - the latest being Rep Adam Schiff’s blatantly illegal cadging of his opponents’ phone logs. And now, after three years of unchallenged wickedness, they literally face the moment of truth.

That is, when all the many players in this grand game of Gotcha have to face the consequences of what they have done. The Horowitz report is necessarily limited to the DOJ inspector general’s narrow mission scope: the IG can only interview current employees of the agency and its stepchild, the FBI, which means that key players in the Gotcha game such as former FBI director Comey, former acting director McCabe, fired special agent Peter Strzok and notably ex-CIA director John Brennan were outside of Mr. Horowitz’s sphere of operations. His scope was also supposedly limited to the issues around FISA warrant mischief - though those complex shenanigans may have led the IG to other related dodges, cons, and crimes outright. The IG has no real law enforcement powers. He can only refer or recommend further action. Nevertheless, a great miasma of anxiety oppresses the Democratic Party now as it awaits whatever Mr. Horowitz has to say about these matters.

The party’s propaganda arms at The New York Times, the WashPo, and cable news networks worked up a frenzy of distractions and ruses this past week - for instance the “bombshell” that International-Man-of-Mystery Joseph Mifsud was not a hireling of the FBI. Of course, nobody ever claimed he was. Rather, he is suspected of being an agent of the Italian intel service with links to British intel, both used by the CIA as beards for its nefarious activities around its own election meddling of 2016. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic caucus has been busy with ersatz impeachment proceedings, which are invidiously scheduled to continue next week as a smokescreen to conceal the Horowitz findings. It’s been a frantic campaign for them at a fraught moment in this long saga - but the odor of desperation is thick and rank.

Of course, behind the Horowitz report loom the specters of Barr & Durham. Whatever they’ve been up to has been hermetically sealed in a globe of silence even more oppressive and nightmarish for the Dems than the IG’s inquiry. Barr & Durham are able to make things stick, most crucially genuine criminal culpability for the entire RussiaGate fiasco and all of its offshoots, including the most recent “Whistleblower” caper - a patently treasonous scheme. Who knows if and when indictments start raining down, but there’s a chance that it will be a very hard rain indeed.

I’m not so sure that the Democratic Party can survive the washing away of its beloved narrative by that hard rain. They are also faced with a field of manifestly lame presidential candidates, especially the current leader of the pack, Joe Biden, fumbling and doddering his way down the campaign trail in an apparent effort to dodge being investigated for the grifts of his Veep years. All this may be enough to put the party down, like a dog that has peed on the carpet one time too many. Somebody else, from some other hastily assembled party, may have to stand against Mr. Trump in 2020."

"All We Have To Decide..."

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. 
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for 
them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "Lord of the Rings"

"How’s That Alternative Reality Working Out For You?"

"How’s That Alternative Reality Working Out For You?"
 by Robert Gore

"Two plus two equals four. Epstein didn’t kill himself.

At the end of "1984", Slavery is Freedom, two plus two equals five, and Winston Smith loves Big Brother. The Party has destroyed Smith’s mind, he embraces whatever narratives it promulgates. The fictive Party has solved the conundrum that bedevils any individual or organization seeking to exercise power: coercion can exact physical compliance and the desired verbalizations, but how do you compel the subjugated to think and believe as you want them to think and believe?

Our Party, the confederation of powerful people who promulgate the narratives that always point the same direction - more government and power for the powerful, less freedom for the subjugated - has yet to reach the mind control of Orwell’s Party, but not for want of desire or effort. We know the Party’s narratives: globalism, climate change, surveillance, incarceration, political correctness, open borders, free migration, fiat debt, central economic planning, socialized education and medical care, and wars on terrorism, drugs, poverty, any regime that refuses to toe the Party line, hydrocarbons, private firearms, individual rights, privacy, precious metals and cash, and socialized education and medical care. We know the Party’s institutions: governments, central banks and their central banks, intelligence agencies, military forces, police, permanent bureaucracies, multinational corporations, multilateral economic, political, and financial institutions, foundations, universities, nonprofits, and NGOs. We know the Party’s overlapping mouthpieces: the mainstream media, think tanks, government and intelligence agency propaganda organs, crony executives and their companies, Hollywood, and academia. And we know the figureheads who stock governments and their allied institutions, and the Party puppeteers who pull their strings.

We also know the Party is not omnipotent. Just as Orwell’s Party went to all that trouble to ensure Winston Smith thought the right thoughts, our Party wants our belief, acceptance, and consent. Control is far easier to exercise on a population that accepts being controlled and gives carte blanche to its controllers. That Donald Trump, who occasionally tells inconvenient truths but has done precious little to actually change the way the government operates, elicits paroxysms of spastic rage shows just how important it is to the Party that we all think the right thoughts. 

There are two problems with the Party’s narrative management: the people who don’t believe it, and the people who do. In the Party’s perfect world, it would have a monopoly on information and interpretation. However, it’s battling a trend that began with the invention of writing: the ever-increasing availability and dispersion of information. The latest untoward development is the Internet, which allows virtually anyone to disclose a secret, reveal a lie, express an opinion, satirize, post a photograph or video, or otherwise challenge Party narratives. The many that wither under Internet scrutiny reveal the Party for what it is: a serial, unrepentant liar. 

Looking at threats to or from the Internet - intelligence agency surveillance, state censorship, and social media companies’ exclusion and elimination of disfavored political views - there is cause for concern. The threats are certainly threatening, but looking at what the Internet has already wrought argues against total despair.

Twenty years ago, the whole concept of a Deep State was fringe, a notion embraced only by kooks and so-called conspiracy theorists. There was an American Deep State with international connections and it had been running the country since at least WWII, but it really was deep, few people on the outside were aware of it. Now, the phrase is routinely cited by the president, deployed every day in the alternative media, and even the mainstream media occasionally use it.

In fact, the mainstream media has gone from denying the Deep State to telling us what a great thing it is, the last bulwark against a Trump dictatorship. So the witnesses against Trump in the House impeachment hearings aren’t State Department bureaucrats in love with their own deeply flawed Ukraine policies, protecting themselves and their Democratic cronies from revelations of involvement in Ukraine’s rampant corruption, and using second-, third-, and fourth-hand conversations in an attempt to depose the elected President. No, they’re heroes.

However, unlike the not too distant past when both bureaucrats and mainstream media commanded a certain respect among most of the populace, the House impeachment hearings got shredded in real time by the alternative media. Somewhere between 45 to 50 percent of the population refuses to believe what they’re told to believe, and that percentage is always growing (once you understand the con you don’t go back to believing it). Even a few Democrats recognized that the hearings flopped and have suggested a face-saving motion to censure Trump rather than refer the case to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it would be a nonstop embarrassment.

To counter the “Epstein didn’t kill himself” meme that’s run riot on the Internet, Attorney General William Barr recently restated the official conclusion that Jeffrey Epstein’s death was suicide by hanging, resulting from “a perfect storm of screw-ups.”

This perfect storm of unlucky oopsies include Epstein being taken off suicide watch not long after a previous suicide attempt and shortly before his successful suicide, suggestions that the first attempt may have actually been an assault via attempted strangulation inflicted by someone else, two security guards simultaneously falling asleep on the job when they were supposed to be checking on Epstein, one of those guards not even being an actual security guard, security footage of two cameras outside Epstein’s cell being unusable due to a mysterious technical glitch, at least eight Bureau of Prisons officials knowing Epstein wasn’t meant to be left alone in his cell and leaving him alone in his cell anyway, Epstein’s cellmate being transferred out of their shared space the day before Epstein’s death, Epstein signing a will two days before his death, unexplained injuries on Epstein’s wrists and shoulder reported by his family after the autopsy, and a forensic expert who examined Epstein’s body claiming that his injuries were more consistent with homicide than suicide.

It was years before those who questioned the Warren Commission’s conclusions didn’t have their sanity questioned. Now within four months of Epstein’s death the Attorney General felt compelled to respond to the Internet and the alternative and social medias it has spawned. Barr didn’t change a single mind - the meme is still viral - but he has prompted a new SLL word coinage for any effort by the powerful to whitewash their own lies and corruption: Epstein-Barr Syndrome, or EBS.

Thanks to the Internet, those of us who are paying attention know our Party’s narratives, institutions, mouthpieces, and personnel are evil to their rotten core. We don’t know all the details, but we don’t have to, the incontrovertible truths we have are enough. Epstein could have disclosed devastating truths about Party pedophiles, perverts, and pimps, and we’ve been Epstein-Barred too often to believe he killed himself. Once your eyes are opened, they stay open and you become an expert at spotting EBS. You reflexively reject Party propaganda and by implication, the Party itself.

Popular discontent and protests, some violent, are breaking out all over the world. A number of causes have been cited: corrupt governments, wealth inequality, domestic interference by foreign governments and institutions, rising taxes, fees, and the overall cost of living, and disconnected politicians, bureaucrats, and institutions. While all of these undoubtedly play a role, there’s one constant that is rarely cited: people are fed up with the lies. They’re enraged by the hidden agendas, incompetence, and evil the lies are meant to hide.

The Chinese government is typical, it rests on lies. You don’t need to censor the internet or institute a social credit system if truth is your lodestar.  It has told a whopper regarding Hong Kong: that a totalitarian system can accommodate a second system that confers substantially more freedom. 

Undoubtedly the US and British governments are covertly encouraging Hong Kong’s protestors and are trying to capitalize on the Chinese government’s discomfiture. While the Chinese government regards the outside influences as illegitimate, it cannot tolerate a free Hong Kong even were the protests to stop because a substantial portion of their own billion-plus repressed citizens would get wind of it and ask why they cannot enjoy the same freedom.

If China finds the protests of around two million Hong Kong residents troublesome, protests from even one percent of mainland Chinese - roughly ten million people - would be a nightmare. Freedom and totalitarianism are self-evidently incompatible, and sooner or later the Chinese government will try to impose its system on Hong Kong. That’s the truth it cannot tell. The protests may serve as the pretext, or there may be some sort of creeping consolidation before the “One Country, Two Systems” charade ends in 2047. Either way, Hong Kong’s days as a semi-free enclave are numbered. Its citizens know it, and that’s the main fuel for the current conflagration, regardless of what the American and British governments are doing to fan the flames.

As I say on the Welcome page of Straight Line Logic: The truth always threatens those whose power and wealth rests on lies. Through history that has meant governments and those who align their fates with governments. However, the unbelievers may not be as big a problem for the Party as the believers. 

The Party has morons on its team: those who still believe its narratives. It doesn’t matter if true believers are PhDs, Mensa members, or billionaires, in real-world intelligence they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed. The problem with having morons on your team is that they’re, well, morons. They’re the Party’s allies, but that’s like a military alliance with Haiti. They’re too stupid or lazy to try to figure out the world they live in and aren’t going to get their first clue until the handouts stop. As collapse accelerates and reaches full fruition, the ranks of the disbelieving and cynical will only grow. You quit believing when you’re starving. The Party’s already faltering mind control effort will fail, even among the morons.
Most of the PhDs, Mensa members, and billionaires who profess belief know the con but go along with it for pelf and power. They have everything but principles and will spout Party proper-speak as long as it’s in their interest. So the Party can count on the support of the venal and the duplicitous, but how staunch and steadfast will that support be when collapse accelerates, chaos reigns, and it’s every man for himself? We’ll see.

The Party narrative is problematic not just because of the quality of people who believe or profess to believe it. The more significant deficiency is that it doesn’t correspond to reality. You can have millions, even billions, of believers who fervently believe that two plus two equals five, but that means you have millions, even billions, of intellectual cripples who can’t balance a checkbook or perform any other elementary arithmetic function. Or any of the higher operations arithmetic supports - like science and technology. 

The climate change debate is instructive. For years people have tried to model financial markets. There’s a built in incentive: incalculable wealth awaits anyone who gets it right even 60 percent of the time. Yet nobody has done so, because financial markets are extremely complex, are influenced by myriad variables, the relationship among variables and between the variables and the markets change, and we don’t know all the relevant variables.

The same things can be said about climate modeling, except with more emphasis, because climate is more complex and has more potentially interacting variables—some of which we undoubtedly don’t know about—than financial markets. Climate models should be considered inherently unreliable, and models that purport to explain and predict climate based on one or two variables laughably so. If we can’t predict financial markets we certainly can’t predict climate. The state of human knowledge and predictive acumen just isn’t there.

Yet, on the basis of these inherently faulty climate models, many of which have already revealed their deficiencies, the world is supposed to reduce its standard of living, embrace radical, costly, and potentially deadly changes in power generation, food consumption, modes of travel, and economic activity, and hand power over to multilateral and global institutions, supposedly the only way with which the predicted consequences can be dealt. 
The problem with morons and what they believe is that reality-based non-morons can’t wall them off to live with each other and the consequences of their collective irrationality and neuroticism. They insist we live according to their moronic dictates. Conflict is inevitable. However, the quality of the two sides will be far more important than their quantity.

The Party got what it wanted from Winston Smith - a dolt who believed its self-contradictory narratives, but wasn’t much good for anything else. It’s not clear if it was even economically worthwhile for the Party to keep Smith alive. As a dolt could he produce more than he consumed?

In the coming conflict, one motivated hacker rebel will be worth at least 10 million Winston Smiths. A military specialist rebel able to organize and lead guerrilla operations will be worth at least a million Winston Smiths. And any rebel who refuses to be Epstein-Barred, sees through the Party’s narratives, fights its dictates, and has a unwavering dedication to the truth will be worth at least 100,000 Winston Smiths."