Monday, October 31, 2011

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Is this what our own Milky Way Galaxy looks like from far away? Similar in size and grand design to our home Galaxy (although without the central bar), spiral galaxy NGC 3370 lies about 100 million light-years away toward the constellation of the Lion (Leo). Recorded below in exquisite detail by the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, the big, beautiful face-on spiral is not only photogenic, but has proven sharp enough to study individual stars known as Cepheids. 
 Click image for larger size.
These pulsating stars have been used to accurately determine NGC 3370's distance. NGC 3370 was chosen for this study because in 1994 the spiral galaxy was also home to a well studied stellar explosion - a Type Ia supernova. Combining the known distance to this standard candle supernova, based on the Cepheid measurements, with observations of supernovas at even greater distances, has helped to reveal the size and expansion rate of the entire Universe itself.”

"The True Dream..."

“Maybe we accept the dream has become a nightmare. We tell ourselves that reality is better. We convince ourselves it’s better that we never dream at all. But, the strongest of us, the most determined of us, holds on to the dream or we find ourselves faced with a fresh dream we never considered. We wake to find ourselves, against all odds, feeling hopeful. And, if we’re lucky, we realize in the face of everything, in the face of life the true dream is being able to dream at all.”
- Dr. Meredith Grey, "Grey's Anatomy"

The Universe

"Shiver me timbers!!! For just a moment there I thought that time was real, that space was deep, and that manipulating circumstances and messing with the "hows" was the way to manifest life changes! Talk about insanity! Chaos! Doom! Whatever you do on this spookiest day of the year and beyond, don't let it happen to you. Must have been the "apple" punch... Oh, hey, nice costume! Happy Halloween!!!!!"
"Think, think, and let go-"
    The Universe

"Thoughts become things... choose the good ones!"

The Daily "Near You?"

Puerto Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina. Thanks for stopping by.

G.I. Gurdjieff, "The Magicians Sheep"

 "The Magicians Sheep"
by G.I. Gurdjieff

"There is an Eastern tale that speaks about a very rich magician who had a great many sheep. But at the same time this magician was very mean. He did not want to hire shepherds, nor did he want to erect a fence about the pasture where the sheep were grazing. The sheep consequently often wandered into the forest, fell into ravines and so on, and above all, they ran away, for they knew that the magician wanted their flesh and their skins, and this they did not like.

At last the magician found a remedy. He hypnotized his sheep and suggested to them, first of all, that they were immortal and that no harm was being done to them when they were skinned; that on the contrary, it would be very good for them and even pleasant; secondly he suggested that the magician was a good master who loved his flock so much that he was ready to do anything in the world for them; and in the third place, he suggested that if anything at all were going to happen to them, it was not going to happen just then, at any rate not that day, and therefore they had no need to think about it. Further, the magician suggested to his sheep that they were not sheep at all; to some of them he suggested that they were lions, to some that they were eagles, to some that they were men, to others that they were magicians. After this all his cares and worries about the sheep came to an end. They never ran away again, but quietly awaited the time when the magician would require their flesh and skins."

"Entire West Coast Hit Hard By Fukushima Radiation"

"Entire West Coast Hit Hard By Fukushima Radiation"
By Zen Gardner

Click image for larger size.

Here are some excerpts concerning North America:

    * “Already on 15 March, a first isolated 133Xe cloud reached western North America, followed by the arrival of high concentrations of both 133Xe and 137Cs on 19 March.”

    * “The main part of the radioactive plume entered western North America on 17–18 March. On 18 March at 12:00UTC, the head of the plume had already arrived over the North Atlantic, but the main part was located over the eastern Pacific Ocean and western North America, where it could be detected at monitoring sites. This part of the plume was also rich in 137Cs, as it was still close to the surface south of 50 [Most of US/Canada border is 49°]. At the same time, the plume penetrated the subtropics and arrived at Hawaii on 19 March.”

    * “A map of the simulated surface concentrations of 133Xe for 22 March shows that all of western North America was engulfed by the FD-NPP plume, as well as parts of eastern North America and eastern  Asia.”

Click image for larger size.

 Click image for larger size.

"How It Really Is"

General Douglas MacArthur, "Duty, Honor, Courage"

"Duty, Honor, Courage"
by General Douglas MacArthur

"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!
And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"
- Barry Goldwater

"Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule. But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. 

They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. 

They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life."
- General Douglas MacArthur,
in a speech given at West Point, 1962.

Bill Bonner, "A Delusional Belief in Debt-Based Growth"

"A Delusional Belief in Debt-Based Growth"
 by Bill Bonner

"Last week, the bull market continued. Investors were sure that the bailout of Europe’s wobbly debtors was a done deal. The details of the deal have yet to be worked out. Just details, of course…such as who’s going to pay for it and where they’re going to get the money. That, and whether Europe’s 17 nations will go along with it…when they finally figure out what “it” is. For now, nobody knows.

Here’s how we look at it. After WWII, Europe rose from its ashes while America went from strength to strength. The entire developed, non-communist world — including Japan — enjoyed its “30 glorious years” of growth. Then, something went wrong. The zombies gained power…and gradually shifted more and more resources to unproductive sectors. At the same time, the payoff from increased use of fossil fuels (the real cause of above-trend growth since the advent of the Industrial Revolution) reached the point of declining marginal utility. Energy prices rose and it was more and more difficult to find applications that would pay off. Together, these phenomena caused real growth rates to decline. Neither in France nor in America have real wages shown significant improvement since. That is, for the last 40 years, the earnings of the typical working stiff have barely improved.

How to react to this challenge? In the US, households ran down their balance sheets. They made up for the lack of income growth with debt growth. This allowed them to continue improving their standards of living until the 21st century. In Europe, it was governments who ran down their balance sheets. They made up for the lack of income growth with increased public services, financed by debt. This allowed people to improve their standards of living even though they weren’t earning more money. In terms of total debt, there is not much difference between the countries of Europe and the US. All have total debt-to-GDP ratios in the 250%-300% range. Some a bit more. Some a bit less. In Europe and Japan, the debt is concentrated in the public sector. In America, it is mostly in the private sector…with the public sector gaining ground fast.

Of course, the people who sell debt — namely, Wall Street, the City in London, and the rest of the financial industry — did wonderfully well. In America, for example, the percentage of total corporate profits coming from the financial industry rose 300% during the last three decades. That is why people think the banks were the cause of the problem. Mostly, they were just in the right time at the right place to benefit from a trend that they didn’t cause and couldn’t possibly control.

Then, in 2007, the reckoning began. All of a sudden, the private sector in the US buckled under the weight of so much debt. People couldn’t pay their mortgages…and then the geniuses at the finance companies realized that they were broke. Their sliced and diced mortgage debt was not nearly as solid as they had thought. Governments rushed to bail out the banks, who just happened to be large campaign contributors. The feds swamped themselves in the process. Iceland and Ireland were the first to sink. Then, all the periphery of Europe was shipping water.

Back in America, whole towns were soon underwater…such as Las Vegas and Orlando. In Europe, whole countries were submerged, such as Greece. And what did the authorities do? What was their solution? Alas, they are all one-trick ponies. And the only trick they know — adding more debt — doesn’t work. But they keep at it…lowering interest rates, offering more credit on EZ terms to everyone. Students are encouraged to shackle themselves to a lifetime of ball-and-chain education debt. Homeowners, who should swim away from their underwater houses, are encouraged to refinance. Everyone is encouraged to spend money he doesn’t have on products he doesn’t need so that the economy will go where it shouldn’t go — further into debt!

But even if the feds can get households to repeat their errors…they won’t be able to keep it up; they’re running out of money. A Wall Street Journal blog explains: "Like the Cardinals’ David Freese, the US consumer stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park in the third quarter. Unless job and income gains pick up, though, the household sector may not get past first base this quarter. Consumer spending powered the 2.5% annualized gain in real gross domestic product last quarter. The monthly numbers show spending ended the quarter on a very strong note in September, despite surveys showing the household sector very downbeat about the economy. Can consumers keep buying in the fourth quarter?"

There are, however, a few reasons for caution. Income gains are trailing spending increases. Personal income edged up just 0.1% in September. After taking price changes and taxes into account, real disposable income has fallen for three consecutive months. As a result, last quarter’s spending gain came at the expense of savings. The September saving rate dipped to 3.6%, the lowest rate since the recession began in December 2007.

Consumers cannot ignore their nest eggs indefinitely. Households need to pay down existing debts (a form of saving) and to replenish retirement funds eroded during the financial crisis. A saving rate closer to 5% is needed to repair household finances. Looking beyond the fourth quarter, much faster hiring and wage growth are needed to solidify the consumer outlook. Good luck on that!

Debt has become an impediment to growth, not a facilitator. Like energy, it reached the point of declining marginal utility years ago. The feds can still add debt — at least in America — but it won’t make the economy grow. Instead, it crushes it. And when investors finally figure this out they will sell their stocks…and the markets will be free to complete their rendezvous with the bottom. Stay tuned…”

"Occupy America and Friendly Fascism: Life in the Corporate Police State"

"Occupy America and Friendly Fascism:
Life in the Corporate Police State"
By John W. Whitehead

"Law is no longer what it was intended to be - a set of rules equally binding everyone to ensure that outcome inequalities are at least legitimate - and instead has become the opposite: a tool used by the politically and financially powerful to entrench their own power and control the society. That's how and why the law now destroys equality and protects the powerful. What we see with the protests demonstrates exactly how that works. The police force—the instrument of law enforcement—is being used to protect powerful criminals who have suffered no consequences for their crimes. It is simultaneously used to coerce and punish the powerless: those who are protesting and who have done nothing wrong, yet are subjected to an array of punishment ranging from arrest to pepper spray and other forms of abuse. That's what the two-tiered justice system is: elites are immunized for egregious crimes while ordinary Americans are subjected to merciless punishment for trivial transgressions."—Glenn Greenwald, author of "With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful"

While the Occupy protests are an encouraging sign that Americans are not completely oblivious to the creeping despotism that is overtaking the nation, time alone will tell whether the Occupy Wall Street movement and its companion protests throughout the country amount to anything more than an expression of discontent on the part of the 99% with the so-called 1%. What has been made clear, however, by the naked aggression of the corporate-state against these protesters is that the 1% is protected by its own security force—the police—funded ironically enough by the very 99% against whom they are waging war with pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas and other instruments of compliance.

For example, in a September 2011 incident, the New York police responded to Occupy Wall Street protestors by throwing people to the ground and using pepper spray on nonviolent protesters trapped behind a barricade. One protestor, Kelly Brannon, described the scene, "They put up orange nets and tried to kettle us and we started running and they started tackling random people and handcuffing them. They were herding us like cattle." Another protestor was arrested because he had been chanting "let them go" as people were handcuffed. According to news reports, journalist Luke Rudowski was rammed in the stomach with a club and thrown to the ground, despite repeatedly making it clear that he was with the media, while two Fox News reporters were hit with pepper spray and at least one police club. The NYPD have since become savvier. Rather than using brute force to discourage the protests, they have resorted to freezing out the protesters by confiscating their electric generators and the fuel that runs them.

Police in Oakland used tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, sound cannons and flash bang grenades to disperse the Occupy Oakland protest. An Iraq War veteran, 24-year-old Scott Olsen, who was taking part in the protest, was struck in the head with a police projectile. His skull was fractured and he was listed in critical condition due to his brain swelling. When protestors came to his aid, they were driven back by a flash bang grenade.

Police in Atlanta rounded up more than 50 protesters who had been camped out in a city park as part of Occupy Atlanta, while police in Philadelphia arrested 15 individuals engaged in a sit-in in protest of police brutality as part of Occupy Philadelphia. San Diego Police arrested 44 protesters at Occupy San Diego, confiscating all personal belongings and all supplies and food that had been donated.

These police tactics bring to mind something journalist Daniel Kurtzman asked years ago. "When the government...begins to stamp out the freedom of dissent that is the hallmark of a democratic society," he wrote, "can there be any turning back?" Indeed, these attempts by police to stifle the various Occupy protests serve only to reinforce what Bertram Gross warned against in his 1980 book, "Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America": "Faceless oligarchs sit at command posts of a corporate-government complex that has been slowly evolving over many decades. In efforts to enlarge their own powers and privileges, they are willing to have others suffer the intended or unintended consequences of their institutional or personal greed. For Americans, these consequences include chronic inflation, recurring recession, open and hidden unemployment, the poisoning of air, water, soil and bodies, and, more important, the subversion of our constitution. More broadly, consequences include widespread intervention in international politics through economic manipulation, covert action, or military invasion. On a world scale, all of this is producing a heating up of the cold war and enlarged stock piles of nuclear and non-nuclear death machines."

Although the message of the Occupy protests is somewhat muddled at times, they do underscore the fact that the state of the nation has not improved in the 30 years since Gross penned those words. In fact, it has grown worse, from economic concerns to threats to our civil liberties, an increasing military presence in our daily lives, and the rise of a police state enhanced by a surveillance complex that invades virtually every aspect of our lives.

Gross, a presidential adviser who had a role in the expansion of government during the New Deal era, warned that the rise of friendly fascism would be a subtle progression. As Gross noted, "Anyone looking for black shirts, mass parties, or men on horseback will miss the telltale clues of creeping fascism... In America, it would be super modern and multi-ethnic—as American as Madison Avenue, executive luncheons, credit cards, and apple pie. It will be fascism with a smile. As a warning against its cosmetic façade, subtle manipulation, and velvet gloves, I call it friendly fascism. What scares me most is its subtle appeal."

Indeed, added Gross, "the subversion of constitutional democracy is more likely to occur not through violent and sudden usurpation but rather through the gradual and silent encroachments that would accustom the American people to the destruction of their freedoms." The elite will use "triplespeak" to keep the public in line, feeding the people myth and jargon to divert them from the truth. The apathy and naivety, or possibly the cynicism and hopelessness, of the American citizen would contribute to his own oppression.

At a time when most Americans are feeling the pain of an economy continuing to plummet, the Occupy movement's motto has a universal appeal: "We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent."

However, what the Occupy movement's "We are the 99%" motto fails to recognize is that the problems we face have to do with much more than economic inequality between the haves and the have nots. Similarly, the Tea Party, which started off with similar zeal, failed to recognize that the problem was not merely Big Government but, rather, the merger of Big Government with Big Business. Inflation, unemployment, job insecurity, career anxieties and conditional benefactions are all, as Gross points out, forms of terror deliberately perpetrated upon a populace in order to control them. Thus, until we can gain some consensus about the true culprits behind our problems, any movement to change the status quo is destined to fail or be co-opted by political forces.

Lest we forget, most police states have come about through the democratic process, and their leaders come into power citing platitudes of religion, morality and order, asking the citizenry to put blind faith in the government. As Gross reminds us, "Big Business—Big Government partnerships, backed up by other elements, were the central facts behind the power structures of old fascism in the days of Mussolini, Hitler, and the Japanese empire builders." Our present crisis is no exception. In fact, William L. Shirer, author of the monumental "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," once predicted that America may be the first country in which fascism comes to power through democratic elections. "As I look at America today," Gross remarked in 1980, "I am not afraid to say that I am afraid." More than 30 years later, I fear that we have even more reason to be afraid.”

Alex Noble, "Occupy! Bank Transfer Day 11-5-11 (Guy Fawkes Day)"

"Occupy! Bank Transfer Day 11-5-11 (Guy Fawkes Day)"
by Alex Noble

"To protest the behavior of big banks, thousands have pledged to switch to small credit unions on November 5. Bank Transfer Day is gaining some serious steam. Although it's not technically affiliated with Occupy, it's being embraced by the movement and is the first specific call to action since the Occupy protests began. The description and goal of Bank Transfer Day is straightforward: If you currently have checking and savings accounts (deposit accounts) with a big bank, the organizers encourage you to remove all of your funds, close your accounts, and place your money in a new deposit account with a not-for-profit credit union. The organizers ask that you do this by November 5. And since November 5 is a Saturday, you should definitely do it before November 5 since many big banks aren't open on weekends. Move your money and save! Big banks don't just undermine local economies— they're bad for your wallet, too. Follow these steps to simplify the process."
More here: "Bank Transfer Day: A Guide to Closing Your Account"
From "YES" Magazine:
This post and original graphic by Alex Noble, used with many thanks.
Much more here:
“Move Your Money 11-5-11" - POSTER #71 by Alex Noble

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"A Look to the Heavens"

“What created the Waterfall Nebula? No one knows. The structure seen in the region of NGC 1999 in the Great Orion Molecular Cloud complex is one of the more mysterious structures yet found on the sky. Designated HH-222, the elongated gaseous stream stretches about ten light years and emits an unusual array of colors. 
 Click image for larger size.
One hypothesis is that the gas filament results from the wind from a young star impacting a nearby molecular cloud. That would not explain, however, why the Waterfall and fainter streams all appear to converge on a bright but unusual non thermal radio source located toward the upper left of the curving structure. Another hypothesis is that the unusual radio source originates from a binary system containing a hot white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole, and that the Waterfall is just a jet from this energetic system. Such systems, though, are typically strong X-rays emitters, and no X-rays have been detected. For now, this case remains unsolved. Perhaps well-chosen future observations and clever deductive reasoning will unlock the true origin of this enigmatic wisp in the future.”
Commenting on the above image, Chet Raymo writes, "A "waterfall" of glowing gas in the vast molecular clouds of the constellation Orion. Nothing else quite like it that I know of, and its origin is a mystery. Of course, it only looks like a waterfall if you view it in one orientation - there's no up or down in the greater universe. And the scale? Ten light-years from "top" to "bottom," about the distance from the Sun to Sirius. No roar, no mist, no solid strata. But powered by the same four forces of nature - the squeeze of gravity, fusion reactions that involve the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetic radiation.

It's all of a piece. The universe is infinitely complex and stunningly simple. On a planet of a distant star there are undoubtedly waterfalls - same forces, same elements, same molecular bonds. And what about the boy and the girl, sitting side by side, holding hands, falling in love? In a sense, utterly unique. But then again, just one more way the universe churns with endless cycles of matter and energy."


“Maybe we like the pain. Maybe we're wired that way. Because without it,
I don't know; maybe we just wouldn't feel real. What's that saying? Why do
I keep hitting myself with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop...”

- "Grey's Anatomy"

Chet Raymo, “Mentally Enhanced”

“Mentally Enhanced”
by Chet Raymo

"Here she is, folks, from a report in the May 14, 2009 issue of Nature, the oldest known piece of representational art, a 35,000-year-old female figurine carved from mammoth ivory, from the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany. Huge breasts. Explicit vulva. Tiny head. Are we surprised? The first images our male ancestors looked at were - porn.

But wait. Why do we automatically assume that the artist was male? Maybe while the guys were out hunting woolly mammoths, the gals were home carving figurines, magical talismans, meant to enhance their own fertility. Or perhaps the so-called Venuses (there are similar figurines) were religious icons, images of the Mother Goddess. Perhaps they stood in a shrine of sorts, a niche in the cave lit by votive lamps, were mostly women came to pray, the men milling about at the door of the cave waiting for the service to end.

In fact, archeologists don't know who carved these figurines or why. All we can guess with reasonable probability is that sex was on someone's mind, which comes as no surprise. Thirty-five thousand years ago is about the time that our direct Cro-Magnon ancestors were displacing Neanderthals in Europe. They had something going for them - more agile minds? language? imagination? Maybe the source of their success was not reproductive efficiency, as such, but eroticism. That is to say, maybe the conceptualization of sex was a driving engine of cerebral facility and language. The Playboy bunny. The Harlequin romance. Foreplay. Dirty dancing. Maybe sexual fantasy prepared the way for art and religion and technological innovation. Maybe the brain evolved as a sexual organ, and then found other things to do.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Shalimar, Florida, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"Roasting The Public Mind..."

"Roasting the public mind is like roasting a pig over an open fire. 
The heat of propaganda must be consistently applied to the public
mind over a closed fire of myths until it is completely cooked. 
Then it is ready to be carved up and eaten by the wolves of war."

- Saman Mohammadi

"80 Years Later - Same Culprits, Same Rage"

"80 Years Later - Same Culprits, Same Rage"
by James Quinn

"The young man stands on the edge of his porch.
The days were short and the father was gone.
There was no one in the town and no one in the field,
This dusty barren land had given all it could yield.

I’ve been kicked off my land at the age of sixteen
And I have no idea where else my heart could have been.
I placed all my trust at the foot of this hill,
And now I am sure my heart can never be still.
So collect your courage and collect your horse,
And pray you never feel this same kind of remorse..."
- "Dust Bowl Dance," Mumford & Sons

"The song from Mumford & Sons called "Dust Bowl Dance" is as pertinent to today as it was in describing the Great Depression.   I was taken by the lyrics and the rage in the song. The setting for the song is the Dust Bowl of the 1930's in the US Midwest. Picture the Joads in "Grapes of Wrath". As I listened to the song again this morning I was struck by the similarities between the time period described in the song and our present situation.

The lyrics by Marcus Mumford tell the story of a young man who’s lost everything. His family is either dead or forced off their land. My interpretation of the lyrics is that the bank has foreclosed on his farm after their crops failed during the dust bowl. I picture a Mr. Potter like character who held the mortgages on all the farms and houses in a small community. The evil banker didn’t care that families had lived on this land for decades, raising their families along with the crops. These hard working farmers had done nothing wrong. They were victims of circumstances. But bankers didn’t care about ruining lives. The family farmers didn’t participate in the Roaring 20's, borrow on margin to invest in stocks, or reap ungodly profits. The farmers were victims of land speculators and bad weather. The only son in the song took the law into his own hand and shot the evil banker. He was ready to do his time, because his act was righteous payback.

Eighty years ago the last Fourth Turning was also in its infancy. They generally last 15 to 20 years. The catalyst for the last Fourth Turning was the great stock market crash of 1929.   The 1920s “boom” enriched only a fraction of the American people. Earnings for farmers and industrial workers stagnated or fell. Farmers were barely getting by during the roaring 20s. Only the Wall Street crowd was getting rich.  The economic growth of the 1920s did not reach most Americans: 60% of American families earned less than the amount necessary to support their basic needs ($2,500 was considered enough to support a family’s basic needs). The agricultural sector was similarly stagnant: farm prices dropped after World War I when Europe again began to feed itself and new grain exports from South American further depressed prices. The lack of purchasing power of rural people and farmers resulted in declines in consumer purchasing in those areas, as well as increased defaults on debt. Rural, urban, and suburban consumers began to increase their personal debts through mortgages, car loans, and installment plans to buy consumer goods, such as radios.

The ever-growing price for stocks was, in part, the result of greater wealth concentration within the investor class. Eventually the Wall Street stock exchange began to take on a dangerous aura of invincibility, leading investors to ignore less optimistic indicators in the economy.  Over-investment and speculating (gambling) in stocks further inflated their prices, contributing to the illusion of a robust economy.

The crucial point came in the 1920s when banks began to loan money to stock-buyers since stocks were the hottest commodity in the marketplace. Wall Street banks encouraged Wall Street investors to use the stocks themselves as collateral. When stocks dropped in value, and investors could not repay the banks, the banks were left holding near-worthless collateral. Banks went broke, pulling productive businesses down with them as they called in loans and foreclosed mortgages in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. The Federal Reserve was responsible for regulating the banks. They were responsible for the easy money policies during the 1920s. The biggest financial institutions in the country included: Citibank, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan & Co., Chase National Bank, and Wells Fargo. Sound familiar?

The Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve and their owners, the biggest Wall Street banks, aiding and abetting reckless speculation, greed and extreme risk taking with mountains of debt. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The income inequality in the U.S. reached an all-time peak in 1928. It stayed at a high level until World War II. The glory years of the American Empire were from 1941 through 1979, when the middle class was growing, and the income distribution in the country was fair and equitable, as our manufacturing based economy raised all boats.

The income inequality in the country reached the same extreme level in 2007, just prior to the Wall Street created financial implosion. It has not improved in the last four years. In the early 1930s there was the feeling of revolution in the air. With unemployment at 25% and people in desperate straits, the government feared communists or fascists gaining power. The New Deal was really a way to keep the citizens occupied so that a revolution would not take hold. There was much anger towards the bankers and aristocracy who caused the Great Depression. The anger is reflected in the Mumford & Sons lyrics:
"Your oppression reeks of your greed and disgrace.
So one man has and another has not,
How can you love what it is you have got
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store..."
- "Dust Bowl Dance,"  Mumford & Sons

The 2008 financial crash was caused by loose Federal Reserve monetary policies, lack of Federal Reserve regulation over criminally reckless Wall Street banks, and incredible levels of bad debt rampant throughout our economic system. The true unemployment rate today is 23%. Another parallel between the early 1930s when almost 11,000 banks, or 40% of all the banks in the U.S., went out of business. Predictably, these were all small banks. None of the connected Wall Street banks went out of business. They benefitted, as 40% of their competition disappeared. Too Big to Fail existed 80 years ago. You may also note that savers were punished, as interest paid on savings plunged from 5% to below 1% and the earnings of middle class workers collapsed.
During the early years of the current depression more than 400 banks have gone insolvent and another 800 banks are on the FDIC endangered species list. Therefore, approximately 15% of all the banks in the U.S. will no longer compete with the Wall Street banks that caused the financial crisis. Since 2008, the top five biggest banks in the U.S. have dramatically increased their market share and power. They are: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs. Amazing how the exact same banks that caused the 1929 and the 2008 market crashes came out unscathed and more powerful after each crisis.

The mainstream media tries to convince the American public that the stock market going up means the economy is improving and they are doing better. The chart below shows that the stock market bottomed in 1932 and proceeded to go up almost 500% by 1937. It’s too bad only the bankers and richest people in society could afford to own stocks. While the stock market soared, the average person struggled to survive. Only the privileged stock owners prospered. The common man suffered.

The unemployment rate remained at elevated levels until World War II. The New Deal policies of Franklin Roosevelt did not end the Great Depression. The common man had trouble putting bread on their table during the entire decade of the 1930?s. The storyline about FDR’s Keynesian spending ending the Depression is false.

The 1930s were filled with seething anger. The Liberty League and Father Charles Coughlin, the Rush Limbaugh of his time, used anti-communist and socialist rhetoric to convince millions of Americans that the model used in Nazi Germany was better than FDR’s New Deal policies. This pushed Roosevelt further to the left against big business and toward more socialist programs to insure getting the votes of the poor. These were bleak days in our country’s history. General Smedley Butler revealed a plot to overthrow the Roosevelt administration and replace it with a fascist dictatorship. The country roiled with furious rage.

In 1932, approximately 80 years ago, 43,000 marchers (17,000 veterans) descended upon Washington D.C.  The Bonus Expeditionary Force, also known as the “Bonus Army”, marched on Washington to advocate the passage of the “soldier’s bonus” for service during World War I.  They set up a camp with tents to bring attention to their cause. After Congress adjourned, bonus marchers remained in the city and became unruly. On July 28, 1932, two bonus marchers were shot by police, causing the entire mob to become hostile and riotous. The government turned the U.S. military upon its citizens. Army cavalry units led by General Douglas MacArthur dispersed the Bonus Army by riding through it and using gas. Fifty five veterans were injured and 135 were arrested. Critics of the marchers described them as communists, troublemakers, and criminals.

Fast forward 80 years and we have protestors setting up camp in a public square, not far from where the same exact banks that caused the Great Depression have created the Greater Depression. The biggest Wall Street banks have gotten bigger. The Federal Reserve, in collusion with the Wall Street banks, has engineered a two year stock market rally, while the average American has seen their wages decline, food and energy prices soar, home prices fall, and banks paying them .1% on their savings. Anger and disillusionment continue to build in this country like a volcano preparing to blow. Some people are angry at Washington politicians. Some are angry at Wall Street. Others aren’t sure who to be angry at. The evil oligarchy of bankers, corporate titans, and bought off Washington politicians that control the agenda and mainstream media, continue to scorn, ridicule and denigrate the middle class of America. Their financial engineering is failing. They’ve gone too far. The debt accumulation is unsustainable. The mood of the country has darkened and talk of revolution and the shadow of impending violence is growing.

The Great Depression was not an event, it was an era. It was an era of discontent, pain, suffering, and ultimately war and death. The people who lived through this era have mostly died off. We have entered a new similar era. The average citizen sees the American Dream of a better life slipping away due to the corruption, greed, and immorality of our political and financial systems. The Federal Reserve’s current chosen mandate is to make the stock market go up, while impoverishing the middle class. The 1% better hope the police and military continue to obey their orders, because the 99% are angry and heavily armed. This Fourth Turning has ten to fifteen years to go. Every previous Fourth Turning has included violence, war and death on an epic scale. Winter has arrived and it will be a long arduous journey until we reach Spring. The choices we make in the next few years will decide the fate of our country. I hope we choose wisely. 

“Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.” 
- Kurt Vonnegut, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

"How It Really Is"

Joseph Conrad, "Face It..."

"Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it."
  -  Joseph Conrad

"Life's Extremes: Smart vs. Dumb"

"Life's Extremes: Smart vs. Dumb"
by Adam Hadhazy

“Legendary feats of intelligence - Ken Jennings winning 74 consecutive "Jeopardy!" games - have their match in astonishing acts of stupidity, like a would-be robber who dons a mask without remembering to cut eyeholes. Quite a gulf exists between the extremes in innate human intelligence. Yet establishing a clear biological basis for why some people are smarter than others has so far proven tricky. Even the concept of intelligence as a quantifiable, explainable phenomenon has only been recently settled. "A generation ago, people were arguing over the definition of intelligence, and that argument is now done," said Richard Haier, professor emeritus in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine. "Intelligence is something that's real and exists, and it can be measured." To this end, neuroscience has made great strides in illuminating the brain structures and mechanisms that account for intelligence. As progress continues, the differences that underlie brilliance and its opposite should come to light.

Taking measure: The best-known index of smarts is an intelligence quotient (IQ) test, which probes spatial ability, memory, speed of processing information and more. "In the last hundred years of studying intelligence, there have been pretty constant results that several different intelligence factors, like these, relate to how smart people are," said Haier. In the most popular IQ tests, the median score is set at 100, with standard deviations of 15, meaning that 95 percent of people have an IQ score between 70 and 130. According to this standard bell curve, 2.5 percent of the population extends into intellectual giftedness on the high end or mental retardation on the low end.

When discussing intelligence, researchers tend to cite a general factor of intelligence, or g, the common factor across a battery of intelligence tests. "Think of the really smart kids you knew in school - they were kind of generally smart, not just in one subject," said Haier. "It's that general ability that's reflected in the g score." IQ scores and g scores are good estimates of overall mental prowess, Haier said, but they do not indicate if someone is very skilled in a particular task.

Both extremes in the same person: Indeed, some of the most amazing displays of intelligence come from "savants" who, like Dustin Hoffman's number-whiz character in Rain Man, can barely tie their own shoelaces. "There are savants who have extraordinary specific mental abilities," said Haier. "They excel on one factor, but they could be literally mentally retarded." Researchers have not yet figured out what biologically grants savants their profound skills. On the other side of the equation, however, many kinds of obvious brain abnormalities, either genetic defects from birth or injury, can blunt or destroy one's capacity for thought.

Identifying the seat of intelligence: Such damage has helped pinpoint what brain regions govern discrete mental functions. Along with studies of healthy brains, the global view that has emerged is that intelligence does not spring from a single fount, but lies in the connections between key districts of the mind. Numerous studies support a model of intelligence known as parietal-frontal interaction theory, or P-FIT, developed by Haier. According to P-FIT, a network of areas in the brain located in the frontal and parietal lobes uniquely process information in each individual. This idiosyncratic network gives rise to our personal talents and deficits. Notably, greater volumes of gray matter, which consists of neuron cell bodies where computing takes place, correlate with higher intelligence test scores. Also, having more white matter - connections between brain cells made of long, fat-coated, or myelinated axons - between crucial gray matter areas means faster communication in P-FIT networks, boosting test scores.

Although it sounds like a bigger brain equals beefed-up intelligence, this is not the case. "There are many steps between simply measuring how thick a region of the brain is and understanding its function," said John Duncan, a cognitive neuroscientist with the Medical Research Council, a U.K. organization. Men naturally have larger brains than women, yet average intelligence test scores are nearly identical regardless of gender, Duncan said.

A sphinxlike noodle: Despite these insights, neuroscience still has not advanced to the point where doctors can simply look at the 3 pounds of glop in our skulls and know if the brain is a supercharged one or not. "There are many people who are classified as mentally retarded whose brains look normal in imaging or in autopsy," Haier said. Nor can parsing someone's genetic code yet reveal the likelihood for developing brilliance. Intelligence, however, is heritable, with smart parents typically producing smart children and vice versa. IQ and g scores do not correlate 100 percent of the time, so the environment - early childhood experiences, diet, et cetera - must weigh in as well.

Notwithstanding the claims of "Baby Einstein" educational video makers, or the notion that listening to classical music makes us keener-witted, the jury is very much still out on these factors. "Everybody would like to think there are environmental interventions to overcome biology. We know in medicine it's true - you can overcome certain genetic predispositions by exercise or changing diet," Haier told LiveScience. "But we haven't found such things on cognition."

With any luck, powerful new brain imaging technologies could soon unlock the secrets of savants, as well as run-of-the-mill eggheadedness and stupidity. "The question of why are people smarter than others is a question we now have the scientific means to investigate," Haier said.”

Free Download: Edward Bernays, "Propaganda"


“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.” - Edward Bernays, "Propaganda"

"A seminal and controversial figure in the history of political thought and public relations, Edward Bernays (1891–1995), pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion, which he famously dubbed “engineering of consent.” During World War I, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda apparatus that was mobilized to package, advertise and sell the war to the American people as one that would “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” The CPI would become the blueprint in which marketing strategies for future wars would be based upon.

Bernays applied the techniques he had learned in the CPI and, incorporating some of the ideas of Walter Lipmann, became an outspoken proponent of propaganda as a tool for democratic and corporate manipulation of the population. His 1928 bombshell "Propaganda" lays out his eerily prescient vision for using propaganda to regiment the collective mind in a variety of areas, including government, politics, art, science and education. To read this book today is to frightfully comprehend what our contemporary institutions of government and business have become in regards to organized manipulation of the masses."
FREE Download:
“Propaganda,” by Edward Bernays, in PDF format is here:

Moliere, "What We Do..."

  "It is not only for what we do that we are held
     responsible, but also for what we do not do."

- Moliere

"America's Descent to Depravity"

"America's Descent to Depravity"
by Prof. John Kozy

"I suspect that most people would like to believe that societies, no matter how base their origins, become better over time. Unfortunately history belies this notion; societies have often grown worse over time. The United States of America is no exception. It was not benign at its origin and has now descended to a region of depravity seldom matched by even the worst nations of history.

Although it is impossible to find hard numbers to prove that morality in America has declined, anecdotal evidence is everywhere to be seen. Almost everyone can cite situations in which the welfare of people was sacrificed for the sake of public or private institutions, but it seems impossible to cite a single instance of a public or private institution's having been sacrificed for the sake of people. If morality has to do with how people are dealt with, one can legitimately ask where morality plays a role in what happens in America? The answer seems to be, "Nowhere!" So what has happened in America to account for the current epidemic of claims that morality in America has collapsed? Well the culture has changed drastically in the last half century, that's what.

Once upon a time in America, the American character was defined in terms of what was called the Protestant Ethic. The sociologist, Max Weber, attributed Capitalism's success to it. Unfortunately Max was lax; he got it wrong, completely wrong. Capitalism and the Protestant ethic are inconsistent with each other. Neither can have been responsible for the other.

The Protestant (or Puritan) ethic is based upon the notion that hard work and frugality are two important consequences of being one of Christianity's elect. If a person is hard working and frugal, s/he is considered to be one of the elect. Those beneficent attributes, it was believed, made Americans a more industrious people than people elsewhere (although Europe's Protestant societies were considered a close second while Southern Europe's Catholic peoples were considered slothful.) Some now claim that we are witnessing the decline and fall of the Protestant ethic in Western societies. Since the Protestant ethic has a religious root, the decline is often attributed to a rise in secularism. But that case is considerably easier to make in Europe than in America where Protestant fundamentalism still has a huge following. So there must be some other explanation for the decline. Nevertheless, the increase in secularism has led many to claim that secularism has destroyed religious values along with the moral values religion teaches. There's another explanation.

In 17th Century Colonial America, the economy was agrarian. Hard work and frugality fit that economy perfectly. But America is no longer agrarian. The American economy today is defined as industrial capitalism. Agrarian economies rarely produce more than can be consumed, but industrial economies do every day. So in order to keep an industrial economy functioning, consumption must not only be continuous, it must continually increase.

I doubt that there is a reader who has not heard that 70% of the American economy results from consumption. But 70% of one is 0.7, of two, 1.4, of three, 2.1, etc. As the economy grows from one unit of GNP to two units, consumption must grow from 0.7 units to 1.4 units. But continually increasing consumption is not compatible with frugality. An industrial economy requires people to spend and spend and spend while frugality requires people to save and save and save. The American economy destroyed the Protestant ethic and the religious views upon which it was founded. Conspicuous consumption replaced hard work and thrift.

In his Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith claims that Capitalism benefits everyone since acting in one's own self-interest benefits others. Now we are being told that, "Saving more and cutting debt might sound like a good plan to deal with the recession. But if everyone does that, it'll only make matters worse. What the economy needs most is for consumers to be spending more freely." The great recession has stood Adam Smith on his head, but no economist will admit it. "[A]n environment where everyone wants to save cannot be conducive to growth. Production needs to be sold and for that you need customers."

Saving is (presumably) good for individuals but bad for the economy which requires continuously increasing spending. If an economist had told that to me to my face, I would have told him that that clearly means that there is something fundamentally wrong with the nature of the economy, that it means that the economy does not exist to provide for the needs of people but that people exist only to fulfill the needs of the economy. Although it may not look like it, such an economy enslaves the people it claims to serve. So in effect, industrial capitalism has perpetuated slavery; it has re-enslaved those who were once emancipated.

When consumption replaced thrift in the American psyche, the rest of morality sank into depravity with it. The need to sell requires marketing which is nothing but a liar's lair. After all, the entire enterprise is founded on Edward L. Bernays 1928 book, "Propaganda." The American culture has been inundated by a tsunami of lies. Marketing has become the culture's predominant activity. No one can isolate her/himself from it. It's carried on by businesses, politicians, and the media. No one can be certain s/he's being told the truth by anyone. No moral code can survive in a culture of dishonesty, and none has!

Having subverted the Protestant ethic, the economy destroyed every ethic America has ever promoted. It became a society without an ethos, a society with no humane purpose. Americans have become lambs sacrificable for the sake of machines. Then a new ethos emerged from the chaos, one that the governing elite completely misunderstands.

It is often claimed that Washington has lost touch with the Americans it governs, that it no longer understands its people or how its common culture operates. Washington and the nation's elite don't realize it but the culture no longer values right over wrong or hard work and frugality over sloth and profligacy. Americans today are looking for the "big break," the "jackpot," the "next big idea." The American Dream has now been reduced to "hitting it big!" The slow and deliberate road to success is anathema. Watch "American Idol," "The X Factor," and "America's Got Talent" and survey the Mongolian hordes that show up for auditions. These people, for the most part, have not worked hard at anything. Count the number of people who wager on the Lotto regularly. Such wagering requires no work at all. All these people want to do is hit it big. And who are our most extolled businessmen? Entrepreneurs! Entrepreneurs are, for the most part, one time flashes in the pan although there are notable exceptions. The trouble with entrepreneurship, however, is the high regard in which it is held. But the only value attached to it is the amounts of money entrepreneurs have made. We rarely hear anything about the nefarious ways in which they have made it. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, hardly present images of people with sterling moral characters, but in an economy without moral scruples, no one cares; all that matters is the money. Given that attitude, why should anyone in this society express moral concerns? Few in America do. So while the American elite still talk about the need to produce a workforce suitable to the needs of industry, the people want none of it.

The elite often bemoan the American educational system's failure and have been trying to fix it unsuccessfully for several decades. But if one remembers that many of America's present, most successful entrepreneurs are college dropouts, how can the young be convinced that a college education is a worthwhile endeavor? As Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg have shown, learning to write software does not require a college degree. Neither does winning the Lotto or a place on American Idol. Being drafted by the NFL may require a stint in college, but it doesn't require a degree. All entrepreneurship requires is a new marketable idea.

Entertainment and sports, lotteries and game shows, consumer products that people have had no need for for billions of years are now the stuff of American culture. But they're not stuff, they're fluff; they cannot form the basis of a stable, prosperous, humane society. It is a culture governed by merely one attribute - wealth, ill gotten or not!

The human capacity for self-delusion is limitless. Americans have deluded themselves into believing that aggregate wealth, the sum total of wealth rather than how it is distributed, makes right. It matters not how it is gotten or what is done with it. Aggregate wealth is its own reward; it is even worth destroying ourselves for. And if we haven't yet, we surely soon will.

History describes many nations that have become depraved. None that has has ever reformed itself. No beautiful boy can be counted on to come forth to undo the catastrophe of the Midas touch. Money, after all, is not one of the things human beings need to survive, and if money isn't used to produce and distribute the things needed, human survival is impossible no matter how much aggregate wealth is accumulated.
John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found here and he can be emailed from that site's homepage.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Daily "Near You?

Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Thanks for stopping by.

Satire: "China Announces ‘Occupy America’"

"China Announces ‘Occupy America’"
Mysterious Movement’s Goals Unclear
by Andy Borowitz

BEIJING (The Borowitz Report) – "The Chinese government raised eyebrows around the world today by announcing a mysterious national movement called “Occupy America.” In a brief statement, the Chinese government said that while Occupy America was “not exactly a protest movement,” its effects would be felt in “every city, town and Wal-Mart in America.” Hinting that the movement had widespread support in China, the statement said that Occupy America “would have the full participation of approximately 1.3 billion Chinese.”

At the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the goals of Occupy America “remain unclear,” adding, “The official policy of the U.S. government towards things we don’t fully understand is to do nothing.” Later, after a phone call with Chinese officials, Secretary Clinton said she came away feeling reassured: “They told me that Occupy America actually started thirty years ago.”

Elsewhere, to mark the Statue of Liberty’s 125th birthday, police across the country beat up protesters."
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"How It Really Is"

"How We Go Through Life..."

"It's extraordinary how we go through life with eyes half shut, with dull ears, with
dormant thoughts. Perhaps it's just as well; and it may be that it is this very 
dullness that makes life to the incalculable majority so supportable and so welcome."

   - Joseph Conrad, "Lord Jim"

Karl Denninger, "Richmond Tea Party Defiles Sam Adams' Good Name"

"Richmond Tea Party Defiles Sam Adams' Good Name"
by Karl Denninger

“There's dumb and then there's really dumb.  This is in the second category:
Richmond, Va. — "The Richmond tea party is demanding a refund of about $10,000 from the city, claiming it unfairly charged them for rallies while allowing the Occupy protesters to use the same space for several weeks for free."

We regret to inform you that your foolish failure to read The Constitution and Declaration of Independence, which clearly states that rights are inherent as they are bestowed by our Creator, does not give rise to a claim when you subsequently make a donation to the city of Richmond. That's right, it was a donation.

Rights are yours by virtue of being born.  No government bestows a right upon you, as it is not theirs to bestow.  You therefore need no damn permit to exercise your Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

That's correct folks, here comes the civics lesson.  You have the right to life, liberty and pursuit (but not assurance) of happiness. A thing for which one obtains a permit is not a right, it is a privilege that belongs to the entity you apply to the permit for whatever you intend to do.  That entity may grant or deny you that privilege.

Note that among the rights declared (not granted) in the 1st Amendment are: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

You have the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievance. Your right to do so is conditioned only on one thing: that you do not infringe on other people's rights. So you may not stop someone else from assembling, or prevent them from speaking.  You are not compelled to listen, but they have the right to speak.  You have the right to the free exercise of whatever religious path you may choose, so long as your choice does not prevent anyone else from exercising their free choice of religion.  You may exercise these rights on public land or on land you personally own and The Constitution and Bill of Rights serve as an agreement by the Government that it will honor that which you possess as an inherent component of being human.

In other words the Bill of Rights is not a transfer of power from the government to you.  It is a statement that you possess these rights and as consideration for your recognition and acceptance of the government's limited powers that you freely permit it to assume, that government agrees to respect your rights. One cannot grant to another that which one does not originally possess.  Your rights were never anyone's but yours.

Now it is true that governments often ignore or abrogate the rights of the people, or try to turn them into privileges.  Among those which we have more-or-less tolerated in this regard are the right to keep and bear arms (2nd Amendment; the embodiment of the right to life) the right to peaceably assemble (1st Amendment, the fundamental liberty interest inherent in speech and to gather to share speech among us) and the right to travel freely by the means common to the day (an inherent portion of liberty - the right to choose where your physical sack of meat is at any given point in time and to achieve that goal, should you posses the resources necessary, using the common means of the day.)  We have become so devoid of intestinal fortitude as a nation and as individuals that we willfully submit to wanton and ridiculous violations of our God-Given rights on a daily basis, from so-called "driver licenses" to "FOID cards" and now we see this appear in the claim that one must buy an insurance policy and pay $10,000 to exercise their right to stand and speak with voluntarily-associated others on public land.

All of these assertions by the government are preposterous and in a time when there were actually men and women with a hint of intestinal fortitude such a demand would be met with a middle finger in response.  Indeed there is even a record at the US Supreme Court that recognizes the supremacy of The Constitution in recognition of inalienable rights dating to not long after the founding of our nation when the government (surprise-surprise!) tried to claim that it could pass laws that were at odds with same.

But the court in Marbury .v. Madison established that: "The powers of the legislature are defined, and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained? The distinction, between a government with limited and unlimited powers, is abolished, if those limits do not confine the persons on whom they are imposed, and if acts prohibited and acts allowed, are of equal obligation. It is a proposition too plain to be contested, that the constitution controls any legislative act repugnant to it; or, that the legislature may alter the constitution by an ordinary act. Between these alternatives there is no middle ground. The constitution is either a superior, paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means, or it is on a level with ordinary legislative acts, and like other acts, is alterable when the legislature shall please to alter it.
If the former part of the alternative be true, then a legislative act contrary to the constitution is not law: if the latter part be true, then written constitutions are absurd attempts, on the part of the people, to limit a power, in its own nature illimitable. Certainly all those who have framed written constitutions contemplate them as forming the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and consequently the theory of every such government must be, that an act of the legislature, repugnant to the constitution, is void."

Clear?  Good.  By the way, that was decided in 1803.  You should have read about it in your High School Government Class.  You should also know what it means if you claim to be aligned with the principles that Sam Adams stood for and you should have thus had the balls to stand on the principles that he stood upon and demanded respect for your fundamental rights.

After all, Sam's little group committed violence in the name of liberty - they boarded ships that did not belong to them and threw the property thereupon into the harbor, destroying it.  This you celebrate as a proper exercise of the right of the people to be free, as a measured response.  Yes, it was violent, but it was proportional to the violation of the people's rights (as opposed to burning the ships and murdering the crew, which would not have been) that had prompted the action. If you do not respect that when a government attempts to violate your rights you are entitled to enforce those rights by whatever means are necessary, including the use of proportional resistance to whatever violation is being served upon you, then you are defiling Mr. Adams good name and should immediately disband.

As for your present complaint, I'm sure the city of Richmond thanks you for your voluntary donation to their fine town.  Perhaps they'll buy some rubber bullets and tear gas grenades with your volunteered funds.  After all, since you don't believe you have the right to speak and assemble (you have consented to your assembly being treated as a privilege), I'm sure you'll also agree that the city is within its lawful powers to prevent you from peaceably assembling, Constitution or no, by shooting you with rubber bullets and tossing tear gas in your general direction.

Have a good day.”

Bill Bonner, "Misguided by Higher Education"

"Misguided by Higher Education"
by Bill Bonner

"When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, we saw how state-managed capitalism works. Favored companies are allowed to make as much money as they can. But they are protected from going broke. Certain firms are deemed “too big to fail,” by virtue of the key role they play in the economy, or at least by the role they play in a politician’s plans for re-election or future employment. But state-managed capitalism is very different from the real thing. It is capitalism in a degenerate form.

Real capitalism progresses in fits and starts, described by Josef Schumpeter as “creative destruction.” It is like a jungle…not like a zoo. It cannot be managed. You cannot take out the predators or feed selected species without upsetting the balance of nature. Take out the destruction, and you block the creative process too. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, most real wealth has come from real capitalism. Not from “playing the market.” Not from getting a good job. Not by trying to cadge favors from the government.

So, what is real capitalism? It is what we’ve seen in the computer/Internet industry over the last 20 years. This was a new industry. It had not yet been tamed by the government. Regulations were few. There were no large, entrenched companies to block start-ups. There were no lobbyists to curry favor from the politicians. There were no subsidies…and no barriers. It was young, dynamic, chaotic…and very prone to blow-ups.

The whole industry blew up in January 2000. Mistakes were not bailed out. They were corrected. Money moved from weak hands to strong ones. Many companies failed. The companies that survived, and prospered…went on to glory. Amazon. Google. Microsoft. Apple. And who was behind these new companies? College drop-outs, computer nerds, products of teenage mothers and broken marriages. They did not enter the ranks of existing technology companies, work their way up to senior management and then create new product lines. It is almost as if they succeeded not because of advanced American capitalism, but in spite of it. They created an entirely new industry…with new companies nobody had ever heard of. And then, they destroyed some of the biggest businesses in America.

Typically, in a correction, asset prices fall and unemployment goes up. Misallocated resources — including labor — needs to be re-priced and put back to work. But when markets are not allowed to work the bid and ask spread in the labor market can stay out of whack for years. Joblessness becomes a structural problem, not a cyclical problem. People do not find new jobs. Old businesses are not swept away and new businesses do not start up. A zoo economy keeps the old animals alive as long as possible.

Let’s look at education. Now, there’s an industry — we can all agree — that adds value. You could look at it as a charitable activity. Or as a profit-making business. Either way, education has to be a plus for the individual and for the society, right? Wrong on both points. Education is only a benefit when freely floating prices are allowed to determine what it is worth. First, let us look at the whole industry. Since the 1960s spending on education, in raw terms, in per capita terms, in terms adjusted for inflation, has soared. From the 1930s, when the first careful records were compiled, to the 1990s, real spending on education multiplied 5 times per student. It more than doubled from the ’60s.

Did this increase in spending do any good? Not on the available evidence. Test scores — measuring achievement — have not budged in 40 years. In other words, the additional investment over the last 40 years has been wasted. We might as well have thrown the money down a well. But while tests of achievement have not moved…the tests of potential achievement have improved. For whatever reason, IQ tests and SAT tests show young people are getting smarter…or better able to take the tests. This may seem like good news. But not when it is set alongside the performance tests. What we see is that the investment in education over the last 4 decades has actually had a negative return. The raw material was better able to learn. But the investment in the teaching industry produced less in the way of actual learning.

Today, the US stands out for its educational spending, as it does for the bombs it makes and the drugs it distributes — it is on the top of the heap, by a wide margin. Spending per school aged child in the US is about $8,000 per year. In Japan, it is half that. France is in-between with about $6,000 spent per child per year.

Which country has the best scores? The one that spends the least — Japan. On math tests, Americans score 474 (out of 600). The French do a little better at 495. And the Japanese get a score of 523. Science, the same thing. US students get an average score of 489. Japanese students are at 531.

There is nothing very surprising about these figures. Nearly thirty years ago, American researchers found that there was no connection between spending and educational results. They just looked at different school districts in the US. Spending was not correlated with results, they concluded. And yet, studies continue to show that people with more education do better in life. We doubt these studies have much validity, at least as interpreted. It is surely true that people with a lot of education have lower unemployment levels and higher incomes, statistically, than those with little formal schooling. But we have no way of knowing whether any individual student would have been better staying in school…or dropping out like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

But we will take a guess: the typical young person would be better off getting out in to the real world and learning as much as possible from working, than he would by staying in school. After all, that’s how almost all the world’s great geniuses, inventors, scholars, and entrepreneurs learned. It has only been in the last 100 years that public education has been ubiquitous…and only in the last half a century that ordinary people felt they should go to college. But as more people went to college, the less dynamic…less creative…and less productive the US economy became.

Our colleague, Gary Gibson puts it this way: "College is not necessary for most people. It never was. In fact, the preoccupation with college has left America bereft of its former ability to create wealth. An unhealthy cultural myth has flourished that says everyone must go to college and get an advanced degree, even if it’s something for which there is virtually zero market demand. Meanwhile, below-market interest rates and government-backed loans have lured a couple generations of Americans down the road to higher education. Further, the kind of education colleges provide — indeed, all of American schooling from kindergarten onward — doesn’t produce innovators, entrepreneurs and job creators."
In a recent article for The New York Times titled “Will Dropouts Save America?” Michael Ellsberg writes:

    * “American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don’t have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren’t traditional professionals, but startup entrepreneurs.

    * “No business in America — and therefore, no job creation — happens without someone buying something.”

Wealth is only created when value is added (You didn’t think it was when money was printed, did you?) The Austrian school of thought reminds us that value is subjective. People, ultimately, buy what’s worth buying to them with the money they’ve earned. We cannot put too fine a point on this. It doesn’t matter what the seller thinks the item is worth. It doesn’t matter how much time, energy and material went into making the product or service. You can waste a lot of time, energy and material producing something no one will want to buy. The buyer determines the ultimate value…and whether he will part with his money for it. There can be misallocations of resources. And when the central bank and government get involved, these allocations can grow very large and go on for a very long time before violently correcting.

So it is that, increasingly over the past couple of generations, there has been a gross misallocation of time and resources into higher education, aided and abetted by the central bank and the federal government. Millions have been misled into pouring their young adulthood into endeavors that won’t pay off…and going deeply into debt for it. The federal government has encouraged this higher “education,” much like it did home “ownership.” The central bank made the borrowing easy with low interest rates — which powered the real estate bubble as well as the higher education bubble — while government entities backed the loans. Now the education bubble is bursting. The bubble’s start can be traced to the GI Bill, whereby the government got into the business of shoving more people into college than the market would bear. Over time, the same easy loans and guarantees got extended to most of the population.

Over time, some bad notions gained traction. College came to be seen as the ticket to the good life as opposed to something that people already destined for greater things might undertake to help get them there. As often happens, causation became confused with correlation. In the last 30 years, higher education has come to be viewed as a human right, something that governments are obliged to guarantee. Lost is the notion that a higher education is a path for the exceptional, particularly those exceptional people going into the hard sciences.

Of course, this doesn’t do anything to change the essential ability of the people now being shoved through the system. All it’s done is water down the quality of what’s being offered so that everyone can join in. Exceptional people still become scientists and engineers. Everyone else gets a master’s in some field that was recently invented to meet the artificial demand for advanced degrees, for people who couldn’t be scientists or engineers, but who had a head full of misguided notions and a boatload of borrowed money. Worse, this “education” came to supplant things like entrepreneurship, initiative, the willingness to take risk, to accept and learn from failure. As Ellsberg says in his article: “But most students learn nothing about sales in college; they are more likely to take a course on why sales (and capitalism) are evil.”

Indeed. We hate to keep turning to the Occupy movement, but it is full of the poster children for this. They came out on the other side of the system unemployable and in debt. They feel lost and angry, unable to think of life past the burden of their student loans. And many of them (not all) feel that “capitalism” is somehow to blame, that the world of profits is somehow divorced from the well-being of people. It’s criminal when “profits” are doled out to banks and “too big to fail” businesses by the government, with money taken from the taxpayers. But what about the real profits — not stolen goods — in which entrepreneurs take risks and business people add value, when the profits are the reward for serving people’s needs?

So the bamboozled have taken to the street. They would like their student debts to be wiped out, that “the people” be bailed out like the bankers and crony big businesses were. Or even worse, they get it in their heads that all higher education, henceforth, should be paid for by the government. It doesn’t matter whether there is a market demand for expertise in a course of study or not.

A system has grown up that encouraged enormous debt for nonperforming assets, namely, schooling in things that won’t pay off. People are still falling for it. But markets aren’t mocked forever. There has to be some painful write-down in central bank-distorted asset values before the economy can regain solid footing. This is just as true for higher education as it is for real estate. It won’t be pretty. We’re not sure how this will play out for those who’ve misallocated their time and energy based on false signals, and with nothing but debt to show for it. But the stories that we told ourselves about what’s valuable were built on distortions that are now coming to an end. Reality is asserting itself. And the reality is that entrepreneurship is what drives wealth creation, not going into debt to be taught that wealth creation is secondary to cultural studies or worse, that wealth creation is downright evil.

The education industry has been corrupted by too much easy money. It is now zombified. Sclerotic. And parasitic. It now subtracts value. It takes valuable resources…not the least of which are the minds and bodies of people at their most energetic stage in life…and squanders them, making us all poorer. Still, parents are terrified of the idea that their children may not get the “education that they need” and may be condemned forever to the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. The unemployment rate for college graduates, for example, is only half that of the rate for the rest of the population — less than 5%, even in the high-unemployment slump since 2008. Parents are afraid an uneducated child will not only be a failure, but will be forced by joblessness and poverty to move back in with mom and dad.

Yes, they will tell you, a degree from a Podunk University in the Midwest maybe be worthless. But get a degree from Harvard or Yale and you are on the train to status and prosperity. They are prepared to mortgage the house…and take out hundreds of thousands in student loans to buy the kid a ticket. And they may be right. But only because the whole society has been corrupted by the same zombie virus. It has shifted the economy from one that cares if you can produce…to one that cares if your papers are in order. A small businessman will not particularly care if you have a college degree or not. He only cares if you can do the job. But big government and the big businesses it manages are different. They use education as a qualifier. Anyone who can sit still in class for 16 years — without questioning the nonsense that passes for knowledge — is a good candidate for bureaucracy.

What have been the growth industries of the last 10 years? Government is the main one. Obviously, government doesn’t care if you can produce or not. Who’s measuring? Its output is un-priced. Who’s to know if you handled your paperwork well…or made the right decision? Likewise, in the education industry, who’s to know if you are productive? What does it mean to be productive? Imagine that you have a job at a major university. You are an assistant director of its Local Community Outreach Program…or its Special Gender Enabling Group…or even its Career Placement Office. Who’s to know…or care…if you are doing a good job? All you have to do is to look and act in a presentable professional way. The rest is BS. In the absence of any market-based test, you can get away with anything. All you need is a bright smile and a good line of talk. And a college degree, of course!

In non-market sectors, mistakes are eventually corrected, but only…like the Soviet Union…after decades of misery, and a final breakdown or revolution. In the meantime, the mistakes compound. The education industry takes more and more of the national resources while producing less and less real output. And if you want a job, you are better off as a well-credentialed zombie than as an energetic (often disruptive) producer. But what if you were to start up a new business…a private school, with a clear profit-oriented, market priced output? With modern e-learning tools, you could reduce the cost of a real university education, to a fraction of the price people currently pay.

Mr. David Van Zandt of the New School in New York: “I apologize to anyone here from Nebraska, but there is no reason to teach introductory chemistry in Nebraska in a classroom of 500 students. Not when you can pump in, say, someone from Harvard,” to give the lecture on video.

It is just a matter of time before the cushy, over-rich education industry meets destruction at the hands of new technology and new entrepreneurs. But don’t expect it to go gently into that good night. It has lobbyists by the score. It has money by the billions. It has its men and women in Washington…who will continue rewarding the failed, zombie schools, while regulating, squeezing out and crushing start-up competition. That’s why, sometimes, it takes a revolution.”