Saturday, March 31, 2012

Musical Interlude: 2002, "Remember Now"

2002, "Remember Now"

"California Slammed With Fukushima Radiation"

"California Slammed With Fukushima Radiation"
by Washington's Blog

"The Journal Environmental Science and Technology reports in a new study that the Fukushima radiation plume contacted North America at California “with greatest exposure in central and southern California”, and that Southern California’s seaweed tested over 500% higher for radioactive iodine-131 than anywhere else in the U.S. and Canada. Projected paths of the radioactive atmospheric plume emanating from the Fukushima reactors, best described as airborne particles or aerosols for 131I, 137Cs, and 35S, and subsequent atmospheric monitoring showed it coming in contact with the North American continent at California, with greatest exposure in central and southern California. Anaheim is where Disneyland is located...
EneNews summarizes the data:

    Corona Del Mar (Highest in Southern California)
        * 2.5 Bq/gdwt (gram dry weight)= 2,500 Bq/kg of dry seaweed

    Santa Cruz (Highest in Central California)
        * 2.0 Bq/gdwt = 2,000 Bq/kg of dry seaweed
Simon Fraser University in Canada also tested North American seaweed after Fukushima:

        * “In samples of dehydrated seaweed taken on March 15 near the North Vancouver SeaBus terminal, the count was zero; on March 22 it was 310 Bq per kilogram; and by March 28 it was 380 Bq/kg.” -Vancouver Sun
        * Seaweed in Seattle also tested positive for iodine-131; levels were not reported -KIRO
        * No results after March 28 were reported.

In addition, radioactive debris is starting to wash up on the Pacific Coast. And because the Japanese are burning radioactive materials instead of disposing of them, radioactive rain-outs will continue for some time… even on the Pacific Coast. Of course, the government is doing everything it can to help citizens cover up what’s occurring. We pointed out in January: Instead of doing much to try to protect their citizens from Fukushima, Japan, the U.S. and the EU all just raised the radiation levels they deem “safe”. Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen says that high-level friends in the State Department told him that Hillary Clinton signed a pact with her counterpart in Japan agreeing that the U.S. will continue buying seafood from Japan, despite that food not being tested for radioactive materials [see this]. And the Department of Energy is trying to replace the scientifically accepted model of the dangers of low dose radiation based on voodoo science. Specifically, DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley Labs used a mutant line of human cells in a petri dish which was able to repair damage from low doses of radiation, and extrapolated to the unsupported conclusion that everyone is immune to low doses of radiation…

Indeed: American and Canadian authorities have virtually stopped monitoring airborne radiation, and are not testing fish for radiation. (Indeed, the EPA reacted to Fukushima by raising “acceptable” radiation levels.) So– as in Japan– radiation is usually discovered by citizens and the handful of research scientists with funding to check, and not the government. See this, this, this, this, this and this. Indeed, the core problem is that all of the world’s nuclear agencies are wholly captured by the nuclear industry … as are virtually all of the supposedly independent health agencies. The Japanese government’s entire strategy from day one has been to cover up the severity of the Fukushima accident. This has likely led to unnecessary, additional deaths. So the failure of the American, Canadian and other governments to test for and share results is making it difficult to hold an open scientific debate about what is happening."

Full article with supportive links is here:

"This I Believe..."

"This I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual."
- John Steinbeck

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300 lies some 70 million light-years away on the banks of the constellation Eridanus. This Hubble Space Telescope composite view of the gorgeous island universe is one of the largest Hubble images ever made of a complete galaxy. 
Click image for larger size.
NGC 1300 spans over 100,000 light-years and the Hubble image reveals striking details of the galaxy's dominant central bar and majestic spiral arms. In fact, on close inspection the nucleus of this classic barred spiral itself shows a remarkable region of spiral structure about 3,000 light-years across. Unlike other spiral galaxies, including our own Milky Way, NGC 1300 is not presently known to have a massive central black hole.”

"Who Are You? How Do You Know?"

"Go without a coat when it's cold; find out what cold is. Go hungry; keep your existence lean. Wear away the fat, get down to the lean tissue and see what it's all about. The only time you define your character is when you go without. In times of hardship, you find out what you're made of and what you're capable of. If you're never tested, you'll never define your character."

- Henry Rollins

Chet Raymo, “The Dark Night”

“The Dark Night”
by Chet Raymo

“I first read Soren Kierkegaard's “Fear and Trembling” at about the same age as Kierkegaard was when he wrote it - thirty. The young philosopher was wrestling with his dark demons, including the death of his father, a sternly religious man who demanded absolute obedience from his son. He was torn between the opposing demands of faith and reason, certainity and doubt. In the opening pages of the book, he takes us with Abraham and Isaac on that terrible journey to Mount Moriah where God puts Abraham to a terrifying test of his faith.

What gives meaning to a life? Kierkegaard opted for belief. He wrote: “If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the foundation of all there lay only a wildly seething power which writhing with obscure passions produced everything that is great and everything that is insignificant, if a bottomless void never satiated lay hidden beneath all - what then would life be but despair?”

This is the fear that caused Abraham to raise the knife over his beloved son. This is the valley of shadow that drove Kierkegaard to choose heaven over earth, the unseen over the seen. This is the dread of a mindless oblivion that causes so many to choose faith over reason, certainity over doubt.

In “Fear and Trembling,” Kierkegaard says that "faith begins where thinking leaves off." At the same age, Kierkegaard's almost exact contemporary, another solitary philosopher with a fierce moral sensitivity, Henry David Thoreau, wrote in his journal: “I have just heard the flicker among the oaks on the hillside ushering in a new dynasty...Eternity could not begin with more security and momentousness than the spring. The summer's eternity is reestablished by this note. All sights and sounds are seen and heard both in time and eternity. And when the eternity of any sight or sound strikes the eye or ear, they are intoxicated with delight.”

Some of us live our lives with our attention fixed on the hereafter. Others listen for the flicker's note in the distant oaks. No less than traditional theists, religious naturalists need to believe that we are not poised above a bottomless void. If we are lucky, we understand that love and loyalty are blessings that well up out of the dark night in mysterious ways. We feel no need to make the terrible journey to Mount Moriah when every element of creation, great and small, here and now, is filled with redeeming grace.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. Thanks for stopping by.


“People are often unreasonable,
Illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
People may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,
You will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
People may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building,
Someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
Others may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
People will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
And it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
It is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway."

- Mother Teresa

"Why Does The Department Of Homeland Security Need 450 Million Hollow Point Bullets?"

 "Why Does The Department Of Homeland Security
 Need 450 Million Hollow Point Bullets?"
By Michael The Patriot Blogger

"Somebody out there has decided that the Department of Homeland Security needs a whole lot of ammunition.  Recently it was announced that ATK was awarded a contract to provide up to 450 MILLION hollow point bullets to the Department of Homeland Security over the next five years.  Is it just me, or does that sound incredibly excessive?  What in the world is the DHS going to do with 450 million rounds?  What possible event would ever require that much ammunition?  If the United States was ever invaded, it would be the job of the U.S. military to defend the country, so that can't be it.  So what are all of those bullets for?  Who does the Department of Homeland Security plan to be shooting at?  According to the U.S. Census, there are only about 311 million people living in the entire country.  So why does the Department of Homeland Security need 450 million rounds of ammunition?  Either this is an incredible waste or there is something that the Department of Homeland Security is not telling us.

I could understand if the U.S. military was ordering ammunition in this quantity.  When you fight wars you can go through ammunition very rapidly. But the Department of Homeland Security is only supposed to be shooting at people very rarely. It simply does not make sense that they would need so much ammunition.

The following is an excerpt from the official press release about this deal between ATK and the Department of Homeland Security: "ATK announced that it is being awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) agreement from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS, ICE) for .40 caliber ammunition. This contract features a base of 12 months, includes four option years, and will have a maximum volume of 450 million rounds. ATK was the incumbent and won the contract with its HST bullet, which has proven itself in the field. The special hollow point effectively passes through a variety of barriers and holds its jacket in the toughest conditions. HST is engineered for 100-percent weight retention, limits collateral damage, and avoids over-penetration. "We are proud to extend our track record as the prime supplier of .40 caliber duty ammunition for DHS, ICE," said Ron Johnson, President of ATK's Security and Sporting group."

But this is not the only kind of ammo that the DHS is placing an order for. Business Insider is also reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is seeking to buy 175 million rifle ammunition rounds: "We've also learned that the Department has an open bid for a stockpile of rifle ammo. Listed on the federal business opportunities network, they're looking for up to 175 million rounds of .233 caliber ammo to be exact. The 223 is almost exactly the same round used by NATO forces, the 5.56 x 45mm."

This all comes at a time when gun sales are absolutely going through the roof in the United States. Gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. recently announced that it would be suspending new orders until May because it received orders for more than one million guns during the months of January and February. The following announcement about this suspension of sales comes from their official website:

        * The Company's Retailer Programs that were offered from January 1, 2012 through February 29, 2012 were very successful and generated significant orders from retailers to independent wholesale distributors for Ruger firearms.
        * Year-to-date, the independent wholesale distributors placed orders with the Company for more than one million Ruger firearms.
        * Despite the Company's continuing successful efforts to increase production rates, the incoming order rate exceeds our capacity to rapidly fulfill these orders. Consequently, the Company has temporarily suspended the acceptance of new orders.
        * The Company expects to resume the normal acceptance of orders by the end of May 2012.

Since Barack Obama first took office, gun sales in America have risen to extraordinary levels. Overall, more than 10 million guns were sold in the United States during 2011. And gun sales have continued to rise at a brisk pace in 2012.  The following was recently posted on Yahoo News: "The NSSF said that 920,840 instant criminal background checks were made in January alone, a gain of 17.3% over the same month in 2011. This now makes it the 20th consecutive month of increases. While using the number of background checks is a good measurement of sales, it doesn't paint the whole picture as some checks are used for the purchases of multiple firearms. Also, some private transfers and sales from gun shows are exempt, making the actual number of guns sold higher.According to Gallup, 41 percent of all Americans said that they owned a gun in 2010.  But when that question was asked again in 2011, that number had risen to 47 percent. Clearly, a lot of Americans are feeling the need to arm themselves. Unfortunately, they may find themselves short on ammunition for those guns considering how much ammo the government is buying up.

So what is causing everyone to buy so many guns? Well, without a doubt we are likely to see a rise in crime as the U.S. economy continues to crumble.  People want to be able to protect themselves and their families when everything falls apart.  In fact, we are already starting to see some really violent home invasions in many parts of the nation.  Many in the prepper movement are deeply concerned about the direction this country is headed and they want to be prepared for whatever happens.

Of course the rising gang problem in America is a major concern too.  According to the FBI there are now 1.4 million gang members living in the United States, and that number has increased by 40 percent since 2009.  Many urban communities have essentially been taken over by these gangs, and many of these gangs are definitely not shy about using violence.  Average Americans that live in these communities want to be able to have a fighting chance against these gangs. But that doesn't explain why the DHS needs so much ammunition.  Yes, our world is becoming increasingly unstable, but under what conditions does the DHS ever anticipate firing off 450 million rounds? Something does not add up.  If anyone has a possible explanation for why the DHS would need 450 million rounds of ammunition, please post a comment and share your thoughts with us below...”

For those unfamiliar with these little toys, the slug is hollowed out so that it mushrooms upon impact, causing far greater damage to a wider area than a regular slug. And you, Good Citizen, are paying for all this. You had better pray to God you're not the one it hits... - CP

"How It Really Is"

How very convenient for the 1%... - CP

"How Close is a Cashless Economy?"

"How Close is a Cashless Economy?"

"Most people think of a cashless society as something that is way off in the distant future.  Unfortunately, that is simply not the case.  The truth is that a cashless society is much closer than most people would ever dare to imagine.  To a large degree, the transition to a cashless society is being done voluntarily.  Today, only 7 percentof all transactions in the United States are done with cash, and most of those transactions involve very small amounts of money.  Just think about it for a moment.  Where do you still use cash these days?  If you buy a burger or if you purchase something at a flea market you will still use cash, but for any mid-size or large transaction the vast majority of people out there will use another form of payment.  Our financial system is dramatically changing, and cash is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  We live in a digital world, and national governments and big banks are both encouraging the move away from paper currency and coins.  But what would a cashless society mean for our future?  Are there any dangers to such a system?

Those are very important questions, but most of the time both sides of the issue are not presented in a balanced way in the mainstream media.  Instead, most mainstream news articles tend to trash cash and talk about how wonderful digital currency is. For example, a recent CBS News article declared that soon we may not need “that raggedy dollar bill” any longer and that the “greenback may soon be a goner.” It’s what the wallet was invented for, to carry cash. After all, there was a time when we needed cash everywhere we went, from filling stations to pay phones. Even the tooth fairy dealt only in cash. But money isn’t just physical anymore. It’s not only the pennies in your piggy bank, or that raggedy dollar bill. Money is also digital – it’s zeros and ones stored in a computer, prompting some economists to predict the old-fashioned greenback may soon be a goner. “There will be a time – I don’t know when, I can’t give you a date – when physical money is just going to cease to exist,” said economist Robert Reich.

So will we see a completely cashless society in the near future? Of course not.  It would be wildly unpopular for the governments of the world to force such a system upon us all at once. Instead, the big banks and the governments of the industrialized world are doing all they can to get us to voluntarily transition to such a system.  Once 98 or 99 percent of all transactions do not involve cash, eliminating the remaining 1 or 2 percent will only seem natural. The big banks want a cashless society because it is much more profitable for them. The big banks earn billions of dollars in fees from debit cards and they make absolutely enormous profits from credit cards. But when people use cash the big banks do not earn anything. So obviously the big banks and the big credit card companies are big cheerleaders for a cashless society.

Most governments around the world are eager to transition to a cashless society as well for the following reasons: 

• Cash is expensive to print, inspect, move, store and guard.
• Counterfeiting is always going to be a problem as long as paper currency exists.
• Cash if favored by criminals because it does not leave a paper trail.  Eliminating cash would make it much more difficult for drug dealers, prostitutes and other criminals to do business.
• Most of all, a cashless society would give governments more control.  Governments would be able to track virtually all transactions and would also be able to monitor tax compliance much more closely.

When you understand the factors listed above, it becomes easier to understand why the use of cash is increasingly becoming demonized.  Governments around the world are increasingly viewing the use of cash in a negative light.  In fact, according to the U.S. government paying with cash in some circumstances is now considered to be “suspicious activity” that needs to be reported to the authorities.

This disdain of cash has also grown very strong in the financial community.  The following is from a recent Slate article: "David Birch, a director at Consult Hyperion, a firm specializing in electronic payments, says a shift to digital currency would cut out these hidden costs. In Birch’s ideal world, paying with cash would be viewed like drunk driving—something we do with decreasing frequency as more and more people understand the negative social consequences. “We’re trying to use industrial age money to support commerce in a post-industrial age. It just doesn’t work,” he says. “Sooner or later, the tectonic plates shift and then, very quickly, you’ll find yourself in this new environment where if you ask somebody to pay you in cash, you’ll just assume that they’re a prostitute or a Somali pirate.”

Do you see what is happening? Simply using cash is enough to get you branded as a potential criminal these days. Many people are going to be scared away from using cash simply because of the stigma that is becoming attached to it. This is a trend that is not just happening in the United States.  In fact, many other countries are further down the road toward a cashless society than we are. Up in Canada, they are looking for ways to even eliminate coins so that people can use alternate forms of payment for all of their transactions: "The Royal Canadian Mint is also looking to the future with the MintChip, a new product that could become a digital replacement for coins."

In Sweden, only about 3 percent of all transactions still involve cash.  The following comes from a recent Washington Post article: "In most Swedish cities, public buses don’t accept cash; tickets are prepaid or purchased with a cell phone text message. A small but growing number of businesses only take cards, and some bank offices — which make money on electronic transactions — have stopped handling cash altogether. “There are towns where it isn’t at all possible anymore to enter a bank and use cash,” complains Curt Persson, chairman of Sweden’s National Pensioners’ Organization. In Italy, all very large cash transactions have been banned.  Previously, the limit for using cash in a transaction had been reduced to the equivalent of just a few thousand dollars.  But back in December, Prime Minister Mario Monti proposed a new limit of approximately $1,300 for cash transactions. And that is how many governments will transition to a cashless society.  They will set a ceiling and then they will keep lowering it and lowering it."

But is a cashless society really secure? Of course not. Bank accounts can be hacked into.  Credit cards and debit cards can be stolen.  Identity theft all over the world is absolutely soaring. So companies all over the planet are working feverishly to make all of these cashless systems much more secure. In the future, it is inevitable that national governments and big financial institutions will want to have all of us transition over to using biometric identity systems in order to combat crime in the financial system.

Many of these biometric identity systems are becoming quite advanced. For example, just check out what IBM has been developing.  The following is from a recent IBM press release: "You will no longer need to create, track or remember multiple passwords for various log-ins. Imagine you will be able to walk up to an ATM machine to securely withdraw money by simply speaking your name or looking into a tiny sensor that can recognize the unique patterns in the retina of your eye. Or by doing the same, you can check your account balance on your mobile phone or tablet.
Each person has a unique biological identity and behind all that is data. Biometric data – facial definitions, retinal scans and voice files – will be composited through software to build your DNA unique online password. Referred to as multi-factor biometrics, smarter systems will be able to use this information in real-time to make sure whenever someone is attempting to access your information, it matches your unique biometric profile and the attempt is authorized."

Are you ready for that? It is coming.

In the future, if you do not surrender your biometric identity information, you may be locked out of the entire financial system. Another method that can be used to make financial identification more secure is to use implantable RFID microchips. Yes, there is a lot of resistance to this idea, but the fact is that the use of RFID chips in animals and in humans is rapidly spreading. Some U.S. cities have already made it mandatory to implant microchips into all cats and all dogs so that they can be tracked. All over the United States, employees are being required to carry badges that contain RFID chips, and in some instances employers are actually requiring employees to have RFID chips injected into their bodies. Increasingly, RFID chips are being implanted in the upper arm of patients that have Alzheimer’s disease.  The idea is that this helps health care providers track Alzheimer’s patients that get lost. In some countries, microchips are now actually being embedded into school uniforms to make sure that students don’t skip school.

Can you see where all of this is headed? Some companies are even developing RFID technologies that do not require an injection. One company called Somark has developed chipless RFID ink that is applied directly to the skin of an animal or a human.  These “RFID tattoos” are applied in about 10 seconds using micro-needles and a reusable applicator, and they can be read by an RFID reader from up to four feet away.

Would you get an “RFID tattoo” if the government or your bank asked you to?

Some people out there are actually quite excited about these new technologies. For example, a columnist named Don Tennant wrote an article entitled “Chip Me – Please!” in which he expressed his unbridled enthusiasm for an implantable microchip which would contain all of his medical information, “All I can say is I’d be the first person in line for an implant.” But are there real dangers to going to a system that is entirely digital? For example, what if a devastating EMP attack wiped out our electrical grid and most of our computers from coast to coast? How would we continue to function?

Sadly, most people don’t think about things like that. Our world is changing more rapidly than ever before, and we should be mindful of where these changes are taking us. Just because our technology is advancing does not mean that our world is becoming a better place. There are millions of Americans that want absolutely nothing to do with biometric identity systems or RFID implants. But the mainstream media continues to declare that nothing can stop the changes that are coming.  A recent CBS News article made the following statement: “Most agree a cashless society is not only inevitable, for most of us, it’s already here.” Yes, a cashless society is coming. Are you ready for it?"

“450+ Major Bank Resignations; Arrests Of Economic & War Criminals Next?”

“450+ Major Bank Resignations; 
Arrests Of Economic & War Criminals Next?”
By Washington's Blog

“A little over three weeks ago, 116 major bank resignations was startling news. Now with over 450 resignations and David Wilcock’s compelling documentation, the question is whether the 1% criminal oligarchy face imminent arrest. I can’t predict the future. I don’t know what the resignations mean. I don’t know if these arrests and end of the criminal 1% is here. That said, I can account for recent 1% criminal history that demands arrests for the murder of millions, harm to billions, and looting of trillions of the 99%’s dollars:

    * The most damning legal violation are unlawful wars; in “emperor has no clothes” obvious violation of the Kellogg-Briand Treaty and UN Charter.
    * Here is the US government claiming it can Constitutionally assassinate Americans upon the non-reviewable dictate of the leader.
    * Here is NDAA 2012 where US government claims it can Constitutionally disappear Americans and then appoint a tribunal with death sentence authority (unless unlimited detention is their choice). Here is the 2006 Military Commissions Act that says the same.
    * Here is US government claiming it can Constitutionally control-drown (waterboard) anyone they declare a “terrorist” as another terror-tactic to silence dissent.
    * Here is the US government claiming it can seize any resource, any person, at any time for “national defense.”
    * Here is documentation of the economic 1% using criminal fraud to loot trillions of the 99%’s wealth every year.
    * Here is documentation of how a 1% corporate media lie by commission and omission to keep these damning crimes obfuscated to the 99%.

I can also account for US history extending back over 160 years: "Occupy This: US History" exposes the 1%’s crimes then and now. I also make these suggestions to you:

    * Be proud of what you think, say, and do about these “emperor has no clothes” obvious crimes in war and money.
    * This is an important test for what you stand for when it counts.
    * Explore your unique, beautiful, and powerful self-expression for virtue as you best see it. You value virtue far more than whatever you fear.

I recommend David Wilcock’s website under “LATEST ARTICLES” for updates on the status of arresting the criminal 1%. This is the latest info as of now.”

Paul Krugman, “Paranoia Strikes Deeper”

“Paranoia Strikes Deeper”
By Paul Krugman

“Stop, hey, what’s that sound? Actually, it’s the noise a great political party makes when it loses what’s left of its mind. And it happened — where else? — on Fox News on Sunday, when Mitt Romney bought fully into the claim that gas prices are high thanks to an Obama administration plot. This claim isn’t just nuts; it’s a sort of craziness triple play — a lie wrapped in an absurdity swaddled in paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you used to hear only from people who also believed that fluoridated water was a Communist plot. But now the gas-price conspiracy theory has been formally endorsed by the likely Republican presidential nominee.

Before we get to the larger implications of this endorsement, let’s get the facts on gas prices straight. First, the lie: No, President Obama did not say, as many Republicans now claim, that he wanted higher gasoline prices. He did once say that a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions would cause electricity prices to “skyrocket” — an unfortunate word choice. But saying that such a system would raise energy prices was just a factual statement, not a declaration of intent to punish American consumers. The claim that Mr. Obama wanted higher prices is a lie, pure and simple. And it’s a lie wrapped in an absurdity, because the president of the United States doesn’t control gasoline prices, or even have much influence over those prices. Oil prices are set in a world market, and America, which accounts for only about a tenth of world production, can’t move those prices much. Indeed, the recent rise in gas prices has taken place despite rising U.S. oil production and falling imports.

Finally, there’s the paranoia, the belief that liberals in general, and Obama administration officials in particular, are trying to make driving unaffordable as part of a nefarious plot against the American way of life. And, no, I’m not exaggerating. This is what you hear even from thoroughly mainstream conservatives. For example, last year George Will declared that the Obama administration’s support for train travel had nothing to do with relieving congestion and reducing environmental impacts. No, he insisted, “the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.” Who knew that Dagny Taggart, the railroad executive heroine of “Atlas Shrugged,” was a Commie?

O.K., this is all kind of funny. But it’s also deeply scary. As Richard Hofstadter pointed out in his classic 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” crazy conspiracy theories have been an American tradition ever since clergymen began warning that Thomas Jefferson was an agent of the Bavarian Illuminati. But it’s one thing to have a paranoid fringe playing a marginal role in a nation’s political life; it’s something quite different when that fringe takes over a whole party, to the point where candidates must share, or pretend to share, that fringe’s paranoia to receive the party’s presidential nod.

And it’s not just gas prices, of course. In fact, the conspiracy theories are proliferating so fast it’s hard to keep up. Thus, large numbers of Republicans — and we’re talking about important political figures, not random supporters — firmly believe that global warming is a gigantic hoax perpetrated by a global conspiracy involving thousands of scientists, not one of whom has broken the code of omertà. Meanwhile, others are attributing the recent improvement in economic news to a dastardly plot to withhold stimulus funds, releasing them just before the 2012 election. And let’s not even get into health reform.

Why is this happening? At least part of the answer must lie in the way right-wing media create an alternate reality. For example, did you hear about how the cost of Obamacare just doubled? It didn’t, but millions of Fox-viewers and Rush-listeners believe that it did. Naturally, people who constantly hear about the evil that liberals do are ready and willing to believe that everything bad is the result of a dastardly liberal plot. And these are the people who vote in Republican primaries.

But what about the broader electorate? If and when he wins the nomination, Mr. Romney will try, as a hapless adviser put it, to shake his Etch A Sketch — that is, to erase the record of his pandering to the crazy right and convince voters that he’s actually a moderate. And maybe he can pull it off. But let’s hope that he can’t, because the kind of pandering he has engaged in during his quest for the nomination matters. Whatever Mr. Romney may personally believe, the fact is that by endorsing the right’s paranoid fantasies, he is helping to further a dangerous trend in America’s political life. And he should be held accountable for his actions.”

“The Coming Collapse of The Middle Class?”

“The Coming Collapse of The Middle Class?”
by Elizabeth Warren, UC Berkeley

"The Damning Stats: What really happened to Americans after Mom went to work in the Sixties: 
Mortgages and taxes doubled to support the growing 'Rich Get Richer' Elite."
"Distinguished law scholar Elizabeth Warren teaches contract law, bankruptcy, and commercial law at Harvard Law School. She is an outspoken critic of America's credit economy, which she has linked to the continuing rise in bankruptcy among the middle-class. Series: "UC Berkeley Graduate Council Lectures"

Hermann Hesse, "Pretend..."

 Click image for larger size.

"When dealing with the insane,
the best method is to pretend to be sane."
- Hermann Hesse

Click image for larger size, which you may then 
fill in and frame if you're so inclined, as I did...
 - CP

Friday, March 30, 2012

"How It Really Is"

“Hitler’s Blackberry”

“Hitler’s Blackberry”
by Dan Denning

"Poor old Ben Bernanke has a deflation phobia. He sees it everywhere the way the kid in The Sixth Sense saw dead people. And Bernanke is equally terrified of falling stock prices (and their effect on consumer confidence). Falling stock prices are what some people call deflation, or asset price deflation. Bernanke, the governor of the US Federal Reserve, believes the Fed made the Depression a Great Depression by raising interest rates too soon during the US recovery. He won’t make that mistake again! He will simply not allow stocks to fall.

The Fed chairman’s recent speech to the National Association for Business Economics lit a fire under US stock prices. All the US indexes charged ahead. And even gold got off the mat to close higher. Stocks are addicted to lower interest rates and yesterday they got a nice satisfying hit. Bernanke is on the record for saying he’ll keep US rates low until 2014. Yesterday he repeated his willingness to keep rates low, saying, “Further significant improvements in the unemployment rate will likely require a more-rapid expansion of production and demand from consumers and businesses, a process that can be supported by continued accommodative policies.”

It’s a bizarre world. The Fed chairman thinks lower rates are needed to produce more economic growth. Growth will produce jobs. Jobs will lead to spending. Only then can interest rates — the price of Fed money — be raised. It’s a shame he can’t understand that the US rate policy is unsound. And since the rest of the world more or less keys off from US interest rates, an unsound US monetary policy leads to an unsound global monetary policy. By “unsound” we mean a policy that keeps interest rates too low, leads to asset price inflation, and a giant boom in debt.

This is all well-worn territory to long-time Daily Reckoning readers. If there’s anything comforting about the tenacity of Bernanke’s stupidity it’s that you have time to narrow down your stock holdings in a rising market. It’s much better to exit the market when stocks are floating along on a sea of liquidity than when they are crashing down. But then that’s the issue now, isn’t it? As scared as Bernanke is of the 1930s, he and his central banking colleagues around the world are even more scared of another Lehman Brothers. This was a point we made at our Sydney conference. The lesson of Lehman is that central bankers will simply not allow another major financial institution to fail. They can’t afford to.

The financial system is still so leveraged and interconnected (mostly through the derivatives market) that regular infusions of credit and the monetization of government debt are required to keep it at a steady level. In some ways, the deflation you’d normally expect at the end of a credit bubble is actually happening right now — it’s just disguised by the huge growth in central bank balance sheets. In other words, stock markets have become a giant charade. The indexes don’t communicate useful or accurate information. Prices have become more influenced by the supply of credit in the system than the underlying earnings of the businesses on listed exchanges. The whole thing looks suspiciously like a racket designed only to benefit the banks, the brokers, and the bureaucrats who nominally regulate them.

It’s kind of refreshing to say that, although we concede we could be wrong. It’s refreshing because once you acknowledge that the game you’re being asked to play is rigged, you can choose not to play the game. This makes your asset allocation decisions a lot easier. For instance, we bought more gold bullion this morning. Not everyone agrees with our view that these periodic rallies are great times to liquidate portions of your portfolio. For example, Goldman Sachs released a report last week making the case for stocks. The report had a lot of big words and complicated arguments. But the basic argument was that stocks will do better than bonds, especially if the Fed keeps rates low. People seem to forget that businesses exist to provide cash flow to their owners by providing services to their customers. Instead of an investment strategy that depends on the Fed’s monetary policy, why not invest in businesses that grow their earnings without using leverage? That seems like a better long-term bet. In any event, the Fed’s willingness to keep pumping credit into the financial system gives you time, or at least the illusion of time. Time is a valuable commodity. It’s so valuable you can’t even buy it or sell it. You can only maximize it by using it to your best advantage. These rallies should be sold.

This brings us back to the code breakers of Bletchley Park. These men were brilliant. But they would never have become important if it hadn’t been for the hubris and paranoia of Nazi Germany. Allow us to quickly explain. You may be familiar with the story of Alan Turing. He was one of the heroes of Bletchley Park. He’s credited with breaking the code used on Germany’s Enigma machines. Those machines were found especially in German U-boats, but were used throughout the German war machine.

Turing, by the way, later became famous for being a sort of God-father of information theory. His work led to the development of the first real computers (Turing machines). The video we linked to yesterday was so interesting because it showed that the Colossus machine built by Tommy Flowers, and based on the mathematics of Bill Tutte, was actually the world’s first electronic and digital computer. But the Enigma machines were not used by Hitler or the German High Command for their most private and secret communications. Those conversations were conducted via encrypted messages sent by a Lorenz machine, or Hitler’s Blackberry, as one historian has called it. The German word for this machine is Geheimschreiber, or secret writer.

The British called the code generated by the Lorenz machines “Tunny”. Bill Tutte cracked Tunny in 1941. It was an amazing achievement, but it wouldn’t have been possible without a mistake. On August 30th, 1941, the German high command sent the same message twice from Athens to Vienna. It was a 4,000-character message that wasn’t received correctly the first time. When it was sent a second time, the operator in Athens didn’t change the key in which the message was encrypted. The result was two messages sent with the same encryption. This provided cryptographers with what they call “depth”. Depth allows for pattern detection, but obviously requires multiple messages with the same encryption.

There are many fascinating aspects of the story. For example, you’d think that if the Allies could read the messages between Hitler and his commanders as early as 1941, the whole war would have been shortened. And in fact, it probably was. But the Allies had to be careful about how they used the intelligence they gathered from Tunny. If, for example, the Allies avoided every German ambush, were prepared for every German attack, and shot down every airplane carrying a German officer or general, it would have been obvious to the Germans that their communications weren’t secure and their code had been broken. The Allies had to use the intelligence gathered from Tunny in a way that looked random and improbable, not in a way that looked like they knew exactly what was coming.

Another interesting aspect is the use of pattern detection in code breaking. It would be nice if you could do the same with stock prices. You can’t, of course. But it is some consolation to know that there are patterns in economic and financial history you can study. They aren’t predictive. But they can give you a picture of what has happened in the past. Maybe this improves your probability of correctly preparing for the booms and busts ahead. Or maybe not. By far the most interesting aspect of the whole affair is how trusting the Germans were in technology. This trust was born of a mistrust of people. The Nazis required machine-generated secrecy because the regime was paranoid. It never occurred to Hitler that his unbreakable machine had been broken. His penchant for secrecy became the proverbial Achilles heel.

We would attribute this failing not just to Hitler or to human psychology but to the entire idea of National Socialism, or top-down central planning. People who believe in their own ability (and moral right) to organize society (and economy) according to their ideals and prejudices are naturally arrogant and possibly psychopathic. That’s why you should never vote for anyone who believes themselves deserving of public office. The Nazis’ paranoid self-belief cut them off from real thinking people capable of making sound judgments and put them at the mercy of, in this case, machines. It’s no coincidence that the people who support regimes like this are little more than Turing machines that follow orders as if they had no free will. The non-thinking and non-questioning people of the world are generally more compliant of tyranny. In fact, tyranny wouldn’t be possible with them.

By contrast, the British and American code-breaking effort was full of people that would have been excluded from the Nazi hierarchy, or exterminated in the death camps. Jews, gays, loners, and eccentrics all flourished in the Allied war effort, although Turing, who was gay, was later treated shamefully by the British government. These societies were not afraid of using every asset they had in order to defeat their enemies.

Systems that allow human ingenuity to flourish are far more likely to adapt and survive in a hostile environment and produce prosperity (or prolong life, in simpler terms). It’s probably a bit of a stretch to call Bletchley Park (or the Manhattan Project, for that matter) open systems. They were ultra-secret projects, of course. But they did draw on all the talents and strengths produced by American, British, and European society at the time. And those societies were all stronger because of their commitment to political and economic liberty.

We’re referring to the bedrock strengths of liberal democratic societies: the belief in open and honest scientific inquiry, basic political and religious liberty, and the rule of law committed to the protection of private rights and low taxes. Liberal systems must sometimes defend themselves from predatory ideologies and nation states. In this instance, the strengths of liberal society were put in the service of defending the system against the Axis powers. When not mobilized for war, these strengths, at least for most of the last 300 years, have created innovation and prosperity for individuals in the free market. That should be encouraging. The intuitional DNA of the Western world is strong. If Aristotle is right that all men by nature desire what is good, then we will survive this current experiment in centralized government funded by unsound money and get back to a better, more resilient system.

Today’s system of the world can hardly be described as liberal or democratic or open or resilient. Institutions have been corrupted by unsound money, an intrusive State, and the myriad bad private decisions made by people and corporations under the influence of too much credit. Innovation and adaptation are stifled by a commitment to the debts incurred by corrupt politicians and lazy voters. Our system, in other words, has become inflexible. This inflexibility makes it brittle and fragile, even as the stewards of the system remain supremely confident in both it and themselves. Hitler’s Blackberry and Bernanke’s printing press are both creations of hubris and vulnerable in the same way. Their overconfidence is their weakness.

But in a way, we’re thankful we’ve got Ben Bernanke on the job. Bernanke is like some misguided Spartan guarding the pass at Thermopylae (for his paymasters in the financial world). He’s giving them time to exit the system at a profit, passing the losses on to tax payers. But his commitment to the dollar-standard and low interest rates gives you time to prepare your portfolio for the world ahead…once the money printers are overrun by their own creation.”

Greg Hunter, "Weekly News Wrap-Up 3.30.12"

"Weekly News Wrap-Up 3.30.12"
By Greg Hunter’s

A budget has been passed in the House of Representatives by the Republicans that cut $5.3 trillion over the next 10 years.  Can it pass the Senate where the Democrats are in control?  Probably not, and that means we are back to the fight of spending reductions by Republicans and tax increases by the Democrats.  It’s election year politics at its finest.  The budget proposed by President Obama was unanimously defeated in the House.  The Supreme Court heard the case of Obama Care this week.  It will not be decided until summer, but conservative judges picked apart the individual mandate where Americans who do not purchase healthcare insurance are taxed or fined for not doing it.  The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Federal Reserve bought a whopping 61% of our nation’s debt last year.

Former big buyers of Treasuries, China and Japan, are shunning U.S. debt.  Maybe that’s why Ben Bernanke is trashing gold and questions about a gold standard.  The Fed Chief said, this week, there are “problems with a gold standard.”  You mean there are no problems with printing lots of cash to buy debt and live beyond our means?  Think $4 a gallon gasoline national average, and many experts say they expect an average $5 a gallon this year.  Housing prices fell again according to the latest Case-Shiller report.  The MSM spun this story and said it was not that bad.  But the report said it was that bad–the worst report in the current housing slump.  Home prices are the same as they were nearly 10 years ago. What recovery?  Finally, renowned economist Martin Armstrong says the next financial calamity happens in 2015.  Because of the severe and ongoing problems in Europe and Japan, many are predicting an earlier demise of the global economy.  Nothing is fixed in Europe.  The U.S. economy isn’t so hot either, but it is the thinnest fat person in the room.  Greg Hunter of gives his analysis on these stories and more on the Weekly News Wrap-Up.”

Back, Regular Posting Resumes Shortly

OK, back from the mini-sabbatical, regular posting will resume by Monday, sporadic until I can catch up with the world. Commenting is restored. Thanks for your patience, folks, I hope you're all well. - CP

Monday, March 26, 2012

"How It Really Is"

"A Revolutionary Idea..."

(The image of Uncle Sam used here is suggestive of the concept of
"We, the People," not that out-of-control monstrosity in Washington, D.C. - CP)

"Everybody's a Target in the American Surveillance State"

"Everybody's a Target in the American Surveillance State"
By John W. Whitehead

“Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”- A senior intelligence official previously involved with the Utah Data Center

In the small town of Bluffdale, Utah, not far from bustling Salt Lake City, the federal government is quietly erecting what will be the crown jewel of its surveillance empire. Rising up out of the desert landscape, the Utah Data Center (UDC)—a $2 billion behemoth designed to house a network of computers, satellites, and phone lines that stretches across the world—is intended to serve as the central hub of the National Security Agency’s vast spying infrastructure. Once complete (the UDC is expected to be fully operational by September 2013), the last link in the chain of the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us will be complete, and privacy, as we have known it, will be extinct.

At five times the size of the U.S. Capitol, the UDC will be a clearinghouse and a depository for every imaginable kind of information—whether innocent or not, private or public—including communications, transactions and the like. Anything and everything you’ve ever said or done, from the trivial to the damning—phone calls, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, Google searches, emails, bookstore and grocery purchases, bank statements, commuter toll records, etc.—will be tracked, collected, catalogued and analyzed by the UDC’s supercomputers and teams of government agents. In this way, by sifting through the detritus of your once-private life, the government will come to its own conclusions about who you are, where you fit in, and how best to deal with you should the need arise.

What little we know about this highly classified spy center—which will be operated by the National Security Agency (NSA)—comes from James Bamford, a former intelligence analyst and an expert on the highly secretive government agency. Bamford’s expose in Wired (March 15, 2012), a must-read for anyone concerned about the loss of our freedoms in a technological age, provides a chilling glimpse into the government’s plans for total control, a.k.a., total information awareness. As Bamford notes, the NSA “has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created. In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens.”

Supposedly created by the NSA in order to track foreign threats to America, as well as to shore up cybersecurity and battle hackers, the UDC’s technological capabilities are astounding. As the central depository for all of the information gathered by the NSA’s vast spy centers, the UDC’s supercomputers will be capable of downloading data amounting to the entire contents of the Library of Congress every six hours. However, the data being targeted goes far beyond the scope of terrorist threats. In fact, as Bamford points out, the NSA is interested in nothing less than the “so-called invisible web, also known as the deep web or deepnet—data beyond the reach of the public. This includes password-protected data, US and foreign government communications, and noncommercial file-sharing between trusted peers.”

The loss of privacy resulting from such aggressive surveillance systems highlights very dramatically the growing problem of large public and private institutions in relation to the individual citizen. What we are witnessing, in the so-called name of security and efficiency, is the creation of a new class system comprised of the watched (average Americans such as you and me) and the watchers (government bureaucrats, technicians and private corporations). The growing need for technicians necessitates the bureaucracy. The massive bureaucracies—now computerized—that administer governmental policy are a permanent form of government.  Presidents come and go, but the nonelected bureaucrats remain.

The question looms before us.  Can freedom in the United States continue to flourish and grow in an age when the physical movements, individual purchases, conversations, and meetings of every citizen are constantly under surveillance by private companies and government agencies? Whether or not the surveillance is undertaken for "innocent" reasons, does not surveillance of all citizens, even the innocent sort, gradually poison the soul of a nation?  Does not surveillance limit personal options—deny freedom of choice—for many individuals?  Does not surveillance increase the powers of those who are in a position to enjoy the fruits of this activity?  Is not control the name of the game?

We are all becoming data collected in government files. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who suffered under the secret police in the Soviet Union, wrote about this process some years ago: "As every man goes through life he fills in a number of forms for the record, each containing a number of questions… There are thus hundreds of little threads radiating from every man, millions of threads in all. If these threads were suddenly to become visible, the whole sky would look like a spider's web, and if they materialized like rubber bands, buses and trams and even people would lose the ability to move and the wind would be unable to carry torn-up newspapers or autumn leaves along the streets of the city."

Thus, we come back to the NSA’s spy center. That the NSA, which has shown itself to care little for constitutional limits or privacy, is the driving force behind this spy center is no surprise. The agency, which is three times the size of the CIA, consumes one third of the intelligence budget and has a global spy network, has a long history of spying on Americans—whether or not it has always had the authorization to do so. Take, for instance, the warrantless wiretapping program conducted during the Bush years, which resulted in the NSA monitoring the private communications of millions of Americans—a program that continues unabated today, with help from private telecommunications companies such as AT&T. The program recorded 320 million phone calls a day when it first started. It is estimated that the NSA has intercepted 15 to 20 trillion communications of American citizens since 9/11.

What has proven to be surprising to some is that the Obama White House has proven to be just as bad, if not worse, than the Bush White House when it comes to invading the privacy rights of Americans. As Yale law professor Jack Balkin notes, “We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national-surveillance state. [Obama has] systematically adopted policies consistent with the second term of the Bush Administration.” Unfortunately, whereas those on the Left raised a hew and cry over the Bush administration’s constant encroachments on Americans’ privacy rights, it appears that the political leanings of those on the Left have held greater sway than their principles. Consequently, the Obama administration has faced much less criticism for its blatant efforts to reinforce the surveillance state.

Clearly, the age of privacy in America is coming to a close. We have moved into a new paradigm in which surveillance technology which renders everyone a suspect is driving the bureaucratic ship that once was our democratic republic. By the time this UDC spy center is fully operational, no phone call, no email, no Tweet, no web search is safe from the prying eyes and ears of the government. People going about their daily business will no longer be assured that they are not being spied upon by federal agents and other government bureaucrats.

While the responses to the news of the Bluffdale facility have been varied, with some Americans cleaving to the over-used government line “if you have nothing to hide, you have no need to worry,” more and more people are starting to feel like Mike Newell, a Wired reader who had this to say about the UDC: "Not very long ago... I actually believed that I would be willing to sacrifice a bit of freedom for security. I believed that a guard or cop at the entrance to my community, checking I.D. would be better than car loads of gang members roaming through creating havoc. I once laughed at those who mistrusted the government and prepared for survival, should things go sideways. I supported efforts by our so called "leaders" to monitor society, in search for the ever present evil. Not long ago... I slept.
I just finished building my fourth M-4. I just finished loading my 3rd case of 5.56. Today my Saiga 12 arrives. My wife has canned enough food to feed a city. I have taken great steps at a great cost to ensure that I am fully self reliant under any circumstance. I am awake. Anyone who really believes that the simple act of discussing this on the internet, has not steered electronic ears in your direction... is sound asleep and I understand that. Someone eluded to it and I repeat this truth.  In 1935 Germany... many citizens felt uneasy and sensed that doom was on the way. More laughed such talk off and continued to find reasons to smile and enjoy the day. We all know the end of that story.

The new I Pad was released!!!!! Snooky had a meltdown! My Mac  Pro is awesome!!! These trinkets that keep us giggling and focused on nothing... this addiction to instant gratification... this will be our downfall."
 "There's a storm brewing.”

"You Are the One You Are Waiting for: Turn to Yourself"

"You Are the One You Are Waiting for: Turn to Yourself"
by The DailyOM

"Ultimately, you are the one. We spend a lot of our lives looking for role models, mentors, teachers, and gurus to guide us on our path. There is nothing wrong with this and, in fact, finding the right person at the right time can really help. However, it is important to realize that in the absence of such a figure, we can very safely rely upon ourselves. We carry within us everything we need to know to make progress on our paths to self-realization. The outer world serves as a mirror. Or to use another metaphor, our inner world has a magnetic force that draws to us what we need to evolve to the next level. All we need to do to see that we already have everything we need is to let go of our belief that we need to seek in order to find.

The path of the spirit is often defined as a journey with a goal such as the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In this metaphor, a person begins a search for something they want but do not have and then they find it, and there is a happy ending. However, most of us know that getting what we want only makes us happy for a moment, and then the happiness passes until a new object of desire presents itself. Joy is a permanent aspect of our inner selves and is not separate from us at any point. We do not have to travel to find it or imagine that it resides only in the body of another. In fact, what the best teachers will do is point out that this very precious elixir is something we already possess.

So when we find ourselves on our path, not knowing which way to turn and wishing for guidance, we can turn to ourselves. We may not know the right answer rationally or intellectually, but if we simply ask, let go, and wait patiently, an answer will come. The more we practice this and trust this process, the less we will look outside ourselves for teachers and guides for we will have successfully become our own."

“Preparing for the Unimaginable”

“Preparing for the Unimaginable”
by Dave Pollard

“One of the lessons of Nassim Taleb’s “The Black Swan” is that the events that have caused the greatest changes (and collectively most of the substantive change) to our civilization and our way of life were completely unexpected, unpredictable “black swan” events. His new book argues that rather than trying to plan and prepare for a future we can’t predict, we should do things that improve our resilience, and create systems that are “anti-fragile”. Unlike most fragile, complicated human-made systems, “anti-fragile” systems (such as evolution and other complex natural systems) actively adapt to, learn from and benefit from upheaval and dramatic change.

I have often said that that I believe the key to resilience in the coming decades will be our ability, in the moment, to imagine ways around the crises we cannot prevent, predict or plan for, and then navigate them. So now I am sitting down with a small group of colleagues here on Bowen Island, starting to think about creating what the Transition Movement calls an “energy descent” plan for our island, and wondering how we can hope to plan for the unpredictable, unforeseeable, and unimaginable future we face. I’ve been part of several scenario planning and simulation exercises over the years, and studied them extensively, and what stands out for me from these exercises are five systemic human predilections that render the product of such exercises more or less useless:

   1. Believing the future is predictable: What actually happens turns out to be well outside any and all the scenario ranges that were planned for (not “better” or “worse” than the scenarios, but utterly different in unforeseen ways).
   2. Believing the future will continue and accelerate current trends: We have an irresistible tendency to predict that the future will be much like the present only much more so (the “Jetsons syndrome”).
   3. Believing change will come soon but overall will be modest: We tend of overestimate the speed of change in the short run and underestimate the full extent of change over the longer term.
   4. Believing we can prevent, mitigate and otherwise control future events: We tend to wildly overestimate the degree of control we (including our ‘leaders’) have over the changes (political, economic, social, behavioural, ecological, educational, medical, scientific, even technological) that sweep over us. No one is in control.
   5. Believing that centralization works: We tend to believe, irrationally and in the face of their record of colossal and continued failure, that centralization and unification will make things better, when it only makes them less agile, less democratic and more vulnerable. Even now the Wilber cult is calling for a “World Federation” that mirrors Cheney’s “New World Order” (and, fortunately, is just as unachievable).

I’m not surprised, therefore, that several of my Transition colleagues are skeptical of the value of a long-term Transition and Resilience Plan for our island. How can we possibly plan for a future we can’t begin to predict, that we have no control over, that we probably can’t even imagine? Despite the cleverness of Taleb’s insights on ‘anti-fragile’ systems, they’re not very useful: Humans can’t create complex ‘anti-fragile’ systems. It’s taken nature billions of years to evolve them, and even then there have been at least five major extinction events that wiped out most of the life on the planet. We only just realized after several millennia that we have precipitated the sixth, and we are utterly clueless on what to do about it (and don’t get me started on geoengineering, the latest control fantasy by the people who brought you GMOs).

The only thing we can say for sure is we won’t be able to live as we do today. Since we can’s and won’t know how or when the coming economic, energy and ecological crises will unfold, and there’s no evidence that we can prevent, significantly mitigate, or long forestall these crises, what if anything can we do now to prepare for the unimaginable?

In the process of developing "Collapse: The Game," I’ve been playing with various scenarios and mapping how various economic, energy and ecological crises (at least insofar as I can imagine them) might affect the various aspects and systems of human life — governance, food & water, energy, health/well-being, learning, transportation, communication, building, security, livelihoods, recreation, arts & crafts, science/technology/innovation, and ecology. The game simulates how, in a relocalized world, we would invest in new personal and community learning and capacity building, local resources, and community infrastructure, to anticipate and cope with various crises ranging from currency collapse and the end of cheap energy to pandemics and refugee crises.

For anyone who’s kept up with their Transition and Collapsnik reading these scenarios have been sketched out at length in both fictional and non-fictional accounts. But although it’s clear that some of these crises are likely to occur, how and when they will occur is unknowable, nor is how they will manifest themselves at the local and national level, nor how the complex interrelationship between all of our systems will compound or mitigate their effects. It’s your guess against mine, and the debate is fruitless, since we’re all going to be mostly wrong.

So lately I’ve been thinking: Rather than trying to lay out specific ‘forecast’ scenarios for the future, would it be more useful to develop an illustrative story that would convey a sense of the degree of change to our lives that we might face in the future? That way we might get a visceral sense of how much our lives will (have to) change, and begin to think about, in general, what might we do to enable us, when changes of this magnitude occur, whatever they be, to be more ready for them than we are now?

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about; it’s a story about how I could envision some of the people currently living on Bowen Island might be affected by the types of economic, energy and ecological crises the Transition Movement and Collapsnik writers (including me) have been speculating we could face:

The biggest impact of the economic crisis on Bowen Islanders was psychological — the shame of losing jobs (as half of us did), the pain and dread of seeing a lifetime of savings disappear along with the prospect for retirement, the awkwardness of retired Islanders coming out of retirement after admitting their pensions and retirement savings were gone, the terror of foreclosure on homes as house values plunged far below the mortgages on them. The levels of stress, anguish and fear were palpable and many of us were badly scarred by the Great Deflation — we mostly tried to heal ourselves, or each other, using whatever therapies we could draw upon, though quite a few unfortunately took it out on family, friends and neighbours.

A lot of Islanders quietly moved — off-island to live with family or friends, or in with relatives or housemates. Most homes had multiple families living in them, in makeshift separate suites or improvised co-op arrangements. Homeowners took in boarders to make monthly payments, and renters took in sub-tenants. The poverty was subtle but apparent — the sudden appearance of homeless people on the island, in the woods and parks, the number of people asking for money by the ferry, people knocking on doors asking if they could do odd jobs, and asking if they could quietly tent in the back yard “until they got back on their feet”, many trees illegally cut for firewood. When the currency collapsed, Bowen Bucks became a real currency, though a Gift Economy largely prevailed, with people doing things for others, and giving ‘loans’ as they could afford, with the knowledge they would probably never be repaid. When you know everyone in the community, you do what you can.

The shame drove quite a few “breadwinners” to suicide, and the stress and poverty caused addiction and theft rates, and physical and psychological illness rates, to soar. Government cutbacks meant almost all civil service workers were unemployed, and cutbacks in health and education meant Islanders focused more attention on illness/accident prevention, self-diagnosed and self-treated many illnesses, home-schooled or unschooled their kids, and focused on palliative/hospice care rather than life prolonging in old age.

Energy rationing meant the end of daily car commutes to Vancouver, so those still working organized bus-pools. Ferry service was cut by three fourths and doubled in price, so the Cove was filled with “pitherers” — people, many on bicycles, offering to run errands or pick up supplies on the mainland for a fee or a return service. Because the Island is so hilly, bicycles were a challenge for many, so in addition to impromptu taxis and buses, organized by Internet, there was a black market for gasoline (and much gas siphoned at night from those without garages); there were even a few horses pressed into service. The Internet, a major energy user, was a shadow of its former self; streaming and file-sharing were gone, but basic communication services were still affordable and maintained. Cell phones were for emergencies only.

Thermostats were regulated by BC Hydro and energy audits became mandatory; up to the ration maximum, energy prices were subsidized to keep heating and lighting affordable. Some Islanders, to save money, kept their thermostats at 60F and wore coats indoors. Many others installed personal solar and wind energy generators, and a wind farm on Mount Collins was being studied. The high cost of energy had a huge impact on food costs, and almost all available growing space on Bowen was now being used for gardening; canning bees had become the most popular social events on the island. As endless avian flu outbreaks had made poultry farming uneconomic, many Islanders had gone vegetarian or vegan, as had most of the Island restaurants.

Climate change had had little direct impact on Bowen, but the indirect effects were extensive. The horrific US droughts led to political animosity over sale of so much Canadian water to Americans, using the abandoned Tar Sands pipelines, and almost led to war. Canada’s vast reserves were dwindling quickly. But the biggest climate impact was the arrival of thousands of boat people on our shores, climate change and economic refugees from dozens of countries devastated by drought, storms, soil exhaustion, civil war, famine, and desperation-induced despotism. Islanders were split between those wanting them expelled to almost certain death (the refugee internment camps were closed when the sheer flood of people overwhelmed them), and those wanting to take them in even as levels of hardship of our own people increased. A surge in Bowen’s murder rate was attributed by some to “criminal illegals” but was mostly due to increased stresses between long-time locals and over-zealous protection of private property by angry xenophobes.

So the idea would be that, rather than thinking about the need for each of us to learn technical skills such as how to grow our own food (or perhaps move somewhere where growing food is possible year-round), stories like this, customized to the unique circumstances of each community, would prompt people to start to think in general terms about preparing for major change, and asking broad questions about change resilience and change capacities such as:

   1. Building Community:
          * How can we start to create a local ‘community’ capable of self-organizing and doing things competently, collaboratively and autonomously?
          * To start with, how can we get to know our neighbours and their skills and needs, at least well enough to know whether, if/when we have to create a true community with them, we’ll be able to (and even know whether this is the neighbourhood we want to be in if/when that happens)?
          * Who is our ‘community’, anyway (especially if it’s embedded within a big city with no coherent boundaries), and how cohesive could it be if it had to become much more collaborative and autonomous?
          * What’s the right size for organizing a community — big enough to have a good mix of skills and capacities, but small enough to be manageable?

   2. Reducing Our Dependence on Centralized Systems:
          * How can we become less dependent on the current systems – government, corporate (employment), financial, health, education, food, energy, transportation, communication, clothing and equipment manufacturing, construction, entertainment and recreation, police and justice etc. – especially those that are currently highly centralized, vulnerable or far-away?
          * To start with, how can we as a community learn more about how these systems work, so if/when we need to recreate them locally (if the established large-scale systems fail), we’ll be able to do so?
          * And at the same time, how can we find out more about the community we now live in — its resources, where it gets its food and energy from, who has what skills etc. — to appreciate how well our community will fare if it has to rely much more on its own resources?

   3. Increasing Our Self-Sufficiency:
          * How can we become more self-sufficient as individuals and as a community, less reliant on travel to/from, and purchase and sale of goods and services from/to other communities?
          * To start with, how much of what we buy and sell now (our goods, services and labour) is currently, or could be if necessary, sourced and used right in our community?

   4. Increasing Collaboration and Sharing:
          * How can we, through careful buying, maintenance and sharing, learn as individuals and as a community to buy less and waste less?
          * How can we come to accept that we probably won’t like everyone in our relocalized communities, appreciate and get along with those we don’t, and learn to resolve conflicts and reach consensus amicably?
          * How can we learn and practice doing things (from cooking to mentoring our community’s children to fixing our houses) more collaboratively in our “do it yourself” culture?

   5. Psychological Preparedness and Resilience:
          * How can we learn, as individuals and as a community, to cope better with whatever crisis may come our way; and to deal effectively with panic and with ideological differences?
          * How can we become better prepared psychologically to deal with change and adversity, and the negative emotions it can stir in us?
          * To the extent we are already intuitively aware of coming threats and crises, and how they might affect us and our children and grandchildren, how can we learn to accept and deal honestly and effectively now with this awareness, and the grief and anger and fear it brings?
          * How do we talk honestly with each other now about all of this as a community, and move past denial and procrastination when talking with loved ones and/or neighbours?
          * How do we become more self-aware and self-knowledgeable so we really become conscious of how we feel now, and how we might handle the stress of events to come and the changes they will require?

I believe it’s far more important for us to start answering these questions than to start learning about permaculture or solar panels. In fact, I think answering these questions will lead to a shared appreciation of what technical skills we will need, as a community, to acquire (we don’t all have to be technically expert at doing everything), and when we’d be wise to start learning and implementing these skills and this knowledge.

I’ve met quite a few people who live in co-housing, and they have, in the process of establishing themselves as true communities, broached and answered the questions in points 1-4 above. It wasn’t easy for them, and I believe that, in the process, they’ve moved far ahead of most of the rest of us in their level of preparedness and resilience for future economic, energy and ecological crises.

When I started to develop the outline for the Bowen Island Transition and Resilience Plan, I expected it to have a current state analysis, and a whole spectrum of future scenarios, followed by a timeline with specific action plans to achieve food security, post-descent energy self-sufficiency, our own currency, wellness and learning capacities and facilities, electric powered transport, green building, and so on.

I still think these are admirable goals, but I am coming to believe that trying to map a course from where we are now to that future is like trying to strategize how to win a yacht race to a specific destination without knowing either the course or the possible weather. When it comes to our civilization’s future we cannot know the course, and all we know about the weather is that it will be stormy. Best then to focus on our preparedness for whatever we might face, the resilience, capacity and cohesion of our crew, and our readiness to act, in the moment, whatever comes, and to imagine and navigate ways around the obstacles as they present themselves. And fare forward."
Related: "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed"

"Energies Of Life..."

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don't let them scare
you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.”

 - R. I. Fitzhenry