Saturday, March 31, 2018

"The Web Gallery of Art"

"The Web Gallery of Art"

"The Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum and searchable database of European painting and sculpture of the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Realism periods (1100-1850), currently containing over 44,800 reproductions. It was started in 1996 as a topical site of the Renaissance art, originated in the Italian city-states of the 14th century and spread to other countries in the 15th and 16th centuries. Intending to present Renaissance art as comprehensively as possible, the scope of the collection was later extended to show its Medieval roots as well as its evolution to Baroque and Rococo via Mannerism. More recently the periods of Neoclassicism and Romanticism were also included.
The collection has some of the characteristics of a virtual museum. The experience of the visitors is enhanced by guided tours helping to understand the artistic and historical relationship between different works and artists, by period music of choice in the background and a free postcard service. At the same time the collection serves the visitors' need for a site where various information on art, artists and history can be found together with corresponding pictorial illustrations. Although not a conventional one, the collection is a searchable database supplemented by a glossary containing articles on art terms, relevant historical events, personages, cities, museums and churches.

The Web Gallery of Art is intended to be a free resource of art history primarily for students and teachers. It is a private initiative not related to any museums or art institutions, and not supported financially by any state or corporate sponsors. However, we do our utmost, using authentic literature and advice from professionals, to ensure the quality and authenticity of the content.

We are convinced that such a collection of digital reproductions, containing a balanced mixture of interlinked visual and textual information, can serve multiple purposes. On one hand it can simply be a source of artistic enjoyment; a convenient alternative to visiting a distant museum, or an incentive to do just that. On the other hand, it can serve as a tool for public education both in schools and at home."

For those so inclined, this is a treasure trove of material. Enjoy!

“The Future Ain't What It Used To Be”

“The Future Ain't What It Used To Be”
by Chris Martenson

"This marks our our 10th year of doing this. And by “this”, we mean using data, logic and reason to support the very basic conclusion that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. Surprisingly, this simple, rational idea - despite its huge and fast-growing pile of corroborating evidence - still encounters tremendous pushback from society. Why? Because it runs afoul of most people's deep-seated belief systems.

Our decade of experience delivering this message has hammered home what behavioral scientists have been telling us for years - that, with rare exceptions, we humans are not rational. We're rationalizers. We try to force our perception of reality to fit our beliefs; rather than the other way around.

Which is why the vast amount of grief, angst and encroaching dread that most people feel in western cultures today is likely due to the fact that, deep down, whether we're willing to admit it to ourselves or not, everybody already knows the truth: Our way of life is unsustainable. In our hearts, we fear that someday, possibly soon, our comfy way of life will be ripped away; like a warm blanket snatched off of our sleeping bodies on a cold night.

The simple reality is that society's hopes for a "modern consumer-class lifestyle for all" are incompatible with the accelerating imbalance between the (still growing) human population and the (increasingly depleting) planet's natural resources. Basic math and physics tell us that the Earth's ecosystems can't handle the load for much longer.

The only remaining question concerns how fast the adjustment happens. Will the future be defined by a "slow burn", one that steadily degrades our living standards over generations? Or will we experience a sudden series of sharp shocks that plunge the world into chaos and conflict?

It’s hard to say. As Yogi Berra famously quipped, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” So, it's left to us to remain open-minded and flexible as we draw up our plans for how we’ll personally persevere through the coming years of change.

But even while the specifics about the future elude us today, “predicting” the macro trends most likely to influence the coming decades is very doable:

Rising trends:
Populism in politics
Federal debt levels
Geopolitical tensions
Interest rates

Falling trends:
Funding levels for pensions
The numbers of insects world wide
Confidence in the future among the younger generations
Wealth and income equality

Trends can be expected to continue until they change. Therefore making "predictions" on trends is like making a "prediction" about which way an already tossed ball will travel. It's not really a prediction at all, but a statement of observed data. These two lists bring to mind another great Yogi Berra quote:

No, the future certainly isn’t what it used to be. Once it was a place in which you could invest towards your hopes and dreams, confident that conditions would be better for your children than they were for you. That’s no longer the case. The defining trends in play are all working to degrade, rather than enhance, our future prospects.

Which is why it's little surprise that millennials aren’t saving for retirement. Here's the dim view many of them hold: “In general, I regard the future as a multitude of possibilities, but most of them don't look good,” Elias Schwartzman, 29, a musician, told me. “When I'm at retirement age, around 2050, I think it's possible we'll have seen a breakdown of modern society.” Schwartzman said that he saw the future as encompassing one of two possibilities: an apocalyptic “total breakdown of industrial society,” or “capitalism morphing into a complete plutocracy.” “I think the argument can be made that we're well on the way to that reality,” he added.

Wood, 32, a political consultant, told me via Twitter that she felt similarly. “I don’t think the world can sustain capitalism for another decade,” she explained. “It’s socialism or bust. We will literally start having resource wars that will kill us all if we don’t accept that the free market will absolutely destroy us within our lifetime [if] we don’t start fighting its hegemony,” she added."
(Source – Salon)

As someone who tracks economic, environmental and energy data closely, these views are neither surprising nor really debatable. They are merely trend extrapolations, which are difficult to dismiss. What the older generations don't yet understand is that the economic and social models that rewarded them so richly are not doing the same for younger folks. In fact, those old models are visibly breaking down. And confidence in them is failing, too.

Younger people are increasingly seeing that the model of extractive, exponential growth (which is often errantly termed “capitalism” when, as practiced, it should be termed “corporate socialism”) has no future. And of course, they are right. But regardless of age, anyone with an open mind should be able to identify that something is wrong with the story of "endless growth". The evidence is pretty much everywhere we look:

If we're willing to entertain the possibility that infinite exponential growth is impossible, and we extrapolate from there, what sort of economic trajectory would we expect to see as growth peters out? Exactly the sort we see in the above chart. Lower and slower growth that finally peters out and then slips into reverse for the rest of the story.

Sociologically, we’d expect people to be nervous, anxious, and scared as their dominant cultural narrative is increasingly revealed to be no longer viable. Ask yourself: is the world becoming calmer or more volatile? The rash of mass shootings, anti-establishment election victories, prescription drug epidemics, and returning nuclear war fears make the answer sadly obvious.

Biophysically, we'd expect to see key resources and species populations depleting at alarming rates - which we are. This is due to diminishing returns: nearly every planetary resource is getting harder and more expensive to obtain. Mars anyone?

In a desperate attempt to mask the costs of of slower and lower growth, the world's central banking cartel has deployed its “one weird trick”: lowering interest rates to historic rock-bottom levels. This has allowed for more debt to be crammed into the system for a few more years, to keep the mirage of the party continuing for just a little bit longer. 

Because of that hail Mary, we have ended up in this very bizarre situation where our debt has been growing at twice the rate of our income - which clearly will end up in a solvency crisis:

Perversely, the central banks are doing everything in their power to defend and propagate this unsustainable status quo, even though fourth grade math tells us it will surely end in ruin. How is it possible that this very simple observation eludes so many of those in positions of power?  You’d have to be an intellectual yet idiot to hold the view that debts can forever compound at faster rate than income. 

Further, we find that when the US government's deficit spending is stripped out from GDP growth, there actually hasn’t been any economic growth at all for years:

The US has been going deeper and deeper in debt simply to maintain the appearance of "economic growth". This whole illusion is being limped along for just a little while longer.

For what purpose? And why? Both excellent questions without a good answer. You should be asking yourself what "success" looks like here. What's the end game? More growth? Okay, then what? More growth? Keep going along that line of thinking. Take as much time as you need.

Clearly there's an end to that story somewhere. Growth ceases. Presumably smart people in power get this, too, although they'll never admit it publicly so as not to spook the herd. Looking at the number of very well-connected and wealthy elites busily arranging bolt-hole properties to retreat to 'just in case', they're already well ahead of the general public in preparing for the tribulations to come.

All of which brings us to the very real prospect of war, as that has long been the favored path of politicians seeking to deflect public ire from their own policy failures. I worry that a major military conflict is dangerously close at hand. The ridiculous UK government narrative around the Skripal poisonings (which remains utterly illogical from start to finish) used to seriously degrade relationships between Russia and NATO has all the hallmarks of a contrived political operation.

Added to the brewing geopolitical risk is the very likely prospect of the bursting of The Mother Of All Bubbles. When (not if, sadly) that happens, it will be truly catastrophic to every financial market in the world, and especially damaging to the western economies.

So the race is on. Will the bubble burst first? Or can the political class engineer a massive military distraction beforehand? Regardless of who “wins” that race, you need to be physically, emotionally and financially prepared for these outcomes.'s (free) What Should I Do? guide is an essential resource for those not yet fully prepped, as well as is our Self-Assessment.

Yes. Things are that serious. But even if this is as far as you're going to read, please get your preparations in place and get ready to hold fast. Things are only going to get bumpier from here.”

X22 Report, “Liquidity Crisis Headed Our Way,The Economic Warning Signs Are Everywhere”

X22 Report, “Liquidity Crisis Headed Our Way,
The Economic Warning Signs Are Everywhere”

Musical Interlude: Neil H., “Candlelight Dreams”

Neil H., “Candlelight Dreams”

Musical Interlude, 1968: Mason Williams, “Classical Gas”; Paul Mauriat, "Love Is Blue"

Mason Williams, “Classical Gas”

Paul Mauriat, "Love Is Blue"

"A Look to the Heavens"

"A gorgeous spiral galaxy some 100 million light-years distant, NGC 1309 lies on the banks of the constellation of the River (Eridanus). NGC 1309 spans about 30,000 light-years, making it about one third the size of our larger Milky Way galaxy. Bluish clusters of young stars and dust lanes are seen to trace out NGC 1309's spiral arms as they wind around an older yellowish star population at its core. 
Click image for larger size.
Not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy, observations of NGC 1309's recent supernova and Cepheid variable stars contribute to the calibration of the expansion of the Universe. Still, after you get over this beautiful galaxy's grand design, check out the array of more distant background galaxies also recorded in this sharp, reprocessed, Hubble Space Telescope view.”

Chet Raymo, "Lessons"

by Chet Raymo

"There is a four-line poem by Yeats, called "Gratitude to the Unknown Instructors":

"What they undertook to do
They brought to pass;
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass."

Like so many of the short poems of Yeats, it is hard to know what the poet had in mind, who exactly were the unknown instructors, and if unknown how could they instruct. But as I opened my volume of The Poems this morning, at random, as in the old days people opened the Bible and pointed a finger at a random passage seeking advice or instruction, this is the poem that presented itself. Unsuperstitious person that I am, it seemed somehow apropos, since outside the window, in a thick Irish mist, every blade of grass has its hanging drop.

Those pendant drops, the bejeweled porches of the spider webs, the rose petals cupping their glistening dew - all of that seems terribly important here, now, in the silent mist. There is not much good to say about getting old, but certainly one advantage of the gathering years is the falling away of ego and ambition, the felt need to be always busy, the exhausting practice of accumulation. Who were the instructors who tried to teach me the practice of simplicity when I was young - the poets and the saints, the buddhas who were content to sit beneath the bo tree while the rest of us scurried here and there? I scurried, and I'm not sorry I did, but I must have tucked their lessons into the back of my mind, a cache of wisdom to be opened at my leisure.

Whatever it was they sought to teach has come to pass. All things hang like a drop of dew upon a blade of grass."

"For The Most Part..."

"Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told- and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their 'beliefs.' The reason is that beliefs guide behavior, which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion."
- Michael Crichton, "The Lost World"

"Emotion Processing in Brain is Influenced by Color of Ambient Light"

"Emotion Processing in Brain is Influenced 
by Color of Ambient Light"
by ScienceDaily

"We are all aware that a bright day may lift our mood. However the brain mechanisms involved in such effects of light are largely unknown. Researchers at the Cyclotron Research Centre (University of Liege), Geneva Center for Neuroscience and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (University of Geneva), and Surrey Sleep Research Centre (University of Surrey) investigated the immediate effect of light, and of its color composition, on emotion brain processing using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The results of their study, published in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," show that the color of light influences the way the brain processes emotional stimuli.

Brain activity of healthy volunteers was recorded while they listened to "angry voices" and "neutral voices" and were exposed to blue or green light. Blue light not only increased responses to emotional stimuli in the "voice area" of the brain and in the hippocampus, which is important for memory processes, but also led to a tighter interaction between the voice area, the amygdala, which is a key area in emotion regulation, and the hypothalamus, which is essential for biological rhythms regulation by light. This demonstrates that the functional organization of the brain was affected by blue light.

The acute effects of ambient light on emotional processing might differ from its longer-lasting effects on mood, but the present findings in healthy subjects have important implications for our understanding of the mechanisms by which changes in lighting environment could improves mood, not only in mood disorders using light therapy, but also in our day to day life, by paying more attention to our light environment at home and in the work place."

Blue lights for everyone!

"The Best Of Brain Pickings 2017"

Please do visit this extraordinarily wonderful site!

The Daily "Near You?"

Tangerang, Jawa Barat, Indonesia. Thanks for stopping by!


"Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth – more than ruin – more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man."
- Bertrand Russell

"What Keeps You Going..."

"What keeps you going isn't some fine destination but just the road you're on, and the fact that you know how to drive. You keep your eyes open, you see this damned-to-hell world you got born into, and you ask yourself, 'What life can I live that will let me breathe in and out and love somebody or something and not run off screaming into the woods?'"
 - Barbara Kingsolver

“For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more. Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day. With love: the passionate search for truth other than our own. With longing: the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved. For so long as fate keeps waiting, we live on. God help us. God forgive us. We live on.”
- Gregory David Roberts, “Shantaram”

Musical Interlude: Two Steps From Hell, “Evergreen Extended”

Two Steps From Hell, “Evergreen Extended”

Free Download: R.D. Laing, “The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness”

"The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness"
by R.D. Laing

"Ronald David Laing (7 October 1927 – 23 August 1989), usually cited as R. D. Laing, was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the experience of psychosis. Laing's views on the causes and treatment of serious mental dysfunction, greatly influenced by existential philosophy, ran counter to the psychiatric orthodoxy of the day by taking the expressed feelings of the individual patient or client as valid descriptions of lived experience rather than simply as symptoms of some separate or underlying disorder. Laing was associated with the anti-psychiatry movement, although he rejected the label. Politically, he was regarded as a thinker of the New Left..”

"First published in 1960, this watershed work aimed to make madness comprehensible, and in doing so revolutionized the way we perceive mental illness. Using case studies of patients he had worked with, psychiatrist R. D. Laing argued that psychosis is not a medical condition but an outcome of the 'divided self', or the tension between the two personas within us: one our authentic, private identity, and the other the false, 'sane' self that we present to the world.”

Freely download “The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness”,
by R.D. Laing, here:
"Insights Of R.D. Laing"
Compiled  by CP

"Decades ago, psychiatrist R.D. Laing developed three rules by which he believed a pathological family (one suffering from abuse, alcoholism, etc.) can keep its pathology hidden from even its own family members. Adherence to these three rules allows perpetrators, victims, and observers to maintain the fantasy that they are all one big, happy family. The rules are: Rule A: Don't talk about the problems and abject conditions; Rule A1: Rule A does not exist; Rule A2: Do not discuss the existence or nonexistence of Rules A, A1, and/or A2."

“From the moment of birth, when the stone-age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father have been, and their parents and their parents before them. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities. This enterprise is on the whole successful.”

“Children do not give up their innate imagination, curiosity, dreaminess easily. You have to love them to get them to do that.”

“We are all murderers and prostitutes - no matter to what culture, society, class, nation one belongs, no matter how normal, moral, or mature, one takes oneself to be.”

“Insanity - a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.”

“We are bemused and crazed creatures, strangers to our true selves, to one another, and to the spiritual and material world - mad, even, from an ideal standpoint we can glimpse but not adopt.”

"Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent.”

"How It Really Is"

“In Denial, On the Road to Extinction?”

"When I hear somebody sigh, "Life is hard,"
 I am always tempted to ask, "Compared to what?"
 - Sydney Harris

“In Denial, On the Road to Extinction?”
by Robert Jensen

"Put simply: We're in trouble, on all fronts, and the trouble is wider and deeper than most of us have been willing to acknowledge. We should struggle to build a road on which we can walk through those troubles - if such a road is possible - but I doubt it's going to look like any path we had previously envisioned, nor is it likely to lead anywhere close to where most of us thought we were going.

I have been talking about multiple crises without naming them in detail. As I have been speaking, I suspect you all have been cataloging them for yourself. For me, they are political (the absence of meaningful democracy in large-scale political units such as the modern nation-state), economic (the brutal inequalities that exist internal to all capitalist systems and between countries in a world dominated by that predatory capitalism), and ecological (the unsustainable nature of our systems and the lifestyles that arise from them). Beyond that, I am most disturbed by a cultural and spiritual crisis, a condition that goes to the core of how we understand what it means to be human.

Add all this up and it's pretty clear: We're in trouble. Based on my political activism and my general sense of the state of the world, I have come to the following conclusions about political and cultural change in my society:

• It's almost certain that no significant political change will happen in the United States because the culture is not ready to face these questions. That suggests this is a time not to propose all-encompassing solutions but to sharpen our analysis in ongoing conversation about these crises. As activists we should continue to act, but there also is a time and place to analyze.

• It's probable that no mass movements will emerge in the United States that will force leaders and institutions to face these questions. Many believe that until conditions in the First World get dramatically worse, most people will be stuck in the inertia created by privilege. That suggests that this is a time to expand our connections with like-minded people and create small-scale institutions and networks that can react quickly when political conditions change.

• It's plausible that the systems in place cannot be changed peacefully and that forces set in motion by patriarchy, white supremacy, nationalism and capitalism cannot be reversed without serious ruptures. That suggests that as we plan political strategies for the best-case scenarios, we not forget to prepare ourselves for something much worse.

• Finally, it's worth considering the possibility that our species - the human with the big brain - is an evolutionary dead end. I say that not to be depressing but, again, to be realistic. If that's the case, it doesn't mean we should give up. No matter how much time we humans have left on the planet, we can do what is possible to make that time meaningful.

Realistically, we need to get on a new road if we want there to be a future. The old future, the road we imagined we could travel, is gone - it is part of the delusion. Unless one accepts an irrational technological fundamentalism (the idea that we will always be able to find high-energy/advanced-technology fixes for problems), there are no easy solutions to these ecological and human problems. The solutions, if there are to be any, will come through a significant shift in how we live and a dramatic downscaling of the level at which we live. I say "if" because there is no guarantee that there are solutions. History does not owe us a chance to correct our mistakes just because we may want such a chance.

I think this argues for a joyful embrace of the truly awful place we find ourselves. That may seem counterintuitive, perhaps even a bit psychotic. Invoking joy in response to awful circumstances? For me, this is simply to recognize who I am and where I live. I am part of that species out of context, saddled with the mistakes of human history and no small number of my own tragic errors, but still alive in the world. I am aware of my limits but eager to test them. I try to retain an intellectual humility, the awareness that I may be wrong, while knowing I must act in the world even though I can't be certain. Whatever the case and whatever is possible, I want to be as fully alive as possible, which means struggling joyfully as part of movements that search for the road to a more just and sustainable world.

In this quest, I am often tired and afraid. To borrow a phrase from my friend Jim Koplin, I live daily with "a profound sense of grief." And yet every day that I can remember in recent years - in the period during which I have come to this analysis - I have experienced some kind of joy. Often that joy comes with the awareness that I live in a creation that I can never comprehend, that the complexity of the world dwarfs me. That does not lead me to fear my insignificance, but sends me off in an endlessly fascinating search for the significant.To put it in a bumper-sticker phrase for contemporary pop culture, "The world sucks/it's great to be alive."
Talking Heads, "Road To Nowhere"

"Do What You Can..."

“Can a Trade War Really Cause a Shooting War?”

“Can a Trade War Really Cause a Shooting War?”
by Dennis Miller

Will we repeat the mistakes of the past that led up to WWII? Jim Rickards thinks so. His recent article “Now, a Trade War – Is a Shooting War Next?” offers the history leading up to WWII and warns: “Get ready for an all-out financial war between the U.S. and China. Germany is also in the crosshairs. Trump has already torn up the TPP trade agreement and has put Canada, Mexico, and South Korea on notice that their trade deals need to be renegotiated. A full-scale trade war is now upon us. (emphasis mine) It will shake markets and be a major headwind for world growth. It will get ugly fast and the world economy will be collateral damage. Today looks like a replay of the 1930s. As Mark Twain reputedly remarked, “History does not repeat, but it does rhyme. Next comes the shooting war with North Korea, which will inevitably draw in Russia, China, South Korea and Japan. This will be tantamount to World War III.”

Last week we published Part I of an interview with Richard Maybury who publishes the “US & World Early Warning Report”. Richard also warns: “Recall the warning by the great libertarian economist and legal scholar Frederick Bastiat (1801-1850): “When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.” (emphasis mine) There’s hardly anything that will trigger a shooting war as fast as governments trying to destroy businesses and jobs in each other’s countries.”

On to Part II. When it comes to what causes wars and what really happens, Richard is the expert.

DENNIS: Richard, I love how you explain the geopolitical military events in understandable terms – something we rarely read about. You coined the term “Chaostan”. Can you explain what you mean?

RICHARD: Chaostan means the land of the great Chaos. It refers to Asia, East Europe, and North Africa. After its 1776 revolution, America became the most free and prosperous nation ever seen on earth. People abroad saw this and they too wanted freedom and prosperity. So, they launched revolutions to implant the American legal principles in their countries. The principles were spreading around the world until socialism came along in the late 1800s and stopped them. The most important area that never got the principles is Chaostan. It had been a place of tyranny, bloodshed, and poverty since the beginning of history, and still is.

DENNIS: When did you coin that word? I’ve always seen you use it.

RICHARD: 1992. In Early Warning Report I began repeating, in almost every issue, that if the politicians and bureaucrats in DC didn’t stop meddling in Chaostan, America would be drawn into its many ancient vendettas.

DENNIS: What an amazingly accurate prediction.

RICHARD: In 2009, Newsweek reported that my Chaostan model had been adopted for strategic planning in the Pentagon and CIA. But, of course, by then it was too late.

DENNIS: The time we met I mentioned my “goals of war.” They are not only to destroy the enemy but also their will to fight. We discussed the beliefs of much of Chaostan, and how it’s impossible to destroy their will to fight – it’s ingrained into their culture. By engaging in battles in Chaostan, it likely means perpetual war. While I am proud to have served my country, today I struggle with the way the political class is using the military.

If the Pentagon is using your Chaostan model for strategic planning, it would make sense to find a way to unwind the US from our worldwide meddling. How would they ever get out of the mess? Do you ever see that happening?

RICHARD: When it will happen, I can’t guess. How is a different matter. I think it is likely the U.S. Empire will disintegrate in much the same way as the British, French, Russian, Roman, etc. At some point, the armed forces will figure out they’re risking their lives not to protect their country but to help the power junkies in the capital feel the thrill of victory. They’ll tell the power junkies, we will defend our homes and families within our borders, but we will no longer march off to foreign lands to fight with people who are your enemies, not ours.

It could be something as dramatic as the end of the Russian Empire. Russian troops were sick of fighting Germans for the Czar, and one day they just turned 180 degrees, marched back to Russia, and helped get rid of the Russian government.

DENNIS: Wow! I never realized that. I guess only Switzerland has figured out the solution.

Let’s talk about investing. Unlike most investment newsletters, you are unique in recommending defense contractors. Your recommendations have helped my retirement income for sure. Regardless of the economy, or the political situation, they seem to thrive.

When Apple develops a new technology like an IPad they must create a new market. When it comes to defense contractors, they’ve been developing new technology for decades – with a market anxiously waiting to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on their products. With tough economic times ahead, do you still recommend defense contractors?

RICHARD: Certainly. Long ago the defense firms realized that political power corrupts the morals and the judgment. As Washington’s power grows, the key to mountainous profits is to bet on ever more stupidity and corruption in DC. That’s what the defense industry is.

The whole thing is a huge bet that federal power junkies will get into more of other people’s wars. And as long as the federal government keeps acquiring more power, it will continue becoming more asinine and crooked, and more prone to stick its nose into ancient feuds in Chaostan.

DENNIS: Strong words.

RICHARD: If you look at the investment behaviors of the defense firms, you’ll see a pattern. They’re constantly pouring billions of their own dollars into research and development. Why? I think because they know U.S. foreign policy since McKinley in 1898 has been to roam the world poking sharp sticks at rattlesnakes. Especially in Chaostan.

War is the most thrilling use of political power. Like the ancient Roman rulers, the power junkies in DC are addicted to it, and the defense firms know it. They continually make their existing products obsolete and invent new technology because there will be a very profitable market for it. To me, long-term investments in Lockheed, General Dynamics, and the others are slam dunks.

DENNIS: How do you know all this?

RICHARD: I’m the voice of experience. In the 1960s, I was a member of the 605th Special Operations Squadron. We worked alongside the CIA’s School of the Americas, helping train the troops of Washington’s pet dictators. That’s a main job of special ops troops around the world, and it’s why the swamp never runs out of enemies. Its tyrannical allies hurt a lot of innocent people.

DENNIS: Wow, that is the belly of the beast. I know some former CIA, black-ops types and you all share a similar message.

Back to investing. One final two-part question. In your recent issue, you’ve outlined major flaws in using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a gauge for economic health. Can you please elaborate? Our readers are trying to protect their nest egg. What should they use for reliable data?

RICHARD: Hard to give a brief answer to that. You are referring to the March Early Warning Report. Summarizing it, to calculate GDP, the swamp’s bureaucrats add up all sales in the U.S. This is extremely misleading. For example, when hurricanes flatten a city, the sales of materials and labor for rebuilding go into the GDP as progress, while the value of what was destroyed is not subtracted. That’s the case throughout the economy. When something good happens, it’s added to the GDP to show progress, but when something bad happens, it’s not subtracted. A wise investor should never believe GDP.

One thing you can believe is prices. Not the swamp’s price indexes, but actual prices. Keep your own price index. Make a list of dozens of goods and services you purchase regularly and update it occasionally. This will give you a much more reliable picture of whether or not we are in an inflationary boom.

Also, pay attention to the various consumer confidence indexes compiled by private organizations. When consumers feel optimistic, they spend more, and money changes hands more quickly. This acceleration in the velocity of money has the same effect as an inflation of the money supply, it causes a boom.

DENNIS: Interesting suggestion. As I was preparing our taxes for our CPA, I compared the cost of eating out over the last few years. We’re not eating more calories, but prices have gone up over 20%.

I want readers to know I have no financial arrangement with Richard or his company. I’m happy to recommend his “US & World Early Warning Report” in exchange for him kindly taking his time for our benefit.

Richard, thank you.

RICHARD: My pleasure, Dennis. And please let me say, you give your readers a view of the facts that isn’t forced into the mainstream mold. You have my personal thanks for a job well done.

DENNIS: Thank you, I appreciate your kind remarks.

Dennis here. Let’s hope some common sense enters the picture and we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. As always, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Defense stocks may not be as glamorous as Apple or Facebook, but they have performed well. I still keep my stop losses up to date. And Finally… “If you always protect your offspring in a cocoon they will never learn how to fly…” 

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