Thursday, January 31, 2019

"America's Apocalyptic Debt Crisis: 63 Of America's Largest 75 Cities Are Completely Broke"

"America's Apocalyptic Debt Crisis:
 63 Of America's Largest 75 Cities Are Completely Broke"
by Mac Slavo

"The debt crisis in the United States of America has reached apocalyptic proportions. A new and horrifying report out details the reason why 63 of America’s largest cities are completely broke: debt and overspending. According to a recent analysis of the 75 most populous cities in the United States, 63 of them can’t pay their bills and the total amount of unfunded debt among them is nearly $330 billion. Most of the debt is due to unfunded retiree benefits such as pension and health care costs. That means those depending on that money, likely won’t see a dime of it. 

“This year, pension debt accounts for $189.1 billion, and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) – mainly retiree health care liabilities – totaled $139.2 billion,” the third annual “Financial State of the Cities” report produced by the Chicago-based research organization, Truth in Accounting (TIA), states. TIA is a nonprofit, politically unaffiliated organization composed of business, community, and academic leaders interested in improving government financial reporting. “Many state and local governments are not in good shape, despite the economic and financial market recovery since 2009,” Bill Bergman, director of research at TIA, told

The top five cities in the worst financial shape are New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Honolulu, and San Francisco. These cities, in addition to Dallas, Oakland, and Portland, all received “F” grades. In New York City, for example, only $4.7 billion has been set aside to fund $100.6 billion of promised retiree health care benefits. In Philadelphia, every taxpayer would have to pay $27,900 to cover the city’s debt. In San Francisco, it would cost $22,600 per taxpayer.

"By the end of Fiscal Year 2017, 63 cities did not have enough money to pay all of their bills, the report states, meaning debts outweigh revenue. In order to appear to balance budgets, TIA notes, elected officials “have not included the true costs of the government in their budget calculations and have pushed costs onto future taxpayers.” Hartford City News Times

To say that more simply: your children have been sold into debt slavery and owned by the governments; both local and federal. The government is officially punishing the unborn for their inability to handle money. What a time to be alive…

One major problem area TIA identifies is that city leaders are lying. (What a shock! A lying politician…) These political masters have acquired massive debts despite the balanced budget requirements imposed on them by scamming the public and enslaving them. “Unfortunately, some elected officials have used portions of the money that is owed to pension funds to keep taxes low and pay for politically popular programs,” TIA states. “This is like charging earned benefits to a credit card without having the money to pay off the debt. Instead of funding promised benefits now, they have been charged to future taxpayers. Shifting the payment of employee benefits to future taxpayers allows the budget to appear balanced, while municipal debt is increasing.”

It’s only a matter of time until this system built on debt and theft comes crashing to the ground. How prepared are you?"

"Notes on a Curious People: The Maya and Their Doings"

"Notes on a Curious People: The Maya and Their Doings"
by Fred Reed

"This is a greatly updated version of a column of some years back on an unusual and intriguing people.  Maya civilization was not 1850 Vienna, but neither was it the primitive horror lovingly imagined by the ill-mannered and barely informed of the web. 

Inasmuch America has a large population of Latin Americans, it seems to me that people, or some people, might want to know about them, and what they are, and where they came from. Most Latinos of the south are either a mixture of Spanish and Indian, or sometimes pure Indian. We have some idea of the Spaniards. They were European. But what were the Indians? What is their contribution to the great numbers of–whether you like it or not–new Americans? In particular, what are their blood lines? Are they, as insisted by web louts hostile to Mexicans, of very low IQ–83–and has their Asian blond enstupidated the Spanish? Were they horrendously primitive?

Without thinking about it, I had the entrenched idea that they were just that. I wasn’t conscious that it was either an idea or entrenched–just a fact. It didn’t occur to me that I knew virtually nothing about these  people, or that there was anything to know.

What pulled me up short was their architecture. Throughout a large region, sort of Yucatan through parts of Honduras, you find ruined cities of monumental architecture that would match most of what is found in the ancient Near East. A great deal of it is overgrown with jungle. To get to major sites like Palenque, you walk along dim  trails with unexplored walls and passageways.  But the existence of these ruins did not set well with the idea of primitive incapacity. The architecture was entirely Indian since they had no contact with Europe.
Chiapas. Compares well with a lot of Roman monumental architecture. There are lots of these: Palenque, Tikal, Piedras Negras, Copán, Yaxchilan, Teotihuacan, Caracol, Uxmal, etc.
Chiapas. Time and the weather have not treated this building well, but it seems to me that these things must take considerable engineering talent. Phredfoto
Pyramid at Chichén Itsá. For scale, note people at lower left.

Aha! I thought with the  brilliance of one who has been hit over the head by the obvious. Something screwy is going on here. How witless can you be and engineer these things? I started poking around. And found interesting stuff. For example:

Writing: The invention of writing is among the major intellectual achievement of humanity and one that occurred at most three or four times on the  planet, and perhaps fewer. Specialists argue, idiotically in my view, over whether Chinese was or was not influenced by earlier writing. Specialists have to do something with their time. What is not arguable: Wikipedia: “It is generally agreed that true writing of language (not only numbers) was invented independently in at least two places: Mesopotamia (specifically, ancient Sumer) around 3200 BC and Mesoamerica around 600 BC. Several Mesoamerican scripts are known, the oldest being from the Olmec or Zapotec of Mexico.”

The Maya script is logosyllabic and said to be functionally similar to Japanese, to which it is utterly unrelated. It is not “proto-writing,” but actual real writing. This was not immediately known because the script had  not been deciphered, but now about ninety percent can be read. This doesn’t help as much as might be expected since the Spanish Christians, as destructive as the Muslims of today, burned almost all Maya books–codices actually–and so almost everything we know comes from inscriptions carved on buildings. Imagine how we would look to Martians with the same problem. The book to read if interested is  "Breaking the Maya Code."

Mesoamerican Mathematics: The Maya had a sophisticated base-20, positional-exponential number system, including zero. The invention of zero is regarded as major advance in mathematics. Until Fibonacci brought zero back from the Hindu-Arab world in 1202, Europe used Roman numerals, which are horrible. I knew this, but had never thought about it. Well, it’s worth a little pondering.

In a positional number system, a number–7, say–has an absolute value–in this case unsurprisingly 7–as well as a different value depending on its position. For example, in the number 100,007, seven means, well, 7. In 100,070, its value is 70, and in 10,700, its value is 700.

“Exponential” means that each position in a number represents a different power of the base, in our case 10. Thus we have ten to the zero power equals one, to the first power, ten; squared, 100, cubed, 1000, and so on.

The Maya, using base twenty, had a similar progression, going 1, 20, 400, 8,000, 160,000 etc.. (Inevitably the choice of 20 as the base is attributed to our number of fingers and toes, though I have trouble imagining anyone actually counting on his toes.)

Neither of these ideas is obvious, or anywhere approaching obvious. Both eluded Archimedes, for example. They seem natural to us because were are steeped in them from the first grade and,  since everyone has had high school algebra, exponents seem routine. Using a thing and inventing it are very different animals. Any bright freshman can sling definite integrals; it took a Newton to invent them.

Imagine that you are a Mesoamerican Indian somewhere in Central America trying to figure out how to deal with large numbers. The fact that you are interested in large numbers suggests that you are not stupid. You have never had high-school algebra or heard of exponentiation. I cannot imagine how you would get from here to “Eureka!” (though as a Maya you probably didn’t know Greek either). The idea, “Hey, what if I line up powers of 20, multiply them by sort of coefficients, and add them….?”–is a huge intellectual leap. So far as I can determine, it only happened twice. It never happened in Europe.

For the mathematically curious, the Maya system had a remarkable peculiarity. Number systems, or anyway all I have heard of, require a number of symbols equal to the base. For example, binary, base-2, has two symbols, 0 and 1; decimal, base-10, ten symbols 0-9; and hexadecimal, base sixteen, 0-F.  So I thought, Oh help, I’m going to have to memorize twenty symbols of some weird sort.  In fact, the Maya ran a base-20 system with only three symbols representing  0, 1, and 5. That is truly strange, but it works. If interested, the link above explains it nicely.

For the record, from "The Story of Mathematics": “The importance of astronomy and calendar calculations in Mayan society required mathematics, and the Maya constructed quite early a very sophisticated number system, possibly more advanced than any other in the world at the time. The Pre-classic Maya and their neighbors had independently developed the concept of zero by at least as early as 36 BCE, and we have evidence of their working with sums up to the hundreds of millions, and with dates so large it took several lines just to represent them. ”

Finally, the Mesoamericans  invented a base-twenty abacus that would be difficult to explain in a sentence but takes only about ten minutes to learn. It easily and precisely expresses numbers into the hundreds of millions, though it is not clear why the average Maya would want to do this.
The Meso Abacus, good for numbers to 20 to the 13th power.
Curious from a Stone Age people, which they essentially were.

Various sources assert that the Maya could perhaps add and subtract (they certainly could)  but could not multiply or divide. A problem with this theory is that only four Maya documents remain, the rest having been burned by the Spanish clergy, and societies do not carve grocery lists into monuments.

However, a densely populated, complex urban people engaged in trade with other city-states and constructing elaborate buildings would almost have to be administratively numerate. A Maya civil engineer building a wall twenty feet by thirty would have little idea how many bricks he needed unless he could multiply the number in a horizontal row by the number of rows necessary. Further, if he needed two thousand bricks and porters brought them ten at a load, he would have to divide two thousand by ten to order his material. Putting it simply, the said engineer (a) needed a functioning number system, (b) had one and so (c) probably used it.
The Wheel: 
It is often said that the Maya never invented the wheel. Actually they did. Hundreds of these wheeled pull-toys for children have been found. Several writers have commented that it is difficult to understand why the Maya were unable to manage the mental leap to making full-sized carts. But of course they could. Thing is, there were no animals to pull them, such as horses or donkeys. Making a mental leap to horses does not get you a horse. Well, say some, why didn’t they make wheeled carts and pull them?

Note that if men are used to pull a cart, they are pulling the weight of both the cart and the load. In the absence of steel, a cart sturdy enough to bear much weight would involve heavy wooden beams, heavy wooden axles, and heavy wooden wheels that, being rimmed with wood, would wear out with extreme rapidity. If the cart weighed five hundred pounds, and the cargo another five hundred, then the human pushañullers would have to translate a thousand pounds per mile to deliver five hundred. Dividing the load up and having the pushapullers carry the weight individually would require much less work, and no maintenance of wheels. Do you suppose they thought of this?

Metallurgy: Many lightly read and growly web louts assert that the Maya were a Stone Age people. This lack of metals may explain why the Spanish so easily stole their gold and silver. In fact metallurgy appeared in Latin America–which of course was not then Latin–quite early. Iron did not appear at all.
From Pre-Colombian Ecuador: Wikipedia: “South American metal working seems to have developed in the Andean region of modern Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina with gold and copper being hammered and shaped into intricate objects, particularly ornaments. Recent finds date the earliest gold work to 2155–1936 BCE. and the earliest copper work to 1432–1132 BCE. Ice core studies in Bolivia however suggest copper smelting may have begun as early as 2000 BCE.”

In South and Mesoamerica, gold, silver and copper in pure form or alloys were made by lost-wax casting into intricate objects. In lost-wax casting, you make a wax figure–a statue, bell, or ornament perhaps. You coat it with clay, leaving small holes at top and bottom. You then pour molten metal into the top hole. The wax melts and runs out the bottom hole, leaving the metal to harden in exactly the shape of the original artifact. It is not three-D printing, but neither is it primitive.

Maya Civilization Keeps Growing: The general public knows little of the Maya and, until recently, archaeologists were not much better. This is changing. For example, some 60,000 Mayan structures, previously unknown,  were recently found in the Guatemalan rain forest.  A few snippets and link: BBC: “Results from the research using Lidar technology, which is short for “light detection and ranging,” suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilization more akin to sophisticated cultures like ancient Greece or China. The archaeologists were struck by the “incredible defensive features,”which included walls, fortresses and moats."

“With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there,” said Mr Estrada-Belli. Another discovery that surprised archaeologists was the complex network of causeways linking all the Maya cities in the area. The raised highways, allowing easy passage even during rainy seasons, were wide enough to suggest they were heavily trafficked and used for trade.”

To call the Maya a Stone Age people is correct if you disregard gold and silver, and deeply satisfying to web louts of twilit understanding, but a tad deceptive to those who think. These were people who invented writing, hydraulic cement, paper (as much paper-like as papyrus anyway), the wheel, the planet’s best number system at the time, elaborate water-management systems, paved roads, schools, astonishingly accurate astronomical observations, and densely populated cities requiring the organized supply of food from outlying farms. This they did as a small, almost totally isolated people in a rain forest. The Roman Empire (for example) had the advantage of intellectual and cultural contact with many contemporary and older civilizations–Greece, Persia, Phoenicians, and the Hellenistic world among others, and yet did not invent a number system. In fact Europe in its entirety did not invent one, or the wheel, or writing. Categories more instructive for analogizing civilizations might be Pre-agricultural, Agricultural, Pre-literate, and Literate.

Human Sacrifice: The Maya in the popular mind are thought to have been murdering, torturing savages given to human sacrifice. This is probably because they were in fact murdering, torturing savages given to human sacrifice. Why this is thought especially reprehensible is a mystery. The Romans sacrificed large numbers in the arena so that the public could enjoy watching them die, crucified large numbers, and poured molten lead down the throats of criminals. In the European witch hunts, sort of 1450-1750, some 500,000 were killed depending on whose numbers you accept, mostly by burning alive. The Tudors hanged criminals, cut them down still conscious, opened their abdomens and removed their bowels while still alive, and had four horses attached to their arms and legs put them into pieces. And of course everybody and his dog  put entire cities to the sword, from Joshua to Hiroshima. Despite their best efforts the Maya could not keep up with the moderns.

The Arts: The aesthetic is a matter of taste but these to my eye appear artistically respectable. The Maya of today do nothing in math and technology, but retain a fine sense for design and color.

Astronomy: "Again from The Story of Mathematics: The Maya “were able to measure the length of the solar year to a far higher degree of accuracy than that used in Europe (their calculations produced 365.242 days, compared to the modern value of 365.242198), as well as the length of the lunar month (their estimate was 29.5308 days, compared to the modern value of 29.53059).”

Conclusion: It is well not to make more of a people than they were, but also not to make less. In their Classic Period (200-900 A.D.) the Maya were far ahead of the Nordic peoples of Europe, though they did not come close to the Greeks. (Who did?)  In the book of civilization, they belong perhaps on the same page with Egypt. The Gauls, Huns, Hittites, and Europe outside of the Roman Empire would serve as footnotes. Papua-New Guineans the Maya were not."

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

Two Steps From Hell, “Evergreen Extended”

"A Look to the Heavens"

"These are galaxies of the Hercules Cluster, an archipelago of island universes a mere 500 million light-years away. Also known as Abell 2151, this cluster is loaded with gas and dust rich, star-forming spiral galaxies but has relatively few elliptical galaxies, which lack gas and dust and the associated newborn stars. The colors in this remarkably deep composite image clearly show the star forming galaxies with a blue tint and galaxies with older stellar populations with a yellowish cast. 
Click image for larger size.
The sharp picture spans about 3/4 degree across the cluster center, corresponding to over 6 million light-years at the cluster's estimated distance. Diffraction spikes around brighter foreground stars in our own Milky Way galaxy are produced by the imaging telescope's mirror support vanes. In the cosmic vista many galaxies seem to be colliding or merging while others seem distorted - clear evidence that cluster galaxies commonly interact. In fact, the Hercules Cluster itself may be seen as the result of ongoing mergers of smaller galaxy clusters and is thought to be similar to young galaxy clusters in the much more distant, early Universe.”
Hubble Ultra Deep Field, “Looking To The End Of Time”

"Do What You Can..."

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."

The Daily "Near You?"

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

Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet - The Farewell”

“The Farewell”

“Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.
It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
You have sung to me in my aloneness, and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.
But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over, and it is no longer dawn.
The noontide is upon us and our half waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.
If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more,
we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song.
And if our hands should meet in another dream we shall build another tower in the sky.”

- Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet”

“Carpe Diem”

“Carpe Diem”

"We are food for worms, lads," announces John Keating, the unorthodox English teacher played by Robin Williams in the 1989 film "Dead Poets Society." "Believe it or not," he tells his students, "each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die." The rallying cry of their classroom is "carpe diem," popularized as "seize the day," although more literally translated as "pluck the day," referring to the gathering of moments like flowers, suggesting the ephemeral quality of life, as in Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time," which begs readers to live life to its full potential, singing of the fleeting nature of life itself:

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
  Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
  Tomorrow will be dying."

The Latin phrase carpe diem originated in the "Odes," a long series of poems composed by the Roman poet Horace in 65 B.C.E., in which he writes:
"Scale back your long hopes
to a short period. While we
speak, time is envious and
is running away from us.
Seize the day, trusting
little in the future."

Various permutations of the phrase appear in other ancient works of verse, including the expression "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die," which is derived from the Biblical book of Isaiah. At the close of "De rosis nascentibus," a poem attributed to both Ausonius and Virgil, the phrase "Collige, virgo, rosas" appears, meaning "gather, girl, the roses." The expression urges the young woman to enjoy life and the freedom of youth before it passes.

Since Horace, poets have regularly adapted the sentiment of carpe diem as a means to several ends, most notably for procuring the affections of a beloved by pointing out the fleeting nature of life, as in Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress":
"Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power."

Other approaches to carpe diem encourage the reader to transcend the mundane, recognize the power of each moment, however brief, and value possibility for as long as possibility exists. In "A Song On the End of the World," the poet Czeslaw Milosz asserts that the world has not yet ended, though "No one believes it is happening now," while Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo" famously ends with the directive "You must change your life." Emily Dickinson's poem "I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl (443)" boasts that the reward of life is to "hold our Senses," and the French poet Charles Baudelaire offers the advice to "Be Drunk," though not necessarily on alcohol: "Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk."

Not all carpe diem poems instruct, however. The poem "The Layers" by Stanley Kunitz offers advice through the poet's first hand experience:
"In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me."

In a similar manner, many contemporary poems offer reminders about life's overlooked pleasures, such as those found in the warm summer evening of Tony Hoagland's poem "Jet":
"We gaze into the night
as if remembering the bright unbroken planet
we once came from,
to which we will never
be permitted to return.
We are amazed how hurt we are.
We would give anything for what we have."

Carpe diem remains an enduring rhetorical device in poetry because it is a sentiment that possesses an elasticity of meaning, suggesting both possibility and futility. Many poets have responded to the sentiment, engaging in poetic dialogues and arguments over its meaning and usefulness. Robert Frost briefly considers the notion of living in the present in a poem appropriately titled "Carpe Diem." He concludes, however, that "The age-long theme is Age's" and ends the poem with his own sentiment, that one should seize tomorrow, not today:

"But bid life seize the present?
It lives less in present
Than in the future always,
And less in both together
than in the past. The present
Is too much for the senses,
Too crowding, too confusing—
Too present to imagine."

The existential dilemma suggested by carpe diem includes a sense of helplessness and senselessness, sentiments which are often expressed in a poet's resignation to a life filled with inexplicable losses and hardships. In Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem "Spring and Fall: To a young child," the poet warns that "as the heart grows older / It will come to such sights colder." However, Walt Whitman's poem "O Me! O Life!" represents a refusal to acquiesce to such interpretations of existence. Whitman calls the reader to the present moment, and demands something meaningful be attempted:
"The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse."

"Grave Faults..."

“Only the following items should be considered to be grave faults: not respecting another's rights; allowing oneself to be paralyzed by fear; feeling guilty; believing that one does not deserve the good or ill that happens in one's life; being a coward. We will love our enemies, but not make alliances with them. They were placed in our path in order to test our sword, and we should, out of respect for them, struggle against them. We will choose our enemies.”
- Paulo Coelho, "Like the Flowing River"

“Could Our Deepest Fears Hold the Key to Ending Violence?”

“Could Our Deepest Fears Hold the Key to Ending Violence?”
by Frances Moore Lappé

“In his book “Violence”, psychologist James Gilligan asked a Massachusetts prison inmate, “What do you want so badly that you would sacrifice everything in order to get it?” The inmate declared, “Pride. Dignity. Self-esteem… and I’ll kill every motherf****r in that cell block if I have to in order to get it.” Or, as another inmate said, “I’ve got to have my self-respect, and I’ve declared war on the whole world till I get it.” 

Pride, dignity, respect, agency—a sense that we matter—these are feelings largely shaped interpersonally. We depend upon the social fabric to get them. But for many, these things are in tatters. Fewer and fewer of us feel a sense of belonging, and we're more and more preoccupied with the desperate scramble for belongings. We see fear’s face everywhere, whether in a Congress debating assault weapons or in schools introducing lock-down drills. French philosopher Patrick Viveret has called fear the “emotional plague of our planet.”

For most species fear is key to survival. Sensing danger, a healthy animal experiences instantaneous physical changes that enable it to escape; then, once the threat has passed, the impala literally shakes off its fear and runs back to join its group. But could it be that for human animals fear itself has become a danger? To explore the possibility, a place to start is asking what humans fear most.

It is the loss of standing with others, the fear of being cast out by the tribe. Rather than being hyper-individualists, Homo sapiens are profoundly social creatures—the most social of all species. This sense of standing is inseparable from trust. To thrive, we need to trust that we count in the eyes of others and will, therefore, be treated with respect. In a word, our fear is loss of dignity.

Almost equal is our fear of powerlessness. Human beings need to feel that we make a difference. Social psychologist Erich Fromm argued in "The Heart of Man" that what characterizes man is that “he is driven to make his imprint on the world.” And later he dismissed Descartes’ axiom about a human essence centered in thought, declaring instead: “I am, because I effect.”

When these essential needs for connection and agency are unmet, we go nuts. We try to get respect by whatever means possible. If peaceful means seem closed off, violence it is.

Inequality has soared to historic levels. In 2010, the top 1 percent garnered 93 percent of all income gains. And in countries and states, “high levels of trust are linked to low levels of inequality,” report British scholars Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in "The Spirit Level". Our crisis is not that we are too individualistic or selfish. It’s that we’ve lost touch with how deeply social we really are. Trapped in a giant game of musical chairs, we run faster and faster to edge out the guy ahead. With economic rules that increasingly concentrate wealth, we know we could be the next one kicked out, no matter how quick our pace. So we take on debt, juggle three jobs, cheat in school—whatever it takes to stay “in.”

And our children are most sensitive to this fear of exclusion. Those who’ve felt bullied, unable to fit in, misunderstood, without a voice in those most social of places—schools—are more likely to become psychotic and violent, including against themselves.

In a culture of fear of disconnection, those at the bottom feel most dismissed and discounted. Adam Smith, the supposed (but misunderstood) champion of the market more than two centuries ago grasped the devastating power of exclusion: "Poverty," he wrote in his "Theory of Moral Sentiments", “places a person out of the sight of mankind. To feel that we are taken no notice of, necessarily damps the most agreeable hope of human nature.”

In this vein, joblessness isn’t just about money. It’s about loss of “membership.” Martin Luther King once said that “in our society it is murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or an income. You are in substance saying to that man he has no right to exist.”

And that is exactly how many feel: A rise of 1 percent in joblessness in the United States is accompanied by an increase of roughly 1 percent in the suicide rate. In our world of increasing inequalities, suicide now claims more lives than homicide and war combined. Americans own more than four in ten of the world’s privately held guns, and two-thirds of U.S. gun deaths are suicides. And when people feel “dissed,” violence toward the powerless increases, too: The Washington Post reports that each 1 percent increase in unemployment is "associated with at least a 0.50 per 1,000 increase in confirmed child maltreatment reports one year later.” Since the recession began in 2007, the number of U.S. children killed by maltreatment has risen by about 20 percent to more than five children each day. Thus, our culture of fear gets passed down from one generation to another.

So, what can we do to break free from the spiral of fear and worsening violence? Maybe we begin here: recognizing that our crisis is not that we humans are too individualistic or too selfish. It’s that we’ve lost touch with how deeply social we really are. Easing the fear at the root of so much pain and violence that generates more fear—from suicide to child abuse to school massacres—comes as we embrace the obvious: We are creatures who, in order to thrive individually, depend on inclusive communities in which all can thrive.

Freedom starts there. We build it by standing up for rules on which inclusive, trusting community depends: fair rules, for example, that keep wealth circulating and strictly out of public decision-making, and rules that ensure decent jobs for all. This pathway out of a violence-soaked culture is no foreign “ism.” It is what’s proven essential to our species’ thriving—communities of trust without which we destroy not just others, but ourselves as well.”

"How It Really Is"

Oh, we so deserve what we get...

"Economic Market Snapshot 1/31/19"

Gregory Mannarino, “Post Market Wrap-up 1/31/19
Checkmate: You Are A Pawn In A Terrible Game.. This Is Where It's Going”
MarketWatch Market Summary
CNN Market Data:

CNN Fear And Greed Index:

"Absurdities, Atrocities..."

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” 
– Voltaire

"What Foolish Forgetfulness..."

"You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, so all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last. You have all the fears of mortals and all the desires of immortals… What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to defer wise resolutions to the fiftieth or sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained."
 - Denis Diderot

"The Infanticide Craze: 'Murder after Birth’ Bill in Virginia"; A Comment

“Murder after Birth’ Bill in Virginia- Nurse WILL NOT COMPLY
"Patriot Nurse goes off on the new ‘Repeal Act’ abortion bill that would allow the murder of full term infants at the time of birth. As a former labor and delivery nurse, Patriot Nurse sounds the alarm and reminds healthcare providers of their oaths. Here’s the evil at work: "Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Defends Bill Allowing Abortion During Labor."
"Yes, the Virginia Abortion Bill Is Just as Barbaric as You’ve Heard"
By David French

"I’m beginning to see some pushback online against claims that Virginia’s so-called “Repeal Act” is as barbaric as pro-life activists claim - or as barbaric as its own sponsor testified. In a now-viral video clip, Democrat delegate Kathy Tran confirmed that the bill would permit third-trimester abortions even when the mother “has physical signs that she’s about to give birth,” including when she’s “dilating.” In response, a number of people are passing around arguments such as this, from attorney Max Kennerly: 

"✔ @MaxKennerly: The Virginia bill anti-choice people are screaming about prohibits abortion in the third trimester unless (a) at a licensed hospital; (b) with a doctor certifying pregnancy is "likely" to cause harm to the mother; and, (c) life support's available and used if the fetus is viable".

Rather than rely on tweets - or even the testimony of the bill’s sponsor - let’s look at the bill text itself. Thanks to the strike-feature on the Virginia website, you can see exactly how the bill would change current law, and those changes are chilling:
Click image for larger size.
The bill reduces the number of doctors required to certify the alleged medical need for an abortion from three to one, and - critically - eliminates any required showing of severity before the doctor and mother can determine that the birth would impair her physical or mental health. Under the bill’s actual text, virtually any claim of impairment would suffice to meet the act’s requirements. Anxiety? Depression? The conventional physical challenges of post-partum recovery? Any of those things could justify taking the life of a fully formed, completely viable, living infant.

That’s infanticide. That’s barbarism.

If there’s any silver lining in that pitch-black cloud, it’s that the act would at least retain current law’s born-alive protections, requiring that “measures for life support for the product of such abortion or miscarriage shall be available and utilized if there is any clearly visible evidence of viability.” This language (along with generalized prohibitions against murder) render moot Governor Ralph Northam’s ominous musings that “a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother” even after a baby is resuscitated."
"The Infanticide Craze"
By Ramesh Ponnuru

"Laws permitting abortion up to the point of birth follow naturally from the country’s expansive abortion regime. Democrats are increasingly explicit in their support for killing unborn children at any stage of pregnancy - and sometimes even of denying normal medical care to born children.

In New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law that makes abortion legal, even after the unborn child is viable, so long as the abortionist makes a “reasonable and good-faith judgment” that abortion will protect the pregnant woman’s health. In Rhode Island, Governor Gina Raimondo has pledged to sign legislation that also makes abortion legal after viability to “preserve health.” In Virginia, state legislator Kathy Tran has introduced legislation that would, she has explained, make abortion legal even at term and in the middle of birth.

Governor Ralph Northam supports that legislation. Defending it, he suggested that abortions so late in pregnancy would be done only in cases where the unborn child was severely deformed or unviable and that in such cases parents should be able to withhold medical care if the infants are fully delivered.

Northam is wrong about the reasons for late-term abortions. A 2013 study of abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy indicated that “most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.” (The number of such abortions has been estimated at around 12,000 a year. For a sense of scale, that’s more than the annual number of gun homicides in our country.) The legislation Northam backs does not limit late-term abortions to such circumstances, either."
A Comment: I'm furiously outraged at this pure EVIL. I always knew, as longtime readers are well aware, that Americans in general were incredibly stupid, lazy, astoundingly and very willfully ignorant, greed-obsessed mindless little creatures, but never believed them Evil, until now, and these disgraceful, horrific "laws". There are times one simply has no choice but to fight against something so utterly and absolutely vile, so atrociously evil, and this is certainly one of those times. This is WRONG in a horrific way, period. God damn to Hell itself anyone so morally degenerate that they could support this horror! And if you, reading this, do so, get the hell off my blog and never return, because nothing here is for monsters like you. And I don't give a damn who doesn't like it, either...
- CP

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Musical Interlude: 2002, “Sea of Dreams”

2002, “Sea of Dreams 

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Delicate in appearance, these filaments of shocked, glowing gas, draped in planet Earth's sky toward the constellation of Cygnus, make up the Veil Nebula. The nebula is a large supernova remnant, an expanding cloud born of the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the original supernova explosion likely reached Earth over 5,000 years ago. 
 Click image for larger size.
Also known as the Cygnus Loop, the Veil Nebula now spans nearly 3 degrees or about 6 times the diameter of the full Moon. That translates to over 70 light-years at its estimated distance of 1,500 light-years. In fact, the Veil is so large its brighter parts are recognized as separate nebulae, including The Witch's Broom (NGC 6960) at the bottom of this stunning skyview and Pickering's Triangle (NGC 6979) below and right of center. At the top is the haunting IC 1340.”

"Other People’s Agendas: Appreciating Suggestions"

"Other People’s Agendas: Appreciating Suggestions"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"When other people are always offering suggestions on how we should live our life, there is often a void in their own life. As children, our parents had dreams for us. They wanted us to do well in school, and to do whatever was necessary to reach our highest potential. Later in life, friends may try to set us up with their idea of the perfect partner or the perfect job. Spouses may have agendas for us, too. People close to us may have ideas about how we should live our lives, ideas that usually come from love and the desire for us to be happy. Other times, they come from a place of need within them—whether it is the parent who wants us to live out his or her dreams or the friend or spouse who wants us to play an already-defined role. Whatever the case, we can appreciate and consider those people’s input, but ultimately we must follow our own inner guidance.

There may come a time when all the suggestions can become overbearing. We may feel that the people we love don’t approve of our judgment, which can hurt our feelings. It can interfere with the choices we make for our lives by making us doubt ourselves, or filling a void with their wishes before we’ve had a chance to decide what we want. It can affect us energetically as well. We may have to deal with feelings of resistance or the need to shut ourselves off from them. But we can take some time to rid ourselves of any unnecessary doubts and go within to become clear on what we desire for ourselves.

We can tell our loved ones how much we appreciate their thoughts and ideas, but that we need to live our own lives and make our own decisions. We can explain that they need to let us learn from our own experiences rather than rob us of wonderful life lessons and the opportunity to fine-tune our own judgment. When they see that we are happy with our lives and the path we are taking to reach our goals, they can rest assured that all we need them to do is to share in our joy."

“They Live, We Sleep: A Dictatorship Disguised as a Democracy”

“They Live, We Sleep: A Dictatorship Disguised as a Democracy”
by John W. Whitehead

“All is not as it seems. In this week's vodcast, John W. Whitehead looks back on John Carpenter's iconic film 'They Live' and examines the striking parallels between Carpenter's nightmarish vision of reality with the current, perilous state of America.”

Free Download: George Orwell, "1984"

"From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy and disease could be eliminated within a few generations. But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction - indeed, in some sense was the destruction - of a hierarchical society. The most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance... Ignorance is Strength."

"His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself — that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink."

"He wondered, as he had many times wondered before, whether he himself was a lunatic. Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one. At one time it had been a sign of madness to believe that the earth goes round the sun; today, to believe believe that the past is unalterable. He might be alone in holding that belief, and if alone, then a lunatic. But the thought of being a lunatic did not greatly trouble him; the horror was that he might also be wrong."

"Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”
- George Orwell, "1984"
Freely download "1984", by George Orwell here:
Ignorance Is Strength...
"What opinions the masses hold, or do not hold, is looked on as a matter of indifference. 
They can be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect."