Friday, January 31, 2020

"Coronavirus Contains "HIV Insertions", Stoking Fears Over Artificially Created Bioweapon"

Without comment, lengthy, technical article is at the link below.
"Coronavirus Contains "HIV Insertions", 
Stoking Fears Over Artificially Created Bioweapon"

Musical Interlude: Liquid Mind, "Continuity" (Pt. 1)

Liquid Mind, "Continuity" (Pt. 1)

"A look to the Heavens"

"A bright spiral galaxy of the northern sky, Messier 63 is about 25 million light-years distant in the loyal constellation Canes Venatici. Also cataloged as NGC 5055, the majestic island universe is nearly 100,000 light-years across, about the size of our own Milky Way. Known by the popular moniker, The Sunflower Galaxy, M63 sports a bright yellowish core and sweeping blue spiral arms, streaked with cosmic dust lanes and dotted with pink star forming regions. 
Click image for larger size.
This deep exposure also reveals an enormous but dim arc extending far into the halo above the brighter galactic plane. A collaboration of professional and amateur astronomers has shown the arc to be consistent with the stellar stream from a smaller satellite galaxy, tidally disrupted as it merged with M63 during the last 5 billion years. Their discovery is part of an increasing body of evidence that the growth of large spirals by cannibalizing smaller galaxies is commonplace in the nearby Universe."

"We Must Sail..."

"I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, 
as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, 
we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - 
but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Daily "Near You?"

Munich, Bayern, Germany. Thanks for stopping by!

"That'll Do..."

"We humans may be brilliant and we may be special, but we are still connected to the rest of life. No one reminds us of this better than our dogs. Perhaps the human condition will always include attempts to remind ourselves that we are separate from the rest of the natural world. We are different from other animals; it's undeniably true. But while acknowledging that, we must acknowledge another truth, the truth that we are also the same. That is what dogs and their emotions give us - a connection. A connection to life on earth, to all that binds and cradles us, lest we begin to feel too alone. Dogs are our bridge - our connection to who we really are, and most tellingly, who we want to be. When we call them home to us, it's as if we are calling for home itself. And that'll do, dogs. That'll do."
- Patricia B. McConnell

"Economic Market Snapshot PM 1/31/20"


1/31/20, Updated frequently as available.


Gregory Mannarino, “It's Here: I Warned Of This Last Month,
 And AGAIN 1 Week Ago. Now Watch This"
-  https://www.traderschoice.net/
MarketWatch Market Summary, Live Updates

CNN Market Data:

CNN Fear And Greed Index:

Buffett Indicator: Where Are We With Market Valuations?
"As of 1/31/20 (updates daily): The Stock Market is Significantly Overvalued. Based on historical ratio of total market cap over GDP (currently at 154.8%), it is likely to return -3% a year from this level of valuation, including dividends. As of today, the Total Market Index is at $33357.8 billion, which is about 154.8% of the last reported GDP. The US stock market is positioned for an average annualized return of -3%, estimated from the historical valuations of the stock market. This includes the returns from the dividends, currently yielding at 1.73%."
https://www.gurufocus.com/stock-market-valuations.php

Daily Job Cuts, Updated daily.
https://www.dailyjobcuts.com/

Daily Essentials, Updated Frequently:
"You could look it up." - Yogi Berra
You should...
1/30/20:

And soon enough, the End Game...

"Danger..."

"At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal force in the heart of man: one very reasonably tells the man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of avoiding it; the other, even more reasonable, says that it is too painful and harassing to think of the danger, since it is not a man's power to provide for everything and escape from the general march of events; and that it is therefore better to turn aside from the painful subject till it has come, and to think of what is pleasant. In solitude a man generally yields to the first voice; in society to the second."
- Leo Tolstoy, "War and Peace"

"All our mortal lives are set in danger and perplexity: one day to prosper,
 and the next - who knows? When all is well, then look for rocks ahead."
- Sophoclese, "Philoctetes"
Free Downloads:
A little light reading from Tolstoy...  ;-)
Freely download "War and Peace", by Leo Tolstoy, here:

Freely download "Seven Tragedies of Sophocles- Philoctetes" here:

MUST WATCH: "Coronavirus Alert: New Massive Contagion Risk - Ro of 4.1!"

"Coronavirus Alert: New Massive Contagion Risk - Ro of 4.1!"
by Chris Martenson, Peak Prosperity

"As Chris says in the video: this is an alert we'd hoped not to have to deliver. A new study coming out of China reports that the Wuhan coronavirus has an Ro of 4.1. That means it's much more contagious than previously feared. If indeed the case, an Ro of 4.1 means there is NO way of stopping this virus from becoming a full-blown global pandemic. This study has not yet had time to be peer-reviewed, so the data may change. But going with the data we have *right now* in this fast-developing situation, it is time to start preparing yourself and your loved ones.

Not time to panic, mind you. But start taking steps to prepare should you need to shelter in place for a period of days/weeks if the virus hits your community. N95 masks, sanitizers, household cleaners, etc, body protection, food stores, etc. Hopefully you won't have to self-isolate. But if you do, be sure you've prepared in advance."

"NYC Official Denies Coronavirus Has Spread To New York"

"NYC Official Denies Coronavirus Has Spread To New York"
by Tyler Durden

Update Friday 1255 ET: "Almost immediately after the Daily News report, a NYC spokesman was quoted by Bloomberg saying there were "no confirmed, suspected" Coronavirus cases."

Friday, 01/31/2020, 1245 ET: "An Asian man in his 50s was admitted to Elmhurst Hospital with the illness, the source said. The FDNY and the NYPD could not immediately confirm a coronavirus patient in New York. An NYPD message sent to eight Queens precincts early Friday advised officers to protect themselves if they planned to go to Elmhurst Hospital. “Make sure the officer has proper gear (mask) to protect themselves," the message said." So... chaos, although even if NYC is not "bending" the truth to avoid a panic, it is likely just a matter of time before Coronavirus does make landfall in the Big Apple."

Summary: 
• New York Post reports first Coronavirus case in Queen, but NYC health spokesman denies.
• Confirmed cases worldwide rise to 9,928 from 7,700 a day earlier, with 213 fatalities.
• UK Researchers suggests 75,800 infected in Wuhan.
• Impact of virus "not fully reflected" in rigged China PMI number.
• Goldman disagrees with Ross, says virus blowback will wipe 0.4% off US GDP growth.
• 'The U.K. health department confirmed two cases of coronavirus in England on Friday, while the U.S. and Japan advised citizens to avoid traveling to China.
• UK confirms first two coronavirus cases after multiple scares.
• Hong Kong schools shuttered until March 2.
• Singapore closes borders to Chinese travelers, first southeast Asian nation to do so.
• More than 43 airlines cancel flights to China.
• France successfully evacuates citizens.
• 1,000 suspected virus cases 'under observation' in India.
• Confirmed cases near 10,000 as Russia confirms 2.
• JPM cuts global growth forecast.
• United and Delta allow pilots to decline trips.
• Delta expands China cancellations through April; American also suspends flights.

"Just Remember..."

"I know the world seems terrifying right now and the future seems bleak. Just remember human beings have always managed to find the greatest strength within themselves during the darkest hours. When faced with the worst horrors the world has to offer, a person either cracks and succumbs to ugliness, or they salvage the inner core of who they are and fight to right wrongs. Never let hatred, fear, and ignorance get the best of you. Keep bettering yourself so you can make the world around you better, for nothing can improve without the brightest, bravest, kindest, and most imaginative individuals rising above the chaos."
- Cat Winters

"Tales From the Crypt"

"Tales From the Crypt"
by Jim Kunstler

"What a fatal mistake, allowing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to make himself the face of the Democratic Party. They would have been better off with another scion of Hollywood: the Phantom of the Opera. This grubby seditionist has marched the party into a wilderness of deceit and knavery that taints them all, and when this grotesque impeachment episode is over, a new chapter of consequences will open that should leave the party for dead.

It’s hard to think of a more loathsome figure in US political history than Adam Schiff. General James Wilkinson? Senator Theodore Bilbo? Benjamin “Pitchfork” Tillman? Joseph McCarthy? Hillary Clinton? And that doesn’t count the mere rogues and rascals like Huey Long, Boss Tweed, and George Wallace. A universe of chaos lurks behind Mr. Schiff’s slick Tinseltown façade. The impeachment he led was crippled from the start with violations of process and errors of logic of exactly the kind that drives his party’s Woke hysteria with its assaults on free speech, its vicious “cancel” culture, its reckless race-hatred, its depraved Transsexual Reading Hours, and its neurotic obsession with Russian phantoms — a matrix of beliefs that would embarrass a conclave of medieval necromancers.

Of course, the impeachment was just the latest sortie in a three-year campaign to confound and conceal the arrant misdeeds of a network of government employees in the Departments of State and Justice, the FBI, the CIA, and the remnants of Barack Obama’s White House, who are all connected and all liable for prosecution, not to mention characters in congress such as the co-seditionist Mark Warner (D-VA), who trafficked the Steele dossier around official Washington.

The “Whistleblower” in the current impeachment fiasco was a CIA agent and John Brennan protégé who had worked for Joe Biden both in the US and on trips to Ukraine when he was detailed to the Obama White House. Hunter Biden was known to be a dangerous abscess of grift years before Mr. Trump ever rode down that fabled golden escalator, and the “WB” was present for White House meetings with Ukrainian officials when embarrassing questions about Burisma and the Bidens came up. His supposed right to anonymity is fairytale and the time is not far off when he’ll have to answer for his deeds, whether it’s in a Senate committee or a grand jury.

The Intel Inspector General who ushered him into the spotlight, Michael Atkinson, was chief counsel to the same DOJ officials who signed phony FISA warrants and who ramped up both the dishonest “Crossfire Hurricane” scam and its two-year continuation as the Mueller Special Counsel investigation. All of this activity involved the same gang of top FBI officials, DOJ lawyers, and Lawfare intriguers. It has obviously been a broad attempt to overthrow a president by any means, including plenty of collusion with foreign governments. In a truly just society, this ring would be busted under federal RICO and conspiracy raps, and perhaps they will be.

You can see the next installment taking shape through the last stages of the impeachment fog. Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader “Chuck” Schumer have declared that “acquittal is meaningless.” Somebody ought to inform them that the hole they want to keep digging is the Democratic Party’s grave. Can there be no Democrats who are nauseated by what has gone down in their name, who understand the damage that has been wreaked by their own leaders, who are sick of re-investing in falsehoods and perfidy?

I guess we’ll find out if the impeachment concludes as expected. If, by some fluke, it happens to proceed to witnesses, the Democrats will rue the day — or the weeks ensuing. They have one hole-card to play: the Joker, John Bolton. Bring him on, I say. The result will be exactly the sort of four-flush that is the specialty of their game. Then let the defense press the appearance of the “Whistleblower” and those connected to him. In the highest kind of court, which this is, is it possible that a defendant will not be allowed to face his accuser? I can’t see any possible legal grounds for that. And if, by some act of legal black magic he is excluded, there is enough to unpack between his confederates and Adam Schiff to not only unravel the premises of the impeachment case, but also pull out the key threads in the greater tapestry of sedition and official criminality dating back to before the election of 2016.

As to the election of 2020, the Democrats are trying like hell to set the stage for disputing and negating it. In fact, that has mostly been the hidden agenda behind this hot mess of an impeachment. They will at least attempt to litigate it into a dangerous state of irresolution. Wouldn’t that be grand? When that happens, Civil War Two begins in earnest."

"How It Really Is"

"Second-Order Effects: The Unexpectedly Slippery Path to Dow 10,000"

"Second-Order Effects: 
The Unexpectedly Slippery Path to Dow 10,000"
by Charles Hugh-Smith

"A recent Barrons cover celebrating the euphoric inevitability of Dow 30,000 captured the mainstream zeitgeist perfectly: Corporate America is firing on all cylinders, the Federal Reserve’s god-like powers will push stocks higher regardless of any other reality, blah blah blah.

While the financial media looked elsewhere for its amusement, the coronavirus epidemic in China just poured fentanyl in the Dow 30,000 punchbowl. The mainstream continues to guzzle down the punch, oblivious to the fentanyl, confident that the coronavirus will quickly fade and China will soon return to its winning role of growth chariot pulling the global economy to ever greater heights.

As I noted in "Could the Coronavirus Epidemic Be the Tipping Point in the Supply Chain Leaving China?", there’s a factor few of the sublimely confident Bulls consider: second-order effects: first order, every action has a consequence. Second order, every consequence has its own consequence.

The media’s focus is solely on the first-order consequences: the number of infected people and fatalities, government responses such as quarantines, and so on. The general expectation is these first-order consequences will dissipate shortly and life will return to its pre-epidemic status with virtually no significant changes.

If we consider second-order effects carefully, we draw a much different conclusion: China will experience social unrest and economic dislocation that will unleash self-reinforcing chaos in global markets. This is not a mainstream opinion, of course, because the mainstream assumes second-order effects simply won’t matter, i.e. they don’t exist. As I describe in my latest book, "Will You Be Richer or Poorer?", acting as if inconvenient realities don’t exist doesn’t make them actually vanish. Ignoring realities that are difficult to measure or that don’t fit the happy story is ultimately suicidal.

Though China Bulls will never admit it, China’s economy has become increasingly fragile in a process of diminishing returns reflected in the chart of China’s S-Curve below. What worked in the boost phase (picking the low-hanging fruit of development) no longer works.

The conventional view in the West is that the Chinese people are docile and obedient, obeying the central government’s edicts without question. The idea that the working class in China could refuse to comply is not even on the margins of Western understanding. But if we consider the thousands of spontaneous protests and wildcat strikes against authority that have occurred in China in recent years, we realize it’s Americans who are docile and obedient, slavishly worshiping at the altar of the Federal Reserve/Dow 30,000 while their “billionaire betters” pile up fortunes and political influence, reducing the vaunted American middle-class to passive, beaten debt-serfs and tax donkeys.

Despite the paper-thin veneer of official Communist rhetoric, the social contract in China is entirely financial: you (the ruling elites) make us more prosperous every month and we’ll obey. Prosperity is of course financial–higher wages, more social benefits, higher real estate valuations, and so on– but it also includes intangible forms of capital such as greater security, cleaner air and water, wider avenues of social mobility, etc.

The official mishandling of the coronavirus epidemic from the top down tells the Chinese people the unfortunate reality: you don’t count, you don’t matter. All that matters is the leadership saving face, and if millions of working-class Chinese people are sacrificed or needlessly put in harm’s way to save the leadership’s face, then the masses should quietly accept their completely needless losses and suffering.

This is a complete abrogation of the implicit social contract China’s people have come to expect of their leadership. The masses have accepted systemic corruption that enriches the few (Party leaders and crony developers, etc.) at the expense of the many because the many were gaining greater prosperity and security. But that advance has stalled in recent years as the costs of essentials have soared and wages haven’t kept pace.

The favored elites have of course kept pace, and since they control the media and machinery of governance, the unhappy slippage has been successfully buried beneath bogus official statistics and relentless suppression of any leakage or dissent.

(Note that doctors who attempted to go public with their fears of the coronavirus in early January were reportedly arrested to shut them up–par for the course for anyone who doesn’t comply with face-saving official prevarication.)

But being exposed to a potentially fatal virus because it pleased the leadership to suppress the facts will trigger second-order effects that will not dissipate.The same can be said of economic and financial second-order effects that will disrupt supply chains and China’s precariously over-leveraged shadow banking system. Those expecting the Chinese workers to be cowed by 100,000 security cameras will be surprised when workers tear down every single camera and the police and People’s Liberation Army soldiers decline to kill their fellow citizens.

Nobody expects China’s social order or economy to unravel as a second-order effect of the epidemic, and that in itself is a sound reason to not dismiss the possibility too readily. Second-order effects: consequences have their own consequences.

Meanwhile, back on the Corporate America Ranch, Second-order effects may upset all the happy-story assumptions of Chinese suppliers magically being unaffected and workers whose jobs have vanished accepting their downward mobility without complaint.

U.S. companies may find their products are not available in the expected quantities and at the expected prices. Since 90% of American wage-earners have stagnant incomes, Corporate America has no pricing power, i.e. ability to raise prices and make them stick, so profits will be slashed as sales stagnate along with wages.

The hubris-soaked fantasy that the Fed will jack up stock valuations forever regardless of sales and profits will run aground on the unforgiving shoals of reality and all the hidden fragilities in America’s economy will emerge: too much leverage, too many zombie companies kept alive by debt, too much debt and not enough collateral, too many small businesses one tiny tipping-point away from closing for good and laying off all employees – the list is nearly endless.

Once all the second-order effects have erupted and triggered their own chaotic consequences, we’ll look back at the complacent euphoria that America is both dependent on Chinese labor and production yet magnificently detached from any consequences of China’s downward spiral and marvel at the herd’s self-congratulatory hubris, willful blindness and unforgivable negligence.

Down this slippery path lies Dow 10,000. Dow 30,000 is “unsinkable,” just like the Titanic."

"Economic Market Snapshot AM 1/31/20"


1/31/20, Updated frequently as available.
MarketWatch Market Summary, Live Updates

CNN Market Data:

CNN Fear And Greed Index:

Buffett Indicator: Where Are We With Market Valuations?
"As of 1/31/20 (updates daily): The Stock Market is Significantly Overvalued. Based on historical ratio of total market cap over GDP (currently at 154.8%), it is likely to return -3% a year from this level of valuation, including dividends. As of today, the Total Market Index is at $33357.8 billion, which is about 154.8% of the last reported GDP. The US stock market is positioned for an average annualized return of -3%, estimated from the historical valuations of the stock market. This includes the returns from the dividends, currently yielding at 1.73%."
https://www.gurufocus.com/stock-market-valuations.php

Daily Job Cuts, Updated daily.
https://www.dailyjobcuts.com/

Daily Essentials, Updated Frequently:
"You could look it up." - Yogi Berra
You should...
1/30/20:

And soon enough, the End Game...

"The True Number Of Coronavirus Victims Is Far Larger Than You Are Being Told"

"The True Number Of Coronavirus Victims Is
 Far Larger Than You Are Being Told"
by Michael Snyder

"The World Health Organization says that we are facing an “unprecedented outbreak”, and they are basing that assessment on the official numbers that we have been given so far. But what if those numbers are not accurate and this outbreak is actually much, much worse than we have been led to believe? According to the Chinese government, there are now 9,692 confirmed coronavirus cases in China, and the official death toll has risen to 213. But the Wall Street Journal has already documented the fact that the death toll is being artificially suppressed. As I discussed the other day, many of those that have died are being categorized as dying from “severe pneumonia” so that they won’t count as coronavirus deaths. Meanwhile, it is becoming exceedingly clear that the number of confirmed cases is also much lower than it should be. Large numbers of victims are being classified as “suspected cases” even after it is quite obvious that they have the virus.

CNN spoke to a Chinese woman named Shi Muying who has been told by her doctor that she has the coronravirus, but because a fourth test has not been administered yet she is still considered to be a “suspected case”: "By January 26, Shi began to have a fever - one of the symptoms of the novel coronavirus. She went to the hospital’s fever clinic where she found over 20 patients, all waiting to be tested by one doctor.

She says she was given three tests - a nasal swipe to rule out the flu, a CT scan to compare her lungs against those of infected patients, and a blood test. After nine hours of tests and waiting for results she says the doctor told her that she had coronavirus, but because he could not give her the fourth and most definitive test, she could only be considered a suspected patient. Her 67-year-old father is in the same situation."

So this woman and her father do not count as confirmed cases at this point. Instead, they are among the 12,100 suspected cases that are still supposedly waiting to be confirmed. Of course Shi and her father were quite fortunate to actually be tested in the first place. Many others have visited hospital after hospital only to be turned away each time.

The truth is that the Chinese medical system is simply unable to handle an outbreak of this magnitude. The hospitals are being absolutely flooded by very sick people, and there aren’t enough doctors or enough resources to deal with them all. According to a nurse that works at a hospital in Wuhan, what they are facing is truly a very desperate situation: "According to a nurse in Wuhan who asked not to be identified for fear of professional repercussions, staff are overwhelmed, resources are running low, and there are no beds. There are so few hazmat suits that staff disinfect them at the end of their shift to wear again the next day, she said. Around 30 of the 500 medical staff at her hospital are now sick and admitted to hospital, and others - including her - have self-quarantined at home.

“There really are a lot of people who can’t get admitted, but there’s no point in blaming the nurses. There are no beds, no resources. Are we supposed to just fight this battle bare-handed?” she said. “Right now, loads of medical staff are at breaking point … I see my sisters charging toward the front line and I feel so powerless.”

Will similar things start happening in other countries all over the globe? On Thursday, the number of confirmed cases outside of China surpassed 100 for the first time. The World Health Organization finally declared a global health emergency, and the head of the WHO warned that this is truly “an unprecedented outbreak”: “Over the past few weeks we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen that has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference at the organization’s Geneva headquarters on Thursday. “We must act together now to limit the spread.”

Of course there has only been a handful of cases in the United States so far, and so most Americans are not really overly concerned about this crisis at this point. But if this virus continues to spread, that will soon change.

Reuters interviewed a 21-year-old American-born college student that is living in Wuhan named Nicholas Schneider, and he told Reuters that he has been trying to find a way out of the city.  Now that Wuhan has been totally locked down, he says that he feels “like I’m in an apocalypse somehow”: "An eerie calm has descended on the normally bustling streets of the city of 11 million people, where Schneider has been studying geodesy - a branch of applied mathematics - at Wuhan University, about 10 miles (16 km) from where experts believe the new coronavirus originated in a market illegally trading in wildlife. “It’s like a ghost town, barely any people and cars. It’s a weird feeling. I feel like I’m in an apocalypse somehow,” said Schneider in a phone interview with Reuters on Wednesday."

If this virus starts spreading like wildfire in the U.S., it is just a matter of time before U.S. cities are locked down in a similar manner. And will our medical system be able to handle a large scale outbreak? Certainly our system has more resources than China’s does, but the truth is that there aren’t enough hospital beds for all of us. In fact, right now there are less than a million hospital beds in the entire country.

And there won’t be enough test kits for everyone either. So far, all testing in the U.S. has been done at the CDC, and officials are hoping to make test kits available to local communities soon. But what if thousands of sick people showed up at your local hospital demanding to be tested? Would there be enough test kits?

In China, one journalist tried to get tested, and he was told there are only “100 or several hundred test-kits per hospital per day”: "I tried getting tested at a hospital to see what the process was like. They asked me questions and told me to queue for testing. I went with a patient to Tongji Hospital. Lots of patients had been to multiple hospitals. I was genuinely scared. The corridors in the out-patients department were all full of beds, lots of people were breathing with masks and oxygen tanks. In the corridors. They had to be seriously ill.

Dr said we need to select which patients to do the test on. There are only I was told 100 or several hundred test-kits per hospital per day. There aren’t enough, so doctors need to select those to check. So some people have been to 5-6 hospitals trying to get tested. So a lot of sick people in Wuhan may never get tested at all.  Instead, many of them will just sit at home “and wait to die”.

Ultimately, we really do not know how many coronavirus victims there are in China right now. As I discussed yesterday, researchers at the University of Hong Kong are estimating that there could be 44,000 victims at this point, but they have no way of knowing for sure.

But what we do know is that this pandemic is getting worse with each passing day. Even if you just look at the official numbers, they are growing at an exponential rate. Mysterious pandemics are one element of “the perfect storm” that we have been anticipating, and it looks like this current pandemic is only going to intensify in the months ahead.

And the more this pandemic grows, the more fear we are going to see. Large numbers of people are going to be desperately afraid of getting sick and dying, and that has the potential to paralyze our society to an extent that we have never seen before."

Musical Interlude: Liquid Mind, "In Fields of Peace"

Liquid Mind, "In Fields of Peace"

The Universe

“You chose your dreams for the journeys they'd make possible, and you knew when you chose them there'd be obstacles, crises, and young souls who'd stand in your way. They exist by design. To tempt you, lure you, test you. So that you can come back, prevail, rise above, and rock on. And ultimately to convince you of your awesomeness. They're part of the plan. There've been no mistakes. All is supremely well. These are the days, mid-adventure, that will mean the most to you. And some of those young souls will forever remember the gift of your paths crossing.”

“Enjoy the journey,”
    The Universe

“Thoughts become things... choose the good ones!” 

"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"

"Living Potential: Sharing Your Gift With Others"

"Living Potential: Sharing Your Gift With Others"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"Your earthly existence provides you with ample opportunity to explore your purpose and use your gifts. The gifts we are born with and those that we work to develop throughout our lives vary in form and function. Some we find use for every day while others are only useful in specific circumstances. Yet many times we overlook opportunities to share our unique gifts with others. It may be fear of criticism that holds us back or the paralyzing weight of uncertainty. Ultimately, we doubt that our innate talents and practiced skills can truly add value to others' lives. But it is the world as a whole that benefits when we willingly share our gifts. Whether you have been blessed with the ability to awaken beautiful emotions in others through art or industry, or your aptitudes transmit more practical advantages, your gifts are a part of who you are. As you make use of those gifts as best you can, be assured that your contribution to worldly well-being will not be overlooked.

Your personal power is defined in part by your gifts. To use your talents is to demonstrate to the world that you understand yourself and are truly attuned to your capabilities. Your earthly existence provides you with ample opportunity to explore your purpose, to utilize your skills in a life-affirming way, and to positively touch the lives of others while doing so. Yet you may feel that your gifts are not as valuable or worthy of attention as those of others and thus hide them away. However, every gift lying dormant in your soul has the potential to fill a void in someone else's life. Just as your existence is made richer by the love, support, friendship, aid, and compassion of others, so, too, can you add richness to their lives. Your natural ability to soothe hurt, inspire compassion, bake, dance, knit, organize, or think outside the box can be a boon to someone in need.

As you embrace your gifts and allow their light to shine, you will discover that more and more opportunities to make use of them arise. This is because your gifts are a channel through which the universe operates. By simply doing what you are good at and also love to do, you make a positive difference. The recognition you receive for your efforts will pale in comparison to the satisfaction you feel when fulfilling your innate potential."

Greg Hunter, "Weekly News Wrap-Up 1/31/20"

"Weekly News Wrap-Up 1/31/20"
China Virus Sinks Economy, Impeachment Disaster Continues, Everything Fake
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com 

"The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global emergency because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Who knows how bad this will be, but the damage to China’s economy as well as the global economy will be significant. The longer this goes on the worse it will be. Is this the financial black swan that can cause a financial disaster? The longer this goes on, the more chances increase for real economic problems.

The Senate impeachment trial on the removal of President Trump continues, and it continues to be a disaster to the Democrats who brought the case. The case is beyond weak, it is a fraud and shows House Democrats to be in opposition to the law and the Constitution. Many legal experts have called the case a fraud and a Deep State operation to remove a duly elected President on false made up charges.

Is there anything that is real? The impeachment case against the President is a “hoax.” The financial numbers on every stock and commodity are fake with zero real price discovery. Even the federal government does not have to keep accurate books. Do we live in an age of delusion where nobody believes or tells the truth?"

"Join Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com as he talks about
 these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up."

Thursday, January 30, 2020

"The Baloney Detection Kit: Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking"

"The Baloney Detection Kit: 
Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking"
by Maria Popova

"Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934–December 20, 1996) was many things - a cosmic sagevoracious readerhopeless romantic, and brilliant philosopher. But above all, he endures as our era’s greatest patron saint of reason and common sense, a master of the vital balance between skepticism and openness. In 'The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark' (public library) - the same indispensable volume that gave us Sagan’s timeless meditation on science and spirituality, published mere months before his death in 1996 - Sagan shares his secret to upholding the rites of reason, even in the face of society’s most shameless untruths and outrageous propaganda.

In a chapter titled “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” Sagan reflects on the many types of deception to which we’re susceptible - from psychics to religious zealotry to paid product endorsements by scientists, which he held in especially low regard, noting that they “betray contempt for the intelligence of their customers” and “introduce an insidious corruption of popular attitudes about scientific objectivity.” (Cue in PBS’s Joe Hanson on how to read science news.) But rather than preaching from the ivory tower of self-righteousness, Sagan approaches the subject from the most vulnerable of places - having just lost both of his parents, he reflects on the all too human allure of promises of supernatural reunions in the afterlife, reminding us that falling for such fictions doesn’t make us stupid or bad people, but simply means that we need to equip ourselves with the right tools against them.

Through their training, scientists are equipped with what Sagan calls a “baloney detection kit” - a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods:

"The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance. If you’re so inclined, if you don’t want to buy baloney even when it’s reassuring to do so, there are precautions that can be taken; there’s a tried-and-true, consumer-tested method."

But the kit, Sagan argues, isn’t merely a tool of science - rather, it contains invaluable tools of healthy skepticism that apply just as elegantly, and just as necessarily, to everyday life. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation. Sagan shares nine of these tools:

1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
3. Arguments from authority carry little weight -“authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) - not just most of them.
8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.
9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle - an electron, say - in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes: "In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions."


He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones - many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity - with examples of each in action:

1. Ad hominem - Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously).
2. Argument from authority (e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia - but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out).
3. Argument from adverse consequences (e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous - perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives).
4. Appeal to ignorance - the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore UFOs exist - and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
5. Special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble (e.g., How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion - to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.).
6. Begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors - but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
7. Observational selection, also called the enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
8. Statistics of small numbers - a close relative of observational selection (e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
9. Misunderstanding of the nature of statistics (e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
10. Inconsistency (e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
11. Non sequitur - Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
12. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of… a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
13. Meaningless question (e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
14. Excluded middle, or false dichotomy - considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
15. Short-term vs. long-term - a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets. Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
16. Slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g., If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
17. Confusion of correlation and causation (e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore - despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter - the latter causes the former).
18. Straw man - caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance - a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or - this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy - environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people).
19. Suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but - an important detail - was it recorded before or after the event? Or: These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?).
20. Weasel words (e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else - “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”).

Sagan ends the chapter with a necessary disclaimer: "Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world - not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others."

'The Demon-Haunted World' is a timelessly fantastic read in its entirety, timelier than ever in a great many ways amidst our present media landscape of propaganda, pseudoscience, and various commercial motives. Complement it with Sagan on "science and “God”.