Sunday, November 19, 2017

“Tax Cuts for the Rich…Hallelujah!”

“Tax Cuts for the Rich…Hallelujah!”
by Bill Bonner

“Have we been too cynical? Yesterday, the House passed its big tax-cut bill. The Dow popped up 187 points on the news. A reporter asked us later: ‘Will the Dow go to 40,000?’ Assuming a tax bill comes through the Senate and out of committee in more or less the same shape, it will be a bonanza for your editor. We are one of the people who will benefit most (relatively speaking). Most of our income is ‘pass-through’ money from an S corporation…and we need protection from estate taxes. Thank you, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan!

Federal parasites: In addition to helping us, Republican sponsors say it will increase growth rates and jobs. Hmmm… How will it do that? Stimulus, of course. The bill will reduce federal tax revenues by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years, says The Wall Street Journal. And the Tax Foundation says it will cut the feds’ income by $1.08 trillion. Meanwhile, the Penn Wharton Budget Model predicts that it will add $6.9 trillion to US government debt by 2040.

All of these cuts…and increased debt…are expected to stimulate the US economy. Steve Mnuchin, formerly a Goldman insider in Manhattan, and more recently a movie producer, says these tax cuts will cause the economy to grow at a sustained 3% rate…and increase federal tax revenues by $2 trillion. Everybody comes out ahead.

Do you believe that, dear reader? We hope not; it is nonsense. The feds are parasites; what counts is how much blood they suck. This new tax scheme doesn’t reduce government spending by one penny. Ultimately, the money they spend has to come from the productive economy; there’s nowhere else to get it.

Here’s our simplified guide to tax reform:
The poor have no money;
The middle class has no lobbyists; and
The rich have no desire to pay more.

But why should giving the rich more money stimulate output? Are they having trouble making ends meet? Do they lack capital? According to a new report by Credit Suisse, the richest 1% of the world’s population already controls half of its total wealth. They have plenty of spending money; giving them more is not going to appreciably increase consumption. And if they need more money, they can borrow at the lowest rates in history. We’ve heard of no business in recent American history that failed…or failed to expand…because it lacked capital. On the other hand, thousands of businesses are failing because they lack customers.

Which brings us to the rest of the population - the part that isn’t rich…and has no lobbyists…the part that must earn and consume to make an economy run.

Return of subprime: US household debt hit a record of $13 trillion last quarter. Here are some details from financial commentator Wolf Richter:
‘Mortgage debt surged 4.2% year-over-year, to $9.19 trillion, still shy of the all-time record of $10 trillion in 2008 before it all collapsed;
Student loans surged by 6.25% year-over-year to a record of $1.36 trillion;
Credit card debt surged 8% to $810 billion;
‘Other’ [debt] surged 5.4% to $390 billion; and
And auto loans surged 6.1% to a record $1.21 trillion.’

All of these credit cards will come tumbling down in the next financial earthquake, but the $1.21 trillion auto-loan market seems particularly wobbly. Wolf continues: ‘Of all auto loans outstanding, 2.4% were 90+ days (“seriously”) delinquent, up from 2.3% in the prior quarter. But delinquencies are concentrated in the subprime segment and all hell is breaking loose there.

Not all subprime loans are cut from the same cloth. The 90+ day delinquency rate for subprime auto loans originated by banks dropped after the Financial Crisis and has since remained fairly steady. In Q3, it was 4.4%, down from 7.1% at the peak of the Financial Crisis. So, the subprime auto-loan fiasco is not going to topple the banks.

In contrast, the 90+ day delinquency rate for loans originated by auto finance companies has been soaring since 2013. In Q3 2017, it hit 9.7%. This 9.7% is the highest delinquency rate since Q1 of 2010. And it first hit that rate on the way up during the Great Recession in Q3 2008, during the Lehman moment. A year later, it peaked at 10.9%.’

Reagan redux: Will easing taxes on businesses and rich people help these subprime borrowers make their payments? Will it help students - who were lured into debt by the feds - pay their loans? Will it lighten the load from credit cards? Well, it could…if the feds’ ‘stimulus theory’ was correct.

Is it? You decide.

Since 2009, the Fed has added $3.6 trillion of stimulus money into the economy by way of its QE programs and US government debt doubled. It produced the weakest recovery ever…the worst jobless rate since the Great Depression…and an economy so limp and unappealing that even life expectancies are falling. Since 2000, central banks worldwide have added $20 trillion to the global economy…lowering interest rates to absurd levels…and boosting world debt to $225 trillion, approximately three times world GDP. World GDP growth rates have fallen.

In 1981, President Reagan passed a tax-cut program far more ambitious and aggressive than the House Republicans’ version.

Colleague David Stockman, who was Reagan’s budget director at the time, says it gave the economy 10 times more stimulus. What happened? There was a spurt of growth…then GDP growth rates trended lower for the next three decades. They are still falling. We doubt the present initiatives will do anything to stop that trend. Instead, they will speed it up.”
https://www.marketsandmoney.com.au/

Of course, business as usual...

"Butterflies..."

"I think humans might be like butterflies; people die every day without many other people knowing about them, seeing their colors, hearing their stories... and when humans are broken, they're like broken butterfly wings; suddenly there are so many beauties that are seen in different ways, so many thoughts and visions and possibilities that form, which couldn't form when the person wasn't broken! So it is not a very sad thing to be broken, after all! It's during the times of being broken, that you have all the opportunities to become things unforgettable! Just like the broken butterfly wing that I found, which has given me so many thoughts, in so many ways, has shown me so many words, and imaginations! But butterflies need to know, that it doesn't matter at all if the whole world saw their colors or not! But what matters is that they flew, they glided, they hovered, they saw, they felt, and they knew! And they loved the ones whom they flew with! And that is an existence worthwhile!"
- C. JoyBell C.

Musical Interlude: Ludovico Einaudi, “Life”

Ludovico Einaudi, “Life”

Musical Interlude: Ludovico Einaudi, “The Mountain”

Ludovico Einaudi, “The Mountain”

"The World..."

“The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever;
but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter;
and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns.”
- George Santayana

A Cherokee Proverb, "The Two Wolves"

"One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, generosity, empathy, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked the grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

A Cherokee Proverb

“Why Intelligent People Fear the Truth”

“Why Intelligent People Fear the Truth”
by Julian Wash

“Today I would like to return to your awareness an aspect of the Human condition that bargains with uncertainty and finds comfort in denial. Every so often we must deal with an unpleasant truth we wish would just go away. Sometimes the truth can be very shocking and we find ourselves inadequately prepared to handle it. That’s when denial comes to the rescue -  and what can’t be denied can always be rationalized away.

Perhaps we take for granted our gift of expression and ability to interface in such a complex world. It’s a wondrous thing really. Our curiosity and appetite for adventure are tempered only by the fear of death. We fancy ourselves as intrepid beings willing to brave most any course and face the great unknown. Be this as it may, there are limits. There are places where even the most courageous will dare not venture. 

In the following paragraphs I intend to wrestle on a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes that are way too tight. You see they’re stylish, expensive and give a good impression. The blister forming on my big toe is of no consequence. I need only convince myself that it’s me and not the shoe that’s the problem. As usual, I’ll put on my best face and it’s off to the party I go.

Ignorance is Bliss: As we walk in this light of consciousness we find ourselves on a narrow isthmus just above the churning waters of doubt and confusion. Should we fall into these tumultuous tides, we risk succumbing to their cold and relentless currents. But there are times we would rather jump than confront a scary truth that beckons before us. When truth is more frightening than the lie that conceals it, denial can become a welcomed place of refuge.

We’re aware that jumping away won’t solve anything. What it will do is provide an opportunity to avoid something we really don’t want to face. So we dive into the swirling abyss and dismiss the matter as hopeless and irresolvable. We wash-up somewhere downstream clinging to the slippery banks of evasion. Happy to now see it all behind us, we make a vow to never pass that way again. And yet, the memory lingers.

Avoiding truth is not so much a function of ignorance or intelligence but rather conditioning and programming. Being able to convince ourselves that a pertinent truth is neither relevant nor important is a feat worthy of some note. We’ve all been thoroughly schooled on how to do just that. We’ve been told repeatedly in our lives how to think and what to believe and so it becomes somewhat natural to impose these same edicts upon ourselves. If something seems too dangerous to handle we simply label it as such and avoid it at all costs.

Many of us would rather admit the “shoe” fits just fine if it makes everything else that much easier. So we brush off the undesirable stuff and continue onward pretending once again that we’re an intrepid soul. If something doesn’t match our sensibilities and reasonable expectations we are quick to dismiss it. For those who decide to accept a difficult truth, they are torn by decision and run the risk of changing the way they see the world. For some it can create a paradigm shift or an awakening. They might begin to question all that they once held as true. Everything would then fall under doubt and scrutiny. How many people are truly willing to upset the proverbial apple cart to this extent for a glimpse of bitter truth? 

I have found this number to be few. Most would rather accept the status quo and not make ripples in their world. There are logical reasons for this and I would be challenged to dispute such a mindset. But truth has a way of anchoring deep within us even when it comes uninvited. Whether we like it or not, truth is truth. 

Being naive and unaware may have a blissful quality to it. But it does not represent who and what we are. If we are indeed the intrepid souls we fancy ourselves as being then there is little we can’t do. We have powerful minds and an even greater will, so we are very equipped to handle the most difficult of matters. Living in denial or rationalizing away our fear offers no ultimate remedy. We are merely jumping into those murky waters of evasion where we find other wayward “swimmers” who are also struggling to just stay afloat.

Breakup and Heartbreak: No one wants to face a breakup. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in a troubled relationship. If, for instance, one suspects the other of being unfaithful there are a number of avenues they may choose to take. Denial is certainly one of them. It is much easier to convince yourself there isn’t a problem, even when compelling evidence suggests otherwise. Instead of diving deeper into the issue, some will choose to simply continue along as if there’s no problem at all.

In the end this serves no one. When two people are in love, an intuitive bond is formed. If the bond is broken, so goes the relationship. As painful as this may be, it also affords an opportunity to rediscover oneself, move on and grow from the experience. By denying the bond is severed, one is doomed to live a life of mediocrity, shallow love and empty promises. But gosh, don’t these shoes look great.

Sometimes we feel intimately connected with an institution or belief. If we love, for example, our country or religion, then we are likely to only see the good things about it. We don’t want to know about the dark side. This is not important. More apple pie and ice cream please. Ah, such a good life. If and when presented with an uncomfortable truth, many will simply dismiss it. The lie they believe is more attractive than the truth they’ve been served. In conversation they may offer cursory lip service and feigned interest, but when it really comes down to it they can care less about this truth you bring. It’s water under the bridge for them —the same water which they swim in.

It can be heartbreaking indeed when one realizes the institution they so ardently believe in is not what they thought it was. Now as we near the anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11, our sensibilities and intuitive knowing are once again feeling challenged. There are many “truths” people have dismissed because it defies all that they hold on to. Yes, and so a life of mediocrity and illusion is chosen above reality. More apple pie please. 

Chess and Deduction: There was a time I was a pretty good chess player. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I was rarely beaten. But that was a while ago and most any state level player would surely make me eat my words along with my tinfoil hat. That being said I do know the rules of the game and how to play to win. 

Chess is a strategy game. An expert player utilizes many tactics ranging from logic and deduction to deception. One of my best moves with less experienced players was to make them think I didn’t know what I was doing. I use to call it my “Colombo” maneuver after the detective show from the 1970’s. Deception is an interesting aspect to the game indeed. Sometimes I would forgo my queen as a ruse. Only a dummy would lose their queen early in the game. But you have to give up something really good to make the ruse work.

The powers that (want to be) are master chess players. I am both humbled and appalled by their methods. I play an aggressive game - but all I can think about is knocking my opponent’s “king” right off his little Masonic square. The master players are patient and will think long and hard between each move. They rarely make mistakes. Every move has purpose and meaning. Sometimes they too will sacrifice a major figure on the board to move their plan forward. 

When I reflect on the events of 9/11, I see a whole lot of chess playing. This was a carefully orchestrated game indeed. And while I’m not prepared to point fingers at any particular group or organization, I am aware of the “sacrificial” pieces that were set in play. They weren’t queens or knights, pawns or rooks - they were skyscrapers. One chess player can’t fool another. Whether on a board or played in real life, I know these moves from a mile away. But not all the pieces fell like they were supposed to. Something clearly went wrong. There was one piece that stood alone and had to be taken off the board in a very brash, inexplicable and self-destructive way. This is the chess equivalent of the illegal move of simply grabbing the piece from the board as a frustrated child might do. Ah yes, the cold chess master blinked as there was no errant plane (or whatever else) to cover the ruse of the collapse of Building Seven.

Final Thought: Who among us has not awakened to this clarion call? I ask and wonder. What else does one need? She fell in front of us for all to see, to bear witness and to comprehend. Forty seven stories of exceptional construction, metal and concrete, yielded to a simple fire - so they say. Eighty-one vertical columns, forty-seven stories of steel-framed perfection dropped into its own footprint in nary 6.5 seconds. Perfectly normal, of course, assuming laws of physics and reason don’t apply. World Trade Center Building Seven should resonate at the core of each and every one of us. If it does not then perhaps the lie has gotten the best of us. The sleepwalkers would rather jump into the murky water than face a truth of this magnitude. I would offer them a safety line if I could, but it seems they would rather drift away into their sea of mediocrity and indifference. And it is so - and so be it.

I cannot live in that world of make-believe. Like so many others, I’ve been accosted by truth and I have found that truth has indeed that magical quality of setting us free. So agonizing over a bitter reality seems a small price to pay when it comes right down to it. And so as I pick up the pieces of Seven, I pause and reflect about the meaning of it all. You see, that building spoke in ways hard to describe. I love what she stood for, not because she was merely a building, but because she woke so many of us in the thunderous roar of her climatic fall.

And yet there are those of admirable intelligence that still cannot see or will not see. Their paradigm simply won’t allow it. But to what end does it affect me? It does. This is not merely a battle rooted in science and logic but rather in the heart, mind and consciousness of Humankind. The non-seers and the “won’t- seers” seem to shirk their duty of an enlightened Human. To jump off the path and swim beyond this towering spectacle of resonate truth seems inexcusable and unacceptable to me. Where are we as a race when we dismiss such a trumpeting call to wake? Do we simply forget how this building fell before us?

I decided to take off those shoes because the pain was getting ridiculous. Seems I started a fad though. Everyone at this formal affair has now slipped off their shoes, taking delight in the grounding experience. They tell me they “feel free” and of course that’s exactly what I like to hear. And so now I must ask - how free is free enough?”

"The Truth..."

“Ecological Armageddon: Massive Die-offs, Plummeting Insect Populations"

“Ecological Armageddon: 
Plummeting Insect Populations Could Ravage Life on Earth”
by RT, Oct 19, 2017

"The stark decline in insect populations has placed the world on a path to “ecological Armageddon,” according to a study. Researchers from Raboud University in the Netherlands made the discovery following a decades-long study of nature reserves across Germany. Since 1989, the team has been collecting insect samples across 63 sites using mesh tents known as malaise traps. After measuring each year’s samples by weight, scientists found that the average fell by more than 75 percent over the 27-year period. During the summer months, the fall was measured at around 82 percent.

Insects are essential for life on Earth as they act as pollinators and prey for other species. Increased urbanization, habitat loss and pesticide use are being blamed for the declining population. Caspar Hallmann, a member of the research team at Radboud, described the figures as “very alarming.” "All these areas are protected and most of them are managed nature reserves. Yet, this dramatic decline has occurred," Hallmann said in a statement.

In recent years, biologists have begun to cite the ‘windshield phenomenon’ as a measure of the decline, noting that they are no longer scraping splattered insects from their car windshields after lengthy drives. Another member of the Raboud team, Professor David Goulson of Sussex University in the UK, told the Guardian that he believes the phenomenon is a symptom of the vanishing population. “I think that is real,” said Goulson. “I drove right across France and back this summer – just when you’d expect your windscreen to be splattered all over – and I literally never had to stop to clean the windscreen.”

Plummeting insect numbers have been highlighted at various times throughout the last decade. Numbers of grassland butterflies have plummeted across Europe over the last two decades, according to research published by the European Environment Agency in 2013. According to a Center for Biological Diversity report published in March this year, more than 700 North American bee species are declining due to habitat loss and pesticide use. A 2015 report from a United Nations group found that populations are declining for more than 35 percent of bee species, while 9 percent of butterfly and bee populations face extinction.”
"Massive Die-offs Around the World: 103 Whales in Brazil, 
86% Insects Disappear in Nature Parks in Germany,
 Multiple Thousands of Fish in Uruguay, Paraguay, India and Thailand”
By Strange Sounds, Oct 19, 2017

"Meanwhile, massive die-offs are happening around the world baffling residents and officials. 103 whales have already washed up dead this year in Brazil, thousands of fish found dead in dam reservoir in Uruguay, in lakes in India and in rivers in Paraguay and Portugal, and tons of fish along a beach in Thailand. The whale season on the Brazilian coast – between July and October – is coming to an end with a sad record this year: 103 strandings across the country. This is the all-time record. And officials do not know why. And a disturbing question remains: what is behind this number?
Thousands of fish found dead in dam reservoir in Palmar, Uruguay
Residents living around the Palmar Dam are reporting the presence of thousands of dead fish along the Rio Negro. Locals say it had already happened 2 years ago. It may be due to water scarcity in the bed of the river.
Thousands of fish mysteriously die in lakes in Mahbubnagar, India
About 5000 fish, normally living in deeper parts of the fresh water bodies, were found dead in the Mahbubsagar lake. The massive fish kill raises concerns about toxic pollution.

Thousands of fish found dead in river near Asuncion, Paraguay: Between 5,000 and 10,000 small and medium-sized fish have been found dead in the Confuso River of Paraguay, located about 50 kilometers northwest of Asuncion. Officials believe it is due to illegal dump of waste waters. Scientists have taken water samples to determine the exact cause of the die-off.

Thousands of fish found dead in the River Tagus, Portugal: The fish die off is most probably linked to pollution, but everything is more than unclear.
Tons of fish along a beach in Hua Hin, Thailand
Many tons of small fish were washed up dead along about 10 kilometres of the Hua Hin beach after heavy rains. According to officials, the freshwater drained off into the sea diminishing the quantity of dissolved oxygen.

Approximately all insects disappeared mysteriously in national parks across Germany: Meanwhile in Germany, the number of virtually all insects has decrease by 75-82% in all the reserves and national parks in Germany. The reason behind this astronomic number of deaths in unclear. But it is extremely serious and of great concern.”
http://strangesounds.org/

Let's see... "water scarcity"; "toxic pollution"; "waste waters"; low "dissolved oxygen"; all around the world now, these reports, when allowed. YouTube's got many, many die-off videos from everywhere. So it's not a localized phenomenon, it's global. Now what could possibly account for that I wonder? Well, no, I don't wonder, I know, and so should you...


Believe what you will, or must, it won't change anything, anywhere, at all...

X22 Report, “The Central Banks Have Proposed To Do Away With The Deposit Protection”

X22 Report, “The Central Banks Have Proposed To Do Away With The Deposit Protection”
Related followup report:
X22 Report, “The Cabal Doesn't Care About Law, Agenda Pushed Forward”

Musical Interlude: 2002, "Another Answer Came"


2002, "Another Answer Came" 
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILt_GZqJzjQ&feature=related

"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.”

Chet Raymo, “The Journey”

“The Journey”
by Chet Raymo

"Here's a deep-deep sky map of the universe from the March 9, 2006 issue of Nature. The horizontal scale is a 360 view right around the sky; the vertical gaps at 6 hours and 24 hours are the parts of the universe that are blocked to our view by the disk of our own Milky Way Galaxy. The vertical scale - distance from Earth - is logarithmic (10, 100, 1000, etc.) measured in megaparsecs (a parsec equals 3.26 light-years). Across the top is the Big Bang, and the oldest and most distant thing we can see, the cosmic microwave background, the radiation of the Big Bang itself. A few relatively nearby galaxies are designated at the bottom. All that stuff in the middle that looks like smoke or dusty cobwebs are quasars and galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

A smoke of galaxies! A universe cobwebbed with Milky Ways! Each galaxy itself a smoke of stars, hundreds of billions of stars, many or all of them with planets. My book, "Walking Zero", is about the human journey from the omphalos of our birth into the world of the galaxies, a journey many of us are disinclined to make. Here is how the Prologue to the book begins:

"Each of us is born at the center of the world. For nine months our physical selves are assembled molecule by molecule, cell by cell, in the dark covert of our mother's womb. A single fertilized egg cell splits into two. Then four. Eight. Sixteen. Thirty-two. Ultimately, 50 trillion cells or so. At first, our future self is a mere blob of protoplasm. But slowly, ever so slowly, the blob begins to differentiate under the direction of genes. A symmetry axis develops. A head, a tail, a spine. At this point, the embryo might be that of a human, or a chicken, or a marmoset. Limbs form. Digits, with tiny translucent nails. Eyes, with papery lids. Ears pressed like flowers against the head. Clearly now a human. A nose, nostrils. Downy hair. Genitals.
 
As the physical self develops, so too a mental self takes shape, not yet conscious, not yet self-aware, knitted together as webs of neurons in the brain, encapsulating in some respects the evolutionary experience of our species. Instincts impressed by the genes. The instinct to suck, for example. Already, in the womb, the fetus presses its tiny fist against its mouth in anticipation of the moment when the mouth will be offered the mother's breast. The child will not have to be taught to suck. Other inborn behaviors will express themselves later. Laughing. Crying. Striking out in anger. Loving.
 
What, if anything, goes on in the mind of the developing fetus we may never know. But this much seems certain: To the extent that the emerging self has any awareness of its surroundings, its world is coterminous with itself. We are not born with knowledge of the antipodes, the plains of Mars, or the far-flung realm of the galaxies. We are not born with knowledge of Precambrian seas, the supercontinent of Pangea, or the Age of Dinosaurs. We are born into a world scarcely older than ourselves and scarcely larger than ourselves. And we are at its center.
 
A human life is a journey into the grandeur of a universe that may contain more galaxies than there are cells in the human body, a universe in which the whole of a human lifetime is but a single tick of the cosmic clock. The journey can be disorienting; our first instincts are towards coziness, comfort, our mother's enclosing arms, her breast. The journey, therefore, requires courage - for each individual, and for our species.
 
Uniquely of all animals, humans have the capacity to let our minds expand into the space and time of the galaxies. No other creatures can number the cells in their bodies, as we can, or count the stars. No other creatures can imagine the explosive birth of the observable universe 14 billion years ago from an infinitely hot, infinitely small seed of energy. That we choose to make this journey - from the all-sustaining womb into the vertiginous spaces and abyss of time - is the glory of our species, and perhaps our most frightening challenge.”

The Poet: John Glenday, "Concerning the Atoms of the Soul"

"Concerning the Atoms of the Soul"

"Someone explained once how the pieces of what we are
fall downwards at the same rate as the Universe.
The atoms of us, falling towards the centre
 of whatever everything is. And we don't see it.
We only sense their slight drag in the lifting hand.
That's what weight is, that communal process of falling.
Furthermore, these atoms carry hooks, like burrs,
 hooks catching like hooks, like clinging to like,
that's what keeps us from becoming something else,
and why in early love, we sometimes
feel the tug of the heart snagging on another's heart.
Only the atoms of the soul are perfect spheres
with no means of holding on to the world
or perhaps no need for holding on,
and so they fall through our lives catching
 against nothing, like perfect rain,
and in the end, he wrote, mix in that common well of light
at the centre of whatever the suspected centre is, 
or might have been."

~ John Glenday

"The Problem With Proverbs"

"The Problem With Proverbs"
by Patrick Cockburn

"My father, Claud Cockburn, invented a game in which participants made up national sayings that had to be completely meaningless but sound appropriate to their purported country of origin. An example could be the traditional Norwegian saying, “the tree is taller than the highest wave” or, as they say in India, “all is not nothingness, nor the nothingness all”.

The idea for the game came to him on the top of a bus in London which was crawling along in a traffic jam. He overheard a passenger in the seat in front of him complain to a friend about their slow pace, whereupon the friend gave a resigned shrug of the shoulders and replied, “speed is what you make it”. The meaninglessness of the words impressed my father along with a sense that the mustn’t-grumble-but-endure tone of the speaker was peculiarly British.

The sayings should appear at least vaguely meaningful at first sight. For instance, there is the French proverb “il y a des gants sans les mains dedans – some gloves have no hands in them”. Plausible proverbs devoid of meaning are not necessarily easy to manufacture. At first, the traditional Scandinavian saying, “the pine is tall, but does not reach the sky” looks like a winner, but it contains the trite idea that the large or successful have their limitations. A similar objection might rule out the nostrum of Norfolk country folk, in fact invented by my wife, which holds that “burrowing badgers catch no butterflies”.

National sayings may be dull from overuse or were shallow stuff in the first place. As a foreign correspondent, I used occasionally to buy books of local proverbs, hoping that I could use one in an article to illustrate some news event in the country where I was reporting. Inclusion of an obscure but exotic local nostrum in my copy was much better than a quote from a diplomat and would hopefully give the reader the impression that I had my finger on the pulse of indigenous culture and tradition. I did this in Haiti in the early 1990s and again in Afghanistan 10 years later. My idea never really worked out because people in lots of countries seem to have made the same true but banal observations about life. Friends in Beirut used to tell me political jokes with tears of laughter running down their faces, but then had to give me a tutorial on who-was-who in Lebanese politics before I could even pretend to laugh at the right moments.

Sayings by individuals are generally more interesting than national proverbs, but the appetite for these soon cloys. Those most frequently quoted in dictionaries of quotations come across as self-important, patronizing and with a firm grip on the obvious. Often they sound plain wrong or are speaking for effect, as with Gertrude Stein declaring that “in the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. That is what makes America what it is”. This has a contrived midnight-oil feel to it as does Stein’s overused remark, speaking of Oakland, California, that “there is no there there”. The quote used to be especially favored by foreign writers and journalists making snide remarks about the supposed lack of character of American heartlands.

Jokes can be more telling about national character and beliefs than proverbs, though really good ones that don’t sound dated are rare. For instance, there is an Israeli joke used to describe a succession of senior Israeli military officers in recent decades which simply says, “he was so stupid that even the other generals noticed”. This tells one more about what many well-informed Israelis privately think of their military commanders than a dozen carefully written analyses of the Israeli army.

The British sometimes claim that their humor is too subtle and ironic to appeal to those from different cultures. An example often cited is the famous Punch cartoon of the 1930s showing two hippos in a tropical pool, one saying to the other, “I keep thinking it’s Tuesday”. When I was about eight years old I was given a 20-volume collection of old Punch cartoons that dated from the beginning of the First World War until the end of the 1930s and which I found very unfunny. I can remember only one cartoon that seems genuinely amusing in retrospect. It shows a parliamentary candidate on a platform addressing a political meeting with the Union flag behind him. In contrast to contemporary cartoons, there are several lines of dialogue underneath. So far as I recall, they read: “Voice from audience: ‘Can the candidate explain why the Union Jack behind him is upside-down?’ Candidate (glancing round): ‘I can only suppose that the person who put it there was so lacking in common patriotism that he did not know the correct position of our national emblem.’ Voice from audience: ‘Well, it isn’t upside-down.’ ”

Proverbs and memorable remarks inevitably degrade into clichés through overuse. Famous quotes, such as the denunciation of Roman imperialism put into the mouth of a British resistance leader by Tacitus – “they make a desert and they call it peace” – has echoed down the centuries but loses impact through overfamiliarity.

Collections of quotations tend to draw on a limited pool of predictable contributors. By way of contrast, what is striking about the recently published "Quips & Quotes: A Journalist’s Commonplace Book" by my friend Richard Ingrams is its freshness, skepticism and depth. Put together haphazardly by the author over the last half-century, it is a mix of quotes from people long forgotten and others still famous. Their sayings bubble with originality. Lenin quotes are fairly common but I never knew he had said that “the best government has only to be in power long enough for everybody to wish to remove it”. The statement is simple enough but worth bearing in mind as an explanation for every revolution in history down to the Arab Spring uprisings. There is the same sort of compelling simplicity in the words of William Cobbett, the great radical journalist, who wrote that “it is the chief business of a government to take care that one part of the people does not cause the other part to lead miserable lives”.

Not many people remember Sefton Delmer, the chief foreign correspondent of the "Daily Express" in the 1950s, but he once said: “I can only think clearly in a five-star hotel.” He is quoted as saying on another occasion that “in real life, the women pursue the men. It is only in Somerset Maugham that the men pursue the women”. I particularly like the remark of Peter Cook: “Cricket is nothing if it is not one man pitted against a fish.”

Few real proverbs are as interesting as these. But my father discovered two, both Chinese, that are equal in appeal and which I have never seen quoted elsewhere. One says: “Do not tie your shoelace in a melon field or adjust your hat under a plum tree if you want to avoid suspicion.” The other competes with Peter Cook’s in its cryptic allure: “Of nine bald men, eight are deceitful and the ninth is dumb.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. Thanks for stopping by!

“The Friendly Faces of Fascism”

“The Friendly Faces of Fascism”
 by Robert Gore 

"There are two modes of human interaction: voluntary and involuntary. The symbol of the former is the market; the symbol of the latter is government. Historically, the pendulum has swung back and forth. Since the early 1900s the pendulum has swung towards government and the involuntary. Humanity’s future hinges on whether or not it will swing back. Ominously, many of the biggest beneficiaries of voluntary free choice are ideologically opposed to it.

It may seem paradoxical that Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Tim Cook, among others, build fortunes on the voluntary choices of billions of customers, then join forces with those aligned against voluntary choice. Silicon Valley used to be almost a libertarian outpost, now it’s a bastion of statism. However, there are skewed rationales for it, lodged in the nature of government and business in the 21st century, psychology, and historical precedent.

Government has become so big and all-pervasive that once a business reaches a certain size, it’s going to run into the behemoth blob. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are huge, and aside from Apple, they dominate their markets. (Apple had a little under 15 percent of the smart phone market in the first quarter of 2017). Computers and the internet are at the heart of the national security state, and Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are the heart of social media, search, smartphones, communications, and business computing. Along with Amazon, they all have significant roles in cloud data storage. In its voracious quest for information with which to track, blackmail, and subjugate the citizenry, it was inevitable the government would turn to these treasure troves.

How does a company say no to the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Defense, the NSA, and other intrusive government agencies? With difficulty. The “war on terrorism and drugs” rhetoric probably doesn’t cut any mustard, but as Senator Chuck Schumer said, the agencies, “have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” You get along by going along. Large shareholders - hedge, pension, and mutual funds - and the corporate collections of cowards known as boards of directors would take a dim view of a CEO who for ideological reasons fought a quixotic and ultimately unprofitable battle with the federal government over something as trivial as a principle.

Let’s not forget that the government has $4 trillion a year to throw around. Amazon received a $600 million dollar contract from the CIA in 2013. Tucked into the latest National Defense Authorization Act is an amendment authorizing $54 billion in online purchases by the government. Amazon will undoubtedly get the lion’s share. The government buys billions of dollars worth of computer and smart phone hardware and software every year. It also buys a lot of advertising, and Facebook and Google are the dominant online advertising platforms. You have to keep a customer that large satisfied.

Beyond payola, there’s publicity, prestige, pride, politics, and power. The first thing you do once you’ve acquired your tens of billions is set up a tax-exempt foundation. Founder and foundation then dive head first into the pool of altruistic goop into which anyone who acquires any measure of fame and fortune in contemporary America dives. It simply won’t do to say you’ve accomplished all you’ve accomplished for yourself. You must find a cause greater than yourself and proclaim your devotion to it.

That incantation serves several purposes. Bill Gates transformed from evil monopolist to philanthropic saint after he established his foundation and retired from Microsoft to devote his efforts full-time to it. Once you’ve acquired the halo, you’re ready to grab the power to which you’re wealth and superior intellect entitle you. Like flies drawn to steaming manure, tycoons are drawn to politics and government, all in the interests of a better world, of course.

There’s nothing new about this. In America, the prototype is John D. Rockefeller. He used state of the art refining technology, ruthless negotiating tactics, industrial consolidation, bribery, and governmental suppression of competitors to become the nation’s first billionaire. Rockefeller was a charter member of the oligarchy that guided the US into central banking, the income tax, foreign interventionism, and its nascent empire in the first few decades of the 1900s. His foundation sheltered his fortune from taxes, gave a bunch of money to worthy causes, burnished his image, augmented his power, and promoted world government organs like the Council on Foreign Relations and, after his death, the Trilateral Commission.

Anyone who gets involved with the behemoth blob wants power, the ability to use force to direct the actions of others. Any shred of a morality that recoils at coercively exacting involuntary compliance is abandoned. Involvement with the corrupt obscenity that is our government means either a conscious or unconscious surrender to the Dark Side paradigm: might makes the only wrong and right.

At the heart of it lies a simple truth: governments can do anything they want to you if they claim they’re doing it for you. The altruistic veneer conceals every horror, from history’s bloodthirstiest regimes down to nanny state bureaucrats dictating toilets’ flush capacity. A warm place in hell is reserved for those who covet power under cover of professed good intentions. The hottest fires are reserved for those give it to them, surrendering without protest control of their own lives.

Once the government has assumed control, the entrepreneurs and executives of ostensibly private businesses toe the government’s line. It’s the only way to survive and indeed thrive under fascism, the correct label for the current system. All under cover of noble aims and approved good causes, of course. In "Atlas Shrugged", Ayn Rand drew a sharp distinction between her competent champions of freedom and the incompetent toadies of soul-crushing altruism, collectivism, and statism. In real life freedom’s biggest beneficiaries have become some of its biggest - because of their competence and gargantuan fortunes— enemies.

The gravest threats to the most basic civil liberties - freedom of thought, expression, and transaction - come from the technology giants. Not simply because they’re the dominant commercial, communications and computing platforms, but because they’ve aligned themselves with the government. They’re engaging in creeping censorship, gathering massive amounts of data, cooperating with the surveillance state, and propagating propaganda. Call it the Orwellian or Panopticon state: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft will be invaluable in establishing it. We’re at least halfway there. No surprise that these companies have been stock market leaders. It’s the first rule of fascist investing: buy the companies the government favors.

Italian economist and philosopher Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) argued that regardless of the label given to a system of government, a ruling class always emerges and enriches itself. There are no historical counterexamples, certainly not 2017 America. What’s historically unprecedented, however, is the power and control America’s technological oligarchy can potentially exercise, and the relative weakness of those who champion freedom and warn of impending involuntary servitude. The louder the oligarchs proclaim their good intentions and hail tomorrow’s better world, the graver the threat becomes."

"What Frustrates Us..."

"Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it. What frustrates us and robs our lives of joy is this absence of meaning... Does our being alive matter?"
- Harold S. Kushner,
"When All You Ever Wanted Isn't Enough"

“If You Ever Begin a Statement With the Words “I Feel,”…You Must Cluck Like a Chicken”

“If You Ever Begin a Statement With the Words “I Feel,”…
You Must Cluck Like a Chicken”
by T4C

“The only way you’ll understand the title is if you at least scan the article. Even a quick scan will entice you to actually read it. A terrific, and encouraging, way of purging mis-education from millennials’ 90 lb. weakling minds."

"The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think. 
The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling." 
- Thomas Sowell

"Undoing the Dis-Education of Millennials"
by Adam J. Macleod

"I teach in a law school. For several years now my students have been mostly Millennials. Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings. Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors.

They cannot learn until their minds are freed from that prison. This year in my Foundations of Law course for first-year law students, I found my students especially impervious to the ancient wisdom of foundational texts, such as Plato’s Crito and the Code of Hammurabi. Many of them were quick to dismiss unfamiliar ideas as “classist” and “racist,” and thus unable to engage with those ideas on the merits. So, a couple of weeks into the semester, I decided to lay down some ground rules. I gave them these rules just before beginning our annual unit on legal reasoning.

Here is the speech I gave them:

Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think you must first learn how to stop unthinking.

Reasoning requires you to understand truth claims, even truth claims that you think are false or bad or just icky. Most of you have been taught to label things with various “isms” which prevent you from understanding claims you find uncomfortable or difficult.

Reasoning requires correct judgment. Judgment involves making distinctions, discriminating. Most of you have been taught how to avoid critical, evaluative judgments by appealing to simplistic terms such as “diversity” and “equality.”

Reasoning requires you to understand the difference between true and false. And reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of you have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. You have learned to associate truth with your subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only yours, and which are constantly changeful.

We will have to pull out all of the weeds in your mind as we come across them. Unfortunately, your mind is full of weeds, and this will be a very painful experience. But it is strictly necessary if anything useful, good, and fruitful is to be planted in your head. There is no formula for this. Each of you has different weeds, and so we will need to take this on the case-by-case basis. But there are a few weeds that infect nearly all of your brains. So I am going to pull them out now.

First, except when describing an ideology, you are not to use a word that ends in “ism.” Communism, socialism, Nazism, and capitalism are established concepts in history and the social sciences, and those terms can often be used fruitfully to gain knowledge and promote understanding. “Classism,” “sexism,” “materialism,” “cisgenderism,” and (yes) even racism are generally not used as meaningful or productive terms, at least as you have been taught to use them. Most of the time, they do not promote understanding.

In fact, “isms” prevent you from learning. You have been taught to slap an “ism” on things that you do not understand, or that make you feel uncomfortable, or that make you uncomfortable because you do not understand them. But slapping a label on the box without first opening the box and examining its contents is a form of cheating. Worse, it prevents you from discovering the treasures hidden inside the box. For example, when we discussed the Code of Hammurabi, some of you wanted to slap labels on what you read which enabled you to convince yourself that you had nothing to learn from ancient Babylonians. But when we peeled off the labels and looked carefully inside the box, we discovered several surprising truths. In fact, we discovered that Hammurabi still has a lot to teach us today.

One of the falsehoods that has been stuffed into your brain and pounded into place is that moral knowledge progresses inevitably, such that later generations are morally and intellectually superior to earlier generations, and that the older the source the more morally suspect that source is. There is a term for that. It is called chronological snobbery. Or, to use a term that you might understand more easily, “ageism.”

Second, you have been taught to resort to two moral values above all others, diversity and equality. These are important values if properly understood. But the way most of you have been taught to understand them makes you irrational, unreasoning. For you have been taught that we must have as much diversity as possible and that equality means that everyone must be made equal. But equal simply means the same. To say that 2+2 equals 4 is to say that 2+2 is numerically the same as four. And diversity simply means difference. So when you say that we should have diversity and equality you are saying we should have difference and sameness. That is incoherent, by itself. Two things cannot be different and the same at the same time in the same way.

Furthermore, diversity and equality are not the most important values. In fact, neither diversity nor equality is valuable at all in its own right. Some diversity is bad. For example, if slavery is inherently wrong, as I suspect we all think it is, then a diversity of views about the morality of slavery is worse than complete agreement that slavery is wrong.

Similarly, equality is not to be desired for its own sake. Nobody is equal in all respects. We are all different, which is to say that we are all not the same, which is to say that we are unequal in many ways. And that is generally a good thing. But it is not always a good thing (see the previous remarks about diversity).

Related to this: You do you not know what the word “fair” means. It does not just mean equality. Nor does it mean something you do not like. For now, you will have to take my word for this. But we will examine fairness from time to time throughout this semester.

Third, you should not bother to tell us how you feel about a topic. Tell us what you think about it. If you can’t think yet, that’s O.K. Tell us what Aristotle thinks, or Hammurabi thinks, or H.L.A. Hart thinks. Borrow opinions from those whose opinions are worth considering. As Aristotle teaches us in the reading for today, men and women who are enslaved to the passions, who never rise above their animal natures by practicing the virtues, do not have worthwhile opinions. Only the person who exercises practical reason and attains practical wisdom knows how first to live his life, then to order his household, and finally, when he is sufficiently wise and mature, to venture opinions on how to bring order to the political community.

One of my goals for you this semester is that each of you will encounter at least one idea that you find disagreeable and that you will achieve genuine disagreement with that idea. I need to explain what I mean by that because many of you have never been taught how to disagree.

Disagreement is not expressing one’s disapproval of something or expressing that something makes you feel bad or icky. To really disagree with someone’s idea or opinion, you must first understand that idea or opinion. When Socrates tells you that a good life is better than a life in exile you can neither agree nor disagree with that claim without first understanding what he means by “good life” and why he thinks running away from Athens would be unjust. Similarly, if someone expresses a view about abortion, and you do not first take the time to understand what the view is and why the person thinks the view is true, then you cannot disagree with the view, much less reason with that person. You might take offense. You might feel bad that someone holds that view. But you are not reasoning unless you are engaging the merits of the argument, just as Socrates engaged with Crito’s argument that he should flee from Athens.

So, here are three ground rules for the rest of the semester:
1. The only “ism” I ever want to come out your mouth is a syllogism. If I catch you using an “ism” or its analogous “ist” -  racist, classist, etc. -  then you will not be permitted to continue speaking until you have first identified which “ism” you are guilty of at that very moment. You are not allowed to fault others for being biased or privileged until you have first identified and examined your own biases and privileges.

2. If I catch you this semester using the words “fair,” “diversity,” or “equality,” or a variation on those terms, and you do not stop immediately to explain what you mean, you will lose your privilege to express any further opinions in class until you first demonstrate that you understand three things about the view that you are criticizing.

3. If you ever begin a statement with the words “I feel,” before continuing you must cluck like a chicken or make some other suitable animal sound.

To their credit, the students received the speech well. And so far this semester, only two students have been required to cluck like chickens.”