Monday, January 22, 2018

"How It Really Better Be"

"Release the Memo!"

Release the Memo! Let the People decide for themselves...
I couldn't agree more, Hilly. No worries, you'll have lots of company!

"After the Next Crash”

"After the Next Crash”
by Bill Bonner

"What’s that in the distance? It looks like a cloud of dust barely visible on the horizon. It’s the relief column, sent from Fort Fed! Hooray!

Confidence of the damned: And yes, it is still a long way off… As far as anyone can see, there’s no need for relief now. US stocks are near their all-time high. Unemployment has rarely been so low. The economy is said to be picking up speed. So the feds have put down their guns and taken out their picnic baskets. Some are taking a nice snooze in the warm sun of Dow 26,000. Others are enjoying the canapés…and gaily talking about how they whipped the Crash of 1987…the Dotcom Bust of 2000… and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

Others are looking ahead…at how they will use this upbeat economy to ‘normalize’ interest rates. Another bear market coming? ‘Bring it on!’ they say. Thus, with the confidence of the damned, do investors and their guardians in the financial Establishment await the next opportunity to ‘buy the dip’.

Unrequited mischief: But here at the Diary, we are plagued by doubt, worry, and unrequited mischief. Is it that easy? What will the feds use for ammunition to fight the next downturn? What if investors aren’t as smart as they think they are? In this, the Year of Our Lord 2018, practically everyone with money in stocks looks in the mirror and sees a genius. Practically every day of 2017 added IQ points.

As Jeff Clark at GoldSilver.com reports:
The Dow hit a record high 71 times last year. On average, a new high was hit more frequently than once a week.
For the first time ever in its almost 90-year history, the S&P 500 rose every month in 2017. And historically, there have only been four years with gains in 11 months of the year.
The S&P 500’s largest pullback in 2017 was 2.8%, the smallest since 1995.
To start 2018, the S&P 500 has risen in each of the five trading sessions, hitting a new record high every day. The last time the index opened the year with at least five straight record highs was 1964.

The CAPE ratio [which compares today’s stock prices with the past 10 years of inflation-adjusted earnings] has now matched its 1999 level, the second-highest reading in more than 100 years of data. The only higher reading for the CAPE ratio was in 1929.

‘But what about when prices go down?’ we ask the imaginary investor. ‘Stop worrying. If prices turn down, I’ll sell,’ comes the answer. ‘To whom?’ we wonder. 

Out-of-service cannon: For the last 30 years, the answer to that question was the same: to the feds! After each crisis, the feds and their central bank cronies came blasting into the market with armloads of cash. QE! TARP! Cash for Clunkers! Interest rates almost vanished; asset prices rose. And today, there are scarcely any interest rates left to cut.

And as for fiscal stimulus - more government deficit spending - that cannon was fired three weeks ago when the tax bill passed. Whether it will do good or harm, we don’t know. But what we do know is that the cannon is now out of service.

So when the next battle starts, the poor grunts out on the investment ground - with support neither from the Fed nor from Congress - could find it hard going. The first attack is likely to be repulsed by buy-the-dippers. But the next charge is bound to get palms sweating and knees rattling. Investors will soon realize that they have no covering artillery fire. They will panic.

That is where the 30-year fantasy should end. Stocks should lose $10 trillion. Bonds should lose $20 trillion. Other defaults, failures and markdowns should wipe out another $10 trillion or so. Then, with debt, assets, and IQs deflated down to reasonable levels, the whole loopy idea of making people rich by adding phony ‘liquidity’ can be discarded. We can return to sound money and an honest economy, with prices discovered in free markets.

Screw-loose patriots: But that’s not going to happen. There’s no Reagan in the White House…and no Paul Volcker at the Fed. And even if there were leaders of their calibre today, it is highly unlikely that they could hold their positions when this battle begins. Instead, they will be overrun, overruled, and outgunned by the Deep State.

President Trump will demand action. Spend more on infrastructure! Build a wall! More ships for the Navy! And bailouts for his pals on Wall Street. Congress will promise a vast ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure program…another tax cut…and trillion-dollar-plus deficits. And the Fed, bless its puny, black heart, will have no interest rates to cut…and no real money to use as ammunition. But that won’t stop it. With flags waving…pipers piping…and drums beating…the relief column will appear. ‘We’ll print the money!’ the brave central bankers will say. And once again, with the ersatz courage of a screw-loose patriot, the Fed will come to the rescue… and cause the biggest financial disaster in US history. More to come…"

Sunday, January 21, 2018

X22 Report, “The Covert Operation Behind The Turkey Operation: The Out-Maneuvering Of The Cabal”

X22 Report, “The Covert Operation Behind The Turkey Operation: 
The Out-Maneuvering Of The Cabal”

Musical Interlude: Tron Syversen, “Moonlight Reflections”

Tron Syversen, “Moonlight Reflections”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Connecting the Pipe Nebula to the colorful region near bright star Antares is a dark cloud dubbed the Dark River, flowing from the picture's left edge. Murky looking, the Dark River's appearance is caused by dust obscuring background starlight, although the dark nebula contains mostly hydrogen and molecular gas. 
 Click image for larger size.
Surrounded by dust, Antares, a red supergiant star, creates an unusual bright yellowish reflection nebula. Above it, bright blue double star Rho Ophiuchi is embedded in one of the more typical bluish reflection nebulae, while red emission nebulae are also scattered around the region. Globular star cluster M4 is just seen above and right of Antares, though it lies far behind the colorful clouds, at a distance of some 7,000 light-years. The Dark River itself is about 500 light years away. The colorful skyscape is a mosaic of telescopic images spanning nearly 10 degrees (20 Full Moons) across the sky in the constellation Scorpius.”

Chet Raymo, "The Song of Amergin"

"The Song of Amergin"
by Chet Raymo

"It is commonly called "The Song of Amergin," and it is reputed to be the first poem composed in Ireland, by one of the "Milesian princes" who colonized the island several hundred years before the birth of Christ.
"The Song of Amergin"

"I am the wind on the sea.
I am the ocean wave.
I am the sound of the billows.
I am the seven-horned stag.
I am the hawk on the cliff.
I am the dewdrop in sunlight.
I am the fairest of flowers.
I am the raging boar.
I am the salmon in the deep pool.
I am the lake on the plain.
I am the meaning of the poem.
I am the point of the spear.
I am the god that makes fire in the head.
Who levels the mountain?
Who speaks the age of the moon?
Who has been where the sun sleeps?
Who, if not I?"

All is conjecture, of course. The origins of the poem are lost in the mists of time. We must assume it is a divinity speaking, announcing himself as immanent in the creation - flower and spear, dewdrop and raging bull. He raises and lowers the mountains, feeds the mighty rivers from a thousand trickling springs, beats the waves upon the shore.

I use the pronouns "himself" and "he," but the voice of the poem has no gender. "I am who am." Even "I" and "am" must be taken as metaphorical placeholders for a mystery that has no name.

I look out my window. Montbretia and bramble rose. Willow and rowan. Green fields and hedgerows thick with birdsong and fuchsia. The harbor glistening in the sun and out there in the Atlantic a mist of rain. I am the god that makes fire in the head. The never-ceasing amazement, the longing and uncertainty, the badgering whispers that come in the dark of the night. Terror and beauty. Despair and hope. Loneliness and love.

I am the meaning of the poem. Wave, billow, hawk stag. Dewdrop, flower, salmon, boar. And we, unique among all the creatures of this planet - burning, burning in our wonderment."

"Curiosity..."

  "Curiosity killed the cat, but where human beings are concerned, 
the only thing a healthy curiosity can kill is ignorance."
- Harry Lorayne

"Choices"

"Choices"
by Dr. Shad Helmstetter

1. “No one else can ever make your choices for you. Your choices are yours alone. They are as much a part of you as every breath you will take, every moment of your life.”

2. “You may think that in life, a lot of things happen to you along the way. The truth is, in life, you happen to a lot of things along the way.”

3. “Choosing to live your life by your own choice is the greatest freedom you will ever have.”

4. “It is only when you exercise your right to choose that you can also exercise your right to change.”

5. “It is your programming that has created your choices in the past. It is the choices you make today that are creating the programs of your future.”

6. “If you were given only one choice: To choose or not to choose, which would you choose?”

7. “The choices we make by accident are just as important as the choices we make by design.”

8. “Another person’s choice is nothing more than another alternative for you to consider.”

9. “There is no life as complete as the life that is lived by choice.”

10. “There may be a thousand little choices in a day. All of them count.”

11. “Whatever you choose, you might as well enjoy it. It is your choice.”

12. “When you have a problem, make a choice… you’ll feel better.”

13. “If you’d like to know what your choices have been, look at yourself and the life you have lived. What you see is the choices you’ve made.”

14. “Who knows what you could accomplish in life if you made more of the right choices along the way?”

15. “Some people choose to live by complaining. Other people choose to live.”

16. “You cannot manage your life if you do not manage your self. You cannot manage your self if you do not manage your choices. Manage your choices, and you will manage your life.”

17. “Learning what to choose, and how to choose, may be the most important education you will ever receive.”

18. “The choices we make in the heat of emotion would be better if left for some other day.”

19. “Listen to the quietest whispers of your mind. They are telling you the choices that will help you the most.”

20. “Even the best of choices is only as strong as the choices that stand by its side.”

21. “It is the big choices we make that set our direction. It is the smallest choices we make that get us to the destination.”

22. “Each day that passes, your choices will come and go. They are like diamonds in a chest of jewels, each waiting to be discovered.”

23. “Those who choose to succeed always do better than those who never choose at all.”

24. “The highest levels are most certainly filled with those who chose to be there.”

25. “If you have to take time to make a choice, take time. Then make the choice.”

26. “The end result of your life here on earth will always be the sum total of the choices you made while you were here.”
- Dr. Shad Helmstetter, “Choices”

"DHS Report: ‘Grizzly Steppe’: Is This Picture Proof Russia Hacked The Election?"

"DHS Report: ‘Grizzly Steppe’: 
Is This Picture Proof Russia Hacked The Election?"
by Greg Price

"President Donald Trump and his defenders have flatly, and correctly, stated that no physical proof of Russia hacking the 2016 presidential election exists or has been brought to light. Indeed, no evidence has been made public, and the final tally of votes and who chose whom has not been questioned, even by the U.S. intelligence community, which firmly stands by its claim that Russia attempted to meddle in Trump’s favor. Bolstering the America intelligence community's claims, an anonymous source had posted online a picture, below, purporting to be the very naughty Russian hacker group "Grizzly Steppe", meeting and conspiring to commit more dastardly collusion with the Democratic party and election meddling.
Click image for larger size.
But now, it’s quite possible the creator of a malware program that resulted in one key aspect of last year’s election that certainly helped Trump win could finally be known. In fact, he’s already spoken to the FBI. Known by his hacker name, “Profexer,” he reportedly is the one who made the malware that was used to break into the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) servers and obtain the thousands of emails that WikiLeaks dumped online for the entire world to see, according to a New York Times report Wednesday.

The origins of the hacking appear to be in Ukraine, which has attempted to fend off Russia’s attempts to fully take over the Crimean region and has previously served as a sort of experiment site for cyberwarfare techniques, according to the Times. This is perhaps backed up by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement in June that “patriotic” Russians could have hacked the DNC or the election but did not have the Kremlin’s backing.

The two hacker groups allegedly responsible for the attack on the DNC are believed to be Advanced Persistent Threat 28, also known as Fancy Bear, and the Russian group Cozy Bear. Each is believed to be backed by Russia’s military intelligence arm. The two groups have served as “centers for organization and financing” of hacking activities, while such things as coding are performed by “private and often crime-tainted vendors.”

Profexer reportedly got spooked in December, when the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI made public a report of the Russian hacking effort, which it dubbed 'Grizzly Steppe.' That report made reference to Profexer’s malware program, and he went silent on hacker forums in early January.

He reportedly went to Ukrainian authorities first and told them he had not intended for the malware to be used the way it was, and he became a witness for the FBI while living in Ukraine. The malware’s booty somehow made its way to WikiLeaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, has insisted he did not gain the DNC emails from the Russian government. They were first published by WikiLeaks in July 2016, three days before the DNC held its convention in Philadelphia.

The damaging emails included major revelations about the DNC’s attempts to “undermine” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton and eventually led to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC chairwoman. And while Russia may not have affected the final vote numbers last November, it did launch cyberattacks on 39 states around the country in attempts to delete voter registration data, far more than was originally believed, Bloomberg reported in June.”
Actually, the image above is one of Russia's most famous paintings, 'Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire', (1891) by the great Ilya Repin. It's probably safe to say this is how most Americans view the "Russian hacker" issue... Satire, you know? - CP
Meanwhile, here's what's really been going on...

“15 Year Old Hacker Impersonated CIA Director And Other High Ranking Officials In Massive Data Breach”

“15 Year Old Hacker Impersonated CIA Director And 
Other High Ranking Officials In Massive Data Breach”
by Tyler Durden

"A 15-year-old "hacktivist" who tricked AOL and Verizon customer support operators into believing he was then-CIA Director John Brennan, was able to crack into Brennan's accounts and access highly sensitive documents concerning US military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran, a UK court has heard.

Kane Gamble, now 18, was able to access Brennan's emails, contacts, and his iCloud storage account after several successful attempts to manipulate information out of the call center employees. Brennan's emails were sent to WikiLeaks and published on October 26, 2015Gamble used similar "social engineering" techniques to gain access to former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, tricked the FBI helpdesk into believing he was then-Deputy Director Mark Giuliano.

It was a common misconception that the group were hackers when in fact they used “social engineering” to gain access to emails, phones, computers and law enforcement portals. “It involves manipulating people, invariably call centre or help desk staff, into permitting acts or divulging confidential information,” the prosecutor said. -Telegraph

Gamble founded the five-man hacktivist group "Crackas With Attitude" (CWA) - telling a Journalist "It all started by me getting more and more annoyed about how corrupt and cold blooded the US Government are so I decided to do something about it." The 15-year old then proceeded to unleash mayhem on his victims to "f**k the gov" according to court records, by taunting them online, downloading pornography onto their computers, and even taking control of their iPads and TV screens. 

Gamble used similar techniques to hack the home broadband of Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and was able listened to [sic] his voicemails and send texts from his phone. He bombarded Mr Johnson and his wife with calls, asking her: “Am I scaring you?” and left messages threatening to “bang his daughter”, the court heard.

Sometime in October, 2015, the 16-year-old Gamble convinced the FBI's help desk that the was Deputy Director Mark Giuliano - pretending to be the former FBI boss while using information he had obtained after accessing the FBI's Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (Leap). From this access, Gamble gained intelligence and details of government employees and police officers. Gamble then bombarded Giuliano's family and associates with calls, forcing them to post an armed guard at their home.  “This has to be the biggest hack, I had access to all the details the Feds use for background checks,” Gamble said.

Gamble pleaded guilty to ten violations of the UK's computer misuse act in October, 2017. Two Americans charged with participating in Crackas With Attitude -computer science student Justin Liverman and Andrew Boggs, both of North Carolina - were arrested in 2016 and sentenced to five and two years in prison respectively after pleading guilty to criminal hacking conspiracy. Court documents filed in the cases against Boggs and Liverman allege they conspired with “Cracka” to infiltrate the internet accounts of several senior U.S. officials and their families, causing more than $1.5 million in losses.

Gamble admitted to setting his sights on other U.S. government targets including former President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Avril Haines, and his senior science and technology adviser, John Holdren, local media reported. - Washington Times

At one point, the FBI realized that their system had been breached and the password was changed, but Gamble was able to regain access by calling the FBI helpdesk as Mr. Giuliano. The young hactivist also used his access to sensitive information to post the personal details of officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri. 

Gamble's eight month cracking spree came to and end in February, 2016 after he accessed the details of 20,000 FBI employees from the DOJ's network, as well as files on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The FBI and US Secret Service immediately called police in the UK and Gamble was arrested at his Leicestershire home he shared with his mother. Gamble awaits sentencing at yet to be determined date.”

Well, I certainly feel better protected by the fine and capable 
patriots of the NSA, CIA, FBI, etc... don't you?

The Daily "Near You?"

Robertson, New South Wales, Australia. Thanks for stopping by!

Paulo Coelho, "Defeat"

 
"Defeat"
by Paulo Coelho

"Does a leaf, when it falls from the tree in winter, feel defeated by the cold? The tree says to the leaf: ‘That’s the cycle of life. You may think you’re going to die, but you live on in me. It’s thanks to you that I’m alive, because I can breathe. It’s also thanks to you that I have felt loved, because I was able to give shade to the weary traveller. Your sap is in my sap, we are one thing.’

Does a man who spent years preparing to climb the highest mountain in the world feel defeated on reaching that mountain and discovering that nature has cloaked the summit in storm clouds? The man says to the mountain: ‘You don’t want me this time, but the weather will change and, one day, I will make it to the top. Meanwhile, you’ll still be here waiting for me.’

Does a young man, rejected by his first love, declare that love does not exist? The young man says to himself: ‘I’ll find someone better able to understand what I feel. And then I will be happy for the rest of my days.’

Losing a battle or losing everything we thought we possessed will bring us moments of sadness, but when those moments pass, we will discover the hidden strength that exists in each of us, a strength that will surprise us and increase our self-respect.

Wait patiently for the right moment to act. Do not let the next opportunity slip.

Take pride in your scars. Scars are medals branded on the flesh, and your enemies will be frightened by them because they are proof of your long experience of battle. Often this will lead them to seek dialogue and avoid conflict. Scars speak more loudly than the sword that caused them.”

"The Only Question..."

“Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether
 it is worth living is whether you have had enough of it.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The Poet: Thomas Centolella, "Splendor"

"Splendor"

"One day it's the clouds,
one day the mountains.
One day the latest bloom of roses-
 the pure monochromes, the dazzling hybrids-
 inspiration for the cathedral's round windows.
Every now and then there's the splendor of thought:
 the singular idea and its brilliant retinue-
words, cadence, point of view,
little gold arrows flitting between the lines.
And too the splendor of no thought at all:
hands lying calmly in the lap, 
or swinging a six iron with effortless tempo. 
 More often than not splendor is the star we orbit
without a second thought,
especially as it arrives and departs.  
One day it's the blue glassy bay,
one day the night and its array of jewels,
visible and invisible.
Sometimes it's the warm clarity
of a face that finds your face
and doesn't turn away.
Sometimes a kindness, unexpected,
that will radiate farther than you might imagine.
One day it's the entire day itself,
 each hour foregoing its number and name,
its cumbersome clothes, 
a day that says come as you are,
large enough for fear and doubt,
with room to spare: the most secret
wish, the deepest, the darkest,
turned inside out."

 - Thomas Centolella

"Listen To The MUSTN'TS"

“The Call of Duty- and Destiny” (Adapted)

“The Call of Duty- and Destiny” (Adapted)
by James P. Pinkerton

Sam: "It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for."
- Samwise Gamgee, "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"

"In one of the great epics of Western literature, the hero, confronted by numerous and powerful enemies, temporarily gives in to weakness and self-pity. “I wish,” he sighs, “none of this had happened.” The hero’s wise adviser responds, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” The old man continues, “There are other forces at work in this world… besides the will of evil.” Some events, he adds, are “meant” to be, “And that is an encouraging thought.”

Indeed it is. Perhaps, today, we are meant to live in these times. Perhaps right here, right now, we are meant to be tested. Maybe we are meant to have faith that other forces are at work in this world, that we are meant to rediscover our strength and our survival skills.

And so the question: can we, the people of the West, be brought to failure despite our enormous cultural and spiritual legacy? Three thousand years of history look down upon us: does this generation wish to be remembered for not having had the strength to look danger squarely in the eye? For having failed to harness our latent strength in our own defense?

For better ideas, we might turn to J.R.R. Tolkien. The medievalist-turned-novelist, best-known for “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, has been admired by readers and moviegoers alike for his fantastic flights. Yet we might make special note of his underlying political, even strategic, perspective. Amid all his swords and sorcery, we perhaps have neglected Tolkien’s ultimate point: some things are worth fighting for- and other things are not worth fighting for; indeed, it is a tragic mistake even to try.

In his subtle way, Tolkien argues for a vision of individual and collective self-preservation that embraces a realistic view of human nature, including its limitations, even as it accepts difference and diversity. Moreover, Tolkien counsels robust self-defense in one’s own area- the homeland, which he calls the Shire- even as he advocates an overall modesty of heroic ambition. All in all, that’s not a bad approach for true conservatives, who appreciate the value of lumpy hodgepodge as opposed to artificially imposed universalisms.

So with Tolkien in mind, we might speak of the “Shire Strategy.” It’s simple: the Shire is ours, we want to keep it, and so we must defend it. Yet by the same principle, since others have their homelands and their rights, we should leave them alone, as long as they leave us alone. Live and let live. That’s not world-historical, merely practical. For us, after our recent spasm of universalism- the dogmatically narcissistic view that everyone, everywhere wants to be like us- it’s time for a healthy respite, moving toward an each-to-his-own particularism.

Tolkien comes to the particular through the peculiar, creating his Bosch-like wonderland of exotic beings: Elves, Orcs, Trolls, Wargs, Werewolves, Ents, Eastlings, Southrons. To audiences relentlessly tutored in the PC pieties of skin-deep multiculturalism, Tolkien offers a different sort of diversity- of genuine difference, with no pretense of similarity, let alone universal equality. In his world, it is perfectly natural that all creatures great and small- the Hobbits are indeed small, around three feet high- have their own place in the great chain of being.

So the Hobbits, low down on that chain, mind their own business. One of their aphorisms is the need to avoid “trouble too big for you.” Indeed, even Hobbits are subdivided into different breeds, each with its own traits. Frodo, for instance, is a Fallohide, not to be confused with a Harfoot or a Stoor. Tolkien wasn’t describing a clash of civilizations- he was setting forth an abundance of civilizations, each blooming and buzzing and doing its own thing.

In addition to the innate differences, Tolkien added a layer of tragic complexity: the enticement of power. Some races in Middle Earth were given Rings of Power- 19 in all, symbolizing technological might but also a metaphor for hubristic overreach: “Three Rings for Elven-kings under the sky/Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone/Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die.” One notes immediately that the Hobbits, along with other categories of being, have received no rings. Again, Tolkien’s world doesn’t pretend to be fair; we get what we are given, by the design (or maybe for the amusement) of greater powers. Only one threat endangers this yeasty diversity- the flowing tide of overweening universalism, emblemized by Sauron, who seeks to conquer the whole wide world, and everyone and everything in it

Of all the men and mice in Tolkien’s bestiary, the Hobbits are his favorite. Jolly good peasants that they are, Hobbits never hunger for martial fabulation or Riefenstahlian dramatization; their nature is to accomplish their mission first and brag about it only afterward. And the Hobbits’ biggest mission, of course, is the destruction of the One Ring. In Tolkien’s tale, there aren’t 19 Rings, as thought, but actually 20, and that 20th Ring, the One Ring, or Ruling Ring, is most to be feared. Loaded as it is with Wagnerian overtones, the One Ring is Tolkien’s symbol of evil, or, more precisely, it symbolizes temptation, which leads to evil. Even the dreaded Sauron is but a slave to his ambition to acquire the One Ring- and if Sauron can get it, then all hope for freedom and difference will be lost under his world-flattening tyranny.

Happily, unique among sentient beings, the Hobbits seem relatively immune to Ringed seduction. Hobbits like to smoke and drink, but all grander forms of world-girdling intoxication are lost on these simple folk. Hobbits just want their Shire to return to normalcy.

Enter Frodo, hero Hobbit. Tolkien, who served as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers during the Great War, modeled Frodo, admiringly, after the Tommies- the grunt infantrymen- who fought alongside him. Neither a defeatist nor a militarist, Tolkien admired those men who were simultaneously stoic and heroic. In the words of medieval historian Norman Cantor, “Frodo is not physically powerful, and his judgment is sometimes erratic. He wants not to bring about the golden era but to get rid of the Ring, to place it beyond the powers of evil; not to transform the world but to bring peace and quiet to the Shire.” Because of their innate modestly, only Hobbits have the hope of resisting the sorcery of the Ring. Frodo volunteers to carry the Ring to the lip of a volcano, Mt. Doom, there to cast it down and destroy it once and for all.

And even for Frodo, the task is not easy; he’s that lonely epic hero who wishes that none of this had happened. But as the wise Gandalf tells him, it was meant to happen And so it goes: events unfold to a successful but still bittersweet conclusion.

Indeed, the greatest desire for power, Ring-lust, is felt by men, not the lesser beings. And so when our heroes are confronted by two dangers- the danger from Sauron’s encroaching army, hunting for the Ring, and the infinitely direr prospect that Sauron might gain the Ring- it is a mostly virtuous man, Boromir, who is most sorely tempted. Don’t destroy the Ring, Boromir insists; use the Ring to repel Sauron: “Take it and go forth to victory!” In other words, use the Ring to guarantee triumph. But that’s Tolkien’s point: absolute power is always tempting- and always corrupting.

The good are good only as long as they resist temptation. A wise Elf, Elrond, answers Boromir: “We cannot use the Ruling Ring… the very desire of it corrupts the heart.” That is, a good man who uses the Ring automatically becomes a bad man, who would “set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear.” And so the varied group convened by Elrond- Elves, Dwarves, Men, and Hobbits- agrees to an arduous plan. The Council of Elrond will fight Sauron’s army through “conventional” means, while a smaller team, the Fellowship of the Ring, chiefly Frodo, crosses into enemy territory in hopes of destroying the sinister golden band. But as Tolkien makes clear, the Ring threatens to overwhelm everyone, and everything, with temptation.

Tolkien died in 1973. During his lifetime, and ever since, critics and pundits have put their own spin on his work. He was writing, it was said, about the totalitarian temptation. About the lure of fascism. Or maybe about the Circean song of communism. Or perhaps it was all a jeremiad aimed at industrialization. Each of these was, of course, a universalism, and so each was, in its way, antithetical to the natural variegation that Tolkien so treasured.

The author himself abjured simplistic allegorical explanation, perhaps in part to keep his multiple audiences happy. In the ’60s, for instance, the Hobbits were celebrated as proto-hippies, inspiring jokes about what might be tamped into their smoking pipes; the whole oeuvre was seen as a druggy trip. But Tolkien once confided, “’The Lord of the Rings’ is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” That is, Catholic in the sense that reality and history are complicated, that the world is rich in majesty and mystery, that human nature is but a poor vessel. In his world, the Shire is Christendom, and Christendom is the Shire.

Yet more than three decades after Tolkien’s death, new universalisms- new all-encompassing ideologies- have gained prominence, vexing, once again, tradition and difference throughout the world. One such universalism is capitalist globalism. In the late ’80s, Francis Fukuyama published his legendarily misguided piece “The End of History?” suggesting that the West had found The Answer. Madeleine Albright expressed similar hubris when she declared that America was “the indispensable nation.” And Thomas Friedman has since argued that everyone has to submit to “golden handcuffs,” managed by planetary financiers, even as the wondrous force of capitalism “flattens” the world. But of course, it took Paul Wolfowitz to bring Rousseau to life in another century: Uncle Sam would force people to be free. And how are these bright bold visions working out, in a world that includes so very many conflicts and tragedies?

“A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
- Aragorn the Strider, “The Lord of The Rings”

"How It Really Is"

“How to Learn to Love Disaster”

“How to Learn to Love Disaster”
By Bill Bonner

“I was in Paris when the end of the world came. My company there, Les Belles Lettres, has been publishing the Greek and Latin classics there since 1919. We’ve translated about 900 of the 1,200 texts that still exist. It seemed a shame that the world would end before we completed our work. So, I went into the office, where, amid a thick blue fog, I found Caroline – the CEO – energetically working her way through a carton of Marlboros. She was determined to go out doing the two things she loved most: promoting Aristotle and chain-smoking at her desk – screw the workplace tobacco ban; they can fine me in hell! Impressed with her attitude, I considered writing a nasty letter to the IRS. Maybe I’d park in a handicapped spot while I was at it... 

But first I needed to get coffee. At the nearby “café bar bistro,” however, there was no mention of the impending apocalypse. Apparently, management had decided to continue serving coffee right through the end of the world. Servi kaffe, pereat mundus. 

I looked at my watch. It was 11 a.m., the supposed ETA of our apocalypse. We were all still there. I was perplexed. Could it be that the Mayans were just as thick as the rest of us? Was it all just meaningless guesswork? What if their chief astrologer was one of Paul Krugman’s ancestors? Then it hit me: The Mayans were based in South America. They probably used Eastern Standard Time! But 11 a.m. EST rolled around, and the world was no more destroyed. Caroline tossed her empty carton in the trash and sighed. The cosmos had spared us. That’s the trouble with natural disasters. They never quite show up when they’re supposed to. And for card-carrying doom and gloomers like me, they are a source of much disappointment.

Napoleon’s Hubris: Man-made disasters, on the other hand, are not only far more frequent, but also far more predictable. They’re also extremely entertaining... assuming, of course, you’re into that sort of thing. Take, for instance, one of the worst military campaigns in history: Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. 

Up until then, Napoleon’s career had been a spectacular success. He could seemingly get away with anything. By the time the French senate proclaimed him emperor in 1804, he was already regarded as the greatest military genius who had ever lived. So when he decided to invade Russia, no one blinked… 

No one besides Armand Augustin Louis de Caulaincourt, Napoleon’s longtime aide-de-camp, that is. He knew better. He had been to Russia. Napoleon had sent him there as the French ambassador. He knew invading Russia was a bad idea. He warned Napoleon of the terrible weather, the bad roads and the savage people. He begged him not to go. It would be the ruin of France, he said. Napoleon ignored him… and a few months later, there they both were – freezing their rear ends off as they fled the smoldering ruins of Moscow. 

We have a chart in our library at home that shows what happened next. It records the temperature dropping to -30°C, as the size of the French army dropped along with it. Soldiers burned down barns to try to get warm, but many of them froze. The Russian army shot many of those who survived the cold; still others were attacked by partisans on the roads, packs of wolves in the forests, and prisoners the czar had released into the city streets. If that didn’t get them, they starved to death. Napoleon entered Russia with 300,000 troops. Only 10,000 got out. 

I told this story to my kids over and over again as they were growing up. I can tell you with some confidence that it has had beneficial effects. None of my children will ever invade Russia. They won’t make that mistake! 

It’s Time to Get Out…: Knowledge of Napoleon’s 19th-century disaster didn’t dissuade Adolf Hitler from repeating it in the 20th century on a larger scale. And Hitler was certainly aware of the dangers. The famous German war strategist Carl von Clausewitz wrote extensively on Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion. 

August von Kageneck’s history of the German army’s 18th regiment on the Eastern Front in War War II contains a delightful anecdote to this end. The regiment had been annihilated, rebuilt and annihilated again. Finally, near the end of the war, the Russians captured the remnants of it.  A Soviet interrogator with a sense of humor posed a question to the survivors: “Haven’t any of you ever read von Clausewitz?” None of the prisoners raised his hand. 

Why do these disasters happen? That’s what I set out to explore in "Hormegeddon." To use the words of the Scottish poet Bobby Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men “gang aft agley.” Is that Scots dialect? I don’t know. But the sense of it is probably best captured in the old Navy expression: go FUBAR. The last three letters of that mean “beyond all recognition.” The first two I will leave you to figure out for yourself. 

History is a long tale of things that went FUBAR – debacles, disasters and catastrophes. That is what makes it fun to study. And maybe even useful. Each disaster carries with it a warning. For example, if the Sioux have assembled a vast war party out on the plains, don’t put on your best uniform and ride out to the Little Bighorn to have a look. If the architect of a great ship tells you that “not even God himself could sink this ship,” take the next boat! 

When you are up against a superior enemy – like Fabius Maximus against Hannibal – don’t engage in battle. Instead, delay... procrastinate... dodge him… wear him down… until you are in a better position. And if the stock market is selling at 20 times earnings... and all your friends, analysts and experts urge you to “get in” because you “can’t lose” – it’s time to get out!”

"Make Them Laugh..."

Look, it's all going to Hell in a handbasket, that's obvious... The economy, wars, climate change, loss of civil liberties, the existence of a very real police state, and worst of all Fukushima, the ultimate and final nightmare. The least we can do is try to understand how and why, and who and what's taking us there, don't you think?
- CP

"Asteroid Strikes, Plague, and Economic Meltdown: Government Shutdown 2018!" by The Daily Bell

"Asteroid Strikes, Plague, and Economic Meltdown:
 Government Shutdown 2018!"
by The Daily Bell

"Asteroid strikes, flu plague, and economic meltdown. According to CNN, that is what we should fear from this “government shutdown.” People have to hype it up in order to give the impression that the government matters. In reality, this just reveals why we shouldn’t trust the government to do anything essential in our lives. If political fights in DC can put people at that kind of risk, then we should get these services from organizations that have incentives to deliver.

Congressmen won’t lose their jobs over this, except in the unlikely event the voters from their district fire them. More likely they will blame representatives from other districts. But without Congress luring us into a false sense of security, other organizations would fill the gap.

For instance, who might have an incentive to make sure a public outbreak of the flu doesn’t become epidemic? I would bet health insurance companies would be interested in saving costs by monitoring the flu’s progression. They would save money purchasing services from an agency that monitors and sells disease data.

As for the economic meltdown, this is another iteration of the broken window fallacy. This is the incorrect idea that the economy is stimulated by a broken window due to the money spent replacing the window. But since resources are limited, the truth is that a window will be made instead of something else. So whoever has to buy the new window will have to spend less on, say, going out to dinner.

And the same holds true for non-essential government services. It’s right there: non-essential. These things are not necessary but have become a mundane recipient of bloated government funding.

It is painful in the short term because now you have hundreds of thousands of people without a paycheck. But if the government never hired them in the first place, and didn’t take that money from the taxpayers, then those people would have to work in the productive sector. Their jobs would be based on demand, not whatever Congress thinks is a good idea. And some of their jobs may still exist if they were moved to the private sector. You can bet they wouldn’t be randomly furloughed when management couldn’t reach an agreement. Companies need to be profitable, or heads roll.

Don’t Worry, Security Services Will Go on Operating: We need the government to keep us safe from asteroids, disease, and poverty. But their services apparently hang by a thread, with one argument over funding plunging the USA into turmoil.

Speaking of this false sense of security, workers for the CIA, FBI, and Homeland Security will still show up to work. Their prowess and determination to keep us safe is unrivaled. Except perhaps the competency of these agencies is rivaled by a pissed off 15-year-old boy. Now 18, the British teenager will be sentenced for hacking into former CIA Director John Brennan’s email and gaining access to CIA passwords and files. He obtained contact lists as well as sensitive information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson was also hacked.

He also targeted the ex-deputy director of the FBI Mark Giuliano and James Clapper, director of national intelligence under Obama, as well as their families. He boasted about carrying out “the best breach ever” after accessing an FBI database to get the names of 1,000 staff and details of the officer responsible for the notorious shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The information Gamble gathered was later used to carry out a “swatting” attack on John Holdren, a science and technology adviser to US President Barack Obama, resulting in armed officers being sent to Mr Holdren’s family home.

So basically one teenager using the computer in his bedroom was a match for the top security officials in the United States government. And they are supposed to win wars, thwart terrorism, and stop crime.

We need to shut down more of the government.”