Monday, December 11, 2017

Musical Interlude: The Call, "Let The Day Begin"

The Call, “Let The Day Begin”

"But Not You..."

"Let others lead small lives, but not you.
Let others argue over small things, but not you.
Let others cry over small hurts, but not you.
Let others leave their future in someone else's hands, but not you."
- Jim Rohn

"Americans..."

"A Gift From The Oldies"

"A Gift From The Oldies"

"I bumped into a friendly bloke at my local gym last week. Jim is his name. Jim tells me he just started because, and I quote, "my doctor says I'm going to die unless I do something". Now, I assure you it doesn't take a doctor to figure this out. One glance in Jim's direction and you can tell that underneath all that weight there's a big struggling heart in there... just ready to explode. He was surprisingly frank and tells me it's so bad that he can only do little bits of exercise because if he pushes it too hard, there is a very serious risk that his ticker just says, "You know what... f*ck it," and gives up.

Jim's 52, which is really a ripe old age and about normal life expectancy - if we lived in the 1700's. But we don't. I feel for Jim, told him so, and naturally we all hope that he can bring himself back from the brink. But the fact is many people aren't like Jim. As mentioned in a previous article on pensions, they're living longer and stronger.

Years ago it seemed that when you hit 65 you’d retire, receive a gold watch, and proceed to spend your pension money on a rocking chair and pot plants. Ten years later you’d be in a box and, since pot plants are cheap, the cost of keeping you alive wasn’t prohibitive. Not anymore. Today things are different. My wife belongs to a running club and there are a bunch of octogenarians there who put us both to shame. Nope, today you retire and spend your pension on kickboxing classes and second wives, with no plan of dying anytime soon.

Now, this second group (our kickboxing oldies) pose a grave problem. You see, unlike Jim, these folks, who’ve spent their life exercising, go on and on and on. 70 is spring chicken young for them, and many make it well into their 80's and 90's when inevitably they need nappies, nursing care, accommodation, and mushy food to eat. And then finally machines on wheels need to be wheeled in and they end up with tubes in their noses. Don't laugh. We're all going to get there, unless we're fortunate enough to just drop dead quick and fast. The point is this all costs a boatload of money.

Now, I'm aware that this topic isn't rosy Friday red or shampoo advert fresh and clean, but there are some serious implications that I think you'll thank me for so hear me out.

Demographics and Pensions: Demographics is an elephant in the room we shouldn't ignore. It's stomped around, defecated in the corner, and is now proceeding to knock over all the furniture. Ignore it at your peril. Rather, there are a number of ways to invest. Let's explore a few...

Old people (Mabel and Bob) pay for their retirements with pensions, and those pensions are held in pooled accounts at the DTC and managed by folks with pointy shoes and Tom Ford suits. And because old Mabel and Bob are closer to the box than younger folks, the pointy shoed gents are extremely risk averse (as they should be), and this is where it gets exciting because you know what? They're presently engaged in the worst possible leveraged speculation you can think of.

Nope, it's not BitcoinFirst, to understand the insanity we have to take a step back and examine how these pointy shoed gents think. They like fixed income because it's far less volatile and ostensibly less risky than equities. They hate small caps and frankly can't invest in them due to their size, and they have a disdain for commodity markets. That volatility thing again... In fact, volatility is like a barometer in their world by which everything else is measured.

The problem is with central banks shatbit crazy interest rate policies none of them have been able to make any money in a yield starved world and so they're, wait for it, selling volatility. Either through tailor made products from the investment banks or by buying any number of the low volatility ETPs out there. Volatility isn't even an asset. In fact, the VIX is an index of volatility on 1 month to expiry ATM puts and calls on stocks in the S&P 500.

But now the geniuses on Wall Street have figured that they can actually package this animal, which as you can see, is a derivative of a derivative, and treat it like a bond. Fun, heh? In all fairness, hats off to the asset managers who've had the balls to do this. They believed in the central banks' liquidity machine, and they backed their belief and for that they deserve to be paid. I sure wouldn't have been able to do it.

Now, I'm not some miserable jealous git here to tell you that armageddon is coming and I've the answers.God knows there's enough of that nonsense in the financial publishing blogosphere for you to get your fill elsewhere. What we do know, however, is that this entire game: the selling of vol, the passive indexing - all of it is predicated on one thing. The central banks keeping rates low and pumping liquidity into the market. It's why BTFD has become a meme.

The problem that I have with it, other than the distortions made, is that when so many are on one side of the boat like right now and that boat has many moving pieces, then I begin to wonder. I'm reminded that markets change at the margin, where the slightest hiccup can act like a spark to light the fire of volatility, and these poor suckers who've managed to earn steady incomes selling puts find out what "unlimited risk" actually looks like as they're forced to cover in a market that's gapping the other way.

I've thought about this a lot and, in fact, we recently published how we are going "long vol" for members. And no, it's not buying puts on VIX because that is, in my humble opinion... how do I say this politely, like begging to be stabbed in the eyes. repeatedly.

In any event that's just one angle to this market. Here's another.

Redemptions: I would be remiss in mentioning that as retirees retire, these pension funds will be drawn down. It's what Mabel and Bob do to pay for their mushy food, viagra, and bingo nights. Now, I'm sure you're all sharp enough to figure out what can happen to the assets these guys have been buying when they have to go from flat out full throttle, to stall, to reverse.

How big is this problem? Well, for some context global institutional pension fund assets in 22 major markets stood at US$36.4 trillion at year end 2016, amounting to 62% of global GDP. That is a staggeringly large amount of money.

Pension funds are big cumbersome dumb money. And they're all allocated in equally dumb indexes, passive strategies, and bonds. So what happens when pensioners draw down on their funds? You tell me... Talking of staggeringly large amounts of money, the passive bubble grows bigger as I write this because this beast is fuelled not just by our pointy shoed friends but by Joe Sixpack himself.
Bloomberg just ran a piece: "BlackRock and Vanguard Are Less Than a Decade Away From Managing $20 Trillion." "Two towers of power are dominating the future of investing." Dominating indeed. Here's how come the pointy shoed crowd can afford Tom Ford suits. The article goes on to say: "Investors from individuals to large institutions such as pension and hedge funds have flocked to this duo, won over in part by their low-cost funds and breadth of offerings. The proliferation of exchange-traded funds is also supercharging these firms and will likely continue to do so."

Sometimes when everyone is zigging and you zag, you just get run over. But think about it... We don't need to go the other way. All we need to do is look where others are no longer. These behemoths don't do battle in the little unloved sectors or with stocks that don't make it into an index. They can't because they're too big. This means that there are a lot of orphans out there and here's the good news. If it's not in an index, passives aren't buying it. And if passives aren't buying it, it's only active money that's even looking at it. Which brings me to the double helping of good news.

Here's your competition in active with the accompanying passive.
Right now, it's a mosh pit food fight to grab and create the next index or ETF so that more capital can be attracted, earning more fees, buying more suits. This is all well and good. Markets do what markets do, and I'm not here to grumble about it. I'm here to make money. And indeed if I was in the passive business, I'd be enjoying the steady stream of fees and hoping like hell the market keeps going up. QE more? Yes, please. But I'm not.

I'm a humble squirrel searching for nuts in the forest. And gosh, with all this moshing going on it's wonderful how few other squirrels there are about. The same Bloomberg article makes a good point on this. “While bigger may be better for the fund giants, passive funds may be blurring the inherent value of securities, implied in a company’s earnings or cash flow.”

Nah. You think? Stocks in the index funds no longer trade on fundamentals but rather on asset flows, which sucks the oxygen out of the small guys who don't make it into the indexes where brain dead passive money is playing. It means we can gladly play in a sandpit with all the toys and there are very few we have to share them with.

The Cracks Have Already Appeared: Nothing lasts forever, and as I argued when discussing the impact of the incoming strong men on the global economy, there are 3 critical points worth thinking about:

Political cohesion and stability can no longer be relied upon as politics becomes inward looking with everything from trade deals to central bank swap lines being renegotiated or cancelled altogether.
Global coordinated central bank action. The era of global coordinated monetary policy which we’ve been experiencing since the GFC, especially with the three largest players (ECB, FED and BOJ), will be looked back upon with nostalgia by the current clutch of central bankers who muddy the halls of power. Policy will increasingly be driven with greater sensitivity to nationalist rather than international concerns, which brings me to…
Liquidity in the financial system which has stemmed from easing monetary policy is already contracting. In a world where derivatives traverse borders, connecting financial systems like never before, a liquidity crisis presents enormous tail risk in a leveraged world. Invest accordingly, and thank you for reading."
Liked this article? Then you'll probably like my other missives on
Now, who could argue with that?

“Abracadabra”

“Abracadabra”
by James Howard Kunstler

“And so, as they say in the horror movies, it begins…! The unwinding of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet. Such an esoteric concept! Is there one in ten thousand of the millions of people who sit at desks all day long from sea to shining sea who have a clue how this works? Or what its relationship is to the real world?

I confess, my understanding of it is incomplete and schematic at best - in the way that my understanding of a Las Vegas magic act might be. All the flash and dazzle conceals the magician’s misdirection. The magician is either a scary supernatural being or a magnificent fraud. Anyway, the audience ‘out there’ for the Federal Reserve’s magic act - x-million people preoccupied by their futures slipping away, their cars falling apart, their kid’s $53,000 college loan burden, or the $6,000 bill they just received for going to the emergency room with a cut finger - wouldn’t give a good goddamn even if they knew the Fed’s magic show was going on.

So, the Fed has this thing called a balance sheet, which is actually a computer file, filled with entries that denote securities that it holds. These securities, mostly US government bonds of various categories and bundles of mortgages wrangled together by the mysterious government-sponsored entity called Freddie Mac, represent about $4.5 trillion in debt. They’re IOUs that supposedly pay interest for a set number of years. When that term of years expires, the Fed gets back the money it loaned, which is called the principal. Ahhhh, here’s the cute part!

You see, the money that the Fed loaned to the US government (in exchange for a bond) was never there in the first place. The Fed prestidigitated it out of an alternate universe. They gave this money to a “primary dealer” bank in exchange for the bond, which the bank abracadabraed up for the US Treasury. Well, not really. In fact, the Fed just made a notation on the bank’s “reserve” account that the money from the alternate universe appeared there. Somehow that money was sent via a virtual pneumatic tube to the US Treasury, where it was used to pay for drones to blow up Yemeni wedding parties, and for the Secret Service to visit pole dancing bars when the president traveled to foreign lands.

Here’s the fun part. The Fed announces that it is going to shed this nasty debt, at about $10 billion worth a month starting this past October. Their stated goal is to reach an ultimate wind-down velocity of $50 billion a month (cue laugh track). If they ever get there (cue laugh track) it would take 20 years to complete the wind-down. The chance of that happening is about the same as the chance that Janet Yellen will come down your chimney on December 24 with a sack-full of chocolate Bitcoins. But never mind the long view for the moment.

One way they plan to accomplish this feat is to “roll off” the bonds. That is, when the bonds mature - i.e. come to the end of their term - they will cease to exist. Poof! Wait a minute! When a bond matures, the issuer has to send the principal back to the lender. After all, the Fed lent the US Treasury X-billion dollars, the US Treasury paid interest on the loan for X-years, and now it has to fork over the full value of the loan (hopefully in dollars that have magically inflated over the years and are now worth less than when they were borrowed - another magic trick!). But that doesn’t happen.

Instead, when the theoretical principal is returned to the Fed, the Fed disappears the money, like the girl in a bikini onstage who enters the magician’s sacred box and vanishes. Now you see her, now you don’t. The explanation, of course, might be that the money was never really there in the first place, so it makes sense to fire it back to the alternative universe it came from. Well, uh, I guess….

The catch is: for a while it was here on earth and folks were doing stuff with it, such as the aforementioned drone strikes and pole dancers. Not only that, but the “primary dealer” banks were allowed to loan out ten times the reserve minimum denoted on their Fed accounts for participating in the scheme. Who did they lend all that money to? Apparently, a lot of it went to corporations who borrowed it at ultra-low interest rates in order to buy back their own stock, which paid dividends way higher than the interest rate they borrowed at to buy the stuff, and which also pumped up the share value of the stocks, which also happened to make the executives of the corporations way richer in terms of their stock options and bonuses (awarded for boosting the share value of the stock!).

And so, shazzam: I give you the one-percent! And a bankrupt United States of America.

And don’t even ask about all those bundles of janky Freddie Mac mortgages fobbed off on the Fed. The reason they did that in the first place was because those mortgages weren’t being paid off, and the banks and insurance companies that held them were choking to death on them. So they parked them in a crawl space under the Fed’s Eccles Building in Washington, hoping they would just turn to compost. And guess what: they’re no more valuable now then they were then. File that one under Necrophilia.”
http://kunstler.com/

Related:
“The Biggest Bubble Ever, In Three Charts”
http://www.zerohedge.com/

And the band played on...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"A Voice Within..."

“How do the geese know when to fly to the sun?  Who tells them the seasons?  How do we, humans, know when it is time to move on?  As with the migrant birds, so surely with us; there is a voice within, if only we would listen to it, that tells us so certainly when to go forth into the unknown.”
- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

X22 Report, “Central Banks Are Ready To Fight To The End To Protect Their Economic System”

X22 Report, “Central Banks Are Ready To Fight To 
The End To Protect Their Economic System”
Related followup report:
X22 Report, “Did The Arab League Just Threaten The
 Petro Dollar With A Move To The Petro Yuan?”

Musical Interlude: Kevin Kern, “Another Realm”

Kevin Kern, “Another Realm” 

"A Look to the Heavens"

“This composition in stardust covers over 8 degrees on the northern sky. The mosaicked field of view is west of the familiar Pleiades star cluster, toward the zodiacal constellation Aries and the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. At right in the deep skyscape is bluish Epsilon Arietis, a star visible to the naked-eye and about 330 light-years away. 
Click image for larger size.
Reflecting starlight in the region, dusty nebulae LBN762, LBN753, and LBN743 sprawl left to right across the field, but are likely some 1,000 light-years away. At that estimated distance, the cosmic canvas is over 140 light-years across. Near the edge of a large molecular cloud, their dark interiors can hide newly formed stars and young stellar objects or protostars from prying optical telescopes. Collapsing due to self-gravity, the protostars form around dense cores embedded in the molecular cloud.”

"How Adults Can Survive A Childhood of Violence and Untruth"

"How Adults Can Survive A Childhood of Violence and Untruth"
by Michael Pastore

"Fear and love cannot live together...
Blows are used to correct brute beasts."
- Seneca,
 (Roman philosopher, author, politician, 4 B.C.E. to C.E. 65)

"Two thousand years ago, the people of ancient Rome cheered enthusiastically as they watched gladiators fight each other to the death, and saw innocent persons torn to pieces by wild beasts. In that same era, Roman teachers practiced corporal punishment on a daily basis. The Roman schools were stocked with a variety of instruments used to beat children, including the ferula (a bundle of switches made from birch branches), the scutia (a whip made of leather straps), and the flagellum (a whip made of straps from ox-hide, the hardest available leather).

Although feeding slaves to lions and beating children in schools were acceptable practices to the mass of Roman citizens, occasionally a voice of protest cried out. The rhetorician Quintilian (C.E. 35 to C.E. 95) wrote: "I am entirely against the practice of corporal punishment in education, although it is widespread. In the first place it is disgusting and slavish treatment, which would certainly be regarded as an insult if it were not inflicted on boys. Further, the pupil whose mind is too coarse to be improved by censure will become as indifferent to blows as the worst of slaves. Finally, these chastisements would be entirely unnecessary if the teachers were patient and helpful." After blaming teachers for failing to induce students to do what is right, and then asking how corporal punishers could possibly handle boys who cannot be influenced by fear, Quintilian adds: "And consider how shameful, how dangerous to modesty are the effects produced by the pain or fear of the victims. This feeling of shame cripples and unmans the spirit, making it flee from and detest the light of day."

Most Americans would condemn the Roman practices as backward, barbaric, and cruel. To me, it is remarkable that a similar savagery - the child abuse in our own homes and schools - is discussed so rarely, coldly, and superficially in American newspapers, television programs, and books. Our culture is poisoned by violence against children. In the year 2000, the US Department of Health and Human Services received 3 million reports of child maltreatment involving 5 million American children. Approximately 879,000 children (of the 5 million reported) were confirmed victims of child maltreatment, comprising neglect and medical neglect (63%), physical abuse (19%), sexual abuse (10%), and psychological maltreatment (8%). These numbers do not include the 400,000 children who were paddled that year - legally paddled - in American schools.

How can we explain the lack of private awareness and public action regarding the way we bruise and bully our beloved boys and girls? Where is the outrage from our authors and university professors who specialize in these fields? It appears to me that these thinkers have failed to understand the one most important thing: the essence of human nature. Like the church, too many writers have bellowed that children are inherently evil, and therefore - outside of heaven - there is little chance for individual fulfillment or social progress. This most dangerous myth - that babies are born with evil genes and children are by nature violent creatures - yielded a Nobel Prize for Literature to the author of that puerile fable, "Lord of The Flies."

Fortunately, we can still find authors who believe that children are born good: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, A.S. Neill, Erich Fromm, Ashley Montagu, Abraham Maslow, Colin Wilson. One more writer must be added to this prestigious list. Throughout the past twenty years, the psychiatrist Alice Miller has been the most passionate and articulate advocate for every child's natural goodness, and for each child's right to live free from violence. Miller's previous books include "For Your Own Good" (1983); "Thou Shalt Not Be Aware" (1985); "The Drama of the Gifted Child" (revised edtiton,1996); "Banished Knowledge" (1997); and "Paths of Life" (1998). Miller's latest work - "The Truth Will Set You Free" - draws on the wisdom of the earlier volumes, but also introduces many new ideas.

Miller's argument, in "The Truth Will Set You Free" might be summarized as something like this:
1. Many adults manage their children with parenting and teaching methods which employ physical or emotional violence against the child.
2. Because of this violent treatment, the children grow up blind to the dangers of violent parenting, and out of touch with their true feelings and needs.
3. When these children grow to become teachers and parents, they will practice these same violent methods against their own children.
4. This cycle of "violence breeds more violence" can be broken, and abused adults can heal themselves and become nonviolent parents.

Miller begins by explaining, with many examples, how and why childhood reality is avoided "in six fields where we should expect precisely the opposite: medicine, psychotherapy, politics, the penal system, religion, and biography." Miller's next section, 'How We Are Struck Emotionally Blind', offers an explanation for the remarkable and often-repeated story: "A father will beat his son and humiliate him with sarcastic remarks but not have any memory whatever of having been similarly humiliated by his own father." In the third part of the book, Miller offers examples of courageous adults who have healed themselves despite long histories of parental abuse.

Miller offers a stunning explanation about the mystery: "Why do people refuse to see and change their actions which are harmful to themselves and others?" In a previous book, "Paths Of Life "(1998), Miller says: "People subjected to mistreatment in childhood may go on insisting all their lives that beatings are harmless and corporal punishment is salutary, although there is overwhelming, indeed conclusive, evidence to the contrary." Written from the heart, this book explains the causes of our problems, and provides jargon-free solutions that work. Miller writes: "As a therapist I know that we can free ourselves from inherited patterns if we can find someone to believe us and stand by us, someone who instead of moralizing wants to help us live with the truth." Along our road to individual freedom it is necessary for us to find what Miller calls an enlightened witness: a therapist, teacher, lawyer, or writer who is well-informed, open-minded, and willing to listen to the painful personal truths we need to tell.

In focusing on self-revelation as the key to freedom, Miller reminds me of the brilliant but neglected psychologist Sidney M. Jourard. In "The Transparent Self," Jourard writes: "We camouflage our true being before others to protect ourselves against criticism or rejection. This protection comes at a steep price. When we are not truly known by the other people in our lives, we are misunderstood. When we are misunderstood, especially by family and friends, we join the "lonely crowd." Worse, when we succeed in hiding our being from others, we tend to lose touch with our real selves. This loss of self contributes to illness in its myriad forms." Jourard died in an accident at age 48 - only three years after the 1971 revised edition of "The Transparent Self "- too young to nurture his theory with the kind of real-life examples that make it more potent and therapeutic. Alice Miller has done this: filled her works with numerous examples of individuals who struggle and succeed in expressing their true selves in words and deeds. Miller's book is so honest about the lives of specific individuals, it reveals the inner life of us all.

"The Truth Will Set You Free" is a Alice Miller's masterpiece, which shows us how we can face the darkest secrets of our painful childhoods, and emerge with hope, courage, and insights for living our lives more genuinely - more tenderly - with ourselves, and with the family and friends we care about. In my copy of the book I have marked scores of passages, passages that corroborate my intuitions and personal experiences working with children and adults of all ages and backgrounds. The book, with its stream of brilliant observations and profound ideas, moved me in ways that are too deep to express in words.

"Trust men," writes R.W. Emerson, "and they will be true to you." Inspired by Miller's book, I now understand much more clearly how to listen, and how to help other persons to free themselves by sharing the depths of their hearts and souls. And there is one more essential lesson that this book may teach. Happy children with healthy childhoods are an endangered species. All of us involved in the helping professions must actively work to create a culture where violence against children, in all forms, is replaced with the three most beautiful human gifts: reason, sincerity, and love."

"Survival..."

"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."
- W. Edwards Deming

"‘Soul-Crushing’: Filmmaker Captures ‘Slow, Painful Death’ Of Starving Polar Bear"

"‘Soul-Crushing’: Filmmaker Captures ‘Slow, 
Painful Death’ Of Starving Polar Bear"
by RT

"Footage of a starving polar bear clinging to life in the Canadian Arctic has highlighted one of the most devastating effects of climate change. When photographer Paul Nicklen and filmmakers from conservation group Sea Legacy arrived in the Baffin Islands, they came across a heartbreaking sight: a starving polar bear on its deathbed.

Nicklen is no stranger to bears. From the time he was a child growing up in Canada's far north the biologist turned wildlife photographer has seen over 3,000 bears in the wild. But the emaciated polar bear, featured in videos Nicklen published to social media on December 5, was one of the most gut-wrenching sights he's ever seen. "We stood there crying - filming with tears rolling down our cheeks," he said.

Video shows the polar bear clinging to life, its white hair limply covering its thin, bony frame. One of the bear's back legs drags behind it as it walks, likely due to muscle atrophy. Looking for food, the polar bear slowly rummages through a nearby trashcan used seasonally by Inuit fishers. It finds nothing and resignedly collapses back down onto the ground.

In the days since Nicklen posted the footage, he's been asked why he didn’t intervene. "Of course, that crossed my mind," said Nicklen. "But it's not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat." And even if he did, said Nicklen, he only would have been prolonging the bear's misery. Plus, feeding wild polar bears is illegal in Canada.

The wildlife photographer says he filmed the bear's slow, beleaguered death because he didn't want it to die in vain. "When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death," said Nicklen. "This is what a starving bear looks like." The emaciated bear was filmed just “hours or days” from death as it searched for food on the barren and iceless Baffin Island - Canada’s largest and the fifth largest in the world. The heartbreaking footage was captured by the conservation group Sea Legacy while filming a documentary over the summer.
“My entire Sea Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear,” wrote photographer Paul Nicklen in the lengthy caption accompanying the video, shared on Instagram. “This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death.”

"My entire @Sea_Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear. It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy. This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death. When scientists say polar bears will be extinct in the next 100 years, I think of the global population of 25,000 bears dying in this manner. There is no band aid solution. There was no saving this individual bear. People think that we can put platforms in the ocean or we can feed the odd starving bear. The simple truth is this - if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems. This large male bear was not old, and he certainly died within hours or days of this moment. But there are solutions. We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth - our home - first. Please join us at @sea_legacy as we search for and implement solutions for the oceans and the animals that rely on them - including us humans."

The heartbreaking footage shows the bear fruitlessly searching for food inside abandoned trash cans with little luck. Nicklen didn’t think the bear was old but said its condition was bad enough to expect it to die within hours of filming.

“As temperatures rise and sea ice melts, polar bears lose access to the main staple of their diets – seals,” Nicklen noted. “Starving, and running out of energy, they are forced to wander into human settlements for any source of food.”

Responding to criticism as to why the film crew didn’t come to the bear’s aid, Nicklen explained that the team were forced to choose between saving a single bear, or enlightening the world to the pain and suffering felt by the remaining 25,000 polar bears facing extinction within the next 100 years. “It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy,” he wrote.

“There is no band aid solution. There was no saving this individual bear. People think that we can put platforms in the ocean or we can feed the odd starving bear. The simple truth is this - if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems.”
I vehemently disagree with the decision not to intervene and help this bear, laws be damned! No, you can't save them all, but if you can save that one, or do everything possible to try to save it, you do it! It would have made a difference to that one... - CP
"The Legend of the Starfish"
Author Unknown

"A vacationing businessman was walking along a beach when he saw a young boy. Along the shore were many starfish that had been washed up by the tide and were sure to die before the tide returned. The boy was walking slowly along the shore and occasionally reached down and tossed the beached starfish back into the ocean.

The businessman, hoping to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, walked up to the boy and said, “I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day. Surely such an industrious and kind hearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?” The boy looked up at the man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, “It makes a difference to that one.”

“Loving Your Servitude”

“Loving Your Servitude”
by James Quinn

“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.” 
– Aldous Huxley, "Brave New World Revisited"

"When I critically scrutinize the economic, political, financial, and social landscape at this point in history, I come to the inescapable conclusion that our country and world are headed into the abyss. This is most certainly a minority viewpoint. The majority of people in this country are oblivious to the disaster that will arrive over the next decade. Some would attribute this willful ignorance to the normalcy bias that infects the psyches of millions of ostrich-like iGadget distracted, Facebook and Twitter addicted, government educated, financially illiterate, mass media manipulated zombies. Normalcy bias refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to inform the populace about the impending disaster. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster hasn’t occurred yet, then it will never occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with the disaster once it occurs. People tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.

“We live surrounded by a systematic appeal to a dream world which all mature, scientific reality would reject. We, quite literally, advertise our commitment to immaturity, mendacity and profound gullibility. It is as the hallmark of the culture. And it is justified as being economically indispensable.”
- John Kenneth Galbraith

The unsustainability of our economic system built upon assumptions of exponential growth, ever expanding debt, increasing consumer spending, unlimited supplies of cheap easy to access oil, impossible to honor entitlement promises, and a dash of mass delusion should be apparent to even the dullest of government public school educated drones inhabiting this country. I don’t attribute this willful ignorance to normalcy bias. I attribute it to abnormalcy bias. In a profoundly abnormal society, adjusting your thinking to fit in appears normal, but is just a symptom of the disease that has infected our culture. There is nothing normal about anything in our society today. If you were magically transported back to 1996 and described to someone the economic, political, financial and social landscape in 2017, they would have had you committed to a mental institution and given shock therapy.
      
“Liberty is lost through complacency and a subservient mindset. When we accept or even welcome automobile checkpoints, random searches, mandatory identification cards, and paramilitary police in our streets, we have lost a vital part of our American heritage. America was born of protest, revolution, and mistrust of government. Subservient societies neither maintain nor deserve freedom for long.” – Ron Paul

The most disgraceful example of abnormality that has infected our culture has been the cowardice and docile acquiescence of the citizenry in allowing an ever expanding police state to shred the U.S. Constitution, strip us of our freedoms, and restrict our liberties. Our keepers have not let any crisis go to waste in the last nineteen years. They have also taken advantage of the willful ignorance, childish immaturity, extreme gullibility, historical cluelessness, financial illiteracy and techno-narcissism of the populace to reverse practical legislation and prey upon irrational fears to strip the people of their constitutionally guaranteed liberties and freedoms. If you had told someone in 1996 the security measures, laws, and police agencies that would exist in 2017, they would have laughed you out of the room. Every crisis, whether government created or just convenient to their agenda, has been utilized by the oligarchs to expand the police state and benefit the crony capitalists that profit from its expansion. The character of the American people has been found wanting as they obediently cower and beg for protection from unseen evil doers. The propagandist corporate media reinforces their fears and instructs them to submissively tremble and implore the government to do more. The cosmic obliviousness and limitless sense of complacency of the general population with regards to a blatantly obvious coup by a small cadre of sociopathic financial elite and their army of bureaucrats, lackeys and jackboots is a wonder to behold.    

The 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression was primarily the result of excessively loose Federal Reserve monetary policy during the Roaring 20’s and the unrestrained fraud perpetrated by the Wall Street banks. The 1933 Glass-Steagall Act was a practical 38 page law which kept Wall Street from ravenously raping its customers and the American people for almost seven decades. The Wall Street elite and their bought off political hacks in both parties repealed this law in 1999, while simultaneously squashing any effort to regulate the financial derivatives market. The day trading American public didn’t even look up from their computer screens. Over the next nine years Wall Street went on a fraudulent feeding frenzy rampage which brought the country to its knees and then held the American taxpayer at gunpoint to bail them out. The Federal Reserve arranged rescue of LTCM in 1998 gave the all clear to Wall Street that any risk was acceptable, since the Fed would always bail them out. Just as they did in the 1920’s, the Federal Reserve set the table for financial disaster with excessively low interest rates and non-existent regulatory oversight.           

The downward spiral of our empire towards an Orwellian/Huxley merged dystopian nightmare accelerated after the 9/11 attacks. Within one month those looking to exert hegemony over all domestic malcontents had passed the 366 page, 58,000 words Patriot Act. Did the terrified masses ask how such a comprehensive destruction of our liberties could be written in under one month? It is apparent to anyone with critical thinking skills that the enemy within had this bill written, waiting for the ideal opportunity to implement this unprecedented expansion of federal police power. Electronic surveillance of our emails, phone calls and voice mails, along with warrantless wiretaps, and general loss of civil liberties was passed without question under the guise of protecting us. Next was the invasion of a foreign country based upon lies, propaganda and misinformation without a declaration of war, as required by the Constitution. Our government began torturing suspects in secret foreign prisons. 


The shallow, self-centered, narcissistic, Facebook fanatic populace has barely looked up from texting on their iPhones to notice that we have been at war in the Middle East for sixteen years, because it hasn’t interfered with their weekly viewing of "The Kardashians", "Big Brother After Dark", or "Jerry Springer". They occasionally leave their homes to wave a flag and chant “USA, USA, USA”, as directed by the media, when a terrorist like Bin Laden or Boston bomber is offed by our security services, but for the most part they can live their superficial vacuous lives of triviality unscathed by war.

The creation of the Orwellian Department of Homeland Security ushered in a further encroachment of our everyday freedoms. They attempted to keep the masses frightened through a ridiculous color coded fear index. Little old ladies, people in wheelchairs and little children are subject to molestation by lowlife TSA perverts. Military units conduct “training exercises” in cities across the country to desensitize the sheep-like masses, who fail to acknowledge that the U.S. military cannot constitutionally be used domestically. DHS considers military veterans, Ron Paul supporters, and Christians as potential enemies of the state. The use of predator drones to murder suspected adversaries in foreign countries, while killing innocent men, women and children (also known as collateral damage), has just been a prelude to the domestic surveillance and eventually extermination of dissidents and nonconformists here in the U.S. We are already becoming a 1984 CCTV controlled nation. DHS has been rapidly militarizing local police forces in cities and towns to supplement their jackbooted thugs. Executive orders have given then the ability to take control of industry. They can imprison citizens without charges for as long as they deem necessary. Attempts to control gun ownership and shutdown the internet is a prologue to further government domination and supremacy over our lives when the wheels come off this unsustainable bus.

The Boston Marathon bombing provided a multitude of revelations about our government and the people of this country. The billions “invested” in our police state, along with warnings from a foreign government, and suspicious travel patterns were not enough for our beloved protectors to stop the Boston Marathon bombing. After stumbling upon these amateur terrorists by accident, the 2nd responders, with their Iraq war level firepower, managed to slaughter one of the perpetrators, but somehow allowed a wounded teenager to escape on foot and elude 10,000 donut eaters for almost 24 hours. The horde of heavily armed, testosterone fueled thugs proceeded to bully and intimidate the citizens of Watertown by illegal searches of homes and treating innocent people like criminals. The government completely shut down the 10th largest metropolitan area in the country for an entire day looking for a wounded 19 year old. The people of Boston obeyed their zoo keepers and obediently cowered in their cages.  

The entire episode was an epic fail. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight needed an old man to find the bomber in his backyard boat. The people of Boston exhibited the passivity and subservience demanded by their government. Since the capture of the remaining terrorist, the shallow exhibitions of national pride at athletic events and smarmy displays of honoring the police state apparatchiks who screwed up - allowing the attack to occur and looking like the keystone cops during the pursuit of the suspects, has revealed a fatal defect in our civil character. We are living in a profoundly abnormal society, with millions of medicated mindless zombies controlled by a vast propaganda machine, who seemingly enjoy having their liberties taken away. Most have willingly learned to love their servitude. For those who haven’t learned, the boot of our vast security state will just stomp on their face forever. We’re realizing the worst dystopian nightmares of Orwell and Huxley simultaneously. This abnormalcy bias will dissipate over the next few years in a torrent of financial collapse, war, bloodshed, and retribution. Sticking your head in the sand will not make reality go away. The existing social, political, and financial order will be swept away. What it is replaced by is up to us. Will this be the final chapter or new chapter in the history of this nation? The choice is ours."                        

“If you want a vision of the future, 
imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."
- George Orwell

“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution” - Aldous Huxley, 1961

The Daily "Near You?"

Burbank, California, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"And We Danced..."

 "And we danced, on the brink of an unknown future,
 to an echo from a vanished past."
- John Wyndham

Chet Raymo, “A Sense Of Place”

“A Sense Of Place”
by Chet Raymo

“It would be hard to find two writers more different than Eudora Welty and Edward Abbey. Welty was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of stories and novels who lived all her life in Jackson, Mississippi, in the house in which she was born, the beloved spinster aunt of American letters. Abbey was a hard-drinking, butt-kicking nature writer and conservationist best known for his books on the American Southwest. Both writers are favorites of mine. Both were great champions of place. I always wondered what it would have been like if they got together. As far as I know, that never happened. But let's imagine a conversation. I have taken extracts from Welty's essay "Some Notes on River Country" (1944) and from Abbey's essay "The Great American Desert" (1977) and interleaved them.

"This little chain of lost towns between Vicksburg and Natchez."
"This desert, all deserts, any deserts."

"On the shady stream banks hang lady's eardrops, fruits and flowers dangling pale jade. The passionflower puts its tendrils where it can, its strange flowers of lilac rays with their little white towers shining out, or its fruit, the maypop, hanging."
"Oily growths like the poison ivy - oh yes, indeed - that flourish in sinister profusion on the dank walls above the quicksand down those corridors of gloom and labyrinthine monotony that men call canyons."

"All creepers with trumpets and panicles of scarlet and yellow cling to the treetops. There is a vine that grows to great heights, with heart-shaped leaves as big and soft as summer hats."
"Everything in the desert either stings, stabs, stinks, or sticks. You will find the flora here as venomous, hooked, barbed, thorny, prickly, needled, saw-toothed, hairy, stickered, mean, bitter, sharp, wiry and fierce as the animals."

"Too pretty for any harsh fate, with its great mossy trees and old camellias."
"Something about the desert inclines all living things to harshness and acerbity."

"The clatter of hoofs and the bellow of boats have gone. The Old Natchez Trace has sunk out of use. The river has gone away and left the landings. But life does not forsake any place."
"In the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix will get you if the sun, snakes, bugs, and arthropods don't. In the Mojave Desert, it's Las Vegas. Up north in the Great Basin Desert, your heart will break, seeing the strip mines open up and the power plants rise..."
․ 
"The Negro Baptist church, weathered black with a snow-white door, has red hens in the yard. The old galleried stores are boarded up. The missing houses were burned - they were empty, and the little row of Negro inhabitants have carried them off for firewood."
"...the highway builders, land developers, weapons testers, power producers, clear cutters, oil drillers, dam beavers, subdividers."

"Eventually you see people, of course. Women have little errands, and the old men play checkers at a table in the front of the one open store. And the people's faces are good."
"Californicating."

"To go there, you start west from Port Gibson. Postmen would arrive here blowing their horns like Gabriel, after riding three hundred wilderness miles from Tennessee."
"Why go into the desert? Really, why do it? That sun, roaring at you all day long. The fetid, tepid, vapid little water holes full of cannibal beetles, spotted toads, horsehair worms, liver flukes. Why go there?"

"I have felt many times there is a sense of place as powerful as if it were visible and walking and could touch me. A place that ever was lived in is like a fire that never goes out. Sometimes it gives out glory, sometimes its little light must be sought out to be seen."
"Why the desert, when you could be camping by a stream of pure Rocky Mountain spring water. We have centipedes, millipedes, tarantulas, black widows, brown recluses, Gila monsters, the deadly poisonous coral snakes, and the giant hairy desert scorpions. Plus an immense variety of near-infinite number of ants, midges, gnats, bloodsucking flies, and blood-guzzling mosquitoes."

"Much beauty has gone, many little things of life. To light up the night there are no mansions, no celebrations. Wild birds fly now at the level where people on boat deck once were strolling and talking."
"In the American Southwest, only the wilderness is worth saving."

"There is a sense of place there, to keep life from being extinguished, like a cup of the hands to hold a flame."
"A friend and I took a walk up beyond Coconino County, Arizona. I found an arrow sign, pointed to the north. Nothing of any unusual interest that I could see - only the familiar sun-blasted sandstone, a few scrubby clumps of blackbush and prickly pear, a few acres of nothing where only a lizard could graze. I studied the scene with care. But there was nothing out there. Nothing at all. Nothing but the desert. Nothing but the silent world."

"Perhaps it is the sense of place that gives us the belief that passionate things, in some essence, endure."
"In my case, it was love at first sight. The kind of love that makes a man selfish, possessive, irritable..."

"New life will be built upon these things."
"...an unrequited and excessive love."

"It is this."
"That's why."

And so it is...