Thursday, October 19, 2017

"I Don't Believe..."

"I don't believe in 'original sin.' I don't believe in 'guilt.' I don't believe in villains or heroes - only right or wrong ways that individuals have taken, not by choice but by necessity or by certain still-uncomprehended influences in themselves, their circumstances, and their antecedents. This is so simple I'm ashamed to say it, but I'm sure it's true. In fact, I would bet my life on it! And that's why I don't understand why our propaganda machines are always trying to teach us, to persuade us, to hate and fear other people on the same little world that we live in."
- Tennessee Williams

"The Real Deep State Candidate"

"The Real Deep State Candidate"
by Bill Bonner

"Yesterday, we described what we believe is the true source of today’s bubbly markets: fake money from the Deep State’s finance arm, central banks. Today, we connect more dots. Specifically, we explore why the stock market celebrated after ‘The Donald’ was elected…what role he plays in the Greatest Show on Earth…and what to expect next. We also want to look at how America’s form of government has changed, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Fake Dollar Finance: Why did voters and investors turn their lonely eyes to a reality TV star, and put their trust and faith in a bombastic huckster, rather than a more conventional scallywag? Why did stocks rise after he was elected? What did they see that we didn’t? In short, the fix was in, and Mr Market knew it.

Fake dollar finance has been an abiding theme here at the Diary. Few others - apart from economist George Gilder and President Reagan’s first budget chief David Stockman - seem to care about it. But for us, it is the biggest financial scam in the history of the world. It has moved at least $10 trillion from the people who earned it to the rich and the Deep State elite. It has corrupted our institutions, our culture, our markets, and our government.

This system is supported by almost everyone - by Republicans and Democrats, by the mainstream press, by academic economists, by international organizations such as the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank, by the ‘defense’, ‘education’, and ‘medical care’ industries (all in quotations to signal our deep scepticism that they are doing what they claim to be doing), and perhaps more importantly, by Wall Street.

What is this system? It is the system of creating ‘money’ out of thin air, controlled by the government and central banks, which ends up in the hands of Deep State cronies and the elite. It creates an economy that runs on credit, not real wealth or real output. It can only grow by increasing the level of debt, and is thereby damned to its own destruction.

Disruptive Personality: There are only two major threats to this system. The first is the obvious one: economics. You can’t increase debt levels infinitely. Sooner or later, the whole kit and caboodle will blow up. The second is political: A determined, disruptive politician might be able to slow it down, or even reform it.

Last year at this time, there was some hope that Donald J Trump might be such a man. He was clearly a ‘disruptive’ personality. Perhaps he had a disruptive program? It was hard to know. What he said publicly was so incoherent and undisciplined that many people believed he must be smarter than he looked, with a hidden agenda, a plan of action that he dared not divulge for fear of bringing the entire weight of the Deep State crashing down upon him.

Hillary Clinton was clearly on the dark side. She favored more spending, both on social programs and military meddling. She was so deep in the pockets of lobbyists, big banks, and corporate America there was no chance she could ever climb out.

Mr Trump was different. He seemed more independent. He was too rich to steal. And too dumb to lie. He seemed to be not beholden to anyone - even the powerful Israeli lobby. ‘I don’t need your money,’ he told them.

Trump’s Greatest Trick: Yesterday, we glanced at a magazine sitting on the table in our hotel room. Inside was a picture of a skinny young guy wearing a tight green suit, with some kind of fleur-de-lis pattern on it, pants hiked up to the calf, with bright orange socks filling in the distance to shoes no less outrageous than the rest of the get-up.

We didn’t understand brand advertising until Mr Trump came along. We had always wondered: What’s the point of advertising clothes no one would want to wear? Now, we know. The idea is not to move the rags, but to fix the brand in the minds of the readers. The absurd outfits are just a way of getting attention. They plant the brand in your mind - provocative, clever, cutting edge, innovative, or whatever you want.

That was the genius of Donald Trump: He ran as a brand. But his important achievement, historically, was to silence the vestigial opposition to the Deep State.

Clownish Squabbles: Ms. Clinton would have had the whole constellation of ‘right wing’, evangelical, Tea Party, and establishment Republicans - responsible conservatives and rabid nut-jobs - against her. They would have blocked her every move and hounded her every step. They would have connected her, and her program, to the Deep State, and gnawed away at both.

For Mr Trump, on the other hand, the coast is clear. If there is any opposition to the Deep State program, it is now confused by conflicted loyalties, and distracted by Mr Trump’s clownish squabbles. We are supposed to care about whether football players stand or kneel, and not notice the $1.4 trillion given to Lockheed Martin to build and maintain a fleet of planes that experts say may never be combat-ready.

Likewise, it is supposed to matter whether Mr Trump calls the families of the boys who get killed doing the Deep State’s military mischief. But no one seems to know or care about the latest price tag for Obamacare, or that the nation is on track to add $10 trillion to its debt over the next 10 years. And we are kept so busy wondering about a war with North Korea or a feud with Senator Corker that we don’t even have to time wonder where all this money bidding up stocks is coming from.

The money flows…and the show goes on. And now we see what Mr Market, in his wisdom, must have seen a year ago: Mr Trump, not Ms Clinton, was the real Deep State candidate all along."

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

X22 Report, “It's All About To Hit The Fan, The Cabal's Next Move Will Cover It All Up”

X22 Report, “It's All About To Hit The Fan, 
The Cabal's Next Move Will Cover It All Up”
Related followup report:
X22 Report, “Did Russia Just Issue A New Eurasian Currency?”

“Trying To Stay Sane In An Insane World”

“Trying To Stay Sane In An Insane World”
by Jim Quinn

“In America, the criminally insane rule and the rest of us,
or the vast majority of the rest of us, either do not care, do not know,
 or are distracted and properly brainwashed into acquiescence.”
 - Kurt Nimmo

"I have to admit to being baffled by the aptitude of the Wall Street and K Street financial elite to keep their Ponzi scheme growing. I consider myself to be a rational, sane human being who understands math and bases his assessments upon facts and a sensible appraisal of the relevant information obtained from trustworthy sources. Of course, finding trustworthy sources is difficult when you live in a corrupt, crony-capitalist, fascist state, controlled by banking, corporate and military interests who retain absolute control over the mainstream media and governmental propaganda agencies. Those seeking truth must pursue it through the alternative media and seeking out unbiased critical thinkers who relentlessly abide by what the facts expose. This is no time for wishful thinking, delusions and fantasies. In the end, the facts are all that matter. As Heinlein noted decades ago, the future is uncertain so facts are essential in navigating a course that doesn’t lead you to ruin upon the shoals of ignorance.

“What are the facts? Again and again and again– what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the un-guessable “verdict of history”– what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!” - Robert A. Heinlein

Facts are treasonous and dangerous in an empire of lies, fraud and propaganda. It is maddening to watch the country spiral downward, driven to ruin by a psychotic predator class, while the plebs choose to remain willfully ignorant of reality and distracted by their lust for cheap Chinese crap and addicted to the cult of techno-narcissism. We are a country running on heaping doses of cognitive dissonance and normalcy bias, an irrational belief in our national exceptionalism, an absurd trust in the same banking class that destroyed the finances of the country, and a delusionary belief that with just another trillion dollars of debt we’ll be back on the exponential growth track. The American empire has been built on a foundation of cheap easily accessible oil, cheap easily accessible credit, the most powerful military machine in human history, and the purposeful transformation of citizens into consumers through the use of relentless media propaganda and a persistent decades long dumbing down of the masses through the government education system.

This national insanity is not a new phenomenon. Friedrich Nietzsche observed the same spectacle in the 19th century: “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

The “solutions” imposed by the supposed brightest financial Ivy League educated minds and corrupt bought off political class upon people of the United States since the Wall Street created 2008 worldwide financial collapse are insane and designed to only further enrich the crony capitalists and their banker brethren. The maniacs are ruling the asylum. John Lennon saw the writing on the wall forty five years ago: “Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends, and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.” – John Lennon, Interview BBC-TV (June 22, 1968)

The world is most certainly ruled by a small group of extremely wealthy evil men who desire ever more treasure, supremacy and control, but the vast majority of Americans have stood idly by mesmerized by their iGadgets and believing buying shit they don’t need with money they don’t have is the path to happiness and prosperity, while their wealth, liberty and self-respect were stolen by the financial elite. Our idiot culture, that celebrates reality TV morons, low IQ millionaires playing children’s sports, egomaniacal Hollywood hacks, self-promoting Wall Street financiers, and self-serving corrupt ideologue politicians, has been degenerating for decades.
“We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot sub-culture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal.” - Carl Bernstein, 1992

The examples of our national insanity are almost too vast to document, but any critical assessment of what we’ve done over the last one hundred years reveals the idiocracy that has engulfed our collapsing empire.

The Madness of Crowds: “In reading "The History of Nations", we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.” – Charles MacKay, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds"

We have become a nation that seamlessly goes mad every five years in pursuit of some new delusionary fantasy sold to us by the ruling class, only to see those dreams shattered like a wooden ship on the reef of reality. You can never underestimate the power of human stupidity. Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen and their Federal Reserve cronies have printed $4.6 trillion of new money out of thin air since September 2008 in order to prop up their Wall Street owners, who had engineered the largest control fraud (mortgage debt/housing bubble) in world history, recklessly gambled in their ravenous appetite for sordid profits, and drove their firms into insolvency. It took the Federal Reserve 95 years to accumulate a balance sheet of $900 billion of safe U.S. Treasuries.

They have insanely quadrupled their balance sheet in the last 8 years by accumulating toxic mortgage debt from Wall Street banks and purchasing the majority of new Treasury debt being issued to fund the Federal government’s insane trillion dollar annual deficits. Bernanke, the corporate media, government apparatchiks, and captured political class act as if this is normal, when it is clearly the act of a desperate ruling class in its final death throes. The Fed has leveraged its balance sheet 60 to 1. Lehman and Bear Stearns were leveraged 30 to 1 when they collapsed. A 100 basis point move in rates over the space of two months resulted in losing $200 billion and effectively wiping out his $55 billion of capital.

Of course, in a corrupt regime accounting fraud is encouraged and applauded by the status quo. Just as the spineless accountants on the FASB buckled to threats from Bernanke and Paulson in early 2009 and reversed the requirement that assets be marked to market so the felonious Wall Street banks could fraudulently hide their insolvency, the Federal Reserve has decided their losses don’t matter. The Federal Reserve classifies their losses as an asset. Don’t you wish you could classify your 401k losses and your home value losses as an asset? The tapering bullshit storyline is just another attempt to distract the masses from focusing on the fact that the Fed will never stop expanding it's balance sheet because if it stops the financial system will collapse in a catastrophic implosion. The Ponzi scheme will continue until loss of faith leads to a scramble away from the U.S. dollar.

Since the infamous creation of the Federal Reserve by a secretive cabal of bankers and politicians in 1913, the ultimate destination of the American empire was set. Every fiat currency in world history has collapsed. Our entire system has been based on infinite exponential growth. The fallacy of American exceptionalism has been built on an underpinning of pure stupid luck and the issuance of more and more debt. The American empire grew to epic proportions due to the discovery of cheap easily accessible oil in the late 19th century and the physical and economic destruction of Europe, Russia and Japan during World War II. The accumulation of debt was fairly moderate during the glory years after World War II, but began to accelerate after the fateful year of 1971 when U.S. oil production peaked and Tricky Dick Nixon removed the last vestiges of restraint from central bankers and politicians by closing the gold window. With the shackles removed from the wrists of corruptible knaves and shysters, America’s future depended upon the wisdom, honest and financial acumen of Washington politicians and Wall Street financiers. Once the citizens realized they could vote for more bread and circuses, our ultimate demise was set in motion. A nation that had produced real annual growth of 4% during the 1950’s and 1960’s has seen a steady decline for the last four decades.

The term pushing on a string describes the Quantitative Easing (literally money printing) and Keynesian debt financed pork spending efforts of our increasingly frantic owners. The insanity of what we’ve done since 1971 is almost too crazy to comprehend. In the first 182 years of our existence the leaders we elected to steward the nation accumulated $400 billion of national debt. By 1981, unleashed from any semblance of spending control, the politicians and bankers had added another $600 billion of debt, a 150% increase in 10 years. By 1991 our beloved leaders had added another $2.6 trillion of debt, another 160% increase in 10 years. By 2001 another $2.2 trillion had been accumulated, only a 60% increase due to the end of the Cold War and a one-time tax surge from the Dot.com stock bubble. Bush’s worldwide War on Terror, expansion of the police state, tax rebate stimulus idiocy, and expansion of the welfare state (Medicare Part D) drove the national debt up by another $2.2 trillion in just eight years, a 40% increase.

The insane amassing of debt since 2008 has put a final nail in the coffin of the ridiculous Keynesian theory, as the Federal government has increased annual spending by 35% over the last five years and the economy is still moribund. Our fearless leaders have driven the national debt from $7.8 trillion to $20.8 trillion in less than five years, a 110% increase. The country continues to add $2 to $3 billion of debt per day. Consider how insane it is that we now accumulate more debt in half a year than we did cumulatively over the first 185 years of our existence as a country. And our elected, or should I say selected, leaders, cheer on the intellectually bankrupt academics like those leading the Fed, whose only solution to every crisis is to print more and then lie to the American people about his true purpose, act as if annually spending $1 trillion more than we collect while knowing there are over $240 trillion of unfunded promises to fulfill is a reasonable and realistic way to manage the national finances. Any sane person knows our current path will lead to ruin. When you need to issue new debt in order to honor old debt, the end is in sight.

The multitude of insane responses to a financial crisis created by a few greedy psychopathic bankers will be looked upon by historians with contempt and scorn. Future generations will wonder “What were they thinking?” Trillions in wealth were vaporized due to the actions of a small secretive league of highly educated, egocentric psychopaths whose warped sense of morality led them to pillage the wealth of the nation through fraudulent financial products, bribing regulatory agencies, stabbing clients and competitors in the back, and peddling lies, propaganda and misinformation to the public through their captured media mouthpieces. Not only haven’t any predator bankers been thrown in jail, but these villains have grown their parasitic entities to enormous proportions while paying themselves obscene billion dollar bonuses. Jon Corzine stole $1.2 billion directly from the accounts of his customers to cover his gambling losses and he remains free to laze about in one of his five gated mansions. The largest banks on earth have been caught red handed forging mortgage documents, rigging LIBOR, front running the muppets with non-public economic information, insider dealing, and using their HFT supercomputers to manipulate the markets at their whim. Government spy agencies regularly use the U.S. Constitution like toilet paper while accumulating electronic dossiers on every citizen in the country. The rule of law does not exist for the ruling class.

Only in a world gone insane would we be celebrating Wall Street generating all-time high profits through the use of accounting fraud and the Fed filling their coffers with trillions of interest free money while bilking senior citizens out of $400 billion per year of interest income through his dastardly ZIRP “save a Wall Street banker” scheme. The Federal Reserve has stolen close to $2 trillion from the bank accounts of little old ladies since 2008 and given it to Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfien and the rest of the Wall Street scumbags. While Wall Street and the crony capitalist mega-corporations report record profits, Main Street is left with 5 million less full-time jobs than they had in 2007 and a real unemployment rate exceeding 24%. While the government has insanely reported a recovering economy since mid-2009, the food stamp rolls have grown from 33 million to 47 million. The ruling class cheers the record highs in the stock market that overwhelmingly benefit the top .1% because they are the .1%. Meanwhile, the average schmuck out in the hinterlands is paying double the price they were paying for gas in 2009 and their everyday living costs are rising by greater than 5% annually. Luckily for the financial elite, the average American would rather watch the Kardashians than try to understand the evilness of Federal Reserve created inflation. The economic recovery storyline is obliterated by the fact that real household income is still 9% below its 2008 peak and amazingly 8% below its 2000 level.

Since the 2009 low, the household net worth of the wealthiest 7% has grown by 48%, while the other 93% have seen their net worth decline by a further 14%. The profits accrue to those who run the show, buy the politicians, write the laws, command the media propaganda machine and control the currency. As a sane person in this insane world I’m flabbergasted that there is virtually no outrage at the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity. Americans have earned the moniker – ignorant masses. Bread and circuses have won the day in our declining empire. The oligarchs thank you.

The blame doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of the evil men running the show. They have only done what we allowed them to do. From top to bottom our society has hopped on the crazy train. The lack of national morality, sense of civic duty, inter-generational responsibility, and willful ignorance regarding sensible financial policies has led us to a tipping point. Decades of feckless self-serving political leadership making entitlement promises they could never honor to win votes, combined with a parasitic financial class peddling debt to millions of witless, narcissistic, math challenged, materialistic morons, has left the country in debt up to its eyeballs with no escape other than cataclysmic default. Michael Lewis documents the bleeding out of our society in his recent book:

“The people who had the power in the society, and were charged with saving it from itself, had instead bled the society to death. The problem with police officers and firefighters isn’t a public sector problem; it isn’t a problem with government; it’s a problem with the entire society. It’s what happened on Wall Street in the run-up to the subprime crisis. It’s a problem of taking what they can, just because they can, without regard to the larger social consequences. It’s not just a coincidence that the debts of cities and states spun out of control at the same time as the debts of individual Americans. Alone in a dark room with a pile of money, Americans knew exactly what they wanted to do, from the top of the society to the bottom. They’d been conditioned to grab as much as they could, without thinking about the long-term consequences. Afterward, the people on Wall Street would privately bemoan the low morals of the American people who walked away from their subprime loans, and the American people would express outrage at the Wall Street people who paid themselves a fortune to design the bad loans.” – Michael Lewis, "Boomerang"

The insanity of our debt accumulation in relation to our pathetic economic growth is clearly evident to even an Ivy League educated economist or a bubble headed CNBC anchorwoman. Since 1971 nominal GDP has grown by a factor of 14. Over this same time frame total credit market debt (household, corporate, government) has grown by a factor of 32. Real GDP (even using the fraudulent BLS manipulated CPI) has only expanded by a factor of 3.5 since 1971. The exponential growth model is clearly failing, with debt going hyperbolic, while GDP has stagnated.

Since 2007 real GDP has gone up $500 billion while total credit market debt has gone up by $9 trillion. Only an insane society would allow itself to be convinced by the perpetrators of the financial crimes that collapsed our economic system that accelerating the level of debt in our system will resolve the dilemma of Too Big to Trust banker insolvency. Transferring the immense losses of greedy sham capitalist gambling addicts from their insolvent balance sheets onto the balance sheets of the taxpayer has allowed the criminals to retain and expand their wealth, while sovereign states shift the pain and suffering onto the backs of the sinking middle class. This is a worldwide phenomenon perpetuated by central bankers at the behest of their crony capitalist co-conspirators. They call it capitalism when the scams, dodges and swindles work and the profits accrue to the schemers. When the gamblers and extreme risk addicts roll craps they use their crony capitalist connections, bought with blood money, to socialize their losses. The game is rigged and your owners don’t care about your hopes and dreams or your children’s future. They care about their own wealth and lifestyles of luxury. When the richest 300 people in the world have a greater net worth than the poorest 4 billion people on earth, a sane person realizes a chaotic end of the existing social order beckons.

“All over the world people borrowed vast sums of money they could never repay. The honest toting up, and taking, of the losses is being delayed. There’s a reason for this. The bad debts are owed, largely, to big banks. The big banks (even bigger than they were at the start of this crisis) and the people who own them enjoy a wildly disproportionate amount of political influence. And so, even now, nine years into this mess, we remain at the mercy of the failed financial institutions that sit at the center of our capitalism. The Fed, along with their European counterparts, are doing everything in their power to prevent banks from failing. But the effect of this new financial order is bizarre: capitalism for everyone but the capitalists. Ordinary workers remain fully exposed to the increasingly harsh collisions in the marketplace while the highest paid financial elites ride protected by a passenger airbag.” – Michael Lewis, "Boomerang"

Clearly we’ve entered the final phase of our debt financed orgy of narcissistic materialism and self-absorbed avarice. The unsustainability of our course is a fact. Our society has gone mad en-masse but we are only recovering our sanity one by one. The global financial system is insolvent. A fractional reserve fiat money based system requires continuous growth or it collapses. The global banking system is over- leveraged and real global growth is stagnant. Central bankers are not smart men. They have one response to every crisis – print!!! The Fed is printing at hyper-speed in order to prop up the terminally ill mega-banks. They feign confusion at the fact that QE to infinity and ZIRP have only benefitted their banker puppet masters and the richest .1%, while further impoverishing senior citizen savers and the working middle class.

The anger at the true Wall Street malefactors manifested itself in the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street movement, but both efforts were quickly hijacked by neo-con right wingers and socialist left wingers for their own ideological purposes. The existing social order continues to hold the reins of power, but their grip is growing precarious. The anger, dismay and resentment in the country simmer beneath the surface. The average person senses that all is not well, but most absurdly continue to believe the lies and propaganda spewed at them on a daily basis by the ruling class and their corporate media pawns. When the next shoe drops and billions of stock market and housing wealth are wiped out again, the national anger will sweep away the corrupt social order in a torrent of blood and retribution. Innocent and guilty alike will suffer the consequences. Michael Lewis is somewhat perplexed by the lack of outrage and violence so far.

“A lot has happened. And yet, given the provocation, it’s amazing how little has happened. No one on Wall Street has been shot, or even jailed – and the existing social order has not been seriously challenged. There’s a reason for this, too. The anger arising from the financial crisis finds no natural channel. In another era – an era before catastrophic experiments with radical socialism and nationalism – we would be watching market capitalism being displaced by something far uglier. But today there is no natural place for anger to flow, and so the anger flows haphazardly, like raindrops down a windowpane. The only political ideology that anger benefits these days is anarchy. From the point of view of those who enjoy political stability, it’s a stroke of luck that anarchists have no natural talent for organizing themselves. But how long will it take them to learn?”  – Michael Lewis, "Boomerang"
Staying sane in a society gone mad is not easy. Millions of people believe themselves to be sane, but they have really just adapted to an insane society, so they appear sane within the warped paradigm of that insane society. The truly sane people appear to be insane in an insane society. It’s enough to drive a man crazy. The immense forces of normalcy bias and social inertia have led millions to refuse to understand the mathematical certainty of the coming collapse. The worldwide banking system is like a great white shark that needs to keep moving or it dies. Exponential growth and continuous credit expansion have been the essential ingredients to expanding the American empire, but the growth has stopped, while the debt keeps growing. Infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. As natural resources deplete and become more expensive to obtain, while the planet’s population continues to grow, the fractional reserve banking system and the nation states who continue to pile up trillions in debt will suddenly suffer a catastrophic collapse. We are in the end stages of a confidence game. Your government will not give you warning. We need to come to our senses one by one, until there are enough sane people to tip the scales in our favor. I’ve concluded that I live in a dishonest, insane, intolerable world and consider it my duty to spread discontent among those I can reach. I’m a dangerous man in the eyes of our corporate fascist surveillance state. So be it."

“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is apt to spread discontent among those who are.”
 – H.L. Mencken

Ludovico Einaudi, “Choros”

Ludovico Einaudi, “Choros”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Recognized since antiquity and depicted on the shield of Achilles according to Homer, stars of the Hyades cluster form the head of the constellation Taurus the Bull. Their general V-shape is anchored by Aldebaran, the eye of the Bull and by far the constellation's brightest star. 
Click image for larger size.
Yellowish in appearance, red giant Aldebaran is not a Hyades cluster member, though. Modern astronomy puts the Hyades cluster 151 light-years away making it the nearest established open star cluster, while Aldebaran lies at less than half that distance, along the same line-of-sight. Along with colorful Hyades stars, this stellar holiday portrait locates Aldebaran just below center, as well as another open star cluster in Taurus, NGC 1647 at the left, some 2,000 light-years or more in the background. Just slide your cursor over the image to identify the stars. The central Hyades stars are spread out over about 15 light-years. Formed some 800 million years ago, the Hyades star cluster may share a common origin with M44 (Praesepe), a naked-eye open star cluster in Cancer, based on M44's motion through space and remarkably similar age.”

Chet Raymo, “New Philosophy”

“New Philosophy”
by Chet Raymo

"It is one of Albert Einstein's most-often quoted quotes: "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible." Is the world comprehensible? Apparently at least partially so. Consider the NASA solar eclipse atlas I referenced the other day. It is possible to calculate the precise locations and times for solar eclipses thousands of years into the future and past. That's comprehensibility for you.

Of course, there are still things we do not comprehend, such as consciousness or the development of organisms, but there is no good reason to suppose those things are intrinsically beyond human understanding. The whole of modern technological civilization and medicine is a monument to comprehensibility.

Why? Why this strange consonance between the world and the human mind? For centuries the answer was simple. God created a world of space and time, a finite mirror, so to speak, of his own intelligence. He created humans in his own likeness. Human intelligence partook of the intelligibility of God. Everything in the closed, human-centered cosmos was ordered in his likeness. The world was comprehensible because it was made that way - for us to comprehend.

Then, in the 16th and 17th centuries, came the great disruption, which Alexandre Koryé described in his seminal 1957 book "From the Closed World To the Infinite Universe." Daring thinkers resurrected the Greek idea that the universe might be infinite in extent and eternal in duration - no boundaries in space, no beginning or end in time. It was a radical thought, heretical really, but it meshed well with what the astronomers and physicists were learning about the world we live in. As the poet John Donne wrote:
    "And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
    The element of fire is quite put out,
    The sun is lost, and th' earth, and no man's wit
    Can well direct him where to look for it.
    And freely men confess that this world's spent,
    When in the planets and the firmament
    They seek so many new; they see that this
    Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
    'Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
    All just supply, and all relation."

Of course, it wasn't as bad as all that. Galileo and Newton provided a new coherence. The physical world itself took on two characteristics of the Godhead - omnipresence and everlasting life. Everything unfolded not in accordance with the divine will, but according to eternal and immutable laws of nature. The Divine Artifex, master craftsman, in Koyré's words, was replaced by the Dieu fainéant, a lazybones God with nothing to do. And the comprehensibility of the world became- well, as Einstein said- incomprehensible. But...things were about to get more complicated. 

"Koyré's "From the Closed World To the Infinite Universe" was published in 1957. When I started teaching college in 1964, the required reading for my general studies science course included two articles by two prominent physicists published in "Scientific American" at about the same time as Koyré's book. George Gamow, a principal architect of the big bang theory, made the case for a universe that began billions of years ago as an explosion from an infinitely dense and infinitely small seed of energy. Fred Hoyle, stalwart champion of the steady state theory, took the stand for an infinite universe with no beginning and no end, in which matter is continuously created in the space between the galaxies.

Both theories had strengths and weaknesses. For example, the big bang successfully accounted for the known abundances of hydrogen and helium in the universe but posited an embarrassing beginning that could not be explained. The steady state theory avoided the stumbling block of a universe that seemed to come from nowhere but replaced it with many little unexplained beginnings (those particles of matter appearing continuously from nothing). Yet the big bang theory made one prediction that was testable: if the universe began in a blaze of luminosity, a degraded remnant of that radiation should still permeate the cosmos, and the precise spectral distribution of this microwave-frequency background could be calculated.

Then, that very year I started teaching, the cosmic microwave background radiation was serendipitously discovered by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, with precisely the predicted spectrum, a triumph of comprehensibility. The universe- space and time- had an apparent beginning! For some people, this extraordinary development re-opened the door to a creator God, whose intelligence is the source for the intelligibility of the world. Koyré may have anticipated this. In his final paragraph he wrote: "The infinite Universe of the New Cosmology, infinite in Duration as well as in Extension, in which eternal matter in accordance with external and necessary laws moves endlessly and aimlessly in eternal space, inherited all the ontological attributes of Divinity. Yet only those- all the others the departed God took away with Him."

What others? Personhood. Love. Justice. And intelligence. Intelligence that is the source of the intelligibility of the world.

But for Einstein, and many of us here, the mathematical singularity which is the big bang is an opaque barrier. To say the universe is created by God conveys no more information than to say it is created by X. We learned to live without Koyré's Dieu fainéant, the lazybones God who had nothing to do, and see no reason to bring him out of retirement. So why is the universe comprehensible? A few more thoughts tomorrow."

The Universe

“Believe me, I know all about it. I know the stress. I know the frustration. I know the temptations of time and space. We worked this out ahead of time. They're part of the plan. We knew this stuff might happen. Actually, you insisted they be triggered whenever you were ready to begin thinking thoughts you've never thought before. New thinking is always the answer.”
“Good on you,”
    The Universe

“Thoughts become things... choose the good ones!”
- www.tut.com

"Lightning..."

“Lighting doesn’t often strike twice. It’s a once in a life time thing, even if it feels like the shock is coming over and over again. Eventually the pain will go away. The shock will wear off and you start to heal yourself, to recover from something you never saw coming. But sometimes the odds are in your favor. If you’re in just the right place at just the right time, you can take a hell of a hit and still have a shot at surviving.”
- “Meredith Grey”, “Gray’s Anatomy”

The Poet: Mary Oliver, “The Eskimos Have No Word for ‘War’”

 “The Eskimos Have No Word for ‘War’”

“Trying to explain it to them
Leaves one feeling ridiculous and obscene.
Their houses, like white bowls,
Sit on a prairie of ancient snowfalls
Caught beyond thaw or the swift changes
Of night and day.
They listen politely, and stride away,
With spears and sleds and barking dogs
To hunt for food. 
The women wait,
Chewing on skins or singing songs,
Knowing that they have hours to spend,
That the luck of the hunter is often late.
Later, by fires and boiling bones
In streaming kettles, they welcome me,
Far kin, pale brother,
To share what they have in a hungry time
In a difficult land.  While I talk on
Of the southern kingdoms, cannon, armies,
Shifting alliances, airplanes, power,
They chew their bones, and smile at one another.”

 ~ Mary Oliver

"That Is Exactly Why..."

Scully: "Mulder, it is such a gorgeous day outside. Have you ever entertained the idea of trying to find life on this planet?"
Mulder: "I have seen the life on this planet, Scully, and that is exactly why I am looking elsewhere."
- "The X-Files"

“The North Korea Reframe”

“The North Korea Reframe”
by Scott Adams

“North Korea is building nukes and ICBMs to prevent the United States from attacking. Meanwhile, the United States does not want to attack North Korea. And yet we find ourselves at the brink of nuclear war while not actually having a root problem on which we disagree. They don’t want to be attacked and we don’t want to attack them. Doesn’t that seem solvable? The problem, as I see it, is psychology more than weaponry. As long as North Korea sees the United States as a military threat, expect North Korea to keep upgrading their nuclear arsenal.

So what would it take to “reframe” the situation from two mortal enemies on the brink of war to something less dangerous? 

Perhaps we should look at the same reframing strategy President Trump is using to apparent success with ISIS. The president reframed our involvement from temporary to permanent. Then he added a momentum change courtesy of General Mattis. Under President Obama, ISIS probably saw the U.S. military involvement as a temporary problem because that’s exactly how it was framed. Now they see it as permanent… and they observe themselves losing. The “permanent loser” frame is a different framing than before, and it might be the reason we see more surrenders. (Or we might be seeing more alleged surrenders because exaggerated reports of that type would be good persuasion too.)

At the moment, North Korea sees the economic sanctions as temporary. They also see our threats as temporary until they have full nuclear deterrent. The temporary frame is a losing frame for the United States. On top of the temporary frame, things look personal between the U.S. and North Korea. Dignity is in the game. Ego is in the game. Those things need to be reframed out of the situation to get any kind of solution.

So consider the following reframe. Imagine depersonalizing the North Korean situation by pushing for a United Nations rule that any not-yet-fully-nuclear country building nukes and ICBMS is permanently barred from any form of global commerce. Ever. Period. And it’s not personal to North Korea. It’s just the new rule.

It’s the “ever” part, along with depersonalizing things to a generic rule that creates the new frame. In this frame, there is no winning to be had for North Korea. They can build their nukes, but only at the expense of permanent and total economic collapse, courtesy of the the rest of the world as expressed by the United Nations. 

I don’t think total economic ruin of North Korea was ever a realistic strategy option until recently. But China seems to be onboard. And President Trump is unlikely to take his boot off Little Rocket Man’s tiny wallet anytime soon. I can’t imagine President Trump backing off until he gets what he wants. But we haven’t framed it as permanent. And we could, with the help of the United Nations.

Let’s call this the “I’ll just take my ball and go home” strategy. And it works best if we reduce military presence to something more obviously defensive. In this model, it’s not personal. It’s just a rule the UN agreed on. There is great persuasive power in saying something is a general rule as opposed to a specific action against one player. It takes ego out of the game and it has a non-negotiable feel from the start.

Note: My main topic for this blog lately is persuasion. I’m not an expert on North Korea or international affairs. I don’t expect anyone to take my noodling on this topic today too seriously. If you learned something about persuasion by reading this far, that’s all I’m hoping to achieve here.”

Musical Interlude: Mason Williams, "Classical Gas"

Mason Williams, "Classical Gas"

"How It Really Is"

"Fraud, Exploitation and Collusion: America's Pharmaceutical Industry"

"Fraud, Exploitation and Collusion: 
America's Pharmaceutical Industry"
by Charles Hugh Smith

"The theme this week is The Rot Within. The rot within manifested by the pharmaceutical industry almost defies description. America's Pharmaceutical industry takes pride of place in this week's theme of The Rot Within, as the industry has raised fraud, exploitation and collusion to systemic perfection.

What other industry can routinely kill hundreds of thousands of Americans and suffer no blowback? Only recently has the toll of needless deaths from the opioid pandemic finally roused a comatose corporate media and bought-and-paid-for, see-no-evil Congress to wonder if maybe there should be some limits placed on Big Pharma and its drug distributors.


What other industry can raise prices any time it wants because, well, it can? Longtime correspondent/physician J.F. recently submitted a chart of medication price increases (below)- nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary, just the usual because we can price increases.

What other industry has such complete control over the federal government? Dr. J.F. reminded me that the law enacting Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage specifically prohibits the U.S. government from negotiating lower prices on the immense volume of medications it purchases through Medicare (not to mention the Medicaid and Veterans Administration programs).

J.F. also submitted this investigative report from CNN, "The Little Red Pill Being Pushed On The Elderly.Here's the money-shot: "The combination of two generic drugs that makes up Nuedexta - a cough suppressant and heart medication - was once available from specialty pharmacists willing to combine the ingredients for less than $1 a pill, according to a US Senate report on rising prescription drug prices. Now the FDA-approved medication costs as much as $12.60 a pill."

If this isn't fraud, exploitation and collusion, then what is it? Please don't say "good old free-market capitalism," because competition is nowhere in sight.

The pharmaceutical industry is a crony-capitalist cartel that buys whatever political influence it requires to maintain its power and profits. Isn't it obvious? Or have we become so distracted and drugged that we no longer care?

Ho-hum, just another 20 times the rate of inflation increase in medication prices by Big Pharma: nothing to see here, folks, just move along and take your meds....
We're number one! -- in drug-induced deaths per million residents: isn't it amazing that this raises no eyebrows at all in our "leadership" or the citizenry?
Can we be honest for a change, and just admit that profits are way more important in our status quo than a couple hundred thousand deaths in America's permanent underclass?
The rot within manifested by the pharmaceutical industry almost defies description. That we tolerate this as business as usual (BAU) shows that ours is a society and economy afflicted with the sickness unto death."