“This shock wave plows through space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. Moving toward to bottom of this beautifully detailed color composite, the thin, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge on. Cataloged as NGC 2736, its narrow appearance suggests its popular name, the Pencil Nebula.
About 5 light-years long and a mere 800 light-years away, the Pencil Nebula is only a small part of the Vela supernova remnant. The Vela remnant itself is around 100 light-years in diameter and is the expanding debris cloud of a star that was seen to explode about 11,000 years ago. Initially, the shock wave was moving at millions of kilometers per hour but has slowed considerably, sweeping up surrounding interstellar gas.”
“A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet ‘for sale’, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity.”
by Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer, SETI Institute
“The latest planets turned up by NASA's Kepler telescope are- like the kids in Lake Wobegon- gratifyingly above average. These new worlds offer both promise and insights, because they've got traits that are both appealing and mildly disconcerting. In the 11 years since its launch, Kepler has chalked up hundreds of new and confirmed planets. It's also caught the scent of nearly three thousand additional objects, of which probably 80 percent or more will turn out to be other-worldly orbs. Compare this track record to the approximately 700 planets painstakingly rooted out by ground-based telescopes in the last 25 years, and you can appreciate why some astronomers refer to the space-based instrument as a planet factory- churning out new worlds faster than a Hong Kong tailor turns out suits.
But here's the thing: Kepler can find small planets (even smaller than Mercury). And diminutive worlds are more likely to be rocky, and lapped by oceans and atmospheres. In the vernacular of "Star Trek," these would be M-class planets: life-friendly oases where biology could begin and bumpy-faced Klingons might exist.
Three of the new Kepler worlds have both the right size and the right orbital distances to boast temperatures at which water would remain liquid, a circumstance often assumed to be life's sine qua non. One of these planets orbits the star Kepler 69- which is comparable in brightness and size to our Sun. This possibly habitable planet is ingeniously named Kepler 69c. The other two worlds are the spawn of a dimmer star called Kepler 62. Its brood includes at least five planets, but the habitable ones are labeled Kepler 62e and Kepler 62f.
All three of these potentially habitable worlds are "Super Earths." The term isn't intended to suggest planets with azure skies, unpolluted oceans, and sympathetic inhabitants. Rather, it's a reference to size. Super Earths have super girths, between 1 and roughly 2-1/2 times that of our own planet. Habitable, in principle- just a bit bulked up.
According to SETI Institute scientist Jon Jenkins, Super Earths are turning up more and more often. They dominate the new worlds now being found by Kepler. Now that's a bit of a head scratcher, because in our own solar system the number of Super Earths is zero. There's nothing between the size of Terra Firma and Neptune, which is 4 times larger than Earth.
So is our solar system just unlucky, like a family with eight kids but no girls? Or is there some deeper explanation for the absence of a Super Earth nearby? We don't know. And this is an unexpected puzzle for those who wish to know what constitutes an "average" solar system.
The discovery of these three planets has also encouraged scientists who look for life in deep space. The number of potentially habitable worlds discovered beyond our solar system is currently 9, out of a total of 872 confirmed exoplanets. The math is dead simple: it seems that the frequency of planets able to support life is roughly one percent. In other words, a billion or more such worlds exist in our galaxy alone. That's a lot of acreage, and it takes industrial-strength credulity to believe it's all bleakly barren.
So will SETI experimenters fix their antennas on these new planets? Well, the answer's as obvious as a lounge lizard: of course they will. But give consideration to the fact that alien astronomers could have scrutinized Earth for more than 4 billion years without detecting any radio signals, despite the fact that our world is the poster child for habitability. Lots of planetary systems will require examination before we can reasonably hope to find an alien transmission. Still, at least we know that suitable planets are not dauntingly rare.
And there's something else that encourages me in the search for signals from these newly found members of the planetary bestiary. Kepler 62e has an orbital period of 122 days; Kepler 62f's period is 267 days. Consequently, every 89 years these two seductive orbs line up with Earth. They're connected to us in a straight line. If some sophisticated society has colonized both planets, then their back-and-forth communication signals- if any- will be aimed our way during this special moment. So in this case, the new discoveries clue us not only where we should hunt for signals, but when. And that might nicely improve the odds of finding Klingons.”
"I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. If you will pardon so commonplace a simile, we have set off the fire alarm and have nothing to do but to wait. I do not think we will have to wait for long."
- Arthur C. Clarke, "The Sentinel"
And if they're really intelligent they'll take one look and turn around and go home...
"In 2008 Rick Shenkman, the Editor-in-Chief of the History News Network, published a book entitled "Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter" (Basic Books). In it he demonstrated, among other things, that most Americans were: (1) ignorant about major international events, (2) knew little about how their own government runs and who runs it, (3) were nonetheless willing to accept government positions and policies even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggested they were bad for the country, and (4) were readily swayed by stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears, and public relations babble.
Shenkman spent 256 pages documenting these claims, using a great number of polls and surveys from very reputable sources. Indeed, in the end it is hard to argue with his data. So, what can we say about this? One thing that can be said is that this is not an abnormal state of affairs. As has been suggested in prior analyses, ignorance of non-local affairs (often leading to inaccurate assumptions, passive acceptance of authority, and illogical actions) is, in fact, a default position for any population.
To put it another way, the majority of any population will pay little or no attention to news stories or government actions that do not appear to impact their lives or the lives of close associates. If something non-local happens that is brought to their attention by the media, they will passively accept government explanations and simplistic solutions.
The primary issue is “does it impact my life?” If it does, people will pay attention. If it appears not to, they won’t pay attention. For instance, in Shenkman’s book unfavorable comparisons are sometimes made between Americans and Europeans. Americans often are said to be much more ignorant about world geography than are Europeans. This might be, but it is, ironically, due to an accident of geography. Americans occupy a large subcontinent isolated by two oceans. Europeans are crowded into small contiguous countries that, until recently, repeatedly invaded each other as well as possessed overseas colonies. Under these circumstances, a knowledge of geography, as well as paying attention to what is happening on the other side of the border, has more immediate relevance to the lives of those in Toulouse or Amsterdam than is the case for someone in Pittsburgh or Topeka. If conditions were reversed, Europeans would know less geography and Americans more.
Ideology and Bureaucracy: The localism referenced above is not the only reason for widespread ignorance. The strong adherence to ideology and work within a bureaucratic setting can also greatly narrow one’s worldview and cripple one’s critical abilities. In effect, a closely adhered to ideology becomes a mental locality with limits and borders just as real as those of geography. In fact, if we consider nationalism a pervasive modern ideology, there is a direct connection between the boundaries induced in the mind and those on the ground. Furthermore, it does not matter if the ideology is politically left or right, or for that matter, whether it is secular or religious. One’s critical abilities will be suppressed in favor of standardized, formulaic answers provided by the ideology.
Just so work done within a bureaucratic setting. Bureaucracies position the worker within closely supervised departments where success equates with doing a specific job according to specific rules. Within this limited world one learns not to think outside the box, and so, except as applied to one’s task, critical thinking is discouraged and one’s worldview comes to conform to that of the bureaucracy. That is why bureaucrats are so often referred to as cogs in a machine.
Moments of Embarrassment: That American ignorance is explainable does not make it any less distressing. At the very least it often leads to embarrassment for the minority who are not ignorant. Take for example the facts that polls show over half of American adults don’t know which country dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or that 30% don’t know what the Holocaust was. We might explain this as the result of faulty education; however, there are other, just as embarrassing, moments involving the well educated. Take, for instance, the employees of Fox News. Lou Dobbs (who graduated from Harvard University) is host of the Fox Business Network talk show Lou Dobbs Tonight. Speaking on 23 March 2013 about gun control, he and Fox political analyst Angela McGlowan (a graduate of the University of Mississippi) had the following exchange:
McGlowan: “What scares the hell out of me is that we have a president... that wants to take our guns, but yet he wants to attack Iran and Syria. So if they come and attack us here, we don’t have the right to bear arms under this Obama administration.”
Dobbs: “We’re told by Homeland Security that there are already agents of Al Qaeda here working in this country. Why in the world would you not want to make certain that all American citizens were armed and prepared?”
Despite education, ignorance plus ideology leading to stupidity doesn’t come in any starker form than this. Suffice it to say that nothing the president has proposed in the way of gun control takes away the vast majority of weapons owned by Americans, that the president’s actions point to the fact that he does not want to attack Syria or Iran, and that neither country has the capacity to “come and attack us here.” Finally, while there may be a handful of Americans who sympathize with Al Qaeda, they cannot accurately be described as “agents” of some central organization that dictates their actions.
Did the fact that Dobbs and McGlowan were speaking nonsense make any difference to the majority of those listening to them? Probably not. Their regular listeners may well be too ignorant to know that this surreal episode has no basis in reality. Their ignorance will cause them not to fact-check Dobbs’s and McGlowan’s remarks. They might very well rationalize away countervailing facts if they happen to come across them. And, by doing so, keep everything comfortably simple, which counts for more than the messy, often complicated truth.
Teaching Critical Thinking? As troubling as this apparently perennial problem of ignorance is, it is equally frustrating to listen to repeated schemes to teach critical thinking through the public schools. Of course, the habit of asking critical questions can be taught. However, if you do not have a knowledge base from which to consider a situation, it is hard think critically about it. So ignorance often precludes effective critical thinking even if the technique is acquired. In any case, public school systems have always had two primary purposes and critical thinking is not one of them. The schools are designed to prepare students for the marketplace and to make them loyal citizens. The marketplace is most often a top-down, authoritarian world and loyalty comes from myth-making and emotional bonds. In both cases, really effective critical thinking might well be incompatible with the desired end.
Recently, a suggestion has been made to forget about the schools as a place to learn critical thinking. According to Dennis Bartels’s article “Critical Thinking Is Best Taught Outside the Classroom” appearing in Scientific American online, schools can’t teach critical thinking because they are too busy teaching to standardized tests. Of course, there was a time when schools were not so strongly mandated to teach this way and there is no evidence that at that time they taught critical thinking. In any case, Bartels believes that people learn critical thinking in informal settings such as museums and by watching the "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. He concludes that “people must acquire this skill somewhere. Our society depends on them being able to make critical decisions.” If that were only true it would make this an easier problem to solve.
It may very well be that (consciously or unconsciously) societies organize themselves to hold critical thinking to a minimum. That means to tolerate it to the point needed to get through day-to-day existence and to tackle those aspects of one’s profession that might require narrowly focused critical thought. But beyond that, we get into dangerous, de-stabilizing waters. Societies, be they democratic or not, are not going to encourage critical thinking about prevailing ideologies or government policies. And, if it is the case that most people don’t think of anything critically unless it falls into that local arena in which their lives are lived out, all the better. Under such conditions people can be relied upon to stay passive about events outside their local venue until the government decides it is time to rouse them up in some propagandistic manner.
The truth is that people who are consistently active as critical thinkers are not going to be popular, either with the government or their neighbors. They are called gadflies. You know, people like Socrates, who is probably the best-known critical thinker in Western history. And, at least the well-educated among us know what happened to him.”
"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
"All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity."
"...the smallest minds and the selfishest souls
and the cowardliest hearts that God makes."
"The lightning there is peculiar; it is so convincing, that when it strikes a thing it doesn't leave enough of that thing behind for you to tell whether- Well, you'd think it was something valuable, and a Congressman had been there."
"It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress."
"Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can."
"No man can avoid politics. All are in siege. No rival field of human enterprise can approach its ferocity. War is the extension of what by other means… in Mr. Carl von Clausewitz’s grim telling? The answer is politics of course. Today we file a scorching tort against politics. Politics separates, divides, enrages, disrupts - as war itself separates, divides, enrages, disrupts. Democratic politics offer no exception. Reduce electoral politics to its naked core…
The Essence of Electoral Politics: You have Candidate X. You have Candidate Y. Each is nothing more in this world than a liar, jackleg or rogue. This human sculch appears before the voters, hopeful of election. Both roar their flubdubberies before eager and attentive crowds. Both shout their propagandas. Each denounces the other as an arm of Satan. Amazingly, both are correct. This we witnessed Tuesday evening.
Come the election... 50.1% of voters may yank a lever for X. 49.9% may pull one for Y. X claims the laurel. He proceeds immediately against the desires, hopes and interests of the hapless 49.9%. Each day they live they wither, cringe and chafe beneath X’s atrocities… helpless as worms on fisherman’s hooks. Only upon some distant November can they heave this jackal out. Assume they do... Y - or some other Y - comes in. X’s voters must then endure their own parallel hells until the following election. The case of President Donald J. Trump is exquisitely in point…
In Politics, Smaller Is Better: One segment of the nation is with him. The other is against - many violently against. Why should either boss the other for four entire years? The same pitiful calculus applies to elections at any level of American government… down to canine-catcher. But the higher the office… the greater the menace.
The mayor of Why, Arizona, may impose his torments upon his encircled victims - as may the mayor of Whynot, North Carolina. Yet their victims are free to jump the fence. The bordering hamlet might run to saner and more tolerable settings… and so the oppressed flee.
The same dynamic applies to states. Has a California or an Oregon or an Illinois gone lunatic? For many they have. But a Texas or a Tennessee or a Utah holds out asylum. These local competitions form a severe brake on the natural rascalities of politics. It is, in fact, the crowning glory of the American device of government. But to escape a president a fellow must quit the country altogether - or rot down four years until he takes another go at the vote booth. And if the scalawag wins reelection? Then our wretch voter must endure another four years under occupation - for a total of eight.
There is politics for you. The business is so dismal... it can wear the soul out of the stoutest fellow. Now contrast the political system with the market system…
Voting in the Marketplace Is Entirely Different: Free markets - authentically free markets - lack entirely the violent combats central to politics. They are scenes of peace, tolerance… and justice. Let us draw a parallel case to our previous example of candidates X and Y...
A Coca-Cola holds itself out before the American people. This candidate claims to be the “real thing.” “Vote for me,” it says. Behind another podium stands a Pepsi. “No. Vote for me,” counters this fellow. Drink me “for the love of it.” Each cries his case.
This fickle and capricious voter pulls the lever for Coke. Or he pulls the lever for Pepsi. He opens his wallet for the one or the other. Does his vote injure, usurp or ruffle the opposing voter? Does he club the other voter over the head… as he does in politics? In no way, no shape, no form.
Satisfied Voters: A voter for either is a satisfied voter. Neither has any care to impose his preference upon the other… or deny him his soft drink of choice. Multiply this one example countless times and in countless directions - and you have a picture of majestic electoral peace.
McDonald’s versus Burger King, Honda versus Ford, Nike versus Adidas, Walmart versus Target… it is all one. A vote for any of them is peaceful as a dove. This voter on the free and open market holds no gun to the other voter’s ribs.
When he votes in politics - conversely - he does hold a gun to the other’s ribs. He seeks to impose his preferences upon the other fellow who does not wish to be imposed upon. To pull a lever is to pull a trigger.
Red State vs. Blue State: Chain a red-state American to a blue-state American. Force them to vote between any product on the free and open market. The blue-state voter may razz the red-stater’s ghastly and barbarian tastes. The red-state voter may in turn razz the blue-stater’s effete and supercilious tastes. But neither attempts to dragoon or bayonet the other. Each is free to vote his own way, as he might. And so peace prevails between them.
But give them the choice of Trump versus Hillary or Trump versus Biden... They will fall into savage combat… as the Kilkenny cats fell into savage combat. One will win. One will lose.
We must therefore conclude the free market’s voting system is vastly superior to political voting. A vote in the marketplace is a “win, win” deal, as our co-founder Bill Bonner styles it. What is politics then but a colossal “win, lose” deal? And market voting improves the world in ways large and small…
Voting in the Free Market Improves the World: Each business must compete for the consumer’s vote. That vote harms no one, as we have established. It also benefits many. It benefits many because a vote sends a signal. It tells the outvoted to field an improved product - or take the consequences. And an improved product lifts this world that much higher.
If a business fails the market’s harsh and ruthless voting, it falls into bankruptcy… and goes away. Yet here is perhaps politics’s greatest crime, its most scarlet of sins: It has drained away “social power”... and channeled it off into state power. That is, politics has stripped society’s power and liberty… and placed them in the state’s hands.
Social Power vs. State Power: Albert Jay Nock (1870–1945) was a gentleman and thinker of deep and penetrating insight. Nock bemoaned the loss of social power during the New Deal: "If we look beneath the surface of our public affairs, we can discern one fundamental fact: namely, a great redistribution of power between society and the State…
It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own. All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn. Therefore every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power. There is never, nor can there be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power...
Heretofore in this country sudden crises of misfortune have been met by a mobilization of social power. In fact (except for certain institutional enterprises like the home for the aged, the lunatic asylum, city hospital and county poorhouse), destitution, unemployment, "depression" and similar ills have been no concern of the State but have been relieved by the application of social power."
As the frog in its pot acquiesces to the gradually warming water… the citizen has acquiesced to his gradual loss of social power: "Thus the State "turns every contingency into a resource" for accumulating power in itself, always at the expense of social power; and with this it develops a habit of acquiescence in the people. New generations appear, each temperamentally adjusted - or as I believe our American glossary now has it, "conditioned" - to new increments of State power, and they tend to take the process of continuous accumulation as quite in order."
The lingering vestiges of social power are in the State’s sights. And many voters are hot to sign them away.
Is There Any Alternative to Politics? Do we propose an alternative to the political arrangement? No - not earnestly. We diagnose a disorder… we do not prescribe a fix. Besides, most would find a true alternative hard to worry down. It would be very rough stuff.
We have previously held out the relative virtues of monarchy to jab cherished democratic theories. But we certainly do not expect - nor do we propose - a return to monarchy. But you say we are a republic, not a democracy. It is the best we can do in this fallen world of sin and evil. Just so. We will not argue. But as French historian François Guizot said of republics: “I have no use for a republic that begins with Plato... and ends necessarily with a policeman.”
"If I assume that Trump loses and the Democrats also take the Senate, we are looking at real tyranny and perhaps that is what 2022 is all about. I testified before the House Ways & Means Committee back in the ’90s on tax reform. I explained that the biggest problem with the United States is that our tax code is like the brain wave of a schizophrenic. I have dealt with multinational corporations for decades and have to advise where to establish plants and where to avoid them. The #1 problem with the United States is that the Democrats come in and up go the taxes. The Republicans come in and they go back down.
Just because the Republicans win and cut taxes, that may last only 2 years. Companies NEED stability. Trump offered them a deal to bring their capital home and get a cut-rate one time. They would have to have been insane not to do so. However, if that was just cutting rates 5%, that would have been no incentive whatsoever and I would have had to advise stay where you are. You would not rent an apartment where the landlord has the right to raise your rate any time if he needs money. A lease is for a fixed amount for a fixed period.
The ONLY way to really drain the SWAMP is to (1) impose a rule that taxes cannot be changed unless there is a 2/3rds vote the same to impeach a president to prevent politics from creating this chaos, and (2) no family member may deal with any company or country that the politician is dealing with. This is STANDARD and it is dominant in Washington. They all claim they took nothing but it goes to their family.
In the case of Hunter Biden, let’s be honest here. The bank transfers he engaged in which showed up on U.S. government reports that “show potential criminal activity” by Mr. Biden, other family members, and business partners. The report’s phrasing is a sure indicator that Hunter Biden and his associates showed up by name in confidential Suspicious Activity Reports (SARS) issued by the Treasury Department.
To top it off, anyone else would be charged with money laundering facing 20 years in jail for what Hunter Biden did transferring nearly $2 million to his uncle. Then the money was sent to Chinese businessmen and to hide this transaction which is money laundering if anyone other than a politician’s family was involved. The bank made an inquiry about the large amount and after the Bidens were not forthcoming, the bank closed the account (see the Senate report).
When I was going to go work in Singapore for a while, I asked a friend there to find a nice condo for me and I would wire him the deposit which was $5,000. I got there after about 2 months later and he said to me he never got the wire. I called my bank and asked to trace it. HSBC then returned the money stating that they could not verify I had no interest in his personal account. I had to then write him a check. The Bidens could send millions of dollars that were very suspicious and the bank just closed their account?
This is how the SWAMP works. It is out of control. They hate Trump because he isn’t taking money.
I seriously doubt that we will have peace and quiet. REGARDLESS of who wins, the other side will not accept it. If Trump wins, I think they will do whatever they can to get rid of him by 2022. If Biden wins, we are looking at a major political crisis by 2022. There will be no 4 years of peace."
“You chose your dreams for the journeys they'd make possible, and you knew when you chose them there'd be obstacles, crises, and young souls who'd stand in your way. They exist by design. To tempt you, lure you, test you. So that you can come back, prevail, rise above, and rock on. And ultimately to convince you of your awesomeness. They're part of the plan. There've been no mistakes. All is supremely well. These are the days, mid-adventure, that will mean the most to you. And some of those young souls will forever remember the gift of your paths crossing.”
“Separated by about 14 degrees (28 Full Moons) in planet Earth's sky, spiral galaxies M31 at left, and M33 are both large members of the Local Group, along with our own Milky Way galaxy. This narrow- and wide-angle, multi-camera composite finds details of spiral structure in both, while the massive neighboring galaxies seem to be balanced in starry fields either side of bright Mirach, beta star in the constellation Andromeda. Mirach is just 200 light-years from the Sun. But M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is really 2.5 million light-years distant and M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, is also about 3 million light years away.
Although they look far apart, M31 and M33 are engaged in a gravitational struggle. In fact, radio astronomers have found indications of a bridge of neutral hydrogen gas that could connect the two, evidence of a closer encounter in the past. Based on measurements, gravitational simulations currently predict that the Milky Way, M31, and M33 will all undergo mutual close encounters and potentially mergers, billions of years in the future.”
"Everything passes away- suffering, pain, blood, hunger, pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will still remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes towards the stars? Why?"
"Investors have been preparing for election-related stock market crash. David Kotok, co-founder and chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors told in a recent interview for CNN Business, "there is a creeping concern. If it appears too close to call, we're going to get a market correction as we get closer to the election."
In the meantime, all we know for sure is that both sides have recruited vast armies of lawyers, and it's hard to conceive that either President Trump or Joe Biden would rush to hand over the race. Alternatively, it's being said that there is a larger probability the situation will develop into a “Bush vs. Gore on steroids”, and many on Wall Street are anticipating a sharp stock market crash if that happens. "We've been very blessed in [previous] presidential elections," Hooper completed, "even in 2000, when it was unclear what the outcome was, it was orderly and civilized. There is a fear that it might not be this time. And that could fuel more volatility and selloffs."
At this point, all Wall Street wishes for is a clear, undisputed winner, otherwise a stock market crash would erupt on the horizon once again. Furthermore, the political drama will not only interfere with financial markets, but it can jeopardize the fragile economic upswing and derail Main Street into a second round of deep recession. The Fed, on the other hand, would have to unleash another massive shoot of printed money to stop the bleeding in the markets, enhancing the size of the debt bubble and adding more pressure to this stock market collapse scenario.
Another aggravating concern to the real economy is that a new surge of corporate layoffs has begun. It seems like the coming holiday season will be very bitter for millions of Americans. The Washington Post published an analysis that points out that the economic collapse boosted by the health crisis is sparking a colossal disparity in social inequalities, "delivering a mild setback for those at or near the top and a depression-like blow for those at the bottom. Recessions often hit poorer households harder, but this one is doing so at a scale that is the worst in generations".
Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve during the Great Recession, said the current collapse is "an even more unequal recession than usual. The sectors most deeply affected by [the health outbreak] disproportionately employ women, minorities, and lower-income workers". The Post outlined that low-wage jobs were lost at about eight times the rate of high-wage ones, and although the devastation was deepest among the lowest-paid, middle-class jobs were not spared. To conclude, Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi highlighted that "there are very clear winners and losers here. The losers are just being completely crushed. If the winners fail to help bring the losers along, everyone will lose. Things feel like they are at a breaking point from a societal perspective". That is to say, as the dividing line between the haves and have-nots in the United States is pushing both extremes further away, we'll see millions falling into poverty. Despite the outcome of the elections, America seems to be headed for a horror show, and economic conditions are on the path to get a whole lot worse."
“Here is a universal law: that when it comes to negative and positive, you will always thrive more powerfully in the positive if you have first been immersed in, and have heroically overcome, the polar opposite negative of that thing. To abide in the positive existence of something, without having known and overcome it’s polar opposite – that is to be only a frame of the real structure. Easily toppled down and taken apart. True power is in the hands of the one who thrives in the positive, after having known and conquered the negative. Because when the demons come along, she will say to those demons: “I know you, I have owned you, but now you bow down to me.”
“The only difference between the Republican and Democratic
parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when
corporations knock on their door. That’s the only difference.”
- Ralph Nader
"We have waded into presidential politics… and with predictable consequences. Yesterday - for example - we vented Robert Kiyosaki’s controversial opinion that President Trump is doing the nation a blessing by avoiding income taxes. Here is one reader’s response, Bob by name: "Are you s****ing me? I don’t like to pay taxes, but no taxes, no schools, fire departments, social security, police, criminal justice system as lousy as it is, electricity, garbage pickup, sewer systems. No one would be held accountable for anything! Do you want to drown in garbage and your own s***?
Everyone would run amok. This what you want? We all just run around with guns, like the wild West? I do what I need to do to try to have a stable and civilized country. And for you to say that this LYING TURD whom we call president should not do his part, reflects heavily and badly on your own lack of judgement, reason, and character. I doubt if anyone will read this. No one of your group will have the b***s to respond anyway! I will not unsubscribe yet, to see if you respond. That’ll be a cold day in Hell!"
It is our unfortunate duty to remind Bob that hell is characteristically hot today. Our agents have checked. Yet we freely confess: Our judgment, reason and character remain much in doubt. We nonetheless hope that Bob does not unsubscribe. A loss of any reader is a personal devastation - and a blow to our diminished character. Yet to address Bob’s central question: How can a man of so much wealth - Donald Trump - pay so little in taxes when Bob pays so much?
The Tax Code Rewards Entrepreneurship: You may like it or you may dislike it. Yet as Mr. Kiyosaki explained yesterday, the tax system is structured to reward entrepreneurship and risk while punishing wage-slavery (we are among the slaves): "Government leaders learned a long time ago that the tax codes could be used to make people and businesses do what they want by utilizing the tax codes. In short, the many credits and breaks that are found in the tax codes are there precisely because the government wants you to take advantage of them. For instance, the government wants cheap housing.
Because of this, there are many tax credits for affordable housing that developers and investors can take advantage of that minimize their tax liability, put more money in their pocket, and in turn, create affordable housing. Everyone wins. I would rather invest my money in affordable housing than give it to a bureaucrat.
There are many scenarios like this in the tax codes that incentivize investors and entrepreneurs to do activities the government is looking for while rewarding those who take those actions with lower, or zero, tax burdens. Because of this, limiting your tax liability actually means you’re doing what the government wants you to do through the tax codes. And that is the most patriotic thing you can do."
Tax-dodging is patriotic? Many disagree - our reader feedback demonstrates the point in full. Robert nonetheless concludes: "Criticisms of Donald Trump’s tax returns are capitalizing on the general ignorance around money and taxes that much of our country has. In that way, it is actually a lie and a form of fear-mongering. It is an attack without legs to stand on, preying on emotions rather than appealing to logic and intellect. But that’s what most of our politics has devolved to these days, so I’m not surprised. I encourage you to begin looking at how you can be patriotic not by paying your taxes, but by investing and building businesses that the government rewards with tax breaks and credits for doing exactly what they want."
Reader mail nonetheless remained overwhelmingly critical. Reader H.S., for example, addresses Robert after this fashion: "I had a lot of respect for you even though you had paired up with Trump and wrote your book in the past with him. I let that slide, but it is NOT patriotic to have people in the country pay more taxes than you when you are a billionaire…"
We are then addressed directly: "I will still listen since I paid to be a subscriber, but please respect that not EVERY member of your email circuit is a Trump supporter! I'm just letting you know, you probably will lose a whole bunch of people as subscribers if you keep pushing this guy on us. I am just simply asking to wait on it, since it literally sickens me that people support this fraud of a candidate."
Just so. And of course we acknowledge our reader’s complaints. We would only respond that we do not support the president. Nor do we oppose him. We are politically agnostic.
Debt, Debt, Debt: What are we for? We are for the man who would leave us in peace. We are for the man who would not pick our pocket. We are for the man who lacks all desire to improve the world. In very brief, we are for the man absent from the ballot.
The incumbent has sent debt soaring to dimensions truly obscene. The pandemic plays a responsible part, we acknowledge. Yet even pre-pandemic, his tax cuts came without spending cuts. Thus his deficits were gargantuan. The debt burdens he imposed were correspondingly gargantuan. Let us acknowledge it: The “king of debt” was never a Republican model of fiscal probity.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had previously pegged deficits over a trillion. CBO presently projects over $3 trillion. Let the crocodile’s tears come strolling down Republican cheeks. When was the last occasion the deficit shrank under a Republican? Where is Mr. Robert Taft? Meantime, Mr. Biden presents a fiscal challenge even greater…
Democrats Would Spend Even More: The man is a Democrat. And Democrats exist to spend money - your money. This is especially true for Mr. Biden’s understrappers who would certainly boss him once in office. Have you considered the cost of the “Green New Deal?”
The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that they are more open about their profligacy. The one party will borrow more, the other will tax more. Yet threaten to constrain either of them... Then watch the warfare immediately halt… and the hands of peace come extending from both sides. Fiscal probity is on neither agenda. Their difference is merely a difference of degree. And so today we drop a mournful tear on the ashes of fiscal responsibility.
As we have noted before, Republicans once defended the approaches to the United States Treasury. But they have since sold the pass. And both parties have sold us all down a river..."
“What happens to people living in a society where everyone in power is lying, stealing, cheating and killing, and in our hearts we all know this, but the consequences of facing all these lies are so monstrous, we keep on hoping that maybe the corporate government administration and media are on the level with us this time. Americans remind me of survivors of domestic abuse. This is always the hope that this is the very, very, very last time one’s ribs get re-broken again.”
"Normalcy depends entirely on everyday life being predictable. To be predictable, life must be stable, which means that there is a high level of certainty in every aspect of life. The world has entered an era of profound uncertainty, an uncertainty that will only increase as self-reinforcing feedbacks strengthen disrupting dynamics and perverse incentives drive unintended consequences.
It may be more accurate to say that we’ve entered the Empire of Uncertainty, an empire of ambiguous borders and treacherous topology. A key driver of uncertainty is the Covid-19 virus, which is a slippery little beast. Nine months after its emergence on the world stage, discoveries are still being made about its fundamental nature.
Humans crave certainty, as ambiguity and uncertainty create unbearable anxiety. This desire to return to a predictable “normal” drives us to grasp onto whatever is being touted as a certainty: a cure, a vaccine, a fiscal policy to restore the “Old Normal” economy, etc. But none of these proposed certainties is actually certain, and those touting these certainties are non-experts who latch onto an “expert” opinion that resolves their need for certainty and predictability.
What we want, of course, is a return to old certainties that we’re familiar with. In the context of pandemic, the model most people are working from is a conventional flu pandemic: a certain number of people get the virus and become ill, a certain number of then die, and those who survive resume their old life. But there is mounting evidence that Covid-19 doesn’t follow this neat pattern of “the dead are gone and everyone else picks up where they left off.” Counting the dead as the key statistic completely ignores the long-term consequences of Covid-19 that include permanent organ damage.
How many people who get the virus, even asymptomatically, and who end up with damaged heart muscles or other permanent organ damage is unknown. Why is it unknown? Because the system is set up to only count the living and the dead. Chronic disability among the survivors isn’t even being monitored, much less counted. The longer-term consequences of the pandemic are not even being tracked on any comprehensive scale. Please read these articles and then ask: is there any plausible foundation for certainty?
A significant number of otherwise healthy people who get the virus suffer long-term organ damage. Another set of people suffer disabling exhaustion, brain fog, etc. for months on end. Are there no economic or behavioral consequences to these lingering effects? Of course there are, and that is a source of great uncertainty that won’t be dissipated for months or even years, as these long-term consequences aren’t even being tracked. We have essentially no comprehensive data on long-term consequences because none is being collected on a systemic, rigorous basis.
Various piecemeal studies of the people who recovered from Covid have found that between 10% and 50% remain debilitated months later by a range of conditions that cannot be explained by a single cause or mechanism.
Then there’s the inherent uncertainties of vaccines. There is as yet no evidence to support the claim that a 100% effective vaccine is just around the corner–or even possible. Let’s say whatever vaccine (or vaccines) are 80% effective for X length of time in 80% of the patients. That means 20% of those getting the vaccine could still get the virus. And of those who are protected by the vaccine, 20% will not know that the effectiveness ended long before the claimed duration of the vaccine’s effectiveness. A significant number of people will refuse to take the vaccine, and should one person who took the vaccine die, this number will increase.
As non-experts, we’re quick to conclude a cure is certain. We assume it will be like all the other miracle drugs of the past 50 years. But it’s increasingly evident that there is no cure for Covid-19 that eliminates 100% of all long-term consequences. The point here is that the patient surviving doesn’t mean there is certainty that they won’t suffer long-term consequences of the infection. There is also no certainty that those who get the virus cannot get re-infected later. Maybe the number of people who will get it again is small, but what this percentage might be is completely unknown.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously differentiated between “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.” The vast majority of the media, mainstream and alternative, is working on the assumption that we know all the unknowns, and it’s just a matter of time before it all gets sorted and we return to normal.
I am focused more on the unknown unknowns, of which I see an entire universe of possibilities. The evidence of long-term chronic consewuences strongly suggests that Covid-19 is not just another standard-issue flu. It’s increasingly apparent that it’s a very slippery snippet of RNA, and everyone assuming it’s just another flu virus and certainty will soon return will be proven wrong.
Meanwhile, other uncertainties loom large. The U.S. has fractured into warring camps very reminiscient of the final days of the Western Roman Empire. Rather than unite to save the core, factions are expending their last reserves on in-fighting and internal jockeying for the rapidly diminishing power of the central state. Those concerned about a potential constitutional crisis or recount in the presidential election are merely extending what’s already visible: fractures have widened to the point there’s no middle ground left.
The emergency financial policies that were intended to restore normalcy–printing $3 trillion and throwing it around as recklessly as possible to bail out all the speculators who’d left the U.S. economy fragile and vulnerable to any shock–these policies are no longer working, and claiming they are working just fine only deepens the future waves of volatility. Anyone claiming they can project the trajectory of the U.S. and global economy is deluding themselves. Where the economy will be in 9 months or 18 months, never mind five years from now, is not a known unknown, it’s an unknown unknown.
There are no roads out of the the Empire of Uncertainty nor are there any safe havens of absolute certainty within its shifting borders. It takes a different kind of mindset to become comfortable with the permanent ambiguity and uncertainty of unknown unknowns playing out, very likely in increasingly chaotic waves of increasing amplitude. Letting go of certainty is difficult because it’s so comforting. But there is another kind of comfort that comes with embracing uncertainty as a state of being and a state of awareness."
SAN MARTIN, ARGENTINA – "In the 1950s, Tommy d’Alesandro put together the Democratic machine in Baltimore – then headquartered in Lil’ Italy (pronounced Lil It-lee). His daughter Nancy (now Pelosi) was a pretty girl. Smart and tough, too. She went to Washington in 1963 to work as an intern in the office of Senator Daniel Brewster. She knows the place well.
Meanwhile, Fred Trump built a middle-brow real estate empire. He set up his son Donald in an apartment deal in the early 1970s – giving the kid a million dollars a year in income.
Mitch McConnell went to Washington more than half a century ago to work for Senator Marlow Cook. Except for a brief stint at a Kentucky law firm, he never left.
Joe Biden, ditto… In a flukey election in 1972, he became a U.S. Senator from the state of Delaware, just weeks before his 30th birthday.
Anthony Fauci got a job at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda in 1968. He’s been living off the federal government ever since.
These were the lucky ones… the elite. They gained fame, fortune, power, and status early on… and never gave it up. And now, aging… listening to the Grateful Dead in their private moments… shored up by botox, hair coloring, and Viagra… as needed… they are desperate to hang on to the world that has been so good to them.
Signs of Weakness: But the world they built is a counterfeit one. And it’s getting harder and harder to hold it together. Here’s Bloomberg: "Manhattan apartment rents plunged last month by the most in nearly nine years. That’s only one sign of weakness for the borough’s leasing market. […] The median rent, with concessions such as free months factored in, plummeted 10% to $3,167. It was the biggest rate of decline in records dating to October 2011."
While renters flee New York, their jobs are on the run, too. From The Washington Post: "Layoffs still piling up as jobless claims remain stubbornly high 837,000 Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. […] Another 650,000 people had new claims processed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance last week, the program for self-employed and gig workers, up slightly from 630,000 the week before. The total number of people claiming unemployment insurance ticked up slightly, to 26.5 million for the week ending Sept. 12."
Sellout: We are exploring the sellout of America by its geriatric elite. They launched wars against drugs, poverty, terrorism, a virus… and especially, against honest money. The wars benefited the warriors, shifting power, status… and about $30 trillion… to the elite over the last 30 years. But the more they scam, the more they have to scam to keep the jig up… and the more angry people they leave behind.
After Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker “rescued” the system in 1980, the resulting fake dollar and fake interest rates produced fake wealth on a scale the country had never seen before. The Dow rose 29 times. But the wealth was heavily concentrated in the richest zip codes. The rest of the country got, relatively, poorer. Factory jobs decamped to China and Mexico. The old machinists, welders, and hot roll handlers in Gary, Detroit, Mansfield, and St. Louis were left behind. Now, they live in shabby neighborhoods… on disability, if they can get it… reminiscing about the good ol’ days.
Wealth migrated from the towns where people made things to the towns where people just made money. Like Manhattan, where apartment prices rose four times since the beginning of this century. And there, people made plenty of money, thanks to the Fed’s war on honest money.
Five Assaults: The Fed launched five major assaults. There were three waves of interest rate cuts – 1989-1992, 2000-2003, and 2007-2008 – along with a $3.6 trillion heavy artillery barrage after the crisis of 2008-2009 and $3 trillion more to fight the COVID Shutdown. Almost every penny went to the richest, oldest 10% of the country… leaving 90% of the population behind.
This COVID Shutdown – another attempt to protect the old at the expense of the young – forced much of the economy onto the internet, leaving behind millions of face-to-face, hand-to-mouth workers. Waiters, parking lot attendants, landlords in some areas, clowns in Disney World, strippers in Las Vegas… whole industries were decimated. Many people will never get their jobs back. They have been left behind, perhaps permanently.
No Complaints: Meanwhile, the Boomer Elite… bless their hearts (including your editor and many of his Diary readers)… is living high on the hog. Maybe we weren’t as lucky as The Donald or The Nancy, but we can’t complain. We went to college. We avoided the assembly lines and shop floors. We punched a keyboard, not a time clock… And come the coronavirus… we could work from home. And we made investments… partaking of the great promise of degenerate American capitalism – that the government would make sure we didn’t lose money.
As often chronicled in this space, three times this century, the markets have tried to correct… and three times, the Federal Reserve has fought back, making sure the wealthy elite retained its ill-gotten gains. And then, just to make it better for ourselves… we can move to a Zoom Town. That’s right, we can leave behind the whole complex of crime, poverty, job losses, politics, and social disruption… and live far enough away from the big city, where it is safe, beautiful, and pleasant… but still with enough bandwidth to let us “visit” with our children and grandchildren… and carry on with the rump ends of our careers.
Left Behind: And now… here we are. We save more than ever (what is there to spend money on?) We enjoy more time at home. Nobody asks us to get on a plane… to come into the office… or even attend a dinner party. We boomers have left behind the factory workers. We’ve left behind the Old Economy and its hourly wage earners. We’ve left behind the towns where we were born. We left behind the old folks when we set off to make our careers… And now, we leave behind our own children as we head for comfy retirement in Idaho or North Carolina (paid for by the next generation!)…
But wait… you say the biggest “Left Behind” is still ahead? You say we’ve been promised $210 trillion (according to professor Lawrence Kotlikoff) in pension and medical benefits that can’t possibly be paid? You say the feds already spend two dollars for every dollar they collect in taxes? You say the millions of left-behind people are losing faith in the “social contract”? You say that our geezer elite won’t be able to keep this up much longer… and that we may be left behind, too? Stay tuned…"