Saturday, March 20, 2021

LALATE, "Direct Deposit, Checks, Cards 3rd Stimulus Check Update!"

LALATE, 
"Direct Deposit, Checks, Cards 3rd Stimulus Check Update!"
Hint: March 24

“FED Is Juicing The Economy; Cheap Money Floods America; Zombies Keep Buying Stuff”

Jeremiah Babe,
“FED Is Juicing The Economy; Cheap Money Floods America;
Zombies Keep Buying Stuff”

Musical Interlude: Simon & Garfunkel, "American Tune" (from The Concert in Central Park)

Full screen recommended.
Simon & Garfunkel,
 "American Tune" (from The Concert in Central Park)

"A Look to the Heavens"

"A gorgeous spiral galaxy some 100 million light-years distant, NGC 1309 lies on the banks of the constellation of the River (Eridanus). NGC 1309 spans about 30,000 light-years, making it about one third the size of our larger Milky Way galaxy. Bluish clusters of young stars and dust lanes are seen to trace out NGC 1309's spiral arms as they wind around an older yellowish star population at its core.
Not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy, observations of NGC 1309's recent supernova and Cepheid variable stars contribute to the calibration of the expansion of the Universe. Still, after you get over this beautiful galaxy's grand design, check out the array of more distant background galaxies also recorded in this sharp, reprocessed, Hubble Space Telescope view.”

"First Of All..."

"First of all, although men have a common destiny, each individual also has to work out his own personal salvation for himself in fear and trembling. We can help one another to find the meaning of life no doubt. But in the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for "finding himself." If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence. You cannot tell me who I am and I cannot tell you who you are. If you do not know your own identity, who is going to identify you?"
- Thomas Merton

The Poet: Langston Hughes, “Life is Fine”

“Life is Fine”

"I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.
I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.
But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.
I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.
But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love -
But for livin' I was born.
Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry -
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.
Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!"

- Langston Hughes

"Remember..."

"Every time you wake up ask yourself what good 
things am I going to do today? Remember that when the 
sun goes down at sunset it will take a part of your life with it."
- Native American Saying

The Daily "Near You?"

Putnam, Connecticut, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"How We Stumbled to the Edge of the Cliff"

"How We Stumbled to the Edge of the Cliff"
by Charles Hugh Smith

"Now that we're teetering on the edge of the cliff, it might be a good idea to retrace how we stumbled down to this crumbling, precarious ledge. As I've discussed for the past 15 years, there are a handful of systemic forces that have taken us to the point of no return.

1. Demographics have reversed from tailwinds to headwinds. All sorts of extravagant promises could be made back when there were 10 workers paying taxes to support each retiree/state dependent. Now that we're down to less than 2 full-time workers for each retiree/state dependent, the promises are impossible to keep, with the one exception of printing the trillions of dollars that were anticipated to be paid in taxes - that is, creating near-infinite sums of funny-money out of thin air and hoping the rest of the world will continue to accept it. History doesn't have any examples of that working, but hey, we're special and this time it's different.  Oh, right...

2. The fuel of postwar prosperity, oil, is no longer cheap enough or abundant enough. A great many people are delighted to put their faith in renewables (actually replaceables, as Nate Hagens has described) but as Tim Morgan has explained, the era's secular stagnation that so puzzled conventional economists can be traced back to the decline in cheap energy available per capita: "Mapping the economy:" "The cost element is known here as ECoE (the Energy Cost of Energy), which has been rising relentlessly over an extended period. Whilst ECoE remained low, its omission mattered much less than it does now. This is why conventional, money-based economic modelling appeared to work pretty well, until ECoE became big enough to introduce progressive invalidation into economic models. This process can be traced to the 1990s, when conventional interpretation noticed – but could not explain – a phenomenon then labelled 'secular stagnation'."

I addressed the relationship between hydrocarbons and stagnation in "Oil and Debt: Why Our Financial System Is Unsustainable." (2/25/21)

3. The balance between labor and capital has collapsed. $50 trillion in earnings has been transferred to the Financial Aristocracy from the bottom 90% of American households over the past 45 years. This is the reality that must be obscured by any means available, but alas, there's data and facts: "Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018."

The status quo response to stagnation was to push financialization and globalization, both of which reward those who own capital and control the market forces (heh) of rigged "markets." Given the incentive structures of financialization and globalization, the best way to maximize profits by any means available has been to offshore production (costly, risky, low profit in a world of excess capacity, get rid of it) and generate obscene profits by financial speculation (clean, easy and guaranteed because The Fed has our back).

This is how the nation has been hollowed out, financially and morally.

4. The nation's leadership elite no longer trusts the citizenry. The entire purpose of what passes for leadership now in the U.S. is to bamboozle, lie, prevaricate and obscure how the nation's resources are being squandered globally and domestically. The nation's leadership elite continues to assume that the resources and money available are essentially limitless, and so there's no Endless War (tm) that can't be extended indefinitely, no corporate welfare that can't be increased, and now that the populace is restive, no limit on how many trillions (pocket money, we're America! We can do anything!) can be distributed in bread and circuses to increase the voters' dependence on The Savior State. (Be a good little debt-serf or tax donkey and everything will be just fine.)

When it gets serious, you have to lie, and now it's serious every single second of every day.

5. The central bank's magic does not work forever. If you look at the fine print on the bottom of the Federal Reserve's magic lamp, it warns that lowering interest rates stops working when the rate is zero, and that creating trillions out of thin air and giving it to banks, cartels and super-wealthy financiers only works to inflate speculative asset bubbles for 20 years. So let's see, 2000 plus 20 equals 2020... oops. Looks like the Fed's magic (and our luck) have finally run out.

Just a thought, but removing the blindfold might be a good idea here. The edge is crumbling and the bottom is a long way down."

"The Most Daring Liars..."

“The men the American people admire most extravagantly 
are the most daring liars; the men they detest most
 violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”
- H.L. Mencken

"Systemic Failure"

"Systemic Failure"
by The ZMan

"Complexity in human systems often results in properties that have no obvious relationship to the people in the system. The example used when trying to explain complexity is the ant colony. A single ant is not a terribly complicated thing, but the ant colony is highly complex. Further, the actions of a single ant appear to be random, but all of those ants together look like a highly coordinated effort. You cannot learn much about an ant colony by studying a single ant.

Complexity in human systems often results in a disconnect between the user inputs and expected outputs. People who work with large software systems run into this when making changes to the system. If the system has been around for a while, it often has been modified many times by many hands. New changes often result in strange and unexpected downstream consequences. Every new change means the next change will be more costly in testing and error correction.

Ants and software can be interesting, but they are not the best example to use when thinking about the human system known as society. We don’t have the ability to completely stand outside of society, like we do with an ant colony, and objectively observe the emergent properties as a whole. We live in society. Unlike a software system, we don’t have a design spec or documentation. We have to infer the design from the actions we observe, which creates its own complexity.

We have some examples of this over the last year. The great election fraud was not the result of a master plan from grand strategists operating in a secret lair. Like the ant colony, it was the result of thousands of individual actions by people motivated by years of conditioning from the ruling class. For the bulk of the managerial class, down to the entry level clerks, opposing Trump became a religion. Stopping him through any means necessary became part of their collective mindset.

The weird cultural revolution being imposed on the military offers an example in the present to see how this works. The military is a vast, complex machine. Most of what it does is enable a relatively small number of people to wage war. It is a rule based, male dominated system. It is being turned into a chaotic, feminine system. As thousands of men flee that system, the system will change in ways no one can predict. Whatever it becomes, it will not be the world’s most powerful military.

Another example that is still playing out is the Covid panic. Over the last year the main thread of the story has been the political class trying to contend with the unintended consequences of their actions. The reason their story keeps changing is their inputs never have the desired outputs. They have to keep going back and rewriting the story of their actions to fit the present reality. It turns out that throwing wrenches into the gears of human society was not the smartest play on their part.

The big new stimulus bill to try and patch up what they have wrecked is another example of system complexity. The final cost of this relief bill is about $15,000 per household or $6,000 per person. Obviously, everyone is not getting a check for those amounts or anything close to it. Most of the money is going to the kleptocrats who run the uniparty system. People who made less than $75,000 will get a check for $1,400 per person in the household, with some exceptions.

The hope is the money will be spent as soon as it gets into the hands of the people, but that is not a guarantee. That’s not how the first round of checks played out. People used the money to pay down debts. Over the last year, a strange new behavior has emerged with the American people. They are paying down debts and saving money. Instead of rushing out to buy toys with those checks, they paid off bills. There has also been a wave of debt consolidation exploiting artificially low interest rates.

There is a good chance the new round of checks accelerates this trend away from consumerism toward saving. While the propaganda machines are telling the people to spend the free money, the people are hearing concern. The rulers would not be handing out cash if things were solid. They must be very worried about things they are not mentioning in public, so people are preparing for the worst. This is a good example of how complex human system are difficult to manipulate.

There’s also the fact that the rulers radically altered, without any obvious reasons, the habits and customs of society. All of a sudden, we have these new religions requiring people to wear codpieces on their faces and go through struggle sessions over zoom about their privilege. People working from home are not the same people who used to gather around the water cooler or have a drink together after work. This big complex system is suddenly very different. The old rules no longer apply.

This is what makes the revolution imposed from above so dangerous. The people who initiated these changes in American society are not working from a grand plan or a set of ideological goals. There is no point to what they are doing. Instead, our managerial revolutionaries are swept up in forces they do not understand. It is a strange, recursive and reactionary revolution from the top. The best they can muster for an explanation is, “we’ll know where we are going when we get there.”

Just as no one can know what will happen with the latest round of stimulus, no one can know what will happen as a result of the “great reset.” The millions flooding over the border suggests some form of collapse is in the future. Complex systems, however, tend not to collapse. They seize up in one area and the system responds to that failure, which triggers new unexpected failures elsewhere in the system. The result is an increasing level of chaos within the system.

What most likely lies ahead is spasms of disorder, followed by increasingly ham-fisted efforts to impose order. Those efforts to set things right will set off new spasms of disorder elsewhere in the system. The razor wire barricades in Washington are a good example of how this will work. The solution to the problem they created is going to set off a bunch of new problems. The main feature of this age will be men racing from one station to the next, trying to keep the plates spinning."

"How It Really Is"

 

"It Is Our Fate..."

“Well, it is our fate to live in a time of crisis. To live in a time when all forms and values are being challenged. In other and more easy times, it was not, perhaps, necessary for the individual to confront himself with a clear question: What is it that you really believe? What is it that you really cherish? What is it for which you might, actually, in a showdown, be willing to die. I say, with all the reticence which such large, pathetic words evoke, that one cannot exist today as a person – one cannot exist in full consciousness – without having to have a showdown with one’s self, without having to define what it is that one lives by, without being clear in one’s mind what matters and what does not matter.”
- Dorothy Thompson

"Just Before the 'Everything' Bubble Explodes: Stock Market Mania in 2021"

"Just Before the 'Everything' Bubble Explodes: 
Stock Market Mania in 2021"
by Birch Gold Group

"Is the market going insane? Is an enormous “everything bubble” – inflated with cash flowing into overvalued investments – headed for a historic explosion? Is the market in a “mania” phase right now? With every passing day, it’s getting more challenging to answer “no” to any of these questions.

“Hyper-speculative,” “blindly courageous” stock market mania: Wolf Richter highlighted one example in a recent article, charting a dramatic rise in margin debt (broker debt used to finance investments) and labeling it a “WTF spike.” As amusing as Wolf’s acronym might be, the chart below gives the impression that since March 2020, investors are not only hurling money into the stock market, they’re borrowing to do so at an insane pace:
U.S. Margin Debt 1999-2021

Why is this bad? A couple of reasons. First, in Wolf’s words, “A big surge in margin balances tended to precede history-making stock market declines.”

Second: margin buying, also known as “leverage,” magnifies the consequences of any tremble in the market. See, brokers use the value of an investor’s portfolio to determine how much they’re willing to loan the investor. Margin buying is a great accelerator of stock prices because buying with borrowed money creates buying pressure, and prices go up – and rising prices increase the speculator’s portfolio balance, encouraging the broker to offer larger loans and leading more stock buying on margin. As long as the speculator’s bets go up, everything’s fine.

On the other hand, if a speculator’s bets don’t go well, their portfolio value declines and their broker will demand more collateral. They may be forced to sell stocks to pay these “margin calls” – and sometimes worried brokers sell customers’ holdings without notice for collateral. Even worse, brokers can change margin requirements at any time (usually demanding more collateral when the market looks shaky).

Forced selling to meet margin calls puts downward pressure on an already-declining market. The more prices fall, the more desperate speculators try to dump their stocks, increasing supply at the same time other gamblers are trying to raise cash. Prices drop faster and faster, portfolio values tank – triggering more margin calls and forced selling…

Wolf added some commentary: "The historic surge in margin balances in recent months is another indicator of how hyper-speculative and blindly courageous the mega-bubble has become. All kinds of new theories are being proffered why fundamentals and valuations are meaningless, and why prices of all assets will shoot to the moon, no matter what.

It’s interesting that Wolf highlights “hyper-speculative,” “blindly courageous,” and that fundamentals now appear to be meaningless. These three faults seem to describe exactly what appears to be driving a risk-blind investing culture.

Here’s how veteran financial advisor Josh Brown put it: "The stock market is currently populated by somewhere between 10 and 20 million traders who have never operated in an environment in which they weren’t immediately rewarded with gains. For almost anything they did, in any stock, at any time." And the worst thing that can happen to a gambler (especially a first-time gambler) is that they win… Because now the stock market is packed with Brown’s millions of first-time traders who think the winning will go on forever.

Furious Stock Market Mania is Erupting in 2021: From an interview transcript with financial theorist William Bernstein, we can get a feeling of what “mania” in the stock market looked like just before the last major recession: "In summer around ’06 or ’07, I was listening to Bob Shiller be interviewed by somebody about the real estate bubble that was still evolving at that point… she wasn’t having any part of it and finally, she got so frustrated with Professor Shiller that she stopped him and said ‘Professor Shiller, I don’t know who you think you are but you don’t know the first thing about real estate.”

In this example, Shiller’s interviewer gets angry because he’s explaining that real estate is overvalued. She is inside the bubble, infected with the real estate mania of the time. She simply cannot accept that a Nobel laureate, an economist, disagrees with what is so blatantly obvious to her and millions of others: that real estate simply cannot fail to keep going up and up forever. That wild speculation eventually led to a major market catastrophe in 2008-09.

Jeremy Grantham cites a modern example of being insulted for his opinions on bitcoin and points out, “Rapidly rising hostility to bears is a very good, very late signal that the bubble is way advanced.” If enthusiasts can’t stand to hear contrary opinions, then they might’ve crossed the line into full-fledged maniac…

Today we have plenty more examples of how “general interest,” wild speculation, and a “desperation” to find unusual types of investing opportunities are fueling market mania right now. The first example is a resurgence in the general public’s interest in stocks, perhaps driven by government stimulus checks combined with the recent Wall Street Bets fiasco. According to Barron’s, this trend is turning mutual funds into “gushers:” Global equity funds saw a record inflow of $58 billion in the latest week, according to Bank of America Global Research’s parsing of data from EPFR Global. Who knows if the stocks inside these funds are overvalued or not? Much of this type of “casino” investing (fueled by stimulus checks and boredom) isn’t likely to be based on fundamentals.

Another example having to do with a recent uptick in crypto investing was reported by Bloomberg: “Retail traders got reinvigorated with the latest NFT buzz and as the stimulus checks hit their bank accounts.”

But wait, there’s more… A recent New York Times piece showcased more examples of investing “mania,” including collectible trading cards, sneakers, and digital ephemera. According to the same Times reporting, boredom and stimulus checks combined to create “mini-bubbles across a wide variety of esoteric categories” including “the gaming site Roblox and the South Korean e-commerce company Coupang, as well as for shares of the video game retailer GameStop and other so-called ‘meme’ stocks.”

Wall Street forecaster Jim Bianco told CNBC he thinks this isn’t going to stop for a while: “The obsession to take on risk will overpower inflation concerns for at least the next several months.” “It is mania,” Bianco said. But he might be overly optimistic and even seems to be in favor of fueling the mania in his closing remarks to CNBC: “The path of least resistance is more money gets thrown at the market, and it goes up.” Maybe he’s right, considering the Deutsche Bank survey concluding that 37%, $150 billion, of the latest stimulus seems headed into the stock market. And who’s investing? According to Deutsche Bank strategists, “a younger, often new-to-investing, and aggressive cohort not afraid to employ leverage” (emphasis added).

Here’s how legendary investor Jeremy Grantham explained today’s mania: "When you have reached this level of obvious super-enthusiasm, the bubble has always, without exception, broken in the next few months, not a few years. You can’t maintain this level of near-ecstasy. It can’t be done, because you’ve put in your last dollar. You are all in. What are you supposed to do beyond that point? You can’t borrow any more money. You can’t take any more risk. How do you keep that level of enthusiasm going indefinitely?"

Grizzled Wall Street hands have a saying: “The bull market’s over when the last bull puts in their last dollar.” When those stimulus checks are gone, we could soon see a crash of historic proportions.

The most popular line from the classic "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" seems to illustrate what is happening quite well: “Men, it is said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses more slowly, and one by one.”

"Michael Burry Warns America: Weimar Hyperinflation Is Coming"

"Michael Burry Warns America: 
Weimar Hyperinflation Is Coming"
by Epic Economist

"Feb 23, 2021: Dr. Michael J. Burry, the hedge fund manager who profited millions of dollars betting on the crash of the U.S. housing market, and helped to inspire the book and the movie “The Big Short,” is now warning that America is about to face a Weimar-like hyperinflation. The investing legend, who runs Scion Asset Management, has disclosed to fear the effect of stimulus checks on the economy. Considering trillions more are about to be issued, “the US government is inviting inflation,” affirmed Burry. The investor also sounded the alarm on the stock market alerting that extreme speculation and debt would lead to an extreme crash. As his forecasts have been proven accurate, in this video we going to analyze Burry's latest insights on the U.S. economic collapse and the looming market crash.

In 1974, Jens O. Parsson published an excellent, in-depth historical analysis of the hyperinflationary crash of Weimar Germany under the command of the original money printer, Rudy von Havenstein, "Dying of Money: Lessons of the Great German and American Inflations," (link is PDF download) which is often remembered during critical times as a historical parallel to what can happen next. A couple of days ago, no one other than the Big Short, Michael Burry, has addressed the theme of Weimar Germany and particularly its hyperinflation in a lengthy tweetstorm, while using Parsson's seminal work as a basis for his argumentation, and affirming that the U.S. is now going down the same path.

Extensively quoting the book, Burry noted how inflation has recurred throughout history, how it usually arises after an economic boom and an increase in new fortunes, how it leads to higher social turbulence, higher living expenses, and widespread poverty. He compared Germany’s policy mistakes in the 1920s to the current U.S. economic trajectory. And although most monetary historians are very familiar with the details of this narrative, the fact the man who was made famous in the Big Short is calling for Weimar-style hyperinflation in the U.S. is particularly concerning.

In the summer of 1922, all the existent marks in the entire world together didn't have enough inherent worth to buy a single newspaper or a tram ticket until November of 1923. "That was the spectacular part of the collapse, but most of the real loss in money wealth had been suffered much earlier. Throughout these years the structure was quietly building itself up for the blow," the investor highlighted, saying that Germany's inflation cycle unfolded not for a year but for nine years, which represented "eight years of gestation and only one year of collapse". His punchline came as he recalled this analysis was written in 1974 in reference to what took place in 1914-1923, arguing that from 2010 to 2021, the U.S. was in the process of "Gestation".

On Thursday, Burry has said in a now-deleted tweet: “Prepare for inflation! Re-opening and stimulus on the way”. Moreover, the investor is credited with unknowingly helping to lit the spark that laid the groundwork for the GameStop short squeeze, as he invested in the video-game retailer in 2019 after coming to the conclusion that the stock was undervalued. But he couldn't have imagined his efforts would help to incite thousands of day traders on a Reddit forum, WallStreetBets, to coordinate a short squeeze and send GameStop shares up by as much as 2,500% in a matter of weeks.

But now that he's played a major role in both "The Big Short" and "The Big Squeeze," the investment community is watching closely to the investor's latest insights. However, in a recent statement to Bloomberg, Burry described the GameStop frenzy as “unnatural, insane, and dangerous” and sounded the alarm for a massive market bubble.

He highlighted that growing speculation and widespread betting with borrowed money have pushed the stock market to the brink of collapse. “The market is dancing on a knife's edge," Burry said. In another tweet, Burry alerted to a "massive spike" in the volume of bullish call options being traded. He included the hashtags #cautiontothewind​ and #blowofftop​ to underline his view that those types of wagers are shooting stocks to extreme levels.

Only one day after the Weimar tweetstorm, Burry, whose display name on Twitter is Cassandra, referring to the priestess from Greek mythology who was cursed to share true prophecies but never to be believed, tweeted the following: "People say I didn't warn last time. I did, but no one listened. So I warn this time. And still, no one listens. But I will have proof I warned". Undoubtedly, he will. This is where we are now, the only question left is when will the exponential currency collapse phase start."
"The Big Short"
Watch on YouTube so autoplay works correctly for all segments.

"Digital Trails: How The FBI Is Identifying, Tracking, & Rounding-Up Dissidents"

"Digital Trails: 
How The FBI Is Identifying, Tracking, & Rounding-Up Dissidents"
 by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead 

“Americans deserve the freedom to choose a life without surveillance and the government regulation that would make that possible. While we continue to believe the sentiment, we fear it may soon be obsolete or irrelevant. We deserve that freedom, but the window to achieve it narrows a little more each day. If we don’t act now, with great urgency, it may very well close for good.” - Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson, New York Times

Databit by databit, we are building our own electronic concentration camps. With every new smart piece of smart technology we acquire, every new app we download, every new photo or post we share online, we are making it that much easier for the government and its corporate partners to identify, track and eventually round us up. Saint or sinner, it doesn’t matter because we’re all being swept up into a massive digital data dragnet that does not distinguish between those who are innocent of wrongdoing, suspects, or criminals. This is what it means to live in a suspect society.

The government’s efforts to round up those who took part in the Capitol riots shows exactly how vulnerable we all are to the menace of a surveillance state that aspires to a God-like awareness of our lives. Relying on selfies, social media posts, location data, geotagged photos, facial recognition, surveillance cameras and crowdsourcing, government agents are compiling a massive data trove on anyone and everyone who may have been anywhere in the vicinity of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The amount of digital information is staggering: 15,000 hours of surveillance and body-worn camera footage; 1,600 electronic devices; 270,000 digital media tips; at least 140,000 photos and videos; and about 100,000 location pings for thousands of smartphones. And that’s just what we know.

More than 300 individuals from 40 states have already been charged and another 280 arrested in connection with the events of January 6. As many as 500 others are still being hunted by government agents. Also included in this data roundup are individuals who may have had nothing to do with the riots but whose cell phone location data identified them as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Forget about being innocent until proven guilty. In a suspect society such as ours, the burden of proof has been flipped: now, you start off guilty and have to prove your innocence.

For instance, you didn’t even have to be involved in the Capitol riots to qualify for a visit from the FBI: investigators have reportedly been tracking - and questioning - anyone whose cell phones connected to wi-fi or pinged cell phone towers near the Capitol. One man, who had gone out for a walk with his daughters only to end up stranded near the Capitol crowds, actually had FBI agents show up at his door days later. Using Google Maps, agents were able to pinpoint exactly where they were standing and for how long.

All of the many creepy, calculating, invasive investigative and surveillance tools the government has acquired over the years are on full display right now in the FBI’s ongoing efforts to bring the rioters to “justice.”

FBI agents are matching photos with drivers’ license pictures; tracking movements by way of license plate toll readers; and zooming in on physical identifying marks such as moles, scars and tattoos, as well as brands, logos and symbols on clothing and backpacks. They’re poring over hours of security and body camera footage; scouring social media posts; triangulating data from cellphone towers and WiFi signals; layering facial recognition software on top of that; and then cross-referencing footage with public social media posts.

It’s not just the FBI on the hunt, however. They’ve enlisted the help of volunteer posses of private citizens, such as Deep State Dogs, to collaborate on the grunt work. As Dinah Voyles Pulver reports, once Deep State Dogs locates a person and confirms their identity, they put a package together with the person’s name, address, phone number and several images and send it to the FBI.

According to USA Today, the FBI is relying on the American public and volunteer cybersleuths to help bolster its cases. This takes See Something, Say Something snitching programs to a whole new level. The lesson to be learned: Big Brother, Big Sister and all of their friends are watching you.

They see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet. Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.

Simply liking or sharing this article on Facebook, retweeting it on Twitter, or merely reading it or any other articles related to government wrongdoing, surveillance, police misconduct or civil liberties might be enough to get you categorized as a particular kind of person with particular kinds of interests that reflect a particular kind of mindset that might just lead you to engage in a particular kinds of activities and, therefore, puts you in the crosshairs of a government investigation as a potential troublemaker a.k.a. domestic extremist.

Chances are, as the Washington Post reports, you have already been assigned a color-coded threat score - green, yellow or red - so police are forewarned about your potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether you’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime. In other words, you might already be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere - Main Core, for example - that identifies and tracks individuals who aren’t inclined to march in lockstep to the police state’s dictates.

The government has the know-how. It took days, if not hours or minutes, for the FBI to begin the process of identifying, tracking and rounding up those suspected of being part of the Capitol riots. Imagine how quickly government agents could target and round up any segment of society they wanted to based on the digital trails and digital footprints we leave behind.

Of course, the government has been hard at work for years acquiring these totalitarian powers. Long before the January 6 riots, the FBI was busily amassing the surveillance tools necessary to monitor social media posts, track and identify individuals using cell phone signals and facial recognition technology, and round up “suspects” who may be of interest to the government for one reason or another.

As The Intercept reported, the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies have increasingly invested in corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior. All it needs is the data, which more than 90% of young adults and 65% of American adults are happy to provide.

When the government sees all and knows all and has an abundance of laws to render even the most seemingly upstanding citizen a criminal and lawbreaker, then the old adage that you’ve got nothing to worry about if you’ve got nothing to hide no longer applies.

As for the Fourth Amendment and its prohibitions on warrantless searches and invasions of privacy without probable cause, those safeguards have been rendered all but useless by legislative end-runs, judicial justifications, and corporate collusions.

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers. Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, social media posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere. For example, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants. Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within a home, are already being employed by the police to deliver arrest warrants.

License plate readers, yet another law enforcement spying device made possible through funding by the Department of Homeland Security, can record up to 1800 license plates per minute. Moreover, these surveillance cameras can also photograph those inside a moving car. Reports indicate that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been using the cameras in conjunction with facial recognition software to build a “vehicle surveillance database” of the nation’s cars, drivers and passengers.

Sidewalk and “public space” cameras, sold to gullible communities as a sure-fire means of fighting crime, is yet another DHS program that is blanketing small and large towns alike with government-funded and monitored surveillance cameras. It’s all part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property.

Couple these surveillance cameras with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology and you have the makings of “pre-crime” cameras, which scan your mannerisms, compare you to pre-set parameters for “normal” behavior, and alert the police if you trigger any computerized alarms as being “suspicious.”

State and federal law enforcement agencies are pushing to expand their biometric and DNA databases by requiring that anyone accused of a misdemeanor have their DNA collected and catalogued. However, technology is already available that allows the government to collect biometrics such as fingerprints from a distance, without a person’s cooperation or knowledge. One system can actually scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away.

Developers are hard at work on a radar gun that can actually show if you or someone in your car is texting. Another technology being developed, dubbed a “textalyzer” device, would allow police to determine whether someone was driving while distracted. Refusing to submit one’s phone to testing could result in a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

It’s a sure bet that anything the government welcomes (and funds) too enthusiastically is bound to be a Trojan horse full of nasty, invasive surprises. Case in point: police body cameras. Hailed as the easy fix solution to police abuses, these body cameras - made possible by funding from the Department of Justice - turn police officers into roving surveillance cameras. Of course, if you try to request access to that footage, you’ll find yourself being led a merry and costly chase through miles of red tape, bureaucratic footmen and unhelpful courts.

The “internet of things” refers to the growing number of “smart” appliances and electronic devices now connected to the internet and capable of interacting with each other and being controlled remotely. These range from thermostats and coffee makers to cars and TVs. Of course, there’s a price to pay for such easy control and access. That price amounts to relinquishing ultimate control of and access to your home to the government and its corporate partners. For example, while Samsung’s Smart TVs are capable of “listening” to what you say, thereby allowing users to control the TV using voice commands, it also records everything you say and relays it to a third party, e.g., the government.

Then again, the government doesn’t really need to spy on you using your smart TV when the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cellphone and record your conversations. The FBI can also do the same thing to laptop computers without the owner knowing any better.

Drones, which are taking to the skies en masse, are the converging point for all of the weapons and technology already available to law enforcement agencies. In fact, drones can listen in on your phone calls, see through the walls of your home, scan your biometrics, photograph you and track your movements, and even corral you with sophisticated weaponry.

All of these technologies add up to a society in which there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence, especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home.

These digital trails are everywhere. As investigative journalists Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson explain, “This data - collected by smartphone apps and then fed into a dizzyingly complex digital advertising ecosystem… provided an intimate record of people whether they were visiting drug treatment centers, strip clubs, casinos, abortion clinics or places of worship.”

In such a surveillance ecosystem, we’re all suspects and databits to be tracked, catalogued and targeted. As Warzel and Thompson warn: “To think that the information will be used against individuals only if they’ve broken the law is na├»ve; such data is collected and remains vulnerable to use and abuse whether people gather in support of an insurrection or they justly protest police violence… This collection will only grow more sophisticated… It gets easier by the day… it does not discriminate. It harvests from the phones of MAGA rioters, police officers, lawmakers and passers-by. There is no evidence, from the past or current day, that the power this data collection offers will be used only to good ends. There is no evidence that if we allow it to continue to happen, the country will be safer or fairer.”

As I point out in my book "Battlefield America: The War on the American People", this is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one. There is no gray area any longer."
Related, highly recommended:

Friday, March 19, 2021

"Total Collapse Of Middle Class: American Living Cost Soar 400% But Wages Only Increase By 29%"

"Total Collapse Of Middle Class: American Living 
Cost Soar 400% But Wages Only Increase By 29%"
by Epic Economist

"Speculative bubbles are pushing the U.S. middle-class to the brink of financial ruin, as the cost of living continues to soar, wages have been on a persistent downfall, and debt just keeps on accumulating throughout the current economic recession. Over the past year, more than 8 million middle-class workers have fallen straight into poverty, and the situation will likely be aggravated in 2021 due to the coming burst of several asset bubbles that have been fueled by the unprecedented monetary response to the health crisis. Added together, living expenses skyrocketed almost 400 percent, but wages only increased by 29 percent. That is to say, as the backbone of the American society continues to collapse and significantly lose its purchasing power, experts are warning that we're about to face a dramatic systemic breakdown that will trigger much more social tensions and widespread civil disorder over the next chapters of the U.S. economic downturn. That's what we're going to analyze in this video.

The American dream is being removed from the reach of millions of U.S. families, while others that spent years building up their wealth have seen their entire emergency savings and retirement accounts being completely wiped out in a short few months. According to Bloomberg data, after the sanitary outbreak exploded, approximately 8.1 million middle-class workers who faced temporary or permanent lay-offs have fallen straight into poverty last year due to the extraordinary financial strains they were suddenly forced to face. Evidently, the health crisis has accelerated the erosion of our finances, but to truly understand the collapse of the American middle-class, we have to analyze some fundamentals.

As the financial and economic analyst, Charles Hugh Smith has described: "as the household's ownership of these assets that yield unearned income rises, so does their income and wealth. These increase the financial security of the household and build a nest egg that can be passed down to the next generation, improving their security via inheritance of income-producing assets," explained Smith.

For instance, when you buy a house, a mortgage is borrowed against future earnings and you'll pay the debt you created over the course of several years without compromising your credit. However, the current recession has forced workers in the middle-tier segment to accumulate enormous amounts of debt. Which means, in face of our broken economy, the middle-class is losing its ability to generate future earnings, and, therefore, it is losing the primary feature that defines it as "middle-class". Essentially, that is occurring because wages aren't keeping up with rising living expenses.

According to a recent report, over the past decade, workers' deductibles increased by 176%, while coinsurance rose 67%, workers' total cost-share went up by 54%, health costs rose 49%, as well as costs paid by insurance, which climbed 49%. Added together, the relative spike in living expenses jumped 395%, while wages only rose by 29%. That jeopardizes workers' ability to save money and invest in assets, as basic costs are taking up bigger chunks of the monthly middle-class paycheck.

What is happening right now is a phenomenon Smith called the "decapitalization of the middle class," which implies that the huge debt load workers were forced to take to maintain their life-styles is prompting the "decay of the ladder of social mobility which enabled tens of millions of workers to transform their wages into productive capital via saving and investment in their own human capital, their own enterprises and assets that earn income," says the analyst.

The speculative bubbles formed throughout the current crisis have put many assets out of reach of the bottom 90%, which of course includes the middle class. The median price of a house in 1996 was $135,000, already 3.8 times the national median household income. Now, the housing bubble has expanded so ruthlessly that the median home price is ranging at $542,000 in the simplest of locations. In metro areas that figure easily exceeds 1 million dollars. In the time span of a year, the Fed managed to send housing prices up by 17 percent due to the excessive liquidity injections. And that value will continue to rise as the U.S. housing inventory is at record-lows.

For that very reason, it won't take long until middle-class workers realize they have been impoverished by the ongoing monetary policies, and when that happens we can expect to see an upsurge of social conflicts and civil disorder that will trigger a massive systemic breakdown. Once our population awakens to the fact they have been purposely pushed to the brink of financial ruin as our government deliberately decided to prioritize corporate profits instead of saving our business, our jobs, and our wealth, our country will never be the same."

"There Are Many Things..."

“We have not overcome our condition, and yet we know it better. We know that we live in contradiction, but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it. Our task as humans is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks we take a long time to accomplish, that’s all.

Let us know our aims then, holding fast to the mind, even if force puts on a thoughtful or a comfortable face in order to seduce us. The first thing is not to despair. Let us not listen too much to those who proclaim that the world is at an end. Civilizations do not die so easily, and even if our world were to collapse, it would not have been the first. It is indeed true that we live in tragic times. But too many people confuse tragedy with despair. “Tragedy,” D.H. Lawrence said, “ought to be a great kick at misery.” This is a healthy and immediately applicable thought. There are many things today deserving such a kick.”
- Albert Camus

Musical Interlude: Liquid Mind, "Laguna Indigo"

Full screen recommended.
Liquid Mind, "Laguna Indigo"

"A Look to the Heavens"

 "The most distant object easily visible to the eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two and a half million light-years away. But without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy - spanning over 200,000 light years - appears as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, details of a bright yellow nucleus and dark winding dust lanes, are revealed in this digital telescopic image. 


Narrow band image data recording emission from hydrogen atoms, shows off the reddish star-forming regions dotting gorgeous blue spiral arms and young star clusters. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept in the 20th century. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" - distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.”

The Poet: David Whyte, ”Sweet Darkness”

”Sweet Darkness”

“When your eyes are tired the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb tonight.
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness
to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.”

- David Whyte,
“House of Belonging”

"If..."

“If Man were relieved of all superstition, and all prejudice, and had replaced these with a keen sensitivity to his real environment, and moreover had achieved a level of communication so simplified that one syllable could express his every thought, then he would have achieved the level of intelligence already achieved by his dog.”
~ Robert Brault

"The 'Great Reset' - Animal Farm Version"

"The 'Great Reset' - Animal Farm Version"
by Brad Lena

"Currently, transnational globalists are pushing for a "Great Reset." It helps to understand what's coming at us if you remember that the globalist's mindset is akin to a zookeeper's. Currently, the zookeepers have their animals safely confined, but there remains a modicum of hope that the animals can liberate themselves.

First some context. History is replete with ideologies that seek to save people either from themselves or a foreign contagion. Until recently, this impulse, as the 20th century shows, has taken the form of political ideologies.

For those espousing Marxism, the ideology sought to cleanse a people from the errors and machinations of the past. When the new ideas prevailed, even if only briefly, the alleged salvation from historical, social, and economic maladies required a reset of just about everything. More often than not, the reset was accompanied by a sea of blood and violence. The objects of salvation (the people) often died or ended up in the same circumstances or were worse off. I'm referring to communism, fascism, and National Socialism.

Some will say, what about capitalism? Whatever the ills of capitalism, it behooves one to consider the alternatives offered during the 20th century. Some have said history is just one damn thing after another. Others say history is the same damn thing after another.

In any case, the intellectuals of modernity (see Thomas Sowell's "Intellectuals and Society") decided that people left to their own devices will get in the way of humanity's salvation. Their solution is global governance that will closely manage all human activity. Saving humanity is yesterday's solution. Saving Planet Earth from humanity is the ticket. Enter the zookeeper.

In a zoo, the animals are confined. Their diet, reproduction, interaction with other species, consumption of resources, etc. are carefully managed, depending on the zookeeper's management goals. When the kept animals' illness, infirmity, or age becomes a liability, they are eliminated.

In the 21st century, COVID has given the intellectuals and their political and media lackeys the ability to turn modern life into a giant zoo. Whatever the coronavirus's root cause, the ruling elite have passionately embraced its usefulness as a tool to reorder societies and economies across the globe.
I may be wrong, but I do not recall a time when the world's governments acted in such remarkable uniformity. The virus-instigated collapse of the extant infrastructure (i.e., jobs, income, mobility, access, distribution, manufacturing, agriculture, etc.) has been blindingly swift. The obvious question - "When will things return to normal?" - is regularly answered by the authorities: they won't.

The ruling class intends to give the "new normal," AKA "the reset," its best shot. The future the ruling class contemplates is one in which "rights" and privileges will be granted only to those people who comply. Global mobility has plummeted, enforced confinement is mandated, jobs have vanished, goods are becoming scarcer, surveillance is omnipresent, and noncompliance is punished. We will be told that this is all for the greater good. The elite have turned the world into a zoo, with themselves as keepers and the rest of us as the animals that must be trained or destroyed.

The power to command and control human activity is off the charts. The impulse toward totalitarian rule is as old as dirt. Those with the power to attempt it have always done whatever it takes. The good news is that the animals in this new zoo are the most innovative, creative, adaptive, and resilient creatures on the planet. There's still a chance they can bust out of the joint."
Do you understand? All of this was planned in advance...
Let that sink in...
Cue horrified cognitive dissonanace.

"500 Years of Interest Rates: The Lesson"

"500 Years of Interest Rates: The Lesson"
by Brian Maher

"Wednesday we hauled forth evidence that long-term interest rates have trended persistently downward 500 years running. And the Himalayan rates of the mid-to-late 20th century? These may be history’s great exception, a brief but violent spasm… like a fleeting burst of blood pressure… or a volley of cannons. Here again, the graphic evidence:
Harvard economics professor Paul Schmelzing, in summary: "Despite temporary stabilizations such as the periods 1550–1640, 1820–1850 or in fact 1950–1980 -- global real rates have shown a persistent downward trend over the past five centuries… since the major monetary upheavals of the late middle ages, a trend decline between 0.6–1.6 basis points per annum has prevailed… Against their long-term context, currently depressed sovereign real rates are in fact converging ‘back to historical trend’..."

Furthermore: Rates have held this downward course “irrespective of particular monetary and fiscal responses.” That is, despite the monkeyings of governments and their central banks. Can you therefore expect the downward journey of interest rates to maintain present headings?

We have further ransacked the historical data… rooted around for clues… and plucked out worrisome findings. Worrisome, that is, if you track your time in years and decades — not centuries. Details to follow. Let us first examine another historical oddity, worrisome in its own way — the present stock market...

Tech Trounced: Markets are sensing inflationary pressures, and the Federal Reserve’s willingness to let them build. Technology shares led the U.S. stock market lower on Friday as a spike in bond yields fueled concern about equity valuations and prompted investors to sell growth-focused high flyers. But let us resume our study of time… and money. For light, we once again resort to the good Professor Schmelzing. The arc of interest rates bends lower with time, he has established. But as he has also established: "No line bends true across five centuries." Even the long downturning arc has its squiggles and twists, its crooks and its kinks, each bent by the great forges of history. To these, we now turn…

“Real Rate Depression Cycles”: Across seven centuries, Schmelzing identifies nine “real rate depression cycles.” These cycles feature a secular decline of real interest rates, followed by reversals — often sudden and violent reversals. The first eight rate depression cycles tell scintillating and often murderous tales…These cycles rotated upon such high dramas as the Black Death of the mid-14th century… the Thirty Years’ War of the 17th century… and the Second World War of the 20th century. The world is presently ensnared within history’s ninth real rate depression cycle. This cycle began in the mid-1980s. 

Schmelzing’s researches reveal the real rate for the entire 700-year span runs to an average 4.78%. The real rate for the past 200 years - meantime - averages 2.6%. It is here where our tale gathers pace… and acquires point…

A Thing of Historic Grandeur: Schmelzing’s research shovels up this revelation: This present cycle is a thing of historical grandeur - in endurance - and intensity. Of the 700 years, only one cycle experienced a greater endurance. That cycle was in the 15th century. And only one previous cycle - also in that age - exceeded the current cycle’s intensity. By almost any measure… today’s rate depression cycle is stupendous, a thing for the ages. The sharp plunge to the right gives the flavor of it:
Beware “Reversion to Mean”: “Relative to both historical benchmarks,” concludes this fellow, “the current market environment thus remains severely depressed.” That is, real rates remain severely depressed relative to historical benchmarks. If the term “reversion to mean” has anything in it - we believe it does - the world is in for a hard jolt when the mean reverts. When rates do regain their bounce… history shows... they bounce high.

Schmelzing: "The evidence from eight previous “real rate depressions” is that turnarounds from such environments, when they occur, have typically been both quick and sizeable… Most reversals... have been rapid, nonlinear and took place on average after 26 years…

Within 24 months after hitting their troughs in the rate depression cycle, rates gained on average 315 basis points [3.15%], with two reversals showing real rate appreciations of more than 600 basis points [6%] within two years."

If the magnitude of the bounceback approximates the magnitude of the cycle it ends… we can expect a fantastic trampolining of rates. We must consider that rate appreciations of 6% are within reason. The present rate depression cycle runs nigh on 40 years. We must conclude - therefore - that the present rate cycle depression goes on loaned time. What happens once the loan is called in?

Crushing Debt: The stock market and the economic “recovery” presently underway hinge upon ultra-low interest rates. And so we recoil, horrified, at the prospect of a “rapid, nonlinear” rate reversal. Consider alone its impact on America’s ability to finance its skyshooting debt… A drastic rate increase means debt service becomes an impossible burden. The virus has dynamited mighty holes in America’s finances. The nation has taken on $7 trillion of fresh debt within the past year alone.

How would America service a $28 trillion debt - a $28 trillion debt jumping by second, by minute, by hour, by day, by week, by month, by year? Indeed… by decade? Debt service already represents the fastest-growing government outlay. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (no laughter!) estimates interest payments on this debt will total $300 billion this year.

Horrifying Arithmetic: But as the Committee further informs us, at present debt levels: "Each 1% rate increase inflates debt service by roughly $225 billion." Should rates rise 1%… interest payments would balloon to $525 billion… exceeding all Medicaid costs.

What if rates jump 2% or - heaven forfend - higher? The Committee: If rates were 2% higher, interest costs would total $750 billion, which is more than the federal governments spends on defense or Medicare. And at 3% higher, interest costs would total $975 billion - almost as much as is spent on Social Security benefits.

We do not expect such a violent lurch in rates within the year. But assume the present rate depression cycle reverses spin next year or the year following. Assume further that real rates leap to 6% within two years of the reversal. Recall, rates streaked to 6% or higher after two previous rate reversals.

Debt levels - meantime - could well exceed $30 trillion within the next two years. What is the cost to service a $30 trillion debt… at 6% the year? We haven’t the stomach to run the arithmetic. But we hazard the figure is plenty handsome. Debt service would nearly swamp the entire budget. But what might bring down the curtain on the current cycle?

The Mischievous Gods: Most previous rate depression cycles swung with death, destruction, howls, shrieks and sobs. Examples, again, include the Black Plague, the Thirty Years War and World War II. Perhaps a similar calamity will reverse the present cycle. Or some other unforeseen blow. The mischievous gods hold many tricks up their shirtsleeves.

Of course, we can find no reason in law or equity why the second-longest, second-most intense rate depression cycle in history… cannot become the longest, most intense real rate depression cycle in history. The cycle could run years yet, we must allow. It could also reverse Sunday morning. The Lord only knows - and He is silent."