"Mortgage lenders are starting to fail as higher rates and tighter financial conditions have caused demand for new loans to plunge. The number of non-bank failures will likely be worse than the Great Financial Crisis and lead to a large number of layoffs."
"Almost a year has passed since I came down here at your Head Master's kind invitation in order to cheer myself and cheer the hearts of a few of my friends by singing some of our own songs. The ten months that have passed have seen very terrible catastrophic events in the world - ups and downs, misfortunes - but can anyone sitting here this afternoon, this October afternoon, not feel deeply thankful for what has happened in the time that has passed and for the very great improvement in the position of our country and of our home?
Why, when I was here last time we were quite alone, desperately alone, and we had been so for five or six months. We were poorly armed. We are not so poorly armed today; but then we were very poorly armed. We had the unmeasured menace of the enemy and their air attack still beating upon us, and you yourselves had had experience of this attack; and I expect you are beginning to feel impatient that there has been this long lull with nothing particular turning up!
But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough. It is generally said that the British are often better at the last. They do not expect to move from crisis to crisis; they do not always expect that each day will bring up some noble chance of war; but when they very slowly make up their minds that the thing has to be done and the job put through and finished, then, even if it takes months - if it takes years - they do it.
Another lesson I think we may take, just throwing our minds back to our meeting here ten months ago and now, is that appearances are often very deceptive, and as Kipling well says, we must "...meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same."
You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination.
But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period - I am addressing myself to the School - surely from this period of ten months, this is the lesson:
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.
Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.
You sang here a verse of a School Song: you sang that extra verse written in my honor, which I was very greatly complimented by and which you have repeated today. But there is one word in it I want to alter - I wanted to do so last year, but I did not venture to. It is the line: "Not less we praise in darker days." I have obtained the Head Master's permission to alter darker to sterner. "Not less we praise in sterner days."
Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days - the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race."
"Some spiral galaxies are seen nearly sideways. Most bright stars in spiral galaxies swirl around the center in a disk, and seen from the side, this disk can appear quite thin. Some spiral galaxies appear even thinner than NGC 3717, which is actually seen tilted just a bit. Spiral galaxies form disks because the original gas collided with itself and cooled as it fell inward. Planets may orbit in disks for similar reasons.
The featured image by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a light-colored central bulge composed of older stars beyond filaments of orbiting dark brown dust. NGC 3717 spans about 100,000 light years and lies about 60 million light years away toward the constellation of the Water Snake (Hydra)."
“When the pain of leaving behind what we know outweighs the pain of embracing it, or when the power we face is overwhelming and neither flight nor fight will save us, there may be salvation in sitting still. And if salvation is impossible, then at least before perishing we may gain a clearer vision of where we are. By sitting still I do not mean the paralysis of dread, like that of a rabbit frozen beneath the dive of a hawk. I mean something like reverence, a respectful waiting, a deep attentiveness to forces much greater than our own.”
"Long-term cycles escape our notice because they play out over many years or even decades; few noticed the decreasing rainfall in the Mediterranean region in 150 A.D. but this gradual decline in rainfall slowly but surely reduced the grain harvests of the Roman Empire, which coupled with rising populations resulted in a reduced caloric intake for many people. This weakened their immune systems in subtle ways, leaving them more vulnerable to the Antonine Plague of 165 AD.
The decline of temperatures in Northern Europe in the early 1300s led to “years without summer” and failed grain harvests which reduced the caloric intake of most people, leaving them weakened and more vulnerable to the Black Plague which swept Europe in 1347.
I’ve mentioned the book "The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire" a number of times as a source for understanding the impact of natural cycles on human civilization. It’s important to note that the natural cycles and pandemics of 200 AD didn’t just cripple the Roman Empire; this same era saw the collapse of the mighty Parthian Empire of Persia, the kingdoms of India and the Han Dynasty in China.
In addition to natural cycles, there are human socio-economic cycles of debt and decay of civic values and the social contract: a proliferation of parasitic elites, a weakening of state finances and a decline in the purchasing power of wages/labor. The rising dependence on debt and its eventual collapse is a cycle noted by Kondratieff and others, and Peter Turchin listed these three dynamics as the key drivers of decisive discord of the kind that brings down empires and nations. All three are playing out globally in the present.
In this context, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was a political expression of long-brewing discontent with precisely these issues: the rise of self-serving parasitic elites, the decay/corruption of the social contract and state finances and the decades-long decline in the purchasing power of wages/labor.
Which brings us to karma, a topic of some confusion in Western cultures more familiar with Divine Retribution than with actions having consequences even without Divine Intervention, which is the essence of karma. Broadly speaking, the U.S. squandered the opportunities presented by the end of the Cold War 30 years ago on hubristic Exceptionalism, wars of choice, parasitic elites and an unprecedented waste of resources on unproductive consumption.
Now the plan–for lack of any real plan–is to borrow trillions of dollars to fund an even more spectacular orgy of unproductive consumption, on the bizarre belief that “money” can be conjured out of thin air in essentially infinite quantities and squandered, and there will magically be no consequences of this trickery in the real world.
Actions have consequences, and after 30 years of waste, fraud and corruption being normalized by the parasitic elites while the purchasing power of labor decayed, the karmic consequences can no longer be delayed by doing more of what’s hollowed out the economy and society.
Which brings us to luck. As a general rule, historians seek explanations which leave luck out of the equation. This gives us a false confidence in the predictability and power of human will and action and cycles. Yes, cycles and human action influence outcomes, but we do a great disservice by shunting luck into the shadows as a non-factor.
If Emperor Pius had chosen someone other than Marcus Aurelius as his successor, someone weak, vain and self-absorbed like so many of Rome’s late-stage emperors, then Rome would have fallen by 170 AD as the Antonine Plague crippled finances and the army, and the invading hordes would have swept the empire into the dustbin of history. It can be argued that only Marcus Aurelius had the experience and character to sell off the Imperial treasure to raise the money needed to pay the soldiers and spend virtually his entire term in power in the front lines of battle, preserving Rome from complete collapse. That was good judgement by Pius but also good luck.
As we ponder luck, consider the estimate that had the meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago struck the Earth 30 minutes earlier or later, it would not have generated the Nuclear Winter that destroyed the dinosaurs. (A direct hit in deep water would have spawned a monstrous tsunami, but no dust cloud. A direct hit on land would have raised a dust cloud but without the water vapor/steam generated by the vaporization of millions of gallons of sea water, the cloud wouldn’t have risen high enough to encircle the planet.) That was bad luck for the dinosaurs, and good luck for the mammals who replaced them.
The global economy has been extraordinarily lucky for 75 years. Food and energy have been cheap and abundant. (If you think food and energy are expensive now, think about prices doubling or tripling, and then doubling again.)
In our complacency and hubris, we attribute this to our wonderful technologies, which we assume guarantee us permanent surpluses of energy and food. The idea that technology has reached hard limits or that it could fail doesn’t occur to us. We’ve taken good luck to be our birthright because it’s all we’ve known. We attribute this good fortune to things within our control–technology, wise investments and policies, etc. The possibility that all these powers that we consider so godlike are insignificant doesn’t occur to us because we’ve enjoyed the favorable winds of luck without even being aware of it.
We are woefully unprepared for a long run of bad luck. My sense is the cycles have turned and the good luck has drained from the hour-glass. Energy and food will no longer be cheap and abundant, our luck in leadership will vanish, and our vaunted technologies will fail to maintain an abundance so vast that we can squander the finite wealth of soil, water, resources and energy on mindless consumption.
I’m reminded of a line from an Albert King song, "Born Under a Bad Sign" (composed by Booker T. Jones and William Bell): “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.” The next few years might have us singing this line with feeling."
"'Amor fati' was Nietzsche’s famous expression. It is a Latin phrase with connections to the Stoic writings of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Literally translated, it means “love of fate.” It is a white shoe yearning for mud. It is a turkey looking forward to Thanksgiving. Or an investor stoically preparing for a bear market.
We use the term to describe the grace and courage you need to meet a complex, unknowable, and uncontrollable future. You don’t know whether the Earth is warming or cooling… whether it is good or bad… or whether you can do anything about it. You don’t know who’s doing “equal work.” You don’t know what equality is… how to measure it… or what to do about it. You don’t know who the bad guy is. It may even be you. It recognizes that we are all God’s fools, living in a world of ignorance, headed towards we don’t know where. Using our brains, we can make progress in our physical, material world. Technical thinking yields pyramids and Eiffel Towers.
Ignorance Everywhere: But there is another part of life, which has a mind of its own. It does not bend readily to our desires or yield to our intelligence. It is the part of life whose purposes are unknown. The first and most important Commandment, according to Jesus, was not to fight it, but to love it.
But ignorance can be a charm. You just have to take it seriously. And appreciate it. Recognizing your own ignorance will inform your newfound modesty. You will be aware of it. And fiercely proud. Nobody will be humbler than you are! And since you are so chummy with ignorance, you will see it everywhere – in every headline, every public announcement, every speech on the floor of the Senate… and every crackpot comment from every dummy voter in the empire.
In private affairs, you reduce uncertainty by getting as close to the subject as possible. That is, you avoid secondhand “news” and try to find out for yourself. The more you know about a company, for example, the more confident you can be about investing in it. That’s why the insiders always have the inside track, an advantage that is increased by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s phony “level playing field” propaganda. In public affairs – policy discussions, economics, politics – as you get closer, you become less cocksure. That is, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.
In an interesting university study, people were asked to pick out Ukraine on a map… and whether they approved of military intervention in that country. Curiously, the further off they were on the geography (the average guess was 1,800 miles off), the more they favored forceful intervention. In public affairs, ignorance and confidence vary inversely.
Moral Certainty: When we first moved to Baltimore in the 1980s, we noticed this phenomenon in another context. Baltimore was a disaster. Crime, drugs, poverty, venereal disease, broken homes, unwed mothers, corruption – name a social problem; Baltimore had it. And while its leaders had been noticeably unable to solve any of these problems right in their own back yard, the city’s politically correct politicians were loud and clear on one issue: apartheid had to end… in South Africa. Had they ever visited South Africa? Could they find it on a map? Probably not. But they were sure they knew how to make it a better place.
“Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority,” wrote Baltimore’s own H.L. Mencken. “The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on ‘I am not too sure.’”
“I am not too sure,” would eliminate many of the world’s myth-driven, self-inflicted ills – pointless wars, dumb arguments, pogroms, persecutions, and lynchings. And reckless spending of other people’s money.
Imagine a wise Hitler entertaining the idea of building Auschwitz as a “final solution” to the “Jewish problem.” “Hmmm… I’m not too sure that would solve it… In fact, I’m not too sure there is a problem!”
Imagine Simon de Montfort readying to attack the town of Albi to exterminate the “heretics.” When told that half the people in the town were good Catholics, de Montfort replied: “Kill them all. God will recognize His own.” Suppose he had thought twice… “Hmmm… Maybe this is not such a good idea… Maybe killing people is not what Christianity is all about… Maybe the heretics aren’t so bad… Maybe I’ll take the afternoon off.”
Unwarranted Confidence: The barroom blowhard… so sure he is right about everything… is generally the dumbest guy in the place. And the most dangerous. He’s the one who will stir up a mob… and get himself elected president. The whole system of modern public policy is built on false knowledge and unwarranted confidence. The elite claims to know what is best for you. That is how every politician can claim his proposals would “benefit the American people.” But the only program that would benefit the American people would be to let them decide for themselves what would benefit them. Give them back their money. Stop bossing them around. End the wars. Stop the empire. But who would suggest such a thing?
Rather than seeing itself as one of many nations that must get along with each other, its elites begin to see that they have a special role to play. They become the one, “indispensable” nation, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it. They are the world’s only hope in combatting evil, which they do, as current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo elaborated, with “the righteous knowledge that our cause is just, special, and built upon America’s core principles.”
Thus endowed with a special mission and special powers, and subject to the special rules of the only nation with a trillion-dollar-per-year military/empire budget, the elite develop, in Fettweis’s judgment, a fatal combination of unrestrained hubris, unrealistic paranoia, and unrepentant ignorance. They see danger everywhere, without undertaking any serious study (they assume knowledge comes automatically with raw power). And they think they have not only the right, but the means, to do something about it, even if the danger is largely fantasy.
Damned to Hell: But people always come to think what they need to think when they need to think it. “All earthly empires die,” wrote St. Augustine in 413, a few years before the Vandals destroyed his city and finally brought down the Roman Empire in the West.
The elite contribute, by taking up the myths that help it die. Certainty and ignorance vary proportionally, both on the individual and on a national level. The surer a nation is of its myths… its exceptionalism… its manifest destiny… its policies… and its position at the right hand of God… the more it is damned to Hell."
"The unraveling continues. In one sense, what’s happening is predictable. Looking back in history, while not everything happens in the same way, things very much rhyme. That’s why certain aspects of the current financial collapse are very, very familiar.
The Fed® still has enough influence that it can stop a snowball. Can the Fed® stop an avalanche? Not so much. They may have some tricks to push the day of reckoning down the line if it isn’t off the rails. Again, like a presidential election, it’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
If it were merely a financial problem, the actions might be enough. But it’s not just financial. Other problems include extreme societal decadence. Decadence is a strong word. When I was a kid, it was applied to places like the late Roman Empire, or Willy Wonka’s® Chocolate Factory™ where those Umpa-Loompas wore those scanty tight outfits.
Whatever fetish sex act that any individual wants to do “because it’s Thursday” now seems to take the place of virtue. Replacing actual virtue with temporary individual passions is exactly what every single functioning society in history has avoided to in order to remain functioning. When people follow passions that are productive, like building rockets, they add to society. When people act on passions counter to virtue? Those passions consume and destroy society. Period.
We don’t live in a world where “if it feels good, do it” can ever be a policy that lead to a productive society. At some point, we must be guided by virtue, we have to have a shared vision for a future, and a shared desire to build. Can you imagine a single event that would bring us all together again? I can’t. We have to have that shared vision – if nothing else, to survive. Do we have it?
We do not. We are divided. The idea of a selfless devotion to duty seems to have (in many places) evaporated. Cops are supposed to put themselves into danger to save the innocent – that’s the only reason we put up with the rest of the nonsense that they get up to. If they have changed their motto from “Protect and Serve” to “Hide Until We Can and Give Traffic Tickets to People That Don’t Scare Us” then they’re not much use.
Globalism is likewise something that sounds good, but isn’t. I can understand the need for some places like, say, deserts to import grain and Alaska to import medicine and export oil and good vibes. But can someone tell me that we’re in a better and safer position as a country now that we depend on far-flung nations for things. When I talked to The Boy about careers, the advice I gave him was simple – don’t do anything that someone can do over the Internet. If you do, you’re competing with a job with millions or billions of people.
We have reached the stage of cultural collapse. I’m in favor of capitalism – but amoral capitalism is different. When capitalism is allowed to meet any need, the result isn’t good. Like any system, it needs boundaries. As John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Freedom needs boundaries. Freedom needs responsibility. Liberty, real liberty, requires obligation for stability. Otherwise? It descends into chaos.
So, we’ve established that we’re in a difficult place. The things that we depended upon are slowly slipping away. The economy is in a very precarious place, culturally we’re shattered to the point that not even another 9-11 would bring us together. The difficulties that we see from here on out won’t serve to bring us together, they will bring us apart. How about the economic difficulties related to just high fuel prices alone?
The Lefties love it, even as it destroys our economy. Heck destruction of the economy might even be the point. But stresses have consequences. If I drop an orange, it will fall. If we destroy an economy, it will fail. Some parts of it will be predictable: interest rates going up will make housing prices go down. Simple.
The one thing that I can tell you, is what comes next won’t be like what came before. The problems that we have rhyme with the problems of the past, but they’re not the same. During the Great Depression, we were at least (mostly) homogeneous as a country. Now, not so much. The end state is tied to the initial conditions. And the initial conditions of the Great Depression were greatly different than they are today, so there’s no way that we’ll see the same results. And things will never go back to “normal” because we simply cannot go back in time, and there isn’t any such thing as “normal” nor any time period which is “normal”. They will be different.
What we have, though, is the rhyme. It won’t allow us to predict perfectly. But it will allow us to see, dimly."
"We construct the experience of time in our minds, so it follows that we are able to change the elements we find troubling - whether it’s trying to stop the years racing past, or speeding up time when we’re stuck in a queue, trying to live more in the present, or working out how long ago we last saw our old friends. Time can be a friend, but it can also be an enemy. The trick is to harness it, whether at home, at work, or even in social policy, and to work in line with our conception of time. Time perception matters because it is the experience of time that roots us in our mental reality. Time is not only at the heart of the way we organize life, but the way we experience it."
"You know, we never see the world exactly as it is. We see it as we hope it will be or we fear it might be. And we spend our lives going through a sort of modified stages of grief about that realization. And we deny it, and then we argue with it, and we despair over it. But eventually, and this is my belief, we come to see it, not as despairing, but as vitalizing. We never see the world exactly as it is because we are how the world is."
“The everywhere of thought is indeed a region of nowhere.”
by Maria Popova
“In Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass,’ the White Queen remembers the future instead of the past. This seemingly nonsensical proposition, like so many elements of the beloved book, is a stroke of philosophical genius and prescience on behalf of Lewis Carroll, made half a century before Einstein and Gödel challenged our linear conception of time.
In one of the most stimulating portions of the book, Arendt argues that thinking is our rebellion against the tyranny of time and a hedge against the terror of our finitude. Noting that cognition always removes us from the present and makes absences its raw material, she considers where the thinking ego is located if not in what is present and close at hand:
“Looked at from the perspective of the everyday world of appearances, the everywhere of the thinking ego – summoning into its presence whatever it pleases from any distance in time or space, which thought traverses with a velocity greater than light’s – is a nowhere. And since this nowhere is by no means identical with the twofold nowhere from which we suddenly appear at birth and into which almost as suddenly we disappear in death, it might be conceived only as the Void. And the absolute void can be a limiting boundary concept; though not inconceivable, it is unthinkable. Obviously, if there is absolutely nothing, there can be nothing to think about. That we are in possession of these limiting boundary concepts enclosing our thought within (insurmountable) walls – and the notion of an absolute beginning or an absolute end is among them – does not tell us more than that we are indeed finite beings.”
Echoing Thomas Mann’s assertion that “the perishableness of life… imparts value, dignity, interest to life,” Arendt adds: “Man’s finitude, irrevocably given by virtue of his own short time span set in an infinity of time stretching into both past and future, constitutes the infrastructure, as it were, of all mental activities: it manifests itself as the only reality of which thinking qua thinking is aware, when the thinking ego has withdrawn from the world of appearances and lost the sense of realness inherent in the sensus communis by which we orient ourselves in this world… The everywhere of thought is indeed a region of nowhere.”
T.S. Eliot captured this nowhereness in his exquisite phrase “the still point of the turning world.” But the spatial dimension of thought, Arendt argues, is intersected by a temporal one – thinking invariably forces us to recollect and anticipate, voyaging into the past and the future, thus creating the mental spacetime continuum through which our thought-trains travel. From this arises our sense of the sequential nature of time and its essential ongoingness. Arendt writes:
“The inner time sensation arises when we are not entirely absorbed by the absent non-visibles we are thinking about but begin to direct our attention onto the activity itself. In this situation past and future are equally present precisely because they are equally absent from our sense; thus the no-longer of the past is transformed by virtue of the spatial metaphor into something lying behind us and the not-yet of the future into something that approaches us from ahead.”
In other words, the time continuum, everlasting change, is broken up into the tenses past, present, future, whereby past and future are antagonistic to each other as the no-longer and the not-yet only because of the presence of man, who himself has an “origin,” his birth, and an end, his death, and therefore stands at any given moment between them; this in-between is called the present. It is the insertion of man with his limited life span that transforms the continuously flowing stream of sheer change – which we can conceive of cyclically as well as in the form of rectilinear motion without ever being able to conceive of an absolute beginning or an absolute end – into time as we know it.”
Once again, it is our finitude that mediates our experience of time: “Seen from the viewpoint of a continuously flowing everlasting stream, the insertion of man, fighting in both directions, produces a rupture which, by being defended in both directions, is extended to a gap, the present seen as the fighter’s battleground… Seen from the viewpoint of man, at each single moment inserted and caught in the middle between his past and his future, both aimed at the one who is creating his present, the battleground is an in-between, an extended Now on which he spends his life. The present, in ordinary life the most futile and slippery of the tenses – when I say “now” and point to it, it is already gone – is no more than the clash of a past, which is no more, with a future, which is approaching and not yet there. Man lives in this in-between, and what he calls the present is a life-long fight against the dead weight of the past, driving him forward with hope, and the fear of a future (whose only certainty is death), driving him backward toward “the quiet of the past” with nostalgia for and remembrance of the only reality he can be sure of.”
This fluid conception of time, Arendt points out, is quite different from its representation in ordinary life, where the calendar tells us that the present is contained in today, the past starts at yesterday, and the future at tomorrow. In a sentiment that calls to mind Patti Smith’s magnificent meditation on time and transformation, Arendt writes: "That we can shape the everlasting stream of sheer change into a time continuum we owe not to time itself but to the continuity of our business and our activities in the world, in which we continue what we started yesterday and hope to finish tomorrow. In other words, the time continuum depends on the continuity of our everyday life, and the business of everyday life, in contrast to the activity of the thinking ego – always independent of the spatial circumstances surrounding it – is always spatially determined and conditioned. It is due to this thoroughgoing spatiality of our ordinary life that we can speak plausibly of time in spatial categories, that the past can appear to us as something lying “behind” us and the future as lying “ahead.”
The gap between past and future opens only in reflection, whose subject matter is what is absent – either what has already disappeared or what has not yet appeared. Reflection draws these absent “regions” into the mind’s presence; from that perspective the activity of thinking can be understood as a fight against time itself.”
This elusive gap, Arendt argues, is where the thinking ego resides – and it is only by mentally inserting ourselves between the past and the future that they come to exist at all: Without [the thinker], there would be no difference between past and future, but only everlasting change. Or else these forces would clash head on and annihilate each other. But thanks to the insertion of a fighting presence, they meet at an angle, and the correct image would then have to be what the physicists call a parallelogram of forces.
These two forces, which have an indefinite origin and a definite end point in the present, converge into a third – a diagonal pull that, contrary to the past and the present, has a definite origin in the present and emanates out toward infinity. That diagonal force, Arendt observes, is the perfect metaphor for the activity of thought. She writes:
“This diagonal, though pointing to some infinity, is limited, enclosed, as it were, by the forces of past and future, and thus protected against the void; it remains bound to and is rooted in the present – an entirely human present though it is fully actualized only in the thinking process and lasts no longer than this process lasts. It is the quiet of the Now in the time-pressed, time-tossed existence of man; it is somehow, to change the metaphor, the quiet in the center of a storm which, though totally unlike the storm, still belongs to it. In this gap between past and future, we find our place in time when we think, that is, when we are sufficiently removed from past and future to be relied on to find out their meaning, to assume the position of “umpire,” of arbiter and judge over the manifold, never-ending affairs of human existence in the world, never arriving at a final solution to their riddles but ready with ever-new answers to the question of what it may be all about.”
"There is this tremendous amount of arrogance and hubris, where somebody can look at something for five minutes and dismiss it. Whether you talk about gaming or 20th century classical music, you can't do it in five minutes. You can't listen to 'The Rite of Spring' once and understand what Stravinsky was all about."
- Penn Jillette
Perhaps there's a reason why...
“You Now Have A Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish”
"No longer can we boast about 12 seconds of coherent thought. The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.
Researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. “Heavy multi-screeners find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli — they’re more easily distracted by multiple streams of media,” the report read. On the positive side, the report says our ability to multitask has drastically improved in the mobile age.
Microsoft theorized that the changes were a result of the brain’s ability to adapt and change itself over time and a weaker attention span may be a side effect of evolving to a mobile Internet. The survey also confirmed generational differences for mobile use; for example, 77% of people aged 18 to 24 responded “yes” when asked, “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone,” compared with only 10% of those over the age of 65. And now congratulate yourself for concentrating long enough to make it through this article.”
“The bewildered herd is a problem. We've got to prevent their roar and trampling. We've got to distract them. They should be watching the Superbowl or sitcoms or violent movies. Every once in a while you call on them to chant meaningless slogans like "Support our troops!" You've got to keep them pretty scared, because unless they're properly scared and frightened of all kinds of devils that are going to destroy them from outside or inside or somewhere, they may start to think, which is very dangerous, because they're not competent to think. Therefore it's important to distract them and marginalize them.”
"One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back." - Carl Sagan
"Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" is an early study of crowd psychology by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, first published in 1841. The book chronicles its subjects in three parts: "National Delusions", "Peculiar Follies", and "Philosophical Delusions". MacKay was an accomplished teller of stories, though he wrote in a journalistic and somewhat sensational style.
The subjects of Mackay's debunking include alchemy, crusades, duels, economic bubbles, fortune-telling, haunted houses, the Drummer of Tedworth, the influence of politics and religion on the shapes of beards and hair, magnetizers (influence of imagination in curing disease), murder through poisoning, prophecies, popular admiration of great thieves, popular follies of great cities, and relics. Present-day writers on economics, such as Michael Lewis and Andrew Tobias, laud the three chapters on economic bubbles. Scientist and astronomer Carl Sagan mentioned the book in his own discussion about pseudoscience, popular delusions, and hoaxes.
In later editions, Mackay added a footnote referencing the Railway Mania of the 1840s as another "popular delusion" which was at least as important as the South Sea Bubble. Mathematician Andrew Odlyzko has pointed out, in a published lecture, that Mackay himself played a role in this economic bubble; as leader writer in the Glasgow Argus, Mackay wrote on 2 October 1845: "There is no reason whatever to fear a crash."
The question then arises: Who governs We, the American people? The people are the government, say the civics books. We are the superior partners in a master/servant relationship. We are masters. Officials we elect are servants. It is a beautiful theory. Yet careful analysis reveals the American people in fact wield limited influence over their affairs.
Imagine a football field, 100 yards in length. The American people are allowed merely within the two 40-yard lines. That is, within the middle 20 yards of the entire 100. They may stray 10 yards to the left of the 50-yard line or 10 yards to the right of the 50-yard line. The remaining 80 yards range beyond their effective control. Certainly arch-democrat Jefferson spins and spins in his lonely Virginia grave.
The Real Government: Unelected and unaccountable judges, bureaucrats, pettifoggers, pecksniffs, functionaries, understrappers and jacks-in-office…Various rogues, rascals, cadges, chiselers, grifters, ne’er-do-wells and swindlers…It is they who primarily boss us, loot us, hagride us, menace us and boss us. In brief, it is they who govern us.
Does the Department of Justice take democratic input? The Department of the Interior? The Centers for Disease Control? They do not. And do not forget: Dr. Fauci was a near Caesar during the pandemic. More recently, where was the public squealing to dispatch $56 billion to Ukraine? And does a sparrow fall anywhere within these United States - as it was once known - that escapes their suspicious eye?
A Perversion of the Constitution: The republic maintains its three branches of government; it is true. It maintains its official separation of powers. It maintains its protocols and decorums. That is, the Constitution’s skeletal structure is intact. Yet take a scalpel in hand. Knife your way through the outer layers… past the intermediate tissues… to the innards, to the vital organs. You will discover that the original constitutional anatomy is scarcely recognizable.
We lift our pocket Constitution from our breast pocket, for example, where it is permanently stationed - near our stony heart…
Under What Authority? We thumb to Article II, which limits presidential powers to: Signing or vetoing legislation. Ordering around the military and naval forces. Requesting the written opinion of his Cabinet. Convening or adjourning Congress. Granting reprieves and pardons. Receiving ambassadors.
Where does the Constitution authorize the president to: Require Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees… to Protect Access to Reproductive and Other Health Care Services… to Ensure Responsible Development of Digital Assets…to Strengthen the Nation's Forests, Communities and Local Economies… to Prohibit New Investment in and Certain Services to the Russian Federation in Response to Continued Russian Federation Aggression… to Protect Public Health and the Environment and Restore Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis… to name some?
These are but some of the 95 executive orders President Biden has signed to date. Are these not the prerogatives of the legislative bodies - of our elected representatives? Under which constitutional provision does the president exercise these powers? Certainly not under Article II.
A Bipartisan Affair: We sling our arrows not at the sitting president alone. His predecessor issued 220 of his own. Roosevelt - Franklin Delano - issued a dictatorial 3,721. Meantime, Washington issued eight executive orders in all eight years of office. Adams issued one in his term, Jefferson four. The number of executive orders has swelled to undemocratic and nearly obscene dimensions as the administrative state barreled through the Constitution’s “parchment barriers.” That is because the parchment barrier of the Constitution never could restrain men determined not to be restrained.
As 19th-century individualist Lysander Spooner lamented, in devastating fashion: "Whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it…"
Trump: A word about former President Trump is in order…We are not an enthusiast of Mr. Trump. We find much of his economics badly informed, for example. In certain instances, we find them atrocious. More importantly, we believe he failed in his central duty...Candidate Trump was elected not as statesman, but as a sort of destructionist - a sapper planting dynamite beneath ruling-class trenchworks, beneath the “deep state” fortifications that ring the nation. President Trump failed to light the fuse.
The fellow nonetheless did the nation an inestimable good, a supreme magnificence for which it should be staggeringly grateful. How? He renewed American distrust. Trump renewed distrust, that is, of institutions and elites (noun, not adjective) that run them. Trump renewed American distrust - that is - of the “swamp.”
Trump Exposed the Swamp Creatures: Like the lawman smoking crooks out of their safehouse, Trump flushed the swamp monsters out of the murk… and exposed them to the public gaze. How many Americans were familiar with the term “deep state” before Trump? Now the term has entered the popular vernacular.
Most Americans likely held the Federal Bureau of Investigation in high regard prior to 2016. But after the massively discredited Steele dossier and “Russiagate”? After the recent raid on Donald’s private residence - the first ever raid on a former president’s home - and likely future presidential candidate? Many Americans would trust a dog with their dinner before they would trust the FBI with the law.
Before 2020 how many Americans questioned the Centers for Disease Control before… or the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases?
Prior to Trump Americans had largely forgotten the fundamental question of the Roman poet Juvenal: “Who will guard the guards themselves?” Millions of Americans presently have sharp eyes on the guards.
Lost Credibility: And does the mainstream media retain one tattered rag of credibility? The Trump presidency revealed the media’s monomaniacal hatred for the man, a hatred with the heat of 2,000 suns. All standards of objective journalism went emptying into the hellbox. Meantime, social media excommunicated Trump and legions of his enthusiasts - often for harmless and inoffensive blabberings. Add them one with the other… and the American people are now on their guard.
Justice Must Be Blind: You may hold Mr. Trump in the deepest contempt. You may therefore applaud the clandestine machinations of the FBI and Justice Department to undo this satan. Yet we would remind you that swords slice both ways. We would remind you that your preferred politician may be similarly used by the “deep state” in the future. We would replace the blindfold that has been stripped from the eyes of Lady Justice. Perhaps Trump’s example expedites the process.
And so we lift our modest hymn in praise of Donald John Trump. He pulled back the curtain on the “deep state.” He exposed their mischiefs before a previously disinterested and unwatching public. We blast no trumpet for the fellow or his personal character. He is… flawed. But it makes no nevermind. Ironically, this “anti-democratic dictator,” the scourge of all democracy-drummers among us…May just prove American democracy’s savior…"
"We're all going to die. We don't get much say over how or when, but we do get to decide how we're gonna live. So, do it. Decide. Is this the life you want to live? Is this the person you want to love? Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger? Kinder? More Compassionate? Decide. Breathe in. Breathe out and decide."
525% Price Spike As Supplies Hit Alarmingly Low Levels"
by Epic Economist
"U.S. consumers and businesses are feeling the impacts of the worsening energy supply chain crisis that has caused gas prices to nearly double, diesel prices to climb over 60%, natural gas prices to increase five-fold, and led to some of the most expensive electricity bills on record. Energy supplies are shrinking at an alarming pace in every corner of the country, and recent capacity losses are already causing extensive power outages, fuel shortages and pushing millions of people into energy poverty, with about a quarter of Americans saying that they have reduced or gone without basic expenses - including food and medicine - in order to pay for energy supplies over the last year. That’s what we’re going to expose today, but before moving on, please support us by leaving a thumbs up and subscribing to our channel so you don’t miss our upcoming videos!
The devastating drought that’s been covering large swathes of America is causing water supplies to shrink and drastically reducing the country’s hydropower capacity. Now, the nation’s power grid is mostly relying on coal and natural gas supplies to produce electricity. But this week, natural gas prices in the U.S. have skyrocketed to levels unseen since 2008. Not only is natural gas one of the main fuel sources for the electric grid, but it's also the most popular way to heat homes in America. So even as temperatures drop in the months ahead, families will experience some serious sticker shock and face some of the most expensive energy bills ever recorded. Unfortunately, higher prices are not equal to better service. In fact, reliability on the nation’s aging electric grid is at an all-time low.
Considering the challenges facing the nation’s grid, as well as extreme weather conditions and growing electricity use, the U.S. is not being able to produce enough power supplies to meet consumers’ and businesses’ demand this summer. At the same time, 24% of Americans are facing energy poverty as costs continue to soar. A new energy industry survey conducted by SaveOnEnergy found that 85% of homeowners saw price increases in at least one utility bill with electricity being the most reported increase. Meanwhile, supplies of distillate fuels have been steadily collapsing, driving diesel prices to historic highs and exacerbating the financial pain of U.S. consumers, farmers, industry leaders, and truckers. The price of diesel fuel has skyrocketed in recent months - much more even than regular gasoline. Distillate fuels are the lifeblood of the U.S. industry, and the accelerating shortage indicates that the economy is set to hit hard capacity constraints in the short term.
“People pay less attention to diesel prices because people aren’t going to the pump and using it,” explained Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at Kpler, a research firm.“But diesel has a more far-reaching impact and is already having a real big impact across the economy,” he stressed. “There will be more logistical shortages,” said Phil Verleger, a longtime energy economist. “Americans will find more empty shelves and higher prices,” he warned. Ultimately, consumers are left bearing the burden, and they are getting increasingly frustrated with the repercussions of the current energy supply chain crisis. It's safe to say that conditions will become even more extreme in the months ahead, and the disruptions caused by the ongoing energy supply shortage will continue to wreak havoc all across the nation. An apocalyptic energy crisis is forming, and the U.S. will be thrown into disarray once extensive supply interruptions start to become critical to every sector of the economy."
“What created this unusual planetary nebula? NGC 7027 is one of the smallest, brightest, and most unusually shaped planetary nebulas known. Given its expansion rate, NGC 7027 first started expanding, as visible from Earth, about 600 years ago. For much of its history, the planetary nebula has been expelling shells, as seen in blue in the featured image. In modern times, though, for reasons unknown, it began ejecting gas and dust (seen in red) in specific directions that created a new pattern that seems to have four corners. These shells and patterns have been mapped in impressive detail by recent images from the Wide Field Camera 3 onboard the Hubble Space Telescope.
What lies at the nebula's center is unknown, with one hypothesis holding it to be a close binary star system where one star sheds gas onto an erratic disk orbiting the other star. NGC 7027, about 3,000 light years away, was first discovered in 1878 and can be seen with a standard backyard telescope toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus).”
"It doesn’t get better, or really more painful, than this: The Biden administration apparently considered sending cards to millions of American households that would be filled with money and allow people to buy gas and groceries, supposedly helping people deal with inflation. But the plan was foiled, and why? Because there aren’t enough chips on the market to meet the need! So they backed off, and good thing too. But think about this.
When the central planners themselves cannot find enough resources around to enact their own plans, we’ve reached some kind of new low. But it even gets better. As everyone knows, the Biden administration is in a panic to deal with inflation because… well, because everyone and their cats and dogs are red-hot mad about inflation.
The roots of the problem are deep but the evidence dates almost exactly from the day of Biden’s inauguration in 2021. So yes, he gets all the blame. It doesn’t help that we have reels of video of Biden himself promising to end fossil fuel. The first great act of these fanatics was to cancel the Keystone pipeline. Goading Russia into war over its border with Ukraine didn’t help either. But all that aside, gas and oil prices are responding to the overall devaluation of the dollar that was inevitable in any case.
And now, acting on the assumption that the American people and press are all as dumb as earthworms, the Biden administration claims to be for bringing down prices. So it has sent a threatening letter to all major energy companies to demand that they “work with the administration” to supply the markets or else face “emergency measures.”
Good grief! These people have chutzpah! Fortunately, the energy companies are fighting back. Exxon, for example, points out that the administration could allow exceptions to the Jones Act, which restricts shipping and reduces supplies. Of course, that won’t happen because the Biden administration is in the pay of the labor unions that keep that preposterous law in place.
As for allowing more drilling and refineries, forget it. Even today, if there really was a change of heart from the top, no one would really believe it. The industry needs certitude to make long-term investments, not just a temporary and mostly cosmetic policy change. The sheer quantity of oil and gas available on the markets has hit new lows, and it is hard to say that this is completely disconnected from government action. This is precisely what they were going for.
The entire administration is united in the view that we should all be living off the “wind and sun” rather than digging around in the dirt for our energy needs. Sadly, that rules out 84% of U.S. energy consumption. In other words, these people are not only cray cray; they are also despotic. Even when the despotic regime faces massive revolt from the angry masses, they cannot do anything due to their ideological commitments and the powerful special interests to which they are beholden. This is how societies fall apart. This is how civilizations collapse.
This administration came to power with the belief that Trump would go down in history as the worst president of all time. Now they’re looking at something more remarkable: The label of worst actually belongs to the current regime. Biden is even less popular than Carter!
This is my worry: They’re cornered rats, hissing and biting. At some point, angry regimes have no options left but to use their power to attack their enemies, even to the point of turning them over to the police in some cases. That seems to be exactly what is going on right now. They’re marching through the list: the Jan. 6 protesters, the “anti-vaxxers,” the dissidents in the war against Russia, the seditionists and unpatriotic executives in the oil and car companies who are not complying with the demand to make more.
Who do these people think they are? The more they fail, the angrier they get. In the book "Atlas Shrugged," the central plans fail because even the elites cannot gain access to the resources to enact them. They instead turn to diktat and nothing more. Make more stuff! Lower prices! Just go back to the way things used to be! It becomes comical at some point except that civilization itself is collapsing. There is no way really to understand our times except by reference to dystopian fiction. Below, I show you how the administrative state, the permanent bureaucracy, has become unleashed upon the American people. Read on."
"The Administrative State, Unleashed"
By Jeffrey Tucker
"Daily, the White House tells us that all our suffering is in our heads. We are actually doing really well - at least as compared with last year. Oh, there’s inflation but that’s only an opportunity to transition to relying on the “wind and the sun.” So stop your kvetching. What’s your problem? Don’t you want a green revolution? Don’t you want to own nothing and be happy? You consume too much as it is. There is a higher joy that comes with deprivation, so shake off the blues and learn to love the new way. Enjoy your wind and sun.
It’s becoming very apparent that this administration and the party it represents are probably toast. It’s just a matter of waiting for the next election. And then the next one. Two and half years from now, there will be a chance to start fresh and cut it out with all the insanity in which a bunch of woke Ivies impose their nutty visions on the rest of us. Just wait it out.
Thank goodness for democracy, right? The right question to ask is whether it will change anything. You are not cynical if you doubt that much will change. The problem is baked into the structure of government today, which is NOTHING like what the Constitution’s framers imagined it to be.
The idea of democracy is that the people are in charge through their elected representatives. The opposite would be, for example, a vast and permanent class of administrative bureaucrats, who paid no attention at all to public opinion, elections or elected leaders and their appointments. Sad to say, but that is exactly the system we have in place today.
Your Real Rulers: The last two years have given us a chilling lesson in who really runs the country. It’s executive-level agencies that are utterly unresponsive to anything or anyone, except perhaps the private-sector forces of power that have revolving doors back and forth. The political appointees tapped to head agencies such as the CDC or HHS or whatever are basically irrelevant clowns about whom the career bureaucrats laugh if they pay any attention to them at all.
Years ago, I lived in some condominiums near the D.C. Beltway and all my neighbors were career workers for federal agencies. You name it: Transportation, Labor, Agriculture, Housing, whatever. They were lifers and they knew it. Their salaries depended on paper credentials and longevity. There was no way they could ever be fired, short of something impossibly egregious.
Naively, I early on tried to talk about issues of politics. They would stare at me with blank faces. I thought at the time that they must have had strong opinions but were somehow prevented from talking about it. Later, I came to realize something more chilling: They didn’t care in the slightest bit. Talking to them about politics was like talking to me about hockey teams in Finland. It’s not a subject that affects my life. That’s how it is with these people: They are utterly and completely unaffected by any political shifts. They know it. They take pride in it.
Pictures on the Wall: For odd reasons, I found myself spending several weeks in the offices of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I was doing research and had full access to all records, back when something like that was actually possible for a regular citizen. It was a time when the old politically appointed director of HUD was on his way out and a new one was on his way in.
I was quietly working when I heard a series of loud crashes of glass in the hallway. I stuck my head out and watched. A guy was walking along, flicking pictures of the old guy off the wall and letting them crash down to the ground. About an hour later, a guy came along with a broom and swept up the mess. An hour after that, a guy came along and hung new pictures of the new guy on the wall.
During the entire noisy ordeal, not one other employee of the agency showed the slightest curiosity about what was happening. They had seen this dozens of times and just didn’t care. Looking back, it’s pretty obvious that this scene sums it up. The permanent bureaucracy is completely unaffected by any of the cosmetic changes in politics.
My estimate is that 2 million people occupy the permanent bureaucratic state, excluding things like military and postal employees. The political appointments are about 4,000 and they come and go. Politics is mortal; the bureaucracy is immortal.
How Did This Happen? In September 1881, only four months into the first term of James A. Garfield, an angry man named Charles J. Guiteau shot the president. Guiteau was angry because he thought that Garfield had promised him a job in the new administration. But none was forthcoming. It was a shocking thing, and Congress immediately got to work figuring out how to prevent the next assassination. They had the theory that they needed to end the system of patronage in government so that way people wouldn’t get mad and shoot the president. The Pendleton Act created a permanent civil service. The new president, Chester Arthur, signed the bill.
It was done: The administrative state was born. It wasn’t so bad at first but then came the Fed, the income tax and World War I. The bureaucracy expanded in scope and power. Each decade, things got worse. The Cold War entrenched the military-industrial complex, and the Great Society built a massive civilian-controlling welfare state. So on it went until today when it is not even clear that elected politicians matter much at all.
To be sure, the Republicans could do something about this problem but will they? Nearly every elected leader has something to hide. If they don’t, the media can always make something up. This is how the deep state keeps the political class in line as we saw during the Trump years.
My point: Let’s not be naive about the prospects for change. It is going to require far more than merely electing a new class of supposed rulers. The real rulers are too smart to subject themselves to the business of elections. Those are designed to keep our minds busy with the belief that democracy still survives. Until the public figures this out, genuine change will still be a very long time away. Meanwhile, the emerging economic crisis is going to unleash the administrative state as never before."