"America is about to see a cascade of bank failures, and the future of hundreds of regional banks is on the line right now. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, Credit Suisse and First Republic marked the start of a reckoning in a sector that is being severely impacted by rising interest rates, souring loans, lower deposit rates, and falling profits in 2023. Many institutions have high exposure to risky assets, something that account holders will probably only find out after a major crisis erupts and they can no longer withdraw their funds. Regional banks are particularly endangered due to the fact that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes have eroded the value of bank assets such as government bonds and mortgage-backed securities. Most bonds pay a fixed interest rate that becomes attractive when interest rates fall, driving up demand and the price of the bond. In contrast, if interest rates rise, investors will no longer prefer the lower fixed interest rate paid by a bond, thus driving down its price. No wonder why some institutions have lost more than 80% of their market capitalization this year.
For example, Pacific West Bank may be the fourth California bank to fall this year. According to Ed Moya, a senior market analyst at Oanda, the company's terrible performance on financial markets is a major indicator of trouble. The bank recently revealed that outflows started to rise again, leading its shares to drop 22.7% in a single day, which further extended its recent declines. PacWest’s shares have now fallen more than 50% this month and nearly 80% for the year. Adding assault to injury, the bank said in a securities filing that its deposits declined 9.5% in the last quarter. “PacWest is starting to look like the weakest link and some traders are wondering if they will fail or have a sale,” Moya revealed.
“Our calculations suggest these banks are certainly at a potential risk of a run, absent other government intervention or recapitalization,” economists with the Social Science Research Network wrote in a new report. “The recent declines in bank asset values very significantly increased the fragility of the U.S. banking system to uninsured depositor runs,” they noted.
A run on these banks could pose a risk to even insured depositors − those with $250,000 or less in the bank − as the FDIC’s deposit insurance fund starts incurring losses. These institutions represent just a small share of the more than 200 banks that are vulnerable to the same type of risk that took down Silicon Valley Bank. The potential impact of all of these institutions being at risk at the same time could be significant for the banking sector and the broader economy. If a small number of these banks were to fail, it could lead to a domino effect, causing other banks to fail as well. This could create a nationwide credit crunch, making it even more difficult for businesses and consumers to access credit and slowing economic growth.
The truth is that a single bank run on one of these vulnerable institutions could cause a ripple effect, leading depositors to withdraw funds from other banks as well. That would spark panic on financial markets and the public could lose confidence in the banking system as a whole, a scenario similar to what happened when the Great Depression started to unfold in the 1930s. It seems that a financial crisis may erupt sooner than we all thought, and we are certainly not prepared to deal with its repercussions. And the companies listed in this video could be the next to break down all around us."
"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)."
“In a review in the “New York Times” Book Review, Daniel Handler writes: “And strange? Well, let’s get this straight: All great books are strange. Every lasting work of literature since the very weird “Beowulf” has been strange, not only because it grapples with the strangeness around us, but also because the effect of originality is startling, making even the oldest books feel like brand new stories.”
Strange: Out-of-the-ordinary, unusual, curious. “The strangeness around us,” says Handler. There is a paradox here. What could be less strange than the world around us? It is the same world that was here yesterday, and the day before that. More to the point: It is a world ruled by law. Inviolable causal bonds. That’s what makes science possible.
And yet, and yet. I walk wary. Strangeness lurks on ever side. Strangeness leaps out of every pebble in the path, every wildflower, every spider web flung between weedy stalks. In the midst of the utterly ordinary the extraordinary abounds. Nothing is so commonplace as to be common. The strangeness of the world, as in literature, has its source in the head, in the convoluted interaction of mind with world. Strange, that we should be here, strangers in a strange land, pilgrims on our own yellow brick roads where nothing is ordinary because everything is perceived through the filter of a unique consciousness.
And strange? Well, let’s get this straight. I hope never to lose the capacity to see the strangeness in the familiar, the curious in the everyday, the exception in the unexceptional.
“I do not expect a miracle,
or an accident,
to set the sight on fire...”
wrote Silvia Plath. Just being here is enough. Just being here is surpassing strange.”
“One of the great things about ancient Greek Mythology is that the stories all teach a lesson. They don’t end with – and the moral of the story is – though. They leave it to the reader to figure them out. So in addition to being just plain fun to read they are wonderful teachers about life. Perhaps the best thing about this one is that we still use the expression it contains exactly the same way that the ancient Greeks intended it almost 3,000 years ago. That almost never happens. Language is fluid and the meanings of words and expressions changes from one generation to another, but this one is an exception. The everyday expression it contains is one that we often refer to without really knowing where it came from.
This is one of the tales of Odysseus who was the heroic king of Ithaca and of whose ten-year journey back to Greece after the Trojan War was immortalized in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. There was a point in his journey when his ship had to enter a narrow strait. It was a passage so narrow that it could only be made under special conditions. They had to have both the wind at their backs and the current in their direction. However, once committed it was impossible to turn back.
Unknown to the sailors the strait was guarded by two deadly perils. On the one side, it was guarded by Scylla. Scylla was a six-headed monster that disguised itself as a rock. On the other side, it was guarded by Charybdis, a terrible deadly whirlpool born of the sea god Poseidon.
In olden times, it was common to refer to any place that a ship came to rest on land as being in a hard place. It didn’t matter if it was blown on shore by a storm, grounded on a reef or brought up intentionally for repair. If it was on shore, it was on a hard place as opposed to the soft place – water.
It also applied to a ship that had foundered. A ship that sinks will eventually rest on the bottom. The land at the bottom of the ocean is therefore called a hard place. It used to be a common term, but it has since pretty much fallen out of practice in common language today. A deadly whirlpool such as Charybdis could take a ship and send it straight to the bottom – a hard place.
So, now as we return to the story of Odysseus we see that their ship had entered a narrow strait and that strait was guarded by two evil perils with hardly enough room for a ship to pass between them. They were forced to choose between the six headed monster ‘Scylla’ disguised as a rock or the dreaded whirlpool ‘Charybdis’ that would surely send them to a hard place and they could not turn back.
There is a Latin proverb from this story, “Incidit in Scyllam cupiens vitare Charybdim” which translates to, “He runs on Scylla, wishing to avoid Charybdis.” In modern day English, we simply say, “They were between a rock and a hard place”. And now you know…”
"There is an old expression that has fallen out of favor in the post-scarcity age, but it may be the key to understanding the current crisis. That expression is, “Idle hands do the Devil’s work.” When people do not have anything productive and useful to do with their time, they are more likely to get involved in trouble and criminality. A variant of this is “The Devil makes work for idle hands.” The idea there is if you want to avoid Old Scratch, then make sure you keep yourself useful to God.
The source of these proverbs is unknown, but variations of them go back to the early middle ages, so it is probable they evolved with Christianity. It is not unreasonable to think the idea is universal to civilization. After all, every human society has had to deal with the idle, lazy, and troublesome. Making sure these people are kept too busy to cause trouble is one of those primary challenges of civilization. Every ruler has known that too many idle young men is bad for his rule.
Even in the smaller context, this is something we instinctively know. In the workplace, people with too much free time get into trouble. If the IT staff has too much free time, they start tinkering around with the stuff that is working and before long that stuff stops working and the system goes down. A big part of what goes on inside the schools is to keep the kids and the teachers busy. Home schoolers have known for years that the learning content is just a few hours a day. The rest is busy work.
The point here is that people of all ages need a purpose, something that occupies their mind and their time. If something useful and productive is not filling that need, then something useless or unproductive will fill the void. For most people this may be a hobby or leisure activity. For others, it often means a useless activity is turned into something important. Elevating the mundane to the level of the critical and then creating drama around the performance of the mundane activity.
This is what we see in our political class. The ruling class of every society has a ceremonial role, a procedural role, and a practical role. Outside of a crisis like a war or natural disaster, the political class is performing its duties in the same way a line worker in a factory preforms his role. In popular government this means the pol shows up at public events. He performs the tasks his office requires like signing papers and casting votes. He helps grease the wheels when they need grease.
Into the 20th century, most of our political offices were part-time jobs. State legislatures met for a short period during the year. Otherwise, the legislators were back home doing their jobs. Executive positions like governor and president were fulltime jobs, as they were in charge of the civil service and in the case of president, commander-in-chief of the military. Within living memory, Washington DC would empty out in the spring and remain empty until the fall when Congress returned.
What we see today is politics at all levels has become a full-time job, but one with less to do when it was considered a part-time job. Congress, for example, is something close to a 24-hour drama now. The politicians and their retinues are now doing politics as a full-time obsession. Yet almost all of what they do is unnecessary. In fact, much of what they do is harmful. Very few things passed by Congress enjoy the support of the majority of the people or even a large plurality.
It is not just that these part-time jobs have been made into full-time obsessions. It is that much of what we used to need from government is now filled by individuals, ad hoc networks, and the private sector. Much of what government does is actually done by private contractors on government contracts. One of the ironies of the post-Cold War world is that the federal workforce has declined relative to the population, while the number of people employed in politics has gone up.
Then there is the fact that much of what government does could be automated or simply eliminated entirely. The services that are required like renewing licenses and paying fees can all be automated. In many cases they have been, but that did not result in fewer people, as we see in the dreaded private sector. Instead, it resulted in more idle hands looking for a purpose. On the political side, much of what Congress does could also be eliminated or automated.
What has happened in the last 30 years is we have grown the idle class at the top of our society and while decreasing their necessity. Much of what goes on in our politics is make work designed to get public attention. Think about it. If the cable news channels were shuttered and the social media platforms run by the oligarchs were closed, what would change in America? Nothing of practical importance. Our world would get quieter and there would be a boom in forgotten hobbies.
American political culture evolved during the Cold War to fight communism and prevent a nuclear war. Those were important tasks that occupied the minds and hands of the political class. Once those things went away, those idle hands searched about for a new crisis. Health care, Gaia worship, Islam and now invisible Nazis have been used to keep the idle hands of the political class busy. In the process, the political class has been driven mad and is threatening the rest of society."
"Most people are good and occasionally do something they know is bad. Some people are bad and struggle every day to keep it under control. Others are corrupt to the core and don't give a damn, as long as they don't get caught. But evil is a completely different creature. Evil is bad that believes it's good."
“So don’t ask yourself what people want. Ask instead, What is true? What really inspires me, excites me? What will really help people and take away their confusion and suffering? It’s sort of a funny, crazy way to go, but I think it’s the only way to bring water to the wasteland Joseph Campbell described. When I read something truthful, something real, I breathe a deep sigh and say, “Fantastic – I wasn’t mad or alone in thinking that, after all!” So often we are left to our own devices, struggling in the dark with this external and internal propaganda system. At that point, for someone to tell us the truth is a gift. In a world where people all around us are lying and confusing us, to be honest is a great kindness.”
"Americans No Longer Have Faith In Our Major Institutions,
And So Is The Collapse Of Our Civilization Inevitable?"
by Michael Snyder
"If the American people have lost faith in almost all of our major institutions, how is our civilization going to survive? If any collective effort is going to work, people have to believe in that effort. That is true whether we are talking about a sports team, a business partnership, a romantic relationship or a nation as a whole. When people stop believing, it is just a matter of time before failure arrives, and at this point the American people simply do not believe in those that are currently running our society. In fact, a recent Gallup survey discovered that faith in our major institutions has dropped to depressingly low levels. The survey asked people if they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in a long list of prominent institutions, and these were the results…
Small business: 65 percent
The military: 60 percent
The police: 43 percent
The medical system: 34 percent
The church or organized religion: 32 percent
The U.S. Supreme Court: 27 percent
Banks: 26 percent
The public schools: 26 percent
The presidency: 26 percent
Large technology companies: 26 percent
Organized labor: 25 percent
Newspapers: 18 percent
The criminal justice system: 17 percent
Television news: 14 percent
Big business: 14 percent
Congress: 8 percent
For nine of those major institutions that Gallup has been tracking since 1979, the average score has dropped from 48 percent to 26 percent over that time. And Gallup says that confidence in almost every institution is currently at or near all-time lows…"Most of the institutions rated this year are within three points of their all-time-low confidence score, including four that are at or tied with their record low. These are the police, public schools, large technology companies and big business.
Only four institutions have a confidence score significantly above their historical low: the military, small business, organized labor and banks. However, the lows for these institutions were recorded more than a decade ago, while the recent trend for each has been downward."
Of course the truth is that most of our major institutions fully deserve these low scores. Our federal government, our schools, our medical system, our major corporations and the mainstream media have all become beacons of corruption and incompetence in recent years. Everywhere you look, society is breaking down and things are getting worse.
Let me give you one small example. In New York City, the rat problem has become so severe that they have just held their very first “Anti-Rat Day of Action”…"As New York City gets tough on its rodent problem, the first Anti-Rat Day of Action was held Saturday in Harlem. City agencies, including the sanitation department, teamed up to show and tell people how to keep rats out of the community. The city’s first rat czar was also on hand to provide times."
If you live in a city that needs to appoint a “rat czar”, you should probably consider moving. According to one resident, there are “rats the size of Crocs” running around all over the place… “We’ve had rats the size of Crocs just running up and down the street. Like a Croc shoe? A average size eight, running up and down the street,” Harlem resident Ruth McDaniels said. Harlem is part of one of four mitigation zones in the city that will get additional funding to help combat rats." Yuck!
Once upon a time, America’s shiny new cities were the envy of the entire world. But now our major cities have degenerated into rotting, decaying hellholes. For instance, just consider what has happened to St. Louis…
"In 1950, St. Louis was the eighth-largest city in the United States, with a population of 856,796. Today, that number has fallen to less than 300,000, a drop of some 65 percent. Major employers — Anheuser-Busch, McDonnell-Douglas, TWA, Southwestern Bell and Ralston Purina —have dramatically reduced their presence or left altogether. St. Louis is consistently ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the country. One in five people live in poverty. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has the highest rate of police killings per capita of the 100 largest police departments in the nation according to a 2021 report. Prisoners in the city’s squalid jails, where 47 people died in custody between 2009 and 2019, complain of water being shut off from their cells for hours and guards routinely pepper-spraying inmates, including those on suicide watch. The city’s crumbling infrastructure, hundreds of gutted and abandoned buildings, empty factories, vacant warehouses and impoverished neighborhoods replicate the ruins of other post-industrial American cities, the classic signposts of a civilization in terminal decline."
I wish that I could tell you that St. Louis was an exception. But it isn’t. All over America, cities are descending into chaos, and violence is out of control. One particularly disturbing incident in Oakland has made a lot of headlines in recent days…"Shocking video has emerged of a woman being pistol-whipped and dragged across gravel by two thugs in Democrat-led Oakland as the city grapples with a surging crime wave. The attack happened on Wednesday August 16, 6.15pm on International Boulevard, and left the unidentified woman with severe injuries, police investigating in the East Bay city said."
Conditions in Oakland just continue to get worse and worse, and at this point things are so bad that some local business owners are comparing conditions in the city to the Vietnam War…"This latest incident is an example of violent crime running rampant across the Dem-led city, with business owners now comparing the area to a ‘battleground’ akin to wartime Vietnam. It’s become so severe that the city’s police force are also warning residents to secure their homes while they’re inside."
This is our country now. You might want to get used to it, because things aren’t going to turn around any time soon.
In the early days of our country, Americans made “the Protestant work ethic” famous all over the world. Our forefathers worked insanely hard, and they passed down a truly great society to us. But now we don’t want to put in that same level of work. Instead, we just keep getting lazier and lazier.
If a new bill that was just introduced in Pennsylvania becomes law, any business that has at least 500 workers will be forced “to reduce their work week from 40 to 32 hours a week”… When those rare 3-day weekends pop up on the work schedule, it’s an office-wide celebration! Well, what if that was every week? A new bill to create a four-day work week is about to be introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature. It would require businesses with more than 500 employees to reduce their work week from 40 to 32 hours a week. However, less work hours will not mean less pay!
Doesn’t that sound great? Hey, I have an idea. Let’s just not work at all and see how that turns out.
Sadly, we are even passing on our laziness to our kids. In Portland, teachers will soon be banned from giving “zeroes” to kids that cheat or fail to do their assignments…"Portland Public Schools is workshopping new “equitable grading practices” that bar teachers from assigning “zeros” to students who cheat or fail to turn in assignments.
The district’s initiative aims to address “racial disparities” and “inequities” in grading and instruction, a “journey” that the district began “during the pandemic,” a handout reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon says. “Grading for equity,” the handout states, includes eliminating “zeros” as a grade - even when a student cheats or fails to turn in a test or assignment. It also calls for no penalties for late work and no grades for both homework and “non-academic factors,” such as “participation, attendance, effort, attitude, [and] behavior.”
Are you kidding me? If this keeps up, how will we compete with the rest of the world? The truth is that we won’t. Our society is crumbling right in front of our eyes, and unless we find a way to turn things around we won’t last much longer. But at this point most Americans simply do not have any motivation to make this country a better place. Most of them would rather sit on their sofas stuffing Cheetos into their faces as they watch Netflix."
"The entire world is nothing but a racket. Just call it a war and the funding is never ending. Why would any politician or general ever want peace? Their funding would stop. Why would Big Pharma and their media co-conspirators ever want to cure cancer or any disease created by other mega-corporations? Their riches would evaporate.
The war on terror must never be won, because the Department of Homeland Security and all the parasites that live off that bloated cow need your money. Joe Rogan points out the same narrative when it comes to homelessness. Bureaucrats and departments in all these Democrat shitholes don’t want to solve the homelessness problem. They would be out of jobs. Everything is a racket."
"In today's vlog, we are at Kroger and are noticing some ridiculous price increases on groceries. As we search around trying to find the best deals possible, we are seeing prices that are just completely getting unaffordable!"
In Fall And Winter 2023! It's About To Get Worse!"
"In this video, we are exposing the truth behind all of these price hikes and food shortages at the grocery stores that are coming in the Fall and Winter of 2023 and beyond. This is caused by many factors around the world, and we go over all of them."
"7 Food Shortages That Will Make People Panic This Fall"
"If you haven't yet prepared for potential shortages in the upcoming colder months, it's time to act. Retailers have warned about potential scarcities in various categories, both food and non-food items. With disruptions in global supply chains, items from electronic devices to vital medicines might be hard to come by. We have identified seven essential foods that may face shortages soon. To find out what these foods are and how to navigate these potential shortages, watch our video. Please show your support by liking this content, and don't forget to subscribe for updates. It's essential to stay informed and explore local alternatives during these times. Share this information with others, and together, we can stay prepared and make the most of our resources."
"Once we sailed upon the seas. Now we sail among the stars. This song was composed as a tribute to our friend, harpist Hilary Stagg, who left us far too soon. Hilary loved the sea and he loved the stars."
"Have you ever seen the Pleiades star cluster? Even if you have, you probably have never seen it as large and clear as this. Perhaps the most famous star cluster on the sky, the bright stars of the Pleiades can be seen without binoculars from even the depths of a light-polluted city. With a long exposure from a dark location, though, the dust cloud surrounding the Pleiades star cluster becomes very evident.
The featured exposure covers a sky area several times the size of the full moon. Also known as the Seven Sisters and M45, the Pleiades lies about 400 light years away toward the constellation of the Bull (Taurus). A common legend with a modern twist is that one of the brighter stars faded since the cluster was named, leaving only six of the sister stars visible to the unaided eye. The actual number of Pleiades stars visible, however, may be more or less than seven, depending on the darkness of the surrounding sky and the clarity of the observer's eyesight."
"One can fight evil but against stupidity one is helpless. I have accepted the fact, hard as it may be, that human beings are inclined to behave in ways that would make animals blush. The ironic, the tragic thing is that we often behave in ignoble fashion from what we consider the highest motives. The animal makes no excuse for killing his prey; the human animal, on the other hand, can invoke God's blessing when massacring his fellow men. He forgets that God is not on his side but at his side."
"There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy."
"I reckon that it takes about three minutes to read my text. Well, according to statistics, in that same short period of time 300 people will die and another 620 will be born. It takes me perhaps half an hour to write a text: here I sit, concentrating on my computer, books piled up beside me, ideas in my head, the scenery passing by outside my window. Everything seems perfectly normal all around me; and yet, during these thirty minutes, 3,000 people have died and 6,200 have just seen the light of the world for the first time.
Where are all those thousands of families who have just begun to weep over the loss of some dear one, or else laugh at the arrival of a son, grandson or brother? I stop and reflect for a while: perhaps many of these deaths are reaching the end of a long, painful sickness, and some persons are relieved that the Angel has come for them. Besides these, in all certainty hundreds of children who have just been born will be abandoned in a minute and transferred to the death statistics before I finish this text.
What a thought! A simple statistic that I came upon by chance – and all of a sudden I can feel all those losses and encounters, smiles and tears. How many are leaving this life, alone in their rooms, without anyone realizing what is going on? How many will be born in secret, only to be abandoned at the door of shelters or convents? And then I reflect that I was part of the birth statistics and one day I will be included in the toll of the dead. How good that is to be fully aware that I am going to die. Ever since I took the road to Santiago I have understood that although life goes on and we are eternal, one day this existence will come to an end.
People think very little about death. They spend their lives worried about really absurd things, putting things off and leaving important moments aside. They risk nothing because they believe that is dangerous. They grumble a lot, but act like cowards when it is time to take certain steps. They want everything to change, but they themselves refuse to change. If they thought a little more about death, they would never fail to make that telephone call that they have been putting off. They would be a little more crazy. They would not be afraid of the end of this incarnation – because you cannot be afraid of something that is going to happen anyway.
The Indians say: “today is as good a day as any other to leave this world”. And a sorcerer once remarked: “may death be always sitting beside you. That way, when you have to do something important, it will give you the strength and courage you need.” I hope, reader, that you have accompanied me this far. It would be silly to let the subject scare you, because sooner or later we are all going to die. And only those who accept this are prepared for life."
“Letters from the Earth” is one of Mark Twain's posthumously published works. The essays were written during a difficult time in Twain's life; he was deep in debt and had lost his wife and one of his daughters. Initially, his daughter, Clara Clemens, objected to its publication in March 1939, probably because of its controversial and iconoclastic views on religion, claiming it presented a "distorted" view of her father. Henry Nash Smith helped change her position in 1960. Clara explained her change of heart in 1962 saying that "Mark Twain belonged to the world" and that public opinion had become more tolerant. She was also influenced to release the papers due to her annoyance with Soviet propaganda charges that her father's ideas were being suppressed in the United States. The papers were edited in 1939 by Bernard DeVoto. The book consists of a series of short stories, many of which deal with God and Christianity. The title story consists of eleven letters written by the archangel Satan to archangels, Gabriel and Michael, about his observations on the curious proceedings of earthly life and the nature of man's religions. Other short stories in the book include a bedtime story about a family of cats Twain wrote for his daughters, and an essay explaining why an anaconda is morally superior to Man.
Textual references make clear that sections, at least, of “Letters from the Earth” were written shortly before his death in April 1910. (For instance, Letter VII, in discussing the ravages of hookworm, refers to the $1,000,000 gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr. to help eradicate the disease – a gift that was announced on October 28, 1909, less than six months before Twain's death.)"
Excerpt: "This is a strange place, an extraordinary place, and interesting. There is nothing resembling it at home. The people are all insane, the other animals are all insane, the earth is insane, Nature itself is insane. Man is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel; at is worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm. Yet he blandly and in all sincerity calls himself the "noblest work of God." This is the truth I am telling you. And this is not a new idea with him, he has talked it through all the ages, and believed it. Believed it, and found nobody among all his race to laugh at it.
Moreover - if I may put another strain upon you - he thinks he is the Creator's pet. He believes the Creator is proud of him; he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes, and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to Him, and thinks He listens. Isn't it a quaint idea? Fills his prayers with crude and bald and florid flatteries of Him, and thinks He sits and purrs over these extravagancies and enjoys them. He prays for help, and favor, and protection, every day; and does it with hopefulness and confidence, too, although no prayer of his has ever been answered. The daily affront, the daily defeat, do not discourage him, he goes on praying just the same. There is something almost fine about this perseverance. I must put one more strain upon you: he thinks he is going to heaven!"
Freely download "Letters From the Earth", by Mark Twain, here:
"What are the facts? Again and again and againwhat are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what the stars foretell, avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the un-guessable verdict of history - what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!"
- Robert A. Heinlein
And always remember...
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,
"There’s a time for odds and ends, and Friday is as good as any since a lot of them are on the health side. These are sort-of random, and are around a central theme of experiments that I do to myself and some of the results. I’m not going repeat the one where I replaced my arms with animal limbs – that idea still makes me mad enough to rip up a car with my bear hands.
I was listening to Scott Adams while flitting about this week and he led off with an interesting comment. “Music is a drug,” because it alters our moods. I was working the other day with earbuds in and found myself really happy. Why? Music. It put me in a great mood and I was amazingly productive.
I have made this point many times: be careful what you let into your head. It can act like a drug, and the wrong drug at the wrong time can be fatal. Choose wisely, and avoid things that make you feel despair.
Second: YouTube® recommended an 8-hour dreaming track that they promised would allow me to have lucid dreams. For those not aware, lucid dreaming is where you’re dreaming, but you’re fully conscious. It’s an odd state – it’s not like being hypnogogic, where you’re in that twilight zone between being awake and being asleep. Nope, you’re dreaming but you’re fully conscious. Sounds like something good, right?
The first night I tried it, The Mrs. reacted very negatively. “What on Earth were you playing last night? It gave me awful dreams.” I persisted for a few weeks. Normally, I go to sleep quite easily, and just like Epstein’s prison guards, I can sleep through almost anything. I still found it easy to go to sleep with the “music” but my dream quality really changed over several weeks. My dreams became incredibly dull. Imagine dreaming about being at work. On a normal workday. Doing normal work.
Aaaargh! I love dreaming when I’m a pirate, or hanging out with Tom Cruise having adventures or being asked by ZZ Top® to play bass at a concert because they were desperate. Those are good dreams. But being at work doing normal day-to-day crap? It was awful. And I was conscious during the work dreams. Sometimes I’d end them, but end up going right back to work. In my dreams.
That was bad enough, but the final straw that ended this experiment for me was that I would wake up at 4am and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d be there hours, awake in bed. Or so I thought. In reality, I was dreaming that I was trying to get to sleep, but I was fully conscious. I figured this out one morning when my alarm went off during a dream about trying to get to sleep. That was weird. I cannot recommend this sort of “music”, unless you want to relive a boring day at the office without being paid for it. After I stopped, within a week my old sleep patterns returned.
Third: I was the victim of a plagiarist this week. Oh, sure, I’ve actually seen that someone tried to make .pdfs of my posts and (maybe?) sell them a few years ago, but that isn’t what I’m talking about – I’m talking about someone taking one of my posts and re-writing it, beat for beat, even using the same analogies. I’m still mad at the guy who did it.
Surprise: It was me. Sometimes I take notes (I used to use notecards, but don’t have the same set up, so don’t anymore) for posts. Other times? Walking around, or snoozing, and a post idea hits me. I’ll often work it out in my head, and then write it out.
I did the latter in this case. Then I saw an old post of mine getting traffic with a really similar name after I posted the piece I had just finished. I clicked on it, and it was amazingly similar – the algorithm that suggests posts based on the post I have up suggested it. That post was also four years older, so I guess my main defense was that I’d written somewhere north of 600 posts (nearly 750,000 words) and slept over 1300 times (1260 if you discount the lucid dreaming nights) since then.
Fourth: I’m really enjoying doing the podcast. This isn’t a commercial or anything, since if only one or two people listened I think we’d still be doing it because it’s fun. It’s a livestream now, but I think it’s pretty tightly produced, so we don’t end up with a lot of the awkwardness you’d expect with an amateur like Shawn Hannity. Nope, we’re professionals. Also, I’m thinking this makes us journalists. For legal reasons. You can watch it here (LINK).
I bring it up because a) I can prove The Mrs. actually exists, and b) it’s something we have a lot of fun doing, and it’s creative and we mostly have our clothes on when we do it. As far as you know.
Fifth: I used to hang out with The Mrs. at lunch, but since her schedule changed, I don’t. Instead, I’ve packed off my laptop and tried to be productive wherever I am during lunch, and it saves mileage and I just don’t eat, so that’s a bonus, too. I’m writing this at lunch, and I’ve been pretty pleased with the results so far since I tend to do the first drafts and then when I get home later I do the research and edits and add the (bad) jokes.
It may not sound like a big change, but it shaves hours off of my writing time, and those are hours that I can sleep instead rather than building up a big sleep debt and paying it off on the weekend. Plus, I’m fasting at lunch. In reality, when I went home I’d eat, but I find I don’t miss it at all. I also think I might get a better overall quality since I’m writing during my most productive time, and editing and cracking jokes at my sillier times. We’ll see. As always, YMMV."
"When the Cold War officially ended suddenly in 1991 Washington had one more chance to pivot back to the pre-1914 status quo ante. That is, to a national security policy of Fortress America because there was literally no significant military threat left on the planet.
Post-Soviet Russia was an economic basket case that couldn’t even meet its military payroll and was melting down and selling the Red Army’s tanks and artillery for scrap. China was just emerging from the Great Helmsman’s economic, political and cultural depredations and had embraced Deng Xiaoping proclamation that "to get rich is glorious".
The implications of the Red Army’s fiscal demise and China’s electing the path of export mercantilism and Red Capitalism were profound. Russia couldn’t invade the American homeland in a million years and China chose the route of flooding America with shoes, sheets, shirts, toys and electronics. So doing, it made the rule of the communist elites in Beijing dependent upon keeping the custom of 4,000 Walmarts in America, not bombing them out of existence.
In a word, god’s original gift to America - the great moats of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans -could have again become the cornerstone of its national security. After 1991, therefore, there was no nation on the planet that had the remotest capability to mount a conventional military assault on the U.S. homeland; or that would not have bankrupted itself attempting to create the requisite air and sea-based power projection capabilities - a resource drain that would be vastly larger than even the $900 billion the US currently spends on its own global armada.
Indeed, in the post-cold war world the only thing the US needed was a modest conventional capacity to defend the shorelines and North American airspace against any possible rogue assault and a reliable nuclear deterrent against any state foolish enough to attempt nuclear blackmail.
Needless to say, those capacities had already been bought and paid for during the cold war. The triad of minutemen ICBMs, Trident SLBMs (submarines launched nuclear missiles) and long-range stealth bombers currently cost $52 billion annually for operations and maintenance, replacements and upgrades and were more than adequate for the task of nuclear deterrence.
Likewise, conventional defense of the U.S. shoreline and airspace against rogues would not require a fraction of today’s 1.3 million active uniformed force = to say nothing of the 800,000 additional reserves and national guard forces and the 765,000 DOD civilians on top of that.
Rather than funding 2.9 million personnel, the whole job of national security under a homeland-based Fortress America concept could be done with less than 500,000 military and civilian payrollers. At most. In fact, much of the 475,000 US army could be eliminated and most of the Navy’s carrier strike groups and power projection capabilities could be mothballed. So, too, the Air Force’s homeland defense missions could be accomplished for well less than $100 billion per annum compared to its current $200 billion budget.
Overall, the constant dollar national defense budget was $660 billion (2022 $) when the cold war ended and the Soviet Union subsequently disappeared from the face of the earth in 1991. Had Washington pivoted to a Fortress America national security policy at the time, defense spending could have been downsized to perhaps $500 billion per year (2022 $) or potentially far less.
Instead, Imperial Washington went in the opposite direction and ended up embracing a de facto policy of Empire First. The latter will cost $900 billion during the current year and is heading for $1.2 trillion billion annually a few years down the road.
Empire First -The Reason For An Extra Half Trillion For Defense: In a word, Empire First easily consumes one-half trillion dollars more in annual budgetary resources than would a Fortress America policy. And that giant barrel of weapons contracts, consulting and support jobs, lobbying booty and Congressional pork explains everything you need to know about why the Swamp is so deep and intractable.
Obviously, it’s also why Imperial Washington has appointed itself global policeman. Functioning as the gendarme of the planet is the only possible justification for the extra $500 billion per year cost of Empire First.
For example, why does the US still deploy 100,000 US forces and their dependents in Japan and Okinawa and 29,000 in South Korea? These two counties have a combined GDP of nearly $7 trillion - or 235X more than North Korea and they are light-years ahead of the latter in technology and military capability. Also, they don’t go around the world engaging in regime change, thereby spooking fear on the north side of the DMZ.
Accordingly, Japan and South Korea could more than provide for their own national security in a manner they see fit without any help whatsoever from Imperial Washington. That’s especially the case because absent the massive US military threat in the region, North Korea would surely seek a rapprochement and economic help from its neighbors including China.
Indeed, sixty-five years after the unnecessary war in Korea ended, there is only one reason why the Kim family is still in power in Pyongyang and why periodically they have noisily brandished their incipient nuclear weapons and missiles. To wit, it’s because the Empire still occupies the Korean peninsula and surrounds its waters with more lethal firepower than was brought to bear against the industrial might of Nazi Germany during the whole of WWII.
Of course, these massive and costly forces are also justified on the grounds of supporting Washington’s committements to the defense of Taiwan. But that commitment has always been obsolete and unnecessary to America’s homeland security.
The fact is, Chiang Kia-Shek lost the Chinese civil war fair and square in 1949, and there was no reason to perpetuate his rag-tag regime when it retreated to the last square miles of Chinese territory - the island province of Taiwan. The latter had been under control of the Chinese Qing Dynasty for 200 years thru 1895, when it was occupied by the Imperial Japan for 50 years, only to be liberated by Chinese patriots at the end of WWII. That is to say, once Imperial Japan was expelled from the island the Chinese did not "invade" or occupy or takeover their own country. For crying out loud, Taiwan had been Han for centuries and for better or worse, the communists were now the rulers of China.
Accordingly, Taiwan is separated from the mainland today only because Washington arbitrarily made it a protectorate and ally when the loser of the civil war set up shop in a small remnant of modern China, thereby establishing an artificial nation that, again, had no bearing whatsoever on America’s homeland security.
In any event, the nascent US War Party of the late 1940s decreed otherwise, generating 70 years of tension with the Beijing regime that accomplished nothing except to bolster the case for a big Navy and for maintaining vast policing operations in the Pacific region for no good reason of homeland defense. That is to say, without Washington’s support for the nationalist regime in Taipei, the island would have been absorbed back into the Chinese polity where it had been for centuries. It would probably now resemble the booming prosperity of Shanghai -something Wall Street and mainstream US politicians celebrated for years.
Moreover, it’s still not too late. Absent Washington’s arms and threats, the Taiwanese would surely prefer peaceful prosperity as the 24th province of China rather than a catastrophic war against Beijing that they would have no hope of surviving. By the same token, the alternative - US military intervention to aid Taiwan - would mean WWIII. So what’s the point of Washington’s dangerous policy of "strategic ambiguity" when the long-term outcome is utterly inevitable?
In short, the only sensible policy is for Washington to recant 70-years of folly brought on by the China Lobby and arms manufacturers and green-light a Taiwanese reconciliation with the mainland. Even a few years thereafter Wall Street bankers peddling M&A deals in Taipei wouldn’t know the difference from Shanghai.
And speaking of foolishly frozen history, it is now 78 years since Hitler perished in his bunker. So why does Washington still have 50,000 troops and their dependents stationed in Germany? Certainly by it own actions Germany does not claim to be militarily imperiled. It’s modest $55 billion defense budget amounts to only 1.3% of GDP, hardly an indication that it fears Russian forces will soon be at the Brandenburg Gate.
Indeed, until Washington conned the Scholz government into joining its idiotic sanctions war against Russia, Germany saw Russia as a vital market for its exports and as a source of supply for natural gas, other natural resources and food stuffs. Besides, with a GDP of $4.2 trillion or more than double Russia’s $2.1 trillion GDP, Germany could more than handle its own defenses if Moscow should ever become foolish enough to threaten it.
From there you get to the even more preposterous case for the Empire’s NATO outposts in eastern Europe. But the history books are absolutely clear that in 1989 George H. W. Bush and his Secretary of State, James Baker, promised Gorbachev that NATO would not be expanded to the east by a "single inch" in return for his acquiescence to German unification.
The Obsolete Folly Of NATO’s Article 5 Mutual Defense Obligations: At the time, NATO had 16 member nations bound by the Article 5 obligation of mutual defense, but when the Soviet Union and the Red Army vanished, there was nothing left to defend against. NATO should have declared victory and dissolved itself. The ex-paratrooper then in the White House, in fact, could have landed at the Ramstein Air Base and announced "mission accomplished!"
Instead, NATO has become a political jackhammer and weapons sales agent for Empire First policies by expanding to 30 nations - many of them on Russia’s doorstep. Yet if your perception is not distorted by Washington’s self-justifying imperial beer-goggles, the question is obvious. Exactly what is gained for the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE or Springfield MA by obtaining the defense services of the pint-sized militaries of Latvia (6,000), Croatia (14,500), Estonia (6,400), Slovenia (7,300) or Montenegro (1,950)?
Indeed, the whole post-1991 NATO expansion is so preposterous as a matter of national security that its true function as a fig-leaf for Empire First fairly screams out-loud. Not one of these pint-sized nations would matter for US security if they decided to have a cozier relationship with Russia - voluntarily or not so voluntarily.
But the point is, there is no threat to America in eastern Europe unless such as Montenegro, Slovenia, or Latvia were to become Putin’s invasion route to effect the Russian occupation of Germany, France, the Benelux and England. And that’s just plain silly-ass crazy! Yet aside from that utterly far-fetched and economically and militarily impossible scenario, there is no reason whatsoever for the US to be in a mutual defense pact with any of the new, and, for that matter, old NATO members.
And that gets us to the patently bogus proxy war on Russia in which the nation of Ukraine is being turned into a demolition derby and its population of both young and older men is being frog-marched into the Russian meat-grinder.
But as we have documented elsewhere this is a civil war in an artificial nation confected by history’s greatest tyrants - Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev, too. It was never built to last, and most definitely didn’t after the Washington sponsored, funded and instantly recognized Maidan coup of February 2014 deposed its legitimately elected pro-Russian president.
Thereafter, Russia’s actions in recovering its former province of Crimea in March 2014 and coming to the aid of the break-away Russian-speaking republics of the Donbas (eastern Ukraine) in February 2022 did not threaten the security of the American homeland or the peace of the world. Not one bit.
The post-February 2014 conflict in Ukraine is a "territorial", ethnic and religious dispute over deep differences between Russian-speakers in the east and south of the country and Ukrainian nationalists from the center and west that are rooted in centuries of history. The resulting carnage, as tragic as it has been, does not prove in the slightest that Russia is an aggressive expansionist that must be thwarted by the Indispensable Nation. To the contrary, Washington’s imperial beer goggles are utterly blind to history and geopolitical logic.
In the first place, the history books make abundantly clear that Sevastopol in Crimea had been the home-port of the Russian Naval Fleet under czars and commissars alike. Crimea had been purchased from the Ottoman’s for good money by Catherine the Great in 1783 and was the site of one of Russia greatest patriotic events - the defeat of the English invaders in 1854 made famous by Tennyson’s "Charge of the Light Brigade."
After 171 years as an integral part of the Russian Motherland and having become more than 80% Russian-speaking, Crimea only technically became part of Ukraine during a Khrushchev inspired shuffle in 1954. And even then, the only reason for this late communist era territorial transfer was to reward Khrushchev’s allies in Kiev for supporting him in the bloody struggle for power after Stalin’s death.
The fact is, only 10% of the Crimean population is Ukrainian speaking. It was the coup on the streets of Kiev in February 2014 by extremist anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists and proto-fascists that caused the Russian speakers in Crimea to panic and Moscow to become alarmed about the status of its historic naval base, for which it still had a lease running to the 2040s.
In the Moscow sponsored referendum that occurred shortly thereafter, 83% of eligible Crimeans turned out to vote and 97% of those approved cancelling the aforementioned 1954 edict of the Soviet Presidium and rejoining mother Russia. There is absolutely no evidence that the 80% of Crimeans who thus voted to sever their historically short-lived affiliation with Ukraine were threatened or coerced by Moscow.
Indeed, what they actually feared - both in Crimea and in the Donbas where the breakaway Republics were also soon declared - was the anti-Russian edicts coming out of Kiev in the aftermath of the Washington orchestrated overthrow of the legally elected government.
After all, the good folks of what the historical maps designated as Novorussiya (New Russia) populated what had been the industrial breadbasket of the former Soviet Union. The Donbas and the southern rim on the Black Sea had always been an integral part of Russia’s iron, steel, chemical, coal and munitions industries, having been settled, developed and invested by Russians under Czars from Catherine the Great forwards. And in Soviet times many of their grandparents had been put there by Stalin from elsewhere in Russia to reinforce his bloody rule.
By the same token, these Russian settlers and transplants in Novorussiya forever hated the Ukrainian nationalist collaborators from the west, who rampaged though their towns, farms, factories and homes side-by-side with Hitler’s Wehrmacht on the way to Stalingrad.
So the appalling truth of the matter was this: By Washington’s edict the grandsons and granddaughters of Stalin’s industrial army in the Donbas were to be ruled by the grandsons and granddaughters of Hitler’s WWII collaborators in Kiev, whether they liked it or not. Alas, that repudiation of history could not stand.
So we repeat and for good reason: You simply can’t make up $500 billion worth of phony reasons for an Empire First national security policy without going off the deep-end. You have to invent missions, mandates and threats that are just plain stupid (like the proxy war against Russia in the Ukraine) or flat out lies (like Saddam’s alleged WMDs). Indeed, you must invent, nourish and enforce an entire universal narrative based on completely implausible and invalid propositions, such as the "Indispensable Nation" meme and the claim that global peace and stability depend overwhelmingly on Washington’s leadership.
Yet, is there not a more cruel joke than that? Was the Washington inflicted carnage and genocide in Vietnam - which resulted in the death of upwards of one million - a case of "American leadership" and making the world more peaceful or stable? And after losing this costly, bloody, insensible war to the communists in 1975, how is it that what is still communist Vietnam has become the go-to place to source low-cost manufactured goods needed by tens of thousands of Amazon’s delivery trucks and mass market retail emporiums operating from coast-to-coast in America today?
Likewise, did the two wars against Iraq accomplish anything except destroy the tenuous peace between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurds, thereby opening up the gates of hell and the bloody rampages of ISIS?
Did the billions Washington illegally channeled into the rebel and jihadist forces in Syria do anything except destroy the country, create millions of refugees and encourage the Assad regime to engage in tit-for-tat brutalities, as well as call-in aid from its Iranian, Russian and Hezbollah allies?
Did not the destruction of Qaddafi’s government by American bombers turn Libya into a hell-hole of war-lord based civil war and human abuse and even enslavement?
In a word, Imperial Washington’s over-arching narratives and the instances of its specific interventions alike rest on a threadbare and implausible foundation; and more often than not, they consist of arrogant fabrications and claims that are an insult to the intelligence of anyone paying even loose attention to the facts.
In this context, there is only one way to meaningfully move the needle on both Washington’s hegemonic foreign policy and its giant flow of red budgetary ink. To wit, the American military empire needs be dismantled lock, stock and barrel. Fortunately, a return to the idea of Fortress America and what we have called the Eisenhower Defense Minimum can accomplish exactly that.
When president Eisenhower gave his prescient warning about the military-industrial complex in his 1961 farewell address, the US defense budget stood at $52 billion and it totaled $64 billion when you add in the collateral elements of national security that round out the full fiscal cost of empire. These include the State Department, AID, security assistance, NED, international broadcasting propaganda operations and related items, as well as the deferred cost of military operations reflected in Veterans Administration costs for compensation, health care and other services.
By the end of the cold war in 1991 this comprehensive national security budget had risen to $340 billion, but was not to be denied by the mere fact that the Soviet Union disappeared into the dustbin of history that year. The neocons soon infiltrated both parties and owing to their Forever Wars and hegemony-seeking policies the total had soared to $822 billion by the end of the Obama "peace" candidate’s presidency in 2016.
Yet the uniparty was just getting warmed-up. After being goosed big time by both Trump and Biden, the current estimate for FY 2024 stands at a staggering $1.304 trillion. That is to say, the comprehensive cost of empire now stands at a level 20X higher than what the great peace-oriented general, Dwight D. Eisenhower, believed was adequate to contain the threat posed by the old Soviet Union at the peak of its industrial and military power in 1960.
Yes, 64 years on from Ike’s farewell address there has been a whole lot of inflation, which is embedded in the slightly different NIPA basis for the defense numbers in the chart below. But even when adjusted to the current price level, the defense budget proper stood at just $440 billion in 1960 compared to $900 billion today; and the comprehensive national security budget totaled just $590 billion or only 45% of today’s $1.304 trillion.
As we indicated earlier, the Eisenhower Defense Minimum, rounded to $500 billion in today’s purchasing power, is far more than adequate in a world where America’s homeland security is not threatened by a technological and industrial superpower having even remote parity with the United States and its NATO allies. The combined $45 trillion GDP of the latter is 20X larger than that of Russia and nearly 3X that of China, which is itself a debt-entombed house of cards that would not last a year without its $3.5 trillion of exports to the west.
Stated differently, the old Soviet Union was autarkic but internally brittle and grotesquely inefficient and unsustainable. Red China, by contrast, is far more efficient industrially, but also has $50 trillion of internal and external debts and a thoroughly mercantilist economic model that makes it is utterly dependent on western markets. So its strategic vulnerability is no less conclusive.
At the end of the day, neither Russia nor China have the economic capacity - say $50 trillion of GDP - or motivation to attack the American homeland with conventional military means. The vast invasionary armada of land and air forces, air and sealift capacity and massive logistics supply pipelines that would be needed to bridge the two ocean moats is virtually beyond rational imagination.
So what ultimately keeps America safe is its nuclear deterrent. As long as that is in tact and effective, there is no conceivable form of nuclear blackmail that could be used to jeopardize the security and liberty of the homeland. Yet according to CBO’s latest study the current annual cost of the strategic deterrent, as we indicated above, is just $52 billion. This includes $13 billion for the ballistic missile submarine force, $7 billion for the land-based ICBMs and $6 billion for the strategic bomber force. On top of that there is also $13 billion to maintain the nuclear weapons stockpiles, infrastructure and supporting services and $11 billion for strategic nuclear command and control, communications and early warnings systems.
In all, and after allowing for normal inflation and weapons development costs, CBOs 10-year estimate for the strategic nuclear deterrent is just $756 billion. That happens to be only 7.0% of the $10 trillion baseline for the 10-year cost of today’s "Empire First" defense budget and only 5.0% of the $15 trillion national security baseline when you include international operations and veterans.
A return to the Eisenhower Minimum of $500 billion per year for defense proper over the next decade would thus save in excess of $4 trillion over the period. And these cuts would surely be readily extractable from the $9 trillion CBO baseline for defense spending excluding the strategic forces.
As we indicated above, for instance, there would be no need for 11 carrier battle groups including their air-wings, escort and support ships and supporting infrastructure under a Fortress America policy. Those forces are sitting ducks in this day and age anyway, but are only necessary for force projection abroad and wars of invasion and occupation. The American coastline and interior, by contrast, can be protected by land-based air. Yet according to another CBO study the 10-year baseline cost for the Navy’s 11 carrier battle groups will approach $1 trillion alone. Likewise, the land forces of the US Army will cost $2 trillion and that’s again mainly for the purpose of force projection abroad.
As Senator Taft and his original Fortress America supporters long ago recognized, overwhelming air superiority over the North American continent is what is actually necessary for homeland security. But even that would require only a small part of the current $1.5 trillion 10-year cost of US Air Force operations, which are heavily driven by global force projection capacities.
At the end of the day a $4 trillion reduction in national security spending over the next decade is more than feasible and long overdue. It only requires tossing the Indispensable Nation myth into the dustbin of history where it has belonged all along."